austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Heart of the country, where the holy people grow

I have to fill in two things I somehow forgot from Wednesday because they were remarkable memories and I can't believe I forgot. There was also one little bit that I suppose properly started Tuesday.

The first concerns urination. At the state and county parks they've set up what bunny_hugger tactfully dubbed Scary Pee Shacks, or SPSes, which are just port-a-potties in fixed locations. The mysterious thing about them is that at the parks and some scenic overpasses and such there'll be pairs (or more) of the port-a-potties and they're labelled Male or Female. I'm imagining the influence here of some regulatory demand that if there's more than one bathroom they have to be gender-identified because why anybody should care which of a couple of port-a-potties someone in the middle of the woods is using is a mystery to me.

Anyway. They're not set up with running water, or with ventilation systems of any kind, so they're kind of odoriferous in the same way that picric acid is a touch unstable. I had avoided using any for most of the trip but here, well, I couldn't comfortably hold it in longer and so went in the men's one while bunny_hugger waited for the women's SPS to clear. I didn't need long and I didn't breathe through it because gads but it was awful. I got out and she grinned at my fleeing the SPS. I draw up what dignity I could and said, ``I only object to the smell,'' which, yeah, is pretty much one of those things where everything you need to know about me you know in the one sentence. (I was thinking, you know, as opposed to the general cleanliness of the SPS, or that it used a squirt dispenser of isopropyl alcohol instead of soap and water or the like.) To be fair, if you smelled it, you'd object too.

The other thing I can't believe I forgot was at the bar, the one where I got a beer I couldn't say anything about past that it existed and I drank it without embarrassing myself. A bunch of people went around us and chatted with particularly bunny_hugger's brother, because he's just one of those people you do that with. One of them, a kid who looked about college age, did one of those things that you probably think is slick when you're a slightly drunk guy in college and hovered weirdly near bunny_hugger's brother's girlfriend, for much longer than even a momentary awkward fumbling would allow. Yes, he was smelling her. We marvelled at the general creepiness of this several times over the night; I don't know how it slipped my mind.

The thing starting Tuesday was that while we'd come to the Red Lion motor lodge with a baggie full of the travel-sized shampoos we'd cadged from other hotels in the past, it turned out we'd accidentally brought mostly conditioners, with just the one shampoo, and so we were out. But we had a small bottle of dishwashing liquid, purchased so we could wash our picnic plates, and as bunny_hugger noted, Consumer Reports used to preface every evaluation of shampoos with a thousand words of explaining that as long as you're not squeamish or snobby it's really the same stuff as in shampoo, just less gentle on the eyes, so just hold your eyes closed and use that already if you have any sense. We normally use the cheap shampoo anyway, but without that, we went over to dishwashing liquid for what was meant to be just the day. We kept forgetting to stop in Tom's or anywhere else for a travel shampoo, though, so we were shampooing in dishwashing liquid the rest of the trip.

Anyway.

Thursday was to be our day to see the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and maybe we hoped to meet up with bunny_hugger's brother and his girlfriend at the beach. It hadn't been a very beach-friendly week, running about ten degrees too cool during the day to even sustain just sitting in chairs and sunning, never mind swimming. But we were running out of full days and it was looking like it might be a bit sunnier, so, we hoped. bunny_hugger and I would go to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, and then we'd get together, and see what happened from there.

On our way to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore we found the state's Sleeping Bear Dunes Scenic Turnout and pulled over to see ... actually, not that much. It's a nice little spot by the side of the road, but there's not much scenery to see. Some trees and grassland and some picnic tables but that's it. Maybe other times of the year there's better views. We didn't understand, but I photographed it anyway.

The Sleeping Bear Dunes is part of the National Park system, although the visitors center is nowhere near the dunes, and is off in town instead. We found that with only one false turn despite the help of the satellite navigator and while there I bought a National Parks Passport. This passport's a bit more upscale than bunny_hugger's Lighthouses one, with features like lists of all the national parks and related spots, which let us see how park-deprived some states are. It also divides the book up by regions, which would seem to make it easier to fill up a book unless you start putting stamps in the wrong sections. National park stamps aren't so interesting as the lighthouse ones, though: they're just postmark-style circles with the name of the facility and the date in them. I had a couple already, from a trip to Washington DC when I visited Ford's Theater and the Macpherson House, but those are in my letterboxing book since I didn't have the passport at the time.

The visitors center gave out a directions pamphlet that confused me unnecessarily, since it gave directions on how to go to all the things you might go to without marking clearly, for example, that at this spot you turn to go into the scenic drive. If one followed the directions as written you'd breeze speedily on past all the various entrances, without stopping into anything. This might be part of a program to alleviate park overcrowding. bunny_hugger was wiser than I and took us into the scenic drive.

We paused at each stop because we're the sort of people who will, and the sort who'll look carefully over a stop even when it looks like all there is there is the midst of a forest that might be particularly emblematic of the local ecosystem which we already pretty much live in. Well, there were some nice covered bridges. Some spots were easier to understand, such as an overlook that peered out into Lake Michigan from surprisingly far above. Michigan's lower peninsula is approximately as hilly as a box-spring mattress; to be hundreds of feet above sea level is striking. At that stop we also saw the ringing of a full cycle of people attending: a handful when we got there, then a packed bunch crowding against the railing while we waited, then everyone but us deserting the spot. Finally we left.

At the third, I think, spot was a turnoff dubbed Picnic Mountain and that's where we figured was the best spot to have our picnic, the third from what we'd gotten from the Tom's supermarket, and another in a beautiful and sunny spot just downhill from what I thought was a historic marker or statue or something. It was a water fountain, but one in one of those attractive late-50s National Park Service style pebble-encrusted pillars. Naturally I photographed it.

There were other people picnicking, and a bunch of kids engaged in the traditional childhood pastime of running around until somebody falls down and cries. If we had needed to feel good about life in general, this would have been just the sort of scene to make us feel good about life in general.

Trivia: The first known steam engine of the Watt kind in the United States was made in 1800 by Oliver Evans. Source: An Empire Of Wealth: The Epic History Of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Road to Revolution, Avrahm Yarmolinsky.

Tags: traverse bay
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