Thursday, October 28, 2010

St. Louis to St. Louis, Part 3

Day Three was to be an active day. We had packed the longboards and the Big Sticks.We hoped to land paddle on the Heartland Trail. When we were in Michigan last July we had planned to do the same thing, but someone forgot to pack one of the Big Sticks. I won't say who the culprit was. Let us just say it wasn't Heather.
Notice the two Big Sticks and two Longboards. Please ignore all the other junk.
The forecast had projected rain. But, knowing how the weather is in Michigan, we weren't surprised to find on waking that the forecast had changed. The rain was to hold off until late afternoon.

But before we went land paddling there was something we wanted to do first. On the way home the night before we had passed through Wheeler. Wheeler isn't even a town, but it has a large grain elevator and a receiving area for Sugar Beets. Heather wanted pictures. She had never seen crops stored on the ground.

Here are the trucks filled with sugar beets lining up to be weighed and unloaded

After the beets are unloaded they are piled high waiting to be transferred to the processing plant over in Bay City.

There were a number of these piles.

The corn did really well this year. So well, that there was no room for all the corn in the storage areas. So, it too was piled high. While I was familiar with beets being stored on the ground this was the first time I'd seen corn stored like this. Eventually there will be a tarp covering the corn. The beets will just set there until they are all processed, probably sometime in February.

It was late morning by the time we reached Alma and made our way to the parking lot at the Heartland trail head in Alma. The weather had changed again. The revised forecast was wrong.

As we were gearing up it began to rain. I guess we were lucky that it started when it did and not a half hour later. It was chilly and being caught in the rain on the trail would not have been pleasant.

When we had entered Alma Heather had seen smoke. Recently there had been a major fire in Alma. She had said she hoped someone was burning something and not that something was burning. We didn't think much more of it.

But as we sat in the car waiting to see what the weather was going to do we heard a steam whistle...and then we saw a steam locomotive backing up on the track directly in front of where we were parked. This explained the smoke Heather had seen earlier.

We didn't get to land paddle, but we did get to see  this wonderful relic from railroad days past. The trail we would have been land paddling was once a railway. A pleasant surprise indeed.

And, we saw a scooter. In the time we were in Michigan I think we only saw a handful of bikes and those were on the trip home after the weather had changed yet again and things were warmer.
Can you find the scooter in this picture? We saw him just as it began to sprinkle. If he had very far to go he got wet.

Since it was time for lunch we headed for The Great Wall. We discovered this restaurant on an earlier trip. It was raining very hard by the time we got there.

We watched it rain as we waited for our food.
Vegetable Lo Mein for her and Vegetable Egg Fu Young for me.

Eventually the rain settled into a drizzle.
After we finished lunch we went back to Dad's and took a nice long nap. I guess we were worn out from the travels of the days before.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

St. Louis to St. Louis in Late October, Part 2

People not from Michigan seldom think of it as flat, but the area where I grew up is as flat as a pancake. It was 30F when the sun came up on day two of our trip.
There was frost on the Yaris. Luckily we were taking Dad's car so I didn't have to clean off the windshield.
I could just enjoy the view, watch the sunrise, and admire the sky.

Dad's internet was down and we needed to get the address and phone number of the Cross Country Ski Headquarters. Heather had this stuff in her email, so we had to wait for the Library to open in St. Louis.
 The Library is small but very nice.
Heather filled out a guest form and soon was busy getting the address...and I suspect doing just a little bit of work.
As we left the Library I saw this reminder of how hard Michigan winters can be on cars.

Soon we were on our way.

We missed the good color by just a few days. There were still golds and rust colored leaves, but the beautiful red leaves had already fallen.
I knew the deer were on the move in Michigan this time of year, but I didn't know that log cabins were, too.

