Monday, September 30, 2013

Moonlight in Minnesota

Ghost Tours Should Come With Adult Refreshments

Convinced I should stroll the streets of St. Augustine with a band of tipsy Floridians and wide-eyed tourists, I found myself with a friend on a ghost tour of America’s oldest European settlement.  The stone walkways below us and the period costumes ahead of us made the nighttime walk seem only moderately more interesting than any other evening constitutional.  Nevertheless, like dozens of mid-size, moderately historic towns in the United States, “ghost tours” entice sightseers, both doubters and believers, to giggle or gasp at the stories tied to a community’s parks, plazas, and promenades.  Ghost tours in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, are most likely tales of military death and woe.  Ghost tours in New Orleans tell the tale of the haunted history of the Big Easy and the mademoiselle who still roams the French Quarter.  In each locale, unsuspecting, unresolved souls stumble into an ambling storyteller bewitching their followers with cryptic tales of foolish passers-by unknowingly relieved of their wits and wages.  Sounds like someone I know intimately.

I begin the evening adventure as dusk transitions into darkness and as my evening buzz fades along with the final remnants of sunlight.  I giggle, I roll my eyes, and I wonder how much longer until we reach a saloon where I might find a brew to keep me happily unconcerned that I am, in fact, bored out of my skull.  Nothing about the occult charms me.  While I do believe some people have a connection to the nether world, I believe mediums have powers I cannot understand and allow them to communicate with the dearly departed.  Yet I believe neither me, nor the costumed tour guide earning $10.82 an hour for her evening gig, facilitate a connection to the other side on this warm night in north Florida.  I believe this tour needs adult refreshment to make it remotely interesting.

Gravestones Should Come With Baseballs

Most people who visit Rochester, Minnesota, seek the medical recommendations of the renowned Mayo Clinic, but not me.  Sure, I may have planned to pop in on family members, but the cover story in the human-interest section of the local paper caught my pop culture eye and took me to a small, two-acre plot.  W.P. Kinsella’s novel, Shoeless Joe, led to Kevin Costner plowing under his corn fields on the big screen, and the tiniest bit of trivia from the American pastime impacted the novel, the movie, and the history of the Rochester area.  And it made my trip unique and remarkable.
Now buried in a plot next to his wife, Alecia, Archibald Graham spent nearly nine decades serving his family and town rather than continuing to play baseball beyond the single inning of professional stardom that he savored and discarded.  Kinsella found Graham's simple stat when writing his novel, and on a summer afternoon, I find his simple headstone after strolling through the graveyard referenced in the daily news.  In the light of day, without a tour guide, or a hint of intoxication, or an over-inflated story, I reach out to the other side to thank “Moonlight” Graham for his contribution to American film lore and my expedition to the Land of Ten Thousand Lakes.  And laying next to his granite slab, a perfectly-placed leather sphere with its signature red stitching marks the appreciation of another fan like myself who had taken the same self-guided tour.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013


Telling Time

Everyone vacations differently.  For the past several years, a friend of mine has planned his big summer outing with his entire family (yes, some in-laws, a handful of cousins, etc.) by the edge of a lovely lake in North Carolina.  For his family, this outing marks the pinnacle of family time and he returns feeling refreshed and relaxed.  I marvel at the concept, as the one time I spent two nights with extended family at the Lake of the Ozarks, I noted the experience would be my last family reunion in a shared cabin.  More than a decade later, I stand by those guideline.  Besides, I’d like to see more of the lake than a single, shore-side view.

In the heart of Florida, Lake Okeechobee marks the crossing point between the drifting headwaters and the full-blown Everglades.  On a variety of mini voyages, I have seen vantage points from the southwest around to the south; specifically, I have driven around the entire lake from eight o’clock to six o’clock if one were to view the lake as a clock face.  Likewise, I have enjoyed a two-hundred, seventy degree view of Lake Huron, from six progressing around to three, also in multiple road trips.  And despite having even explored the inside of its clock face on Antelope Island, the  Great Salt Lake from eleven to five o’clock offered me only half of the full waterside experience.

Counter Clockwise

Even before beginning to plan my excursion to Lake Tahoe, I knew I wanted to drive the full distance around its shores.  Starting at the traffic-clogged southern tip, I break from the construction traffic to grab a bite of lunch (see “Where’s Jack?” from March 2013) at the six o’clock point before beginning my full-face assault.  I skirt the water’s edge counter-clockwise (on my vacations, I am allowed to break the rules of time travel) into Nevada and am bombarded by casinos – no need for a “Welcome to Nevada” sign here – the abundantly clear transition lets me know.  I continue to climb up to the rocky tunnel towards the three o’clock marker, and then just beyond to the crystal-clear pool of boulders.  As much as the full circle beckons, the below rocks, sitting blissfully in the   
cool mountain pool deserve their own moment of reflection.  The clock momentarily stops here.

At twelve o’clock high, I drive into California for the second time today.  The summer crowds have departed and the skiers are still waiting for the more substantial snows – not the dusting from a few days ago – so the roads are as clear as the skies.  I continue around to eight while the sun still lingers, and pause for a rest in my own little cabin just out of the sight of the water.  And shortly after the sun peeks from its slumber, I resume the final two hours on the lake’s clock face.  Somewhere around seven o’clock geographically I pull over for a final view of the American Alpine lagoon.  For years I wanted to be at this spot, at all of these spots, to make this three-hundred and sixty degree loop, and to see one small piece of America from every angle.  Back at six o’clock, I turn right and mark the time I circumnavigate Lake Tahoe.