Thursday, September 24, 2009

Day 10: Majestic equality

St. Joseph to Sawyer. 13.4 miles/123.5 total

Today I depart from a Whirlpool factory parking lot in St. Joseph, heading for Sawyer, and the Warren Dunes State Park. I’ll camp there tonight, and accomplish a few things at once. For one thing, of course, it’s a place to stay. Also, I get to empty my tanks, an occasional motor home necessity, as well as fill up on clean water. In addition, after tonight, they'll let me store the motor home for free at the state park under some sort of gas saving program they have, so I'll leave it there tomorrow night while I go back home for the weekend.

A few hundred yards to the west of the Whirlpool plant, I turn south onto Lakeshore Drive. It iss cloudy and misty today, very humid, and you can barely see, over on Lake Michigan, where the water ends and the horizon begins. I stop at a little roadside park and look out over the lake, but there is nothing much to see. There is a sculpture, a seven or eight foot high bunch of grapes made of rocks, hanging from a wooden cross piece. It must weigh several tons. Called “Grapes and Other Promises 1.” Pretty pretentious title, if you ask me.

A sign thanks me for visiting St. Joseph, and I enter the village of Shoreham. At Lakeshore and Maiden Lane, a beautiful smell comes from a place called Dale’s Donut Factory. Down the road is a real factory, where they make, or made, Bosch brake parts. Not too many cars in the lot for a Thursday.

From Shoreham it's on to Stephensville. Not much to report here, just scattered commercial businesses, some still occupied, and some empty. The people of Stephensville want you to know you've arrived. I pass no fewer than three signs welcoming me, including one that says, "Welcome to Stephensville, Michigan. Building a future. Leaving a legacy." Who the hell makes up these town slogans? I hope they don't spend money hiring ad agencies to do this kind of thing.
I especially like walking through interstate highway interchanges, because there's usually a lot of unused grassy and weed-choked space, often with an interesting variety of garbage. Also, I always marvel, when I’m on foot, at the sheer size of these cloverleafs. In a car it doesn’t seem like much, but when you’re walking, the distance from, say, the entrance to eastbound I-94 and westbound I-94, is pretty appreciable.

I also enjoy going under the highway because it's such a stereotypical place for people to dwell, even though I don’t think too many people around here live under highway bridges. But there are nooks and crannies where someone could definitely hole up. It reminds me of that great quote from Anatole France: “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.”

Which then puts me in mind of the majesty of the law, such as it is, here in the U.S., or at least of the social contract as we’re carrying it out. We put billions of dollars into these enormous items of infrastructure, such as highway interchanges, for the sake of our convenience and that of our cars. Even now the government is plowing jillions into stuff just like this, and everyone's all for it. But we have to sit down and scratch our heads and think really hard before we decide that it's okay to cough up just a fraction of what all this concrete costs to provide health care. Universal road care, fine. Why aren't the right wingers threatened by the almost complete governmental control of streets and highways, I wonder? (Well hell, maybe they are. They're a pretty frightened bunch.)

A few miles into the walk, I officially enter the Red Arrow Highway. No more Blue Star. That’s over. The Red Arrow Highway was named after the Red Arrow Division, which is (or was) the U.S. 32nd Infantry Division. It was originally made up of National Guard units primarily from Michigan and Wisconsin. It’s insignia is a red arrow on a green background, pointing upward, with a sort of cross in the middle. In World War One the Red Arrow Division was called “Les Terribles” by the French, because of their fighting prowess (or maybe because they drank red wine with fish). In World War Two the division fought in the Pacific. So the Red Arrow Highway runs through Michigan, parts of it along U.S. 12, and up into Wisconsin. Another sturdy old highway which was, like the Blue Star, sort of replaced by an interstate.

This piece of the Red Arrow Highway reminds me of Dixie Highway where it went south of Drayton Plains down to Telegraph Road in Pontiac. Same thing. Busy, fast, four-lane highway, with no shoulder to speak of. Scattered real estate offices and dilapidated bars, until you got down to the Aunt Jane's Pickle sign down by Telegraph.

