Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Bridge


This is Farwell. I don't know if that's his name there on the motorcycle, but that's the name of the little town whose population doubled when these bikers stopped for breakfast. Three years ago this weekend I was on my way north for a solo weekend away, because it was the 50th anniversary of the construction of one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. The Mackinac Bridge spans the Straits of Mackinac between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan. The anniversary was an excuse for my Aveo, my camera and me to run off together and cross that 50-year-old bridge, one year after I'd turned 50 myself. We ladies have to support each other (nyuck nyuck). (Did you know that bridge is feminine in German, but masculine in Spanish?) I left home (southeast of the star on the map at the capitol, Lansing) and a couple hours later drove into Farwell (not too far from Midland on the map), a town where you don't have to stop since there are no traffic lights or stop signs going through town. But I did stop, to check out this caravan of motorcycles. I sat down on a bench across the street from the diner where these bikes were parked, and waited with my camera. After reading Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in college, I always wanted to take a cross-country motorcycle trip (I'd love this pre-1916 Cannonball Coast to Coast Vintage Motorcycle race). Maybe this was my chance?

When the bikers came out of the diner, they took their time, chatting about where they'd stop next. The gentleman with the Harley-burly beard in the foreground of the photo at the top of the post sauntered across to his bike parked in front of me on my bench and immediately asked if I'd like to go for a ride? Hmm. Here was my long-awaited opportunity to ride in the open air, hair flying from under a helmet, bugs on my teeth. Route 66, here I come!

I declined, however, with all the courtesy I would give the President of the United States. If I think about it too much, traveling alone as a woman can be a little creepy. So I don't think about it too much. (I admit that once or twice in motels I have gotten pretty weirded out if the Psycho shower scene sneaks past the doorlock in my head.) I have found that if I treat people with respect, they treat me the same way. When I'm in Chicago or NYC, and I'm lost? I'm going to ask a construction worker for directions, even though they sometimes come off as being, well, aggressive, toward women (or has this changed?). Something in me really likes to confront assumptions in myself, and in others about me. I have never experienced anything but the most genteel behavior in these encounters (except a few times from whoever is with me, who thinks I've lost my mind). I have approached the thuggiest looking people (I don't mean construction workers are thuggy-looking), and while they may look surprised at first (aren't we all surprised when a stranger comes up to us?), they are always helpful. Something gets bridged between you. If you've never tried approaching the least likely person on the street for help, try it, it is liberating.

I'm careful and don't put myself in dangerous situations. I get a sense if a person is not the kind I want to approach, maybe it's a sixth sense. I always have a cell phone. I only explore in public places, and always in daylight. But I love to travel, and I love to do it alone sometimes, which Don graciously understands, if for some reason he can't join me. He says he doesn't worry about me, although there is one artistic neighborhood project in Detroit I am eager to explore, and he won't let me go alone, even in the daytime. Being vulnerable, because I'm a woman, can be very frustrating in its limitations.

Perhaps my trust in strangers began on my first day of school in kindergarten, when I lost my way home and was crying on the sidewalk. A strange man in a truck stopped and asked if I wanted a ride. No matter that everyone had told me not to get into vehicles with strangers. I said, Sure. He drove me two blocks home. To this day, I don't know how he recognized me, but I didn't know him.

Have you ever traveled overnight alone, just for fun, not business?

my Aveo parked in front of the motel in St. Ignace, Michigan in October 2007
where I was the only guest for the night;
St. Ignace is the first town over the bridge in the Upper Peninsula

state park beach along Lake Huron

northern Michigan farm

Harbor Springs, Michigan

Five Mile Creek, a one room school

wild turkeys in northern Michigan 
(by "northern Michigan" I mean the northern part of the Lower Peninsula)

Mackinac Bridge, between the lower and upper peninsulas of Michigan
from the upper peninsula in St. Ignace

Mackinac Bridge, from the Upper Peninsula
in its 50th year, 2007

Mackinac Bridge, on my way to morning coffee and breakfast at a diner

rustic boat on a rustic beach

wild beach yarrow
The turquoises and blues of the Great Lakes are better in autumn

I am severely disappointed that we did not get up north this summer, and our plans for going this fall have also fallen through. That's why I'm posting three-year-old photos, because of my wanderlust for that magical part of the world just a few hours away.


George said...

Good Morning, Ruth. Having just awakened at 5:00 a.m. this morning, this posting is essentially my cup of coffee, the thing that has opened my eyes and started my day. There is something I really like about this posting, though I can't quite put my finger on it. It is anchored in something commonplace and real, a kind of earthiness. It is both tranquil and interesting, which I always find to be an interesting combination. I loved the photos, especially the ones of the Mackinac bridge. Have a great day!

Ruth said...

Good morning, George. It's nice meeting for coffee like this. I'm glad you like the post and find it earthy, tranquil and interesting, and that you enjoyed the photos too. I can ask for nothing more than for you to have tranquility today. I was up at 4, which for me these days is sleeping in. It's supposed to be a beautiful fall day here in Michigan, I hope it will be in Maryland too. Enjoy!

Claudia said...

Good morning, Ruth!

Bridge is feminine in Portuguese, as it should be, don't you think?

Both you and rauf have read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance and haven't, it's now on my neverending To Read pile of books.

I don't like travelling alone but I often have to. I feel lonely and quite vulnerable, which isn't pleasant. I find that being polite does not always get you honesty and respect in all situations, but it's still the best approach and it works in 99% of the times. Good skills of risk and character assessment are important for everybody but fundamental for us women.

