Tag Archives: Michigan

The Grape-Nuts Factor

Have you heard of a breakfast cereal called Grape-Nuts?  Ever eaten it?  Whether you have or not, there is a story about this cold cereal that will warm you right up!

As kids growing up, the majority of our breakfasts involved eating cold cereals (the unceremonious act of pouring cold milk over dried cereal).  Of these, we were rarely allowed the unspoken right that should be given to all children everywhere:  The right to consume “sugar cereals”. These consisted of cereals like Frosted Flakes, Honeycomb, Fruit Loops and Sugar Corn Pops. That, of course, meant that the “healthy cereals” like Cheerios, Mini-Wheats and Grape-Nuts were always in the cupboard.  Most people are familiar with Cheerios and Mini-Wheats but maybe not so much with Grape-Nuts.  Grape-Nuts is a wheat-and-barley cereal that is shaped into very small pieces that look like grape seeds and comes in a fairly small box.  A little goes a long way (something important to note for later).

If you’ve been with me any length of time, you’ve already become familiar with Rick.  If you haven’t, you really should.  It would be worth your time and laughter to do so.  He was my best friend in high school and we are still in contact after all these years.  Why am I suddenly telling you about him instead of cereal?  Well…..

As you may know from previous stories, our family cabin is on Carp Lake in northern Michigan.  (If you haven’t been able to visit northern Michigan, you really need to go!  It’s absolutely beautiful up there.)  We usually went up to the cabin twice during the summer months.  Now, it just so happens that it was these family trips to the cabin that provided a special privilege:  My brother and I were each allowed to pick out our very own box of whatever sugar cereal we wanted.  It was like Christmas in July!  We’d spend the whole time Mom was shopping in the grocery store picking out which two cereals we were going to pillage.  And never did we pick out the same one!  No sir, we knew better than that.  If we each got a different one, we both knew that we were guaranteed at least one bowl of each other’s cereal to be able to “taste test” and enjoy our spoils together.

Well, it was on one of these trips to the cabin that I was able to bring Rick with us.  We shared our treasured cereals with him, but Mom had also brought along the healthy choices.  On this trip, that meant Grape-Nuts and Cheerios.  My brother and I weren’t touching either one, but Rick had never had Grape-Nuts before.  On one particular morning, he decided to try them.

(You should know that the go-to bowls for cereal at the cabin were these old porcelain bowls that were deep enough to house a generous amount of whatever you poured into them.  You should also know that it was an unspoken rule in our household that whatever you serve yourself, you eat.)

My Dad was sitting in the cabin’s kitchen with us as Rick began to pour himself a big bowl of these cute little nuggets of goodness.  We all watched as Rick filled his bowl well over half-way with Grape-Nuts.  The more he poured, the bigger my eyes got.  Then Dad spoke up and told him that he wouldn’t need that much cereal and really ought to pour some back into the box.  There was a great camaraderie between Rick and my Dad.  But that didn’t stop Rick from insisting that he was fine and could easily polish off this bowl of Grape-Nuts.  My Dad then made sure that Rick was aware of our “You pour/You eat” policy and promptly bet him that he couldn’t finish the bowl.  And so it begins…..

My brother and I ate our sugared treasures as we watched Rick dig into his bowl of Grape-Nuts spoonful after spoonful.  As he did so, he would have to periodically pour more milk into the cereal.  He was discovering that those little nuggets of goodness had soaked up all the milk and were expanding into larger pebbles of sogginess.  It was like they were multiplying.  He wasn’t making any headway at all.  In the meantime, we had all finished our breakfasts and were now contentedly sitting back and enjoying the scene that was playing out before us.

Eventually, Rick looked at the soggy brown nastiness that still remained in his bowl.  He heaved a heavy sigh as he leaned back in his chair, his belly pooched out like a pregnant cow.  His eyes were glazed over as he slurred through his speech that he couldn’t handle anymore Grape-Nuts.  Dad had won the bet!  I don’t remember what he had bet Rick–whatever it was, though, it was quickly forgotten in the “aftermirth” of watching Rick suffer through the rest of the day with a bloated belly and enough gas to light up the Carp Lake community for the next two years.

That Christmas, Dad found Rick a very touching gift.  You know those huge family-sized boxes of Cheerios at the store?  Sam’s Club had boxes of Grape-Nuts for sale that were only slightly smaller than that.   Dad bought one just for Rick to call his own.  I don’t know that Rick saw the same thoughtfulness in the gift that Dad did.  I know he didn’t the following Christmas when I got him the same gift.

