Month: July 2013


Up North

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Vacation has ended and while it’s good to be home I always miss vacation right after it ends. This year was no exception however it was sort of a bittersweet time away. Being up north with my girls while the rest of my family was south made me think about them often. My intention was to stay in the moment and not think too much but I did. My schedule of stops didn’t go as planned due to the weather being around 60 with light to moderate rain each day so we stayed in Ludington the entire time. As many times as I’ve been to Ludington I always look forward to going back even though you can technically see all you need to in one day. We spent time in Empire (scenic drive) and Hart (silver lake) too just to add vacation value. The hotel we stayed in (Stearns Motor Lodge) was great and priced well too. We only planned to stay there one night but each day I called to book a room. This was partially due to the fact that everything was packed with no vacancies. By the end of the trip we were happy to stay at Stearns.

During the trip, as I always do, I felt nostalgic about the times I spent north with my father and brother so many years ago. One of the things I love most about it in the areas we visited is nothing has changed really. There are the same go-karts, bumper cars, dune rides and restaurants. It’s like stepping back in time. The fact that I’ve taken my family there several times also adds to the nostalgia. Last year I hunted down some spots I remembered as a kid just to see them again but this year I decided to just stick to the path going between point A to point B. That worked up until the last day on the way home. I took a couple back roads thinking I might see something that might bring back a memory but I didn’t. We did find a nice little place off the side of the road with a picnic table and creek where we walked around for a bit but other than that we followed the GPS.

Asking the girls on the way home what their favorite part of the vacation was they had a hard time deciding. For me it was White Pine Village in Ludington. I’ve been there once with the kids five years ago and another time around 15 years ago with Kristen. She wasn’t overly impressed with it but I really enjoy the place. Walking from home to home, each a museum, is interesting to me. This year the girls spent a long time in the village and even when we walked the entire map I was hesitant to leave. If they asked to go back the next day I would have.

Once we got home I realized too that Silver Lake and Ludington are only 3-4 hours away and there’s no reason I can’t take a day or two and visit again this year. The girls are going camping with Kristen and her sister in a couple weekends so you never know.

self serve
self serve White Pine Village
View from the top of Little Sable Point Lighthouse
View from the top of Little Sable Point Lighthouse

White Pine Village




Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive

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Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

We walked this same trail around five years ago but the weather was really hot. This time it was cool with a slight mist and wind which made the walk easier. Despite being only 1.5 miles one way it seemed like 5 miles. Walking up and down sand hills is tough.



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Last night I had an odd dream. Sitting on the street or perhaps it was a mall there were several groups trying to recruit people though I don’t know what they were representing. It seemed like some were selling things and others celebrating something. During the dream there was a lot of noise, either white noise or music. The group in front of me looked to be a group of Indian men belonging to what seemed to me like the Hindu religion. My knowledge of this religion is very limited. Actually more than limited, I know nothing about it. These men were holding signs behind a table of wares such as bracelets, books and what looked to be some type of food. One of the men had a sign that read, “The smell or roses is bad.” or it might have been, “Smelling roses is vanity.” That’s not quite right but something along that line.

When I think of “smelling roses” I think of being aware of your surroundings, taking the time to see and listen to those around you. Life can be busy and sometimes it’s hard to do that but if you get so wrapped up in your own life you can become unaware of life around you. Your own needs become the center rather than considering the needs of others. Could the sign this man was holding have been promoting a self-centered lifestyle?

Wanting to know what he was talking about I approached him and he happily tried to explain it to me. Putting his face to my ear he had his hand pressed against the side of my face in a way that allowed him to talk up close but blocked any contact, almost like a divide between his face and mine using his hand. I thought that to be odd but his hand smelled like vanilla and cinnamon which was pleasant. It seemed a courteous thing to do considering his had was on my face.  He went on to explain what the message was but I could only hear mumbles due to to heavy background noise. After talking he stepped back and point to the bracelets. I picked one up and put it on.

Family, Memories, Vacation

Up North

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Mac Wood's Dune Rides

Last year I took my boys on a vacation up north making a stop in Mears which was to be the second stop in my list of destinations. The dune ride has not changed since I was a kid. Even the color of the vehicles is the same. In a few days I will take the girls on the same, or similar, trip and this will be one of the stops. The story as told by the driver is this unfortunate man was skydiving when his parachute failed to open. I swear 30 years ago this same prop was used.

The “up north” as it’s been called by me since I was a kid has become an important if not necessary trip for me to be taken each year. If I don’t see it in the books or if it’s just not talked about I feel like I need to make it happen. There’s something about taking my kids to places I visited as a kid that makes me think I am sharing something with them about my life, almost a lesson. Perhaps it’s more about wanting to make them love the places as much as I did as a kid.

After many years in between visits the trend started up again with my wife who I think was not my wife at the time, or perhaps she was but I don’t remember, yet someone I wanted to share this experience with. Our first visit was to Ludington where we stayed in a bed and breakfast for a couple days followed by a drive north to Petoskey then Charlevoix. While I had a path in mind I remember we drove around a bit looking, well I was looking, for something that reminded me of my childhood. I didn’t say that but it was totally self serving in that aspect. No matter though I was happy to be there, with her, in a place I loved as a child. Why I think people will enjoy things as much as I did or do and why it’s so important to me I don’t know.