I like all the photos in this post but the one of the boat is my favourite. I adore boats.

Ruth said...

Good morning, Claudia!

This is so nice, having coffee with my friends. I was just reading the NYTimes, and I'm about to have some oatmeal.

Yes, I think bridge should be feminine. I had read a fantastic article in the NYTimes Magazine Does Your Language Shape How You Think? and was fascinated by this gender thing in language, since we don't have it in English, and I had never considered that words might be different genders in different languages. Then just yesterday I saw that bridge can be feminine or masculine in Spanish. Lorenzo can instruct me about that, well maybe you could too?

What you said about being polite not always resulting in kind from strangers is true, and as I wrote this I anticipated that there would be stories for others that would round out my experience. So I'm glad you contributed. As I age and learn from my experiences and those of others, I recognize that just about the time I think something is true, I'll likely find the opposite has also happened.

Thank you, I'm glad you like the photos. Yes, that boat doesn't look lake-worthy, but it is nice there on the beach.

I hope you have a great day today.

Lorenzo said...

I have not much light to shed on the 'puente' gender question. It is masculine in Spanish, el puente, but that does not mean it must be so in our imaginings. I tend to see almost everything in the world around me as female (great 'womanizer' that I am), and often prefer 'she' to it when 'writing'.

Like, George, I found much to like in this post. The photos are outstanding and the feeling of eavedropping on your thoughts is always inviting. I share some of your habits about asking for directions. When in doubt, and all other things being the same, I will sometimes opt for the person who may seem most 'threatening' to the cliches and stereotypes we all have drummed into our heads. And, much like yours, my experience is that the initial surprise is almost always followed by friendly collaboration.

Yes, we must be cautious, and females have extra worries on that front, and the thought of little-girl you getting into the truck with the stranger does provoke a chill, but I shudder to think about living in a world where we cannot at least sometimes trust and rely on the "kindness of strangers".

Ruth said...

Hi, Lorenzo. When I was googling around yesterday, I found this site that indicates that words ending in e in Spanish can be masculine or feminine. So of course, it is muy confusing to me. By the way, I quite like that you see the world as female. I find that to be such an open and wonderful statement, and worldview.

I'm glad you like the photos. There are parts of Michigan, along the coasts, that are wild and rustic, and not another person in sight. This can provide just the right kind of soothing solitude that I look for. I'm also very glad to hear you say you too approach people who might seem threatening when seen through certain filters, and that you've had similar, happy results.

As I wrote this post, and finalized it with this story of my kindergarten walk, I felt just what you said, that while it was incredibly risky to do what I did, and sometimes is risky to keep approaching strangers, the loss of trust and reliance on them would be almost a greater loss than what might happen in my imagination. I don't know if I can explain that, but I feel it very strongly. I have thought sometimes, that if a robber broke into my house, I could not use violence against him. I would protect a loved one, but I don't know if I could kill in self defense. I'll never know, hopefully.

Bonnie said...

May I join in this wonderful morning coffee klatch?

My comment window is sitting perched on the beautiful blue water of the last shot in your post. My mother was born and raised on the Manitoulin Island in Lake Huron - very close to your Mackinac Bridge. I never before thought about how close she was to Michigan. Strange - the obvious things that can go unnoticed for a lifetime!

I wonder if the burly biker knew you were travelling alone. He could see you were sitting alone and demonstrating interest in the biking world by taking photographs. For all he knew, a companion would come sauntering along any moment. But it was a bridge you could not risk taking, as a female. It's a shame we have to be so wary and concerned about how much to trust a stranger. Imagine the thrill of a ride on a Harley?!!!!

Interesting to think sometimes about the bridges we didn't build because of conditionning, fear, inhibition, etc. Bridges and bridging is such an interesting topic. Perhaps that is part of the magic of blogging - all the bridges we can build that otherwise would never have been possible. I do appreciate this bridge we have crossed to meet up, Ruth.

George said...

To follow up on my comments earlier in the day, I am concerned that my poor choice of language, while still half asleep, may have led to the wrong impression. When I said that your posting was "anchored in something commonplace and real," I certainly did not mean to suggest that the piece was trivial or uninteresting. I should have said that it was anchored in real and common things (i.e., bridges, farms, old schools, old boats, etc.), which, to me, was part of the charm of the posting. Perhaps I am being a bit paranoid here, but I want to make sure that you understand that my reaction to this posting was very positive.

Ruth said...

Welcome and pull up a chair, dear Bonnie. My second cup of coffee is done, can I pour you some?

I am certainly glad to know I'm not the only one who misses seemingly obvious things. It happens to me incessantly.

It's a good question about the biker, whether he knew I was traveling alone. I really think he was just being friendly, and not overly aggressive. He didn't intimidate me at all, and I took it as a kind gesture. A little flirtation makes me feel that I'm still alive, frankly. :)

I feel incredibly blessed that we have our bridge, Bonnie. We have a lot in common. It's a joy, privilege and wonder to meet like minded people in this online community, more connected in some ways than friends and family here physically. We find each other in ideas and world views. I also feel elated when a bridge is successfully built between me and someone who seems very unlike me, and that is maybe why I keep doing this with people. It feels so good. Is that selfish?

Ruth said...

George, there are at least two things I love about your second comment, well three. First, you are like me. I am forever going back and making a clarifying comment at your place. I am reassured that you have just a little of my same paranoia. Second, you've brought back into light one of the things I appreciated, and didn't mention, in your first comment, which is that very phrase "anchored in something commonplace and real". Let me assure you, George, that I know and admire you enough, and understand your sensibilities enough, to know that those words coming from you are the best praise. I was touched by your comment and didn't quite express it in my response. I can so often fly in my inner space, that getting back into the real and commonplace is needed and rewarding. Third, I like - so much - that you came back and clarified. Once again, I'm proud to have you for a friend.

