Thursday, August 31, 2006

See You In September...

The days are definitely getting shorter. It’s dark in the mornings now and I need to stick my head outside to see if it’s a nice enough day to ride the bike to work. Pretty soon I won’t have to check, it’ll be too chilly in the morning to even consider taking anything but an enclosed vehicle. Evenings are getting shorter too of course…..there’s less useable daylight at the end of the day for getting those projects done that I’ve put off doing until now. It’s only going to get worse now until spring too… a S.A.D. sufferer (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I dread the lack of daylight that the coming months will bring and the ensuing lack of energy from the dearth of Human Photosynthesis brought on by the shorter days / longer nights. Trees go dormant during the winter months, resting up so that in the spring they can burst forth with renewed energy to produce another batch of beautiful green leaves with which to catch the suns life giving rays…….I tend to think of myself the same way, using the wintertime as a time to “cocoon” and make plans for the next warm season. Someday I need to get the hell out of this 4 season climate and go somewhere where it’s sunny and 70° + year round……….

This past week was another fairly quiet one. The wife’s volunteer disease was in full tilt mode with the start of high school football and soccer programs so I was left alone most of the week to fend for myself. Friday night though she had nowhere else to go so I put her on the back of the bike and we took a ride over by White Cloud so I could check into the little deer blind / out house’s that the John’s Garden Supply had for sale. I’d never stopped there before and was amazed at the amount of stuff they had inside. We spent awhile just strolling up and down the aisles, making mental notes of what was there so I could come back at a later date and grab things I need. After finding out what I needed to know and making a plan to come back Saturday afternoon to pick a little house up, we headed back towards home, stopping first at El Camino’s for a late dinner.

Saturday morning came and I’d planned on going into work for awhile instead of attending the metro-cruise event on Grand Rapids, which I’d like to have done….just can’t be everywhere at once and I needed to get things done up at the campsite so……When the alarm went off I hit it once and before I knew it, it was 8:30am and I’d semi-consciously made the decision not to go in to work. So I got up and started getting things around to head up North for the rest of the weekend. I was moving slow so by the time I did some truck maintenance, ran a couple errands and got things loaded up it was already noon. So, I said goodbye to the wife, grabbed Bailey and Mercury and we headed out of town and in the direction of John’s Garden Supply.

When we arrived there I told ‘em what I wanted and before long I had an older woman on a lift truck and two younger kids helping me wrestle the outhouse into the back of the pickup. I wanted to lay it down, but after a half hour of fighting with the damn thing to get it in the truck, we finally got it in, standing up, right up by the cab. I figured it’d be fine that way with the weight of the thing holding it down, so after paying for my purchases (also got a 36” diameter fire ring), I got in the truck and cautiously headed off down the road.

Now sometimes it takes awhile, days, weeks, months, maybe years to realize you’ve made a mistake and other times the realization is almost instantaneous……While we’d been finishing up loading the outhouse a sheriff had zipped by headed South with his lights on, after a speeder no doubt so, once I was on the road, heading North, I looked in my mirror and what should I see but the sheriff car coming up behind me. At this point things started happening quickly. Here I am, not a mile down the road from my point of purchase, thinking harassment is imminent because of the marked car in my mirror and then all of a sudden a gust of wind (it was a breezy day) slaps the truck and I look in my mirrors and realize, with a fair amount of horror, that the outhouse is tipping backwards in an attempt to lay itself down. At that point a vision flashed thru my head of $200.00 worth of outhouse, rendered instantly into kindling, scattered all over the highway and a Southern style sheriff writing me out a nice fat ticket for littering……..

Instincts took over at that point and I lifted my foot off the gas, which caused the outhouse to rethink it’s trajectory and slam into the cab of the truck. At that point I decided that the best course of action was to get the hell off the roadway and park the truck. By the time I got the trucked parked safely off the road the sheriff was parked in the left wing position, with his lights on. We both got out of our vehicles at the same time and met at the tailgate. His first comment relieved a ton of anxiety when he asked…”do you need some help with this thing?” to which I replied “looks like I could”. He then pointed out that a couple of the slats I had taken off the side of the outhouse, were scattered a ways back down the roadway, so I headed off at a brisk walk to retrieve them while he held down the fort.

When I got back to the truck he had his gloves on and was ready to help me wrestle the outhouse from it’s precarious upright position to a horizontal one that would be more conducive to traveling. Between the two of us we were able to lay it down so that only the roof of it was hanging off the tailgate. Once that task was complete he then helped me reload the toilet, fire ring and other stuff back into the truck. We then took the rope I’d thought to bring and ran that thru the windows of the outhouse and then thru the windows of the truck cab and tied the two ends together so that if at some point it started to walk off the back of the truck I’d be able to tell before it got too far away. At that point I was busy being thankful that I’d gotten out of my self-imposed jam with only minimal scarring when he came up to the window with his clipboard and asked for my name and birth date. I immediately thought “aww crap, here comes the ticket” but he just took down the info I gave him, told me to be careful the rest of the way and went back to his car. I once again counted my blessings, fired up the truck and slowly took off down the road.

The rest of the ride up to Whiskey Creek was uneventful. I got off M37 at Woodland Park and took the backroads the rest of the way. I finally pulled into the lot about 5ish and backed the truck up to where I planned to deposit the outhouse. I then grabbed the shovel and went about preparing the spot where the new fire ring would be in ceremonial fashion. The campfire is the center piece of any campsite and when I’m done with this one it’ll be a work of art.

