Thursday, July 19, 2012

If it's Thursday, this must be Michigan...

The next morning, Thursday, I awoke at 5 and checked my cell phone, no messages, no texts.  Unable to sleep for worrying about Christiana and with high heat warnings ahead of us, we made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the lobby and hit the road early.  It was, as predicted, hot already.  I found an NPR station from Madison and learned that two fireworks shows had been halted the night before after they’d set the grass on fire.  And the highway pavement had buckled in three places from the heat, but fortunately that was all behind us.  All was well traffic-wise as we travelled past Madison on this day-after-the-confusing-holiday-being-on-a-Wednesday-and-all.  As Pacific Time awoke, Andy called to say he’d finally talked to Christiana and that she was okay.  Seems she’d had a stomach flu, perhaps from the MRE’s they were eating.  I called her a little later and she said she was on fire watch recovering.  They’d contained the “small, 4,000-acre” fire and were moving on to Caliente.  Which sounded hot. 

Lake Michigan was calling, but Chicago loomed large in our shimmering future.  GPS, in her infinite wisdom, decided to take me on a tour of back roads between Wisconsin and Chicago, for which I cursed her soundly.  Then she decided I should drive right through the city ahead.  I called my friend, Mike, and asked for better directions.  Then I proceeded to ignore her for the rest of the morning, making her search endlessly for alternate routes to the city then disregarding her every command to exit like a distracted parent.  “Hmm? Did you say something?”  So there.  You know you’ve been traveling a bit too long when you start talking to your GPS.

Even though Fargo is the halfway point on the map, Chicago marks the place where the nation divides between relaxed road trip and road rage.  Suddenly, the east coast population density was upon us and my shoulders begin to rise with the tension of drivers cutting in and out and the way too many exits.  After three days of cruising the freeway virtually alone at 80 mph with hundreds of miles to think about exiting, the theme from Survivor suddenly popped up on my personal playlist.  We cruised past Chicago at a safe distance, paid our first tolls of the trip, and happily rounded the bottom of Lake Michigan, passing through a tiny bit of Indiana and up into Michigan.  Suddenly, we were on Eastern time!  One more exit and we were dropped by GPS once again, suspending route guidance, so there, but soon we were pulling into Beachwood, our friend’s beach house on the shores of the lake, and shifting to park for the day.  Lovely. 

Suddenly, for us, it was summer.  Oregon hadn’t seen over 64 degrees and we’d just soaked up the second rainiest June on record.  We dug out bathing suits still smelling of last year’s sunscreen, packed a lunch, loaded up Mike’s bike cart, and strolled along a lovely wooded path to the lake.  Did I mention it was hot?  My flip-flopped feet were still soft from a year encased in rain boots and once we descended the stairs to the beach, each flip of mid-day sand burned the bottoms as we ran across the boiling gauntlet to the water’s edge for relief crying “ouch, ouch, ouch, ahhh.”  The beach stretched endlessly in each direction and the blue-green lake as well. 

We set up chairs and an umbrella, slathered sunscreen on our glowing rainforest skin, and hit the water.  It was calm, clear and warm.  We were in Lake Michigan!  I swam down the shore while Mike played with the kids.  Happy when wet, I was in Heaven.  We spent the entire afternoon enjoying every minute.  The kids played for hours in the water while Mike and I relived our Peace Corps days, reminding me of the saying, “Old people like the olden days best because they were younger then.”  We immersed ourselves in Jamaica so thoroughly we were surprised whenever the kids interrupted.  “What?  Where did you come from?” we asked, feeling like we were 24 and sipping a Red Stripe on Doctors Cave Beach.

Towards dinner time, we dragged ourselves away but left our chairs as a promise of later.  Catherine and Ella were on their way back from play practice in the city.  This lovely beach retreat is only an hour or so from their home in Chicago and an essential part of living in a city—the escape.  Oddly enough, Beachwood is on Eastern time while their city house is on Central so I guess that must somehow impact their viewing of Americas Got Talent but I can’t figure out what.  We showered and dressed and met them for burgers and fries and onion rings at Redamaks, a local institution since 1946.  I wondered if Steinbeck had eaten there and, if so, if the sign back then had also said, "Bite into a Legend."  Then we packed up some Red Stripe Lite (who knew, posse?) and headed back to the beach for sunset and fireworks.  The kids swam and the night was warm and summer had begun.


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