Ruth said...

Everyone, for a beautiful, and painful example of what we're talking about here, from the other side of it, please read this brief Op-Ed contribution at today's NYTimes, about a man of color who rides the Acela train from NYC to Providence, RI with "educated, affluent, sophisticated and enlightened citizens":

The Seat Not Taken

Ruth said...

Oh, and Bonnie, case in point: I missed responding to the obvious and very evocative fact that your mother was born and raised on Manitoulin Island, which I was unfamiliar with until you wrote it in your comment, and now I have googled it. I was just as ignorant of your mother's island as you were of its proximity to Michigan. It looks in images very like that part of Michigan in the Upper Peninsula, very rustic and wild.

Ruth said...

Now, my dears, I am off to the university, and I will continue my end of the conversation later. I have certainly had a beautiful and stimulating start to my day. Thank you.

Dan Gurney said...

What a lovely post! Stunning photos.

I love it that on your first day of kindergarten you found the world trustworthy. (I teach kindergarten, and find the world on the whole safe.)

Of course it's not always so, but I find the world is generally far safer and kinder and more trustworthy than we commonly believe it to be. One reason I don't have any TV in my house is because I think TV news conditions us to greatly overestimate danger and evil in the world.

I prefer to avoid vicariously living out/imagining all the tragedy and crime reported in the media. I prefer instead to experience the manifold goodness and joy so close at hand in actual reality.

Astrid said...

Ruth, I don't think you will walk in 7 ditches the same time, this is a Dutch saying...grin...
Being female, yes we have to be carefull, we never know who jumps out of a tree, but than, if you have the bodylanguage as....I am NOT scared..walking tall AND don't be stupid to go in the wrong places, I think we are alright.
A heavy rock in your handbag comes in handy too...
I once went in Philly to the harbour, later I showed pictures taken and the people where I stayed were not too happy, my rule in that time was, don't open your mouth untill there is a need, they will hear my accent. By looking at me, you could NOT see.
I love your pictures, in 1978 I was at Mackinac bridge and Island, I know why you love being there, it is fabulous.
Thanks for showing them.
(I have my new laptop, it is super, I have to get used to it though)

ellen abbott said...

I kind of agree with Dan. I don't think the world is an inherently dangerous place. It's just that now with all the means of communication, we hear about all the bad stuff. What we don't hear about is all the hundreds of good things that happen in balance. I don't listen to or read the news either. so I might have been tempted to take that ride.

I love the picture of the bridge floating in the fog. And the little motel with the chairs sitting out on the porch.

Expat From Hell said...

I think I'm with George here (sorry, I'm too late for coffee this morning, but will be back again when it's time for beer). It's kind of like a soulful undertow to your writing, and most definitely your photos. I think your take on yourself in rural Michigan is hypnotic to this SoCal boy. The pictures of the fog-enclosed Mackinac Bridge are fantastic. I will be back again - keep your carafe warm, my friend. EFH

Deborah said...

Ruth, I don't think I've ever given much thought to what Michigan looks like, but when I saw these photos I realized that whatever I had in my head was wrong. It's lovely! I thought of it as much flatter, I guess, and well, Detroit is what comes to mind when I think Michigan. How nice to be surprised!

I like to travel alone, too, but don't often get the chance to do it. The other night I excused myself early from a dinner at a restaurant in Lyon-the 34 other people didn't really mind if there was one less for dessert-because I just had to be by myself. MFB didn't mind either, and so I had the exhilarating pleasure of walking through an unknown and lovely city at night, quite safe and deliciously alone.

Margaret Bednar said...

..."commonplace & real". Sounds like a compliment to me! It's not such a bad thing being like everyone else - unless you are like those ridiculous people leaving an empty seat open because a black (brown, African American - oh what to use!) man is sitting in the other one.

Your photos wrung out my heart this morning (coffee at 10:30 for me after getting the kids off to school). The steeple in Harbor Springs is of Holy Childhood Catholic Church - the church we attended when we lived (for just over 7 yrs) in Petoskey, MI. That very view (with many variations) has been painted numerous times by local artists.

And the Mackinaw Bridge... oh what memories - I don't do so well crossing any long bridge. Once my husband, with all six kids in the van, pretended to loose control of the vehicle - his knee was actually guiding the wheel but his hands were skimming the wheel as if it wasn't working... Totally safe, but the girls screamed so - oh my. Will, my oldest, and I just laughed until we couldn't breath - we actually had tears coming out of our eyes. Sounds so mean, I know. Your phot of the misty bridge is beautiful, It evokes laughter in me to this day, though... and terror in my poor girls. On return visits, every time we cross it, they REMEMBER the incident 4 or 5 years ago. They laugh about it now - but threaten dad with his LIFE if he ever does that again. Oh, and I just found out this past summer while watching an OLD home-made film, that when my parents were just married they camped on the St. Ignatius side of the bridge. I have a photo of them in the early 60's with the bridge in the background. And I have a photo of the kids with the dogs in the very same spot!!

Oh, and this is getting too long of a post, but when John & I were first married (over 20 yrs ago) we drove all the way in a small rented U-Haul to live in San Antonio TX. (not many possessions then) We had to stop at all the truck stops and I was quite scared at first. But I have never met more gracious (yes a bit rough) and polite men in all my life. Quite the eye opener!