Once I had the fire ring ready to assume it’s duties I put the dogs on their leashes and we headed up to the lodge to see about getting something to eat. All afternoon the wind had been blowing in clouds and it was getting darker as time went on. About the time we got to the lodge the sky decided it was time to release it’s load so the three of us headed for the great indoors. I had a hamburger for supper, shared with my 4 legged companions and then we started the hike back to the campsite. Just as we were getting there Adam’s dad, Rick pulled up in the truck with one of his buddies. They’d come over to help me get the outhouse off the back of the truck. After a bit of discussion on how to do it we finally had it standing up, albeit at a percarious angle on the hill. After they took off I decided to make a trip into Ludington for some stuff I needed..asthma spray, batteries and a new lantern. I also made a stop at the DQ :-)
By the time I got back to the campsite it was starting to get dark. I got a fire going in the new fire ring, put the batteries in the radio and put the new lantern together. Before long I had a good fire going, along with light from the new lantern and music from the radio. For the next several hours I sat comfortably in my campfire chair, soaking up the heat from the fire, listening to Danny O'keefe sing his songs that sooth the soul. It was quite relaxing and before I knew it, it was about 1:00am. The fire was mostly coals by then so I picked myself up and headed into the camper for some sleep.
Sunday morning arrived and it was 8:30 before I'd managed to open both eyes. the first order of business was to head up to the lodge for some breakfast. After a plate full of scrambled eggs, toast and sausage I drove back to camp and started in with my projects for the day. Between digging out a flat area to put the outhouse in, gathering rocks for the fire ring, raking up dead ferns and grass and dragging brush and firewood around I was busy until 4:00pm when I closed up camp and headed back for home. I got back in town about 5:30, took a quick shower and then rolled out the "56 and headed down to Jeannies for the cruise-in and a meal.

I had pics to deliver and fortunately the guy was there to deliver them to so I ended up again coming home with more cash than I had left home with...........that dont happen often enough to be sure. By the time I got home from Jeannies I'd put a full day in so I came down to the den and put on some music to say goodbye to the weekend with.........
This coming weekend is the last blast weekend, Labor day weekend and I'd love to go up to the straits and walk the bridge this year but it ain't gonna happen with the wedding only a week and a couple days away. If I can get in a decent length bike ride sometime during the weekend I think I'll count my blessings and call it good.
Time to call it a day for today. More later on.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Long Distant Grandparent

Here we are again, having survived another week on the planet and in the middle of “Back to School Sales” days, busily making plans for the last month’s worth of summertime and hoping it’ll act like summer for at least that much longer. We really need to get one more extended bike ride in before we remove the battery and put the cover over her for another long winter.

This past week started off Monday night with what will be, for awhile, the last visit from the oldest daughter and her clan. They were planning on being to their new place in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas by the end of the week. They were at the house when I got home and the plan was to go to dinner at the Stable Inn. All of us plus Ri and Adam and Tony and Gigi. A stop at Tony and Gigi’s to pick up a crib and some other stuff for Jennette after dinner was on the schedule also. When we came back to the house we spent some time going thru all Jen’s boxes of stuff to decide what stays and what goes. After that task was complete we spent the rest of the evening hanging out and playing with the oldest grandkid. All to soon it was time for bed and goodbyes. They’d be on their way back to Indiana and then off to Kansas by the time I got home from work Tuesday. I know there’s not much of anything anybody can do about it, but it kinda sucks having grandkids that live too far away to be a viable part of their life. It’s not like we can’t make the occasional trip out there, it’s a good excuse for a bike ride, but it’s not like I’ll ever be around enough to be factor in their lives. Maybe that’s a good thing, I dunno…the jury’s still out on my parenting skills.

Tuesday evening I decided to go up to Quick’s again. Figured I’d better go while the weather was still nice. This time I went by myself, no two legged, or 4 legged co-pilots. I parked in the grass, behind the bank where I usually park and when I came back after a walk around the grounds the other two guys with '56's had parked next to me so that we were all lined up side by side. It looked pretty cool. It was kid’s night and they had games set up for the little ones to play. They were having their cake walk deal too and I managed to win a cake to take home with my driver’s ticket number. The car of the night, one that I’d never seen there before, was a 1957 Olds Rocket 88. A really nice looker, black with a red interior. I spent some time looking it over and shooting some pics of it. I wanted to talk to the owner, even stayed past 8 after everyone had left, but nobody ever showed up to drive it home. Maybe it’s a relative of Christine’s :-)

The rest of the week was just pretty much frittered away. I didn’t do anything constructive around the house, didn’t even do much website stuff, but the time flew by nevertheless.

The plan for Saturday was to head for Hickory Corners and the Gilmore Auto Museum for the car show going on there. I got up about 6:00am to check out the weather and it was “iffy”. Pretty much clouded over, but according to Intellicast there wasn’t much rain in those clouds and it looked to be a nice afternoon, so I made the decision to go on ahead. We’d passed on doing the show last year on account of the weather and I knew if I stayed home I’d end up laying around, doing nothing, so I fired up the ’56 and headed down the road. It was a nice ride over, took my time, wasn’t in a hurry. It did spit rain a little bit once I got down by Otsego/Plainwell, but I didn’t even have to turn the wipers on.

