austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Pay the price at Admission Gate; take off for a ride

It may sound mildly cruel that Monday we took away the water bottle which, frozen, had been put in bunny_hugger's [INSERT: rabbit's] cage as a source of coolness against the heat. Here's why it wasn't.

First, despite all the advice that rabbits happily lean against frozen bottles to cool off, her rabbit wasn't having anything to do with it. He viewed it hostilely, or suspiciously, before hopping away and having nothing at all to do with it, kind of the way my parents' cats view luggage taken out of the closet, or for that matter the way my father views the WiiFit. He was relying on more traditional ways of keeping cool, such as wriggling his nose rapidly, and melting.

Second, it had cooled down from the peak temperatures of the previous week. It wouldn't be cool, but it was back to normal summer temperatures rather than conditions where the air spontaneously bursts into fire. And third, we needed something to serve as the temperature-setter for a cooler, as we were going to the beach.

Specifically, Silver Beach, on Lake Michigan, in the southwestern corner of the state. I'd brought my bathing suit and was looking forward to this; bunny_hugger was looking forward to showing me this as well as to looking at the new carousel which they had finally, after many years of fundraising, built and installed last year. It's a more interesting area than just ``southwestern Michigan'' might suggest, the area being the founding location (and corporate headquarters) for Whirlpool; for Heathkit; and for the House of David commune, baseball team, and amusement park (Wikipedia also says they're trying to reopen the Springs of Eden vacation spot). Silver Beach itself used to host an amusement park, apparently a day trip by boat away from Chicago, complete with a series of roller coasters (The first named ``Chase Through The Clouds'' and its successor ``Velvet''). The park closed in 1971 following the standard template for small amusement parks of that era, but they had a small historical exhibit showing photographs of the parks at various points in its life and a few relics, including a roll of paper tickets for The Whip (20 cents, 17 cents for the ride and three cents entertainment tax).

We went to the carousel first and it's great. It's brilliantly painted (of course, it's hardly had time to age), and has a lovely eclectic set of animals including a velociraptor which serves as mascot for one of the Ride T-Shirts, and --- why not? --- has a mannequin dressed as Santa Claus riding the camel and waving to the non-riders. And besides these decorations it also puts pinwheels on the upper crown so as to add more spinning things while the carousel is in motion, as well as fixing parrot dolls around the carousel and the house.

It was also National Carousel Day, something bunny_hugger did not know (or feigned not knowing to give me the chance of being surprised, although I don't believe she'd do that). To celebrate they had a couple of charming extras. One was that one of the ride attendants walked out as the ride slowed down; the person on the outside nearest him at the end would win a free ride as well as a Silver Beach frisbee. (Despite the way these things seem to work, we didn't win.) They also had a cotton candy machine, reportedly from the days of the amusement park, and were giving out free sticks of cotton candy. This gave us the chance to rediscover that we'd both gone many years without eating cotton candy and still really liked it. Also on exhibit was an antique carousel band organ, although one not used for playing, as well as a few other amusement stuff, like a magnetic bowling arcade game.

We did buy souvenirs; considering how much the carousel charmed us before we had even set foot on the beach proper we couldn't have done otherwise. I got a velociraptor carousel T-shirt for my niece and then, after what for me passes as serious consideration, got one for myself as well. It's my first ride shirt and one of my rare non-blank T-shirts.

It was a really good beach day, and we got there far enough after the lunchtime peak that we weren't crowded. It didn't seem terribly breezy, which made it the more amusing when our umbrella went flying away just as bunny_hugger was in the changing room and I was taking a few photographs of how well set-up things were. I recovered the umbrella in time to confuse bunny_hugger as she walked back and couldn't find the umbrella anywhere near where she thought it was.

Despite this breeze we didn't have the umbrella break loose again --- bunny_hugger has this nice screw-thread gadget to burrow into the sand and putting my weight into it helped get us securely anchored --- although we had the reverse problem in trying to fly her kite. She has a nice, bird-themed kite that she was eager to try out, and noticed the lack of people flying kits on the beach in what seemed like good weather for it. It turned out that despite a pleasant enough breeze at low level, and obviously decent winds higher up based on the flags flapping above the snack stand and changing rooms, there was this wide band of perfect atmospheric immobility starting about thirty feet up. With a bit of strategizing --- particularly, moving closer to a bluff which appeared to bring the ground-effect breeze and the snack-stand-flag breezes closer together --- we were able to overcome this, just barely, and got the kite idea pretty well proved out. But those people not flying kites? They had good reasons not to.

