Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Green Lake "Mystery Loves Company"

This is turning out to be a year that is a bit out of step with our usual. Usually, by this time, June, we are either spinning the pedals around, making our way across the country on a bike journey or have already gotten our yearly cycling tour under our belts. But this June finds us in Wisconsin attending a 'sit-down" Road Scholar program on the writing of mysteries and then a week in Eagle River canoeing.
By "sit-down" I mean that there were no outside activities like paddling, cycling, or hiking. While we brought the bicycle and we did get some rides in, it was outside the program. So during our first week in Wisconsin we found ourselves deeply involved with murder.
First I've got to tell you that while Kamala and I watch a few mystery programs on TV and have read a couple of Grisham novels, listened on Audible as Kinsey Millhone kicked some ass, and a few others over the years, we are definitely not experts on the subject and, God forbid, I cannot even tell you the name of Charlie Chan's number one son (oh the shame, because many of the other participants could).

Now Green Lake, is first of all a beautiful lake, the deepest in Wisconsin. And secondly, it is a conference center on the shores of.....you guessed it--Green Lake. The Conference Center at which we stayed is run by the Baptists, but open to all faiths (although I didn't see a lot of Muslims or Hare Krishna devotees hanging around). Actually, it was mainly aimed, if I'm reading this right, at fundamentalist Christians, especially ministers, who kind of needed to "rejuice" the joy in their spiritual life. At any rate it was a spiritual retreat of sorts and all the people I ran into were just as pleased as punch that we were there and treated us really nice. I couldn't get over the sense of irony that while everyone in the whole setting was there to find a "closer walk with God", there were thirty of us in a conference room spending our
time exploring all the myriad of ways to kill someone.

While there were some good points about the program there was way too much sitting and I think that, as much as we like the Road Scholar programs, that this will be our last "sit-down" type of program. Although there were a few times I felt I was sitting at an in-service meeting back at ol' Irvin High School (insert high pitched scream here), I'm still going to rate it a C+ because, the people were friendly, the presenters were really trying, the area was beautiful, the food was good and best of all I got to experience it with Kamala.

The art of travel

As our master canoe instructor deftly explained the art of canoeing with the use of a small canoe that he had borrowed from a local garden gnome, I was suddenly struck with a realization that was, at once enlightening and joyous, and yet stirred up an extreme sense of sadness of opportunities lost. As he held the little paddles in his fingers, moving them around in tiny circles as if stirring coffee, I flashed back to my days as a football coach and realized that I had really missed the boat by not using Barbie dolls to demonstrate blocking techniques to those freshmen.

Mastering the Canoe 101

Here we learn how to paddle a wooden dock. OMG, it was soooooo realistic! I mean after a few minutes we were expert canoeists, capable of paddling any canoe that sat 2 and 1/2 feet out of the water and anchored deep in the lake bottom. Bring on the whitewater! And on top of the wonderful life changing instruction I was nostaligically transported back to Miss Higbothom's 5th grade dance class with footprints on the floor and everything.

Okay, okay, so the start was a little slow. Maybe he hadn't quite realized that we were all old enough to be his parents and that he could have actually tried to pass on information in a bit more sophisticated manner (8th or even 9th grade level would have sufficed). Anyway the program was all uphill from there and in the end I give the week an A.

Eagle River turned out to be as beautiful an area as Green Lake was and the week was filled with paddling pristine lakes and rivers, sloshing across floating jelly-like bogs, calling owls, watching bald eagles soar, and meeting interesting people. Our guides were knowledgeable and friendly. Troy and Jill injected humor into the outings. The weather cooperated with pleasant cool days (I'm not really sure yet if they have summer up here).

The original plan was to find a place to leave the truck and trailer for a couple of weeks and cycle-tour Michigan's Upper Peninsula. After a long and serious discussion and reading the entrails of sheep (for clarity of mind), we have decided upon deviation.

"The art of travel is to be able to deviate from one’s plans."

This quote comes from a class B movie (plot quite forgettable) but the message has stayed with us. The Northwoods of Wisconsin have wonderful roads to cycle and plenty, I mean plenty, of water to paddle. Plus, someone has to feed these darn mosquitoes.