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So the airplane lands and you drive almost two hours home.  You’re tired.  You sing to yourself to stay awake. You put the radio on…loud.  You roll down the window.  You put toothpicks in your eyelids to keep your eyes open.  (Well, maybe not that extreme…)

You pull in the driveway about 11:15 p.m.  You hug your husband, exchange a few stories and drop dead-asleep into a nice warm cozy bed.

At 6:30 in the blessed a.m. he says, “Time to get up!” and you open one eye.  In California it’s 3:30 a.m.  But then you suppose this means that on California time you went to bed at 8:30 p.m. so you get up without too much fuss.  You drink coffee.  You prepare to go to work, thanking all the stars in the Universe that you don’t have to leave immediately.

You look outside.  It’s beautiful.  The world has been painted frost-white overnight.  You put on your warm winter coat wondering how this happened…yesterday morning in San Diego it was in the 50’s.  Now it’s way below freezing.  You feel your Upper Peninsula stamina returning.

Frost on car, frost on driveway, frost in garden

You breathe the fresh morning frosty air.  You admire that the garden has been rototilled in your absence.  Now it is ready for spring planting, after the next six months of snow and ice and freezing cold.

Up close frost on grass

You wander around in the dawn, half-asleep.  You wonder at how quickly worlds can change.  Yesterday you were someplace else.  Another landscape informed your life.  Today you are awake in another place on the great earth.  Are we the same people we were yesterday?  Will we be the same person tomorrow?  Take another sip of coffee and ponder that.

Great shadows drape themselves on the frosty earth

Frost on leaf

You’re starting to wake up because it’s so cold.  You’re starting to think about all the work you need to do, both at home and work.  Traveling is a delight, but then there is that catching-up time.  You have so much to do.  But you won’t think about any of it, not yet.  You’ll just let the camera look around at the frost for five more minutes.

Frost, shadows, sunlight

Finally you drive to work.  You are not thinking about hunting season.  Not thinking about the many hunters seeking deer in the woods.  Not thinking at all.  You are driving along, when suddenly, there is A Sign.  You can’t believe it!  Look at that sign!

Berri (Berry?) Pickers go home??

First thought:  How terrible.  How awful.  All the berry pickers (meaning people from not around here) are going to have hurt feelings.

Second thought:  Hey, am I still a berry picker?  (only been here 30 years, you never know.)

Third thought: Wonder what kind of pain a person would be in to make that kind of sign?

Fourth, fifth, sixth thoughts, etc:  Maybe it’s a joke.  Maybe “BerriPicker” is the name of a person and it’s a big joke  Maybe a drunk kid did this.  Maybe some “Berry Picker” was acting stupid in a local bar and looking down at folks.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

The mind can really tell a lot of stories.  You could tell 1,000,000 stories about why the person wrote the sign.  You could make it a good story, a bad story, a tragic story, a funny story, anything.  You could make it have a good ending or bad ending.  It could be just about anything.  I think the sign maker and the outsider ended up having a beer at the local tavern.  Six months later the sign maker moved away to live someplace else and learned what it was to be an outsider.  The berry picker moved here.  Everyone lived happily ever after.

How’s that for my story tonight?  Can any of us ever know the truth?  Anyone have any stories of your own?

Dawn at Golden Hill Park, San Diego

The hardest part of an outdoor commitment (besides going outside when it’s too cold, too rainy, too miserable…)  is when you really have no time to go outdoors.

Such as the days you spend in airports and airplanes.

On these days you must make an extra effort to fit in your outdoor adventure before 7 a.m. or after 10 p.m.  You have to Plan.

This morning Chris and I were out of his apartment by 6:20 a.m. and headed for Golden Hill.  He planned to pick up his friend Chrissie at  7 a.m., drop me at the airport, and then proceed to campus for classes. 

I said, “OK, we’ll do the outdoor adventure at 6:30 a.m., ok?”

He raised his eyebrows, but he’s a good son.

He complied.  We took a nice walk through the early dawn of San Diego.

Sun shines on the tall skyscrapers of the city

We walked in silence.  The early morning air felt chill.  But in San Diego “chill” does not mean the same thing as it does in Upper Michigan.  In the U.P. we would be bundled in winter clothes, hats and mittens.  In San Diego we wore a light coat or long sleeve shirt. 

