The Living Great Lakes

It’s no secret that I love Michigan. The Great Lakes play a large role in that equation. Their vastness and depth are a mirror for the soul. Many a writer has attempted to put their beauty into words. Few have come as close as Jerry Dennis has with The Living Great Lakes. (TLGL)

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This book is an informative series of tales woven into the narrative of the author’s trip through the Great Lakes on the Malabar, a tall ship out of Traverse City, Michigan.

Dennis, an accomplished American author, writes rather matter of factly in a manner which feels like a regular guy telling you of his travels over a beer. He gives lessons on the history of man-made features as well as the geological happenings and cycles that shaped the region. His use of everyday language makes TLGL approachable, understandable, and very pleasant. The reader learns and is entertained at the same time.

I especially appreciate how he explains what certain groups are doing to protect this awesome ecosystem! His lauding contains subtle warnings about environmental issues plaguing the Lakes without being too preachy.

I read this book with a map pulled up at all times on my computer, I loved to find the places that he was talking about, then I would Google the story, or the area that he was describing and get lost researching the topic. While the book reads quite quickly, if you take the time to delve into the side stories and look up the events that Dennis writes about you will find yourself taking a little longer than usual. The extra time is worth it because it will only enrich your overall experience.

Since reading I have amassed a list of places and events that I would like to check out due to their descriptions in the book:

  • The Witching Tree
  • The Snow Wasset
  • More of Sleeping Bear Dunes
  • The Manitou Islands
  • and so many more…

This book describes the Great Lakes region with such familiarity that any reader will feel at home, even if you have never been near them. The familiarity is achieved through anecdotal additions which cause each story to ring true. I especially enjoyed the references to the places where I have played since my youth: Manistee, Arcadia, Traverse  City, Mackinac, and Leelanau. Now that I have moved to the Upper Peninsula I am rereading the book to see what new flames it stokes.

Guests to the area: I suggest you read this on your trip or before, it will provide you with a wealth of information and history of the area. It may also serve as a jumping-off point for your trip.

Residents of the area: I suggest you read this book, enjoy it thoroughly and research the stories. You will discover things about your town/ area that you would never have found before.

Pick this book up as soon as you can; read it; get inspired; start exploring.

-J

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Gratefulness

I was recently listening to an older episode of TED Radio Hour. The theme was happiness: what it means; how to achieve it; and the science behind it. All of the speakers made insightful points. However, Monk, David Steindl-Rast made the biggest impression on me. He posited that we cannot and should not strive to be happy, rather we should strive to be grateful for for each and every moment and opportunity. (Hear David’s talk here: David Steindl-Rast: What Does It Take To Be Grateful? Thank you NPR).

That sentiment really resonated with me.

Be grateful for everything and every moment. Your gratefulness will birth happiness.

-J

My Personal Heaven

I took a birthday trip up to Copper Harbor, seemingly the end of the Earth. People asked why I would go there to celebrate my birthday. Well..
To sleep under the stars and hear the world.
To listen to the water and watch the clouds march across the sky.

 

To sit and think without distractions.

 

To spend time with my best friend looking for adventure.

In other words: to be myself.

-J

Mission Accomplished

Last week was quite stressful; work went late into the night tuesday-thursday and the puppy kept us up most of the night after that. I needed some kind of release. So, I put a little challenge to myself up on the blog. I committed myself to a “Big day.”

Essentially it was a nice leisurely-paced gravel/road ride up to Big Bay and back. But for me it represented a little more. It was proof that I could set a goal and achieve it. Sometimes we spend too much time working toward intangible things that seem to never come to fruition. Sometimes the upward tick of our bank accounts becomes a meaningless safety-net of numbers that we all know could be wiped out in a matter of seconds. Sometimes we rely on other people to do too many things for us. Personally, when I hit that wall, as we all do from time to time, I need to do something on my own accord. The last time that happened I hand split 10 cords of firewood. Talk about seeing the fruits of my labor. It was such a rewarding feeling seeing the rows grow and the pile of whole logs dwindle. I needed to do something like this again to reignite that feeling: accomplishment.

So I created a challenge for myself, and as you know I made it public. I have never done something like that before and I am pleasantly surprised to say that it worked.

When Saturday arrived the bike was loaded and the route carefully planned to avoid interaction with vehicles and people in general. I took off into a minor headwind which made the first 12-15 miles pretty miserable. But something clicked when I crossed the big bridge on CR 510.

I saw fewer cars and could feel that the remote gravel section was getting close.

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This is where the trip really began. I have driven this road a number of times. It is quiet and it is wild. Rarely do you see a vehicle or structure. It is the perfect place to spin gears and unwind.

And spin I did. For the most part I had the gravel to myself. However, once in a while a hunter on his way to deer camp would blast past me on a side-by-side. In those moments I felt as if I were in some post-apacolyptic Mad Max scenario. I would laugh to myself and draw up images of some marauder chasing me down on my pedal bike and I would thwart him at the last moment with a well-placed juke.

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I was warned by a friend to eat hourly even if I wasn’t hungry. Turns out that wasn’t all that hard. I lunched on the banks of the Yellow Dog. Jerky and fig bars have never tasted so good.

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As the tannic waters flowed past I was able to completely give myself over to the rhythmic churning and the trance-inducing ripples. In that moment I was safe to release my mind and all of the worries and cares in it. It was beautiful. If you find yourself starting to get wound up head to a quiet stretch of river and watch it do its thing for a while. “I’m not saying that a river is a cure-all, only that your brain is unable to maintain its troubled patterns while in concourse with a river.” -Jim Harrison, The Beast God Forgot to Invent. (On a side note that man will forever be missed and I look forward to incorporating many of his gems in and around this blog.)

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The rest of the ride was rather uneventful. I got in some good charges and even managed to launch into a few of those “yawps” that those Transcendentalists were always talking about. Rolling into town felt good. I had accomplished something and I had no one to thank but my own two legs.

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My older generation Stache probably wasn’t the most efficient choice of bikes for this ride but the extra forgiveness in those larger tires and the suspension fork made it a little more comfortable and forgiving.

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I dubbed this trip “The long way to Blackrocks” because in all honesty there is no longer route from my home to that wonderful brewery. Upon arriving I grabbed a 51k and sat on the porch looking at my bike. I thought about the places I have taken it, and the places it has taken me. Good gear is worth its weight in gold. But there is something special about the bond that you form with a bike. After the brew I spun over to Border Grill and had some tacos and chips.

This is the first of many rides that will start on CR 510. While planning my ride I was very excited to see all of the roads that branch off 510 and head into the McCormick Tract.

The pic below is the Strava info from the ride. I really enjoy quantifiable results and since I have started using Strava I have found the joy and worth that I have always felt while biking to be measurable.

-j

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