Thursday, September 29, 2022

NEW! Death’s Garden Revisited

Death’s Garden Revisited, edited by Loren Rhoads and featuring my essay, “The Treasure Hunter,” is now available.

Death’s Garden Revisited collects 40 powerful personal essays, accompanied by full-color photographs, to illuminate the reasons people visit cemeteries. Spanning the globe from Iceland to Argentina and from Portland to Prague, Death’s Garden Revisited explores the complex web of relationships between the living and those who have passed before.

“Genealogists and geocachers, travelers and tour guides, anthropologists, historians, pagan priestesses, and ghost hunters all venture into cemeteries in these essays. Along the way, they discover that cemeteries don’t only provide a rewarding end to a pilgrimage, they can be the perfect location for a first date or a wedding, the highlight of a family vacation, a cure for depression, and the best possible place to grasp history. Not to mention that cemetery-grown fruit is the sweetest.”

In addition to “The Treasure Hunter,” you’ll find fascinating, insightful essays by authors such as Priscilla Bettis, Rain Graves, Robert Holt, Erika Mailman, Trish WilsonAngela Yuriko-Smith, and many others. Full-color photographs accompany each article. Available in softcover and hardcover.

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

NEW! Rising Sun Reruns From Becky Books

Looky, looky! On the heels of his phenomenal Dark Shadows retrospective, Running Home to Shadows, editor Jim Beard and publisher Becky Books are back with Rising Sun Reruns, a new volume dedicated to those Japanese television imports from the mid-to-late Twentieth Century that glued so many of us to our small screens.

“From the 1960s to the 1990s children in the West were gifted with a bounty of amazing TV shows to watch and enjoy—but it wasn’t nearly enough to satisfy their voracious appetites for adventure! It took an intriguing immigration of imported shows from the East to fill their afternoons with all the fun and fantasy they craved!

“Grab a TV tray and hunker down in the family den with a group of grown-up kids as they reminisce about their favorite exotic Japanese TV shows of yore! In these pages, you will find glowing memories of flights of fancy such as Ultraman, Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot, Astro Boy, Battle of the Planets, Space Giants, Speed Racer, Robotech, and many, many more—including a few you may never even heard of!

“Writer-editor Jim Beard adds to his Memories from Today's Grown-Up Kids series of pop culture nostalgia books with Rising Sun Reruns, a tantalizing trip into the past when discovering a strange show from Japan alongside your other favorite series was not a weird thing at all… it was downright wonderful!”

My essay, “Bacon, Eggs, Toast, & Ultraman,” showcases — you guessed it! — the original Ultraman TV series. Actor David J. Fielding, from the Power Rangers series, provides the foreword. Cover art is by Adam Benet Shaw. Available in paperback and ebook.

Monday, September 26, 2022

Tales My Grandmother Told Me by Heather Miller

Chills That Span Generations
In Tales My Grandmother Told Me, author Heather Miller presents thirteen tales whose roots stem from one of her most valued family traditions — storytelling. As this volume’s title suggests, most of these stories are variations of tales told by Ms. Miller’s grandmother. Some of the terrors found within are supernatural in origin, while others are purely human-bred evil. As the author states in her introduction, the predominant tone is reminiscent of campfire tales — a combination of fun and fright. It’s for this reason, I believe, that many of these stories resonate strongly with me.

The book opens with “Vice,” a story in which death comes for its victims based on their personal vices — in this case, smoking. As with most of these tales, its ending is essentially inevitable, yet the narrator’s engaging style and vivid imagery overcome its predictability. Thus, the book takes off on a high note. Several more stories follow a similar path. Although it’s certainly unintentional, “Burglar Man” takes a cue from Manly Wade Wellman’s The Desrick on Yandro,” in that greed motivates the antagonist, and, in the end, his reward could hardly be more fitting. “Cries from the Attic” is a genuine ghost story, compelling due to its creepy atmosphere. Conversely, “Up All Night” may be the tale most deeply rooted in “real-life” terror. Again, no great surprises here, but plenty of tension due to the emotional urgency Miller evokes.