I got to the museum right about 8:00am. It was obvious at that point that the weather was going to have an impact on the size of the show. I was able to pull right in, no waiting, no line of cars. I got a good parking spot right on the main grounds and registered in as car #26. By the time I finished signing in it’d begun to rain pretty steady, not heavy, just a drizzle, but enough to be annoying. So, to avoid getting too wet I killed some time by touring all the barns and checking out all the fantastic autos that the Gilmore Museum has on display. Most of them were from the 20’s thru the 40’s, when auto design was a work of art. I tried to get some photos, but the lighting in the barns sucked so the pics I did get are kind of unbalanced. One of the things that impressed me the most in the barns was the collection of hood ornaments, or "mascots" on display behind glass. The amount of time that went in to the design and manufacture of this one small piece of the vehicle was impressive. I don't think they spend that much time designing the whole damn car nowadays. You look at those cars, the attention to detail and quality of workmanship, the way they were built with the limited technology they had available back in those days and it's hard not to think that we've been on a downward slide for some time now.

By the time I had toured all the barns the rain had stopped and cars were starting to roll onto the grounds one after another. It looked like it was still going to be a decent sized turnout for the day. The rest of the morning I did my usual thing, hoofed around the grounds, shooting pics of the cars that caught my attention. One of the sidebars to the day was a guy there who made balloon characters for sale and we're not talking the normal simple stuff....this guy was a master of his craft. He was selling the balloon Elvis' for 4 bucks and I almost bought one. Finding out the balloons only lasted about a week though killed the deal so I took a pic of him instead using the old adage "take a picture, it'll last longer".
I took a lunch break about noon and had a brat and some chips. Shot the breeze for awhile with my neighbor who had a real nice 40’s era Plymouth coupe and then headed over to the game area and tried my hand at the hubcap toss. The hubcap toss consisted of seeing how many out of 5 hubcaps you could get thru a car door window. I was sure with all my years of Frisbee tossing it’d be a snap, but like a lot of things, it was harder than it looked. It's not like the hubcaps were all the same size or balanced either…, although I bounced 4 of the 5 of ‘em off the door, I wasn’t able to get a single one thru the window opening. Demoralized and dejected I wandered off to take more pics. To see all the pics from Hickory Corners click HERE.

At 3:00pm the Elvis impersonator was scheduled to be on stage so I went over to see what I could see and not being a big Elvis fan I could only take about 10 minutes worth of this guy, who I thought sucked as an impersonator, before I had to go take a walk. I came back at 4:00pm when they started handing out awards. I hung out there until they gave away the grand prize, a 350 Chevy motor. Once that had been done, everyone started heading for their vehicle. After a short wait in line to get out on the road, I headed for home, but not before making a stop at Dean’s Ice Cream in Plainwell. When I was a kid, living in Plainwell, we used to stop at Dean’s every Sunday after church and after all these years they still make a pretty good double chocolate malt.

After getting back on the road I called home to let the wife know I was on the way and was informed at that point that we were heading for the movies with Gigi and Josh when I got home. I got there just a bit before 7:00pm and we headed off to the theatre soon after. We went to see Talladega Nights, a spoof on NASCAR, and although it had it’s moments, for the most part it was a bust. By the time we left the theatre it was already dark and because we had not had supper yet we decided to go to Clover and order a pizza. Ri and Adam had already left for the night, but Chris and Shayna were still there washing dishes and putting toppings on pizzas. By the time we got out of there it was after 11:00pm. I tried to work on website stuff when we got home, but my eyes just wouldn’t stay open.

After last Sunday’s wasted day I decided I was going up to the campsite no matter what this Sunday so I got up early, tossed everything I was going to need in the back of the pickup and headed North. I stopped at Menards to buy fence, fence poles and stakes because one of my projects for the day was going to be putting up the dog pen. I took Bailey and Mercury along to test it out. On the way up Ri and Adam went zooming by me on their way to work on the area where the wedding will take place. Once we got up there I decided to have breakfast at the lodge first before getting to work. I was hoping to run into MarkE and find out what the hell the holdup is with getting the electricity hooked up, but he’d left about 10 minutes before I got there.

The first thing I did when I got back to the campsite was fire up the lawnmower and reclaim the “yard” area from them infernal ferns. Only takes a couple weeks and them damn things are back up and thick. I mowed the whole yard area and then decided to work on the driveway area too. About the time I was finishing up with the mowing, Rick,
Adam’s dad, stopped by to check out the electric box and see what there was left that needed to be done. I talked with him for a bit and then he took off. I was putzing around, getting ready to start on the dog pen when Rick stopped back, grabbed his sledge hammer and said “I’m here to help”. So over the next couple hours we put up the whole pen. It was nice having some help. I’m sure it’d taken me most of the rest of the day to get it done by myself.

After the dog pen project was completed Rick took off and I spent the rest of the afternoon cleaning up brush and hauling firewood from the pile I’d made a couple weeks ago down to a spot by the fire pit where I stacked it up neatly for future use. It was 6:00pm when I realized I’d pretty much run out of energy and decided to call it a day. I was pretty satisfied with the progress made for the day. I zipped up the camper, put all the tools back in the truck and headed out. It was a bit after 8:00pm by the time I got back home again. I had just enough energy left to make some supper and clean up the kitchen.