Nancy said...

Ruth, I'm about to walk to get my first cup of coffee, but couldn't go without commenting on this very lovely post. I agree with your sentiments about traveling alone. In fact the last time I did, it was across New Mexico on none other than Route 66 (alas, not on a harley!). I've had a touch of wanderlust lately, but haven't put together a trip. I've been to Michigan, but only from Detroit to Ohio, and I've always wanted to see the UP - and thanks to you, now I have. I will consider this my Birthday trip for this year. With smiles, N.

Oliag said...

Beautiful photos Ruth...I love the bridge rising from the mist...

I'm not sure that I want to travel alone...but you make it sound like fun:) The only time I can remember of staying in a hotel overnight alone is when my sister was in the hospital...That night had a strange mixture of peaceful, quiet and sad, yearning for others.

Once as a young woman I took a chance on an unlikely encounter...and was lucky to survive it uninjured...that has made me rather cautious...

Shaista (Lupus in Flight) said...

Come and wanderlust here in England and we'll go see Wicked together :)
I absolutely loved the depth of your post on Rilke, the gallery of apples and those extraordinary words about poems..."to write one poem seems to me worth living for"... yes, I echo that sentiment exactly.

lakeviewer said...

Sorry you didn't get to travel recently. I hear it in your voice, a longing for the open road, for an adventure. Hope it will happen soon.

Fragrant Liar said...

Beautiful photos. They evoke a real sense of place and time. Love the church steeple fronting the lake and the bridge in the fog.

I have gone a lot of places by myself, as a single woman, but it's too scary to travel much alone. You just never know, and it's really sad that women have to feel like this. But it's for good reason.

Shari Sunday said...

Beautiful pictures. Inspiring post. I have had a few travel adventures alone, mostly staying a little longer after a business trip, once in NY City and once in Montreal.

Jeanie said...

Doesn't matter to me if your beautiful photos are several years old -- they deserve being seen and are just lovely, truly capturing the mood of our beautiful North. We are so lucky we have this not all that far away.

I enjoy the solo traveling -- sometimes. I'm never bored, but I always keep thinking how much someone not with me would enjoy it! My longest venture -- two weeks in New England, probably a good 20 years ago. It was wonderful, but how I wanted to share it!

The motorcycle -- I'll pass. Too "out there" in terms of the elements. But I know what you mean about being trusting and indeed, I am also. One day I may pay. But the thought of being any other way seems to dreadful to consider.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Dan. Your comment is spot on. My daughter lived with a woman whose best friend worked at MSNBC. The best friend said that basically they create news stories, if there aren't any. With 24-hour news channels, the hunger for bad news gets fed non-stop. i don't know if you're familiar with Rob Brezsny, but he has a book and philosophy of life called pronoia, as contrasted with paranoia, and espouses the belief that the universe is determined to shower us with blessings! It takes a lot of peeling away to be open to that concept, more for some than others. I'm so glad you came by, thank you for contributing to this conversation.

Ruth said...

Astrid, you might have to explain the 7 ditches to me! I'll save that in my to-do file for next time I see you.

I almost said something about the body language thing in the post. Yikes, a rock, eh? But I get tired enough carrying my camera around. I'm a wuss.

Oh! I didn't know, or forgot, that you went to Mackinaw Island. If it weren't that derned ferry ride, I might go more often. Can get wooozy. (Ask Ginnie about wooozy.)

New laptop new laptop? We must talk . . .

Ruth said...

Ellen, I go in cycles with the news. Lately, I'm with you and Dan, and I don't watch it on TV. There are some good sources for good news, like the Good News Network and

The other problem with TV news stations is that a lot of what's on them is not news at all, but opinion.

But it really does take a lot of work, and going against the current, to monitor what is important to you, and to not be bamboozled by what's thrown your way.

Ruth said...

Hi, Kent, what'll you have? Go help yourself to what's in the fridge. Come back next time in the morning, but you have to get up very early to meet me for coffee, especially if you're on California time. Better to just stay up at night, you're likely to find me on the other end of night.

Your comment is very kind, I really like that soulful undertow and that you felt it here.

Ruth said...

Deborah, why do you think we long to go up north? Where we live is pretty flat, mostly farm land. Detroit is about an hour and a half from us, and it once was quite a glorious place. I hope with some love and investment it can come back. We'll see. But up north is like Cape Cod, with white sand beaches and beautiful bluffs.

My brother and his wife fell in love with Lyon a few years ago. It's beautiful that you have come into the freedom of going off to be alone when you need it. I tell you, there is something pretty great about getting to mid-life, when we understand ourselves and take authority in our lives.

rauf said...

Good to see Shaista here Ruth.

i see some exchanges of good morning.
The Brits left 'good morning' greetings back in India. But they forgot to tell us when is a good morning. Any part of the day is good morning for us. So it really does not matter that my good morning is your good evening and Claudia and Shaista's good night and Letty girl's good afternoon. But you have to greet Letty girl with 'good tomorrow afternoon'. She is the first to wake up, poor thing. Where is this girl ? She said she is waiting for her hair to grow.

In Urdu a bridge is masculine, rightly so. A feminine bridge is ridiculous. A cup (Piyala) is masculine and a saucer (tashtari) is feminine. A smaller cup (piyali) is feminine. Thankfully tea and coffee are feminine Ruth.
A computer is masculine.(i'll post the reason in a separate comment)

Oh the pictures have stunning clarity and saturation Ruth. i keep looking at them over and over again. Simply beautiful. They all look like paintings. The bridge is hanging in the air.