I would have to call “Fiery Eyes and Bloody Bones” my favorite piece in the book. Although tales of vile cretins receiving their just deserts tend to become tiresome, once in a while, they turn out to be just the ticket. Such is the case here. It’s lengthier than most in the collection, and the characters — even young Zeke, the troublemaker in the cast — are perhaps the best drawn. “Fiery Eyes” makes for a perfect Halloween yarn, with vivid seasonal atmosphere and that gripping sense of impending doom (a dramatic aspect at which Miller again proves herself adept). As the unlikeable Zeke continually misbehaves, lies, and sets himself up for his inevitable fall, a terrifying something takes notice of him. This is just the kind of tale that scared the crap out of me at summer camp when I was a kid, when our counselors told us scary tales around the campfire at night. As the story creeps toward its conclusion — a literal countdown to doom — it’s hard not to feel sorry even for Zeke the reprobate.

Yes indeed, the best tale in the book.

The Cold Man” also offers rich Halloween atmosphere, with a menace not too far removed from Freddy Krueger. “Beneath the Bed” shares a few “real-life” elements with “Burglar Man,” but with a bit more creepy color. And in “The Creature That Drains the Blood From the Sheep,” Miller explores the effects of fear — on individuals as well as a community — by way of a hideous critter. It’s another fairly lengthy tale, set in New Mexico. It takes its time getting to its fearsome crux; maybe a little too much time. Still, as the climax draws near, it manages to pack a fair wallop.

In “Two Heads Are Better Than One,” we have what might — or might not — be a bloody chronicle of a psychotic break. The story’s apt, nightmarish coda elevates this one beyond the inevitability of its climax.

Another favorite in the book, “Safe House” tells the story of the main character inheriting her grandparents’ house — as well as a frightening entity within. Miller gives her protagonist a strong emotional tie to the place (an aspect with which I readily identify) as well as a vague fear of it. Dread of darkness and that which lurks within plays a large part in the tale’s unfolding.

The last story in the volume, “Crybaby Bridge,” engagingly told in the first person, might be considered autobiographical, as Miller bases it on her personal history. At the story’s heart, we find a common trope, but the author’s compelling voice provides a sense of immediacy and authenticity. Again, the Halloween atmosphere permeates the tale — and rightly, as Halloween plays a crucial narrative role. At the end of the story, after a fashion, Miller reveals the origin of her proclivity for writing.

With Tales My Grandmother Told Me, author Miller bundles numerous previously told tales and makes them her own. While not all of them work on every level, certain stories hit on all cylinders — sometimes hard enough to blow the engine. With her appealing authorial voice, Ms. Miller, like the raconteur at a campfire gathering, offers the reader a passel of fearsome fun.

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Mavahi Class of 1977 45th Reunion — Plus Bonus!

"Mavahi" is the official short form of Martinsville, Virginia, High School, my alma mater. Last night was our 45th (WHAT?) reunion, so Brugger and I oiled up the old bones and creaked our way to it. After our big trip to Michigan, we had one only night at home before heading out for another overnighter, but at least Martinsville is only an hour's drive from Greensboro. The reunion was held at TAD Space, a relatively new business and event facility in Uptown Martinsville. Since COVID-19 had squashed the 1975 and 1976 class reunions, we had a triple-header, with all three classes coming together to celebrate being kinda fuckin' old. With all the celebrating, hugging, and hollering, I shouldn't be surprised if the covidz or other germy nasties got loose in there, but Ms. B. and I are as shot up with anti-covid juice as we can be. I hope that malady will be a non-event, not just for us, but for all who attended, since I know a few there who suffer from chronic health issues.
Dr. Stan

I haven't missed any of the previous reunions, and although I've remained close friends with only a handful of my old classmates, it's always a joy to see the entire lot on these occasions. Gathering with old friends from the classes of '75 and '76 was an added bonus this year, particularly since I haven't seen some of them since high school. The only sadness that comes from these class events is that, at each, the crowd is smaller than at the last. Our class in particular has lost what seems to be a disproportionately large number of alumni. One of our classmates passed away just days before the event. To start off the reunion, friend and fellow author, Dr. Stan Gravely, offered a moving tribute to our friends who have gone before us.

