Still Hanging Around the UP

wpid-20140921_154720.jpgFinally! Copper Harbor – the northernmost tip of the Keewanaw Peninsula. This is as far north as you can get, and still find yourself in Michigan. It’s gorgeous.

We’re camping for three days at Ft. Wilkins SP.20140919_152933 Luckily, we get our site established before the rain begins. It’s cold, gray, and extremely damp. It’s the kind of damp that we can’t quite shake – the inside of the Fireball is crappy and unpleasant. We wander about for a bit, then decide to just hunker down with books and wait for tomorrow.20140919_153028HA! Still raining in the morning, so we decide to explore the Fort. 20140919_15261920140920_110037This remote outpost was built in the 1830s, as copper miners poured into the area. The entire western UP/northern Wisconsin area had been recently purchased from the Objibwa, and a military installation seemed to be a good idea to keep the peace. Restoration was done during the WPA years. It’s obvious from the artifacts that life at the Fort was not easy.  I loved this bit of advice from a Military Handbook with kitchen tips. 20140920_103324 The Fort was in use for a remarkably brief period, closing in the mid 1840s.

The sun eventually peeks out, and skies clear enough that a bike ride seems to be a great idea. We wander around Copper Harbor, checking out a few of the local shops. 20140920_13125120140920_134458

Hunter's Point is the opening on the left of the Harbor

Hunter’s Point is the opening on the left of the Harbor

From the harbor, Hunter’s Point is visible, and the trail leading to it sounds inviting, so off we go. We momentarily forget that we’re wearing our cycling shoes, which have metal cleats in the soles. 20140920_140428Walking over the slick wet tree roots and through deep piles of shore stones becomes a comedic adventure. We sound like Fred and Ginger taking a hike (wearing their tap shoes, of course). It’s ridiculous, and makes us laugh. What we we thinking? Getting out to the Point, though, was worth the effort.20140920_14213620140920_114409Brickside Brewery provided a nice reward for our hike. 20140920_152132We love microbreweries(just in case you hadn’t already figured that out), and Michigan has its share of really good ones.

But, there’s still more to come…..it’s Chili Cookoff Day in Copper Harbor. Judging begins in the Park at 4pm, so off we go. These folks know how to throw a party!20140920_163328 Gallons of chili supplied by the 2010 winner, huge pans of cornbread, and cheese platters are set up for sampling. An entire table full of pies! Two kegs of beer, and a setup of Bloody Marys!20140920_164048-1 A band! All on a help-yourself basis. Five serious judges work over the 15 or so chili entries.20140920_161629 We sample a few, but find nothing that really sings to our palates. But, that jalepeno cornbread? I could cheerfully have eaten the entire pan.20140920_161523 We can hardly waddle our fat butts back to our bikes for the ride back to camp.

We had planned another bike ride on Sunday, but it’s cold and very windy. So, we play Truck Tourist instead, checking out sections of shoreline we missed on the trip north. 20140921_141421Of course, we had to stop and take the obligatory photo of the Firetruck at the Snowguage.20140921_150247 1978-79 produced a record snowfall in the area – 390.4”. Last year’s total, shown by the red arrow near the top, was about two feet shy of that total. Average snowfall is about 20 feet. Note to self: get the hell out of here before it starts to snow!

Serious UP sightseeing…..guys are skinning a bear which they have hanging from a tree.  (no photos!).  That explains the “Bear Registration” signs we’ve seen at the State Parks.  We had wondered why the bears couldn’t just get in line and register with the rest of us.

We catch the first glimpse of serious fall color.  Color is gaining every day.wpid-20140921_144350.jpg20140921_154509Monday morning is our day to pack up and move on. We’ve got another short day on the road, as we’re moving to McLain SP, about 40 miles south and west of Copper Harbor, but still on Lake Superior. We had been advised to stop at the Jampot (thanks, Ken) for a cupcake and a jar of jam.20140922_104650 Jampot is run by the Brothers of St. John, and these guys know their business. 20140922_104922The store is stocked with dozens of jams and jellies, fruitcakes, and cupcakes. It’s a struggle to get out of there with only two cupcakes (breakfast!), two caramels, and one jar of cherry jam.

