Thursday, November 24, 2022

A Merry Michigan Thanksgiving

It’s only been a couple of months since Ms. B. and I visited Michigan to see her parents and ramble about the Upper Peninsula (“Clusterfuckin’ Our Way to Michigan”), but with the holidays coming and Del & Fern no longer able to travel long distances, we decided to head northward to celebrate both Thanksgiving and an early Christmas with them. And rather than pay the exorbitant price of airline tickets for this time of year, we opted to motor up in the Ol’ Rodan mobile. We’ve made the trip in one swell foop before, but it’s at least a 12-hour drive, and we didn’t much care to do that again. So, we split up both the outbound and inbound trips by stopping overnight in Ripley, WV.

Friday, November 18–Saturday, November 19, 2022
Friday, after Kimberly got off work, we mounted up and hit the road. Once we put some distance between ourselves and NC’s Piedmont Triad, the usual highway insanity petered out, and we made it all the way to Ripley with only light traffic and nary a swear word from the driver (me). The temperature dropped steadily as we drove farther north, but we had excellent driving weather overall.

Saturday, we headed out fairly early. I snagged a token few geocaches, but we focused mainly on making steady forward progress. Just north of Toledo, OH, snow began to fall. At first, it was only scattered flurries, but as we drew nearer to Midland, the stuff began falling in earnest. The last 30 miles were slow and oftentimes slippery, but we made it to Casa di Brugger without mishap, the temperature at 22°F, the wind chill at or around –273°C. Yep.

Sunday, November 20, 2022
No more snowfall today, though several prior days of it have left a good three to four inches on the ground. This meant no going geocaching on the bicycle today — or probably this entire week. Sad. I spent most of the day working on a new editing project, the details of which will be forthcoming fairly soon. It’s safe to say it’s on the big side.

After lunch, Kimberly’s cousin, Chris, and his wife, Bonnie, whom we’d met on our trip here in September, popped by for a visit. Afterward, Ms. B. and I went downtown and hunted some serious dead critter for dinner, which we found at Molasses Smokehouse & Bar. A slab of brisket for me, some brisket tacos for the lady. They know how to smoke some critter at Molasses, and the portions are not wee. I brought some of that cow back in a box.

Afterward, we hustled a half a block through the bluster to Whichcraft Taproom, which offers exclusively Michigan-made spirits. Ms. B. had a glass of Gewürztraminer (pretty good, I’m told), and I tried a red called Left-Foot Charley Bluefrankenfish. Er... Blaufrankish. For local wines, these were satisfying. Then I found a geocache. Happy me! Finally, we made the usual pilgrimage to Meijer to acquire supplies. We had much to buy, for I am cooking the Thanksgiving dinner — distinctly non-traditional, at Del & Fern’s request: Chicken Marsala, which I’ve cooked for them before. And Kimberly is cooking braised beef sandwiches for tomorrow’s dinner.

We concluded a pleasant, mellow day with our much-cherish family time, mostly watching cooking shows. Unfortunately, both Del & Fern have developed fairly severe coughs. Lord knows whether it’s something contagious. Kinda hoping not...
It was a dry red, one-footed, flying blue frankenfish — sure looks strange to me.
Monday, November 21, 2022
Ms. B. is on her regular remote work schedule, so she got up relatively early and commenced working remotely. I had plenty of work to do on my latest editing project, so I got up relatively early and commenced working on my latest editing project. Mid-morning, Kimberly started a lovely flank steak cooking in the crockpot for our dinner of braised beef sandwiches.

It’s unusual for me to forego lunch, especially after a light breakfast; however, for whatever reason, I never got hungry midday, so I pulled myself together and went geocaching. Over our many trips here, I’ve found the majority of the existing geocaches in Midland, at least those that are fairly close to home base — especially after today. I picked up 19 (ten of which were stages of a pair of Adventure Lab caches). It wasn’t exactly warm outside, but it wasn’t bitterly cold or windy either, so the weather proved perfect for getting out and about. A few of the caches got me out in the woods, and one Adventure Lab offered a tour of Midland Municipal Cemetery, which I found especially attractive under a layer of snow.

Ms. B.’s dinner turned out excellent.
Old fellow near the toboggan run at Midland City Forest
Midland Municipal Cemetery
Frozen stream running through one of Midland's wooded neighborhoods
Tuesday, November 22, 2022
A lovely morning it turned out to be for hitting the geocaching trail: temps in the upper 30s, only a light breeze, and plenty of sunshine. After a couple of waffles and a bucket of coffee for breakfast (plus taking care of some pressing editorial business), out the door, I went. This morning’s target was the expansive Chippewa Nature Center, a short distance southwest of Midland proper, where I hoped to find an Adventure Lab cache and several traditional hides. Since I started geocaching in early 2008, I have averaged about 1,000 finds per year, and to keep up that streak, I need to reach 14,000 total finds by year’s end. For a while, achieving that goal appeared iffy, but over the past couple of months, I’ve managed to close steadily on it. With this trip, I think I’ve sewed it up. At the end of today’s outing, my total find count stood at 13,990, so all I need to find now is ten more. I may well manage that before we leave here on Friday.

I put in about three miles on the trail. Snow still coated the ground, but it didn’t impede hiking at all. Well... I did cross a fairly small, hard-frozen pond, only to have a section of ice collapse under my feet — but it was less than a foot deep, and my boots are sufficiently waterproof to keep my feet bone-dry. I consider this fortunate because, although the temperature was above freezing, soaked feet still would have made for some mighty ugly hiking. And it is well that I did not attempt to cross an expanse of clearly deeper water (which I actually thought about), for my epitaph would have read “It was a stupid way to go.”