Last year I took this venture to a new level by not only going to some of the places I went as a kid but even a step further in really trying to hunt down a particular spot in the Sutton’s Bay area that was only a very distant memory. No real pictures to remind me, no street name but just the pictures in my mind. The problem with that is I think I paint a different picture in my mind than what is real at times especially with old memories where the lines of reality and dream cross over a little. Either way I was determined to find this spot even if it took half the day driving.

The spot I am referring to was a place for migrant workers to stay during the harvest season of cherries. Lodging was rough with no electricity, no running water and the floors of the structure were concrete and/or dirt. There was however a well pump outside and outhouse across the street. My father would take us up north to visit the sand dunes but not before he took us to visit his friends who were migrant workers staying in places like this, we made several of these trips in different spots along Sutton’s Bay. The deal was we would stay for a few days or longer with them wherever they were before going to a hotel for the “real vacation.”  Accommodations were always similar. I came to refer to them as “the outhouses” because of their basic outhouse/barn like designs, don’t get me started on the beds. As a child I thought my dad was doing this to teach us a life lesson on how some people get by with less even working very hard for basic necessities. Years later I would find out that was not the reason for the visit. Actually it was because lodging was free if we worked thus saving him money so the “lessons” were only made up in my mind. That’s alright because I grew up remembering the lessons and believing in them as valuable.

Not having a real idea of the location I did know it was right on the water and there was only one road that followed the shore all the way up to the top so my plan was to stick to that road looking closely for any signs that reminded me of something. After driving for a while I felt as thought I was on a silly hunt that would end in wasted time driving, my poor kids in tow having no idea what the point was. Even if I did find that exact spot would it even look the same after close to thirty years? Eventually I decided to turn around and continue to our planned destination which was the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Taking a turn down some road I believed would lead back and out of Sutton’s Bay there were these cherry trees that looked like something I remembered. I felt as though it was a spot I’d seen before but then again don’t all cherry tree fields kind of look the same? Not only that do cherry trees even live over thirty years? I stopped for a moment and snapped a picture anyway because there was something about the way the field dipped that I thought I remembered. A few miles later there was a house on my right with an old truck out front and a pole barn painted red and green. The color of the pole barn was something I always remembered so I knew right away I’d somehow found the spot. Directly across the street from this was a masonry block home, more like a garage, with sort of a walkout basement. Stopping to take photographs I couldn’t believe my luck at finding this spot however the masonry building was gone or at least the top level was gone.

The pole barn across the street. At the time it was packed with migrant workers.
The pole barn across the street. At the time it was packed with migrant workers.

I got out of my truck and saw the bottom half was still intact. Looking over the side I could see the room and doorway where we stayed all those years ago. My mind flooded with memories of  the few days we stayed in this spot. The swimming, goat killed for dinner, people all over the place and the bed spring sticking in my back at night. At the time I wanted nothing more than to get out of there and head to the sand dunes for a real vacation, staying in a hotel with running water. Now the place was empty with weeds overgrown on what was left of the building and small tool shed. I imagined we were the last to bring life to the area all those years ago, absurd to think, but I liked that idea. To me it was like my childhood memories were imprinted on the remains of the building, earth and surrounding water. I’d told the kids the story of this place a while ago and being there I went on enthusiastically about how “this is the place I told you guys about” but quickly I realized they were really not that interested.

This is what is left of the garage we stayed in. Shown is the first floor with walls missing. We slept at the right on the basement level.
This is what is left of the garage we stayed in. Shown is the first floor with walls missing. We slept on the right at the basement level.

Sitting there staring at the shell of the building trying to bring back memories of that time I wondered if it was a memory that I should have left alone. Things were different. The house was gone except the bottom portion and colors were not as vivid as I remembered. I wanted my kids to appreciate this place and understand the significance but in the end I was a little sad to be there as though I’d uncovered something that should have been left alone It was like a reunion with an old friend that you really don’t have anything to say to. My youngest son Andrew called from the back seat in an impatient tone, “Dad are we going to go get one of those Pasties you talked about in the U.P.?” That was my cue to make some new memories with my kids.



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What kid doesn’t like toys? Plenty of toys for Christmas was all I ever wanted as a kid. There are some toys that I still think about and I’ve even purchased a few over the years from the internet. I thought if I owned something from my past that certain memories might return clearer or perhaps I would regain something from that time. It’s an odd thing I know and really it didn’t work. I simply looked at the items a few times and tucked them away in a corner. Still if felt good for a while to know those things were there for me to see whenever I wanted but come to think of it I don’t know where they are now. Below is a list of some of the toys I remember most.

