June 22, 2008  

TOPIC: June 22nd

== 1 of 1 ==
Date: Sun, Aug 3 2008 7:50 am
From: dbhguru@comcast.net


This is day #2 of our journey. Day #3 will follow in a day or two.


June 22nd

Monica and I arose the second morning of our trip to empty stomachs. Our options were to eat a nutritious, low calorie breakfast out of our cooler, or a greasy, high calorie breakfast at a local café. We thought about it and decided to have a robust meal at the only restaurant open in Fair Haven on Sunday morning. We support local establishments as much as our budget will permit and we used that as our excuse to bypass our cooler.
The restaurant was a couple of miles away within the intersection of two roads. The positioning seemed unusual, but it was the only show in town. It was run by several delightful, full-figured ladies with the assistance of the child of the only slender one of the group. There had obviously been no parsimonious calorie intake among the three of the four ladies who ran the establishment. I don’t ordinarily comment on the profiles of folks who become subjects in my descriptions, but their collective appearance caused me to think along marketing lines. They were a successful advertisement for the restaurant. It was clearly popular with local folks. All tables were taken when we arrived, so we squeezed in at the counter, but even then, we had a long wait.

While waiting on breakfast, Monica struck up a conversation with the little girl who was helping her mother keep the coffee fresh and do various and other sundry tasks. The girl was about 8 and was alert, bright-eyed, and eager to help. She seemed stimulated by the hustle and bustle and responded readily to Monica’s questions. She enjoyed the attention she was getting, but also wanted to be of assistance. When called she was instantly on the job. The little miss had the makings of a person who would stay in command of her life. Both Monica and I were impressed. It was refreshing to see so young a child content to help her mother.

We hoped our long wait would be worth it, but when our breakfast arrived, it ranked only a B on my breakfast evaluation scale. The quantity of food was sufficient, but the quality was less than we expected. The exception might have been the homemade bread. Although our breakfasts didn’t reach the A level, at least mine far outdid what one gets at the restaurant chains. Despite our quality evaluation, the other patrons appeared to relish their food. I cautiously observed the large fellow to my left. He consumed a gargantuan breakfast. The quantity of food on his plate reminded my of my younger days when I was one continuous gullet, according to my folks. Alas, but no more; I secretly longed for the days when I could east as much as I desired and not gain an ounce.

We left the restaurant still talking about the little maid, her alertness and willingness to work. Observing her had been refreshing, given today’s coddling of children with all the electronic gadgetry and other objects that we shower on the young, potentially robbing them of the chance to develop character through work and sacrifice.
As we rolled westward, we continued on the Seaway path that hugs the coast of Lake Ontario. Though slow, it is the most scenic route in the vicinity of the Lake. At the least, it offers periodic peeps at Ontario, and on occasion, direct access. Besides, we had agreed not to be in a hurry, so we knew that we were making the right choice of a route.
As we approached Rochester, we had to make a decision. Should we skirt that city going around it on its southern side or continue on the Seaway, which would hem us in between water and congestion. I didn’t want to get trapped in the latter, but we decided to take our chances. It was Sunday morning. In retrospect, the decision was, basically, a good one.

As we approached Rochester, a continuous line of homes blocked our access to and full view of Lake Ontario. Such interference would normally have disappointed me, but I founds myself intrigued by the neighborhoods. The grounds of the homes were well landscaped and each blended with the lakeshore in an unexpectedly appealing way. I was looking at properties that given their suburban nature didn’t detract from or compromise the appearance of the area.
As we motored along, the scene continued. Large manors of varied architecture, all with elegant lawns lined with shrubs and trees, directed our attentions across the lawns and toward the houses with a scenic backdrop of water glimpsed through trees. The fleeting sights of the lake beyond, though partial, were satisfying. The area had all the trappings of old money. Homes were individualistic and tastefully designed. They stood in contrast to the huge unsightly block-shaped houses, the “McMansions” that I was accustomed to seeing along the coast of Massachusetts.

As we got closer to the commercial area of Rochester, my tolerance of human dwellings became strained. We were forced to wind around narrow streets passing through Irondequoit’s and Rochester’s lakeside real estate. We took a wrong turn or two, but then found our way out to an opening landscape and back into pleasant country, still following the Seaway.  A number of miles up the Seaway, we stopped at the Lakeside Beach State Park. It was time for another commune with Lake Ontario. I was surprised when the immaculately maintained Park turned out to be virtually deserted. That suited me just fine, but was unexpected. There were freshly mowed fields, a good assortment of trees, the principal feature, the lake, and us.

Monica sat beneath a clump of aspens and took in the sound of rustling leaves as she looked out over the placid waters of the lake. While she meditated, I measured a few trees to include a couple of green ashes and an equal number of sugar maples. A lone maple stood out as conspicuously tall. It just eclipsed 100 feet in height. All other trees were well below 100 feet and most had dead tops. After surveying field, forest, and water, I concluded that while the surrounding forest was not physically impressive, but the combination of forest, lake, and sky, experienced as a gestalt was satisfying. It was tranquil.

As we left the small lakeside park, I mulled over its sparse visitation. I was puzzled. The size of the parking lot spoke to heavy visitation, probably on the weekends, and this was a Sunday. We were probably just very lucky.
When we left the Seaway, we set ourselves for a long period of travel. We crossed the border between Canada and the U.S. at Niagara Falls. The wait was not excessive, and the Canadian official checking our passports was quite respectful. I feared a hassle, but it did not happen. That would not have been the case at a crossing such as Detroit. Lee confirmed wait times there of as much as 3 hours.

