Posts Tagged ‘michigan’

Life in the UP

Sunday, October 18th, 2015

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Even though I have a home once more, I have found myself taking to the road. Not to get anywhere in particular, I have no grand destination at the end of a long road anymore, but I take to the road all the same. Somedays I drive just to feel normal again, the road has become my home in more than one way. But most days, I drive to watch the fall leaves twirl in the air of my car’s wake as I devour mile after mile of empty roadway. This is my now, after the colors turned, after the winter winds began, and after the leaves began to fall. But this isn’t where I want to begin, I want to go back when the trees were still green and the lake lay still. I want to tell you where I have been, how strange life has become, but in the best of ways.

3,354 miles and a little over two weeks on the road. The space between me and everything I once called home. Now it is over a month since I left the sunny west coast behind me and I have been living in the Northernmost tip of Michigan where the sky meets water and the land ends.

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This place is not unfamiliar to me though, it is not a strange, exotic and unknown location; this is my home away from home. However, I have never seen it quite like this before. The closest city to me is Houghton, a drawbridge city with cobblestone streets and old brick buildings lining the downtown stretch of road. But every morning this is the view I wake up to.

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So many things are different now, things I have never seen before because I only ever visited in the summer time. I feel like my world has been turned topsy turvy, everything is so similar yet just different enough to disturb the normalcy of everything I had grown accustomed to since I was a very young child. Small things are off, like leaving a book on your desk and returning to find it on top of your bed with no one around to have moved it.

Small things like seeing acorns on the ground. The entire ground is littered with them but since I have only ever been here in summer I have never seen an acorn here. Or watching fog lift off of the lake in the early morning or funneling down the channel when I have only ever seen sun, rain, and lightning in the sky before now. Or realizing that the shadows fall differently because the sun is in an entirely different position. The sun sets so far south and instead of 11pm sunsets, the sky gets darker earlier and earlier every day. There are endless things that entirely transform this place I have visited almost every single year since I was born. I feel like I have found myself on the other end of the looking glass and everything is slightly distorted.

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There are two not so subtle changes that have really transformed this once familiar place into a mysterious and new experience. The first of which is obvious, it is Fall. I have never seen the once verdant ubiquitous green burst apart into such an array of beautiful colors. It makes me look at everything with new awe struck eyes.

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The land around me has become its own sea of colors. Amber, wine, violet, peach, rose, and so many other colors have transformed every tree into a color palette of startling fiery colors. Every day the world around me looks different. Every day it transforms a little more, becomes a little more beautiful, or looses a few more leaves. This ceaselessly protean landscape has dug its beautiful fingers into my imagination and lit my eyes aflame with the possibilities of fleeting life. There is such a desperate beauty in imminent perishing life.

The other difference is the life that already perished. The loss of my grandfather, one year after his passing, is thick in the air everywhere I turn up here. It is not necessarily a bad or sad feeling, just a very persistent one. Memories are the greatest ghosts we could ever conjure.

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I dreamt for years about coming up to Northern Michigan to see the peak of fall colors, but I never dreamt that it would be without my grandfather. I always thought I would walk arm in arm with him through the forest of amber and wine colored trees. I thought we would sit in his favorite chairs by a fire, no words passing between us, just a mutual understanding that sometimes words aren’t necessary to know you are loved. Now I am finally here and on the one year anniversary of his passing. I wish he could be here with me and I cannot believe, even a year later that he is actually gone. I miss my grandpa but I see him and feel him in the flurry of falling leaves everywhere I go.

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I am staying in his home without him and every time I hear this old house creak I always wonder if it is him. I feel like I cannot go anywhere without bumping into his ghost. But I know he would have wanted me here. I just wish he could have been here along side me.

I think one of the biggest things about being here by myself is how much older it makes me feel. I can physically see the changes, the way that time has transformed this place and myself. I have always known this place as one filled with love, family, laughter, adventure, mischief, and growth. But now I am here at the end of fall and the cusp of winter. It isn’t summer anymore. I have grown older, my grandfather and grandmother are both gone, my cousins aren’t here with me to enjoy each others company, and the leaves are falling one by one as the water slowly recedes from the shores.

It is a beautiful death here. A beautiful transitioning between the life of one year and the life of the next. This is where I find myself. Between the death of an old life and the beginning of a new one. The west of my past and the east of my future as Kerouac would say if his journey had been reversed. I am moving slowly towards something, but I know not what yet. For now I sit and watch the world around me changing, wondering what will come when the color is gone.

