Tuesday, September 28, 2010

3rd Annual Brockway Climb

Before the snow falls, I owe it to myself to take my annual pedal over Brockway Mountain. This year, with the strong winds we've been having, the many hours I spend at my jobs and the fact that I don't feel like I'm in over-a-mountain-riding shape made me a little leery of my third annual journey.

But yesterday was sunny and 60 degrees. The wind was pretty tame. And my will told me that I could make it up that mountain. So I went for it.

Chances are that you have been over this 726 foot beast. Chances are you've seen the world from the top. And chances are you know how steep, sustained and l-o-n-g that first corner up is. That's the one I was sure I was going to have to get off and walk up.

Instead, I did myself the favor of not looking ahead. I just stared at the ground in front of my tire and pedaled my heart out while concentrating on my breathing. It worked! I made it to the top of hill number one. Now was it four or five more to go to the top? I am positive that my will-power is first and foremost what got me to the top of Brockway Mountain.

At the top, after a four mile climb, I began my 6 mile descent. For a descent, I pedaled the whole way except at the very top, which had me clutching my brakes. At the bottom, near the Silver River, I high-fived the stop sign on M-26, turned around and began pedaling back up. This is the first year I didn't take a break there.

But I sure did at the top! My friend was working in the gift shop at the top of the Mountain, so I went in to see her. I also took a couple pictures for you.

The first is Brockway Valley. Not bad, hey? And in the second, you can see Lake Medora. The colors are pretty nice right now. I'm glad I got some proof!

And the way back "down" the East side was grueling as always. There are quite a few steep peaks to climb before the bottom. I was feeling pretty beat and was grateful for the moment I saw the first lookout -- no more pedaling up anything major.

When I got home, I almost tipped over, but I didn't care. I did it. I DID IT! I climbed over Brockway Mountain once again. I was proud of myself.

And being the first time I actually wore a watch on my wrist for this journey, I was able to calculate some figures. For the first 4 mile roller coaster climb, it took me 31 minutes to get to the top, with an average speed of 7.8 mph. The gradual 6 mile descent took me 17 minutes at 21.2 mph. And the climb up the latter took me 36 minutes at a 10 mph average. Then "down" again took me 18 minutes at 13.3 mph.

I don't know how you want to process all that data. I just think that, knowing the terrain, it's interesting to see the contrasts from one side to the other. But no matter what, I sure am glad I went because today is gray and windy... just how the Keweenaw fall should be!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Lots of Good News

Good news! If you have been helping to vote for the Copper Harbor ambulance garage -- every day -- bless your soul! Our project has been moving up 2-5 spots a day toward number 1! When I checked this morning, we were at 59. Keep up the good work! For ease, here is the link to vote.

Here is some more great news: the leaves are changing. The leaves are changing!!! The Covered Stretch of Hwy. 41 is brilliant with pink, red, purple, yellow, orange and everything in between -- even green! Aetna Ridge is gorgeous and the Brockway Valley is alight. If you're not too far away, I would suggest coming to see these spots. It may last a couple more weeks, but the firey maples are on their way to peak.

It is truly fall here, with the cool weather, partially gray days, turning leaves and quiet nights. Though I still will not have a full day off in at least three weeks, I am grateful for the calmness of the town -- at least until people come gawking at the leaves (it's okay, I invited you).

I may as well throw in another cool event. Yesterday I biked to the Touch-me-not plant I found to try my luck with the seed pods. I have read that when you touch a mature seed pod, it bursts open instantaneously, spreading its seeds. I've had my eye on this little plant for over a week, but it hasn't been ready to burst yet.

Yesterday it sure was! I petted the swollen pod and BAM! a few seeds shot out all around it! I jumped, even though I knew that was going to happen! That was awesome, so I found another pregnant one. That one took a little more coercing, but exploded right in my hand. Ah, the wonders of the world.

Okay, I'll share one more spectacular viewing. 4 days ago I heard a bald eagle chirping at this East end of the Harbor. Its voice sounded not quite mature, so I thought it could have been an immature. After I had forgotten it was calling, I went out the front door toward the dock. I must have frightened the little guy (little, HA!) because it swooped out of where ever it was perched and soared down toward me. Ah! I thought it was going to pick me up in its talons!

I was actually so scared that I don't remember what I did, but it flew up into a pine right next to my house. A first year bald eagle. Beautiful. And guess what: I even got a picture of if for you.

There it is, and there it stayed for probably an hour while I spied in wonder. But I don't want to spoil you too much, so that's enough good news for the day!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hula Hooping at 1 am

Since this is a "family" blog, I have neglected to tell you about the night life aspect of da Harbor. Promising that this post will not include any profanity or promiscuity, I shall commence.

For my first three years living in da Harbor, I bartended at Zik's Bar. The local bar. The northernmost bar in Michigan where a person can drink until 2:30 am. This is usually always the last bar to close for the night. It is the place where adults go to forget it all, and just be at Zik's.