It was always a big deal for us kids to cross the Dixie when we were young. We had to go to the light. But my dad, who was kind of a dignified scofflaw, would park behind the cleaners next to the Drayton Clinic and the bank, and walk across Dixie to the post office, because we had a post office box. He’d go two lanes at a time, stopping and standing on the yellow line, cars whizzing by him, and then take the second half. Sometimes I’d get to go with him on his small-time daredevil missions.

I pass the Donald C. Cook nuclear plant entrance. Very inviting, with a neon sign showing the temperature and time of day. A kinder, gentler nuclear plant than that one the other day.
All the nuclear plant companies took the word “nuclear” out of their names a long time ago, for PR purposes. I think nuclear is going to make a comeback, though. The problem will still be what to do with all those spent fuel rods, made of plutonium or whatever. I propose we send them to Mars. Just put them in unmanned spaceships and aim them for Mars and crash land the suckers. I guess there's too much nuclear waste in relation to the payload capacity of rocket ships. Well, let’s put NASA to work on that project. Someone I was proposing this to suggested we should ship the stuff the other way, toward the sun. What the hell, that’s all radiation anyway, right? Just shoot it toward the sun until it burns up. What’s a little extra plutonium gonna do to the sun?

At the Graceland Cemetery they have some really sharp-looking polished black tombstones, a newer color. And lately they've been etching pictures onto the stones. One big one, for a guy named Bill, has a photo of him on his motorcycle, with his honey on the back. Maybe that's how he died.

Outside Bridgman I pass a place with a really intriguing juxtaposition of ethnicities: D’Agostino’s Navajo Restaurant and Lounge. Then, a little later, the Roma Pizzeria, featuring American-Italian food. Out front is a sign that says, “Try a Swedish Pancake.” I’m picking up a little bit of a pattern here of cross-cultural dining.

An indication I’m getting close to Indiana: a nonreturnable Coke bottle. Bought outside the state. It's no good to me so I leave it. I’m not out there to pick up trash, at least not just any trash. Anyway, many of you know my philosophy about garbage. If we humans made it, it’s either all garbage or none of it is. It’s all litter. Or all not. An empty plastic bottle, a barbed wire fence, a Methodist church, a telephone pole, a mailbox, a chunk of asphalt, a manhole cover, an American flag hanging limply, a police car, a gas station, a hospital. Junk, relics, litter, things of value, things of no value? Send them all to Mars. Send planet Earth to Mars.

I pass another factory with an empty parking lot, whose name seems to be “NO TRESPASSING. All Visitors Must Report to Office."

This relatively short and uneventful journey comes to an end, as I slip through a hole in the fence and walk over to the campsite where the Wagon Queen Family Truckster awaits.


Billie Bob said...

I just got in from the coast, so I caught up on your week. Nice writing...

I hope the aches and pains disappear with the new shoes.

Anonymous said...

On the ride from the train station in Strasburg, (France) thought of you when I spotted a restaurant advertising Italian-Indian food. The house along the Cathedral where my ancestors had been hatters is now a fast-food döner joint. Do you have those? At work, I knew a sound technician whose colleagues told me about the wonderful couscous his wife made because she was Moroccan. Other colleagues told me about the great Vietnamese food the guy's wife cooked because she was Vietnamese. I started wondering how many wives Pascal had. Well, only one but she was half-Moroccan half-Vietnamese. They actually opened a restaurant offering both specialties but they were in the sticks and he ended up having to go back to being a sound technician. Did you know France has the highest number of inter-ethnic marriages in Western industrialized countries?
Cousine S

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Didn't know that. Including the US? (We are more or less industrialized, I guess, if you count China as part of the country.)
Speaking of that, this evening I stopped to get gas and when I was inside I started talking to the couple who ran the place. She's Pakistani and he's Colombian. They each have kids from before this marriage, in both coutries. They spoke Spanish to each other.