Back at home base, Del & Fern had picked up some Chinese food for lunch, which wasn’t shabby.

Late in the afternoon, Ms. B. and I ventured downtown to run errands and engage in tomfoolery. Errands done, we sought interesting spirit concoctions, which we found at Three Bridges Distillery. I tried a smoked Rye Old Fashioned — pleasing enough, dramatically presented (see photo below) — and Ms. B. had a raspberry hibiscus lemonade vodka thingummy, which she found delightful. We did settle for only one drink each because we wanted to sample a couple of vintages at Grape Beginnings winery, just next door. Those vintages struck us as very good... very good indeed. And, as it turned out, Kimberly shared some Midland history with the owners of the establishment, and lively conversation ensued.

And, once done with our spirit outing, we returned to home base for our customary, very lovely family time. So far, neither Kimberly nor I have succumbed to the old folks’ cough bug. I hope our good fortune holds out, though I am not holding my breath...
Observation deck overlooking the Meron and Muskrat Marshes at Chippewa Nature Center
Meron Marsh — a little icy! — viewed from the tower
The "Sugar Shack"
Log cabin at the Chippewa Nature Center

An entertaining cache at one of the overlooks along the trail
The smoky vault of rye at Three Bridges Distillery in downtown Midland
Spirit Quest
Midland's Christmas decorations — up in full force
Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Again, I was out the door not long after the eyelids creaked open. A perusal of the geocaching map showed me what looked like a good route to snag the caches I needed to reach the 14,000-find milestone. I knocked out a nice, compact Adventure Lab cache in Sanford, just a few miles west of Midland, grabbed a few stand-alone caches, and then set my sights on a specific cache in Sanford, which I hoped to make my 14,000th find.

But... horrors!... I was unable to turn up the little fellow. Based on photos posted on the cache page, I’m quite certain it’s missing. Finding a good alternate hide took a couple of attempts, but... at last! Find #14,000, thus assuring my annual find average. At the end of the day, I had put in four miles of hiking.

Back at the barn, Del & Fern needed their gutters cleaned, so I offered my services. Their house is larger than ours, but it’s single-story, so it wasn’t a difficult job (plus they don’t have as many trees in close proximity to dump leaves directly on the house).

Afterward, Ms. B. and I made ourselves reasonably presentable and went downtown to Maru Sushi & Grill, which we’ve enjoyed on previous visits. I had the bulgogi donburi bowl, which was right good, but I was disappointed to find that their menu, particularly for sushi, has dwindled to bare bones. I suspect that supply issues and inflation have forced their hand here, but it seems a shame that this more upscale restaurant offers such a limited selection compared to their local, lower-priced competitors. Afterward, we headed over to the bar at nearby Gratzi Italian Restaurant and had a glass of wine each (a fantastic San Polo Tuscan for me, a Valpolicella Ripasso for the nice lady).

Still, Ms. B. and I are enjoying good health, though Del & Fern’s chronic coughing makes them sound like dueling Gaboras from Godzilla’s Revenge. Crossing fingers...
A recreated "village" at Sanford's Historical Museum
Old railroad cars in the village at the Sanford Historical Museum
Covered bridge at the museum. The horizontal sign to the right of the entrance marks the water level from the 2020 flooding following the collapse of two Tittabawassee River dams. Ms. B. and I were here at the time of the collapse.
Thursday, November 24, 2022
Old dude on the trail in Stratford Woods

As I mentioned above, geocaching in Midland is becoming more challenging simply because I’ve found almost all the caches in close proximity to Casa di Brugger. However, a few newer nearby hides still showed on my map, so this morning I went out to see if I could knock them off of it. One offered me a very nice walk through Stratford Woods, just a couple of miles down the road. I’ve cached there many times over the years, and today I found that, since my last trip there, at least some of the trails have been upgraded and there’s a new parking area at the trailhead. All good stuff. It was a pleasant hike, and the cache was a quick and easy find.

A couple of other caches lurked nearby, both a little more challenging, which I quite appreciated. My car might have been less happy about this, as it returned to home base considerably muddier than when it left.

As I mentioned somewhere in narrative above, Del & Fern had asked me to prepare something non-traditional for Thanksgiving, so I decided on Chicken Marsala over pasta. Once back from geocaching, I set right to work. Ms. B. served as sous-chef, and, between us, we whipped out one helluva good feast. We figure we’ll have turkey at Christmas, since we both quite enjoy our dead big bird.

After dinner, we exchanged early Christmas presents. Very generous goodies from the folks, and I hope they enjoy their offerings from us.

It’s our last full day for this Midland sojoun, and the plan as of now is to chill here with the family. I’m actually a little sore from several days of consistently rigorous exercise (I surely did need it). So far... both Kimberly and I show no sign of having caught the elder Bruggers’ bugs. They tested negative for the covidz, but I foresee doctor visits in the near future.

Anyhoo, I hope all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving enjoy the most wonderful feasting, fellowshipping, and funking out, in whatever way makes you happy.
View from the trail at Stratford Woods Park
Do you see the cache?
On the way to "I'm Not THAT Sadistic" (GC5T42F)
In the works: our non-traditional Thanksgiving feast
Chicken Marsala, plated and ready for the ravenous

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