Sunday bunny_hugger's parents came up for a group visit to Crossroads Village, to see the historical locations and Christmas lights and amusement park rides. For bunny_hugger and now me this is an annual visit; for her parents, this was the first time they'd made it.
I was surprised by the return trip to discover how well I remembered the path, considering I'd been there once a year before, although in fairness the directions are basically ``drive to Flint, take a left, follow the signs''. As we got there it wasn't quite sunset, meaning that while the lights might have been out in force we'd never notice; this reflected timing needs: her parents had to get back to care for their dogs by about 9-to-10, and given the hour's drive back to Lansing and another hour's back to their home meant we had to take one of the earlier train ride tours around those lights, and that pushed us back to the village before it had quite reached dusk.
This wasn't a bad thing, though; we'd have plenty of time wandering around looking at the lights --- her parents were particularly impressed by a tree which gets lit to one candlepower short of the incineration point --- but we got our bearings in the village while still able to see the main streets, and even get our picture taken around a reindeer without straining the flashes of our respective cameras.
We naturally took a ride on the antique carousel there, the one which operates at about the original design speed of 78 rotations per minute instead of the typical modern carousel speeds of about 7 rotations per day. Her parents even, with a bit of courageousness or disbelief at just how fast it would go, got seats on the outside where the centripetal acceleration routinely flings purses, loose change, and dentures into Ontario. I believe they'd had a great time, although I note they did not ride on the similarly-speedy Ferris wheel. Of course, the carousel is in an enclosed heated building, while the Ferris wheel is exposed to the elements, so this decision might have been made entirely on the sensible grounds that they didn't want to die of wind-induced frostbite.
For the train ride we were assigned to gate two, and managed to start walking exactly the wrong direction so we ended up nowhere near the expected gate. The conductors were fine with this, raising the question of gate assignment's purpose, which seems to be one of making sure people don't all try to get into the same car. We actually got an entire car on the antique train to ourselves, by the simple expedient of the heated cars in front and behind being full. Well, we were enclosed at least.
The lights seemed pretty similar to those of the previous year, and several particular highlights --- such as the juggling dragon which was originally meant to be a Halloween decoration --- were in place. We made some valiant efforts to photograph the experience even though we knew full well they'd never come out, and I even fired up the little-used Movie Mode on my camera to get blurry, unfocused movies of lights doing things. We had a wonderful time and in the relative quiet of our otherwise unoccupied cabin we were able to talk about what we witnessed intelligibly.
bunny_hugger and her parents worried quite a bit about whether I was cold. There's a few factors at work behind this: Michigan really is colder than central New Jersey (although I'm not sure it's substantially colder than the Capital District, where I eventually learned to be something like comfortable). And I still haven't adjusted my wardrobe to my weight loss; a hundred-plus pounds does slow down how quickly the cold gets to you. And I wasn't able to find my gloves in the rush to pack so went without; I ought to have bought replacements at Meijer's earlier in the week but didn't, for no good reason. Also I think my jacket adequate for normal winter weather, although it really more reflects the fact that you can't get frostbite in the three minutes it takes to get out the door and warm up the car. I just don't live right now in a walking-friendly neighborhood --- it comes just shy of being walking-hostile, in that the township doesn't arrange for packs of wild dogs to disembowel those outside vehicles, and you have to count on freelance packs doing it on spec --- and I dress accordingly. But they also seem to worry that I'm colder than I actually am.
Overall, I hope they didn't feel the need to cut short the walking around for fear that I was freezing; I wasn't, not even close. But they did have to return home for the above-mentioned dogs. We got a giant bag of kettle corn, surprising her parents with just how delicious it was and surprising bunny_hugger by being sold by a guy who was from Brooklyn ... Michigan, a town I never suspected existed and which I had forgotten about within weeks of learning of its existence. We shared the nicely warm kettle corn on the drive back to Lansing.
We hadn't decided setting out whether to eat around Flint or around Lansing; given the advancing hour on the Sunday night we figured Lansing offered the surer places, since there were 24-hour diners of known location there. Presumably there are places to eat even at 8 pm on a Sunday night around Flint, but who wanted to take such a risk? But it was probably also logical to eat closer to her home, so that we could hurry up or linger as appropriate with only one drive of likely-but-not-precisely-certain length ahead of her parents.
Back home was the unhappy news: United had e-mailed me the invitation to print out my boarding pass and check in online. Despite my dislike of ``checking in'' when one is not, in fact, in the airport, I did sign in and swiftly discovered that I couldn't find bunny_hugger's printer. It was hiding next to her router in plain sight where I had seen but not seen it dozens of times the past week. In fact, I think it was in the same place when I visited during the summer. Oblivious, that's me.
Trivia: Three Chinese junks traded with the Spanish in Manilla in 1572. A registered 6,533 visitors came from Southern China in 1605. Source: Empire: How Spain Became A World Power, 1492 - 1763, Henry Kamen.
Currently Reading: Mars 3-D: A Rover's-Eye View Of The Red Planet, Jim Bell.