Sunday, April 10, 2011

Does lightning strike twice?

Yes, figuratively and literally despite the adage to the contrary.

Years ago on one of my multiday bicycle rides, I ate breakfast with an insurance risk calculator. His interest was assessing property damage risk. Now there are clear sections of the country where everyone could guess that these risks would be high: much of Florida due to potential hurricanes and tornadoes; California due to mudslides, fires, earthquakes; areas clearly in a flood plain such as my old house in NY though we lived there between floods; what area of the country would have the lowest risk?

The UP of Michigan.

No earthquakes, tornadoes, mudslides, minimal flooding. Ice damage, yes. Fires yes but not where people are likely to reside.

Unofficial slogan for the UP: Nine months of winter; three months of guests.

It is indeed beautiful in the summer. I had biked in it on 2 different one week tours though one had us taking a ferry down to Wisconsin's Door County after 3 days. Most of the population seems to be on the edge of the Great Lakes. We went shore to shore twice in one ride. Fortunately it was raining on the way north. Why would rain be good? Well the biting flies don't come out in it. I hate biting flies. Nothing seems to deter them. Mosquitoes at least avoid certain chemicals. Biting flies do not like rain, the dark, or motion so as long as you are moving, they will not land though they will follow you. Going south, it was sunny and calm. It was also our long day and largely uphill starting off with a three mile steep climb outside of Marquette. I wanted to get an early start as I was no longer the bicycle phenom I was when I was younger and this stretch was going to require some effort on my part. Unfortunately I missed some arrows covered up by a road paving crew so I ended up going an extra 20 miles. Stopping for water at the aid stations meant being covered in biting flies. There are few towns in this part of Michigan and the the very few that had places open could not deal with the huge temporary increase in population (300?) so there was no escaping these flies. Even at our campground. The tents were too hot to hide in as long as the sun was out and the inside of the building was unbearably hot. So my companion and I walked and walked until the sun went down which at that time of year and as far north and west as we were, was about 11 pm.

I was impressed with Marquette though. We had gotten there early one day as the ride from Munising is short even against the prevailing winds. I ate lunch  (alone since I couldn't persuade anyone to come with me) in  a cute Flemish cafe. The afternoon was spent on a beach in which the water was almost warm enough to swim in. We stayed in the stands of the world's largest all wood dome (Yooper dome?) after visiting a really nice brew pub(lots of people willing to go with me there). I could see living there, at least in the summer. One of my Facebook friends (an old neighbor) lives there and is a big fan of the city constantly promotes businesses there. Recently she conducted a poll on what is everyones favorite Great Lake. Hers was Superior because, of course, it is superior! Sorry, I have to go with Lake Michigan.

There are maybe 60 houses on my street. Two have suffered serious fire damage due to lightning in the past 5 years. Are we magnets for lightning here?It would not appear to be. These houses were far from being the highest point and are surrounded by huge trees well away from the houses. The latest house to be hit was already struck with deadly cancer. Bad, bad, luck.

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