We said our goodbyes.  Goodbye, Christopher.  Goodbye, Mom.  When will we see each other again?  Perhaps next summer?  Thank you for coming.  Thank you for having me.  I love you.  I love you, too.

Downtown bridge in the distance

After about 20 minutes he headed back to the car.  I slowly walked around the park.  It would be a long day.  Little did I know then but our flight would be momentarily delayed because both clocks in the cockpit refused to work.  Luckily, a maintenance guy fixed them and we took off before impatience set in.  Later on the flight the captain announced,  “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a delicate situation.”  My heart stopped.  Here we go, I thought.  Delicate situation.  Are we ever truly prepared for “delicate” situations?  But then his voice continued, “All four lavatories are not flushing well.  Please do not put paper toweling down the toilets.”

Ahhh!  That kind of “delicate” situation.  We can live with that one…

Interplay of light and flowers

Just before we drove to the airport, a flock of birds settled on the overhead wire.  They were all lined up to go.  So were we.

“Goodbye!”  we said,  “Until we meet again…”

Birds, prepare your engines. Time to fly skyward.

Isn't she beautiful?

Coming to you live from the University of California at San Diego.  We’re in Dr. Seuss country.  Therefore, you shall hear much Dr. Seuss wisdom before you leave this blog.

What, you ask, does Dr. Seuss have to do with the UCSD?  I shall tell you.  Here is the official scoop:  UC San Diego’s Geisel Library is named in honor of the famed author who died in La Jolla in 1991, and his widow, Audrey Geisel. UC San Diego received Geisel’s collection of drawings, notebooks and other memorabilia following his death, and four years later Audrey Geisel made a substantial donation to support the university’s libraries. In 2007, Geisel made a $1 million gift to UCSD Libraries to establish San Diego’s first named university librarianship.

Here is the famed Geisel Library:

Oh the places you'll go!

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go!”

Oh, the places we have gone on this trip!  It has been such a lovely few days visiting Christopher here in his San Diego home.  To think of the places he has gone since he left our little house in the big woods.  Could we have imagined that both of our kids would have become bi-coastal?  One on the West Coast and the other on the East Coast? When the last thing I can remember we were reading “I meant what I said and I said what I meant!”  while strange cat-like creatures jumped around talking in jumbled rhyming sentences.

The Cat in the Hat stands over Dr. Seuss

Most of the outdoor adventure today happened walking between coffee shops and restaurants.  Still, I think we have put in about four miles and the sun has not yet set.  We’re sitting outside on campus right now and I’ve had so much coffee YOU can feel it, can’t you? 

How would you like to walk to class among eucalyptus trees?

My son informed me that some students here at UCSD worship the Sun God.  I said, “Oh really?”  He said, “You’ll see.”  We rounded the corner.  Sure enough, there was the Sun God. We did not see any worshipers nearby.  We did see a couple students sunning on blankets.  Perhaps they were devotees.

The Sun God

“How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

We had one terrible incident this morning.  Very awful.  Do you want to hear?

Yesterday we bought a persimmon at the Farmer’s Market.  (You remember how much I loved them the first day?)  We admired it this morning and Chris cut it up into beautiful slices.  We would perhaps bring our slices to the coffee shop and savor them between our bites of bagel with cream cheese and lovely espresso.

But first, we decided to sample one.  Just a bite before we left the apartment. 

Innocent-looking persimmon

We sampled. 

We looked at one another in horror.  Our faces screwed into frenetic disgust.   “Arghghghghh!!!” we gurgled and I ran for the bathroom sink with a glass of water.  Sip, spit!  Sip, spit!  Anything to get that horrible taste out of my mouth.  Chris was having his own troubles in the kitchen.  We were beside ourselves attempting to deal with that horrible horrible taste.  Finally, about three minutes later we could function halfway normally.

