I awoke to an orange and purple sunrise, and the dew on the valley glistened.
It was just after 6 a.m.
I drifted back into dreamland.
At exactly, and I do mean exactly, 8:00 a.m. the sun was directly on my face; it beckoned me to open my eyes.
Complete morning solitude.
Only the sun and the crickets greeted me.
After a shower and a cup of tea, I jumped on my bike for a library pit-stop and to roam around.
Today's major trek involved a trip to Pine Mountain. There, I climbed 500 steps to see the famous (1032 feet in length) ski jump.
Halfway up my calves and thighs began to give way to minor pain.
I stopped (more than once) to catch my breath and strip off a layer of clothing.
Reaching the top, I saw a local veteran's memorial on the right and the ski jump on the left.
I had planned to walk all the way to the top of the jump.
However, the wooden planks looked so worn and rickety when I began to walk on them that I opted against the climb up from where the skiers launch their long jump.
On the way back down, I reflected on the vista.
How spectacular it must look from here when the leaves explode with color.
But... the skiers arrive in February to make their 176 foot leap, all they get to see is snow and bare trees.
Following a two-hour library stint, I drove to the grocery store for hydration and more culinary supplies.
On my way back from Iron Mountain, I stopped off at some small roadside waterfalls located directly off of 2.
Later, I took a scenic drive along Lake Antoine.
Reaching home just before dark, I enjoyed my leftovers from the prior evening (brats, brussels, and potatoes) and drank a hearty glass of wine.
After admiring the sky's metamorphosis from light blue to indigo to black, I showered and caught up on current events. (Unfortunately, I had to turn on the television.)
Having my fill of the latest political scandals (why is every thing called a scandal?), I fell asleep in the quiet night.
Missing Saturday's sunrise, I awoke at the same time as the day before: 8:00 a.m. on the dot.
The sun directly on my face.
I made breakfast -- blueberry pancakes -- and enjoyed a few cups of tea.
By mid-morning, I had called several family members; I needed to hear their voices.
Later, Aileen (my airbnb host) sent a text with directions to her house. (They were going out boating around 3 p.m. She had mentioned that she might try to reach me, and she did!)
Rather than rushing off to the library -- it closed at 1 p.m. -- I opted to stay in the cabin and thoroughly map out my route to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
I called two friends (Jenn and Paul) for some guidance.
Advice on whether I end my trip in Pittsburgh and board Amtrak's auto-train in Lorton, Virginia, or whether I continue the journey all the way back down to Florida.
I decided not to make a decision.
Based on Jenn's feedback, I should add more daily miles and see how the change affects me. Math-wise, riding 100 or so miles a day is not going to get me back in Florida by late October.
Time is moving at a much faster rate than I am.
I drove to Aileen's house which was just over the river border in Wisconsin.
Pulling into her gravel driveway, she met me outside and walked me over to the back deck.
There, I could see a beautiful river (the Menominee) and steps leading right to it.
Mark, Aileen's husband, introduced himself, and a pontoon boat full of young people pulled onto the dock.
Eight of them in total; eight 20-somethings (and then some).
I boarded the pontoon, and the party boaters began to introduce themselves.
Luckily, my twist top bottle of pinot noir was a big hit because while the five guys drank beer, the three girls indulged in wine.
I opted out because I had not had anything to eat since breakfast.
Abby and Katie were the friendliest of the bunch. (Technically, they were all quite gregarious, but A&K were the most talkative and inquisitive.)
I learned about their Monday night Bachelor and Bachelorette-watching parties during football's off season.
I learned that most of them grew up in the area -- went away to school -- then came right back and found decent careers.
(Upper Peninsula residents like where they live, and no matter how far away they go, it seems their preference is to be closer to home. Even around town, I noticed multi-generational families out together. It's a really big deal here: a commitment to the area.)
I learned about the high school (only two in the area) rivalry; the all too serious deer hunting season; the forgotten miner, but not forgotten miner's meal of pasties (short "a" sound -- NOT the long "a"); the Northern Lights alerts to tourists; the long winters, but gorgeous autumns; the eye-rolling over Traverse City not being part of Northern Michigan; and the 5th and 6th grade leaf projects.
The latter came up when I asked them to name all the tall trees surrounding us -- the tall trees I was tired of calling tall trees on the blog.
As we continued our drift along the Menominee, I wondered why there weren't more homes along the river.
Answer: Wisconsin Electric owns a big chunk of the Wisconsin side, so it remains undeveloped.
The pontoon ride was relaxing thanks to the captain's navigation.
Later, we joined a group (family members, of course) who were docked on the anonymous -- "Primo Island."
Really, a sandbar.
I was supposed to keep the name and place to myself.
They'll have to go trolling to find me.
While on the island, some of them jumped off the pontoon to get their feet and ankles wet.
I spoke with a few of the family members who asked how a Floridian ended up in the U.P.
Being a smart ass, I said:
the internet -- the world wide web.
Not sure whether the other crew picked up on my sarcasm: the 20-somethings did.
Moments later, Aileen and Mark showed up in a sporty, speed boat.
I was moved from the pontoon onto their boat, and I accompanied them back to their home.
Aileen and I enjoyed dinner at an Italian place called Romagnoli's.
We spent a little over an hour together swapping stories.
I learned how she and Mark met, and how she might have ended up in Arizona had it not been for his pursuit.
I discovered that Mark likes to play cupid -- when possible -- with his patients; I love that about him!
We also spoke about her two sons (and the amazing daughter-in-laws she inherited).
When we finished our meal, I took the somewhat gummy gnocchi home with me, and Aileen graciously paid our check.
We hugged one another goodbye.
On the ride home, the blue-violet sky encouraged me to open up the throttle: I did.
During the 20-minute route, I reflected on the start of my Labor Day weekend.
When I reached the gravel driveway (lots of those in U.P.), a small doe stood to my left. I honked the horn, and it ran off.
Later, while I made tea, I could hear coyotes howling.
(What you must know is that the deer and coyotes were mentioned during the pontoon ride. It was as if they had been summoned by the river gods.)
Listening to the unnerving howls, I wrote in my journal and fell asleep around midnight.
Until we meet again, my friend.