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Made it to Michigan

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015

I am caught somewhere between way to busy and being too tired to reflect to put my thoughts on the page, or, in this case, on the internet. I know I have neglected my blog the last couple of days, so here is the update: I made it. I had one last final day of driving after I finished my time in Madison. But I had to have one last breakfast in this wonderful city (which is somewhat of a foodie heaven, especially for the midwest!) and stopped just outside of the captial building grounds for a great chai latte and a dark chocolate, caramel sea salt crepe from Bradbury’s. IMG_9855

Driving away from my amazing aunt who was gracious enough to host me for my time in Madison and with the gorgeous capital building in my rearview mirror, I hit the road one last time.

I drove through Wisconsin up into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where I will be staying for the next month. I saw a couple of really amazing places on my way up like Minocqua, Wisconsin. This little town surrounded by a series of wonderful lakes, crisscrossed by trestles and interwoven by a state hiking trail. How amazing is that? I totally stumbled upon it on accident while trying to take a picture of a trestle. IMG_9858

The trail was a long and winding stretch of covered pathway, framed by trees and surrounded by lakes. I felt like I was weaving my way through a wonderland of lakes. IMG_9861

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The trail took my breath away between the aqua green waters and the fall colored leaves. It was a great accidental side trip before I crossed over the state line into home territory, Michigan. Processed with VSCOcam with kk1 preset

I also took a few random side breaks to campgrounds, lakes, and boat launches just to sneak off the main road and find some water or fall forests to explore. IMG_9894

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The fall colors from Minocqua upwards were unbelievable. Colorado was a land of golden trees but here were so many shades of oranges and reds, trees the color of wine and cinnamon. I couldn’t help but laugh at the rush of exhilaration I felt every time I turned around the next corner because each view was more amazing than the last.

My final stop was at Bond Falls, a great stop that I always make on my way in or out of the UP (Upper Peninsula for all you non-midwesterners). The cascading waterfalls at Bond Falls compounded with the fall colors was the last step in total and uncontrollable excitement about being back in Michigan. IMG_9899

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I had made it, driving in along the rainbow of fall colors I rolled down my windows, blasted my music, and felt the cold crisp air of impending winter, knowing all the while that my heart had come home again. There is no home to me quite like going up North to the Keweenaw Peninsula. No brighter colors or stiller lake, no calmer heart to be had than when I sit on the dock next to the gentle lapping waters of the place I call home. And of course, there are no sunsets quite like the sunsets in Bootjack because every day is a beautiful day out here. There are many beautiful days to come and hopefully I can post more now that life is beginning to settle down a touch more, but for now I am staying put. No more open road for a little while but there is still adventure to be had in this quiet land. And I have every intention of not wasting a single second of my precious time up here in my home away from home.

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The Weight of Lives I am not Living

Wednesday, September 16th, 2015

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One reason I have decided to resurrect my blog is to document my cross country solo road trip. Today I hit the road and won’t find myself back on the West Coast until I have climbed the mountains of Colorado, rolled in the fall leaves of Northern Michigan, put my feet to the pavement of New York City, driven nearly the entire length of the East Coast, let the Atlantic Ocean wash the dirt from my tired feet, sipped a cup of coffee at Cafe Du Monde in New Orleans, and driven all the way back home. In total, I should be gone for about three months. Just me, my Prius (nicknamed PriPri), vast open expanses of road, and any adventure that finds me along the way.

The main question I have received upon telling people this (after clarifying that yes, I do actually plan on doing this and no, I am not crazy) is WHY?

And this question is not unjustified either, I have asked myself the same thing over and over again as the date of departure creeps closer and closer. I will be the first to admit it, I am terrified. I can make this trip sound so romantic, dreamy, courageous, and many other enviable traits, but the reality is that this is scary; this is going to be extremely hard. There are going to be days I will wish that I had never left home, never gotten out of my bed, never said goodbye to my parents, and never abandoned everything that made me comfortable in life. There is one thing that I know even though the trip has not yet begun: I will never regret this decision.

I could have stayed at my job in the Bay and lived comfortably, but this is the path I have chosen. So to answer the ubiquitous question, which follows me like a shadow wherever I go, I have four things to say.