He later looked it up on the computer and discovered the following facts:  It’s important you know there are two kinds of persimmons: the Fuyu, the kind you can eat right away, and the Hachiya, the kind you can’t. If you bite into an unripe Hachiya persimmon, it is if you just drank six cups of extra strength tea. This astringent flavor is due to the high level of tannin in the fruit, and there is a good chance that you would never try a persimmon again because it tastes so bitter. This would be a shame because ripe persimmons have an exceptional flavor and provide us with important nutrients such as beta-carotene, Vitamin C and potassium.

“Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”

and…

“Today was good. Today was fun. Tomorrow is another one.”

Face of El Cabrillo

Face of El Cabrillo

I’ve named the above rock.  Meet “El Cabrillo”.  El Cabrillo, meet the blog readers. 

El Cabrillo lives in the Tidal Pools at the Cabrillo National Monument Park in San Diego.  He was staring up at the walkers traversing on the backs of his brothers and sisters along the pools.

I spotted him immediately.  Forget looking for anemones and crabs and seaweed.  There was a face in the rocks!  We could return home perfectly satisfied.

Chris and his girlfriend

Chris and his girlfriend

Oh what a lovely day!  I spent the night at a motel in Little Italy.  Up at 5 a.m. once again (forced myself to lie abed until the late morning hour of 6) and then explored the streets.  Ate a breakfast Panini and coffee along India Street before sitting in a courtyard to write 2,000 words of the novel along with the most delicious coffee in the Universe.  Well, good coffee anyway.

We attended another farmer’s market and then picnicked near Balboa Park under eucalyptus trees.  I wondered why there wasn’t any grass beneath our feet.  The kids explained that planted grass needs watering; therefore, many places remain grass-free. 

Later in the day we ventured to the Cabrillo National Monument park.  It was so cool.  I loved it.  First we viewed the skyline of San Diego and the hundreds of white sails on the ocean.  I won’t show you this view because the little Sony Cybershot refuses to do justice to wider views, to skylines.  So forget the sweeping panoramic views of the magnificent ocean.  You can look at closeups instead.

Seaweed in the tidal pools

Seaweed in the tidal pools

I kept gushing, “Oh this is wonderful!  Oh, isn’t this great?” as we explored the tidal pools.  Chris said, “I am a little underwhelmed, Mom.”  But later after we viewed the crabs and fish and anemones he changed his mind, I think.  He may not have been overwhelmed like his mama, but he was impressed.  And so was his girlfriend. 

Curved tidal pool

Curved tidal pool

You wouldn’t believe how slippery the rocks were.  I mean they were slippery.  You had to pray you wouldn’t fall into the underwater world of those sea creatures.  Some of us less agile folks had to crawl along the rocks, placing the feet very carefully.  You wanted hands to help you jump over pools and seaweed-covered slime.  You thought to yourself, “How old am I anyway?  At what age should you stop clamouring over slippery rocks?”

Christopher and his mama

Christopher and his mama

Some nice volunteers gave us advice about the creatures in the tide pools.  They showed me a little green worm, a magnificent find!  They shared the names of the amazing sea-beings.  I would have called the following sea creature an “urchin” but the kind lady explained that it was an anemone.   Isn’t it cool?

Anemone

Anemone

Another exciting thing happened.  A woman gave me a new name.  She was attempting to coral her three children into a cave for a photograph.  “Grace, Grace, come on in the picture!”  she kept saying.  And then she turned to me, who was standing three feet from her and gasped. “Oh no, I thought you were Grace!  I am so sorry.”  “It’s OK,”  I said, and we both looked at Grace who was crawling on some nearby slippery rocks.  “Guess you have a new name now,” the woman told me, “Your name is Grace.”

OK, I’ll take it.  My new name is Grace.

A bird who doesn't feel well

A bird who doesn't feel well

Grace (the real Grace) and her sisters approached a nearby black bird who refused to move.  They finally stood about a foot from the bird before the park volunteers urged them away,  “The bird isn’t feeling well today; please leave him alone,” the volunteer kindly explained to the sisters. 

When we got in the car, Christopher noted, “You talk to a LOT of people.”  Yes.  It’s true.  I am fascinated by people.

Hope you enjoyed the tour of the tidal pools.

