Monday, August 30, 2021

Nestled in Comfortable Friendships

Dear Friends and Family,

Are you feeling blessed?

Yesterday, as I was driving around exploring the Cleveland, Ohio area, it hit me once again how incredibly blessed I am.

I drove there to stick my feet in yet another Great Lake on this trip.  Lake Erie is the lake that was on fire in the early 70's that spurred Congress to pass some legislation to protect our waterways.  The freedom to dump our waste into our joint waterways or on the ground is overruled by the higher cause of the common good. 



I took a picture of people on the rocks next to the sign that told them not to do that.  We are so...



Wow, I am so fortunate to be middle class and white and born in America during this particular era of history.  The advance in technology in just my lifetime (1950s-2020s).  And my freedom to travel comes from a societal and financial security not even imagined in some parts of the world or among the stuck or the poor in our own country.

On my way driving from Michigan to here I entered a small town and on a motel sign it advertised, "Air Conditioning, Dial Phones".  It made me chuckle.  The sign was in good repair too, so either they are maintaining it for nostalgia's sake, or it isn't that old. 

In Cleveland I drove by tenement style housing, probably originally government housing, a series of old brick buildings, where the red brick is tinged black, and the grass is pretty much gone from the yards.  And just then my phone told me to make a turn.  And I was struck by how very fortunate I am.

I hardly had to spend any time planning my route because technology did it for me.  On the way into Cleveland I had taken Freeways.  It was a Sunday morning and I figured there would be little traffic and I wasn't hauling Lilac, so I could go the speed and merge into a smaller space if needed.  The freeway route would save 15 minutes!

I was reminded why I prefer not to travel that way.  I was so stressed!  My hands gripped the wheel.  There were signs everywhere, lanes to change because of exit only signs, and freeways crisscrossing. Even with my google lady giving me directions and low traffic it was nerve wracking.  If I made a wrong turn, (which I did by being in the wrong lane once) I would be on another freeway and it would be miles before I would be back on track.  

My eyes and brain had to stay focused on the task.  Just a very brief glance at the skyline.  A very brief notice of the humongous coal factory with black mountains and huge steel structures for moving it around, and I would miss an important sign telling me my lane would end, or my exit was coming up.

On the return trip I clicked the option to not go on the freeways or tollways and the ride was so much more pleasant. I got to see so much more of the city because I was able to look around.  It was easier to make a spontaneous decision to stop at a park, turn around and look at something closer.   Even though it took me longer, it was well worth it.

I stopped and turned around when I saw a sign for Chagrin Reserve.  I didn't know what a Reserve was, but had seen a few in the area on Googlemaps.

 It is a large park or preserve with picnic areas, hiking and biking trails, and this one had a few waterfalls and a rock.   

 





When a woman giving me directions on my hike said that there was caution tape across the trail, but if I went a little further I could see the rock. I thought, how would I know if I encountered the rock?  There were big boulders everywhere.  The caution tape had already been knocked down.  So like the people at the beach standing on the rocks next to the sign that told them not to do that, I stepped across the tape and maneuvered my way around fallen trees and mini-landslides.

When I saw the rock, though, I knew this was the rock.



Later I saw a kiosk that explained it was carved by one man in about 1895. 



There were more waterfalls to hike to in Chagrin Reserve, but it was hot and humid and I was anxious to get back to camp.  My Florida friends Cindy and Regis had arrived!


***

In 1989 I had a melanoma on my right arm.  It was removed, found malignant, so they went back in took a bigger chunk and all the lymph nodes under the arm.  No more cancer was found, no treatment was needed. I tell you this because I just noticed my right sleeve of my shirt is tight.
 
When I get a scratch or nick in that arm there are no lymph nodes to grab the infection or whatever it is they do, and my arm swells.  Then I have to either sit around with my arm elevated or I have to take a round of antibiotics.  When I am sitting I am driving or writing or reading.  All those require my hands.

Today I will try lymph massage or I think it was called smoothing out the Chi in Qi Gong.

***
To fill you in on the time before I visited Cleveland and Regis and Cindy arrived, I need to go back to Friday when I arrived here in Stow, OH.
 


 
I set up camp in the city campground in Stow, Ohio.  A woman drove buy in one of those conversion vans.   I waved because I was hoping it was another woman solo traveler that was camping here.  Maybe we could have happy hour together!  On her second time around the campground she stopped and asked if she could talk with me.  
 
"Sure! I will pull out another chair."
 
