Sunday, July 21, 2013

Illinois. Land 'O Lincoln and other things.







A new slant on NW Arkansas

This is downtown Bentonville, Arkansas...neat as a pin these days.  And this is the humble 5-and-dime on the town square that spawned Walmart.



















We stopped by to check out Crystal Bridges, a museum in the middle of nowhere built with the Walton family fortune.  As you enter you are greeted by a museum employee who asks whether this is your first visit, but the question is clearly: "Have you ever been to art museum before?  Let me go over our Rules..."





















Turns out, it's a GREAT museum!





































Still, across the street from the original store, 2nd Lieutenant James H. Berry guards the past.




Thursday, July 18, 2013

We will dance the hootchie cootchie


St Louis - the first time I have ever seen the city from anything but a car window.
 
The arch - actually cooler up close than from afar. Parking is $6 and going up in the arch itself is $17 I think, which seems like a lot for an elevator ride plus the lines were long and the weather was cloudy so we opted not. We strolled through the Lewis and Clark Museum on the first floor - a confounding mish mosh of artifact reproductions and quote plaques in no obvious order. It just might be the most disappointing  museum I have seen since my first visit to the Museum of Natural Science in Houston, circa 1982, which, at that time, was dusty drill bits and displays of things made with petroleum. (Trash Bags!) 
 
St Louis was much bigger and much nicer than I imagined. We found a lofty neighborhood and had a pretty good meal; dill pickle soup.
 
You will be my tootsie wootsie
If you'll meet me in St. Louie, Louie
Meet me at the fair.






Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Slow boat to Manitowoc (Ludington, MI - Part 2)

I have been a Great Lakes ferry geek since my Grandfather booked passage for us on the SS Norisle from Tobermory to Manitoulin Island when I was maybe 11 years old.  So I had to see the Badger pull out of Ludington headed toward Manitowoc on one of its summer evening runs, loaded down with cars, hopeful star-gazers, and Bingo players (I'm told).  It's 60 miles and four hours across the lake.



But the piper on the aft deck blows a mournful Retreat...the Badger's crossings are numbered.  As it plies the water it stirs controversy.  Its 1950's technology burns dirty, dumping 4 tons of coal ash in the lake every time it sails, and is in the EPA's crosshairs.

(Big 10 conference fans note:  Sister ship SS Spartan has been tied down at an adjacent dock for more than 30 years, supplying spare parts.)


Here's recent coverage...  New York Times  (last Novemeber)Chicago Tribune  (this March)

If it's clear, you can see the Badger all the way to the horizon, where it becomes a smear of coal soot; on this night, probably adding a bit of color to the sunset.

Hip, Hip, Huzzah! (Ludington, MI - Part 1)

In the wake of this year's mildly satisfying All Star Game (or ASG as MLB Acronymists would have it) I bring you news of a chance encounter we had with the Grand Olde Game on the shore of Lake Michigan...


Mariners third at own vintage baseball tournament

Monday, July 15, 2013
The Ludington Mariners Old Time Base Ball Club picked up its first victory of the summer in a 6-3 win against the Petoskey Mossbacks in the consolation match of the Mariners’ tournament Saturday at Historic White Pine Village.

The Mariners were sent to the consolation match after an 11-3 loss to the Fallassburgh Flats in the tournament opener. The Flats went on to defeat the Kent Baseball Club of Grand Rapids, 10-8, in the title match. Kent reached the finals on a 14-1 victory in the other semifinal match.



Here "vintage" is a euphemism for 1860's Rules Baseball...when Men were Men, and The Game was played with bare hands, not in a digital electronic din, but amid Nature's splendor.  

Outs are "hands" and runs are "aces", and the Umpire commands respect.  If the ball is fielded on the first bounce, or falling from a tree, or off an umbrella (spectators are literally IN the game)...you're OUT!

The RFer took his position behind a large tree to defend against a sluggling "wrong-sider" (lefty) so as to play to ball off a intervening limb or 2.  The gambit worked at least once...
   

I did not properly appreciate the consequence of an unmowed, unrolled field:  ALL hops are bad hops...or perhaps "random" is more to the point.  Waiting for the bounce is a strategy fraught with risk.

And without preening batters and pitchers scratching at the mound, the pace is brisk.  Our trip in this verdant sun-drenched time machine lasted only 90 minutes!

HIP, HIP, HUZZAH!    


Up North, Looking Back

As mentioned in a previous post (compare and contrast  Ishpeming and Marquette,) we saw many small towns and cities. In Michigan, it is clear the coastal towns have thrown themselves full force into becoming the 21st century version of charming, which means spiffed-up old fashioned motels, bistros that almost compare to city-foodie trendy, boutiques with upscale resort wear and adorable clothes for kiddos run by, I imagine, the wives of men with money who don’t really need to turn much of a profit but like being a shop-keeper in a resort town and especially love going to market to source their wares. It isn’t all about T-shirts and fudge anymore, no siree Bob!

 

The future of these not-long-ago threadbare towns is apparently in luring retirees with comfortable incomes to move in. Yes, many will winter in the sun, but no matter. They bring money and they don’t need jobs, and following them are numerous health care providers. In one small town, Suttons Bay, official population under 700, there is both a hearing aid center and a medical supplies shop (“oxygen”) on the main street. Curious, we checked the demographics and the median age is 59. Yes, half of all residents are over 59. Let that sink in.