Love, Grace

Pomegranates

Pomegranates

OK, I do not have a photo of a Persimmon from the Farmer’s Market in the Little Italy neighborhood of San Diego.  I am really sorry about that.  Because today I tasted my very first Persimmon.  And liked it very much.  Wikipedia explains that is known as the “fruit of the gods”.

After Christopher’s girlfriend arrived from one of those LA suburbs, we traveled downtown Sandy Eggo  (that’s what my friend Margo calls this fair city) and cruised the Farmer’s Market.  I have never seen such exotic fruits,vegetables, pesto, olives, fish…anything in the world one might imagine.  Our markets in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula look very tame and ordinary compared with this.

Anyone ever heard of Turkish eggplants? 

Yep, Turkish eggplants

Yep, Turkish eggplants

I am still in shock at the rapid uploading-speed of these photos.  You reach for a sip of your pumpkin pie spiced latte.  Just one sip.  And the photo is uploaded before you finish sipping.  Where am I?  Does such a place exist in the Internet world that embraces such a possibility?  I may never want to go home.  You can do the dishes in the time it takes to upload a photo at times. (OK, a slight exaggeration…)

Little girl in pink with flowers

Little girl in pink with flowers

A man with a trumpet played Christmas carols for us as we wandered among the booths.  There were free samples at almost every booth!  Oh did we sample.  The kids even bought a few specialty items, including pesto and hummus which we munched with pita bread for lunch. 

The kids up ahead

The kids up ahead

They have everything in San Diego.  I kid you not.  Even…doggie playgroups???  Really???

Too bad we didn't have a dog.

Too bad we didn't have a dog.

After a stop back at the apartment for lunch we drove up to La Jolla and walked along the ocean.  I wanted to see the seals.  Chris’ girlfriend said the seals were not too exciting.  They just lay there.  Didn’t move.  Not too entertaining. 

“I still want to see the seals,” I assured her.  “We must have seals for the blog!”

The Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean

We walked along the hard-packed sand above the beach.  This is not like ordinary sand.  It feels hard, like concrete.  I have never seen sand like this before.  Hundreds of people walked along above the ocean, looking down.  Dozens played in the surf.  Some lay on blankets on the ground, sunning.  A beautiful 65 degree day for visiting the beach. 

Family by ocean

Family by ocean

Finally we saw them.  High excitement!  The seals.  There they were…or were they?  Were they seals or motionless rock-like lumps on the horizon?  We approached them from the causeway which provided tourist-like views above their heads.  Yep, sure enough.  The seals of La Jolla.

Seals!!

Seals!!

And more seals sun-bathing atop large rocks.  We waited eagerly for them to move.  There!  One stretched.  One curled up a bit.  One scratched his friend’s back.  (Yes, I swear this happened.  And I have at least one witness.)  We ooohhed and aaahhhed as one seal dove into the water and swam around.

Seals on rock

Seals on rock

It was very exciting.  But then we had to go home and nap.  You know how it is on vacation.  You taste persimmons and watch seals and nap.  This is the LIFE!

My little boy all grown up

My little boy all grown up

And exhausted.  Live in San Diego, but really really tired.  I was dreading writing this blog.  Truly.  Thinking “oh why oh why do I have to write a blog after we’ve walked for miles and miles and all I want to do is sleep even though it’s not even 4:30 in the afternoon…”

But I just uploaded the first photo and the Internet went zip-zip-zip and uploaded it in five seconds flat.  I am not kidding you.  It took five seconds to upload a photo.  At home it takes years to upload one photo.  OK, maybe three minutes.  But here in the Modern City of San Diego we have the luxury of fast photo uploading.  I am so happy that it woke me up.  Will probably even make it until dinner now.  🙂

OK, enough giddiness.  I am HERE!  With my oldest son Christopher who is 27 years old and in a sociology grad program.  He’s been here two years.  I thought it was three years, but he set me straight.  He’s starting his third year of his doctoral program.  We’re having a great time so far. 

First thing this morning we walked a couple miles to a coffee shop in University Heights.  There are marvelous palm trees everywhere.  Temps in the 60’s.  Mountains in the distance.  The Pacific Ocean to the west.  How cool is that?