Brenda's Catering provided us with a decent dinner, and the cash bar did a brisk business (I have it on good authority that Brugger made this gig worth their while). Our DJs kept up a stream of 1970s tunes at just the right volume — loud enough to enjoy without overwhelming conversation. (That said, the acoustics in TAD Space aren't necessarily the best for clear communication.) The gangs from the various classes that pulled this event together did a commendable job.

I must give a special shout-out to old friends Bob & Yvonne Moore, with whom Brugger and I have connected on several occasions. Although we as couples keep promising each other we'll get together again, life's twists and turns have continually pulled us in other directions. This time, though... definitely. The commitment has been made.

The next reunion for my class... mein gott... will be at 50 years. I hope to make that one. I plan to make that one. How lovely it would be if everyone who attended the 45th (as well as those who couldn't get to this one for their own reasons) will be there for that half-century celebration of friendship, achievement, and life in general.

Peace out.
Old dude and pretty young lady.
Classmates Ellen, Rick, Sally, Mary, Margaret, and Rich.
Friends Yvonne & Bob
Let this train keep on riding on through.
Nothing to see here.
Mavahi Class of 1977

Thursday, September 22, 2022

Clusterfuckin’ Our Way to Michigan, Part 1

Here you see a somewhat frazzled damned old dude with a Damned Bloody Mary, the traditional anti-frazzling airport beverage. Autumn is traditionally the time that Brugger and I take a trip somewhere. Last year, we made it to France and Italy. This year, we opted for a slightly less ambitious venture: a few days in Michigan visiting her parents and then a few more in the Upper Peninsula at a secluded cabin along Portage Lake, where we might catch a view of the Northern Lights. For this trip, our frequent traveling companions, Terry and Beth, planned to join us after an extended outing of their own in New York.

Now, just prior to all this, both Kimberly and I had each been dealing with some severe health stressors. Without going into detail, we both had cancer scares. After several tests each, both of us — much to our relief — received clean bills of health, at least on the cancer front. So, we made our travel arrangements, and everything seemed good to go.

As a tangentially related aside, for several months now, Ms. B. and I had planned to attend the Dark Shadows Halloween gathering at Seaview Terrace (Collinwood in the TV series) in late October. However, a while back, the gathering was canceled due to scheduling conflicts with HBO, which has been planning to film a series on the estate. Then, a few days ago, those plans flip-flopped, and the Halloween event was back on. Things looked fairly good for Ms. B. and me to attend as originally planned.

A couple of weeks ago. Terry and Beth had set out on their adventure with plans to meet us in Michigan once we arrived. Things started out on the right foot, but then Terry got hit with gout, which damn near crippled him for a few days. Just as that ugly situation began to improve... enter COVID-19. Terry and Beth both got sick midway through their trip and, with a bleak outlook for the duration, they opted to turn around and head home. Naturally, we were sad about this, but for their part, it seemed the only prudent course of action. Brugger and I opted to stay the course with our Michigan plans. For us, this meant we would need to rent a car rather than rely on Terry and Beth for our transportation.

Okay, for the moment, everything looked as good to go as it was going to get. Then, the day before our flight out from NC, Kimberly's dad, Mr. B. (a.k.a. Delmar), sent us a text saying he was down with strep throat. It was really too late at this point for us to throw in the towel and reschedule everything, so — in the interests of avoiding strep if at all possible — we booked a hotel in Midland rather than stay at their place. By now, though, our unexpected expenses had piled up to the point that the Dark Shadows Halloween event had to go back off the table. Bloody fook.