The jukebox at Zik's gets a lot of action. I've seen people dance with their shoes off, people dance on the bar, people sing their hearts out and people ballroom dance around the pool table. Being from a town in Wisconsin that prompted me to make my own good, clean fun, I added another dimension to the music-filled night: the hula hoop.

Currently, Zik's houses seven hula hoops that come out on random nights when the music is thick. The squatters at the bar are entertained. The girls (and guys) keep busy for minutes trying to keep it up. And the local team shows everyone up. We are good hula hoopers at the end of the road, my friend. And we are proud.

I just love when people are so mesmerized that for one, we have hoops, and for two, we can twirl them around for hours (at least til we get kicked out at closing time)! To me, this is such a fun dimension to add to a little local bar. It keeps people learning and trying new things. I am proud of my contribution to this little slice of life and pleased that others join me so merrily.

The only down side is that all the hoops are bent in at least one spot. But, what can you expect from people who hula hoop at 1 am?

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


You may or may not have heard (or seen) the 60+ mph winds that whipped through the Keweenaw last weekend. Up here in da Harbor, we were out of electric power for 32 hours -- From Friday morning to Saturday afternooon. In retrospect, 32 hours doesn't really seem like a very long time to not have electricity. But to all the business owners who had their coolers and motel rooms packed to the max (on the busiest weekend of the year, mind you), I'm sure it seemed like an eternity.

I personally love when the power goes out. Granted, it has never gone out for that amount of time while I've been here. But when all the whirring of compressors and cooling elements stops, I feel more peaceful. I guess, except for the fact that some of my berries (oh, my precious berries!) started to dribble purple and pink puddles in the freezer. That was my biggest concern. What a rough life I have.

Otherwise, I didn't mind hauling in buckets of water to flush the toilet or heat on the wood stove so I could wash dishes or my pits. I even got to wash my hair in the lake with the wind whipping around me. That'll wake a person up! And luckily, our cooking stove is propane, so we could eat warm meals. But that is just my little slice of da disaster.

One of the exhilarating parts of this whole thing was the waves. Oh, those Lake Superior waves, crashing up on the shore like nothing could stop them. And nothing did. I got splashed a couple times while traversing the shore of Hunter's Point. The tide crashed all the way up to the tree line! And, the waves splashed above the tops of the trees on Porter's Island. They also drifted rocks right on M-26, the road along the lakeshore. I bet anyone watching could not help but be somewhat in awe -- even if $4,000 of food was slowly thawing in their freezer and tourists were complaining that their motel room was cold.

But we all pulled out okay. The Gas Lite general store offered flashlights while tourists shopped for "survival" supplies. Zik's Bar was filled with people who figured, "I'm just going to get wet and cold, so I may as well get drunk." And any restaurant that could stay open was just packed with the hundreds of cold and hungry people in town who could not watch TV or take a hot shower.

I often thought about what it would be like to be one of those people up here on vacation, expecting to relax, but instead having nothing they were used to. I told myself throughout the ordeal, that I was the luckiest person I knew (well, I tell myself that everyday anyway).

And on Saturday, as we looked around in the gloom which had spewed hundreds of trees in various directions, we wondered how we were supposed to have a mountain bike race the next day. But a couple crews with chainsaws and strong backs helped clear two hundred trees from the trail system -- and that was just the trails!

The Fat Tire Festival commenced, and was the best one yet. Yay! It all worked out.

I wonder how many people reconsidered the priorities in their life while the power-outage lingered. I am one who plans to be detached from such sources, and I still did some reconsidering. But I won't write any doomsday notes to you now. But I hope you learned a lesson... and we didn't even get a hurricane!

Thursday, September 2, 2010


You may or may not have wondered, with Copper Harbor being so far from "normal" civilized life, "what happens in a medical emergency?"

Good question. We have a clan of well-trained volunteer first responders who live right in the area. They are great at addressing many problems quickly.

"What about if the victim needs to go to the hospital?" That is the question that if you don't know, you probably don't want to know. But I am a blunt truth kind of girl, so here is the answer. The ambulance, which resides in Calumet, is called to get here as soon as it can.

"How many miles away is Calumet?" From where the ambulance is parked, it's 40 miles. It takes over half an hour for the ambulance to reach Copper Harbor.

How long would a half hour feel if you were the victim?

I am not knocking the system that we have here. It seems like the best we can do. But with your help, we can do better.

The Copper Harbor Improvement Association (CHIA) has applied for a grant through Pepsi for $250,000 to build an ambulance garage right here in da Harbor! It will go next to the fire department. "You mean Copper Harbor could have it's own ambulance on site?!" Yes! I'm glad you're getting so excited! Would you like to help?

If you are not familiar with the Pepsi grants, you can vote once a day -- every day until September is over (Happy September, by the way!). Simply click this link, sign in with your facebook account or make a new account and vote for the Copper Harbor ambulance garage everyday!

I voted today. Will you? I'm glad we had this discussion.