It isn't really a very long drive up to Houghton Lake and Spicer's Boat City.
Once upon a time Spicer's was mostly about boats, but those days are long gone. They have a huge inventory of snowmobiles and accessories. This is what brought me there.
When I visited back in July I met Andrea. She was the person who told me to come back in October. When I got inside of the showroom I made a beeline to the accessories area. I was pleased to find Andrea there. She was wonderfully helpful. She showed me the BRP helmets first, then the HJC, and finally the Gmax. I didn't like the HJC helmet at all. I was surprised that I liked the Gmax so well. I'd entered the store ready to buy a BRP but left with a Gmax. It wasn't about the price difference either. The Gmax was so comfortable. Andrea was very informative and she made me walk around the store for a while first in the BRP helmet and then the Gmax. She didn't rush me. I wanted to take her picture, but the best I could do was get her to hold a Gmax helmet in front of her face.

Now it was time for the Cross Country Ski Headquarters.
A little bit of Houghton Lake

Pink Flamingos, a Santa, and a horrible picture of Heather

I imagine come winter this is quite the busy place, but today we had it pretty much to ourselves

I thought I knew what Heather was wanting to look at. In my mind's eye I was seeing roller skis, but this isn't what she had been trying to tell me about. All Terrain Skis is what she had her eye on. And, Bob was the perfect person to show her. He got her out on the skis and gave her a lesson before she ever committed to buy.

We ended up not only buying a pair of CAT (Classic All Terrain) Skis, but boots and poles for both of us. We are going to share, but I suspect that a Christmas won't pass before another pair of CAT Skis finds there way from Rosscommon to Missouri.

We took our time driving home.
And, just enjoyed the remainder of a beautiful late Autumn Day in Northeast Central Michigan.

St. Louis to St. Louis and Beyond in Late October, Part 1

"Denied," said the clerk at St. Louis Bread Company.

"What? That can't be," was Heather's response, "Swipe it again." And, the clerk did.

"Nope, it still refuses your card."

Heather and I were about to take off for Michigan to visit my Dad, his wife, my sister and her husband. What a beginning to our trip! We had been planning this trip ever since our last visit in July. During that visit I had tried to check out snowmobile helmets at Spicer's, but I was out of luck. It was July and they had no inventory. It twas the season for boats and ATVs. Come back in October they told me. Also, Heather had wanted to check out All-Terrain skis at the Cross Country Ski Headquarters in Rosscommon, but they were closed for the Fourth of July weekend. Come back in the Fall they suggested. And, so the cast was set, but....

Heather had a project that was supposed to be out the door the week before we left. Things didn't manage to come together, and it still wasn't out the door. This meant our October excursion suddenly was brought into question. It was in doubt right up until 3:00pm the day before we were scheduled to leave.

So, first there was the stress of whether we could leave, and now the credit card thing. I hoped the card thing was merely a glitch in the system. As we ate breakfast, I reminded Heather of the story of my Son's wedding rehearsal dinner. When I went to pay for it, my credit card was denied. My daughter ended up paying for it and I paid her back. It was rather embarrassing.  Later, when I was able to call the bank I found out their processing center had gone down. But...

When Heather called the credit card company, she found out there had been a hold placed on her card. It seems someone had been making charges on it, ironically in Michigan. In the great scheme of things this wasn't a very big deal since I had cards and we both had cash, but....

It wasn't the way either Heather or I wanted our trip to begin. Oh well, away we went hoping there wasn't a black cloud following us.

Happily a few hours later, having zoomed through both Illinois and Indiana, Michigan beckoned. And...

Then after driving halfway up the Mitten we arrived safely at my Dad's place outside St. Louis, Michigan. Things on the road went so smoothly that we got there sooner than expected. Dad had told me he had a meeting over in Greenville, but Marilouise would be there to welcome us. Apparently, after I called Dad that morning to let him know we were just leaving "the other" St. Louis, he did some math. Since he figured there was no way we would arrive until after he was back from his meeting, Marilouise went along with him. So, we arrived to a dark and locked house. But...

I had my sister's phone number and I gave her a call She came down the road and let us in. It wasn't long before my Dad and Marilouise arrived home. He walked in and with "that" grin on his face said, "Man, I guess it doesn't do any good to lock a house anymore."