Heed the sign

Heed the sign

It’s possible to upload photos so quickly I don’t even need to babble.  I could just upload dozens of photos for you to see.  (Except you slow-loading DSL folks would probably kill me, so will try to limit the photos to a respectable number.)

Imagine living surrounded by such beautiful flowers

Imagine living surrounded by such beautiful flowers

After our morning bagel with cream cheese and coffee we toured Balboa Park.  As some of you might know, Balboa Park is this huge park in the midst of San Diego.  Chris lives on the northern side of it.  We first toured the Cactus Park.  He thought that an admirable first Outdoor Adventure.  I had to agree.

Cactus and Sky

Cactus and Sky

I could show you sixteen different kinds of cactus.  Chris pointed out that everyone he brings to the Cactus Park photographs different cactus.  I wonder what that reveals about our personalities. 

After our cactus adventure we continued to tour Balboa Park.  We visited the Botanical Gardens and walked past many museums.  I liked the following quirky fountain:

Spitting water

Spitting water

Oh heaven knows what we did next.  We toured so many places.  Eventually we visited campus and then Black’s Beach.  The vista was amazing!  Hard-packed sand and cliffs and blue sky and the frothing ocean.  There were steps that lead all the way down to the waterfront.  But I think Chris took pity on me.  He said we would save that walk for another day.

Black bird soars over Black's Beach

Black bird soars over Black's Beach

Look very closely down at the beach.  See any interesting sights?  Chris says this is a Nudist’s Beach.  Isn’t that interesting?  Perhaps I will have some more interesting photos on another day.  NOT!!!!  (I’m not that courageous, yet!)

So we’re back at the apartment now and we’re soon headed down to the city for dinner.  He’s not making me walk all the way down there, good lad.  He knows his poor mama wouldn’t be able to make it home without assistance.  So we’re driving.  Here is a view of San Diego proper:

San Diego

San Diego

Hope this all made sense.  Jumbled tired jet-lag people should not write blogs.  They shouldn’t. 

See you all tomorrow!

Pine cone

Pine cone

I am definitely not outside right now.  However, it’s questionable if I’m really inside either.  Airports are a nether-world, a strange world.  And so are airplanes.  We’re half-way between indoors and outdoors when we’re flying in those planes, high in the sky, the birds far below us.

Someone–maybe my son (whom I will soon be hugging in San Diego at about 12:30 Eastern time, although a spry 9:30 p.m. California time)–first introduced me to the concept of airports being a world in themselves.  Another reality, almost.  I am sitting now in a Chili’s restaurant, having just joined Boingo.  I suppose all you travelers already know about Boingo.  It’s a wireless network for which you pay $7.99 (I think.  I’ve already forgotten what I just charged to the credit card.)  And supposedly you get 24 hours of free Internet wireless at tons of airports world-wide.  But because this is a strange airport-world and not the woods, I really don’t know.  Anything could happen.

Red berries, blue sky

Red berries, blue sky

The photos were pre-loaded yesterday because I didn’t want the stress of trying to figure out Boingo and navigate this strange world of carrying laptop computers in your backpack…PLUS attempting to upload photos.  Maybe someday I’ll be brave enough to upload photos while traveling.  We’ll see. 

So.  Here’s the scoop.  I was the LAST passenger to board the plane in Marquette.  You kids, do you hear that? Your mama, who is always two hours early for the flight, almost missed this one.  Not because I wasn’t in the airport.  No.  But somehow I was so busy trying to figure out how to get connected to free wireless, plus talking to a local family picking up another family member for hunting season, plus chattering away to my daughter in Manhattan that I somehow missed the announcement for boarding.  Can you imagine?  This has never happened.

When I finally heard the low voice over the intercom, I noticed the waiting area was empty.  “Am I late or early?” I asked the friendly security folk who scolded me for including the mouse in the laptop screening.  Apparently the mouse and the cord must remain forever separate on the screening table.

“You are the last one on the plane,” the lady severely told me.

YIKES!!! 

 
Sweeping stalk of wild grass

Sweeping stalk of wild grass

OK, I just deleted a soothing bark photo, sorry guys.  And the battery keeps discharging and there is no electrical outlet in sight.  There are a million people around.  Sixteen of them are crowded around my computer at Chili’s, no kidding.  I have ordered something to drink and will wait for dinner until this darn blog gets published. 

