Friday, May 11, 2007

IF You See A Faded Sign At The Side of the Road

Good morning! I bring you tales of travels. Last night it was gorgeous, schpring in Michigan is really pretty nice when it eventually arrives. Sunny and 79 when I got home from work. I had an appointment to go talk quietly in a small room for a couple hours 25 miles away, but the outdoors was calling. So I canceled. Instead, I heated up my leftover steak & taters in my toaster oven (love that thing), peeled on my Under Armor, shorts, and a fire-engine red shirt (both for my commitment to high fashion and traffic visibility), and hopped on my bicycle. I struck out without a plan, as is my wont. Leaving the parking lot, I went right, then left, then left again, and on a whim went straight instead of left again. Left would take me along the White Pine Linear State Park - a rails-to-trails path which stretches from Comstock Park to Cadillac. It's a nice ride, but the scenery is familiar. Instead, I crossed the Grand River and headed toward Riverside Park. The park was simply lousy with people. All shapes, sizes, and stripes (some with spots), on foot or wheel, enjoying the evening. There was a soccer field loaded with older kids chasing the ball with all their might. I passed scores of moms with little bambinos in various wheeled apparatus. Riverside has an 18-hole frisbee golf course, so there were all kinds of disc-flinging folks walking around chasing their toys. At least 4 family picnics were underway, with charcoal grills perfuming the air with hot dogs and overdone marshmallows. I got to the end of the 3 mile long park and kept going. Riding onto Monroe, I found the road exceptionally lumpy, but got to see the amazing architecture of the old fresh water treatment plant from a new perspective. Round turrets and parapets in glazed, rust-colored brick caught the sunlight and sent it around like a giant disco ball that seemed to spin as I rode past. The park system picked up the trail again along the river, closing periodically for construction. I don't think I've ever seen the entire river trail open all at once; it is pretty extensive and they're always improving it. I crossed the river repeatedly on historic bridges and foot paths, taking whichever trail caught my immediate fancy. There were lines and lines of people fishing off the boardwalks and bridges. You could catch a hint of fishy aroma, but I never actually spotted a real fish. I crossed into Ah-Nab-Ah-Wan Park, which is a great expanse of manicured lawn and paved trails between the GR Ford Museum and the Grand River. The city fireworks are held there on Independence Day and a couple other festivals in the fall. Great spot for a concert, or to get food onnastick. Over the crashing roar of the fountains, I heard a deep, insistent drum beat. The south end of the park features model Indian burial mounds - big grassy knolls which call out to kids to climb and roll down (the actual historic burial mounds are downriver about 10 miles in a swampy area). In a little valley between the mounds and the park, a group of native Americans were seated on lawn chairs around a giant drum. Each had a mallet and was beating on the drum and singing in call-and-answer style. A little girl in a leather skirt was dancing a few feet outside their circle. I slowed to listen and rode over the foot bridge, the song and beat bouncing off the Amway Grand Plaza concrete and glass walls. I went just a little further, circled the museum and the university, and headed back. I rode past the final resting place of Gerald Ford, interred in a garden beside the museum last December. Since then, they've put up a tall wrought iron fence around the garden. I suppose it's only open during museum hours or tours. The drums were still thumping their echoes off the buildings as I retraced my route, on the opposite bank of the river where possible. The sun sets late here in the western side of the eastern time zone, leaving plenty of light well after 9PM. People were still out in force, although there were more couples holding hands at this hour. I came through riverside park and heard clanking, grunting, crashing noises like people throwing bricks and raccoons into metal garbage cans. A group of guys, dressed up in medieval armor like the Knights of Swamp Castle, were standing around a pair of their own. The two in the middle were carrying shields and round blunted swords, bashing each other in halting, awkward thrusts. A girl was watching disinterestedly from the open door of a Plymouth Dart, clearly waiting for one of them. I pondered how one gets a girlfriend with a hobby like that, but quickly remembered there's someone for everyone. Surprisingly, I found myself full of energy by this point, sprinting for whole sections of the park. Thick clouds of IN's (Eyeball Gnats, using the acronym promulgated by strict adherence to the IKFSA*, which, no matter where you are, kamikaze directly into your blinking peepers) were loitering over the path in unexpected places. I ate at least 3 bugs, maybe more. One felt like it was still clinging to my uvula today, its carcass refusing to be moved. I bounded into my kitchen and wondered how far I'd went. I retraced my steps in Marlon (the grampa car) and clocked it out: 15 miles. Not bad for a lazy late spring evening. *Innernational Kownsel on Fonetikly Spelt Akronims

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