Thursday, September 2, 2010

Circular logic

So I’ve decided to write a summary of the trip in the style of Steve Rushin , who recently returned to Sports Illustrated with a new online column called Rushin Lit.

We spent most of our time on our vacation on 343-acre Bass Lake, near Traverse City, Mich. The simple names of places in Northern Michigan reflect the region’s past. Bass Lake, Long Lake, Loon Lake, Pine River. The loggers and trappers who settled the area didn’t have the time or inclination to come up with fancy names. So there are a few repeats. One wonders how many Bass Lakes or Pike Lakes or Lost Lakes there are in the Great Lakes State. We capped our trip by camping at the cleverly named Lake Michigan Campground. Not to be confused with the Lake Michigan Campground we camped at 12 years ago 220 miles away near St. Ignace. Fittingly, the fish caught at Bass Lake were fine largemouth bass specimens.

It’s easy to imagine Paul Bunyan when you’re in a place like Manistee, Mich., above. The tall trees, the high skies, the deep blue lakes would seem to suit the legendary lumberjack. So it’s no surprise that the tallest man in history, Robert Wadlow, died at the National Forest Festival in Manistee 70 years ago. James Earl Jones, a man known for playing another large figure—Darth Vader—started his acting career in Manistee’s Ramsdell Theatre.

The Old Mission Peninsula is a skinny strip of land that juts into Grand Traverse Bay. The vineyards and orchards make it feel like somewhere in Europe, like the Istrian peninsula of Slovenia and Croatia. Istria, too, just happens to touch the 45th parallel, halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. The Sacha Baron Cohen character Borat would be proud of the Eastern European connection, especially since Kazakhstan also straddles the 45th parallel.

Members of the short-lived 19th century Free Soil Party were more tolerant than Borat in many respects. They were strongly anti-slavery for moral and economic reasons. The short-lived (1848-1854) political party grew into the Republican Party, which sprouted in the Midwest and Northeast. Freesoil, Mich., is just a few miles away from Manistee and about 150 miles north of Paw Paw, the seat of Van Buren County. The Free Soil Party’s first presidential nominee: Martin Van Buren.

Traverse City was founded where the Boardman River empties into Grand Traverse Bay and Lake Michigan. A sawmill there drew commerce to the town. We happened to see a muskrat, a rodent sawmill of sorts, swimming in the river as we crossed near downtown. Captain Boardman, the river’s namesake, brings us full circle. He was from the Chicago area, in Naperville.


Karla said...

I've never read Steve Rushin but I enjoyed your narrative and I learned some things about my home state.

sportsshrike said...

It was pretty mediocre Rushin impersonation, I assure you.

Daily Chicago Photo said...

Cool style and stories.

We Love the Grand Traverse Bay (and Little Traverse Bay - Charlevoix/Petoskey/Haror Springs) areas. Manistee is a neat little town, too. Its riverwalk has a particularly interesting historical site sign that you might appreciate. Basically, it's about a nice stable sand dune, a 'raucous' political celebration which disrupted the nice stable dune, and the houses that were endangered/demolished when the dune - known as Creeping Joe - started creeping.

Really liked the camping story, too. Love how you call her "owlet", "hatchling", "nestling". So cute!