To the heavens...

To the heavens...

So the flight was great.  I can’t believe how many lakes we have in Michigan.  Every time you look out the airplane window, attempting to peer around the wing, which is always in your way, you see yet another lake.  To get out of the Upper Peninsula you usually have to take a prop plane.  One of those propeller-planes with maybe twenty seats.  In the old days I remember being on bumpy tiny planes with maybe ten seats.  We’ve entered the modern ages, we have.

Very soon I will get on a plane bound for San Diego and travel five hours to the west.  Plans:  to sleep.  (You want to know a secret I haven’t told many people?  I take a Dramamine pill before flying.  Always have since that day in 1980 when the plane bounced up and down and the lady next to me kept sharing her secret chili recipe and…well you don’t need to know the details, do you?)

OK,  time to see if this will post in this strange airport-Boingo world.  And then to eat dinner. What shall I have? 

Oh P.S. I forgot to tell you about the Outdoor Adventure.  Excuse me.  Too much has happened today.  I walked freezing cold, having forgotten hat and mittens and warm coat with my thoughts completely absorbed in plans of San Diego, through the city of Marquette.  It was invigorating.  I am ready to be not quite so invigorated.

River pool

River pool

For the third time in thirty years we attempted to visit Silver Mountain and hike up the steps to the summit.  Everyone in the whole county has already been there, I am sure.  My husband has successfully visited there several times.  Yet every time I try to climb Silver Mountain, Something prevents it.

Today, I was determined, we would find the elusive mountain, climb it, take photos, return home and publish a blog about the wonders of the rocky-mountain top.

Right.

The river is POWERFUL!  Remember that.

The river is POWERFUL! Remember that.

Trip #1 (all those years ago):  we just plain got lost in the backwoods wilderness of the Ottawa National Forest.

Trip #2:  We knew where we were going, but torrential spring rains washed out the road to the mountain.

Trip #3 (today):  We started out about 3:15 p.m.  I said to Barry, “Do we need a map?”  “No,” he replied breezily, “I know just where we’re going.” And proceeded to tell me exactly how to get there.

So we drove.  And drove.  And drove.  And pretty soon the clock showed 4 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. and we still could not find the right road.  Alas.  We turned down a side road and ended up turning around.  We were starting to get hungry.  And the sun now sat at a very low angle on the horizon, diving down lower.

“We should have started earlier,” we said glumly.  But then I had a brilliant idea!  It may not be the outdoor adventure that we planned, but…”How about we drive over to Covington and eat dinner at the Hardwood Steakhouse?”

I have been wanting to eat dinner at this out-of-the-way restaurant since it opened a couple years ago.  And we are NEVER anywhere near the restaurant at dinner time.  It’s about forty five mintues from our house. Perhaps this is the Universe’s treat.  If we had found Silver Mountain earlier, we never would have traveled this far south. 

“What do you think?  Can we go?  Oh let’s go!” I enthusiastically gushed.

We should have brought our map.

We should have brought our map.

Finally we discovered exactly where we were in these winding back roads, and we could have easily found our way to the little mountain.  But by then it was 5 p.m. and would be dark in an hour.  We decided to follow the road to the Sturgeon River Campgrounds (where we had camped years ago with our family).  This brought back memories of the time a rainstorm washed out our tent and how we rose soaking wet at 6 a.m. Sunday to drive home.  I remember we ate donuts in the car and somebody…no names please…threw up the donuts all over.  What a fun family trip that proved to be!

Sun-lit tres along the river

Sun-lit trees along the river

I climbed down to the river to take photos and discovered the following rock.  Someone had written appropriate sentiments onto the big stone overlooking the rapidly rushing river. 

The rock says it all

The rock says it all

So we didn’t make it to Silver Mountain today.  (Or the last time, or the time before that.)  Remember the saying, “You know how to make God laugh?  Tell him your plans!!”  We announced our intentions, but the Universe had another plan.  It said, “No, today you will drive down lovely country back roads.  You will wander by the Sturgeon River.  And, best of all, you will eat a lovely sesame-encrusted salmon with orange-ginger sauce at the Hardwood Steakhouse in Covington.”