  1. I can hear my bones straining under the weight of all the lives I am not living. This quote from Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close has resonated in my heart like the rattle of little Oskar’s tambourine since I first read this magnificent book my first year at UC Berkeley. My bones, my body, my mind, and my spirit ache with the weight of not knowing the many paths that my life could lead me down. I plan to go to graduate school and get a doctorate and after that seek a professorship for the rest of my days. While a majority of the people I know are now desperately pursuing a lifelong career, I have found myself unwilling to tie myself to one thing. There are so many things in life I want to do and be that after graduate school I may never get to experience. So I have decided to put real life on hold and go adventure for a while. I do not want to be one thing, I want to be many and I hope to never cease changing in my life. As an English major (aka major book nerd) I have always felt that the most amazing result of reading is that the reader is able to live a thousand different lives through the novels they immerse themselves in throughout their own finite life. I have lived the lives of others both real and imaginary, some more than once, but I have yet to live my own.
  2. Desperately seeking self. Perhaps it is cliche to seek yourself on the open road, or perhaps there is a wisdom in this repetition that proves success. I never feel so inspired than when my wheels are spinning on the pavement and my mind is whirling with thoughts heavily lined with the experiences of yesterday. A solo road trip is obviously a lot of alone time, which both terrifies me and intrigues me with the possibilities of unformed experiences. I have to communicate with me; there is no way around it, no where to run or hide. I am an introspective and introverted person, so this isn’t exactly new to me, but lately I have found myself wrapped around the fingers of others. As time has passed and I have dedicated less time to writing and creating, I have found myself throwing all of my time into others. This is not to say I should not have done this, or that I regret doing this, but I have lost the confidence in being alone that I once had. I have shelved my purpose, my pursuits, and my identity for far too long and traveling alone allows me to be selfish in a way I have not been able to be in a long time. I want to recover the entirety of who I once was and learn how to live a life that is fully mine.
  3. I am a strong young women building my inner independence from the ground (or road) up. Let’s be honest, the main reason people ask me why in the world I would do this is the same reason I have to do this: I am a woman, alone, and the world isn’t always nice to solo women trying to find their place in the world. People ask me, aren’t your parents scared for you? and I can see the real question in their eyes and implied in their words, there is a lot of danger that I am courting just because I am a young woman with no one to watch my back, no one to protect me, no one to stave off the danger of cat calls, rude and greedy eyes, lecherous thoughts of strangers, and the unknown/unpredictable mishaps that could occur on the road. This, however, is the very reason I must go. Yes, I am a woman, yes I can do this on my own. I am capable, strong, independent, cautious, wise, and fear will not hold me back. I am a part of this world and I am going to take part in it. Hiding at home will never change the way the world perceives women. To think that my blog in any way will affect this though is naive and not what I am getting at. What I want this blog to do over the next couple of months is serve as an example that women can do anything. I am just one of many women who has chosen to take to the road alone and just as those women who have served as an example for me, I hope that I can help at least one other woman see that they can do it too. To help show just one person, even if that one person is myself, that it is totally worth it is all I want to achieve.
  4. I am an adventurer and nothing is going to stop me, not even myself. A lot of people see me as someone who is unafraid, outgoing, adventurous, and motivated. In truth, I struggle with all of these things greatly. But still, I must go. Crippled by anxiety, scared, small, often sick, and indecisive, I am horrified by things that are unknown and uncontrollable. But still, I must go. Unable to let go of control and filled to the brim with nervousness, I am unsure about everything I am about to embark on over the next few months. But still, I must go. Why? Why. why. No matter how scared, nervous, chronically in pain, or unsure I am, I am only sure that I must go. Because I am an adventurer; because the road has been calling my name since my mother first introduced me to it six years ago; because I am my own worst enemy and adversaries exist to bring out the best in us; because I am not living my life if I let my fear, anxiety, or illness win. These are the things I know. For some reason my heart picked adventure and I cannot say no, even if the rest of my being is against it.

In some ways, this post is more for me than for you. I am my harshest critic, the one with the most to lose in this, but also the one with the most to gain. I guess you can say this is my manifesto, or simply a reminder for those dark days when all I want to do is give up or cry in a corner. This is my reminder that I can do this, that this is exactly what I want and need, and that no matter where I find myself, I am still me, I am still strong, and I will keep moving.

By the time you read this, I am already gone. Another white streak across the sky, tumbleweed rolling down the road, a stranger in a car window disappearing in the opposite direction. I will see you all again, some sooner rather than later, and hope that you will embark on this journey with me in one form or another.