Her name is Sandra Sage and she keeps a blog and a Facebook group, Sage and Spirit in VAN-derland.  Spirit is her cat.  She is from Sarasota, FL and also is escaping the summer heat... or trying too.  It has been 90 and humid here too.

After she talked for quite a while I asked if she wanted to walk or bike because after being in the car all day, I needed to move.  She was happy with the idea and I helped her get her heavy bicycle off the back of her van.  I noticed her tires were soft and I pumped them up for her.  I also noticed her chain and gears were covered in rust.  I was going to suggest we clean and oil them, but I decided not to get involved in that project with her.

We only biked six miles in total, stopping very often to take pictures or talk to passers by.  She seemed to delight in connecting with as many people as possible.  No person is a stranger to her.
 
She'd ask, "Is this venue for rent?  How much?"  "Is that lake man-made or natural?"  "Can you swim in it?"
 
She used to be a travel guide and got discounted travel opportunities.  She told me she had been to 18 countries.

 
We stopped at an intersection and directly across from us an older woman came out her front door.  She looked exactly like the fairy tail old woman that lived in a shoe or Red Riding Hood's grandmother.  She had on a light blue cotton dress that came to just above her ankles, she had on a bonnet and a dark shawl over her stooped shoulders.  She gripped the shawl with one hand and carried a basket or tote with the other.  She shuffled over to an apple tree in her front yard and picked up a few pieces of fruit off the ground.

Sandra stood right out in the open snapping picture after picture of the woman.  I thought the woman would get mad and I rode away, but Sandra said the woman didn't seem to notice her at all.  I hope Sandra posts one of the pictures on her Facebook page so I can copy it and show you.
 

 

Anyway, Sandra took pictures of the inside of Lilac to share with a friend of hers who is contemplating a life of camping and travel.

Sandra stays at Walmarts, so I used my phone and my Allstays app to help her find one close by that allows overnight parking.
 

***
The next day was Saturday. I planned on doing a long bike ride. I mapped out a loop I could bicycle that would take me into Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  

I took a trail right from the campground and then got on a road that went down down down toward the valley.  As I was coasting I was thinking I had to save energy for the climb back up or find a more gradual climb out of the valley.

I ran into a road closure, fully blocked with even a sign that said no bicycles.  So just 15 miles into my ride I had to re-route and change my plan.  The thing is, I was close to a bike trail, just on the other side of the river was the Towpath.
 
Fortunately the reroute wasn't back up out of the valley, and with just a couple low-traffic roads and I joined the Towpath at the Hunt Farm Visitor Center.  



I started my ride and then realized it appeared that was a big vegetable market near the museum. 


 

I had forgotten to pack my face mask.  But I went into the busy open-air store anyway.  I thought of my friends Cindy and Diane who would be delighted as I was at this find.  Though much of the produce was not local.  The orange I bought was from Australia.  It had traveled a long way and burned my lips and tongue it was so acidic.

 Instead of mapping my circular route, I just started riding north toward Lake Erie on the Towpath Trail.  It was shady and interesting with all its locks and history.  Plus there was some kind of run going on so there were all these adolescent boys in great shape with their shirts off, skin shining with sweat, and young athletic women, some not sweating at all!

I tried to figure out if the excitement of seeing them was some remaining hormones waking up, but realized what I was feeling was more like the thrill of encountering a beautiful strong horse.  It wasn't sexual at all, it was awe and joy at witnessing their athleticism and robust health.  So I guess I am not a dirty old woman after all.

My aim was to reach Peninsula because Sandra had mentioned she wanted to go there.  At Penisula the trail crosses an old lock and then winds down so you can stand inside it.


A kiosk explained that the masons that cut the rock chipped an identification in their rock because the managers liked to keep count of the production rate of each mason.  They probably had a quota.  I found a V and a II mark on some stones.  I am guessing the marks that only required two strikes of the hammer were highly prized.  V, T, II, X?



The visitor's center required masks.  Fortunately they had paper masks available for those who forgot theirs.  

I was really hoping for a coffee shop, but there wasn't one in Peninsula.  I got a coffee to go at the local cafe.

In Peninsula I tried to route my way back to camp, but it routed me down the same blocked road I had tried to come in on.

I went a few miles further on the Towpath Trail thinking I would cut over later, when it occurred to me I should really REALLY map a shorter route back to camp.

I was determined not to go back up that same road with the long hill that I coasted down into the valley on.

I mapped my route to go up to Akron vial the Towpath and then cut over to the Freedom Trail and then zig zag roads to my campsite.

