frenchtown fiber

Chris Mundy and Kate House try to make art while navigating the crap life throws at them.

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Badger VS the Hydra

Kate went to Dorney Park yesterday. That's an amusment park in Pennsylvania. She tells me she went on some crazy upside-down roller coaster called the Hydra, and puked in the flowers when she got off the ride. I can't believe everyone doesn't puke after a ride like that. Unfortunately, I recently had a similar experience.

When Joe and I were on vacation, (It was 2 weeks ago, but already seems like last year) we took a ferry ride across Lake Michigan on the SS Badger. SS stands for steam ship, by the way. The badger was the last and largest steamship built in the US, in 1952. It runs on coal, and there are mountains of it on the dock. The propulsion system of this ship has been designated a "National Mechanical Engineering Landmark." I had never heard of such a thing, but there you are.

We bought our ticket on-line ahead of time. For two one-way tickets and a motorcycle, I think it cost nearly $300. I'm sure it would have been cheaper to drive around the lake, but this saved a lot of time. Also, we get a kick out of this kind of thing.

Motorcycles get to board first. You were warned that you had to bring your own tie-downs. About a dozen motorcycles drove in and everyone busied themselves tying them to the grates on the floor. We were warned to do a good job, because the lake was rough.

Then, after all the cars were on, we were treated to a feat of dexterity and skill as a driver proceded to back the longest, weirdest truck I have ever seen onto the Badger. It had some kind of gigantic round THING wrapped in yellow tarp on the trailer. It must have taken 4 or 5 tries, but finally it was on the boat.

After watching the shoreline recede, Joe and I went below deck to the gift shop. Our main objective is always to get a sticker for the bags on the bike. I was down there for about 5 minutes and realized I was sea sick. And that, my friends, was it, for the rest of the 4 hour ride. The only way I could be somewhat comfortable was to lie on the deck and try to be still. Finally, finally, Joe said he could see land, so hooray, my misery was going to end. I stood up to have a look the land, and WOW I GOTTA PUKE! The whole front of the ship was full of folks watching the approach, so I didn't want to barf over the edge in front of everyone. I managed to run half way across the boat and down to the bathroom and made the sink. Bummer.

We docked in Luddington, MI, which is a really lovely town.

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Tu parli e capisci Italiano? (Do you speak and understand Italian?)

Not yet, but I'm working on it.

I am using a program called Mango to learn Italian. I saw a little flyer for it at the library. Weird, because I was thinking about my options in my previous post. You have to pay to use Mango on line, but since my library subscribes to it, I can do it for free! I made Joe promise that we would do this 2 times per week, Tuesdays and Saturdays. We did it together this past Tuesday, and it went real well. I am way ahead, though. I've been doing a lesson every day at work at lunch time, and I am now on lesson 4. It is HARD! Sometimes I just want to put my head down on the desk and groan. I took German in High School, and the similarities to English are notable. Not so much with Italian. And, like so many languages, Italian has formal and casual ways of saying the same thing, plus different ways to say things depending if the subject is male of female. It was the same with German. All of this is good exercise for my brain. My goal is to see how much Italian I can learn in a year. At some point I will want to seek out some people who speak Italian and try talking to them, but I need some time to get past, "Hi, how are you?"

Apart from learning Italian, I am trying to have a nice summer. We went to the Jersey Shore Sunday, Seaside Heights to be exact. We like the crazy boardwalk. The people watching is primo, and I just don't feel right if a summer goes by and I haven't had a sausage and pepper sandwich and Kohr's Ice cream. It's a Jersey thing. There was a good band playing on the beach called Swamp Donkey. One of the people in the band was wearing purple shiney hi-top sneakers, yellow socks, purple shorts and yellow t-shirt. Just based on that, I loved him.