We crossed about 210 miles of Canada on what was supposed to be a fast route, but a traffic jam slowed us along the way. There had been an accident. I was in physical pain as we crept along. Eventually, we passed the spot of the accident and traffic sped up. We were able to stop for a restroom and ice cream break, but outside of that single rest, we moved on as rapidly as we could and reentered the U.S. at Port Huron. The reentry was as easy as the exit. All in all, the shortcut had worked for us. Let me explain.

Canadian route 401 to 403 and then 402 is the shortcut we took. It is the 4-lane corridor that links populations centers, and I will stately categorically, it is uninteresting for a route in Canada. The land in the region is a combination of agricultural and industrial. It is like being in the U.S. except the road signs are bilingual (English and French) and there is that funny little crown emblem on the route signs – an anachronism in my humble opinion. Though harmless, the crown symbol is remindful of the ties of both the U.S. and Canada to Great Britain and the monarchy of the past.
I had an unanticipated negative reaction to seeing the crown emblem. For me, monarchies are a testament to the degree that humans seek to subjugate each other and do so by a combination of brute force and persuasion that calls into play human gullibility. European kings and queens ruled according to a perceived divine right. That utterly loathsome and false cloak of authority was a convenient artifice that monarchs and religious leaders invoked to convince the unwashed masses to give them unquestioning allegiance. If God willed it, what was a poor peasant to do? Even when emasculated of any real authority, the mere symbol of kingly/queenly power makes me bristle. I was happy to leave behind those little reminders of the human propensity to endow other humans with absolute power.
Once in Michigan, and back on familiar terrain, we began searching for nightly accommodations. The hour was getting late when we found a cheap motel just north of Port Huron with easy access to Lake Huron. There was a path down to the lakeshore from the motel, and we decided after a quick dinner, we would rendezvous with the lake – a fitting goodbye to the day and a welcome to the dark cloak of night. It would be Monica’s second of the Great Lakes and quite a jump in size, as my customary rain of statistics will reveal.

At 23,010 square miles, Lake Huron is the second largest of the Great Lakes in surface area and the third largest fresh water lake in the world. It is almost as large as West Virginia. However, at 849 cubic miles of H2O, Huron is the third largest in water volume of the Great Lakes ranking behind Superior and Michigan. Huron’s greatest depth is 750 feet and its average depth is 195 feet. Part of Lake Huron is the huge Georgian Bay, a scenic treasure with its 30,000 advertised islands. Incidentally, all the lakes lie at different elevations except Lakes Huron and Michigan which are connected through the Straights of Mackinac, and consequently lie at the same elevation. Technically one might consider them as one lake, i.e. Michigan-Huron, and if so, the largest fresh water lake on Earth.

After dinner, we took the 10-minute walk down to the lake from the motel. The owner of the motel had once owned lake front property on Huron. He had lost his land through eminent domain through a dubious exercise of power supposedly in the public interest. The elderly gentleman explained that he retained a convenient path to the lake for his motel guests. That was sufficient for us. The old gent was not outwardly bitter at the exercise of eminent domain, at least not in our conversation with him. He explained to us that he was suffering from Parkinson’s disease. He was struggling just to complete simple tasks. Ownership of real property had ceased to be a priority for him.
After a delicious dinner from the bountiful wealth of our cooler, Monica and I went for a stroll. As we approached its shores, Monica looked out over the waters of Huron. The color was fading, but pacifying. This was Monica’s second of the five Great Lakes. Was it to be her conversion? Apparently not.

Monica’s Ontario reaction continued as best I could tell. At that instant in time, the calm blue waters of Huron did not make any more sense to Monica than those of Ontario. Was this another wannabe ocean? It would take her more time to assimilate the sights, sounds, smells, and ambience of the Great Lakes. She would get there, but not at that moment. Nonetheless, we had put in a good day’s work. We had covered our quota of miles and we were both ready to rest in our exceedingly modest, but less expensive, accommodations than the night before.

On the following day, we planned to travel up Michigan’s eastern border along Lake Huron and absorb more of transcending qualities of its bright blue waters, its reflections, its bands of color, and maybe a glimpse of its darker side. Whatever the nature of its message to us, I was determined to convert Monica to a Great Lakes advocate – or know the reason why I failed. Was I making more of the Great Lakes than they deserved, or was it a question of time, of repeated exposure, of experiencing the range of faces and moods of a large body of water? Time would tell.

Bob Leverett

TOPIC: June 22nd

== 1 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 2:27 pm
From: Larry

Bob, Good descriptive writing. I could almost see the lake with you
guys. Having been to Lake Superior several times I think I know what
you mean. My first visit to Superior was Awesome, an inland ocean. The
Northshore has some fantastic scenery and I look forward to my return
in November. Larry

== 2 of 2 ==
Date: Wed, Aug 6 2008 3:09 pm
From: dbhguru@comcast.net


Thanks. I think Superior's largely unspoilded nature is the key to understanding its appeal. Our last Great Lake was Erie. I couldn't help feel it was more a huge private lake for rich people. I know it is much more than that, but the weight of the surrounding human infrastructure compromises its basic nature. Well, that's my two cents worth anyway.