Monday, October 25, 2021

Family Reunions and (Terrifying!) Farmer's Markets

 All right, this is the second thread of my brilliant, but ill-fated, two-thread post that I eventually decided just wasn't going to work and had to break up into separate entities.

This particular, travel-bloggy, thread was originally differentiated from the introspective thread, by the font size and encapsulating the text as photo-captions. I've left the formatting alone here, mainly because it was less work and who among us isn't lazy, at least once in a while?

And fair warning! There weren't any real hikes involved and because I'm not inclined to plaster family details all over the web, this may a little more sparse than my usual offerings.

I skipped the family reunion last year because I was trying to be responsible, stay safe, and figured I'd have another chance next year (this year).

Well, because of vaccine hesitancy, too-early abandonment of safe practices, and the highly contagious Delta variant, that didn't work out so well. The hospitalization and mortality numbers are actually higher right now than this time last year. (last half of August) But it's been two years since I've been fact to face with her and since I'm no spring chicken anymore myself that means Mom is really no spring chicken! And unlike last year when there was none available, this year I, along with Mom and my siblings, am vaccinated, so I pulled on my big-boy pants, tucked my fears in out of sight along with my shirttails, and hit the road. 

The first week of this trip was spent lurking in The Brother's driveway helping him plan out the renovation of this vintage travel trailer he found rotting away in the weeds a while ago. (He's always making impossible, wonderful finds of cool stuff like this and frankly, sometimes it gets a little annoying to us mere mortals that get the majority of our blah, cookie-cutter crap from Walmart!) Though I should note that the planning was sandwiched in between runs to deliver a spare tire out to the shoulder of a busy freeway, (You should periodically check to make sure the lowering mechanism for the spare tucked up under your pickup truck still actually works!) failed attempts to get a classic green tractor started in order to turn over about 8 acres of cut hay that was laying out there waiting to be bailed, and the occasional mental-health break over at the nearby RC airplane flying field of which The Brother is an addicted a charter member.

Oh, and this photo isn't of his actual trailer but one like it I snagged off the net, not because his trailer is some big secret but because I just didn't take any photos.

Along with drawing up the new interior on SketchUP to fit his and his wife's travel needs we went over a lot of electrical stuff because he thinks I know more about that crap than he does!

Even though The Brother's place was recently reclassified by the cable provider from rural to urban, allowing them to take away access to RFDTV and GAC but still charge him the same, and the road out front has gotten much busier over the years, he and his wife live on 10 acres that don't feel all that crowded in on - yet.

Four or five laps around the perimeter in that morning gap between me getting up and normal people getting up would get me close to a couple miles of workout-hiking, though I didn't wear my loaded backpack while doing so for fear of being perceived as a homeless intruder.

The official family reunion was a long weekend in a campground up there near the top of Michigan's thumb.

Not my preferred style of camping, sandwiched there nuts-to-butts with other rigs, but it's a reunion. It's supposed to be a social affair!

By the way, that's my brand new, commercial-grade canopy there beside The Van, tilted at the moment against the hot morning sun, and since campfires are a nonnegotiable part of camping for some, no matter what the temperatures are, it still smells like smoke a month later!

Though more expensive than the usual consumer-grade EasyUP my hope is that the heavier frame and tougher canopy will be more durable and provide longer service. Besides, the vertical legs, as opposed to the splayed legs of the EazyUP, mean that I can leave the legs staked down as I raise and lower the canopy throughout the day to accommodate everything from moving sun, kicked-back lounging, stand-up activities, and hunkered-down-against-the-weather - which is really convenient.

One thing this campground does have is great sunrises. 

We have been holding these reunion camp-outs since I was a kid. You'd think we, especially my siblings and cousins, would be all talked out after all these years, but it seems that as we age it constantly opens up new conversations that we've never had before.

It's also humbling, reaffirming, and gratifying, to realize that I, the weird, seldom-seen Uncle-from-Texas, have accumulated wisdom and knowledge that some of the younger generation are eager to tap into. 

The downside of that is that since I rarely talk much most of the time (After 40 years together The Wife and I will often be up for hours before we say a word to each other. Usually about what's for lunch. It's not an angry silence - most the time anyway - it's just the way we are.) so I often end up talking my throat raw at these events.

Fortunately for me, tucked in behind the rental cabins at the south end of the campground is one end of a trail that snakes around through the back area away from the shoreline and comes back out to the lake at the north end of the park. One full lap through the woods and then back along the shoreline was just over a mile so two laps every morning while most were still sleeping was just what the doctor ordered.

