Thursday, August 30, 2007

We Now Interrupt Our Regular Programming...

It is not like me to do things out of order. I'm a Virgo, and just a tad perfectionist, so it really pains me to interrupt the never-ending tale of our motorbike trip through Michigan for a non sequitur. But when I read this story I had to make an exception. It seems some yahoo from San Francisco decided to torch the Man four days early. What a selfish lowlife! He deserves a swift kick in the shins with a pointy-toe slingback.

Right now in Black Rock City humans from all over the world are participating in an experiment in temporary community. They are covered in playa dust, costumed, painted, naked, drunk, sober, happy, sad, contemplative, expressive, dancing, standing still, singing, crying, they are hot, they are cool, they are weird, they are beautiful, they are hopeful, they are fearful, they are shy, they are outgoing - they are all of us, at our best and our worst, all at once. But most of all they are are coming together to live for one week in the REAL WORLD: a desert...a barren, blank canvas on which everyone is equal.

During our week on the playa Burners are reminded of the power of true human-to-human interaction and what it means to really be part of a community. It's not about status, it's not about power, it's not about beauty, it's not about wealth; it's about participation, appreciation and love for our fellow human, no matter their attire, their status, their beauty, or their wealth. The Man is often dismissed as an effigy, but really he is so much more. It is a powerful symbol of the default world and the Burn is a deep, almost spiritual, affirmation that sustains all Burners through their year-long sojourn in the default world and guides them back home again.

I really miss being there this year; it is the first year since 2003 that we have not made the trip. And though I'm not hot and dusty and painted and costumed and dancing with the love of my life at the Deep End, I still feel the same hurt and disappointment and anger at this selfish act. BMO has vowed to rebuild the Man in time for Saturday's Burn, and I have a sneaking suspicion that the Burn will be even more spectacular and powerful than ever! Burn, MF, BURN!!!

Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Scary Bridge and Beyond

The Mackinaw City Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Uppper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. Interestingly, the Mackinac Bridge is one of only two segments of Interstate 75 that is tolled. The other segment is Alligator Alley, nary 30 miles south of where we live. Yet another Florida-Michigan connection, but I digress...apparently crossing the Mackinac Bridge is really scary...or, so we had been warned. Upon seeing the bridge, I really didn't get what all the fuss is about. I mean, I live in Florida, surrounded on all sides by water and I regularly travel across long, tall bridges that span deep water. And crossing the Mackinac bridge, even on the back of a motorbike, proved to be no big deal (sorry, Mom LeB!)
The picture at left shows our perspective as was traveled south from St. Ignace into Mackinaw City. See? Nothing scary about. Well, there was one sort-of scary thing about the bridge: the inside lane is constructed of grate. It's not so much fun to ride on a motorcycle in a roadway lane made of grate...especially when you can look straight through the grate to the 55-degree lake below the bridge, and the driver of the motorcycle has removed one hand from the handlebars to snap (yet another) photograph. We arrived in Mackinaw City safe and sound (and we have great photos to prove it...)

I love Mackinaw City, not only because the people are especially friendly and accommodating or because it's the world headquarters for homemade fudge; but because I learned a new definition of the word "pasty." Since leaving Wisconsin earlier that day, we kept seeing roadside signs advertising "homemade pasties." Finally, in Mackinaw City, we enjoyed a delicious chicken pasty - basically a homemade chicken pot pie in a dough pocket. Yum!!

Mackinaw City was also the gateway to our "Trip Through the History of Peegie." He was born at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital and lived the first 3 years of his life in a charming duplex on a quiet side street in this quiet little town along the shore of Lake Michigan. Peegie's Pop, "Boot", was stationed aboard the USCG Icebreaker "Mackinaw."
While in service, the Mighty Mack ensured the safety of vessels crossing the Great Lakes in the winter time. Apparently it gets pretty cold there (says the girl from Florida...) and the lakes freeze, making passages difficult and dangerous. During the non-winter months, the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw served as the PR ship for the Coast Guard. They did all kinds of cool stuff like delivering Christmas trees to needy families across the lake in Chicagoland, earning the name "The Christmas Ship"; and raising the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As macabre as it may sound, I have always been fascinated by the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (I think it's because it happened during my lifetime and because Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ditty really scared me when I was a child. I was always terrified that the ocean might become too rough for my mother to feed us during our weekend boat trips.) The Mighty Mack was decommissioned in 2005. She is now a permanent floating museum. Touring the Mackinaw was super cool, especially for Peegie. Not only is he all about all things boats and nautical, he was really struck by the fact that he was actually re-tracing the steps of his father on that boat. Particularly cool was calling Boot from the bridge of the boat and hearing him narrate the bridge to us in exacting detail while we actually looked and touched each instrument he described. We were really giddy when we left the Mackinaw - in the same way a child might be giddy after their birthday party, but without all the sugar!