I read a kiosk that talked about the problems that they would have when two boats arrived at the lock at the same time.  I wonder if instead of road rage they called it canal rage.



In Akron there are several locks because the water descends quite a bit there.  Which means I still had to climb out of the valley.

And the day was getting very hot and humid.  And I had already ridden 43 miles.

Let's just say my body was very tired when I got back to my campsite.  My phone was almost out of power even with the battery pack to recharge.  

 

Why?  Why do I do such long rides, when the pleasure of it is pretty much over at 40 miles?   Sigh.

As I rode I thought about food.  So when I got home I sat and chopped veggies and made my dinners for the coming week and ate hearty.

Cauliflower, parsley, broccoli, carrots, onion, and chickpea pasta.


I then drove to Anytime and took a shower.  Then I used Googlemaps to find Little Free Libraries near me.  Yes!  Those Little Free Libraries can be found using Googlemaps!  I love it!

The closest one was so cute.  In a neighborhood of conventional boring lawns, this one was full of wild flowers and whimsical statuary.

 I had a couple books to donate, and a I took one



That night I couldn't sleep and had such a horrible cramp in my thigh and hip-flexer that once I got it to relax it felt like the slightest move would trigger it to cramp again.  

My son used to have an illness that caused his muscles to cramp up like that for long periods.  I can not even imagine how horrible that was.  

***

Diane sent me a few of the pictures she took while we were together in Marquette, MI.  They turned out really great.

 

I love the symbolism in this next one.  Me alone looking out at the vastness in front of me.  


 

Diane says it is a reminder that we are small in the universe.
 

More good news!  Ann and Fred who have been traveling at the same time and visiting some of the same places are finally going to hook up with me for a day of riding!  They are going to meet me and Jean Hawks for a ride on the Alegheny River Trail in Pennsylvania later this week.  Yay!

But now I need to end this quick because I am riding with Regis and Cindy today and I just realized it is time to leave!!!




 


Thursday, August 26, 2021

Mistakes Happen, Wee Roll On

 Hola Mis Amigos y Mi Familia,

I am happy!

Not because I made a mistake, but that it wasn't fixable.

Not because I peed my pants, I have a story to tell there.

Not because it is 90 degrees again, hurray for air conditioning!

But because:

  • I am on 104 days straight of practicing my Spanish on the Duolingo App.  
  • And even thought it is too hot to hike, I have four lines of cell service and a cool little space in my Weeroll in which I can write to you.
  • I was able to get to an Anytime Fitness and workout today.  Since our muscles start to atrophy shortly after a workout, it is important that if I want to make progress of my fitness goals that I not neglect my workouts or I will end up starting back at the beginning.
  • And tomorrow I head to Stow, Ohio where I will meet up with Regis and Cindy who are part of my biking family.  I am so looking forward to hearing about their summer and just hanging with them.

Before I tell you about my mistake and my urethra malfunction, ha ha, let me tell you about my last two campsites.

On the upper left of the Michigan mitten is Petoskey State Park.   It has hiking trails over old dunes, and fences to try to keep the many many campers off the new dunes. 




 

There are about 180 campsites and most of them were full of families, extended families, and groups of friends.  Right behind me and next to me were at least three families with many small children.  At nights the adults would play music and laugh and talk well past 10 p.m.  I didn't need the air-conditioner at night, but I used its fan to drown out  the noise.  And all the fun reminded me that I missed laughing and chatting with my friends.

As soon as the crowds left on Sunday, the campground had a totally different feel to it.  The sites were spacious, many surrounded by a line of vegetation.


There is a nice mulched path from the campground to the Little Traverse Wheelway.  I chose this campground because of its access to the trail.  On my first full day there I rode the whole trail. 

I bought the RidewithGPS App so I could save my mileage.  I did 57 miles!



The trail went right through Petoskey's waterfront park.  It is beautiful.  Historical markers had pictures of when the area was a cement factory.  The markers showed an ugly, industrial place.  Someone had the vision to make it into a beautiful neighborhood.



Part of the trail was closed because of an avalanche of dirt and rock caused by water erosion.


I came across a local group, Top of Michigan Trails, doing a survey of trail users.  I readily stopped.  I know that good data of how we riders support the local economy was important.  I was all the way from Florida and came specifically to ride the trail.  I was spending money on my campsite, groceries, and snacks.
The guy taking the survey found out I was camping at Petoskey State Park and told me to stop at the check-in and say "Hi" to his wife, Susan.  He said to tell her he was flirting with me.

I took his picture.

