A Canoe Trip

It was a nice enough day for late September in Michigan. Overcast, yet warm enough to get away with a hoodie or light jacket. My friend and I, finding ourselves with not much to do and a need for nature, headed down to

While wandering through the woods, we came upon one of the canals which run through the island park. Noticing the recently installed kayak launches on these canals, Mike had the (bright) idea to go back, grab his family’s long unused canoe and go for a jaunt around the Isle.

Before we really get started, please know this one will have some length to it. My feelings won’t be hurt any if you skim through.

Casting off at Blue Heron Lagoon (not even bothering to use the kayak launches on the canals which inspired this excursion, since they wouldn’t have helped us get on the river) on the Northeast end of the island, we headed for the Detroit River.

I haven’t canoed in about 20 years, so I took the front seat while Mike steered in the rear

Approaching the inlet(? I think that’s the right geographic term) to the river, you can see the famous marble lighthouse
And here we are IN the river

Admittedly, we barely got into the river. Nonetheless, it was very exciting to be on the river, in between two countries, not far from where giant freighters pass every day, in this little two-man fiberglass tub. The water was very calm that day, so we had few worries.

That’s the US side of the river, a power plant can be seen to the right

Then we hooked a left and headed sort of Westward, down a……you know what, I’m not sure what the word is for a narrow body of water between two islands, one of which (to the right) is basically a sandbar, so I’ll call it a canal.

Along this canal, you will find the infamous Hipster Beach where all kinds of filth goes on. I somehow didn’t grab a picture of it, so just imagine a dirt clearing on the left bank where nonsense occurs. That’s right, the beach isn’t even sand, it’s dirt.

Anyhow, here’s some cool pics of canal traversal:

In this one, you can just BARELY see a rope, to the left, used to swing into the canal

Eventually, we came upon this bridge, which leads to the intake for the city’s water treatment plant:

The golf course/driving range

Getting close to the river again, we spied a large Crane in a tree:

Popping back into the river, we took another left and went past the Detroit Yacht Club:

You can just barely see it, but there’s a muskrat just about dead center in this pic
It went back under when we got too close
You can see the Detroit city skyline through the trees here

At this point, we can upon the bridge leading to the Yacht Club, which, due to the high water level, we were unable to pass under. We had to pull the canoe out, walk around the bridge and plop it back in. This was our first, but not last, portage.

Paddling the rest of that canal, we ended up at the real beach. It wasn’t very lively, for obvious reasons.

After relaxing on the beach (you know, coconuts, sea shells, Pina Coladas, that sort of thing), we decided to hike the canoe about 100 yards inland, to explore the interior.

Over to Lake Muskoday

That shifty-looking bridge connects the two halves of the old (now overgrown beyond use) golf course. The picture doesn’t really show how high the water is in relation to the bottom of it, suffice to say it was tight enough we hesitated going under.

Onward into the interior canals!

At this point, we came to the Zoo. The Belle Isle Zoo has been closed for many years and is a tragic sight. I won’t get into the how’s and why’s, it’s a real ball of wax.

The elevated walkways, once a joy to walk along, now look like a series of Halloween props and backdrops or maybe something from Jurassic World:

The overgrown fences and concrete embankment along the canal add to the “Oh jeez, a Velociraptor is going to jump out any second” feeling:

Here you can see the roof of the long-deserted visitor center, roughly in the center of the Zoo:

Moving along, we found ourselves behind the island’s maintenance yard and face to face with more creepy abandonment:

Eventually, we ran out of canal and had to head back the way we came. One last neat surprise was waiting for us though, a rather large frog who just sat there and looked at us:

That being said, we loaded the canoe back on the Jeep and headed home!

Thanks for reading along and I hope you enjoyed the pictures of our wacky Belle Isle!

How I Cook Cheeseburgers

Lunchtime came. The hunger gripped me like an owl in the night. What was I to do? Why, the only sensible thing for a big American guy: CHEESEBURGERS.

First things first: get your cooking surfaces in order. I use a cast iron pan for the burgers and a nonstick for fries. The cast iron gets pre-heated at about medium heat.

While that’s going on, prep your taters, burgers and buns. Nothing fancy here, I just use frozen patties from Kroger with salt, pepper and mustard. The thick cut fries get the same, minus the mustard, add a dash of garlic. The buns, however, are a different story.

Yep, those are jalapeños. Fresh from my friend’s garden (I traded her a dozen eggs for a bag of peppers), paired with a BBQ sauce and yellow banana peppers, from the same garden. A standard slice of American cheese rounds out the bun situation.

It’s melting!

Sometimes I use olive oil for the fries, sometimes it’s butter. Today was obviously butter. I turn the heat up to about 3/4, just under full blast.

When the butter gets to this point, I add the fries.

They’ll fry in there for a few minutes (four or five) before the burgers get tossed in the cast iron.

The frozen patties cook super quick, maybe two minutes per side, so you have to be fast with your flipping.

The potatoes get flipped around this time
It’s all done! Let it cool off for a minute!
Ready for lunch, served with a dab of BBQ sauce and ranch for dipping. Coffee is mandatory.

