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Me-Oh, Mio, On A Journey Up North

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By Maureen McDonald
Senior Correspondent
Michigan Bureau
The Auto Channel

When two friends announced they would marry on a farm in Mio, I had to consult a map to find this hidden jewel of a town. Then I contacted Fiat Chrysler Automobiles to request eval time of a suitable vehicle for carrying guests and wedding décor up north for the autumn celebration and pumpkins and other country-found fall decorations back home from the north country.

In answer to my request a 2017 Dodge Journey arrived in my driveway on Friday morning., appropriate it was. Its ample interior space would have let me haul seven wedding guests and luggage, assorted bric-a-brac and still have room to spare.

The Journey SUV had a 283-horsepower V with smooth and swift acceleration and an amazing turning ratio. What was more amazing was the beauty of this unincorporated area called Mio nestled in the Huron National Forest.

My sturdy ride got me there in record time. I could keep up with I-75 traffic at 80 miles an hour, hardly feeling the road with the smooth suspension handling even the roughest roads with ease. The side mirrors were giant, the touch screen-CD stereo had an 8.5 inch screen and decent audio to sing along to my old Moody Blues love albums. Gotta get in the right frame of mind for a love fest.

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Once I rolled onto M-33, I knew I was a long way from Detroit. Homeowners put homemade cedar swings and wishing wells on their front lawns along with deer blinds and used canoes. Every gas station and restaurant was filled with men in full cammo, ready to shoot their wild turkeys and red foxes at the first opportunity.

I bought a couple pumpkins from a roadside stand. Passed on the jerky and ammo for rifles and sped to the Rio Motel, a pristine little place that stays open year round for the fall color tourists, canoe paddlers in the Au Sable Valley, fishermen, cross country skiers and snowmobilers. It is an all sports town.

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Here I was looking mighty fine in my sport utility vehicle.

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My friend Patty is in from Prescott Valley, AZ, ready to tackle a 3.8 mile trail called Wolf Creek in the Huron National Forest. This isn't the tourist draw of Yosemite or Yellowstone, but the majestic beauty of the Au Sable is far beyond my expectations. Pristine waters are surrounded by tall, dense trees as far as the eye can see.

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I'm driving on narrow dirt roads, getting lost and forced to turn around, thankfully this full sized SUV has a turning ratio that seems to rival my little VW Jetta, and with its backup camera the Journey made me an ace at going forward and back.

We get back to the motel in time to put on some cowboy boots and pretty dresses for a cowboy style wedding at the farm owned by the groom's parents. The wedding guests sit on straw bales and the altar is filled with pumpkins, sunflowers and candles. The couple gaze with tenderness at one another as they recite their vows.

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But the smell is all pork. The groom's cousin spent the whole day smoking a pig and the ladies cooked up a whole mess of salads, macaroni and cheese and green beans. The meal is delayed because someone lost the baked beans and a massive hunt of every cargo space and trunk continues till the missing food is found. In a small town, they take excitement where it shows up.

Everyone claps for the newly joined couple and their wedding party. They dance in the driveway to the sound of a deejay and others join in. This was a homespun ceremony with lots of love and lots of drinking. I figure I'll stay off the sauce and drive without risk of a DUI.

Next day our gang piles into the Journey for a trip to the Paddle Inn for an utterly forgettable breakfast bar. We trade stories of the wedding and our prayers for their future. The groom is in the hospital with kidney stones. The bride is weeping. All we can do is stay in touch by phone for texted updates.

Time for me to take another hike down to the Au Sable, this time Mio Pond. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, walleye and carp. I can smell the fish frying at the edge of my nostrils. The beauty is arresting. But time doesn't stand still.

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The Journey’s driver is getting irritated by all the traffic heading back to the city. The farmers are plodding along at 25 miles an hour while the tourists want to get The SUV is accommodating. It has good, solid brakes to handle an impatient driver. The comfortable leather seats beckon me to relax and enjoy the - well - Journey.

The Moody Blues capture my mood in one song, Sooner or Later from the Strange Times album.

Thanks for my Journey to remember.