Some people just don’t appreciate meaningful things….

Of Bears And Other Stuff

We’re camping on this Labor Day weekend.  Which is what we were doing up in Michigan’s U.P. during our stay in the backwoods wilderness of that beautiful country.  Which leads me to the black bear story…..

As I said before, we all stayed in tents both times that we went up there.  The cabin sat on a corner lot of sorts, with the lake straight out in front of it and a thirty-foot wide tributary from the lake that passed the cabin on the left and became a smaller lake behind the cabin property.  So our tents were on one side of the cabin and the tributary was on the other.  An old bridge made of railroad ties, as I recall (as was the main dock into the lake), spanned the thirty feet of water and connected the cabin’s mainland with an island on the other side of the tributary.  This bridge was a good five or six feet above the water (as a sharp 25+ year-old memory reveals) with a very old wooden rowboat on the cabin side of the shoreline.

If you recall my mentioning Nate and Jesse (the same Nate who went fishing for some Kelly in a previous story), Jesse was about four or five years old at the time of our first venture up there.  Even though we were told to stay away from it, Jesse somehow miraculously found himself standing in the old rowboat.  Then it started to sink.  And he started to cry….loudly.  His Dad was clear across the other side of the cabin where the tents were when he heard his youngest son cry.  He was a blur of arms and legs as he came sprinting across the property to where his son was in the rowboat (don’t be too concerned–the water was only a couple feet deep where the boat was).  He leapt into the water as he lunged for his son and whisked him right out of the boat.  Once Jesse was deemed safe and unharmed…..well, then the crap hit the fan for why he was even anywhere near the boat to begin with.

That same bridge, it was said to us kids, could possibly hold a black bear or two, which meant that there were possibly black bear in and around the woods that surrounded the cabin.  We didn’t see any, but I’m pretty sure I heard one.  The bathroom was a two-hole latrine about fifty-feet into the woods behind the cabin.  Not much of an issue during the day, but at night that distance became a very significant obstacle.  I remember one night making that very long trek through the fifty feet of trail that was surrounded by trees on either side, armed with nothing but the flashlight in my hand.  The latrine was within sight at twenty feet away, but just as I came within sight of it, I heard significant rustling behind me just off the trail on the right.  I don’t think my feet touched the ground those last twenty feet, and I certainly didn’t have to use the bathroom anymore by the time I found myself safely inside the confines of the latrine.  I have no idea what I heard in those woods just off the trail, but I wasn’t about to go look.  I waited a few minutes and then ran like I was shot out of a cannon those fifty feet back to the camping area where my parents and safety awaited  me.

My fondest memories, though, are God’s nature that surrounded us up there.  We had blueberry bushes all over up there, so one day for lunch, all we had were fresh blueberries in pudgy-pies (with sugar, of course); Todd and I took a canoe ride clear to the other side of the lake where a little nook offered us such solitude that the hushed tones of our conversation sounded like we were shouting; no sounds of civilization in the morning, just loons out on the misty water as the sun came up; and more than anything else, for me the very presence of God Himself to meet me there every day in His beautiful creation that was all around.

Should you get the chance to vacation in Northern Michigan–anywhere from the top of the mitten or higher–you will create for yourself a very memorable experience!

U.P. Memories Continued

So, let’s get to the reason for the title of the last conversation we had….

It’s very important that you know that this lake had bloodsuckers in it (yes, leeches are the same thing, but calling them “bloodsuckers” seems far more appropriate for the disgusting, perverted and selfish behavior they exhibit).  I don’t recall anyone informing me of this vital and necessary information until I was waist-high in the water the morning after we all got there and saw one swim by me at a measly distance of twelve inches . That really took any fun I was having in the water and shot it to oblivion. I hate creepy creatures like that and I found out that they were all over that lake.  If you can picture Calvin (from Calvin & Hobbes) hovering above the surface of the water with his legs and arms flailing so fast that he’s levitating himself, his eyes as big as saucers as he looks down into the water below him at something that has scared him spitless, that’s what I looked like when I saw that vile creature.  I don’t recall getting in the water much after that.