We will also go to Cape May in August, thanks to generous friends who rent a house there for 3 weeks and invite us for one of the weekends. Cape May is a whole different deal than Seaside. I think the people who visit Cape May are a little different, because it is more expensive and a little calmer. If you want to party, you should drive a little ways north to Wildwood. If you want to party you most likely don't really care about Victorian Architecture, anyway, which is half the point of Cape May.

Kate's 26th birthday was yesterday, happy birthday, Kate!

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Printed Word

When I returned from my 2-week trip, I realized how starved I was for the printed word. I didn't read much of anything, besides pamphlets I would come across for the next area we were going to be visiting. The night we got home, I stayed up until 3 am reading every piece of newspaper I could find in the house!

Since then, I have just wanted to read. I took a mess of books from the library, probably more than I can read before they are due.

I have already read a book called Nickel and Dimed: On Not Making it in America by Barbara Ehrenreich. This woman went "undercover" and worked at minimum wage jobs in Key West, Maine, and Minnesota to see if she could make it for one month on these wages. She failed every time. In Key west, she had to work 2 jobs to make her rent, but became exhausted and had to stop. In Maine she could make her rent for the next month, but she had to work 7 days per week. She was not sure how long she could go on that way. In Minnesota, where she worked at a Wall-Mart, she was moved to start agitating for a Union and she quit.

This is a very well written book, and by that I first mean that it is a real page turner! But also it is an eye opener about what it really means to try to live on these wages. She tells the personal stories of many of her fellow workers, who often end up living in their cars. Housing is what tends to undo everyone. Even if they could somehow afford the rent, no one can save enough money for the up-front rent and security deposit.

Here is an excellent quote from tha book:

When someone works for less pay than she can live on ... she has made a great sacrifice for you ... The "working poor" ... are in fact the major philanthopists of our society. They neglect their own children so that the children of others will be cared for; they live in substandard housing so that other homes will be shiny and perfect; they endure privation so that inflation will be low and stock prices high. To be a member of the working poor is to be an anonymous donor, a nameless benefactor, to everyone. (p. 221)

This all dove-tailed nicely with my observations while on the road. We travelled some sparsely populated areas of Michigan and Wisconsin, and I really wonder how these people make a living. Any business we came across seemed to be closed, and not recently. They always say that it will affect jobs if we jack up the minimum wage, but I doubt that is true. I think we will just have to pay more for our hamburgers and the crap we buy at Wall-Mart.

I am currently reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I'm pretty sure that at this time I am one of the few women in the world who has not read this book. The author lives in Frenchtown, so I am definitely the last woman left in Frenchtown who has not read this book. (And own a signed copy) So far it is OK. I am trying not to judge the author for being so incredibly fortunate and successfull, but still acting like she is about to collapse from her "misfortunes."(Divorce, etc.) I don't recall crying on the bathroom floor every night when I was deciding to leave my husband, and she had no kids! The book is easy to read and I am interested in her travelling adventures; that is why I am reading it. The first place she goes to find herself is Italy. That's where I am in the book now.

I have already decided that I am going to Italy in 2010. I have been saying for years that I am going to Italy when I turn 50. My husband has pointed out that I will not be 50 until October of that year, but I understand that it is better to go in the off-season anyway. Unfortunately, my parents will be working (they have summers off) so that could cause difficultly where Kate is concerned. I could have her brother take responsibility. I have hopes he will be taking care of her anyway, when we are all gone.

(My son, Andrew, turned 24 years old on Friday. It occured to me that I was 24 when he was born. Weird.)

Anyway, I have time to work this all out. The other book I am reading now is a travel guide by Karen Brown. I don't have the name exactly, but it is a guide with itineraries and suggestions about where to stay in Italy. One of the itineraries includes Rome and Venice and points north. It sounds dreamy and I think this would work for me. It does skip Tuscany and Sicily, but I might have to do that next time. I also need to work on learning Italian. I hear that the Rosetta Stone CDs are very good, but very expensive. They also offer Italian at the local community college. I want Joe and I to learn together. My library is advertising that they have something called Mango for learning a language. I have no idea what that is yet.

