Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hell and Back

Just in case you were wondering, Hell's not so bad. Especially when you arrive this way:
They even have karaoke (and a new menu) there:

And they sell fun shirts:

Monday, August 23, 2010

Happy Birthday!

Thank God for Facebook, because otherwise I might have forgotten my own birthday. Not that I hadn't already celebrated twice. I'm just getting so old that even though I knew yesterday that my birthday was today, I forgot today that my birthday was today. That is, I forgot until Facebook reminded me 20 times before noon. Apparently my parents are getting forgetful too because I think maybe they forgot how old I was:
We celebrated last week and I got to be one. Who would argue with that? 

My real birthday will be spent with my aunt and uncle in MI. Uncle Jim and I are going to ride the Harley to Hell later. Don't tell my dad.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Things That Go CRACK in the Night

It was over 90 degrees in Northern MI on Saturday. I bitched and moaned all day about how I didn't come to northern MI for heat and humidity. I wanted some real Michigan weather.

What's that you're saying? Be careful what you wish for?

Yesterday the wind picked up. I was loving the break from the heat so I left all the windows open in my room. Sometime during the night I heard the loud cracking that can only be trees as they finally give up and bend no more.

I woke up this morning to find Pop already on the phone with the tree guys. This mess was blocking the driveway:

(Yep, that's my dad wearing the playboy bunny PJ's out in the yard.)

Mom and I spent the morning out in the crazy wind checking out the new "ocean-like" Lake Michigan.

Normally you can walk all the way out on the pier. We decided to pass today since we didn't have lifejackets.
Surfing anyone?

By afternoon there were a few guys out on surfboards. That doesn't happen in these parts too often. I tried to convince the guy in the rental place to let me rent a kayak and take it out, but I got a big fat "NO" on that one. You can't blame a girl for asking!

We thought we might not get a sunset since the wind was bringing a big storm, but we got this little treat:

A little bit of beauty right before the storm hit. Tonight I get to drift off listening to the thunder. I've missed this crazy MI weather!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Tourist Time

I spent my last two days in the UP being a tourist.  Pictured Rocks was first:

The next morning I headed to Whitefish Point, which is basically just a small marina, a lighthouse, a coast guard station and a shipwreck museum. It's a pretty eerie place, especially when you're the only one there in the early morning fog.

Between the old abandoned boats
the cobwebs and the thick fog, I definitely felt like I was in a horror film.

Guess it's pretty obvious why they need the lighthouse!

Now it's family time in Petoskey for the week!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Oh, the People You Meet!

If Dr. Suess was going to name my trip, I believe it would be that. It seems the more I travel the friendlier people get. Take Marquette for example:

On Saturday when I got into town I headed for a place called Babycakes because I heard they had gluten free muffins. The only table open was a big one so I knew I'd be sharing at some point. I just didn't know that I'd get to share with Janet and Frank. Seriously, I think I left 3 hours later. I think I answered one email, the rest of the time was spent chatting. They were truly inspiring because they worked as teachers, both in Michigan and Europe, and are now retired and traveling the world. They had great stories and great suggestions for me on my quest to keep traveling!

Later in the day I made dinner in the park. Just as I sat down to eat an older lady came up and asked if she could sit with me. Over an hour later I'd heard numerous stories about the town from Donna, who was born here in 1929. She told me about how the freighters used to bring in coal and leave with iron ore, she told me about the private donation for the incredible public library here and she told me about how her grandson once snuck up on the iron ore dock and walked out to the end for the view (something she'd always wanted to do).

Yesterday I was briefly entertained on the beach by a guy named Soul Train. He was actually pretty interesting, right up until he tried to rub my feet. That's a little too friendly, even for me.

Anyway- you get the drift. It's friendly here. It's also beautiful.

Public Library
Apartment Complex

Cool houses

I got the impression that while the rest of the country was busy spending a whole lot of money building new stuff, Marquette was busy making what it had already even better. Old, well maintained buildings hold the businesses downtown and there don't seem to be many stores that have closed down recently. That's definitely a rare sight on this trip.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Up North

I'm pretty sure I'm in the only place in the world where people say I am from "down south." Yes, I know some of you who think I have a funny northern accent are laughing, but it's true, to the Upper Peninsula folks I'm a southern girl. You only get to be from Up North if you grew up in the UP. We southern folk let them get away with this high and mightiness because we know they've endured countless brutal winters.

Brutal winters aside, it's amazing here. I went to Houghton first. I had this hair-brained idea I'd take the ferry out to Isle Royal National Park. Then I found out it was a 6 hour ride. Each way. So I hung out in Houghton, which was fine because it was a beautiful day.
That path along the canal goes for miles. Lots of biking and running away from the road.

The largest playground ever! 
I grew up in a town with a drawbridge so this one brought back good memories, especially when I was waiting in line right on it when they opened it up. 

Miles of public boardwalk.

The people were pretty darn friendly too, or at least I thought they were until I went into the bar for a drink and witnessed a woman waving money at the bartender while calling him "boy." It was alumni weekend and apparently that made people "act like assholes" as the bartender put it. 