I remember Cindy and a friend of hers being out on the floating dock one day sunning themselves.  The dock was a good seventy-five to one-hundred yards away from the shore and she eventually hollered over the water’s surface that she really wanted her Dad to come out with the canoe and get them so that they didn’t have to get in the water (because, as you can imagine, the water between the shoreline and the floating dock was unquestionably patrolled on a regular basis by fleets of these life-sucking creatures trolling to and fro, just waiting to engage a helpless victim and drag them to the dark depths of the lake where they could feed at their leisure).  This memory sticks indelibly in my head, because we watched in amazement as he left the shoreline in the canoe by himself and paddled by himself straight as an arrow to the floating dock to rescue his daughter from the evil clutches of those vehement blood-sucking bloodsuckers.  Do you know how hard that is to do?  But he did it perfectly.  We were all amazed and impressed.

One up-side to this cabin was the sauna that it had.  The evenings  in Northern Michigan are typically cool, so we would sit in the sauna and get as hot and sweaty as possible, then run into the darkness from the sauna to the lake as fast as possible and jump in.  Except for me.  I would go to the water’s edge and quickly fling some water on myself to cool off.  If I couldn’t see what was potentially lurking in the water for me, I wasn’t about to give it a free meal. (Jeff and Todd, however, did this repeatedly, which makes me wonder what kind of immunity they had somehow built up in order to withstand the vicious, blood-sucking attacks they must surely have been enduring every time they dove into that dark water.  Absolutely amazing.)

Join me again and we’ll talk about black bears…..

Bloodsuckers And Other Such Memories

Remember that group of family friends my brother and I had growing up that I mentioned a while back?  (If not, go to “The Tire Bulge”, “Ring Around The Rosy” and “The Bus RV” to get brushed up on them.)  One set of Cindy’s grandparents had a cabin on a lake way up in the heart of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, about a half hour south of Lake Superior.  This cabin was so remote that it had no electricity, an outhouse for a bathroom and an old-fashioned water pump to get water into the kitchen sink.  My family went up there twice during my childhood, both of those times producing some very interesting memories.  Shall I recount a few for you?  Yes, let’s!

Our first trip up there occurred at somewhere around the age of twelve for me.  We went up for close to two weeks and joined Cindy’s family, Jeff’s family and a couple other families that we all did things with from time to time: one of those families had a son named Todd and the other had two sons named Nate and Jesse.  I remember that we no sooner got up there and Nate and Kelly (Jeff’s younger sister) wanted to fish off the dock while the parents all set up the tents.  (Mind you, this is towards the evening hours after everyone has spent a good six to eight hours on the road to get there.)  It didn’t take long for someone to get hurt and that, in Kelly’s mind, is probably an understatement.  We all suddenly heard screaming from the dock and as we all came running, we saw that Nate, who had been casting his fishing line from the end of the dock, had successfully hooked and landed Kelly.  Or at least her cheek.  Gave it a good yank, too, because as it turns out, she got too close to him as he back-casted his fishing line and drove his fishing hook right into her cheek as he brought the line overhead.  So now the adults had to figure in an unplanned trip to the local emergency room, which for that part of the U.P., was not conveniently located just around the corner.  Needless to say, after that incident not more than one kid was allowed on the dock at any one time when any fishing was going on for the rest of the trip.  And I doubt very much that Kelly went anywhere near Nate and a fishing pole.

Stick around and I’ll share some more next time!

The Coffee Snob Returns

Do you remember me mentioning a while back that I have a “Coffee Snob” in my life?  If you don’t, I’ll gladly remind you right now that it’s my brother.  No worries…he wears that title with pride.

As you already know, I and my family are vacationing at a campground just outside of Mackinaw City in Northern Michigan.  It’s been absolutely beautiful having Lake Huron just down the way from us with an incredible view of the Mackinac Bridge which connects the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.  As you can imagine, nothing is more relaxing on a vacation like this than going down by the water’s edge with your chair and your coffee and watching the morning unfold before you!

Well, we met my brother at the half-way point (he lives close by) to take delivery of a bag of freshly roasted coffee beans.  (He has a friend of his that roasts his own and does a fantastic job with it!)  We had originally thought that we would bring a coffee grinder and have this coffee every morning, but at the last minute decided that we would use up the year-old coffee that we already had in the camper and save this new bag for home.  Nice idea at the time, but in hindsight, it was regrettable to say the least.

Then the Coffee Snob found out about it.