The water was nice, not too warm, and lacking most of the warning and danger flags compared to Grand Haven last year. That's not to call it placid; not only were the waves nice and dramatic but now and then there was one taller than me and threatening to send us ashore, possibly as far as Indiana. Besides enjoying being in the water I tried out some of my once-good but long-since-fallow swimming skills and startled bunny_hugger with the revelation that I really don't have ocean-swimming experience. Although I always grew up near the Shore, we just didn't go there often; when we wanted to swim, we swam at my father's company's pool, which was a small sand-beached lake that didn't distract kids with such perils as waves or lifeforms larger than water beetles.

bunny_hugger had heard a couple days earlier that sea glass was sometimes recovered from the shores of the Great Lakes, and as we walked the beach I was trying to keep an eye out for pieces. She kept better eyes out and found two, one of them in fair shape and the other pretty recently introduced to the tumbling-and-rounding process of the shore. It would've been really remarkable if she had found a rare gem; still, she found some at all.

Other people were adding to the beach experience, of course. One group of kids took to digging a pit in the sand which reached such prodigious dimensions that passers-by were hopping in just to see if they could climb out again without help. (I could.) The sand pit was big and deep enough that by early evening a film crew was recording an old-series Doctor Who in there. I'm impressed with their stamina.

Another guy brought several of his parrot-class birds and gave impromptu hawk-walk type demonstrations, encouraging onlookers to not just get close to the birds but also to try holding them. The birds were very tolerant of this sort of thing from strangers, although some looked a bit nervous, and encouraged the onlookers to grow nervous in turn. I admit I get nervous around parrot-class birds because they have a lot of sharp points and are probably smarter than me, even if they're doing that rocking head-bobbing dance to amuse themselves.

And over the day a pack of seagulls looked over and tried to do something with an abandoned bag of popcorn. I don't believe there was any popcorn left in it, but that didn't stop a series of gulls from trying to make something of it. Many of the gulls were young, and were sometimes chased off by their elders, but none of them cracked the problem of getting already-eaten popcorn out of the bag.

We had arrived late in the day, relatively, which accords with our natural inclinations and also meant we arrived after the lunch rush. We were surprised to find there wasn't a dinner or after-work rush, considering the niceness of the day. But it did mean we were able to arrive, ride, go swimming, dry out, eat, and even have ice cream without getting near sunset. Since Michigan is so far west in its time zones and the days do get so long sunset on Lake Michigan can arrive as late as 9:30 the next morning, which again worked just right for us.

So after I badly fumbled attempting to estimate how long until sunset based on the sun's height in the sky (I drastically under-estimated it, so we had more time in the sun than I estimated), we sat together watching the sun melt into the sea, and silently disappear. People who have huge bodies of water to the west probably don't realize how strange it can be to see the sun sink into its reflection, but it is. And it's fast, too; it's only around sunrise and sunset that it really stands out how fast the sun moves. It's been a while since I had the chance to really pay attention to it like that.

And that was our day, and evening, and the start of the night at the beach. We'd both brought reading material, and never got to it.

Back home, bunny_hugger's rabbit seemed no worse off for the day without the water bottle, and even seemed a bit more active. While playing outside he hopped onto the couch cushions beside bunny_hugger. She showed how she could playfully tease him into reflexively licking --- himself, first, and then the couch when he moved his paws --- by scratching him in the right spot, just before he slipped through the cushions and threatened to fall into the sofa. She got him out swiftly and before he could panic or get hurt.

The only sad thing of this scene was that in 24 hours I wouldn't be part of it.

Trivia: San Salvador Island in the Bahamas, styled the first land in the New World spotted by Christopher Columbus in 1492, was rechristened that in 1926; before it had been named Watlings. Source: A Voyage Long And Strange: Rediscovering The New World, Tony Horwitz.

Currently Reading: Inner Navigation: How We Get Lost And How We Find Our Way, Erik Jonsson.

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