Still, the absence of cancer for either of us has cast a nice shiny light on these other most admittedly first-world problems.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022
By way of United Airlines — so, so, SO much better than American Airlines, based on our relatively recent travels to Necon — late in the afternoon, Ms. B. and I departed Greensboro, bound for Saginaw with a connection in Chicago — but with only about a half-hour between flights. Happily, not only did we not have to run through O'Hare for our connecting flight, the gate assignments were changed at the last minute so that our arriving and departing flights were literally next door to each other. Both went off without any undue complications.

At the Saginaw airport, which is only about twenty minutes from Midland, we met Kim's parents, fully masked up, who'd come to meet us. We headed back to their place and spent a little time with them, as socially distanced as practicality allowed. Fortunately, Del was well into his regimen of antibiotics, so it seemed unlikely he would be contagious. Fern was the wildcard here because, all during Del's illness, she hadn't shown any symptoms, even though strep throat is quite contagious. As best we could, we all treated each other as if they were the Plague Incarnate. Del and Fern were kind enough to lend us their vehicle until we could pick up our rental car on Friday. After a brief spell together, we said our goodbyes, and Ms. B. and I settled ourselves into our hotel.

Thursday, September 15, 2022
The Bradley Mansion at the Herbert H. Doan Midland Historical Center
A massive hornet's nest on the window
of the Bradley mansion.

Ms. B. and I started the day on a somewhat later-than-usual note since we had been up until the wee hours the night before. Our first order of business was to grab coffee and a light breakfast at Live Oak Coffeehouse, which has been among our regular destinations on trips here over the years. From there, we headed after a few geocaches at the nearby Herbert D. Doan Midland History Center. Mission accomplished, we headed to Casa di Brugger and spent a fair portion of the afternoon hanging out on the back porch, where we figured germs would be least likely to get the upper hand on us. Even after all this time, Fern remained symptom-free, and Del appeared up to his usual snuff, as he went out to mow the lawn on his big ol' riding mower.

During the afternoon, we entertained ourselves hand-feeding peanuts to a remarkably domesticated, exceedingly tubby squirrel the Bruggers had named Stubby (due to his unnaturally abbreviated tail). Stubby is exceptionally polite, and he enjoyed the treats we offered him. I don't imagine he will have any issues weathering the winter months, given the excessive bulk he gained just today, thanks to the generosity (read gullibility) of several humans smitten by cuteness.

For dinner, Ms. B. and I went to Villa D'Alessandro, a nearby Italian restaurant we had enjoyed a few years back. It was a lovely evening, so we sat out on their Italian-style terrace. For dinner, we ordered a bottle of Campofiorin Masi, a dry red from Veneto; Ravioli Formaggio for the nice lady; and Lamb Osso Bucco per me. All quite delicious. For an after-dinner diversion, we drove to downtown Midland, which turned out to be hopping: live music, food trucks, and all the shops and restaurants doing a booming business. We decided to visit Grape Beginnings Winery, since we had been there once before, a few years ago. At that time, the wine was so-so, but I'd say they've really come up in the world. Brugger's Merlot and my Italian-style red blend both proved excellent.

Then it was back to our hotel, where we mellowed out for the rest of the evening. So far, we're all physically well. May we remain so.
Ms. B. giving a handout to Mr. Stubby
Pardon me, might I trouble you for a peanut?
Smilin' happy again at Grape Beginnings Winery
Friday, September 16, 2022
Both Del and Fern appeared to be doing fine — no bugginess in their house whatsoever — so we departed our hotel and set ourselves up in our traditional places at Casa di Brugger. It's tradition on our visits for me to provide at least one dinner for the folks, and since Del and Fern prefer their larger meal midday and nibbles in the evening, I decided to make larb gai (Thai chicken) for today's feast. This required a jaunt to Meijer for supplies. Much to my dismay, Meijer doesn't carry ground chicken. What kind of bourgeois bullshit is this?! Anyway, Brugger and I debated whether to chop up chicken breasts or substitute ground turkey, which Meijer carries in prodigious quantity, for the requisite protein. For kicks, we settled on ground turkey. Once back at the house, I set to work in the kitchen, and... well... the turkey turned out excellent. Frankly, yes, I would have preferred chicken, but this version more than satisfied the lot of us. (You may find my larb gai recipe here.)
Somewhat non-traditional larb gai. Damn good stuff! 
Since we are leaving for the UP tomorrow morning, Fern, Ms. B., and I drove down to MBS Airport to pick up our rental car. Once I had it squared away, we split up; Kimberly and Fern went to do some shopping at nearby Warmbier Farms, and I headed after a bunch of geocaches in Auburn, a little community a few miles east of Midland. After finding a few, it appeared that some kind of massive to-do in Auburn was shaping up, as thousands of folks began lining the streets. So rather than get stuck in masses of humanity with no escape, I beat a hasty retreat and returned to Casa di Brugger for one of our typical mellow family nights in the basement.

