If you have been following along with us, you may remember a few posts back I talked about a project I worked on that was coordinated by an organization headquartered in Ann Arbor, MI. I also talked about the people I met and got to know in that time. Not coincidentally, we were in that same part of Michigan for a couple of days last week.
Doug is a member of the Blues Guitar Unleashed (BGU) forum, an on-line guitar community dedicated to learning blues guitar. Periodically, BGU members host (and we attend) live events in different places around the country, which is where we met our friends Tom and Laurel. For the past few days, they’ve been our hosts and fun finders extraordinaire and Tom our lead guitar for an incredible blues binge.
As with any BGU meet-up, warm greetings were quickly followed by instruments coming out and an impromptu jam session, this one in Tom’s music room on Friday evening. Tom and Doug traded off on rhythm and lead guitar and bass, while I got to accompany them on the RV drum kit ’til way past our bedtimes. There’s no better way to start a blues binge!
In Clarkston, Michigan, west of Detroit, we stumbled onto the best way to arrive at a Dead concert:
The venue was cool – DTE Energy Theater – if you imagine the lawn at Tanglewood tipped up 20 or 30 degrees (so you can see the stage! From The Lawn!) it’s kind of like that. Also, Sugarbush friends, there’s a ski area right outside:
We had inside seats, though, and the concert was AMAZING! Continue reading “RV Travel Perk”
Hailing from Warren, VT – the Fourth of July Capital of the Universe – we’re thinking of friends back home today. Hoping everybody has a great 4th!
Recall from our last post that selecting a place in MI to spend the 4th of July weekend was a bit like throwing a dart. It (mostly) worked! We’re celebrating in Harrison, Michigan, on Budd Lake, right in the middle of the state (or the knuckle at the base of the middle finger, if you’re from here).
‘Nobody ever visits the Thumb!’ said the manager at the Lighthouse County Park Campground. That’s why we’re here.
When we first started talking about this trip, many people suggested their favorite places in Michigan to visit. We put them all on a map and noticed suggestions for everywhere except the Thumb. (Look at a map and it’ll be obvious. Or ask anyone from MI and they’ll start pointing at the back of their left hand.) Our wish list included most of the suggestions, visits with a few friends and a couple of concerts. To make it all work, we had an open week, and it included the 4th of July.
We opted to head for the Thumb, see what there was to see, and take some time to figure out what to do for the 4th.
About twenty-five years ago I joined a research project to develop a computational methodology for predicting the metallurgical phase changes, dimensional changes, and stresses that occur during the heat treatment of steel. This was a joint project, coordinated by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences in Ann Arbor, MI, with about 10 partners including the bearing manufacturer I worked for, a couple of the big auto manufacturers, a handful of national laboratories and university research labs, and a small consulting firm located near Cleveland. A core group of us worked together closely for the next several years developing a computer-aided engineering tool that has now evolved into a software package for heat treatment simulation called Dante.
Members of this core group got to know each other pretty well and formed some close friendships that lasted well past the culmination of the project. I continued to work with Dante and my Cleveland friends after I left my corporate job and started out on my own. Although we’ve stayed in touch since then, I hadn’t seen my friend Lynn in more than 12 years. Happily, we were able to fix that last week. In fact, when Lynn called me back to let me know this get-together could work, and I heard his voice saying, “Hi Doug, it’s Lynn calling” (exactly the same greeting as every phone call I ever had from him), those 12 years just kind of fell away.
Lynn and his wife Ethnea showed Sue and me some of the amazing county parks they have near their house (the Cleveland Metroparks), and a national park, too – the Cuyahoga Valley NP (I was a little disappointed that there was no entry fee, because otherwise my Senior Pass would’ve let us all in for free). We also got a tour of downtown Cleveland and dinner in the Tremont neighborhood at a classic, off-the-beaten-path pub called the Prosperity Social Club (certainly one of the coolest names for a pub that I’ve ever heard), with great food and (of course) excellent beer.
From Cleveland, we headed to a state park campground in Lakeside-Marblehead, OH. They had a few walk-in sites set aside for the weekend and we were able to snag one of those. This was undoubtedly the densest campground we’ve been in, and because it was a sunny, hot weekend the place was pretty full. But it’s in a beautiful area, with great views of the Great Lake (that’s Lake Erie, for my New Englander friends) so it turned out to be a great place to wander from. We found a bike ride that would take us to the ferry to Kelleys Island, a destination which was highly recommended by Lynn and Ethnea.
That recommendation turned out to be completely justified. There’s not much traffic on Kelleys Island since the only access is by boat – mostly golf carts and bicycles among the few automobiles – so we did a little walking and a little riding. We hung out at the Kelleys Island Brewery for a while (great beer, great sandwiches), wandered back into the center of town where there was a music festival going on (really good music, and a little more beer), and biked up to the north side of the island where there is a geological feature called Glacial Grooves, said to be the best known example of the scored and scraped granite made by the advancing glaciers that formed the Great Lakes, the Appalachians, and all the rest.
Special bonus feature, this post only – TWO sunset photos (both by Sue):
No tour of the Great Lakes would be complete without seeing Niagara Falls, especially for someone (say, Doug) who’s never been there before. Neither words nor photos can convey the beauty and power of a waterfall that drops 750,000 gallons of water per second. We’ll try anyway…
The Tibbets Point Lighthouse in Cape Vincent NY is at the start of the St. Lawrence River and the outflow of Lake Ontario, so for us it marks the true beginning of the Great Lakes portion of our journey.
Well, it’s not really true… There’re actually 1,864 islands (this year) within a 50-mile stretch of the St. Lawrence River between Ontario and New York State. The border zigs and zags among the islands, intentionally keeping each island wholly within either the US or Canada. Although there is a greater number of islands in Canada, several in the US are larger, rendering the total acreage of all the islands about even. The count changes periodically since there are rules to qualify as an island. Each land mass must have at least one square foot of land above water level year-round and support at least two living trees. Some of the smaller islands come and go.
Doug and I lived in the Albany area when we were first married, 30 years ago. We were quite active with the cycling community back then. As we drove out of Albany, we had a rush of memories as we recognized familiar roads we’d biked so many times, so many years ago. We both suddenly remembered that the greater Albany area was simply awesome for bicycling.