In the next couple weeks before the wedding there’s a lot to get done and not much money to do it with. Everyone seems to think we can pull money out of a hat, but the fact of the matter is that between buying the land and all the renovations to the house last winter we're pretty well tapped out for the time being. I'm not real sure how we're going to cover it all. The weekend of the wedding will be the first official “family” camping weekend there. Assuming we have electricity soon I have plans to have an outhouse built with a real working, flushable toilet installed. Nothing too fancy, but something that’ll do the trick until we can afford to buy the camper to put up there. In the meantime I can sleep in the popup just fine and keep making little improvements to the site as time allows. I’m hoping that we all can spend some quality time up there this fall before the snow starts to blow. We’ll see how that plan works out.


Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Summertime Waits For No Man...

Good lord, here it is the middle of August already. Somebody make it stop, or at least slow down…. please! Evenings are starting to get noticeably shorter, Ri’s wedding is less than a month away, we still don’t have all our utilities in place at the campsite and I’ve got a bunch of projects that were suppose to be done by now and I’ve only got 8 / 10 weeks left to finish things I haven’t even started yet. So, I guess what I’m saying is everything is pretty much normal around here. There’s not enough cash available to cover everything that needs to be taken care of and there’s places to go and things to do while the warm weather is still here, so it’s down to making choices on what gets done sooner and what gets done later.

This past week was kind of a quiet one. With the wife up North at band camp and Chris gone most of the time, either at work or skateboarding, I felt like the lonesome bachelor. It was just me and my four, four-legged friends who were always up for a game of toss the ball, or a nap, depending on whatever I was doing at the time. I pretty much just took it easy all week, didn’t do anything constructive around the house like I should’ve and the week still zoomed by.

Monday night I just hung out in the den, listened to music and worked on website stuff. Tuesday me and Bailey went up to Quick’s for the cruise-in and hung out there for the evening. There was a guy there with a ’51 Merc, that he’d just pulled out of a barn somewhere, that had for sale signs on it, but even though I’d love to have a Merc from that era I know there’s no way. Right now the ’54 wagon is up on Ebay and I think I may end up getting her sold this time. As much as I don’t want to sell it there’s just no point to keeping it up on jack stands in the garage for the next 5 years while I try to find time to work on it. I’ve just put a couple too many irons in the fire at one time and I need to back off a bit, take care of some things and then try again. Click HERE for Quick's pics.

Wednesday morning at work things were pretty somber. We had a meeting right at 7:00am and were informed that Dean Orchard, the plant Manager, had dropped over while out on his boat Tuesday night and died. Dean had been with the company since it's inception and for those folks who'd been at Nowak for a long time it was an upsetting situation. Myself, having been there only 6 months or so, didn't really have a chance to get to know him all that well so I was one of the few people in the plant Friday during the funeral service.

Wednesday was a hang around the house and do not much of anything night. Thursday night I went up to visit Ri and Adam and took them out to El Caminoes for dinner. After dinner we cruised around downtown Muskegon for awhile.....went down by Pere Marquette Park and also checked out the dock for the new Lake Express ferry that goes over to Wisconsin and back again. About 8:00pm I got back on the bike and headed for home. Then, it was the weekend again and Friday evening found us, (me and Bailey again), headed to Coopersville for their Summerfest celebration and the Del Shannon Cruise. We got there about 5:30pm so we’d have time to wander around a bit before the start of the cruise at 6:30. Spent some time chatting with folks and took a couple pics as cars from all over lined up for the cruise. By the time we fired up the car to head out there was 3 lines of cars as far as the eye could see in both directions, quite a few more than last year to be sure.

The cruise itself went pretty smooth. It took about an hour to get from our starting point out by the highway to the destination, the High School parking lot. Along the route there were a lot of folks out in their lawn chairs watching the procession amble by. There were folks with video cameras filming the event and kids waving at every car that rolled by. Both the horn and the clutch got a work out. Some folks were more proactive and had their hoses out to water down the street in the hopes that someone would ignore the warnings from the Sheriff’s Department and give ‘em a display of horsepower. Before the start of the cruise there were 2 girl sheriff’s deputies going up and down the rows of cars handing out their “smoking your tires is a no no and will get you a hefty fine” leaflets and were known as the “Killjoy Sisters” by those of us who see no harm in a bit of tire smoke now and then. During the cruise there were those with the "damn the torpedo's" approach to life who lit 'em up from time to time. We saw the smoke up ahead that indicated a blantant disrespect for the law (you betcha!) but didn't do any tire smokin' ourselves. I'm always afraid that a bout of showing off will result in a broken clutch or busted motor mounts