Thanks to the Hollywood movies i am afraid of the tattooed bikers. If they want to show a bad guy, he'll be having tattoos all over his body and they show bikers harassing and terrifying old ladies and damaging their property with a Louisiana slugger. Perhaps Hollywood producers borrow money from loan sharks and the debt collectors come riding bikes and have tattoos on the body. The present day debt collectors are dressed like Bankers. If a banker looks like me Ruth, no one would deposit money in their banks. And if i go to collect debts no one would pay.

i have to read Motorcycle maintainance again Ruth. After five years of blogging my mind has cleared up with your help and the help of my other readers. But my English has not improved, there are many red underlines here in this box indicating many of my spellings are wrong. Now i may have a different view of the book.

The chap who sits and writes the verification words is obsessed with the letter S i have to type WASSESSES

rauf said...

in a French class one student raised his hand and asked, "What gender is a computer?"

The teacher wasn't certain which it was,and so she divided the class into two groups and asked them to decide if a computer should be masculine or feminine. One group was comprised of the women in the class, and the other, of men. Both groups were asked to give four reasons for their recommendation.

The group of women concluded that computers should be referred to in masculine gender because:

1. In order to get their attention, you have to turn them on.

2. They have a lot of data but are still clueless.

3. They are supposed to help you solve your problems, but half the time they ARE the problem.

4. As soon as you commit to one, you realize that, if you had waited a little longer, you could have had a better model.

The men, on the other hand, decided that computers should definitely be referred to in the feminine gender because:

1. No one but their creator understands their internal logic.

2. The native language they use to communicate with other computers is incomprehensible to everyone else.

3. Even your smallest mistakes are stored in long-term memory for later retrieval.

4. As soon as you make a commitment to one, you find yourself spending half your paycheck on accessories.

rauf said...

oh i am sorry Ruth, on second thought a bridge should be feminine.
Makes sense.

Vagabonde said...

Bridge in French is masculine – un pont, and a computer too – un ordinateur. But then we also have “une passerelle” which is feminine. That is a little bridge you see for pedestrians only, such as for going over a highway. Being light and small, it is feminine. As for having traveled alone – that is the only way I traveled until I retired and could go with my husband. I traveled alone while growing up in France and I did come to the USA, alone, at 21 years of age and traveled to 23 different states. I have been, alone, to Africa a dozen times, to Asia and other places. I never had a problem. The place where I felt really far away was in Yogyakarta, on the island of Java, Indonesia, near where I climbed, alone, the Buddhist temple of Borobudur. But once at the top, it was so beautiful. The other place was in Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, when it was still part of the USSR. But even there people were very nice and I purchased a beautiful hat. I think that when you are alone you have more occasions to meet people. Once, going to Michigan, on a bus, I was seating next to an older French woman who was traveling to Toronto. I had not been to Canada yet, so she invited me to join her. I did and we went on a Canadian ranch. I had a wonderful time. I’ll have to write posts on all these trips. Your pictures are beautiful. I especially like the picture of the Great Lakes with the dog and people in the background.

Anonymous said...

good Lord, I need a road trip. With my camera and maybe a map.

thanks for the images - and a reminder of what's north of me to be explored.

Susan said...

The Macinac Bridge scares the bejeebers out of me, but I have crossed it, though not alone, thank goodness. I think I closed my eyes all the way across. Having said all that, I still appreciate the beauty of it, especially that ghostly image barely peeking out from the mist. Fantabulous!

I've also been deathly afraid of motorcycles since I was little. My Uncle Tom used to ride his huge Harley up into our yard and I would run and hide under my bed. And my mom's best friend was almost killed in a collision with a motorcycle whose rider didn't survive. Too many frightening tales for a young girl's mind. BUT, lately, say the past two years, I've been craving a ride on a big, heavy Harley. They fascinate me with their beauty. Maybe I'll ask my nephew for a ride on his someday. In fact, I have several nephews who own them. Line 'em up, boys! :)

The longest trip I ever took alone in a car was to Louisiana when Nathan was born. I stayed three weeks and wanted my own car with me. I rather enjoyed it, but didn't like stopping at a strange hotel alone. It felt a little creepy. If I ever do it again, I want to drive a Mustang convertible. Now that would be a road trip.

Susan said...

Oops, Mackinac, that's late.

Gwei Mui said...

Wonderful pictures (I just love the blosgphere because I get such a fantastic window on the globe. I adore travelling on my own. If I can't walk to where I'm going, then I prefer buses in the centre of Towns. Further a field it's the train as I always manage to fall into conversation with someone - so many extra-ordinary people. What saddens me is the "fear" element that has crept into social exchange these days people are so guarded an warey of each other - our ability to know instantly whats happening has taken away some of the trust we used to have.
But travelling whether short internal, long distance country wide or international I always enjoy. I'm really lucky as I backpacked through Europe and down America. South America, India, The Middle-East. Southeast and Eastern Asia. I would be very worried if my daughter did what I did - hitch hike and I'm sure in some senses it was just as unsafe forty years ago as it is today!

Ruth said...

Oh, wonderful Margaret, I just love your reminiscences!

But first, I agree with all my heart that "commonplace and real" is a compliment from George. Was that Op-Ed not sad?

How amazing to think that you lived in Harbor Springs, went to the church, enjoyed the beauty of that area. Now your husband, I think he takes the prize from Don for worst joke! That Yugo that fell off the bridge on a windy day . . .

Camping in the U.P. is great. We've done it at Tahquamenon Falls and enjoyed it so much.