 

Retire to Boca Del Vista or Palm Springs, sure, but we had not realized that NW Michigan had much the same going on. 

 

On the other hand, many inland towns seem to be struggling. Copemish was simply very sad and run down and their one school had closed many years ago, it was obvious. Just down the road, though, in Kaleva, a not much bigger town, the grocery store looked busy, the Lutheran church was in fine repair and there was a community arts center that sold the wares the locals made, craft supplies and offered classes. It was all so much tidier. And the library was very large for a town that size. I like to think it is the long-time Finn influence, as the town was settled by Finns and named after the Kalevala, the epic Finnish poem that embodies their mythology. All the streets are taken from the Kalevala, and the main street in town is Osmo, my father’s name. Many years ago, he had his photo taken under that sign. I did likewise.

 

Could we envision ourselves Up North someday? It is beautiful and feels like home but I guess the answer is yes …and no. At this point, we cannot envision not working.

 

 

 

 



Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ta ta TC

Our cottage was classic "up north"; one of five each named after a state. We stayed in Mich. 
A few last photos of our abode and below,  great nephew Kyle with his first sparklers and his Mom, Heather smiling.

Dog friendly


The plaque reads " All our visitors bring happiness- some by coming, others by going"




Friday, July 12, 2013

A gem collector

This is Mary Collins. She owns two jewelry and rock shops in Leelanau County called Nature's Gems featuring Petosky Stones, which are fossilized coral from the Devonian Period when the Great Lakes were tropical.
We talked for quite a while and she told me about her childhood in Maryland, how she and her husband came to Northern Michigan to minister to the Caribbean migrant workers who came to work the resorts and fruit farms and how she was so glad to leave Florida, where her husband had long been a pastor and we talked about the state of relations between the races- where we've been and where we are, and when we parted she insisted on a hug and said that all mothers are connected heart to heart.  

Her husband, Marshall died one year ago on July 19th. Six of their eight children still live in the area and all 4 boys are involved in the family business. I will be thinking of her on the 19th. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

10 pm


It stays light late on the western edge of the time zone.

9:37 pm

About the birches

The Michigan of my youth was filled with birch trees and, as a kid, I loved to take the bark and try to make things from it. (we played Indians)

The last several trips here, spanning perhaps the last decade, has seen a serious decline and now, they are almost gone.  It is rare to see a healthy birch where once there were huge stands. 

Why? That is what is so disconcerting. My internet searches have uncovered no alarms sounded, no anguished cries from tree lovers, nothing specific at all about birch tree decline in The Great Lakes State. No arborists with with advice, no woody obits; as though no one has noticed. 

 

Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore



Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Random notes

As we drive around the NW bits of Michigan, I notice many flags, stickers, shirts, mail boxes and more with my alma mater, Michigan State. I notice far fewer emblems from the University of Michigan, despite the fact that they are the prestige school and I went to Moo U. Why? 
Is it because people from U of M are less likely to be from Michigan and less likely to stay in Michigan? 

We drove up the Leelanau Peninsula today and found a great house in Sutton's Bay that was perfect; too bad we are in no position to buy. But we not only found cherries- they are a bit late this year- we found an old fashioned honor system cherry stand and I nearly wept. 

Had lunch with an old friend from Jr. High who I reconnected with on FB a few years back and- cliche as it is, she looks very much the same. Why do some of us retain a "look" for so many years and others ... you would never begin to recognize them. Sometimes in airports I study people waiting and wonder if I knew them in the past. 

Another storm headed our way tonight. We sleep with windows open. 






Baseball and rainbows.


Bass Lake

This is 20 feet from the cottage. They're calling for sunny skies. Thursday. More rain today and tomorrow. 

We have sisters.



Photo catch up from the Upper Peninsula.


Note the languages. 

The last miles before the bridge feature many roadside places advertising wild rice, jam, smoked fish and pasties.



The tiny sign says "no dogs near smoker" ( Note to non-Michiganders- a party store is where you buy what you need for a party- beer, chips, etc.; not matching paper plates and napkins.)


And the Mighty Mac. Fuzz on lens.

Another gray day Up North

I wondered if Up North was a phrase used all over and according to Wikipedia, it is common enough, but a quick google shows that, in terms of business and domain names, Michiganders have made the phrase their own.

It is interesting to see the latest T shirt phrases. I see many shirts that say "Up North." And while I haven't noticed many wearers, the shops carry variations on the no salt theme, like "Lake Michigan - no salt, no sharks, no problems."

Photos from the Real Camera being downloaded as I type so more gloomy pics soon. 

NOTE- the little local museum has a great permanent collection of Inuit art. Makes sense. They will never have the money for a Monet, so collect what is affordable. And I've seen enough  friggin water lilies to last a lifetime. 



Monday, July 8, 2013

Traverse City, where you get cherry fudge.


Rain. Heat. Huge storm last night and drizzles all day. Yuck. But the cabin is very cute and, aside from a too soft mattress, it is swell. There is a hammock and a fire pit just steps from our door, at lake's edge, and when it dries out...

I mean, logically I knew that crummy weather was a possibility but I didn't think it would really happen. Storms forecast for tomorrow as well. 

And something about all this gloom leads me to take very few pictures. Update coming soon.