Once we got to the high school we parked the car and then headed up into the stands with the intention of hanging around to hear the Scottville Clown Band do their thing, but it was gonna be awhile before they were ready to go and after a bit of sitting we got antsy and decided to head out on the road to home. the rest of the evening was spent in the den listening to tunes and working on website stuff.
After a short night's sleep we woke up at 6:00am, got dressed, rolled the car out of the garage and headed back to Coopesville for the car show portion of the weekend. We got there before 7:00am and logged in as car #128. I'm pretty sure from the looks of the crowd of cars that was there that there were more than 127 of 'em there......that was just the ones registered for the event. After getting the car parked and display set up we headed down into town to the Country Cafe for a good breakfast. The place was packed but we managed to find a empty two person booth. After cleaing our plate and paying the bill we headed back towards the car and found a red Mustang convertible parked next to us. After a moment or two to process the info we realized it was the same gentleman that had parked next to us in Grand Haven a couple weeks ago. So while we cleaned up the hot rod a bit we shot the breeze with our neighbor.
After we got sick of cleaning and polishing we grabbed the camera gear and for most of the rest of the day we hiked around checking out all the cool rides. The show this year was considerably bigger than last year, so much in fact that they closed another street just to handle all the cars looking for a place to park. I didn't manage to cover the whole joint, but did get a bunch of cool shots. Talked to some nice folks gentleman in particular who'd restored a 1950 Studebaker convertible and did it the right way. It was a very cool ride. Before we were ready to call it a show it was time to give out the trophy's so we went down to the park and got a seat to see who was going to take home a dustcatcher.............Click HERE for all the Del Shannon Car Show pics.
The last couple years the final chapter of the Del Shannon Car show has been the round of burnouts done by guys as they were leaving the park and heading for home but this year it was not to be. The city brought in a couple of their trucks and parked them in such a manner that you had to go around them from one side of the street to the other. We can thank the ambulance chasing lawyers and the insurance bastards for killing off another tradition under the thinly veiled guise of public safety and liability. Bah.
By the time I got back home from the car show the wife had made it back home from her week long adventure as band camp champerone so we traded stories for a bit and then I called Clover Bar and ordered a pizza. After dinner it was pretty much a time to wind down. Before I knew it, it was 2am and time to get horizontal for a couple hours.
Sunday I had planned on going up to Whiskey Creek to do some work, but after taking the time to make breakfast and putzing around downstairs for a bit I decided to forego the trip and just rest up here. I ended up spending a good portion of the afternoon dozing off and on. About 5:30pm I finally picked myself up off the couch and got cleaned up a bit to go down to Jeannies for the Sunday evening get-together. I had pics I'd shot last week that I wanted to show off so I grabbed the pics, my gear and headed out the door and down 31. I showed off the shots I'd taken of one gent's car and he liked 'em enough to give me a ten spot for my troubles. I ended up doing another shoot after the crowd had left for the evening and by the time I finished that and packed up the car we were about the only one there. We cruised thru town after we got back to Grand Haven and then came on home. We spent the rest of the evening filling up the diswasher and making brownies. It was time for bed before I was ready to go but nothing new there......another week was just on the other side of the pillow and one of the high points of the week was going to be another visit from Jen and her whole crew. More on that next week, lord willin'.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Festival Week

Well, as I mentioned last entry, this past week was Coast Guard Festival week in Grand Haven. The high point of the summer for our little town. The week where a smallish town of 25,000 people explodes into a metropolis of 300,000 . Can you say traffic jam kids?.......I knew you could. Traffic issues aside, it’s an interesting time to wander around the waterfront. Between the visiting Coast Guard ships, the carnival on main street, the art show up in the park and various other events, there’s plenty to see and do for the tourists who wait all year to descend on our little dot on the map. Of course the locals bitch about all the hassles that the extra folks cause and avoid the West side of town like the plague so it’s possible to walk around down on the boardwalk and not see a single face that you know……. Living where we do it’s about a half hour hike from the house to the waterfront and even at my age it’s a heckuva lot easier to walk it then it is to try and drive it and it’s not like I can’t use the extra exercise so it’s a win / win situation.

My first foray in the abyss, not counting the car show, which was pretty much a bust, was Tuesday evening. It was hot, low ‘90’s and I was wishing about half way there that I’d had sense enough to put some shorts on. I’d thought about touring the Coast Guard boats to take some pics (like I do most every year), but once I got down there, between the heat and the crowd already in line, I decided it would make more sense if I stopped at Butch’s Beach Burritos for a bite to eat and then hike out to the end of the pier in search of a cool breeze. There were hordes of strangers tromping up and down the boardwalk in both directions but once I got out on the pier itself the crowds thinned out to a manageable level. About halfway out to the end there were some kids (anybody younger than 40 nowadays…..) that were doing stunts on their trick bikes. In the hopes of seeing one of them unintentionally sail off into the water I hung around a bit and took some shots of them doing their stuff. I showed ‘em a couple of the pics I took and then I headed out to the end, where I finally found the breeze I was looking to find.

After a half hour of basking in the cool breezes and waning light of the day I headed back towards the belly of the whale (downtown)…….As I strolled along I shot some pics of the boats, the waterfront and the carnival and arrived, at exactly 8:30pm, in front of the Post Office where the street had been closed for the annual Street Dance. The Sea Cruisers were the band on hand and they were doing an admirable job of playing “50’s and ‘60’s tunes for all those folks who were less inhibited in public than I and actually took the phrase, street dance, to heart and got out there and danced…… planned previously, I met the wife there and we sat on one of the benches available and listened to the tunes for awhile. I wish I could’ve gotten out there and bopped around a bit with all the old folks out there reliving their youth, but I guess I’m still to uptight for some things……..I’ll have to work on that cuz I know my partner likes to dance. Not that I don’t, I do, but it’s usually done in the basement where no one can see the twisted gyrations of my chubby little body in action

Somehow the rest of the week got away from me (working 56 hours might have something to do with it….) and all of a sudden it was Saturday, the culmination of the last 8 days. I was at work from 8:00am until 2:00pm, so for the first time in years I didn’t attend the parade. I entirely missed getting my Scottville Clown Band fix for the year. My wife, who I can never get to go to the parade with me…….was running the parade route, giving water and encouragement to the band kids as they went marching down the street in the heat, tooting their horns and beating on their drums. If I had gone to the parade I’d probably have looked out of place anyhow with no kids (too old or too cool for parades) or grandkids (too young yet and soon to be way too far away) to drag along with me. So, instead I worked and then headed for home for awhile.

