[posted to the Wheeled Migration Yahoo Group on September 7, 2004]
Hi, folks. As I write this it's the evening of Labor Day, and I'm at a beautiful campground near a swimming beach at an old limestone quarry south of Bowling Green, Ohio, but I'll probably send the message tomorrow from the vicinity of Findlay. My sister and I had a great time in Ann Arbor, catching up, seeing sights, and visiting friends. On Friday we walked rather too much around downtown -- Ann Arbor's downtown covers about as much area as Minneapolis's -- and then had dinner at Hei Wa House.
Hei Wa House is a co-op that's been around for almost 20 years in several different locations. The founder now owns the current house but plans to sell it to the co-op organization when his family moves next door in a year. They're listed in the Ecovillage Directory because of their solar water preheater, nascent car-sharing arrangement, and a general ecological focus. There are currently 6 adults and 2 kids living in the house, and they share all household expenses, plus dinner every night (in contrast to Dreamtime Village, where shared meals are rare and most food is labeled with someone's name). They have a very generous guest policy, for those who don't have friends in town or pregnant sisters to think of.
On Saturday morning we visited a new branch library that's been designed with passive solar heating and cooling, plus an elaborate rainwater runoff system. I wasn't able to get a good angle for a photo, alas. We spent most of Saturday afternoon and evening with family friends, who took us to see Sunward Cohousing, the first of three cohousing developments on one large plot of land. The residents have done a lot to make their places more eco-friendly than typical condos, but the development's location on the edge of town means that it's surrounded by a moat of parking spaces and a wall of garages. 'Becca and I got some good photos on her camera, which I hope to be able to share with you later.
On Sunday morning I bid 'Becca farewell and went to church on my way out of town. Again: liberal people plus remote location equals no bicycles. I got a lot of dirty looks and sideways comments for "blocking the sidewalk" when I parked my bike and trailer at the church's only rack! But a lot of the same people stopped to ask questions about my trip on their way out.
Ann Arbor had felt too large, too busy, and too car-centric for my taste, so hitting the open road Sunday afternoon felt fantastic. I cruised to within a few miles of the Ohio border but the only campsite available (due to the Labor Day weekend) was $27 a night! For a "primitive" site with no hookups! I kept riding. When the sun was about an hour from setting, I stopped at a friendly-looking house and asked the elderly residents if they knew anywhere I could camp "without bothering anyone." At first they said no, but as I was leaving they offered me a back corner of their yard. No bathroom, little privacy, but you can't beat the price! I woke rested and ready to hit the road at 12:30 AM -- I'd mistaken the glow from my hosts' security light for dawn. When dawn finally did arrive, I headed to Ohio in search of a restroom!
Toledo's suburban sprawl reaches right up to the edge of Michigan cropland, making the border very visible. I had a hard time of it today (Monday) because of a strong headwind, plus sore muscles and a slight sunburn from yesterday. I found a nice park to rest in during the heat of the day, and I did my laundry from yesterday at the water fountain's side spigot. Beautiful dry air made short work of the drying.
Bowling Green reminds me a lot of Grinnell, Iowa, only about 3x bigger. Lots of college students, a healthy downtown, and a few big box stores creeping south to a major highway. There's even a Pagliai's Pizza and an Environmental Action Group. Everything was open on Labor Day, unlike in the smaller towns I'd passed through.
So about this quarry... from Bowling Green I tried to call ahead to the campground shown on my map, but it seems no longer to exist. The only campground that looked promising was the "Portage Quarry Recreation Club," and when I called them they said they only charged $4 a night, plus $4 admission. What a deal! You can rent scuba gear, swim at a nice sandy beach, or dive from various platforms. The campsites are as nice as ones I paid $20 for in Michigan, though there are no showers... the beach will do nicely, after a hot day like this! And now the drunk people are all going home, so I'll have the place to myself! (Also the mosquitos...)
What I'll miss most about Michigan: Fruit! Peaches, apples, blueberries, and plums were all in season while I was there, along with some others that I didn't sample. Also clean shoulders; Michigan is really good about picking up litter and roadkill. What I won't miss about Michigan: Expensive campsites. Also unfriendly strangers. I got out of the habit of waving to drivers because so few waved back or even looked in my direction, but that changed as soon as I crossed the border.
I'll write again from Columbus! --Ben