Tomorrow, it's off to the UP.

More to come....

Clusterfuckin’ Our Way to Michigan, Part 2

Saturday, September 17, 2022
Ms. B. and I loaded up our rental Toyota SUV and hit the road early — after a quick breakfast stop at McDonald's. Nonstop and direct, it's about a five-hour drive to drive to Munising, which was our first overnight destination in the Upper Peninsula. We had enjoyed our stay at the Terrace Motel there on our first UP visit ("Midland & More in Da Moonlight, Sunday," October 5, 2014), so we decided to stay there again. It's convenient, kind of rustic, and only a little smelly. A dearth of roaches is also a distinct plus.

On our way UPward, we stopped for several caches, a picnic lunch at a wayside overlooking Lake Superior, just on the north side of the Mackinac Bridge (a cache placed at the site of a reported Bigfoot sighting, which made me smile), and a visit to Kitch-iti-kipi on Indian Lake. Kitch-iti-kipi (in Ojibwe, "the Big Spring," "The Big Cold Spring," or "the Mirror of Heaven," depending on the translation source) is a spring that is so cold that the water is clear as glass to its bottom (45 feet) and fallen trees are perfectly preserved. There's a glass-bottomed raft on a cable that allows you to float out on the water and view the breathtaking scenery down in the depths. Happily, there's a geocache on the raft, as well as a virtual cache and an EarthCache.
Some of the fallen trees that are actually deep underwater in Kitch-iti-kipi, seen from the raft
View of the spring through the glass bottom of the raft
The raft on its way across the spring pool
After enjoying the sights — and caches — at Kitch-iti-kipi, we took off for Munising via a few back roads, one of which turned out to be a very long, very deserted dirt track through what I believe is the deepest, darkest forest I've ever entered. It was truly gorgeous and a little eerie. This is bear, moose, and Sasquatch country, and I did really, really hope our rental car would behave itself over that stretch of 25 miles or so. It did. Good car! We did have the pleasure of passing through the one marked town on the map — Steuben — which turned out to be two houses and a streetlight.

Eventually, we landed in Munising. After checking in at the Terrace, we turned around and went out to dinner at The Duck Pond Eatery & Beer Garden over in Christmas, a tiny village just west of Munising. I went for the "fresh-caught daily" whitefish and a couple of Michigan craft beers; Ms. B. had a whitefish taco. All quite delicious.

After dinner, a little daylight remained and there were a couple of caches just down the road, so we headed out after them. One ended up being at the old Grand Island Harbor Lighthouse, which is tucked away in the woods not far from the main road. An ingenious cache lurked here. There was another one a short distance away near the beach along Lake Superior. It turned out to be hidden in a veritable cavern beneath the roots of a gigantic fallen tree. The search took some serious time, as the posted coordinates were off by a looooong way. Still, it was a gorgeous evening, the settings were lovely, and we had a wonderful time of it.

We headed back to the Terrace, drank a little wine, and eventually retired for the evening.