It’s a beautiful drive into Calumet, ten miles from the State Park.20140922_103950 We stop for a visit at the Firefighters Museum. Drat! It’s closed for the season already. Calumet is full of graceful red stone buildings, many with fancy trims. It’s quiet, and very pretty. Look!  There’s a microbrewery across the street – The Red Coat Brewery. While the beer was lousy (flat and sour), the setting is well worth a visit. The old hotel has an incredible bar, complete with an intricately patterned mosaic tile floor and curved mural painted on the ceiling. 20140922_115501The white-tablecloth dining room is gracious and inviting.20140922_120056

And, just so you know that we’re educating ourselves nearly every minute on this trip, we learn that Calumet was called Red Jacket in its early days.  Hence, the brewery name.

McLain State Park is surprisingly populated with other campers. The lakefront sites are all taken, but we find a great site tucked in the woods. Another stunning sunset. So good….20140922_194635

 

 

Onward….Westward

20140917_105359Zooming along the highway toward Marquette, my eyes pick up what looks like a large dinosaur grasping a big fish. I catch the words Free…Sculpture…Park. We debate the merits of stopping vs heading on. Finally, we decide that this might just be one of those quirky Yooper things that we must see. John expertly u-turns the Firetruck/Fireball in the middle of the highway (not much traffic on a Tuesday morning), and we head back to Lakenenland.20140917_105542Acres of sculpture have been created out of scrap by Tom Lakenen, former Union member (Pipefitters I believe). There’s a winding road one can drive or walk through through to view the 80+ pieces. Many are whimsical (a series of dancing wolves),20140917_102937 but many make sharp political statements about corporate greed, labor vs management, and US military international engagement.20140917_10313320140917_10311420140917_103348 It’s a kaleidoscope of color and ideas. Here’s my favorite.20140917_103401 Jezzy didn’t much care for the alligator.20140917_10255320140917_10534020140917_10480720140917_104419We are happy that we took the time explore this unique Park. Guess that’s what life in the slow lane is all about.

20140919_110830We’re back on the road, heading to Marquette. Jezzy takes a selfie. She loves being in the truck!

Marquette Tourist Park is our headquarters for the next couple of days. We snag one of the half-dozen spots nestled in the trees. Happy campers! Although we’re camped in a quiet spot, the campground itself is only a quarter mile from the NMU campus. Check out this fabulous bike rack on campus!20140918_172754One of our first orders of business is to find a laundromat. Probably the only one we will ever be inside with this warning on one of the washing machines….washerExploring on bikes is our big plan for this leg of the trip. Marquette has done a fabulous job of making itself bike-friendly. A wide walking/bicycling path surrounds the City along the Lake’s edge, and many of the major thoroughfares have bike lanes. Presque Isle, a beautiful park area on the city’s edge, has a quiet path running through it, with turnouts featuring spectacular views of Lake Superior and the many freighters that pass through the area.20140918_13255320140918_12394020140918_122139We even find a home with a T@DA parked in the driveway!20140918_131306John called this the Post Global Warning Fence (what else you gonna do with skis?)20140918_15131420140918_153747

 

No city exploration would be complete without a brewery stop. We were thwarted at Black Rock Brewery (what kind of college town brewery doesn’t open until 4pm?), so we headed to Ore Dock Brewing instead. They featured a cask-conditioned, barrel aged Porter that will remain in my dreams for a long time.

We detoured down to the fish market, and bought a piece of nearly everything! 20140918_160737-001Fresh salmon for dinner – the Lake Superior salmon is very different than Lake Michigan salmon. It’s very much like the wild Copper River Alaskan salmon we find in the spring. Lovingly grilled, it made a spectacular dinner. For the road, we grabbed smoked trout, smoked salmon, and a smoked whitefish sausage. So far, we’ve eaten only the sausage, which we both gave an unenthusiastic ‘yeah, whatever….’ Oh well.