About 4pm though I decided it was time to hike on down to the waterfront and see what I could see. It was another hot day, although not a scorcher like earlier in the week, and I made my way along, keeping to the shady side of the street as much as possible. As I headed down Washington street past the public Safety building (Fire Dept. & Cop shop) my eye was attracted by a visual pun. Parked there, out by the sidewalk, ready to be fired up and rode was a big, black, Harley Davidson bike with Public Safety painted on the tank. I started to chuckle as I thought, Harleys are called Hawgs......and cops are sometimes called Pigs so the image of a pig riding a hawg just struck my twisted sense of humor as funny.......oh nevermind. It was a nice looking bike though........
Once I arrived in Festival Land my first stop was at the Central Park art show. Once, along time ago, in another life, we did the art shows, pandering photos to the hordes of tourii visiting West Michigan in the summer. From 1983 until 1993, when it just became a victim of its own success and got to be too much to do with 3 kids in tow, we hit parks up and down the coast with a van full of display hardware and framed prints by the boxful. It was a lot of fun and also a lot of work and that’s if the weather was nice. Sometime there’ll be more of a story about those days but right now I was just going to stroll thru the park and see if there were any photographers amongst the knick knack sellers. As it turned out there were several (3) and I stopped to admire their work and talk to each of them a bit about what they’re using gear wise these days (digital, hands down. Sorry Kodak…….guess Kodachrome has gone the way of vinyl records) and what they’re using for printing images. A part of me is doing undercover research in case I was to get a wild hair and want to start doing the shows again, but I know the wife would never go for that……. I’m sure she remembers how much work it was back then……………….

Anyhow, after talking cameras and film, errr image storage, I headed on down the street with the intention of stopping at Dairy Treat for a Hot Fudge Malt, a long time staple of my shoddy diet and then was planning on heading back out onto the pier again for the second time in one week. I don’t believe that’s happened since I was single and had lots of time to kill… luck would have it there was no line at Dairy Treat so I stepped right up to the window and placed my order. A couple hours later, after coming back from the pier, the line to the window stretched out across Harbor Drive. Darn near as long a line as at the Pronto Pup stand across the street.

So, with ice cream in hand, I walked over to the channel and plunked myself down to watch the boat people troll their overpriced tub toys up and down the channel under the watchful eyes of the local law enforcement and the Coast Guard. There were boats moored together on the far side of the channel, in anticipation of the fireworks only hours away, with people on board having a good ole time going nowhere……..I’ve never understood why someone would spend $40,000, or more, on a boat and then never leave the “no wake” zone. Least with the hot rod I actually go somewhere before I park it and sit around all day……..

Once the ice cream was gone I picked myself up and headed off down the boardwalk out to the end of the pier. There were kids doing flips off the pier and kids riding their trick bikes into the water, all in the name of fun and staying cool. After hanging out on the end for a little bit, watching the boats come and go, I started back for land. As I was walking back there was an older guy, (not old like me, but certainly not a teenager……) on roller blades heading out to the end. Now Rollerblading isn’t the safest way to go, even on flat, level ground and on the pier it’s even more dangerous cuz of the cracks, holes and changes in elevation that make up the traveling surface. Hell, I’ve seen people just walking out there fall down and hurt themselves so when this guy went down hard on his backside, just as he was going past me, I thought “dumbass, you should be old enough to know better than do that out here”. Easy for me to say, right? Well, he picked himself up and headed on his way, as did I. When I got back to the channel I decided to take a break and sit on one of the big rocks. Just about that time two EMS guys went zooming by me with a gurney, on their way out on to the pier. I thought, “what the heck, I was just there and didn’t see anything” so I sat there awhile to see what they brought back and after about 15 minutes, lo and behold, they came back with the Rollerblading dumbass strapped to the gurney. I wanted to laugh, but it’s not nice to laugh at other people’s misfortune, even when they’re too stupid to understand why you’re laughing. He was conscious as he went by so he wasn’t too bad off, but I’ll bet he missed the fireworks by the time he got done filling out all that hospital paperwork.
After the ambulance drove off I picked myself up and headed back towards downtown. I strolled around for awhile and then decided to go back to the spot on the channel wall where I'd been earlier to see if there was still a spot to be had and as luck would have it, there I sat down and spent the next couple hours relaxing and taking in the world around me. The whole area was elbow to elbow people as far as the eye could see. Not to mention by now there is a a couple hundred boats either tethered in the channel or trolling back and forth with no destination in mind. As the sun set and the lights came on, those people we affectionately call the Last Minute Stragglers started to arrive. They are the folks who don't figure they need to be anywhere more than 5 minutes before the show starts.....and then, as if that wasn't annoying enough, they plant themselves in that small spot of buffer zone that you've been maintaining for the last couple hours between yourself and the folks around you, figuring near as I can tell, that you and a higher power have been saving that spot, just for them.
Finally, it's time for the lights and explosions part of the evening's entertainment. We had a good seat on the channel wall, the fireworks overhead were reflected nicely in the water below......kind of a two for one deal. There was some nice stuff being fired off, but the fireworks this year, for whatever reason, seemed a bit lackluster. There wasn’t a whole lot of ohhh’s and Ahhhh’s from the crowd during the show. Once the finale’s last boom had faded off in the distance the great sea of humanity that had been sitting on blankets, rose in unison and headed in an Easterly direction out of the park and towards their cars. After a couple minutes of watching the spectacle I joined in and headed for home. The further away from the park and downtown I got, the thinner the crowd got, until I was almost home and walking by myself again. I got back to the homestead a little bit before midnight and at that point pretty tired from a long day and a lot of walking……Coast Guard week was over and now the amount of summertime left available was a quantifiable amount. Now it’s time to put those plans into action to do those things on the to do list that have not yet been done (say that 3 times fast!).