Ultimately, there are a thousand reasons why I should not go and only one that underlies all of the reasons of why I should: I must. I have told myself a thousand times that I would and now it is hear and there is no backing down. So here I go, down the rabbit hole. Unsure of where it will lead me, this road is the path I have chosen; through all of the exciting loops and digressions, through all the wrong ways and misadventures, through all the new friends and unfriendly strangers, through all the beautiful sights I will see and the empty expanses of nothing, I have chosen this path and now I must follow it to its end.

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Day Eleven: The End

Friday, June 29th, 2012

We made it. I am writing this post from my grandmother’s library where I will be staying for about the next three weeks. After eleven long days of waking up at five in the morning and going to bed at about eleven at night and over 4700 miles later, we are in our home away from home in Bootjack, Michigan.

We spent the entire first half of our day having an amazing time on Mackinac Island. We took the ferry boat across Lake Huron over to the small island where we toured around for several hours. Since we did one of the earlier tours we got to actually go on the ferry underneath the Mackinac Bridge, the largest suspension bridge in the USA. The wind was biting and the spray from the waves was really cold as it splashed all over me and my camera but the view was spectacular. The water was almost more amazing than the bridge itself. One of my favorite things about Michigan are the lakes. Lake Superior is my all time favorite, but Huron was beautiful. The deep greens and blues that cast a gradient of color for all to see was stupendous to behold.

When we reached the island we decided to walk instead of rent bikes because no vehicles are allowed on the island. Only horse drawn carriages and bikes are allowed on the island making for an antiquated but lovely atmosphere for the entire island.

However, since everything was so expensive we were indeed limited in what we could do including not being able to go into Fort Mackinac. However, we recieved an awesome tip from a woman who told us to go behind the art museum where there was a children’s park and a very well disguised set of stairs. The very long set of stairs wove into the forests and high up the hills until we came out on top which supplied an amazing overlook of the island right next to the fort which we could see right into.

 

We even got to see the canon demonstration, where they loaded and fired a canon from the fort. It was very cool, but loud.

Behind the Fort we found amazing wide open fields that we had some fun with as we made our way across the island.

We continued on the wooded pathway all over the island eventually ending up at the famous Grand Hotel, which is so highclass that you are not even allowed to walk around it without a ten dollar fee. Also, no shoulders showing, and no pants for women. It was really quite odd. It did have a nice porch though with lines of rocking chairs overlooking the lake.

Since lunch was too expensive at the Grand we headed back to main where we had lunch at an excellent burger joint called Chuckwagons. It was a tiny little alleyway of a room jammed with chairs and people. We sat at the bar looking right at the grill which supplied all the food for the entire place, which in itself was amazing. The chef and I am assuming owner was working it and he was a constant blurr of action. It seemed like he never stopped, a fine tuned burger making machine. I got the rodeo burger which was sublime but messy. Served on a pretzel bun, these burgers where home made and cooked right in front of our eyes. It was entertaining and delicious. Highly recommended, especially with the price compared to the Grand, which I am sure was not nearly as good as this place.

We also had to stop and buy the famous Mackinac Island Fudge, this little island is known for its rich fudge and there are literally dozens of shops all over the island claiming to be the best. With a lot of contestation about which is best, we naturally had to try several.. which meant a lot of fugde sampling and a very high sugar overload when we were done. After sampling a couple of places I decided that Joann’s Fudge is definitely the best. Their sea salt caramel fudge is amazing and rich with that nice salty bit to counteract the powerful sweetness. Not only was the fudge good but the place was cute, the servers friendly and in my opinion most importantly good at giving samples. They were extremely generous in their samples and made sure you really had a taste for which ever fudge you were thinking about tasting. It was quite the adventure and we really enjoyed ourselves on this beauitful, sunny day in Michigan on the Great Lakes.

We did have to move on and take the ferry back sadly but we kept getting waylaid by more beautiful and interesting things before we even left town. We found a beautiufl beach spot to play around in the sandy beaches and clear waters as well as a magnificent lighthouse right at the foot of the bridge.

But after the crossing of the bridge it was a straight shot to our final destination. We had our eyes on the prize and except for a brief pasty stop, which is always worth it, we headed to our home away from home.

It is so nice to be here again, I quite literally wait all year until I can come back here. I am staying in my grandfather’s home right on the lake where I will be doing my writing and hopefully some good research from my grandmother’s old collection of amazing books. So now starts a new (more relaxed) adventure in Michigan.