Lately I have just been thinking how random life is. You never know what's coming. I want to go to Italy as soon as possible.

As for my sewing, I think it will be a little dry around here where that's concerned. I am trying to work on my big big quilt, and I have. But, progress is snail-like. It just doesn't translate well in pictures. My Etsy site is so dead, I can't see rushing to fill that up any more. It's OK, I'm just shifting focus a little.

One more thing, I have been sifting through the 750 pictures we took on out trip. I have it whittled down to around 300. I want to make one of those really cool and professional looking books that are available on some photo sites. I have i-photo right on my computer. I would like to get this done for my husband for his birthday, September 30. I should be able to do that.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Little House in the Big Woods

While Joe and I were riding around in western Wisconsin, we passed a little sign on the road that said Laura Ingalls Wilder house, and pointed down another road. I made Joe turn around so we could see it. I liked the little house books a lot, even though I didn't read them until I was an adult. The TV show was OK, except for Michael Landon crying in nearly every episode.

This house was actually a replica of the one Laura was born in. There was a little display inside with some info and pictures of the real life family. It was one of those happy little finds along the roadside.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kate Has a New Job

In the 2 weeks that I was gone, Kate had a job interview, got the job, went through training and is now employed at a supermarket. All this thanks to her job coach at Employment Solutions and my parents. She had to be at work at 7:15 am this morning. Since I had to be out, I thought I would run some errands. Thankfully, Home Depot is open, I bought some plant food and found some perennials on sale. I went to the farmers market, but it was too early! I will be back that way around 11:30, so I will still have a chance to go.

In the mean time, here are pictures of another major roadside attraction, the freshwater fishing hall of fame in Hayward, WI. That is Joe and I in the mouth of the giant fish, which is also a museum. I've included a small sampling of the museum, which was actually very compelling, considering that Joe and I have no real interest in fishing.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Roadside Attractions: Part One

We Made It Home!

All is well here. Time to start sorting through the 750+ photos we took. Here are some other statistics:

Total trip = 3500 miles
   1200 with the car
   2300 on the bike
Days I wore 3 pairs of pants and was still cold = 3
Adorable small towns discovered = 10
Hotel rooms stayed in = 8
   Terrible hotels = 1
Restored theaters visited = 2
Ferries taken = 2
Restaurants eaten in = around 20
Ice cream stops = 12
Times I had to pee in the woods = at least 10
Times we laughed ourselves to tears at the people and goings on at rest stops = 5

DAYS of RAIN while on the BIKE = ZERO!!!!!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Chilton, WI

This situation is nearly identicle to the last time I posted. Joe is asleep and I am posting in a motel that has a computer.

I've see so much and have done so many things, I'm not even sure how to post about it all. I am considering some ideas as I cruise the countryside on the back of the bike. Today we are taking the Badger across Lake Michigan. We should get to Ludington 6 pm today, and pick our car up on Thursday.

An example of a typical day for us, we left Elroy, WI Tuesday morn, and started out thinking we'd get breakfast in the next big town. We went winding around these small "letter roads" pass some of the prettiest farmland you can imagine. The next big town turned out to be Baraboo. As we roll in we can see that this place is happening. The fact that it is a county seat is usually a good sign. After breakfast we walk around and come upon an old theatre, the Al Ringling. We went inside and it was completely amazing, and it is starting to be restored. This is not the first old theatre we've fallen in love with on our trip. Calumet, MI had a good one. Pictures coming soon.

Anyway, if the name Ringling sounds familiar, Baraboo is where the circus started, and there is a huge museum.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Greetings From Lake Superior!

All is well! I just sneeked down here while Joe is sleeping...7 am... first hotel with a computer for guests.

3 notable things about Michigan's UP:

1. COLD! I have never been so cold in July! It was cloudy and 45 when we left Paradise on Tuesday morning. Multiple layers were no match. Felt like November. The sun came out later in the day, and we wept with joy.

