Biking In Michigan

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Incomprehensible-A University Trained Person Working With The Underclass

National Library, Ottawa

July 15, ‘77

The free music sure was great in Ottawa. I especially liked the concert given by David Wiffen. He played really nice acoustic guitar and had a fine voice. I found out he’s got a couple of albums and one of them at least will end up in my record collection in the near future. Also of the highest quality was a French female singer and her band. It was easy listening music, but very nice. The free concerts were sponsored by the city of Ottawa, and took place in what is called the Astrolab, on a grassy knoll behind the Parliament building. On occasion, though, concerts would take place at other locations.

I went to the Camp Fortune Amphitheater to see Tom Rush. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the concert. I never did get a clear explanation on why. The bus ride to the no show cost me a dollar. I also went to see a free theater production of What’s Up Charley Brown. The production needed a bit more polish. All in all, though, I was impressed with the way the city of Ottawa went the extra mile to give people like me entertainment. Thank you Ottawa. This city, the Provincial Capitol of Canada, has been an excellent finish to my otherwise questionable bicycle trip.

Yesterday, I got up early to meet Joe. I was excited about the big bucks I might make in Toronto. I was even more excited about going to Toronto with my new found New Zealand friends, Pam and Bruce. They were newly weds who were honeymooning as world travelers. After Ottawa, they were on their way to England, and from there they planed to work themselves around the world. I was just a wee bit envious. They were both beautiful people. Come to think of it, while in Ottawa, I’ve met a lot of really neat people. I have actually become friends with some of them.

When I arrived at the hostel, I met John. He was a tall, lanky, Australian. He introduced me to the dos and don’ts of hostel life. It seemed like he was always around when I was in the hostel. He wasn’t overly talkative, but the two of us seemed to hit it off anyway. He was a world traveler, but unlike Pam and Bruce, he had been at it for a number of years. He told me that as long as it stayed interesting, he would continue. He had already been around the world at least once. After I came back to the hostel one night and found that he had suddenly packed his things and left, one of the staff members told me not to worry, when he wasn’t traveling the world, he was working as a chemical engineer. He was that kind of guy–quiet.

My Czechoslovakian friend, however, was just the opposite. We had some stimulating conversations. We both liked to drink, so we spent a couple afternoons in the pub drinking drafts. Sometimes it was hard to understand him. He had an atrocious accent. After the 1968 takeover of Czechoslovakia by the Soviet Union, he immigrated to South Africa. I had taken a class on Eastern Europe and was familiar with the rise and fall of Dubchec, the liberal reformist leader of Czechoslovakia at the time of the Soviet takeover. My friend (I never could pronounce his name) was impressed with my knowledge of the situation. Dubchec was the reason the Soviets intervened in his country.

When he went to South Africa, he apparently had little trouble fitting in because he was trained as a mechanical engineer/designer. In fact, our most interesting conversation took place when he wanted to know what I did for a living. He couldn’t comprehend (or accept) that a university-trained person would work with the “uneducated classes.” He said that would be a crime in South Africa. No matter what I said to him, he could not understand that my goal all along was to become a custodian. He would just shake his head “no” most of the time. Actually, we had a lot of laughs over it.

I also need to say a few words about the hostel staff that has been so kind to me. Mitch, the friendly deskman who supplied me with many hearty laughs during my stay needs to be mentioned. Stephanie, the assistant resident staff person who got me an appointment with the free clinic for my poison ivy treatment (yes, I had a touch of the stuff while off-road camping) needs to be thanked, also. I want to thank, Jack, the head resident who let me stay past the three-day limit, let me stay on credit, and even let me work off the cost of one day by washing the breakfast dishes. And, as a passing point of interest, he also confirmed what I already expected about today’s hostel clientele.