Part of the trail goes on a sidewalk near the street, but I ended up loving that part of the trail because of all the beautiful 100 year old homes.


In places there were lots of driveways and roads crossing the trail.  This neighborhood had learned that not all bikers stop.  Most of us slow way down and look, but there are a few of us just ignore those stop signs.


The trail is part of a US bicycle highway.  If it turns out I like biking and camping in my little tent, that might be something I would want to do.




 




Not far from the sign about this area being a former nuclear power plant, there was a very long long board walk.  Thought it didn't look like wetland under it, I wondered if it was contaminated land.


 The second full day I was at Petoskey I didn't want to bike as far and I had discovered an Anytime Fitness in town.  There is a trail that goes inland from the Little Travis Wheelway that would take me close to Anytime.

It took me across a rushing creek.  And up up up away from the Michigan shore.

And past a man who had a flat-screen TV attached to a tree in front of his house so he could continue to watch while he was mowing his lawn!   On my return trip I took a picture.  He had a Trump 2020 sign on the inside wall of his garage.  Not that that means anything.


The wires in the area are held in place by things that look like dead chickens... or dead ducks?

On the way back to the campground I took a few pictures of the beautiful old homes.  Some of them are B&B's.



It was hot that day so when I got back to camp and after lunch I walked into Lake Michigan with my clothes on to cool off.

On day three, I drove about 25 miles to Indian River and rode the North Central Michigan Trail.  It has a crushed limestone surface and goes all the way into Mackinaw City.  I aimed for it, but didn't push too hard.  

At one point it looked like I was going to bike into a tunnel but it was a lovely tree canopy.



After I stopped for a coffee and snack, I was pedalling on when I heard a runner behind me.  A young man was going to pass me!  I pushed hard for a while, but then decided he wasn't going to give up and he didn't even seem to be breathing hard.

My RidewithGPS said I was going about nine to 10 miles per hour.  He must have been going over 12 miles per hour.

Not much further and I realized I wasn't going to make it all the way to Mackinaw City to stick my feet into Lake Huron.

I turned around. It then hit me I was exhausted.  

So when the trail turned a few blocks from Lake Huron and I had an opportunity to go stick my feet in yet another Great Lake, I passed it by.  (I regret that now, my sister tells me I will have to make another trip.)

I turned on my audio book, keeping in mind the ice cream shop I saw across the street from where I parked.

There was quite a line for ice cream.  When she asked me what size, I said "Large".  OMG, what was I thinking!

I scooped some in my thermos to have the next day.


Driving back into the campground I stopped at the kiosk and showed the pretty lady there a picture that I took of the guy on the trail doing surveys.  I asked if she knew the guy in the picture.  She laughed.  I gave her my card and told her I was going to write about it on my blog.  So here it is, Susan!

She then wrote down the name of the organization that was doing the survey.  But I lost the little piece of paper!!!  Sorry Susan!  If you or your husband is reading this, you can comment below with the name of the organization.

When I returned to camp it was quiet.  It was a totally different experience.  I kind of regretted not staying further into the week.  The celebrations and reunions were gone.  

I had a quiet couple camping behind me now.  I told them, "I am glad to see you!" And told them about the noisy group that they had replaced.   

They probably thought I was crazy, and avoided eye contact after that.  ha ha.

***

On Monday, I drove down to Ionia State Recreation Area in Michigan.  I chose it because it was on my way to Ohio and it had a trail that ran through the area.

After setting up camp, I rode over to the trail, but the path to get there was large loose rock that I had to walk my bike over the the mosquitos were out in full force.





The weather prediction was for a very hot day.  I went for a walk early to a pond where I got to see two great egrets, a big white egret or heron, and lots of other birds.   It was lovely, and I thought about bringing a chair and a book and spending the day.  I watched a deer come down to the pond and get a drink. 

My folding chair is too heavy to carry such a distance.  Instead I found a patch of shade at camp and read.

 

 

 

A couple came by to see my trailer.  Byron and Ina are from Lansing and come up to this campground often.  We chatted a bit and then Byron asked how I like my Governor.  I shook my head.  Ina wanted to know what specifically I didn't like.  I am not a good debater, I don't retain facts and sources.  I was going to start talking about how Desantes is forbidding school districts from putting into place mask mandates for their students.  But I had just met these folks.  Obviously that is what they like about him. When it appeared that Byron and Ina were fans, I said, "Let's not talk politics, we aren't on the same page."   

Later Byron came back and invited me to their campsite for hotdogs.  I was eating already, but said I would bring my beverage and join them later.

