Tag: Lake Michigan

Me and David Hasslehoff

Objects in mind are farther than they appear.

I can handle hard work. I can handle tough choices. But when it’s hassle-y, when it comes to fitting two bikes in the car, taking them out and putting them in again in a slightly different way, I want to rip my scalp off. I resent the time it takes to even complain about it.

And the locks. The U-locks with the cables attached, and the keys, and Dave suggesting that I get both the front and rear wheels into the cable, which I know, I know, but the cable doesn’t stretch. On a folding bike, the smallness of the wheels makes their rims too far apart so just forget it, no one would steal a bike here anyway, would they?

“No. No one would steal a bike here, but if just one person did, it would suck to lose a new bike, and it would really suck to learn that someone would steal a bike here.” So by the time we unlock the bikes from the porch and get them and our helmets and our various possible biking clothes (none of which I learn later are good for biking) and grocery bags and other tools into the car after breakfast, I am fuming. We’re only heading into town to get apples and cocktail fixings, but the Betsie trail goes right through town and we might feel like riding, so why not bring the bikes? It sounds so carefree but the reality is, you take one of my bike lock keys and I’ll take one of yours but I don’t have a little key ring, should we add that to the grocery list, and do we need a patch kit or should we buy extra inner tubes somewhere, and what do we need to replace inner tubes, are there special tools we should buy, and what if our air pump doesn’t work?

“I don’t know why I hate this so much,” I say when we are finally after a million years on the road to town.

Instead of pointing out that he did all of the “this,” from unlocking the bikes on the porch to loading them and everything else in the car, Dave says something much more provoking. “Because you’re just like your mom.”

That is an unacceptable reason. My mom would never put her bike in the car and take it to town. My mom would never submit to wearing a helmet or buying an expensive and complicated lock. “I’m not going through all that,” she’d say. “If God wants me to crack my head, so be it.” I remember her going on bike rides with my dad and Auntie Marie and Uncle Vince and Norma and Bill. Was biking safer then? They didn’t go on bike paths. They rode down busy streets, a leisurely parade of six, into north Oak Park and River Forest.

I’m just like my mom is not acceptable, though it might be true. I don’t want to commit to an activity that might be too involved, might take too much time and effort, might keep me from the beach, which is how I define vacation here. Going into town is a guilty consumer pleasure that keeps me from the real magic of this place, which is the stunning miles of beach and bluff and blue, blue water.

Maybe commitment was what Mom hated too. Maybe it’s why she wouldn’t go to Europe when Dad asked or join a bowling league or take an exercise class. Okay. I commit to the ride.

We park near the library and take out our bikes and get all situated and pack the basket, which was purchased for my bike but which Dave loads onto his without a complaint (I don’t want the extra weight). It ends up being a full day, riding this sweet trail that goes past the tiny town of Elberta and past occasional houses and even past the lake sometimes, and over long wooden bridges over marshes and rivers, shaded by trees most of the way. I think it’s about four or five miles.

When we get to the next town, Beulah, we buy padded shorts and inner tubes. An old man with two big bags of cans sits at the railroad station, which has been converted to a very nice set of rest rooms and an area for picnic tables. He says what a nice day it is and we agree. The guy at the bike shop gives us a full demonstration of how to replace an inner tube and it’s suddenly very interesting. We wander through town a little and get ice cream cones, and I feel sorry for Dave that they didn’t have any padded shorts for him. When we stop at the railway station to fill up our water bottles, the old man is gone. We pass him later, limping along the road near the bike path, without his bags.

The ride back is even better than the ride out. When we get to Frankfort, Dave checks the trail map and learns it was almost 10 miles each way, not five. I am so glad I didn’t know this beforehand, because although I want to work on this commitment thing there’s no way I would have committed to a 19-mile bike ride when I could have been at the beach, which I ended up not missing at all.

The comforts of not being home

rubber ducky
Have arrived safely. No idea what that means.

