Sunday, July 19, 2015

You bet your sweet grass

Our tent for the week with my friend's bike in front. Here we are camped in Hartwick Pines State Park, home of a virgin stand of giant white pines which once covered Northern Michigan. The trees we are camped among aren't virgins. Still my tent is full of needles

The cold presumably wrecked the cherry crop yet I saw trees full of tart and sweet cherries. Cherry stands all over and we were fed dried cherries frequently
Indian River statue featuring the local Ojibway, sturgeon and eagle
Frequent sign: the North is a clash of rednecked locals and rich vacationing downstaters.
Mullet Lake yesterday in Aloha
Bridge on the trail coming back to Cheybogan
lunch place in Indian River chock full of teapots
Before we drove home, we went for a swim in Burt Lake. Cool and clear water, not all cloudy like the downstate lakes. We sat for a while with our newly purchased Blood Orange Ales

I am home after what turned out to be a 304.2 mile ride. For once, I did not make any wrong turns. The ride presented lots of challenges and gave me lots of time to reflect. Some of the time was spent feeling sorry for myself especially when I was tired. I knew in the past, this ride would have been easy for 30 something Sue with my triathlete body. I never walked up hills before not even with my high geared road bike though I had to about 15 years ago with some 3 mile high monster outside of Marquette in the UP. Not even in the mountains in Eastern San Diego County. But now walking Sue is common with older and sometimes fatter riders whizzing right by me. And I trained for this: 750 miles though there are no hills around here making me use the lower chain ring. But with the excess weight and the Red Devil induced decreased heart capacity, things are no longer so easy. And damn it, I am old.
But I did it and I am alive, something I didn't think possible 6 years ago. There were moments of pure joy: descending 35 mph through the cherry orchards and postcard pretty lakes. We'd go for miles through very fragrant lands with no visible flowers. I was told that all the sweet grass was responsible for the aroma. The Ojibway consider the grass sacred, collect it, dry it and braid it. Dried, it smells even better, I'm told. And even better when it is burned. The moist cool air of the North is perfect for its growth. In the towns, the lindens are still in bloom filling the air with their orange blossom aroma. Flowers that the downstate heat would have killed such as the pansies were in everyone's flower beds. Very pretty and lush flowers all around.
And the camaraderie of my fellow riders: the shared joys and trials. Some of the riders have been doing this for years. We made our own little group of friends: Minnesota Tim and nice guy Rich along with a tandem riding couple from Grand Rapids we hung out at dinner with last year. We never got the full story of Minnesota Tim (and he wasn't the only Minnesota Tim either). He often camped besides us. I think he had a crush on my friend. He spoke with the sing song cadence of a Yooper, a left over from the many Scandinavians that populated the UP, Minnesota and points west though he was not of Scandinavian heritage. He wore a freshly ironed button down, long sleeved Oxford shirt while riding, something no one does and carried a Pall Mall tobacco tin full of tools. He was fascinated with the areas we went, especially the cherry trees. He was a Viet Nam vet making him older than us (or at least me; the guys born a year before me were the last to be drafted, my ex-boyfriend must have been the last one with  a 200 from the last lottery based on ones birthdate). On the last night, we explored Indian River together admiring the classic cars (post these some other time) sitting along the inland waterway watching the parade of boats  navigate between Mullet and Burt Lakes. He declined our offer to have a beer at the Inn Between (in between the two big lakes) saying he does not do that. Ex-alcoholic? Some weird religious  restriction? We didn't ask. We found new friends sitting next to the Indian River with me nursing yet another Cheybogan Blood Orange Ale. At the end of the ride yesterday, Minnesota Tim was there waiting for us wanting our photo and especially wanting a hug from my friend. Maybe we will see him next year.
My would be hook up was there again too looking right past me when we shared the same space. I think his wife was around this time.
We wore blue wrist bands to identify us. While we were in Harbor Springs, my friend's ex-sister I law picked us up to go up to  Cross Village, a small town (less than 50 ) full of Polish immigrants and Ojibway. The SIL is Polish once married to an Ojibway with kids from both sides. Extra bonus, the town was north of the rain in Harbor Springs, which was sunny by the time we returned. We went into an art gallery where the owned asked if we had just been patients at a hospital (saw our bands). Another beer in the lush gardens of the Legs Inn overlooking a bluff on Lake Michigan. Stunning beauty. Opted for a local Black Bear Porter rather than an insipid Polish beer. Food there is excellent.
Downstate, it is hot, humid and unpleasant. Lazy Sue says you've done enough in the past week. Inner Nag says get outside and run before the temps get worse. And the camping equipment is all dewy, dirty and pine needle encrusted. Have to deal with that and numerous other tasks neglected since I was gone.
More later.


Kat&Chris said...

Congrats Sue on completing another year of training and road racing Your commentary and photos are lovely and quite thought provoking. Aging does suck; all the little losses do add up.
You are inspiring ! Keep up the good work of training and recording your thoughts.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Thanks Kathy.

Elephant's Child said...

HUGE congratulations - and thank you for taking us along for the ride.
Cut yourself some slack today. The tasks will still be here tomorrow.


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