A storm was rumbling in the distance when I walked over to their place.  They were getting things ready for it and for their departure in the morning.

Ina told me about their grandchildren (they have two).  Byron had just retired from an Assisted Living Facility and was feeling kind of weird about it.  I know the feeling, a loss of purpose or loss of direction.  He said he was handy and liked to fix things like mowers and small engines.  

I said if you are a handyman you will be very busy, you just spread the word.  I was going to dash back to Lilac before the storm hit, but Ina insisted I stay and go inside their bigger/heavier trailer.

The storm was short, we said our goodbyes.  

Ina later dropped off their business card.  They own Lakes RV Storage.  Then she started talking to me about how she supports the police and that all the protests were violent.  I told her she was watching the wrong news channel because there were a lot of peaceful protests.  She told me she grew up in a diverse neighborhood and that she thinks there isn't any racisim anymore.

I told her I have read the Black Lives Mater website and they though their slogan about "defund the police" wasn't what it was all about.  I told her how my county has added a mental health person and a social work person to go along on cases when such a person is needed to help de-escalate the situation.  I told her that I wouldn't want to be a black person jogging in a white suburban neighborhood. 

Travel is full of interesting encounters, isn't it?  We listened to each other.  No minds were changed.

My last day in Ionia, I did finally ride just the paved part of the trail that goes through Ionia.  That was very nice.  The city trail was full of debris after the storm.



 At one point there was a sign saying that there was chemical contamination and stay on the trail.  A bit further down the trail I saw a deer laying in a muddy patch, probably trying to stay cool.  It was another 90-degree-and-humid day.   The deer didn't read the warning sign.

It was a nice 20 mile bike ride, then I had the afternoon to do some re-decorating.  I bought new grey plastic drawer systems at Meijer's.  Then I took the old plastic dressers to a thrift store.

One of them had a drawer busted out if it and it bugged me.  So now I have new looking digs.

Pictures of that will come later.

***

Ok.  Now for the mistake.

I realize that planning this much camping and moving around I am bound to show up at a campsite without a reservation or something.  Well it turned out that I was checking out of Ionia on the 26th but I wasn't to be at Stow, Ohio until the 27th.  So I had one night without a reservation.

In normal times that is not a problem, but lately there have been many more people camping and traveling this way due to COVID.  So I began searching and got worried after only two rejections.  But I kept looking and found a Fairgrounds in Adrian, Michigan that brings me a bit closer to Stow.  So tomorrow's travel day won't be way too long.

And what was good about this change was that I could stop along the way at an Anytime and workout today.  So the mistake turned out to be no problem and a blessing.  I got to workout and I was in an air conditioned vehicle today instead of trying to stay cool in my sunny camp spot.

***

I am sixty eight and I peed my pants, what's the big deal?

Here is what happened.

I arrived at this Fairground and unhooked Lilac and set up for one night stay.  I had to pee, but I really wanted to do a few more things and then wash my feet and clip my toe nails.  My feet were getting disgusting because they hadn't been tended to in awhile.

A storm was rumbling, the wind was picking up.  I didn't know if I would be able to have the luxury of washing them outside later.

So I sat outside with my feet in a bucket and an old tooth brush and clippers and worked away.  I am the only one in the Fairgrounds, but I am visible from the houses across the street.  I wondered if they were disgusted or if this kind of thing is no big deal for them.

After the cleaning I stepped inside my Weeroll.  Now I will use my little toilet and go pee.

I quickly opened a few curtains a bit for some light.  I pulled down my pants as fast as I could because once I decided to go, man it sometimes starts.

I am on my way into the squat to sit on my toilet when I see a truck pull up close next to my trailer.  I rush to pull my pants back up, but my pee doesn't stop.  There is a knock on my door.  

I open the door and I bend over so my butt is back in the trailer and my head is sticking out of the screen.  It is a man that works at the fair to let me know they will be leaving the bathroom open so I can take a shower.  

"Good, cause I am going to need one now," I think.

So that is my pee story.  Maybe it is my coming of age story.  Ha ha.

***

May you find opportunities to laugh at yourself and let things roll.




What is in the news now?

Some Florida hospital ICUs are full of COVID patients leaving no room for any of us if we get in an accident or have a heart attack.


And as of today 100,000 people have been evacuated with very few casualties from Afghanistan.  An amazing accomplishment.  Interesting times for sure as I continue traveling in my little bubble.

Heather Cox Richardson sums it up well in today’s newsletter.









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