Mackinaw City is ALSO the jumping off point for visiting Mackinaw Island. Wow! Mackinaw Island is known, of course, for the graceful and lovely Grand Hotel - although I'm not convinced "grand" is a "grand" enough term to describe this gorgeous corner of the world. Unlike the experience at many "grand" hotels, the Grand lured us with her beauty and and welcomed us to stay as long as we wanted, to sit on the expansive porch and enjoy the general loveliness of the day. Given that it was nearly lunchtime, we also enjoyed a Grand lunch buffet (for a GRAND price of $90, sparkling water extra...) I'm a sucker for dining in beautiful old dining rooms, especially when my dining partner is Peegie, the service is gracious and friendly, and the food is widely varied and simply delicious. We ate our fill and practically waddled out of the hotel en route to the ferry and the new adventures awaiting us along the M22 Corridor.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

What I Did on My Summer Vacation - Part II, Act I.

Life really IS a bowl of cherries (and blueberries...and raspberries...), especially if you happen to be touring Northern Michigan on a BMW GS 1200 in mid-July.

As a native Floridian, my impressions of Michigan are largely shaped by the enormous flock of snowbirds that annually flies south on Interstate 75, usually in some form of van or minivan moving at a snail's pace in the left lane. My one and only trip to Michigan - a short weekend trip to Detroit for the Auto Show in early January - did little to convince me that Michigan is anything other than a cold, dirty, grey, industrial wasteland where people speak with a terribly unfortunate accent and suffer from a severe case of sour grapes in college football.

On the flipside, I have many good friends who hail from the Wolverine State and wax poetic about the natural beauty of their home state. My love was born in Cheboygan and spent the first three years of his life there while his Pop was stationed aboard the USCG Mackinaw. He also spent a great deal of time in Arcadia as a youngster. Still, when Peegie suggested a motorbike tour of Northern Michigan for Summer Vacation - Part II I was very skeptical. But, I am always game for a new adventure and, what the hey?, it couldn't be any worse than what I already imagined!

Michigan is, in a word, spectacular. I could not be more thrilled that my impressions were forged anew. Who knew it would be so stunningly beautiful? Who knew the Great Lakes are as expansive and endless as my beloved ocean? Four of the Great Lakes - Superior, Michigan, Erie and Huron - border the state. And it's pretty neato that Michigan is the only bi-peninsular state, even if the U.P. didn't live up to our expectations. Well, we DID encounter MANY archetypal "yoopers."

In many ways, our trip through Michigan was all about Peegie as we traced the steps of his life history in the places we visited. The fact that our vacation was spent with dear friends and family - HIS family - made it all the more special. It's an amazing experience to be with someone you love as they rediscover their past and reconnect with people who dearly love them.

What follows is a pictorial retrospective of our trip. In many "Acts." Blogger is good, it's not great, but it IS free. Beggars can't be choosers, and beggars also cannot post more than four or five pictures within a single posting to Blogger.

The adventure began at 7:00AM on July 5th in our driveway. That's the love of my life in the photo at the top of this post...posing with his bike, all packed and ready for the long journey to West Bend, Wisconsin for the BMW International Motorcycle Rally. He gave himself a week for traveling; as it turned out, he only needed three days. Peegie had a big time consorting with all of the rally attendees and doing all things BMW motobike. He met several new friends and especially enjoyed being among the youngest attendees at the rally. It doesn't often happen anymore that we are the youngest anywhere!

After the rally, Peegie explored the Wisconsin shoreline and Washington Island. He also practically ate himself sick on cherries and, specifically, cherry butter...a cherry variety of the apple butter we southerners adore.

My adventure on motorbike began in Green Bay, Wisconsin...the most convenient rendezvous point, although possibly the most ironic destination we could choose. Not only do we thrive on the hot and humid languidity of summer in the tropics, we are also long-suffering fans of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The weather in Green Bay on the day we visited Lambeau Field belied its famous moniker "The Frozen Tundra" - site of so many heartbreaking Buccaneer losses in the snowdrift. Seriously, Lambeau Field is hallowed ground in the same tradition as Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. I was happy to see Coach Curly standing guard. It was cool, but I'm still a Bucs fan so it was time for us to set out for parts north.
Despite being loaded down with gear and an extra human, Peegie did a magnificent job of handling the bike. He even did a little showing off by snapping the self-portrait at right. During the rally he took an advanced rider course wherein he learned, among other really important things, how to snap photos while riding a motorcycle.*
In this photo, we are riding along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, approaching Mackinaw City, our stopping point for the day. We were really happy in this photo because we had been riding for a long time, in and out of light, chilly rain. At this point sunshine was in full effect, the temperature was much warmer, the landscape was gorgeous and the promise of rest was only 20 minutes away. But, first, we'd have to cross the big, frightfully scary Mackinaw Bridge.
(*He did NOT, however, learn how to not drop the bike when coming to a stop at a red-light. On balance, I think the photo-snapping skill is more useful; after all, I do have two hiney cheeks to cushion a fall. )