(last) Summer Vacation

Two weeks in Michigan during late July and early August of 2011. Hot and humid, just like I remembered from 30+ years ago. But it beats mid-winter freezing rain. Hanging out with my dad in Shelby Township some 14 miles north of Detroit, helping him get used to being a single widower after 66 years married.

I borrowed a mountain bike from a neighbor and went off on a ride through three local parks with a common historical link. The three parks – River Bends Park, Holland Ponds Park, and Bloomer Park – all have sections of the historic Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal running through them. The canal was being constructed in the mid-1800’s to provide a shipping route across lower Michigan, but became obsolete before it was even 10% complete due to the disruptive technology of railroads. The completed portion ran west from Lake St. Clair, paralleling the Clinton River, and reached as far as the village of Rochester before being abandoned.

Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal historical marker

Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal historical marker

The trails through these parks take you in and out of the woods, on some pavement and gravel, and there is an old, but functional cider mill at one point where you can get juiced. The nice thing about riding in the summer forest is the moist coolness, compared to the heat of the open meadows and roads. On the other hand, you stop to pee and the mosquitos attack. For the entire set of pictures, click here.

Back in Cali later in August, I led a Sunday morning ride for Beach Cities Cycling Club to Watts Towers in south central Los Angeles. I have lived in the LA area for 30 years now, but never have visited this world-famous landmark, just a few miles down the road. It was time to change that, but only two people took me up on the ride when I announced it at the ride gathering spot.

Tinna and Bernie joined me as we rode inland through industrial areas of Torrance and Carson, past the Cal State campus at Dominguez Hills, then north on Wilmington all the way to the towers. Easy to find. In person the towers seem smaller than you’d expect them to be. But heck, Simon Rodia built them by hand in his spare time, basically with scrap materials. From that perspective they are impressive.

Watts Towers

Watts Towers


Dale's Donut

Dale's Donut

We also took the opportunity to visit a really really BIG DONUT at Dale’s Donuts in Compton. You’ve all seen the big one at Randy’s Donuts in various movies. Randy’s is next to the 405 freeway by LAX, but it’s not even a donut shop any longer, it’s a taco stand. Dale’s is just as big, but off the beaten path and not as well known. And you can actually get donuts there. For the full set of ride pictures, click here.

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