My being a “coffee simpleton” in his exotic coffee-press / pour-over / get-your-secret-beans world, I have now been accused of letting perfectly good coffee age and lose some of the nuances of its flavor (being freshly roasted and all; really, it’s not even an accusation–that’s what freshly roasted coffee does when it has no preservatives in it).  And what makes it worse is the fact that we are meeting up with him on the way back down to get another bag of a different kind of freshly roasted bean.  So we very easily could have gone through this first bag and thoroughly enjoyed our morning coffee instead of drinking in what is apparently known in coffee snob circles as “compost” and “swill”.  I threw a scripture at him about knowing the good I ought to do and yet not doing it; he threw one right back at me, something about “woe to those who call evil good and good evil, that put darkness for light and light for darkness, that put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter” (that last part being communicated to me in all caps; I detect a subtle message in there, but it’s kind of faint).

So we totally missed exceptional coffee by the water’s edge while we got away from it all.  And, instead, we drank year-old coffee (already ground) and didn’t even finish it up.  Say, I think I just got an idea for a Christmas present for him….

Heading North

My family and I are heading for the high country next weekend (also known as Northern Michigan).  We will be hauling our pop-up camper on this vacation trip to “God’s country”.  Of course, just mentioning our camper brings to mind some other camping stories that you really should catch up on (just type “camping” in the Search box and you’ll find them).

Those memories aside, this trip will be really unique.  We’ll be camping at a campground just outside of Mackinaw City–where the Mackinac Bridge is–on the Lake Huron side of the Straits with our campsite being in the midst of some trees right on the shoreline!  (To catch up on the importance of this, read my other entries about Mackinaw City–especially regarding fireworks!)

This kind of a trip also reminds me of the many trips my family would make to our family cabin up that way (again, great stories to read if you type “Paradise Lake”, “Carp Lake” or “cabin” in the Search box).  That’s really where it all started for me, and it helps to explain why Northern Michigan plays such an important role in my life.

So read up on some of these, my friend, and join me next time as I report “live” from the beautiful Straits area of Mackinac in Northern Michigan!

Thinking Outside The Box

As you already know, I grew up in the beautiful state of Michigan.  Back in my mid-twenties, I found myself one evening driving from Lansing to the Detroit area for a business meeting.  The meeting was to be early evening, but being well into autumn, it was already dark outside as I traveled east on I-96.

As you also already know from previous conversations, I didn’t sway much from being a quiet, law-abiding young adult (I say “much” because of incidents like the bottle rocket story), so you can guess what kind of a driver I was.  Don’t misunderstand that; I love to drive fast!  But I also know the law I should abide by, so for the most part, I drive no more than five miles over the speed limit (as irritating as that can be sometimes).

So I drive to the Detroit area, have my meeting and am now on my way back to Lansing.  I’m tootin’ along, minding my own business, about half-way home.  It’s later in the evening–probably around 9:00 or so–and no one else is around me.  As I’m checking my mirrors, I notice in my rear-view mirror that a pair of headlights is coming up on me and fast.  I already know I’m in the traveling lane, so you can guess what I’m anticipating (you’ve probably seen it yourself):  whoever’s in that car is driving so fast that a casual swerve over into the passing lane will get them around me before either one of us has the time to think about it.  But no.  The car comes right up on my tail and stays there.  Of course, my first thought is to check my speed, so I glance down and see nothing unusual ( I was probably at my typical five-miles-over-the-speed-limit speed, but certainly nothing to be pulled over for).  Since I see no red flags there, I look back into my mirror for any hint of a light bar on the top of the car to indicate that it’s a police cruiser.  I don’t see one, but the headlights just “have that look” like that’s exactly what it is and the car is still sticking to me like glue.

A minute goes by and I’m starting to sweat a little, because I not only have let off the gas a little to force the car to pass, but now I am back up to my normal speed and the car hasn’t moved from my backside.  (This was in the days before cell phones were everywhere, so there was no call to 911 to report a potential situation unfolding on the highway should this not be a police cruiser.  And yet, strangely enough, the thought that it might be a cruiser brought no sense of relief or comfort whatsoever.  So that left me with just gutting it out and praying–a lot.)  Then I notice in my mirror that another set of headlights is coming up on me in the passing lane and doing so just as fast the car behind me had done.  As it approaches the two of us, it starts to slow a bit.  The car gets side-by-side with me and I see right away that it’s a full-blown police cruiser–and now he’s matching my speed!  I’m boxed in!