Sunday morning I got up fairly early and made breakfast for me and my bride. She was taking off for a week up North by Boyne Mountain to be a band camp chaperone, in charge of keeping an eye on about 170 teenagers, of both sexes. Personally, not a job I’d do even if they paid me good…… Myself and Chris were taking off about the same time, on the bike, up to the folks place. From their house we were going to take their car over to Whiskey Creek to show ‘em where the wedding and all the ensuing festivities were going to be held.

The bike ride up was uneventful other than going thru Freemont…..they’d recently removed all the top surface from the main road thru town and left a mess behind to ride on with only two wheels. We took it easy and didn’t have a problem, but it was worse than a dirt road with the gouges in the pavement pulling my front wheel in all different directions.

Once we got to the folks house we jumped in their car and headed for Whiskey Creek. I can’t remember the last time I rode in a car with my mother at the wheel but I’ll bet it was over 35 years ago. It took about an hour to make the trip from Big Rapids via Baldwin and Custer to the campground and once we were there we started out with a visit to the Fetts campsite / wedding site. There was no one home so we did a quick tour in the sprinkling rain and then headed for the lodge to show that off. While we were there we all got ice cream and hung out at the lodge for a little bit. From the lodge we went out to show them our campsite, but nobody was too interested in getting out and looking around so we went on up into the campground to show them the cabin they’d be staying in that Saturday night. After that highlight we’d pretty much done everything we’d came to do so we started the trip back to Big Rapids.
We took the same route back and I took the opportunity to doze a bit from my navigator’s seat up front. Once we got back to Big Rapids we didn’t stay but long enough to make a pit stop and then we were back on the bike, heading for home. On the way back we made a couple of stops along M-37. The first one was at a guy’s house that had some awesome wood carvings out front for sale, including a smallish totem pole. Now it’s not on my top 10 list for things to buy for the campsite, but someday when I have more money than bills I’d like to have a decent sized totem pole at the campsite. So, after looking the woodwork over we jumped back on the bike and went another mile down the road to one of the garden supply places in the area. The reason for stopping there was to check out the neat little deer blinds (least I’m pretty sure that’s what they’re for….) that we could use as an outhouse at the campsite until we can snag that trailer we want. These little deer blinds / outhouses were 4’x4’ with little sliding Plexiglas windows on 3 sides. I had this vision of putting the porta potty inside this little house with some lace curtains for the windows and add a light once we have electricity and viola! Civilization! I’m planning on going back over there Sunday and buying one of them and taking it up to the campsite, hopefully without the wife knowing what I’m doing until I’m done. We’ll see how well that works……

We finally got home about 5:30. I parked the bike, rolled out the “56 and headed for Jeannie’s and the Sunday night cruise-in. There was kind of a light crowd for the evening, but there was still a good time to be had. I did a shoot over by the pond for one of the guys and I have to get busy and get some of those shots printed out this week. I also made $20.00 selling a couple 8x10’s to Jeannie. Actually came home with more money than I left with……that don’t happen too often.

I took a ride around town before putting the car away and then started winding down and getting ready for another week, this one without the benefit of a mate in the house. I’m even gonna have to go to the grocery store and push a cart by myself for the first time in 20+ years. It’s gonna be a guy week around the house this week……although I am planning on doing a little work around the house too……..we’ll see how that works out.


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Summertime and the livin' is.......Busy!

Well, here we are at the end of July already and in the middle of Coast Guard week in Grand Haven, pretty much the high point of the summer for this town. After the festivities are over this coming Sunday it’s all down hill. The tourist population starts dwindling off as school days get closer and it gets easier to find a spot on the beach again, (not that I ever seem to have a chance these days to just go and sit on a beach) …….won’t be easy this week though cuz we’re having summer weather in spades right now…..high for today is suppose to be 95° and the weatherman (bah, what does he know….) says it’s gonna be hot like this for the next couple days. Personally, I hope he’s right cuz I like the hot weather and all too soon I know I’ll be shoveling that white crap out of the driveway again, so you won’t find me bitchin’ about the heat. I’ll take it when I can get it.

Anyhow this past week has been a busy, busy one. As I mentioned last entry, Jennette arrived Sunday evening with both grandbabies for the week and the week kinda just zoomed by……I didn’t even get the camera out to take any pictures until Thursday night, after the backyard cookout and never even got a shot of Ryan the whole week, what a lousy grandpa I am…….seemed I was either busy outside the house, playing with him or he was asleep per his mother’s regimental schedule.

Tuesday evening me and Chris went up to Quick’s for the cruise-in…..first (and last) time for July. There was a good turnout for the beautiful summer evening and a number of cars I hadn’t seen before including a gorgeous red ’49 Merc with a New York Plate on the front of it. I wandered around the area, shooting pics and towards the end of the evening I got over to talk to the guy with the Merc. Turns out he actually was from New York, used to live in Muskegon and drove the Merc from New York to visit kids still living in this area. I asked him what part of New York he was from and he said Rochester. Well, Rochester is where the ’56 came from so I asked him if he’d heard of the Finger Lakes Classic Chevy club and yes he had so the next logical question was to ask if he knew Jim Boehly (the previous owner) and to my surprise he did! Turns out Jim built computers for the guy’s business. Sometimes the world is a small place and this was just the first of two incidents this week that illustrated that point. Go HERE for all the pics.