The majority of the people I’ve met while hostelling were “free spirits,” but not the old hippie kind of free spirits that used to fill up the city “districts’ back when I did most of my traveling. The free spirits of today were free because they had lots of security to fall back upon. Their freedom rested upon—degrees, vocations, and wealthy parents. Even Bruce, my New Zealand friend, was a skilled computer programmer, and his brother was New Zealand’s Ambassador to Canada. Generally speaking, these people were in the bucks, or at least close to them. Jack agreed. He told me that today’s travelers were a different group of people. There were fewer of them, too. He said, “In the past, at this time of year, I would fill all 120 beds, as opposed to now, where only half would fill up.”

Pam, Bruce, and I waited for an hour before we accepted our fate. Joe, the con man, was not coming. I think Pam and Bruce were more disappointed than I was because they actually expected to get paid for the work they planned to do. Everybody was back at square one. Pam and Bruce went looking for work, and I began thinking about riding my bicycle across Ontario—not a happy thought. I didn’t look forward to competing for highway space with all that metropolitan traffic. It was my guardian angel, Stephanie, who suggested I hop on the train.

I jumped at the idea and began to make the necessary preparations. After getting a ticket and packaging my bike, I was ready to depart in the morning. That night, Pam and Bruce, holding an unopened bottle of gin, offered me a going away present. Together, we sat on the steps outside the hostel, reminiscing over the good times that never happened, drinking gin. It was onl
y a short stagger to get back to our beds. It was a good time. I owe Bruce one for that.

The next morning, I missed my train. I decided to take the next train out, a late evening one. I had another day to kill in Ottawa, so I went to the National Library and I picked off the shelf three books by Heidegger. He must have been popular in France because a whole shelf of his books was written in the French language. Ultimately, I don’t believe he’s saying anything I haven’t heard before, but he says it differently. He says it in his own unique language. It’s possible that I might understand this stuff even better if I could only get a really good handle on the strange way Heidegger puts it into words. I might want to read the book I have in front of me when I get home, so here it is: Heidegger and Ontological Difference, L.M. Vail, The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park & London, 1972. Oh what the hell, why not this one too: Martin Heidegger, What Is A Thing, Vera Deuteh, analysis Gendlin, 1967, Henry Regner Co. Ch. Ill.

When Family Gets Together It’s Only A Matter Of Time Before Tensions Arise

Biking In Michigan

July 18, ‘77

Well, here I am again. Excuse me while I check my eggs. They are about ready to be made into sandwiches, and, while I’m at it, I might as well have a few more drinks of apple wine. Can’t seem to get enough of that Boonsfarm. An interesting note here—the last time I drank a quart of apple wine I was in Arcadia National Park in Maine. It was raining and I was also cooking eggs. This time it just quit raining, and I’m about to eat my eggs. I don’t really know what all that means, except maybe a real good time. Apple wine and campfire eggs are great in combination; that is, if they’re not too burned! Now where was I.

I made my way back to the train station on my last night in Ottawa. My seat on the train was not very comfortable, and the long night ride was cold, but once the sun came up things got better. I arrived in Sarnia around 2 p.m. Within an hour after arriving, I had unpacked my bike from the train and repacked my bike for the road, gone through customs, and was riding along the Michigan side of Lake Huron. When Michigan was good, it was great! I rode until 8 p.m. Riding on a good highway, in sunshine, was what bicycling was supposed to be all about. I camped that night at a scenic turnout, overlooking Lake Huron, and except for the seven bologna sandwiches that I had to eat because I was worried that the meat wouldn’t last another hot weather day, it was a pretty good night. I’ll never do that again, though!

The next day, a 90-degree day, I biked into Bay City. I stopped to visit with my brother and his family, but he wasn’t home. I bought six beers and with two left I rolled out my sleeping bag on his deck behind his house and called it a night. God, the joys of private property, I almost forgot how nice it could be. He came home later that night and wanted me to stay for a couple of days. I agreed. I spent my time there eating and drinking and watching TV. It was great. My parents even came down for a visit. I borrowed $35 from them, and was on my way again. When the whole family got together like that it was only a matter of time before tensions would rise.