A lovely first day in the very lovely UP.
Do you suppose there might be a geocache in there?
Sure is dark in here!
Evening view of Lake Superior from "A Walk on the Beach" (GC1HK7Z)
Sunday, September 18, 2022
Today's plan was to head up from Munising up to the Keweenaw Peninsula, to a B&B we'd rented on the shores of Portage Lake. It's a pretty long drive, especially given that, in many places here, one Upper Peninsula mile is the equivalent of about five nautical miles, and with many roads being two lanes with only occasional passing zones, getting behind a slow-driving peasant can really rack up the time behind the wheel. So we started out early, with breakfast at Falling Rock Cafe & Bookstore, which we'd found delightful on our trip here in 2014. It was again delightful, though not quite as quirky and off-the-wall as we'd found it back in the day. Still... we'd go again.

Once on the road, we passed through Marquette, which we'd visited last time, and now set a course for nearby Dead River Falls. The drive to the falls took us down a long and winding backroad through dense forest land, where we came upon an old, rickety bridge that had once served as the main road. Here there was a cache — a cool one called "Brain Box"  (GC5FEJX), which I stopped to find. The falls lay very nearby, and there was another cache there to be found — "Boris" (GC66VTC) — which was even cooler, especially since I'd given up looking for it and Kimberly ended up finding it far from where it was supposed to reside. Kind of a scary fellow, this Boris.

The falls themselves were scenic, if not quite as spectacular as many of the waterfalls we visited on our last trip. The hike to them, though, was memorable for its rugged character and many sheer dropoffs, which required extreme caution to navigate. We survived it all; even Kimberly failed to bounce on her butt, as she has been known to do on occasion in rugged terrain.

Most of the rest of the day we spent on the road. We stopped for lunch at a place called Skipper's in L'Anse, for groceries in Houghton — at the Walmartz (eek!) — and snagged another couple of caches. We planned to make chili for dinner this evening, and we thought we'd done so well by not forgetting anything at the store. We did have everything — except the ground beef, which Ms. B. remembered when we were about five minutes from our place. Around we turned and drove twenty minutes back to the village of Lake Linden, which was the closest outpost of civilization to us. Mission accomplished, we hit the road again, took up residence in the very nice B&B, cooked chili, drank wine, and watched Hocus Pocus as a prelude to the Halloween season.

Despite the occasional pokey peasant on the roadways, I found nothing displeasing about this day. Over and out, for now.
Old abandoned bridge on the way to Dead River Falls
Along the treacherous trail on the way to the falls
Standing on the precipice
Dead River Falls
The provisional Casa di Rodan along the shores of Portage Lake on Michigan's Keweenaw Peninsula
Monday, September 19, 2022

Today was a day of waterfalls, trails, and very high precipices. After a light breakfast, Ms. B. and I headed out to find a couple of noteworthy waterfalls in the area: Douglass Houghton Falls and Hungarian Falls, both a relatively short drive from our lodgings (only about twenty UP miles, which translates to about 100 nautical miles or perhaps 66 country miles). Houghton Falls was our first destination. To my surprise, when I looked at the geocaching map, I learned there was a brand new cache near the falls, as yet unclaimed. How cool is that! At the trailhead, we hiked out about half a mile, where we had to cross the creek above the waterfall — which, at 110 feet, is the highest in Michigan. Fortunately, we didn't fall in or get washed over the falls. However, once we reached the far side... holy cowz... what a view! The trail took us along a dizzying cliff, sometimes so close to a sheer drop-off of at least 150 feet or so that I was actually a little nervous — largely for Brugger's sake because, in the past, she has managed to sit down real hard in rugged terrain. Sitting down real hard here might just be the end of you.

Douglass Houghton Falls is actually located on private land, and due to people plummeting, the falls were closed to the public for a time. However, some while back, they reopened, and now that I've seen them, I'm mighty glad they did. It's all too easy to understand how someone might plummet from the summit, though.