It made for good people watching though especially since this particular place was famous for their pickled eggs. Not much could be more amusing than watching a bunch of falling down, drooling drunk fools eat pickled eggs and knowing that when they barf later, it's gonna be all about the pickled eggs. Yuck. I'm pretty sure the bar serves them just for the punishment they must provide later, especially to those who covered them in Tabasco. 

I moved on to Marquette yesterday, which is even more beautiful. No pics yet though because I ended up dining with a local 81 year old last night and didn't get to take any. You'll have to come back tomorrow for pics and lots more friendly people stories!

Friday, August 6, 2010


The bike and I took the ferry out to Madeline Island yesterday for some exploring.
I found a new use for the aero bars.

(I only tried to drink out of them a couple of times.)
Windy but beautiful ride:

I hiked the trail and arrived just in time to see this kid do a backflip:
I'm sure his folks appreciated me yelling, "DO IT!" as they tried to talk him out of it. 

Back in town, I found Tom's Burned Down Cafe:

Although I'm not sure why it was called a cafe because it was definitely a bar. One of the signs out front said, "Please don't throw your cigarette burns on the ground for they burn the hands and knees of our customers as they leave. Thanks."  How could I not go in?

Rumor has it it was a cool bar on the beach. When it burned down Tom salvaged the pieces and set them up here. He takes it down and goes to FL for the winter. Smart guy. 

I had a drink with some locals on their lunch break who tried to convince me to come back for the music later. I thought maybe the bike clothes might not be comfortable for that long..... 

As I left there was a bit of advice:

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Two and a half monster days of driving landed me in Ely, MN on Monday afternoon. They call it The End of the Road. I love the end of the road.

My Monday night dinner:
Which I enjoyed here on the public access dock:

Tuesday morning my feet were finally a little less swollen after the marathon so I did a hike around Bass Lake. Amazing scenery with a wet east side:

And a drier west side:

The night ended with Tuesday Night Live in town, where bands played all over town. There were even some guys playing in the garage behind the laundromat. I ended up here, on top of the van, taking in the scene and listening to Pat Surface and the Boundary Waters Boys:

The local kids even do sign language to some of the songs.

Not a bad way to spend the evening!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Grizzly Marathon

Yesterday I ran a marathon. Then I drove nearly 500 miles. I told you it might be a big day.

My return to racing (if you can call it that) was a pretty good parallel to my life right now. I’ve never done a marathon without meticulous preparation before. Usually I spend months doing long runs, stop drinking alcohol for a month and then get so nervous I can’t sleep the night before.

I started contemplating this marathon 6 weeks ago. The farthest I’d run was 12 miles. Once I was on the road I did 3 more long runs. I’d guess they were between 16 and 21 miles but I don’t really know. I got lost on all 3 of them. I ran out of water on 2.

Last week I figured if I could make it through that I could survive 26 miles with aid stations and arrows on the road. 

Of course that was before I realized the race was at 4000 feet. It was also before I knew that it went through territory so known for grizzlies that the guest speaker at the pasta dinner was a bear expert. I guess that’s why they call it the Grizzly Marathon.

I drove over to Choteau from Kalispell on Friday. I picked up my number and checked in with the race director to make sure I could skip the pre-race meeting and dinner. I figured I didn’t need any more fear of the grizzlies than I’d already developed. Plus, I had my tactic for avoiding a bear attack all planned out- find the biggest guy in the race and stick near him.

My race plan was to finish. (And not get eaten by a bear.) Nothing else. So basically my race plan was to not race.

Let me tell you- this is much more fun than racing a marathon. I didn’t have to pass on drinks with friends 2 nights before. I didn’t have to sit around with my feet up the day before. I slept well the night before. I stuffed my belly with corned beef hash in the morning. I left my watch in the car so I wouldn’t know how slow I was going. I jogged over to the start line less than 5 minutes before the race, got in the back of the pack and started talking to people.

I like this no racing racing thing.

The race was just as mellow as the preparation. I found a tall guy in a fluorescent orange shirt to use as bear protection. He’d run a marathon the weekend before so I figured worse case scenario I could probably at least escape faster than him.

At mile 7 he started walking the aid stations so I moved on. 4 miles later I started seeing the faster people heading back from the turn around at halfway so I entertained myself by cheering them on. Considering there was only one spectator between miles 1 and 25, this made me a lot of friends. It also kept me from running too fast until mile 18, when there was finally no one left to cheer on.

Sometime after that I got a little bored so I started running faster. I actually made it to mile 23 before I started wishing the race was over, which is a lot farther than I usually make it. At mile 25 the sheriff made me laugh at the turn into town and the rest was actually kind of fun. 

I thought I might be emotional at the end, overcome with either joy at finally being able to run on my knee or overwhelmed with frustration at my slowness, but apparently traveling really has made me mellower because I just took a shower, got a massage and hit the road. 

Life on the road is good!