I’m becoming a Yooper wannabe. It’s easy to see why there is such a fierce loyalty to this amazing area.

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PS – I’m posting this from the Brickside Brewery in Copper Harbor, where we’ve spent three great days.  Here’s what’s happening.

Really vocal female bar customer on Sunday afternoon:  I graduated in 1974….blah, blah…

Bartender:  8th Grade, or High School?

(I nearly fell off my chair).  You gotta love this place!

 

 

Regatta!

1200 boats, 1500 rowers.  Four days of racing in Grand Rapids on the Grand River.  That’s what happened here this past weekend in the USRowing Masters National Championships.  What a sight!20140816_114922Having been gone for the past week, the fact that this interesting event was being held in our city over the weekend escaped our notice.  What a screwup it would have been to have missed this fabulous scene. 20140817_135947 Colorful, sleek racing shells with one, two, four, or eight rowers.  Superfit men and women of all ages from all over the US and Canada, all with shoulders indicating serious dedication to training.  Approximately 140 clubs were represented.20140817_14265220140817_13472520140817_142911Interesting fact:  The Detroit Rowing Club is the oldest rowing club in the US, having been established 175 years ago!  Go, Motown!

I won’t try to explain this racing to you, since nearly all my knowledge comes from the book The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.  If you have a speck of interest in this topic at all, this is a fascinating book.  I’m a big fan of the genre of epic struggles, and this was right up my alley.

We caught a glimpse of the action on Saturday, as we passed by the area on our bikes.  John and I rode back on Sunday morning to hang out and catch a bit more of the racing.  It appears that a USRowing Master is anyone over the age of 27.  We watched one race where the participants were 75-80 and 80+.  Amazing.  Some of the tropies looked as though they had been changing hands for years.20140817_14325120140817_143225There were classifications by number of rowers, age, and weight.  There are teams with coxswains (either fore or aft), and teams without.  Altogether, there were dozens of races – qualifications and final heats being started every four minutes over a couple of days!  It as a super-impressive organizational feat.

The Beer City Regatta seemed to be a huge success.  Good weather, facilities, and great beer contributed to the big smiles we saw.  Here are a few more random shots – sure wished I had a big camera with a long lens!20140817_125949This wooden shell was the only one of its type that we saw, and it was a beauty!  It got admiring glances and caresses from all.20140817_125534Check out the kid reading the Harry Potter book – oblivious to all the commotion going on around him at the table where paddles were being ordered.20140817_125911Saw this object abandoned in a bush as we were leaving the Park.20140817_143400And, guess who else is in town this month?  Story Corps!20140817_122947

Anyone Still Out There?

Yep, I’m still here.  At Home Judy is not as much fun as On The Road Judy, for sure.  Seems like I really have to scrape to find anything to post

May and June are full of bike events that are important to John and me.  Up until my retirement in January 2013, I worked every Saturday and Sunday.  So, while everyone was having fun doing these events, I was lugging books at the bookstore. I’ve been a busy volunteer – anyone who knows me knows that I’ve done some serious arm-twisting for volunteers on bike events in the past.  So, it’s been a good chance for me to reciprocate. One of the funnier volunteer gigs was pouring beer (as a volunteer worker for Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation) at the Motley Crue/Alice Cooper concert.  Omg – it was deafening!  CAN YOU HEAR ME NOW????  My hearing may not recover for months!