After the cruise-in Tuesday night we stayed close to home Wednesday and Thursday and had a little get-together in the backyard Thursday evening…..Tony, Gigi & Josh came by and Ri and Adam were there……we had hamburgs on the grill, baked beans and Wanda’s potato salad. We all sat around for awhile in the backyard, shooting the breeze. It was the first cookout for the year and probably will be the only one at the rate this summer is zooming by……

Friday evening I headed straight up to Whitehall after work, on the bike, for the annual car cruise / parade that they put on every year. I’d never been to the event and wanted to check it out. I didn’t really want to put the car in a start / stop situation for an hour or more….nice way to wear out a clutch, so I decided to be a spectator this year and use the camera instead. I found a nice spot to watch the parade go by at the park between Whitehall and Montague and right at 7:00pm the police escort came around the corner and down the hill, followed for the next hour or so by 240+ cars of all types and styles. There were hot rods and stockers, junkers and classics all with their passengers smiling and waving as they went by. When the last car headed over the bridge into Montague I picked myself up and walked over to the downtown area where they were all parked. By then it was 8:30pm, the crowd was huge, almost like a mini Frankenmuth and I was getting hungry. I walked around for 15/20 minutes and then decided it was too crowded for comfort and I’d rather be on the bike, heading for Pablo’s and dinner. By the time I got home it was a bit after 10:00pm. Chris was working and Wanda was down at Clover with her sister until 11 so I just kicked back for the last hour of the day…….I may just do the Whitehall cruise next year, depending of course on if I can afford the gas to get there and back. It seemed to go pretty smooth from where I was sitting so maybe the clutch wouldn’t suffer too much…..we’ll see I guess. Go HERE for all the pics.

Saturday I went in to work until Noon to try and catch up on some of the stuff that needed to be done yesterday and then came home, grabbed the wife, kid and a couple of dogs and headed up to Whiskey Creek to get some more work done on the site. We were up there by 1:30pm or so and from then until about 6:00pm I ran the chainsaw and pulled on the rake. It was a hot day and the sweat and the bugs were a nuisance, but it felt good to actually get something done with the campsite. By 6 I had a big pile of wood cut and all of what will eventually be the dog pen area, raked up. Next trip up I hope to put up the fencing and stack the wood I cut, closer to the fire pit. So, with a small degree of satisfaction in my progress for the day we headed up to the lodge and had the young lady there make us hamburgs for supper. After burgers at the lodge, we headed for home, arriving about 8:30pm. The rest of the evening was just spent hanging out around the homestead.

Sunday I was up at 6:00am in anticipation for the Grand Haven Cruise-In car show that starts off Coast Guard Festival week. I got downtown just after 7:00am, even before they had the registration tent up and got a good spot right across from the Delite Restaurant. The weather was hot, windy and somewhat cloudy but over the next couple hours it got more cloudy and then it went from cloudy to downright ugly. I’d already been up and down the whole street shooting pics in anticipation of possible bad weather coming, but when the wife called about 10:30am and said a major storm was about 20 minutes out the possible bad weather became a reality. Big black clouds started rolling in and the thunder and lightning was impressive. Some guys, including the convertibles on either side of me, closed up shop and headed for home. I took my display materials down and put ‘em in the trunk, closed the hood and sat in the car while it rained and the wind blew. After maybe 20 minutes worth of real hard rain it tapered off and stragglers started coming back out again even though it continued to rain. I hung around for awhile, hoping it’d clear up, but between the wife’s weather report and the fact I hadn’t ever gotten around to having breakfast during the morning, I decided to close up shop myself. Enough cars had already departed that there wasn’t going to be much of a car show left even if it did clear up. So, I fired the car up and disappointedly headed for home. Go HERE for all the pics.

Before the storm came in though I experienced my second bout of “small world” syndrome for the week when it turned out that the guy next to me with the red Mustang convertible was the son of a former boss of mine. One of the few bosses I ever had that I liked…..he was standing there with his wife, who I never knew, talking to his boy. It took me a minute or two to recognize him because not long after I left the job where he was my boss (24 years ago) he had a stroke that left him quite debilitated. He used to be a big, robust, good-natured guy, but time and the stroke had made him less robust, although he still seemed good-natured. We talked for awhile and although I struggled to understand him we still managed to touch bases on a number of different topics. The conversation came to an end though as they decided to head for dryer ground as the storm was rapidly approaching. Talking to him and seeing the effects that the stroke has had on him was an eye-opening experience and it made me all the more thankful that I’m still pretty much in good enough shape to do whatever I want to do these days.

After getting home and putting the car in the garage I went in the house and made a late breakfast. After sharing pancakes with my 4-legged friends I sat down on the couch to watch a bit of a movie and promptly fell asleep. I missed the whole afternoon and by the time I woke up at 6:30 the sun was once again out and shining down on the land. I thought for a minute about going down to Jeannie’s, but decided instead to just hang out and get some website stuff caught up. Before I knew it, it was 1:00am and time to call it a day and get ready to start another week.