Unfortunately for me those laps must have left me too relaxed. Otherwise I have no explanation for what the hell I was thinking Saturday morning when The Brother asked if I wanted to ride along when they went to the local farmer's market in nearby Port Austin and I said sure!!

What a nightmare that was! All these people wandering around maskless and jammed together, jostling in lines for kettle-corn and trinkets and smelling each other's armpits and breath-mints as if it was the olden days. You know, pre-2020!!

Oh sure, as soon as they were available I did the safe and morally correct thing, both for myself, The Wife, and the community, and got myself vaccinated just as readily as I was vaccinated decades ago for smallpox and polio to help stop those terrible diseases from decimating the community. But I knew damn good and well that here, in a state littered with an amazing number of yard-signs proclaiming "my Governor is an Idiot" because of her efforts to keep the citizens safe from Covid, that wasn't the case for everybody that was bouncing around between those stalls like demented bumper-cars!

There were, by far, way more of those Idiot signs against the blue governor in the blue state of Michigan than there are Trump 2020 signs still up in the very red state of Texas!

Meanwhile, back at the farmer's market, I managed to keep myself somewhere just shy of a total meltdown with a constant, internalized but still shouting, mantra of  'get away from me! get away from me!' accompanied by the most inhospitable glare I could come up with, interspersed with 'I'm an idiot! I'm an idiot!', and dodging into any little free-space I could find, which wasn't many.

But after a couple weeks of incubating that malodorous cloud of exhaled pathogens with no discernible effects I was ready to admit that I apparently survived my idiocy unscathed.

Don't let this idealistic kayaking scene right out in front of my campsite fool you.

Canada is about 50 miles away there over the horizon 

 and just off-shore of this campground we're staying at is the highest concentration of shipwrecks in the Great Lakes. There's a small museum there in the lighthouse complex at the park that mostly features bits and pieces from shipwrecks, and between the lighthouse and where our campers are parked is where a life-saving station used to sit. And in addition to the ship's crews, not all the life-savers came back alive either.

I spent the week after the campout doing some more driveway-lurking, this time at the house of The Sisters.

No, this isn't their house!

This is the former home of the Booths (Which happens to be my paternal grandmother's name, and just like George Booth, she also originally hailed from Hamilton Ontario, though we know of no direct connection.) who in the late 1800's early 1900's ended up owning the major Detroit newspaper as well as much of the rest of Michigan's press making them a crap-load of money. With a humanitarian conscience (notice that 'con'  in Spanish translates to 'with', so conscience is 'with science'!) the Booths created a foundation to advance the arts and education and also turned their home into a public space which is now the Cranbrook House and Gardens as well as headquarters for the Cranbrook Foundation.

While I was driveway-lurking at their more modest residence one of The Sisters took the day off and we grabbed Mom up from her fortress-like community, which has done an amazing job of keeping the residents safe through this pandemic, and visited the gardens around the Cranbrook House.

Because of the pandemic the house itself wasn't open for tours, just the grounds. But after the all too recent horrors of that farmer's market free-for-all that was fine by me!

Yep, still the Booth's home at Cranbrook Gardens. There's enough value in the copper gutter system alone to build a normal person a whole house!

The Sisters live in one of those normal-people houses - a modest abode in a small subdivision and it's definitely a more urban setting than The Brother's.  Back in the 60's a park was established across the road from their subdivision and is pretty overgrown and wild now, but it does offer a confused network of unsigned trails (I used the Guia App on my phone to keep myself oriented.) and a decent space to get in some miles on foot early in the morning. Though with the perpetually busy freeway nearby, an airport flight-path overhead and the cheek-by-jowls nature of suburban living (Car door slams, watch gets checked. Oh, Carl across the street is home from work 15 minutes late tonight!) I was never able to forget that this is a pretty urbanized area by my standards.

But surprisingly I didn't find it intolerable, in fact it wasn't all that bad, and The Sisters, Mom, and I had a good week of visiting before I headed on down the road again to wrap up the trip.

I know, I know, looking east towards Canada this is a sunrise photo and not a sunset, but but after stealing the only sunset photo for the previous post, it was the best I could come up with to finish this one.

And speaking of endings. As is often the case, I wrapped up this trip by trying out a few new roads on the 1300 mile drive back home and mapping a few more to check out next time.

Because there will be a next time.


  1. And we.....The Sisters....totally enjoyed your visit and much appreciate the big brotherly advice on the generator you helped us pick out. Yes, yes, I know! We need to do regular PM on it...and we will. Safe travels rambling brother. We will see you next time to pick your brain since you are now a seasoned retiree and we will be rookie retirees soon.

    1. You're assuming I have a brain left to pick! (Of course I'll always have a nose!)