Today on our way up the lake coast, we ran into Frank and Fern at Ray’s drive in. They were sitting at a picnic table outside. They said we’d just missed Ruby and Roy, who’d already gone on. As we sat and ate our perch sandwiches (best in town), they said most years they run into Ogilvy and Olivia here. We usually leave Chicago so late we just hope to make Brigadoon by dinnertime, but it’s worth it, leaving early to make Ray’s by lunch. Later we learned that the O’s pulled into Ray’s about ten minutes after we left.

Seeing Frank and Fern made me feel like I’d stepped into Brigadoon early, and I felt a rush of comfort. Out of the chaos of infinite places, infinite choices, infinite points in time and people on earth, a few people we know converge spontaneously at the same place for lunch. Maybe not so spontaneous, since we’re all headed for the same place another three hours up the road, but still.

It’s also comforting not having anyone here, or expecting anyone. I don’t have to make sure Brigadoon is a good experience for someone else. Last night the soup was lukewarm and I thought, if Buck and Xeena were here I’d be mortified, but since it was just us, I sipped my soup as fast as I could, to get the last of its delicious warmth. Dave thought the Bleu cheese dressing tasted like Ranch but I thought it was the same, garlicky and superb.

After dinner I sat on the inn steps with Alice Fay and talked awhile, about families and how you keep learning that you know nothing about the stuff you thought you’d gotten so wise about. The wind was up though not crazy, and even the little lake was moving. Blue is still here. Thirteen years old and he came creaking his way around from the kitchen, where he’d just gotten a piece of flank steak from our drinks guy. He came over and got petted and praised by all of us for still being alive, then he went and sniffed around in some ground cover and laid down.

We headed back to our cottages. As we unpacked, Dave found the rubber ducky from our bathroom at home, tucked in the pocket of one of his shirts. A goodbye gift from Jakob, who’s staying at the house while we’re gone. I took a picture and emailed it to him. No wireless here, but my phone works. A few years ago, you couldn’t get cell reception in Brigadoon, but now I’m on 3G most of the time. I must be changing, because I find that comforting, too.



Whilst the Royal Wedding Unfolded

Trina, Wendy and I are headed to Trina’s mom’s for the weekend. Trina calls her and she gives the answers they rehearsed.

Trina: “Oh man, I can’t believe finals.”

Trina’s mom: “Hera sees all.”

Trina: “Yeah, and I have to store my stuff ’til Fall.”

Trina’s mom: “Wisdom of Zeus, blind love will fall.”

Trina: “Okay, see you soon.”

We set out, three of us, each in relationships with people not there. We are walking along the lake to Lake Forest. It’s a foot path where Lake Shore Drive should be, and it’s rubberized. It feels so good under our feet that we begin to jog. It’s slightly downhill at this point, which is lovely. We run faster and faster, then Trina sees the alligator. “Shh!” she says, and “Slowly!”

But Wendy is too far ahead. She’s passed it. Trina calls, “You’ve got to get back up here. You’ve got to get around it and get back here.”

Wendy feels paralyzed. “Is it bad?”

“It’s the biggest one I’ve seen,” answers Trina. “It’s not the little ones people keep in their purse. It has no sense of humor.”

The gator snaps its jaws. I realize it could live anywhere, could follow us all the way up that rising road, but it’s not as likely past a certain point. God, I’m tired. We were having such a good time, talking about our relationships, and this happens. I can see the gator’s face under the rocks.

Wendy inches her way back. She skirts the edge of the road, where she could easily fall into the lake, but anything to stay away from this humorless alligator. She is terrified, but Trina pulls her back with sheer lung power, coaching her though every step, telling her to step quietly, move quickly, not look down. I can’t believe gators live here all the time and people still walk this road.

Trina is going to have her mom come pick us up. Trembling, Wendy makes it into our arms. We hug briefly, and with shaking knees walk back toward the school. The gator does not follow.