What I love most about your comment is the last paragraph and what you learned about truckers and yourself in your cross-country trip. That is precisely one of the most important reasons I want to take a trip like that, a long, slow one.

Thank you for your terrific contribution to this post!

Ruth said...

Thank you, Nancy, I'm glad you stopped in before your coffee! And I'm glad you enjoyed it. Oh man, driving on Route 66 across New Mexico, part of my dream.

Michigan has a lot left to explore for me, but the most beautiful parts are along the coast of Lake Michigan, from Grand Haven all the way up to Mackinac. We have forests, including an old growth pine forest, Hartwick Pines state park. When driving north, when I get to the large rest area at Clare, surrounded by pine trees, I feel that I am North, and in heaven. If you come for your birthday trip, please look me up, I'd love to meet you. And I'll bet you would learn more about Michigan than I do.

Ruth said...

Oliag, thank you. Yes that view of the bridge was quite mesmerizing, and I confess that I wanted someone with me to share it. I felt that same thing after a few days in Paris my week alone, and I just wanted someone to sit and watch with, or talk about everything at the end of the day, which I ended up doing on my laptop in g-chat with family and friends. But not quite the same.

Your encounter sounds very frightening. I'm so very grateful you survived. I'm sorry for the painful memory though.

And also for the time while your sister was sick. To be alone in the hotel then must have been painful in its loneliness and grief.

If I ever got to choose a friend to travel with, you would be among the top on the list. I like how you eat when you travel. :)

Ruth said...

Shaista, how did you know I have been longing also for London? My students seem to all want to go on our Literature in London program next summer. I wish I could tag along and meet you and go to Wicked, if it's still playing. What a poetic thought.

Thank you for reading my other posts, and for your kind words about them. I am not at all surprised that you concur with Marie Howe about one poem, because so many of your one poems have seemed worth living for. I mean that with complete sincerity.

Ruth said...

Thank you, Lakeviewer, but time is running out. It will be winter soon, and travel will wait until April.

Ruth said...

Fragrant Liar, thank you for saying that. I think that sometimes I forget what we have here, and that people around the country and world don't know it and would like to see it. That's why I've been posting so many photos lately. I know I like seeing many views of where my blog friends live, a lot.

Yes, this lone-woman thing is just something we have to live with. But I don't have to like it. Bleh. It's all right, I get along working around the limitations. I am extremely fortunate in my choices, compared to most of the world's women.

Ruth said...

That's a good way to do it, Shari, let the company get you to the destination, then take advantage. Cool! We have still not been to Montreal, Toronto, or Quebec City, if you can believe it. I'd love to take the train up.

Thank you for your kind words, Shari.

Ruth said...

Jeanie, as I mentioned to Oliag, I thought I would feel nothing but elation visiting Paris alone for a week, and it was terrific to go and do just where and what I wanted. But I did long to share it too. Telling someone about it is not the same as doing it together.

I'm glad you feel the same about trusting strangers, within reason.

Thank you for what you said about sharing photos from my archive. I do think we need to show off our beautiful state to our friends who live somewhere else, and I love to see theirs too.

Ruth said...


Yes, it's so good to see Shaista. And I don't know where that Letty girl is. I quite liked her head shave.

I am very pleased and self satisfied that you came around on the bridge being feminine. Before I went to bed last night I was creating a list of reasons a bridge is feminine, like your joke. I'll get to that in a minute.

When you say you like my pictures, I can breathe a sigh.

You know this chap on the bike, the one with the burly beard, I think he is just a big teddy bear. But something in him also likes this persona. Maybe he likes the reactions he gets. I can tell you this, I bet he isn't afraid to travel alone.

I want to read Motorcycle Maintenance again too. We should read it together and talk about it. I wonder if you still have a copy? I don't have mine any more, could get it at the library. It's fun to re-read a book after decades and see how you've changed. I've done that with Pride & Prejudice.

I love your joke about computer gender! It makes me wonder if these characteristics of men and women are universal. :)

Three reasons I came up with that a bridge should be feminine are:

~ They carry heavy burdens.
~ They connect people (I'm thinking relationships).
~ They get walked on a lot.

How interesting what Vagabonde says about the different types of bridge in French being masculine and feminine.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, oh, so the Pont des Arts is une passerelle. As you say, it is logical that it is lighter, smaller, and therefore feminine. But a lot of the gender designations are not logical. Here is a segment of the article I mentioned in my comment response to Claudia:

There are many inanimate nouns whose genders in the two languages are reversed. A German bridge is feminine (die Brücke), for instance, but el puente is masculine in Spanish; and the same goes for clocks, apartments, forks, newspapers, pockets, shoulders, stamps, tickets, violins, the sun, the world and love. On the other hand, an apple is masculine for Germans but feminine in Spanish, and so are chairs, brooms, butterflies, keys, mountains, stars, tables, wars, rain and garbage. When speakers were asked to grade various objects on a range of characteristics, Spanish speakers deemed bridges, clocks and violins to have more “manly properties” like strength, but Germans tended to think of them as more slender or elegant. With objects like mountains or chairs, which are “he” in German but “she” in Spanish, the effect was reversed.

My dear friend, I sit agog at your litany of travel. No matter that I have read countless times of your travels at your blog, you surprised me with each of these destinations, and the frequency too. I read your comment aloud to Don, and we both just shook our heads in wonder. I feel privileged to be a witness and friend of yours.

I love your story about the French woman, and that you joined her. I don't think 100 books could contain all the experiences and family history you have.

Ruth said...

Oh! Hello. It's nice to see you.