First ToyMego Micronauts

My earliest toy memory is of action figures my brother and I got for Christmas, his black and mine white. What I really liked about this toy is the fact that the arms, legs, and various attachments were interchangeable. The idea of replacing a whole arm with a weapon was magical to me and not only that these action figures were solid with a metallic feel to them. The down side was the fact that the parts could be easily lost and of course that’s what happened. Eventually I would miss something and finding my brothers action figure would try to put mine together whole but there was no hiding the fact that they were different colors. This may have been the beginning of our fighting careers that lasted throughout childhood and adolescence.

Monster MachineMonster Machine

This was Christmas at my dad’s where we would always get tons of toys. It was almost comical the number to present under grandmas tree. Years later my dad told me about how he would buy all these toys and we would just rip open the box, set it to the side, and ready ourselves for the next. As a father of four I now know that’s just the way it is. One year I got a toy I didn’t know I wanted but that blew me away. The Monster Machine was a new concept to me as a toy that allows you to create something. There were several busts that could be made from Frankenstein, an alien creature, Jekyll and Hyde plus a couple more I don’t remember.

I didn’t even wait for the present giving to end and while everyone else was gathered in the living room I quietly went upstairs to the attic bedroom and got to work. Pouring the plaster contents into the mold you had to attach it to this green machine that needed to be rotated 100 times while saying “Monster Machine” at each rotation. This I did in anticipation. The toy was great while it lasted but the plaster ran out so it sat and disappeared. Years later I would find it on an online auction site but the bidding went above my max price of $150.00. To this day I go online and search for it but I think that one time may have been my only chance.

BIKEBike (first big kid bike)

It was the summer of 1980 when I received my first real bike. One without training wheels or too small. I’d wanted a big kids bike for a year or so and talked about it but it just wasn’t one of those things I  thought I would get. Gifts were typically smaller in size and price so I just figured it wouldn’t happen. The bike was given to be as a birthday gift. I don’t remember how it happened but I think it was brought home in the trunk of the car and presented to me while I was out playing. My mother had a camera to take a picture of my reaction which was the equivalent to what an adult might feel when hitting the lottery. At that moment I saw my bike as the answer to all the problems I might have thought I had. It was freedom that would take me placed I’d never been. While that wasn’t necessarily true it certainly did take me places a lot faster.

Boom Box  Boom Box aka Ghetto Blaster

This was not so much a gift as a lesson. By this time I was receiving an allowance every two weeks from my dad to spend on whatever I wanted. It was at this time too that I opened my first bank account with encouragement from my dad to deposit some money each time. Around this time I received my first wallet too which made me feel really grown up, having a wallet and bank account you know. One thing my dad always said was if I wanted a toy or other item I should save up for half of it and he would pay the rest. The thing I wanted most at this time was a boom box because it was the thing to have with rap music and break dancing becoming popular. Having a boom box was a way to get into that culture plus there was street cred. with having the biggest loudest box around.

Eventually I saved enough money for a boom box I had my eye on and still remember the day we went to get it. One thing I hadn’t counted on was the number of D size batteries it would take and how much they would cost too. The battery issue would prove to be difficult when the idea of the box was to carry it around the neighborhood blaring out Grand Master Flash on lvl 10. The louder you play the faster the batteries would die. There was a time when we had a radio day in school where kids brought in their boom boxes to the gym. Sitting in the gym I rotated the knob to 10. “It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under It’s like a jungle sometimes it makes me wonder How I keep from going under…”

VIC 20Commodore VIC 20

There was a kid in the neighborhood who had a Commodore 64 that I considered a big step up from my Atari. It took floppy disks and had games will cool graphics but I never got to play it. This was another time when I thought the gift idea was way out of reach for me and probably not worth asking for but I did anyway. When Christmas day came I was amazed to open a box with  a VIC 20 keyboard inside. But it was just the keyboard. My excitement died quickly knowing this and also knowing it would be impossible to get the rest of the system needed to play the games. I hooked up the keyboard to the television and typed in a few things I’d learned by my TRS-80 computer kept in Jackson at my dad’s house. Of course nothing happened so the keyboard sat and like other toys disappeared. I never bothered to ask my mother for the rest because I knew she could not afford it. The fact that she tried to get me this item she knew I really wanted was great though.



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This afternoon I went to the gym for a run and a swim. The run went well but when I was done I just took a shower then let my kids swim for a while. My run went a little better than last time as I was able to run a full mile at 5.5 mph without stopping. While I know that’s not much it is for me considering I have not run in a while. Finishing at 3 miles I felt it was a satisfactory run even though I know I could have gone further but my daughter was waiting in the child center to go swimming.

I forgot how good it feels to work out and take a cool shower after. The way you feel refreshed and a little tired from the workout makes me feel like I did something. My eating habits continue to be good but I did slip up over the weekend at a pub where I had a burger and fries. It was so good but I think it’s too soon for me to have a cheat meal like that. I need to stay focused on good food and moderation.

Almost four months ago I was at 190 and today am at 173. I  like to stay around 170 but in the past I’ve looked better at 173 which I contribute to muscle loss. I know I need to lose more fat but I also need to gain more muscle. In the end I am looking for 165 as a target weight with less fat and more muscle. Right now I feel like I need to work on my cardo more so that’s what I will stick with.