We are lucky in Grand Rapids to have the New Belgium Film Clips and Beer Festival come to town.  This is an traveling outdoor film extravaganza of short clips, augmented by great beer – set in Ah-Nab-Awen Park in Grand Rapids, right on the downtown riverbank.  Best of all?  100% of the proceeds from this event – beer sales, merchandise sales, raffle tickets (our friend Troy won a $4000 custom fat bike!) go to support the Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition.  Nearly $14,000 this year!  So, one very hot sticky day was donated working setup for the event – I helped push up probably 20 Easy Up tents.  My shoulder was so sore the next day, I could hardly move!  Worth all the effort – what a wonderful event.  Grand Rapids is so lucky to be one of 25 (give or take) cities on this Tour.  Here’s our site from under one of the Easy Ups….20140627_111056The crowd gathers….20140627_212659Showtime!20140627_222408

The day after the Festival was the Gran Fondo (Italian for Big Ride), a chip-timed 40 or 80 mile bicycle rie from Grand Rapids to the Lake Michigan lakeshore and back.  Now in its second year, the Fondo is a fund-raiser for the MSU College of Human Medicine.  It was great fun to be a volunteer at the first rest stop on the 80 mile leg – although many of the early riders were in race mode, and didn’t stop. 20140628_08445320140628_084343 Downtown Grand Rapids was transformed to a big street party following the Fondo, punctuated by the Grand Rapids Criterium (bike race) for the afternoon.  It was a great weekend for cyclists.

Remember drag racing on your bike when you were a kid?  Lining up with another kid, yelling go, and racing to some pre-determined point down the block.  Exactly what the Blue Bridge Hustle promised to be.wpid-wp-1402834038027.jpeg This new event seemed like too much fun to pass up, so I paid my $20 entry fee to race.  I’m not fast, but adult bicycle drag-racing just made me laugh to think about it.  John was like, “Seriously?  You’re drag-racing?”  It helped that he was out of town that weekend…..Long story short – I won my division.  Check out my prize.20140626_154034Nine $40 gift certificates to some of the best restaurants in the area.  John has changed his tune to, “I’m really proud of you for entering”, but his little act isn’t fooling me.  Now all I have to do is figure out who Judy Crenshaw is…

In the meantime, there has been lots of work to do on the Fireball.  After losing license plates in Utah (2014) and Texas (2013) due to the flimsy license plate bracket that was part of a taillight assembly, John rigged a new bracket.  This is our LAST license plate!20140709_134755Taillights were another issue.  If you had ever followed at night, we weren’t very well lit.  All changed with our new LED configuration.wpid-20140709_134738.jpg

Caulking the underside? Check!  Cleaning/waxing? Check!  My project list included recovering our dinette seats and painting one wall.  I’m very happy with the results.wpid-20140709_134919.jpgTask list for the Fireball still includes updating the flooring and the radio.  But, in the meantime, we’re finally going to hit the road for about 10 days.  Heading to Nordhouse Dunes, our favorite camping spot in Michigan.  After five days, John is leaving to go tent-camping and cycling with the boys in Empire (near Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore), and Caroline is coming to camp with her teardrop trailer and her mountain bike.  Should be big fun.  She can only stay a few days though, then it will be Jezzy, me, the bears, my mountain bike, and the beach for a few days until John reappears.  Back to the good life!

 

An Eye on Tucson

Great outdoor weather continues here, and we have really taken advantage of it – cycling or hiking every day.  I’ve tried to look at AZ with new eyes – seeing what a visitor might see, instead of seeing the same sights that I’ve enjoyed for the last five years.  Amazing what you can see if you really look!