Fortunately, not only did we avoid any hard sit-downs (or plummeting), we managed to get some of the most spectacular waterfall views I have ever seen. And, to boot, I got a first-to-find on that new cache out there. What a morning!
Ms. B. on the edge
View of Douglass Houghton Falls from the high precipice
After Houghton Falls, we made the relatively short jaunt into the village of Lake Linden, where, after some trial and error, we found a usable trailhead into Hungarian Falls, which isn't anywhere near as large as Douglass Houghton, but the falls are incredibly scenic and the trail leading to them runs along the top of a dizzying ridge through the forest. There was another cache here to grab... so I grabbed it.
Old dude standing on another precipice, this one overlooking Hungarian Falls
Ms. B. pauses on the "bridge" across the stream to get a photo of Hungarian Falls
A Brugger's-eye view of the waterfall
Old dude taking a breather in a handy little alcove above the falls
By now, Brugger and I were starving, so we drove down to the town of Houghton, which we'd passed through on our way to our lodgings. We found a lovely little spot called Chicago Beefs, where they specialize in Chicago-style Italian beef sandwiches. During my time in Chicago, those decades back, Italian beef sandwiches rated among my favorite things on Earth. Make no mistake, Chicago Beefs' are definitely good, but they lacked just a little of the zing of Chicago's best.
Smoke on the water...

From there, we wandered around town, stopped at a few shops that Brugger wanted to check out, and grabbed a handful of caches. We found a nice little restaurant/bar called The Library, where you can eat, drink, and read in a comfy, book-themed environment. Ms. B. had a Chardonnay, and I enjoyed an exceptionally good dirty martini. This hit the spot for some mid-afternoon spirits. Before heading back to our place, we stopped at Roy's Pasties & Bakery, where we snagged a couple of pasties to take home for dinner. When you're in the UP, you eat pasties. No exceptions. These were delicious.

After dinner, just as the sun was setting, we went out by the lake front to our little firepit and built a roaring fire, which we sat around for maybe an hour and a half, with a bottle of wine to keep us company (it departed partway through the fire, which we found rather rude). But what a lovely evening to be outside! Eventually, we wandered back in and watched Primal Rage, a killer Bigfoot movie that both Brugger and I find immensely entertaining.

Tomorrow, we plan to meet one of Kim's cousins for breakfast and then... another expedition into new territory, at least for us, in the UP. Till then.
A "Yooperlite™": the minerals in the rock glow under the beam of a UV flashlight. Ms B. picked up
a couple at a rock shop we visited.
They also had dinosaurs.
Darkness falls over Portage Lake
More to come....

Clusterfuckin’ Our Way to Michigan, Part 3

Very old graves at Pine Grove Cemetery in Eagle Harbor, MI
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Annual snow gauge along Route 41
in the Keweenaw

Here's how differently driving works in Michigan's Upper Peninsula than in other places around the globe. From your starting point, your destination is 12 miles away. So you get on a long, relatively straight stretch of road and drive at a steady 65 to 70 mph for ten minutes. At this point, having kept a constant speed, you check to see how far your destination is. It's 10 miles away. That's just how it works.

Today, we drove about 20 Upper Peninsula miles to Calumet, a little town on US 41, to meet Ms. B.'s cousin, Chris, and his wife, Bonnie, for coffee at a little shop called Keweenaw Coffee Works. We had good coffee, pleasant conversation, and, for me, a fair blackberry scone. After we parted ways, Ms. B. and I hit the road eastward, bound ultimately for Copper Harbor, a wee little burg pretty far east. We figured that, along the way, we'd find waterfalls, pleasant scenery, and possibly some spirits.

We did stop for geocaches at a number of excellent locations, such as Jacob's Falls, Eagle Harbor Lighthouse (where we enjoyed a picnic lunch) Manganese Falls, Evergreen CemeteryPine Grove Cemetery, and Brockway Mountain, among othersMs. B. found a neat little rock & gem store. One of our favorite stops was very close to Jacob's Falls — Jampot Bakery, Jams, & Jellies, which is a lovely little shop run by monks of the Society of St. John. Just about everything they produce is made with heavy-duty spirits. We picked up an "Abbey Cake," which is kind of like a fruitcake, made with walnuts, dates, and molasses, generously laced with bourbon. It was one of the most delicious thingummies I've ever tried, and after having some at lunch, I had to wait a few minutes to drive.