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I Knew It Had Seen Better Days, Part 3

The building I've been watching break open and  fall down received some help.
First there were some folks sorting through the bricks. It looked like hard work. And, this day was warm.
Then a couple of weeks later in came some bigger equipment.
For a few days this is how it stood. And, then....
the really big equipment was brought in.
It seemed strange to see the imprint of where the stairs had been.
It was a little eerie to see the layers of old paint and wallpaper. It was like being a peeping Tom and catching a glimpse of this old dwellings underthings.

I had thought they were about half done. That those tearing down the building were taking a break and any day I would see the progress of the destruction reach all the way to the building that is still occupied. But, I was mistaken. The hole where the basement had been dug out has been filled in. The area has been seeded and covered with straw.
I wonder what is going to happen next. Could they really be through?

When I first observed the cracking of the building I took this picture from the other street. I guess this is the before picture.
And this would be the after picture.
There are people living in the townhouse where the car is parked.

And, now there are cats happily roaming the ruins. I suspect they are enjoying good hunting.

I'm interested to see if there is more to this story. One of the joys I've found in urban commuting is the way the neighborhoods I travel through are constantly changing character. It is never the same from day to day.

Life is good.

Drive-Throughs (or is it drive-thrus?)

The local St. Louis Bread Company, known in other markets as Panera's, is adding a drive-through window. This prompted me to wonder how many barrels of oil we would save a year if people weren't sitting in their idling cars waiting on this product or that. I shared this thought with Heather as I ate my bagel and she sipped her iced mocha. She pointed out to me that if we did away with all the drive-throughs people would just burn up whatever savings there might be by driving around the parking lot waiting for a parking place to open up next to the door.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sometimes I Still Get Upset

Sometimes I still get upset about my head not working the way I want it to, the way it did before the accident. Last March when I bought Billie, my SYM Symba, I planned to do some of the maintenance myself. I couldn't see any reason I wouldn't be able to. Of course, there is no real good reason I don't work with wood anymore, but I don't. My last big project was a wood and lace room divider. That was years ago and not long before I injured my brain. Now, it seems I've lost the starting place for such projects. Occasionally I'll see one in my minds eye. A few times I have even thought through a project, but it leads no where. I can't find the place to begin. It is a little like when I have words in my mind but I can't get them to my mouth. Thankfully, this happens much less now then it did in the early days of my recovery. It is so very frustrating to begin to speak and the words are ready and waiting but can't get out.

I'm sharing this because I'm finding I can not find the the starting place to even so much as change Billie's oil. I can tell you how it is done. I know what size wrenches to use. I know how to take the filter out with needle nose pliers. I know how to do all of this, nonetheless I can't begin. I can't find the place to begin. Had I'd known this six months ago, I suspect I would have bought a bike with longer service intervals than every six hundred miles. But, then if I had bought a different bike, I wouldn't have had the pleasure of the last five thousand miles with Billie. So, I guess things do work out...sort of.

Not being able to find the place to begin has left me far more dependent on others than I once was. I've found people are mostly kind and will do those things I can not begin. The problem comes when I trust people to do for me things they aren't able to do or just plain don't do. Fortunately this has happened seldom. But, it seems to have happened with those I found myself trusting to care for Billie. It seems they didn't lube the chain nor check its tension at each oil change. I thought they were. I should of checked, but I didn't. And, when it became obvious I needed a new chain even though they said they ordered it. It seems they did not. And, I'm left to wonder what else has been neglected.

Last night I met with a new mechanic. He has been hired to, "Reinvent" the service department at the dealership where I purchased Billie. I was impressed. I'm hoping this relationship will go better. I have reason to believe it will. Obtaining parts for Billie is challenging right now. The distributor of SYM in the USA is still recovering from a disastrous fire. So, I suppose, this will be a good test.

I will not be quite so trusting of this new service person which is probably good, but is also a little sad.