I hope you have a road trip in your near future and that you will share it with us.

Elizabeth said...

What an amazing trip!
I think I loved the photo of the wild turkeys best --out of a most stunning selection!

Yes, I have travelled quite a lot by myself --but mostly in Europe.
To be honest, I prefer to have a companion...though I never had any problems.

My husband used to have such fun when he had mororbikes.
Greetings for a wonderful weekend!

Margaret Bednar said...

Appreciate your comments on my blog. My old book simply says "illustrated" with no names. Isn't that strange? And I must correct the word Mackinaw... It should end with a c. It is just pronounced with a w. I sound like a "fudgy". Are you familiar with that term? It is what the locals call tourists. (I never quite got it). Will's video is on YouTube as well I think it can be googled. (Will Bednar Going Down Hair) should do it. I'm going to enjoy my coffee later this morning and listen to you read your poem. While I listen, I will be painting for the "Imaginary Trip to Paris" online class. My daughter, Chelsea is doing it too ( I know you have a "thing" for Paris. :)

Margaret Bednar said...

One of my blog friends said the illustrator for the 100+ year old book was Arthur Rackham. I will have to look him up. Also, the strangest thing. I googled the Lambs and it said they were a very successful brother and sister writing team. They lived in England and she murdered her mother. And the siblings had a long career together... Kind of strange - I didn't have time to look into it further but I will later today.

Babs-beetle said...

I have always found the most unlikely looking people to be the most helpful. I don't know why it is, but the 'smart' gentlemen have never been at all helpful in my experience. They were always the most stand-offish and unapproachable.

cathyswatercolors said...

Ah, Michigan, so beautiful. A road trip alone how brave and cool. Good for you. Life's to short not to follow that feeling.

This summer my friend and i went on a road trip, not sure if i told you this. You see, my friends mom, who i also loved dearly, passed away. Now i have been friend with this gal, since we were babies. We grew up next door to one another. Anyway, "Road Trip", our hearts and minds cried out. We had no agenda, we had a Garmen and a desire to cruise the coast... of Michigan that is. So away we went. What an adventure,such fun. One of the sites we visited was Mackinaw,we biked and hiked the island,such beauty.

On and on i go. My son's wedding is this coming weekend.It will be a fancy affair, at the Colony Club in Detroit. Mother of the groom is spared the dramatic and ugly last minute details. I have only to worry about my hair. I was going to have it done, but it's just not me i will wear it my usual curly and unruly fashion.
I will be wearing a very over the top purple ruffly top,with lots of big fake jewelry, and a black tea length chiffon skirt.
I have been thinking about buying purple shoes and a Dynasty type big hat for the wedding. What a hoot that would be. I'm sure i will probably shy away from that idea,for sure??
Sorry so long, i've just had a minute to write again since the beginning of the school year:)
p.s. i am trying to talk my friend into wearing his coon skin cap and raw hid jacket to the wedding. Wouldn't he just be the darling of the ball. ( fun to think about)

Margaret Bednar said...

Here is a bit I found regarding the Lamb siblings. Sounds like a soap opera to me! Not sure how to post a link on a comment bar. I'll give it a try.

Nancy said...

Hello again...oh, I just have to say how lovely it is to revisit the comments pages after enjoying your initial post. Not only do I learn from and enjoy you, but you have such wonderful friends who comment and I learn from them! A day off, a slow start, hot coffee and this. What more could I ask?

Claudia said...

Hi again! That photo of the Mackinac Bridge hanging in mid-fog is extraordinary.

I'm glad rauf agreed on the gender of bridge, in the end. It's all about connecting and conciliating, very feminine things.

I subscribed to your podcasts on iTunes. Your poems are exquisite but the vocal dimension makes them especially touching and complete. You have an extremely broadcastable voice, soft but clear, not nasal at all.

Gorgeous stuff, all your internet material.

Ruth said...

Susie! Did you read what Margaret's husband did, the joke he played driving over the bridge? Wow! I get the same feeling usually, and so when I drove in 2007 by myself, I worried about it some. But it was fine, maybe better because I was driving, not riding, and I had to focus on that. Of course you can never not think about the poor woman in a Yugo who was blown over the side, so incredibly tragic. Did you see the Dirty Jobs guy climb up the cables to the top of the bridge? Yikes!

Please forgive me for giggling and telling Don about you hiding under the bed when your Uncle Tom rode up on the Harley. It's just too cute to imagine. I agree, they're beautiful. One time we were near Chicago and stopped to fill up at a gas station. I sat with my mouth hanging open at a beeeautiful bike parked at one of the pumps. It was blue. Soon, out walked a man, African American, at least 6'7*, in baby blue leather head to toe, and he was beeeautiful too. Don said, "That's so-and-so." And darned if I can't remember now which Chicago Bull he was.

Call when you get the Mustang convertible, and we can be Thelma and Louise, except for all the bad stuff!

And who the heck can spell or pronounce any of the Mackinaw-mackinac-michillimacinacs anyway?

Ruth said...

Gwei Mui, how adventurous and remarkable you are! Just reading the places you have traveled and backpacked fills me with imagined stories and visuals. I've learned a great deal about you from this, and I'm impressed. I hope you had a chance to read the brief Op-Ed piece I posted in a previous comment, by a man of color who rides the train from NYC to Providence every day. It surprises and disturbs me.

I sorely wish we had more train service here in Michigan. A commuter rail from Detroit to Grand Rapids, passing through Lansing, would do very well I think. Don and I need to take the train up, into and through Canada.

Ruth said...