There's not much to be found in Copper Harbor; it's about the size of a thumbtack. But after the bourbon in the Abbey Cake wore off, we figured a dose of extra spirit couldn't hurt. We found some at Lake Effect Bar & Grill — a fair Chardonnay for Brugger and a decent gin & tonic per me. Most interestingly, a couple we had encountered and chatted with at Hungarian Falls yesterday happened into Lake Effect while we were sitting at the bar. I mean, a day later and 50-plus miles away, we have another random meeting. I mean, what are the chances? Again, we chatted a bit, largely about geocaching and hiking. I wonder if we'll run into them back in NC?

Eventually, we made it back to our lodgings along Portage Lake. We had leftover goodies for supper, watched the sunset over the lake from the deck, and — since we were in a Bigfoot state of mind — watched Abominable (2006), which I had apparently watched some time ago, but I had forgotten. It's pretty awful, yet incredibly fun, with Jeffrey Combs, Lance Henrickson, Matt McCoy, Phil Morris, and Dee Wallace Stone, among others.

Tomorrow, we leave the Keweenaw Peninsula behind and head back to Kimberly's folks' place in Midland before for a couple of days before returning to NC. And I think it's gonna be a long, long drive.
Brugger playing around at Jacob's Falls
Eagle Harbor Lighthouse
Manganese Falls
Abbey Cake from Jampot Bakery. Loaded with bourbon!
Another lovely evening on the lake
Wednesday, September 21, 2022
Some future guest at our VRBO lodging
may end up having a devil of a time.

To me, the UP is a place of unparalleled natural beauty, interesting people, and, for Kimberly and me, what I'd call romantic charm. On our two trips here together, we've shared some of the best settings, best experiences, and best personal bonding of our lives. We've spent time in a few pockets of population — Marquette, Houghton, and, to a lesser extent, Munising (though none of these would qualify as more than a small town in our region of North Carolina). However, what we truly love is the generally sparse population, and, in many places, outright isolation. In the latter, we find both a sense of closeness with nature as well as an eerieness; the idea that, with just a little nudge, events could slip into the realm of a classic horror movie.

Today, we rose early, since getting back to Kimberly's folks' place in Midland would be a long, 500-mile drive. (Remember, UP miles are far longer than even the dreaded country mile). To complicate matters, we ran into long corridors of road construction, one of which stopped us dead for at least 15 minutes. We stopped for a scant few caches. But our stop at Canyon Falls, near Alberta, MI, ended up being one of our favorite stops of the entire trip. Just off US 41, the trail leads you along the Sturgeon River, past several stretches of rapids, a few small falls, and incredible rock formations. The falls, which aren't huge but very powerful, pour into a spectacular canyon of stone.

There was a single cache near the falls, which I found — shortly after a couple of other cachers, whom I think I saw leaving as I was on my way toward ground zero. Pity our paths didn't actually cross.

After Canyon Falls, our route took us back through Munising, so we stopped for lunch at Eh, Burger. The name caught our interest when we stayed in town the other day because it's just so beautifully Yooper. In the same vein, their burgers come with "Holy Wah!" sauce — again, a classic Yooperism. To our delight, the Eh, Burgers rocked. Fiercely. As did the fries. Good, good stuff.

We spent a total of ten hours on the road, sometimes moving (fast!), sometimes stopped for construction (uggh), sometimes checking out the sights along the way. Fairly exhausting, to be sure, but what a fantastic outing in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. With all the obstacles that kept presenting themselves prior to the trip, we weren't sure we were going to make it — or, if we did, make it in good health. To this point, the Fates have smiled on us.

Ms. B. on the rocks at Canyon Falls
Down in the canyon
Wicked cedar along the trail
Eh, Burger!
Even the raptor critters like Eh, Burgers!
More to come!