Delicious dinner

Delicious dinner

Here is the secret to life:  Sometimes you have to make plans.  But always be prepared to listen to any alternate plans the Universe has in mind.  Be infinitely flexible. Be ready to turn left instead of right.  Laugh a lot.  If you can’t find Silver Mountain before sunset, look for a good restaurant. 

It’s as simple as that.  🙂

I know some of you must have been worried.  You perhaps had a sudden premonition that something must be wrong with Kathy over at Opening the Door, Walking Outside.  Perhaps you fretted.  Frowned.  Momentarily thought about me.

Thank you.  It’s all OK now.  We’re back home, safe and sound.  We’ve taken off our sopping wet clothes and we’re celebrating a dry house, safety, knowing where we are!  After a very very hot bath, I’m sipping jasmine tea and attempting to decompress from this afternoon’s outdoor adventure.

Ready for a story?

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

The mud puddle we couldn't cross

It may be a long story with a slew of photos.  Here was our mission, should we choose to accept it.  Our friend Cathy drew a detailed back-country map with directions to reach the Rock Cut.  The Rock Cut is way back in the bush, down crazy logging roads.  You can’t reach it unless you have directions with mileages written on it.  You turn here, you turn there, you say a little prayer, you turn the wrong way, you consult your map, you plan on spending the night in the car, you ask your husband if you can build a debris hut of leaves INSIDE the car if you’re stranded.  He says, no, we’ll be walking if the car dies.  You sigh and say another prayer.

So we have the infamous map.  Thank goodness.  First, we head off the wrong way.  Bouncing along rough graded roads with Grandma’s 1995 Buick.  You see, we couldn’t take the 1949 four-wheel drive Studebaker.  It has no odometer.  We needed the odometer more than the four-wheel drive.  Or so we thought.

The Map.  The Precious Map.

The Map. The Precious Map.

We headed off down the wrong road, turned back, followed the map even more closely.  Up into the higher elevations we climbed.  The rain gave way to snow.  Yep, it was snowing up there in the high country.  Pretty soon there was snow on the ground.  Pretty soon the road began to look slightly challenging.  We hit a couple somethings (maybe rocks, maybe holes, maybe minor wash-outs).  The car moaned.  We moaned.  We only hoped we could discover the elusive Rock Cut SOON.

So we finally reached the Big Impassible Mud Puddle.  See first photo.  We might have made it, but we didn’t want to get stuck.  Our map suggested it was only a mile to the Rock Cut.  We set off through the rain and snow and mud on foot like troopers.  We had traveled all this way; we would not retreat.  We would forge ahead.

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Checking the car to make sure we didn't have troubles

Except.  We couldn’t find the Rock Cut.  We looked and looked, climbing up roads and down roads.  You can imagine how we felt.  While we are looking for the Rock Cut in this blog, let’s take time out for a History Moment.  To explain what the Rock Cut might be.  And why we wanted to see it.

picture_huronbay_1890s_rockcut2

Here is the brief history.  In the 1890’s several Detroit business fellows joined together with plans to create a 42-mile wilderness railroad from Champion to Huron Bay.  They aimed to haul iron ore to the bay, from whence it would be shipped across Lake Superior to the Sault.  The terrain, however, proved most forbidding.  It was preferable, at that time, to construct grades at no more than 3-4%.  The engineers of this project utilized grades up to 8%.  (For you non-engineers, that means very steep grades.)

This little project became known as the Million Dollar Railroad.  They built the railroad (with up to 1,500 workers at one point) and then constructed a huge wood ore dock down on the Huron Bay.  And guess what happened? 

The project failed.  Here’s where two stories come into play.  I don’t know which one is true.  The local legend says that the locomotive made it downhill to the bay, returned and could not climb up the steep  8% grade near the Rock Cut.  Other sources say that the trains never even ran at all.  It was a failed venture. The company spent $2 million in four years and went bankrupt.

The Rock Cut is a place where they dynamited an almost-impenetrable wall of rock and workers carried away the debris in wheelbarrows.  For all you history buffs, check out more information here or here.  (The first site is rich in information; the second site has great old photos.  Look under Photo History Pages, Huron Bay.)