Elizabeth, hello! I enjoyed this road trip so much I think I need to do it again, maybe somewhere else. But I find that any longer than one overnight alone, and I am like you, I want a companion to share things with. When my sister Nancy and I spent 2 weeks in Paris in 1997, the first week we did everything together. Then she realized she didn't want to spend as much money as I did on meals. So the second week we did our own thing during the day and got together for dinner, and then at the apartment over wine talked about what we did all day. It was perfect.

And I wonder if you had fun with your husband's motorbikes . . .

A wonderful weekend in NY to you too, Elizabeth.

Ruth said...

Margaret, oh yes, I know about fudgies. :) I think the residents of Traverse City and Petoskey and Mackinac (or Mackinaw) came up with that "fudgy" term for the tourists who had to get some fudge before they left for home.

I saw Will in the video, and he is a talented young man who will go far, I think. And won't that be a fun ride.

Imagining you painting about an imaginary trip to Paris, after reading about my trip, while you listen to my podcast, gives me a very warm feeling, bless you.

As for Arthur Rackham, I really do not think the illustrations in your old book are his. The ones in the book are fine, but they don't have that flourish and fairy quality of his, which captured my heart when I was in college.

Ms. Lamb murdered her mother, and she had a successful career in books?? Whoooaaaa.

Ruth said...

Babs, so true! I think it is very interesting to think about who the approachable people are in the world around us, and whether I seem approachable to others.

Ruth said...

Cathy, my friend, the trip with your friend is just the thing after such a trauma. When you've spent so much energy and grief saying good-bye, some expanse like that is needed. My sister Nancy and I did that in Paris for 2 weeks after we had taken care of our mom for 18 months (she lived in an Alzheimer's facility, but Nancy actually took care of her alone for 6 months) and then passed away. It was just what we needed.

I'm so glad you came to tell me that the wedding is this weekend. I will picture you in that gorgeous ensemble (yes hat, yes purple shoes) and with your coon-skinned friend, dancing. You must send me a picture of that. It's great that you don't have to fuss about the wedding and can observe, absorb and enjoy. I look forward to hearing about it and seeing photos if you wish to share.


Ruth said...

Margaret, something is amiss with my internet, and when I try to load that story, it freezes. But when you said that she murdered her mother before, it was pretty startling, especially for a children's book author. Crazy! Thank you for the link, I'll try it again in a while.

Ruth said...

Nancy, well you are so nice to come back and read. Sometimes I go on and on here to carry on the conversation, and I have no idea who will come back and read them. It is important to me to do it for myself, even if someone doesn't come back. But having you return and read and feel you've learned something is a wonderful treat. Thank you!

Ruth said...

Claudia, my dear friend, any time you tell me that you love one of my photos, I feel so good. Yours are just beyond anything.

Yes, our rauf is an open-minded chap, isn't he? He's helped me learn to be more open myself.

Oh, you subscribed! :D I wondered if anyone would do that. The link to subscribe is automatically there on the site, I didn't add it, and I wondered if anyone would, so thank you for doing it, and thank you for telling me. Your encouragement about the podcasts, my poems, and my readings means an awful lot to me. My voice has always been too breathy (I wonder if I was trying to avoid the nasal Michigan accent my brother Bennett brought to my attention when he moved home from Boston and heard as if for the first time), and this podcast project has helped me work at giving it less breath and more substance. That's one reason your observations mean so much to me. Thank you.

gemma said...

Hi Ruth, Yes I do travel alone sometimes just for fun! I often like to explore things that Lee does not.
Great adventures and courage builders
make life thrilling.

♥ Kathy said...

Oh Ruth, your pictures are just stunning! I love to travel and see new places both alone and with my husband. Having been a "biker chick" in my younger days, I can tell you that most bikers are genuinely wonderful people. You should take that ride some day...the feeling is awesome!

CottageGirl said...

I continue to be swept away by your eclectic intertwinings of words and visuals and technology... Always fresh. Always inspiring.

It's like you have many different personalities still waiting to emerge.

And I love to be able to hear your voice.

We spent a week or so exploring that area in 2005 and stayed mostly on on Mackinac Island itself. But fell in love with the UP and that bridge!

I've only spent time alone once at a weeklong conference a few years ago and ... still treasure that time. I can't imagine how rejuvenating it would be to travel all alone. Is that your secret to your many intriguing personalities?

Pat said...

This was such a lovely post! Your photos are incredible! I loved Macinaw Island. We visited there a long, long time ago with the kids. Such a beautiful place! I have never traveled by myself for pleasure - I think that I could and I think that I would like it for a short time.

Ginnie said...

When I think of all the years I lived in or visited Michigan, Ruth, it amazes me that I have not been over the bridge more than a handful of times...and never to Mackinac Island. Has Atrid really beat me to it?! It's a different world up there and one that really does beckon. I can understand why you have the hankering to go back.

Bill and I took our honeymoon into the Upper Peninsula. I wonder if you remember that? We could change into our bathing suits on the beach in broad daylight because no one was around in early September. I'll never forget it.

California Girl said...

Your photos are beautiful. I've never been anywhere in Michigan except Detroit and that was on business 20 yrs ago and I stayed in Southfield (I think) not downtown although we did visit the Ford folks in the Renaissance center. Or was it Car & Driver?

I'm sending your post & photos to one of my best friends who was born and raised in Pigeon, MI. She says if you're unfamiliar w/ Pigeon, it's next to Bay City on the lake. She was raised Mennonite but got over it.

I can see why she loved growing up there and why you love where you live.