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Day Ten: Mackinaw City

Friday, June 29th, 2012

This is the winding down, the final frontier of the trip: we have entered the state of Michigan. The very tippy top of the state is the goal and end of the trip in Keweenaw County and we stayed the night about the half-way point right before the Mackinac Island Bridge.

We left Cincinnati early in the morning and headed up to meet some of my mother’s old high school friends whom she was really excited to see after to many years. We met them for lunch right above where my mom lived as a child in Birmingham, Michigan. After lunch at Olga’s, an old favorite of my mother’s which serves gyros, we headed down memory lane to reminisce about my mother’s old home. Even though it is no longer there, the house next to cemetery, we still drove by where it once stood and even stopped at a garage sale at the place that now stands in its stead. We drove all over as she pointed out points of interest from her childhood including the cemetery. It was a huge trip down memory lane, even though the town had changed incredibly, we had a great time wandering around.

After Birmingham we kept heading north to Gaylord where my uncle and his family are in order to stop in and catch up with them. We got dinner, visited a small but beauitful lake, and even got to see some elk.

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We got in really late last night because it was hard to say goodbye yet again, even though we will see them in a couple of more days. We drove to Mackinaw City in the dark and could see the lights blink on the bridge as we pulled in to the city. It was a wonderfully warm night but we were so tired we just collapsed right into bed.

 

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My Busy (Wonderful) Life

Thursday, July 21st, 2011

A couple of days ago my grand adventure around Europe came to a bittersweet end. Back in the USA now I had one full day at home before being shipped off to Michigan. So here I am sitting in my grandmother’s beautiful library addressing you. I have seen so many amazing things and of course I desire to share all of it with you. But I would like to share a brief preface before the fun begins:

All the things I will tell you, all the pictures I show you, and all the tales I will weave may at best reveal a fraction of the true beauty and sheer amazingness of the things I have seen on this trip. Words can barely describe the thousands of brightly colored doors, or the strange and quirky people I saw, or the myriad of homes or shops hidden down dark and wondrous alley ways. I will try my best to full describe the things I saw in Europe during my crazy busy and beyond wonderful life, but remember the reality can only be glimpsed in these words and pictures. I will do my best.

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Travel Update: Home

Monday, August 9th, 2010

Today was our last day on the road and we got home around dinner. It was a really long vacation starting on June 28, driving for a week to Upper Michigan, four weeks in Michigan one of which was in Chicago, then a week drive back. So it was a long trip and we are glad to be home. The experiences we have had are unforgettable and will stay with us forever. Glad to be home, but missing the adventures. I can’t wait to see what sort of adventures we go on next.

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Travel Update: Heading Home

Monday, August 2nd, 2010

By 5 a.m. tomorrow morning my mom and I will be on our way back home to Santa Cruz California on a week-long road trip. We will be heading across the top of the US  all the way to Seattle and then straight down to home. I am excited to be on the road again and to go home in order to see all of my friends and family.However going home is bittersweet. I will miss Bootjack dearly, its serenity, its untainted beauty, and all of the wonders of our compound. I will miss the lake and the water. I will miss the bald eagles. I will miss the flowers. I will miss the storms that come sweeping across the lake. I will miss my grandpa until I see him again. I will miss the library. I will miss everything. So thank you Bootjack for a nice summer, I will see you next year.

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Bald Eagle

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

One of the most amazing things about Michigan is the majestic bald eagle. The bald eagle is a frequent sight were I stay in upper Michigan and we love every second of it. These birds are truly amazing and beautiful. I have to say though they seem a little creepy at times because they are always so aware of your presence. Whenever I go near them they always watch me and never take their eyes off until they fly away. I love seeing them and for those of you who don’t get to see them often, here is one of my best shots of him this year for all of you to enjoy!

This is the eagle down on the point. He is always sitting in this tree watching us no matter what time it is. He just took of when I got this picture and you can still see his watching eyes.

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Hungarian Falls

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

My mom and I took a hike up to Hungarian falls in Hubbell Michigan this morning. It was really nice. There are two sets of falls and we visited both. The first was a this big pool covered in greenery and ferns.

Then we headed around the top of the falls seeing many others on our way. It was a really nice hike and the water was beautiful. I really enjoyed the greenery and the beautiful Michigan woods.

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