Preface: This post is a little outdated. I wrote it nearly two weeks ago, but just got to the point of putting in pictures and publishing it. I am sorry about the wait! FYI, the events take place November 8-11.
From Niagara Falls, we headed west through Canada, crossing the border only to travel north of Lake Erie toward Chicago rather than the longer southern route. Yet again, John managed to track down a campground still open. We stopped to rest for two nights at Trout Haven Park in Strathroy, Ontario. We were the only non-permanent residents at the campground, and most of the amenities were closed off due to freezing weather, but it was a comfortable place to rest, and they left the water on until we departed. Other than a short bike ride to the nearby Alexandra Park for some fresh air and exercise, we hung out inside. I spent the time creating a profile on the knitting social networking Ravelry, because I am picking up the hobby of knitting during our travels (it is a great activity for being a passenger on a long drive) and looking up patterns for projects other than dish towels, which is what I have been working on. I think John spent the time on his favorite activity – reading about tiny homes [ John here: I’ve become fascinated with building and living in a smallish house on wheels lately. I know it’s possible to live in a small space (proven by living in 100sq ft camper van the last 100+ days with my awesome, fit, and incredibly intelligent girlfriend Dr. Perry). When I was younger I helped build the house my mother and I lived in, and several others. Since then I’ve wanted to build my own home, but at this point in my life I don’t know where I’ll end up. If I were to build a small home on wheels it could be moved to a new location fairly easily. Maybe something similar to this.]
The weather during our time in Ontario was cold with freezing rain, so we were not inspired to take a superwoman photo. The day we drove west was beautiful, but we missed the opportunity to find a nice place before the US border, so our Ontario Superwoman is from across the water, but Ontario provides the background!
The difficult to answer question “Where do you live?” took on a whole new weight at the border. I always pause in answering this question, trying to find the best answer given the circumstances under which it’s asked. At a second stern “Where do you live, ma’am?” from the border patrol officer, I finally replied “I am in transition – I recently left New York, but my mailing address is in Washington State; that’s where we are headed.” [Very slowly!] This was an acceptable answer, and we were allowed through the border gates and on our way into Michigan.
Entering Michigan we encountered a very flat landscape. We are in the midwest now and it will be some time before we see mountains again. The sadness this thought brought made me realize the reason I felt unsettled by the thought of living in the region when I was visiting potential grad schools. Growing up in the shadow of the Cascade Mountains, I was accustomed to a rolling topology with a mountain ridge backdrop – the planar landscape just doesn’t feel right to me.
We camped at yet another campground named Waterloo! Waterloo State Recreation Area is located 25 miles west of Ann Arbor. Driving to the campground we skirted around the town of Hell, MI. It was fun for me to learn the location of this town. On hot summer days when I was in middle school, a DJ on the radio station I listened to would call someone in Hell, MI to ask what the temperature was in Hell. If the temperature in Hell was lower than the temperature in Seattle, the DJ could confidently say that it was “hotter than Hell”. I had forgotten all about that until we came to Hell.
We rolled into the Portage Lake Campground in Waterloo on a Friday evening. Since it was a freezing cold weekend in November, we did not expect to have much company in the campground, so we were shocked to see rows of RVs as we entered the camping area. Michiganders are hearty souls! On Saturday we heard gunshots in the distance and saw a dead deer hanging from a tree in one of the campsites, so we determined that it was deer hunting season and that was the explanation for the number of campers out on the cold weekend.
On Sunday I set out for a hike on the Waterloo-Pinkney Trail, a 36 mile trail traversing the Waterloo and Pinkney State Recreation Areas. I worked to make myself look as little like a deer as possible, wearing my brightest colors and tying the only bright orange fabric I have with me, a ChicoBag, to my backpack. I have many times over the past few weeks regretted the decision to place my bright orange knit hat in a storage box rather than bring it on the trip; it is warmer, cuter, and more hunter-repelling than the blue under-helmet cap I have in the van. With shots ringing out in the distance, and a huge sign reading “Caution – This trail passes through hunting areas” I set out with some trepidation. I had planned an all-day hike, but after a couple hours I decided I had had enough exercise, and it would be more fun to return to camp and play a round of frisbee golf with John, so I turned back. I saw no one on my way out and few people on the way back, but those I did see were wearing fluorescent orange, adding to my nerves of not being dressed properly. I made it safely back to the campground, and later learned that despite all evidence to the contrary, deer hunting season doesn’t actually begin until November 15th.
Once back at the campground, I challenged John to a round of frisbee golf. Not that this was a challenge – John loves throwing frisbees and can actually aim the disk to hit a target. I have a harder time translating my desire to move the disk to actual motion. On our way to the disc golf course, John was warming up by throwing his Aerobie Ring as far as he could. To throw far, he also threw high. The ring caught in a tree, and John spent the next 20 minutes throwing various objects at the tree trying to retrieve his Aerobie. At first he threw the other frisbee, until that got stuck, too, at which point I found him some sticks to throw. Eventually he succeeded at knocking both the Aerobie and the frisbee down, and we continued to the course. On the 18-hole, par 42 course, John’s score was 81 and mine 107.