Everything was delicious, as expected. What I didn’t expect was the jalapeños. They were SO HOT I had to wash them down with a glass of milk.

And that’s lunch. Hopefully you saw something interesting or were inspired to do it yourself! Thanks for reading along!

It Begins: Train Room Paint Job

Finally, the long awaited train room painting could begin. I started in the closet, as I will need a place to stash train parts and other things, which are currently filling up my dining room.

What a mess.

I am using a Behr satin enamel and a Zibra brush. The tarp was part of a Halloween decoration, so don’t be alarmed by the blood spatter.

Just from cutting in for the first coat, you can see how dilapidated the poor closet was.

The first coat went on well enough.

The second coat really did the trick.
This side of the shelves turned out well also.

For whatever reason, I didn’t do the trim until the next day, even though everything ended up being the same color.

The finished product.

I didn’t bother with the outside trim, I figure I’ll do the whole room’s trim in one shot. I did take a couple of pictures to show the difference and how a little paint goes a long way:

Newly painted trim on the left, unpainted on the right.

Over the next few days, I’ll be prepping and painting the ceiling.

That’s all for now, thanks for reading along!

The Train and It’s Room

About this time last year, my great Uncle Dan passed away. Uncle Dan was a cool guy who collected interesting stuff and built this killer train set over the course of several years.

Partially disassembled

It is built on a sheet of plywood, cut in half. Uncle Dan was a city planner and the layout is very accurate, including most every conceivable zone, service and class of living.

I know this was taken along the way to Rhode Island and THINK it was in upstate New York.

When I traveled to Rhode Island (it was a neat road trip through Canada and New England) for the funeral, while visiting with the relatives at Dan’s house, I noticed the train set and it came up in conversation. My relatives weren’t quite sure what to do with it (it is rather large and wasn’t fully functional at the time) and after thinking about it for a while, I said I’LL TAKE IT HOME AND FIX IT UP.

So I did, but not right away. I had to come back about a month later with my mom’s car, to which we affixed a trailer hitch for the purpose. As I mentioned, the train set is on a sheet of plywood, which would not fit in a regular car.

After getting the train set home, I unloaded it into my spare bedroom, where it sat while I began painting the inside of the house.

Yes, I know ceilings are supposed to be white, but trust me, it came out fine!

When I finished painting the pictured room, which is now my home office, I decided the light fixture just wouldn’t do, so I moved the one from the now train room into the office. In doing so, I somehow broke the wiring in the outlet and didn’t realize it until later on when I attempted to install a new light in the train room so I could paint it. I am smart enough to know I’m an idiot and chose to move on to another room, rather than mess more things up trying to repair the wiring, which I am wholly unqualified for.

Fast forward to the other day. While fixing the air conditioning with my friend, he recommended we go in the train room and sort the light out while he was around and get it over with. So we did and now there is glorious light in the train room.

Now the room can be painted, the train set returned to it’s former glory and maybe I can take a nap!

As always, thanks for reading along!

Also, don’t forget to check out my rally goose e-commerce project! Buying rally geese will help me pursue all my weird hobbies, write about them and entertain you!

Belle Isle Snapshot

Fun Fact: That’s Canada!

Yesterday, my friend Mike and I went down to Belle Isle, an island park situated in the middle of the Detroit River, for a quick stroll.

The island, when under the care of the City of Detroit, had fallen into disrepair and neglect. Almost nobody went except hooligans and troublemakers (the author as a young man included).

The State of Michigan has subsequently taken over the park (in 2013, through a leasing deal with the City) and folded it into the State Park system. The State has, in my opinion, (and seemingly everyone else’s, as the island is now a hotbed for summer fun) turned the park into a jewel.

One of the most fun parts of the park is watching freighters go by, a Detroit pastime for as long as freighters have existed.

Another interesting tidbit I will point out is the river’s water level. It has risen noticeably over the last few years and the author cannot help but feel the rising water and rising enthusiasm in the city of Detroit are somehow connected.

To give you an idea of the difference in water levels, this tree would have been on land a decade ago. The water has eroded the soil around and its root system is exposed.

Sometime in the 1990s, the lake and river system near Detroit seemed to drain. It got so low, the freighter channels had to be dredged out constantly and there was much concern about environmental factors affecting our lakes.

These things are, of course, cyclical and the water has returned. How it all works, I’m not qualified to give an answer, but am happy to see it.

I took a few more pictures along the path on the way back:

That wraps up my little walk in the park!

As always, thanks for reading along! I will soon detail the painting of the spare bedroom, which currently houses my late, great Uncle’s train set and possibly the reconstruction of said train set.

Thanks again!

PS: As an aside, I have successfully launched my first e-commerce project, a set of vinyl decals celebrating a hilarious goose-baseball incident, please check it out!

A Brief Explanation & Road Trip Wrap Up

 

 

 

I know it’s been over a week with no updates and a sudden stop to the story of my road trip up north. I apologize for this as I’m sure some of you were genuinely interested in my weird travels and writings. None of this is without reason. Last Sunday (the 24th), my two Dominique hens killed Amelia, the red and grey jungle fowl hybrid. It was simply awful and I have had a hard time looking at the photos from the trip, especially the section yet to be covered, as many of them feature her.