Cactus – one of my favorite sights are the majestic saguaro cactus, which grow abundantly here in the Sonoran Desert.  For unknown reasons, some of the saguaros develops elaborate crests on the top, instead of developing arms.  They aren’t terribly common – about 1/1000 has this aberration.  This week, I’ve seen three new crested saguaros, bringing my life total to about seven.  Check these beauties out….this one is especially bizarre, because it seems to be crested and armed.20140216_103143wpid-20140216_111545.jpgAnd how about this warning?20140218_122145Bicycling on the Interstate still makes me nervous.  It’s the only way to get south to Tubac, a frequent destination, but it still seems weird to me.  This time it was REALLY odd, because the side of the road where we cycle was full of horse turds! horses The group came upon this grizzled rancher on down the road a bit.  We figure it was his horses that decorated our path.  20140218_101453
With Michigan friends in town for a week, we decided to take a bicycle tour of Tucson.  Tucson is a Gold Level cycling city, designated by the League of American Bicyclists.  That means that their cycling facilities are superb – plenty of well-marked bicycle routes thoughout the city, and lots of designated bike lanes and bicycle or multi-use paths.  It’s such a pleasure to cycle in such a place.  We wove in and out through the City, on a route of about 15 miles.  In that distance, only about 1/8 mile was on a road that did NOT have a separate bicycle lane.  As much as is possible, I feel very safe and secure cycling there.  We’ve got our own place to ride, cars/trucks have theirs, and everybody respects that.  It takes all the stress out of cycling in an unfamiliar city.

John designed our route – we probably visited nooks that even Tucsonians don’t know exist.  So, here we go….first stop is St. Augustine Cathedral.  First constructed in 1776, enlarged and remodeled several times, and extensively remodeled from the ground up just a few years ago.  Full of color in paintings, mosaics, stained glass, and a 600 year old crucifix from Spain, it was pure wonder.  The paintings which had a 3D effect, were especially captivating.  Mother Theresa was so real. I could have touched her.20140219_111701wpid-20140219_111052.jpgwpid-20140219_111024.jpgwpid-20140219_111035.jpgOn through some very colorful neighborhoods.  Tucson has more vibrant color than any city I know.  Houses, mosaics, murals, fences, bridges – color abounds.  Here’s a sample.4th Street - the Eastown like area of Tucson20140219_12461720140219_110508wpid-20140219_130354.jpg20140219_13030820140219_124109wpid-20140219_112546-1-1.jpgwpid-20140219_121816-1.jpg

We crossed two pedestrian/bicycle bridges that span I-10.  The most curious (to me) is the Rattlesnake Bridge.  In the past, as one would pass the tail end, you would ride under a sensor that would make a rattlesnake noise.  This time, that didn’t happen – a huge disappointment. Rattlesnake bridgeRattlesnake BridgeWe also crossed over the Basket Bridge.wpid-20140219_131241-1.jpgTucson also seems to have lots of religious parks and memorials.  One of the more unusual is the Garden of Gethsemane. wpid-20140219_120053.jpg Here one finds three works created by a sculptor who was gravely wounded in WW1, and upon his recovery, decided to spend his remaining years carving religious statues.wpid-20140219_120154-1.jpgOn to the El Tiradito Wishing Shrine.  The wall here has dozens of cubbyholes, which are filled with notes, poems, and other remembrances. wpid-20140219_113337.jpg The area is filled with floral decorations.  Nearby is a tiny historical Tucson museum, but it was closed the day we were there.wpid-20140219_114143.jpgOn to the Presidio San Agustin del Tucson, one of 17 Presidios from Sonora to Texas, created to defend the northern settlements from Apache and Comanche attacks.wpid-20140219_122126.jpgwpid-20140219_122255.jpg This settlement was established in 1775, and was the westernmost of the US Presidios.  Signage and artifacts provide a pretty good idea of life during this period.

Nearby Presidio Park has war memorials, and a huge public space for strolling and lunching.wpid-20140219_125023-1.jpgOn we rode, down a long bike path past the enormous rail yards.  We wound through a linear park cycle path, which also featured a fitness course with various stations to test strength and fitness.

We started and ended our tour at the Barrio Brewery.  Good beer, not such great service.  John decided to “fire” them, and return to our favorite Tucson watering hole, Nimbus Brewery, going forward.

And, perhaps best of all, this is probably the best cycling jersey I have EVER seen.  Wild west cowboys, and cycling cowboys – all in one.  I want one!wpid-20140218_095521.jpgIf you get a chance, go to Tucson.  Rent a bike.  Check it out.