When I left Bay City it clouded up. I spent most of the day riding in and out of rain. After ten hours I made it back to Lake Huron. I’m presently sitting at a picnic table in the Harrisville State Park, getting ready to move outside the park, all because I want to avoid paying the camp fee. This is a very nice park, but there are so many places to set up camp along the highway that it just makes sense to take advantage of them while I can. To be sure, it hasn’t always been this easy to find a campsite. Michigan rates right up at the top of the list of states for finding easy, non-paying campsites.

It’s getting dark, so I’d better prepare. And now for the last couple drinks of the apple wine that I intentionally saved for this journal entry!

July 20

I’m in a little different mood today. I still agree with Michigan being one of the best states for camping, but I’ve run up against some asshole drivers that take the joy out of biking. Oh well, gotta take the good with the bad I guess. Except for one particular asshole who tried to run me off the highway, it was good day for biking today. It was hot, and I took five swim breaks (yesterday three or four).

Yesterday, when I was peddling through Alpena in the late afternoon, I ran into an old classmate of mine from CMU. Mark was a musician and his band had a gig at an Alpena bar. He wanted me to stick around and hear the band. No problem! After a shower and a short nap, I left his motel room and moseyed over to the bar about 10:30 p.m. It was a pretty rowdy crowd and although I knew Mark preferred playing jazz, as opposed to rock and roll, on that night at least, the band played passable rock. The beer was cold and before the night was over I managed to drink more than my share. At last call, Mark grabbed a twelve pack and we all went back to the motel room. Everybody was a wee bit drunk, but I managed to sober up when the boys in the band started to play a game of firecracker your roommates. Mark noticed that I wasn’t really comfortable with what was going on, so he suggested we go look for the sun. A couple more beers later we found it, coming up over the Lake Huron horizon. I just wish I could have appreciated it more. I did manage to get a few passed out hours of sleep on the beach, though.

When I made it back to the motel, I found everybody fast asleep. I left Mark a note of thanks and split. An hour or so out of Alpena, my gear cable broke. After backtracking to the Alpena bike shop, and getting my bike repaired, the whole morning was shot. It was no big deal. I was in terrible shape, anyway. By the end of the day, I had pushed through a strong headwind, and made it to Roger’s City. Tired, and still feeling the effects of my hangover, I managed to find a camping spot just off the perimeter of the state park. I had a good time with Mark, but it didn’t come cheap.

I expect rain tonight. That’s why I chose to hide myself close to the park. There is a roofed picnic area not far from where I’m camped. If things get bad, I’m out of here. When I pulled the tent flaps in on me, it was 8:45 p.m., a little early, but I am just too tired to worry about getting caught. Goodnight!


2 Responses to “Biking In Michigan”

  1. wings Says:

    Your blogs take me back to the seventies…and theatre and my “those days” like “Charlie Brown and Godspell”…wonder if you’ll ever mention “Ecstasy of Rita Joe”…have never been to Eastern Canada. Sask. born and BC raised, Vancouver Island home of choice and yep you are right – it has changed for sure but it is my home and I am here because I love it. I enjoy your journal excerpts and the photos colored with the orange and golden fade of “I can’t believe it has been so long…”(smiling). And thanks so much for your comment on my page…you always seem to “get it”. Wings

  2. Beverly Says:

    It is such an easy, gentle read, these trips of yours. I’m getting to live a part of life through you that I might never have known. With out the hangovers. And without the rain.

    I had to laugh about your seven bologna sandwiches….That was so “human” of you, not to let perfectly good food go to waste. You do know what that made you? At least then anyway…….Full of bologna, of course!! (I can’t believe you walked right into that one!!)

    I wondered what kind of game “firecracker your roommates” is….but I’m afraid you would tell me if I ask….so I won’t. Though curiosity is nearly killing me.

    There will always be an unwashed underclass with us….of which I am proud to say that I am one. I would much rather embrace that, than to be an elitist, even if I were.

    I hope you have a wonderful week Dave!!!


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