Adding to my frustrations is the heat wave we are currently experiencing in Southeast Michigan, with temperatures tickling 100 degrees F (depending on who and when you ask, it may well be OVER 100) and my air conditioning deciding to quit, because of course. Luckily, with the help of a friend, we were able to diagnose the problems (a faulty electric motor, which then blew a fuse) and order the needed part. It doesn’t arrive until Tuesday, but having something to look forward to and the fun (my friend who helped, Jan, is from Poland and always has something interesting to say) of screwing around with the thing has taken a lot of the sting (as I write this, it’s 88 degrees IN MY HOUSE) out of the situation.

I have also been knee-deep in my first foray into e-commerce, a sports novelty decal I am becoming increasingly unsure will ever see the light of day.

Anyhow, thanks for sticking around and (barring any further disasters!) I will resume bringing you regular, interesting content.

And now for the thrilling conclusion of the Road Trip Saga. I was planning on breaking this up into two posts but let’s just get it over with so we can all move on with our lives. THIS IS GOING TO BE A LONG ONE.

Since it’s been so long, I’ll place the recap links here instead of at the bottom:

One last note: I am STILL fiddling with formats and writing style, thanks for putting up with the nonstop assault on your eyeballs!

Saturday Afternoon

Embarking from the Knotty Pine, we drove south, toward and sort of around Escanaba, ending up in Hannahville, an Indian reservation with a rather large casino, the Island Resort and Casino.

It was raining off and on when we arrived and the pow wow, originally scheduled to be held outdoors, had been moved into the high school, deeper within the reservation. I admittedly didn’t grab the greatest pictures of all this, as I was doing my best to:

A. Be respectful (I’m not a big fan of taking shots of people’s faces without their permission and am unsure of pow wow etiquette)

B. Take in the sights myself

The pow wow mainly consisted of various categories of dance and dance competitions, accompanied by authentic singing/chanting/drumming provided by the Northern Cree Singers, a tribal group from Canada. I haven’t the foggiest clue what they sing about, but they have a great passion and talent for it. From what I understand, the drumming and singing not only go with the dancing, but, in fact, dictate it, providing the dancers with cues and instructions via the melody and rhythms of the song.

There was delicious food served in the cafeteria and I chose what is known as an Indian Taco:

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The Indian Taco: A combination of standard taco ingredients served atop a piece of frybread.

 

After some time (an hour or so, I don’t know), it was announced the weather had cleared and the pow wow would reconvene outside, at the traditional pow wow grounds/camp site.

While the pow wow was migrating, we took the opportunity to tour the Potawatomi Heritage Center, a turtle-shaped (if you were to look at it from above) museum which relates the history of both the Potawatomi peoples and Hannahville. Also housed within this turtle is a truly weird and wonderful exhibit which showcases Michigan copper and presents alternative history hypotheses, none of which I can remember, but I can assure you they range from the reasonable to “Um, okay?”

Unfortunately, I was unable to grab any pictures while inside. I did, however, partake of (read: stuffed face at) a lunch buffet, which had been kindly laid out as part of an open house by the Heritage Center staff, coinciding with the pow wow, which nobody bothered to show up for! How rude! I had to sit there and eat free cheese, crackers, cold cuts and pineapple all by myself! The horror of it all. I made such a huge sandwich I got the meat sweats and had to sit down for a half hour while my friends were……you know what, I don’t know what they were doing. I think they were being given a way beyond normal hands-on tour and meeting the director of the Center/tribe, but I was off somewhere in meat land.

After this excursion into the unknown reaches of lunch meat, I was scooped up, poured into the car and driven over to the outdoor pow wow grounds.

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Here, the same things which were going on in the school gym went on………….outside! There was a pass-in-review of sorts, a salute to the armed forces and LOTS of dancing. Some of these people (unsurprisingly, they were the same dancers who walked away with top honors) danced for an hour STRAIGHT. It was amazing to see. Also impressive was the level of detail and craftsmanship shown in the performer’s regalia (costumes or outfits).

Once again, I didn’t get the greatest shots here, looking to protect people’s privacy and not be a jackass.

I also sampled more frybread. Frybread is interesting in and of itself, given it’s history, so I’ll cover it briefly. Frybread is a traditional food at pow wows, festivals and even in native people’s homes. Frybread originated in the mid-19th century, when the Navajo and other peoples were moved onto reservations. The tribes were given flour, sugar, salt and lard as rations and frybread was what they could come up with to nourish themselves, both on the journey to, and upon arrival at, the reservations. I will delve no further into the sociopolitical implications of frybread.

After the pow wow wound down, we set up camp for the night. I did not take any pictures of our tent or campsite, as I didn’t even think of it because we were having too much fun entertaining our neighbors with our weird jungle fowl and listening to an elder’s tales and opinions on a wide array of topics.

Sunday

Continue reading “A Brief Explanation & Road Trip Wrap Up”