2. The sun does not go down until almost 10 pm! We almost fell asleep on the beach in Frankfort waiting for fireworks.

3. Wildflowers like I have not seen. I mean carpets of daisies, lupines, those orange flowers, sweet peas, and other things that I don't know the names of, but they are amazing.

We should cross over into Wisconsin today.

Talk to you soon.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Let's Go, Already!

Here is 2 weeks worth of clothing, plus toiletries.
At this point, I just want to be on the road. I'm tired of thinking and re-thinking about what to pack. Last night I did laundry, so now my favorite most comfy underwear is in good order. After following the weather closely for a few days, I've exchanged a couple of tank tops for a couple of long sleeved things. In Copper Harbor, one of the places we plan to stop, they've been having high temperatures of around 60. That's none too hot where I come from. And when you are on a motorcycle, things are much cooler.

Kate has a job interview today. I set up public transportation for her earlier in the week. When I got home yesterday, I had a message from someone over at the LINK informing us that the staff at the ARC was having a training day, and no one would be there, so she was canceling Kate's ride. Well, the staff of Employment Solutions also uses that building, and they will be there! I had to leave a message and hope that this can be straightened out before 9am, when the bus us supposed to come. (Update: It all went well and Kate thinks she's got the job.)

I drew up an extensive document with every piece of information I could think of that might be useful for my parents. I come from a family of people that don't worry that much. I present this document to my parents, with doctor's names and phone numbers, prescription names and dosages, health plan info, and all the info for Kate's ARC activities for the month. My mother says, "What do we need all this for? Do we have to take Kate to the doctor?" I say, Mom, what if something happens? She says nothing will happen.

At work, I'm trying to get all loose ends tied up. It has been quiet for a week, but yesterday a big job came in and I have to get everything organized with that. I have meeting notes to prepare and an evaluation to do. My goal is to not get any phone calls while on the road. The people where I work will not hesitate to call you. There was a question about a job and my boss made me call someone who was doing nature photography in a kayak in some wild location. Cell phones are of the devil. I remember my first major motorcycle journey. We were traveling the Blue Ridge Parkway. The scenery along that route is from God, (unlike cell phones) and we were gazing out over misty mountains, and my cell phone rings. I look at the number coming through, and it is work! I almost cried. I let it go to message and when I listen to it it is my co-worker calling me to ask if I had ordered blank CDs. Lord have Mercy, can't you figure that shit out for yourself? I always leave a list of all vendors. And, what if you order more CDs, and then find out that I ordered them as well? They don't have an expiration date. It's not like someone ordered gallons of milk and now we need to make a lot pudding to use it up. (I had to do that once to use up extra milk) I have since made it known that only a dire emergency merits a call on my vacation, which I consider almost sacred. I know, I could shut the phone off, and I would, were it not for Kate.

Meanwhile, my husband is taking a ribbing at work about taking an entire 2 weeks off. He's been with the company 3+ years and STILL only has one week vacation. That is of the devil, too, if you ask me. So not only is he taking 2 weeks, but he is taking one week unpaid. The people he works with think he has to be rich. We go through this a lot. My husband owns 3 motorcycles. They call him Joe Money. But I would bet that all of his bikes together cost less than one of those stupid SUVs they all drive. No credit card debt. He maintains an old Toyota pick-up as his 4-wheel vehicle. It is all about choices. People where I work are making a stink about how lucky I am to be taking 2 weeks, but they would be in Las Vegas or some Club Med destination. I couldn't do 2 weeks of that either! Most women I work with would never do this trip just based on what it would do to their hair. I will have bad hair for the next 2 weeks. I'm bringing 2 hats.
So I think this is likely my last post for a while. I'm thinking I will have a little bit of WWW withdrawal, not being able to look at CNN every half hour, not to mention any number of other time-killing sites plus blogs galore. Of course, I don't expect to be bored out of my skull all day either.
Have a nice 4th of July, OK?