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

One of the last remaining railroad tracks

Just when we were about to return home (and I already had the title of the blog:  Our failed trip to the Million Dollar Railroad) Barry decided to hike up a hill.  And hurray!  He discovered the elusive Rock Cut.

The Rock Cut!  Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad.  Finally!

The Rock Cut! Site of the Millon Dollar Railroad. Finally!

Later we discovered the sign on a tree.  The Boy Scouts put this sign up many years ago, to help challenged souls like ourselves find the way to the old cut.

What do you know?  There IS a sign.

What do you know? There IS a sign.

And, finally, Barry snapped a photo of me.  Maybe to prove we were there.  We have to let our map-friend Cathy know that, despite our crazy detours and challenges, her map actually was correct.  And we have returned safe and sound.  We didn’t have to spend the night in the woods.  The car still runs. 

Even though the Million Dollar Railroad didn’t make it, we did!  🙂

Yep, me and the Rock Cut.  Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Yep, me and the Rock Cut. Jeans, socks & boots are soaked.

Bronze girl statue with butterfly

Bronze girl statue with butterfly

Almost home now.  Only eighty miles of driving before hugging Barry “hello!” and hearing what’s been happening here in the Upper Peninsula during the past five days.  But first:  must eat dinner and have an outdoors adventure. What better outdoor experience than to sit overlooking Lake Superior here in Marquette, eating the most lovely gourmet salad at L’Attitude and writing a blog?  It’s probably 75 degrees and so beautiful!  Who would believe this is the first full day of autumn here in North Country?

Butterfly

Butterfly

Part of me still remains back in Georgia, wondering how all the folks are handling the flooding.  It’s really dicey in some of the northern Atlanta suburbs.  At last count, six to eight people had died in the flooding following torrential downpours for days.  The shuttle driver was even a little apprehensive about getting us to the airport safely and on time.  He drove over flooded highways yesterday evening and seemed a little cautious. 

We all eyed the Yellow River as we passed over.  It lapped hungrily just a few inches from the busy highway.  “If the Yellow River crests,” our shuttle driver said ominously, “We’ll be cut off from Atlanta.”

Luckily, the river only churned in its red-orange-brown fury of too much rain.  We crossed over the bridge and made it safely to the airport.  The other problem involves the shallow root system of the trees.  With the drenched soil, many big trees are toppling, slamming into houses and roofs.  Not a good scenario.

Butterfly (2nd view)

Butterfly (2nd view)

But let’s backtrack to yesterday.  Back to the state Botanical Gardens in Athens.  Oh, it was a lovely time in between rain showers!  And have you noticed what elusive image was captured digitally?  A butterfly with wings opened and closed!  I have been furtively stalking butterflies all summer, with very little success.  They land, nibble on flowers, and depart, all before the camera is properly aimed.  Thank goodness for an entire garden of flowers!  They grow lazy there, drunk on nectar.  And I got a shot at them.  Thank you, Butterfly, for cooperating.

Pink flower over tile

Pink flower over tile

The two flights back home proved enjoyable today.  No fuss.  No real delays.  If you have Gypsy blood and travel a lot, you experience all sorts of challenging experiences on airplanes and airports.  I could write a book, I tell you, of traveling adventures!  How you learn, over and over and over again basic lessons about trust and faith.  (Even this morning, when the Mind tried to worry about flooded culverts and bridges and swept-away roads…it was necessary to surrender to something beyond the Mind’s tendency to worry and exaggerate and fuss.)

Statue called "Peace"

Statue called "Peace"

This statue of a dove of peace in the gardens summarizes this very well.  Our minds create peace or war.  What do we choose in each moment?

Family of red flowers

Family of red flowers

Right now I choose to eat some more salad.  Excuse me.  Excuse these Lake Superior flies too.  Must keep swatting them away.  Lovingly, of course.

Black rain-soaked leaf

Black rain-soaked leaf

This black rain-soaked leaf looked so stunning.  Almost mystical.  Let’s make this leaf our transition between summer and autumn, between Georgia and Michigan,between rain and sunlight.  Hope everyone enjoyed their fall equinox!

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