Up to this point, I’m trying to act casual and relaxed, but after I see that, all hope of remaining calm, cool and collected is totally shot.  My heart is rattling inside my rib cage like buckshot as I wipe my sweaty palms on my pants and try to maintain my speed like nothing is wrong.  In reality, I’m just waiting for these police cars to “light’em up” and pull me over.  (I could just imagine pulling over to the side of the highway and hearing a voice on the intercom from the car behind me:  “Driver, step out of the car nice and slow.  Now walk backwards to my voice.  Stop.  On your knees with your hands on your head.”  An officer walks up behind me, cuffs me and says to me, “You’re under arrest for driving too close to the speed limit.  You have the right to remain silent.  You have the right to an attorney….”)

Then, to make matters worse, I see two other sets of headlights, one in each lane, and they’re flying up to where we were all cruising along!  They pull right up behind the two cars already with me and begin cruising along with us, anxious to join in the fun.  Now I’m more than boxed in!  I’m thinking, What is this?!  More cops??  WHAT HAVE I DONE TO DESERVE THIS KIND OF TREATMENT??  Just tell me what I’m doing wrong and I’ll stop doing it!!!  Oh, the pressure!  The stress!  I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m–suddenly the cruiser that has been matching my speed in the passing lane takes off and flies on ahead to the next car which is about a hundred yards ahead of me.  As soon as he takes off, an unmarked cruiser that was behind him does the same.  Then the other set of headlights behind the car that started this whole fiasco pulls into the passing lane, guns it and flies by me (turns out that one was another unmarked cruiser).  Finally, the car that had been behind me the whole time pulls into the passing lane and joins his buddies on up ahead of him (turns out it was a police cruiser the whole time).

Oh, the relief I felt!!  And it was somewhat gratifying to watch them do the same thing to the car in front of me.  (I’m thinking, Buddy, I know how you feel!  I wish I had a change of underwear for you, but I’ve got my own mess to clean up here.)  This whole event unfolded in about  three or four minutes, so those officers (it was a combination of local police and sheriff) took about the same amount of time to get past the guy in front of me.  Then it happened!  Once they all got passed the car in front of me, I watched them all converge on the car in front of him.  They all hit their lights at the same time, and there was red and blue lights flashing everywhere!  It was a glorious sight!  As I drove passed them, I saw that they had this car completely surrounded–a perfectly executed box maneuver that I had the privilege of witnessing first-hand.  It was worth having a mess to clean up afterwards–not to mention needing to buy new underwear–to see something like that unfold before me.

A thank you to the police and sheriff officers who forced me to be a part of their plan.  Glad to help!

The Bottle-Rocket Launcher

A family that Cindy’s family and ours were friends with when I was growing up had an English Springer spaniel named Cinnamon.  We had one at the same time named Nutmeg.  She had some issues, though, namely the fact that she was hit by a car, so for a while, we were dogless.    In the meantime, this family moved to South Carolina and eventually bred Cinnamon.  They contacted my Dad and told him that we could have one of the puppies if we drove down to get it!  My Dad was ecstatic, to say the least.  So I rode shotgun with my Dad from Michigan down to South Carolina to get Max (the English Springer that I told you about in a previous tale).  And thus begins my story….

This family had a son named Jeff who was a year younger than I was. By this time, we were both entering the high school years of our youth, not quite able to drive on our own, yet feeling that urge to experience some sort of independence that sooner or later inevitably befalls every teenager–especially teenage boys.  So we did the best we could do at the time:  we ventured out into his suburban neighborhood armed with his bottle rocket launcher and a mess of bottle rockets.  Ok, it was more like he dragged me out there with him as his accomplice to whatever mayhem and malice aforethought he was contriving in that fourteen-year-old brain of his.  I was a quiet, obedient kid and that didn’t change as I grew up.  So this was really taking me out of my comfort zone.  And what made it worse was knowing that once I lost sight of his house, I had no idea where we would be or how to get back if I had to break away and make a run for it (yes, I had a distinct feeling that I would eventually be doing that, any specific reasons for it unknown in that moment, except for the aforementioned  contraband that we both had in our possession).  I had no choice but to stick to him like glue if I ever wanted to see the comfort and safety of the only thing that was familiar to me:  his house, where I knew both our Dads were preparing some amazing steaks that I couldn’t wait to eat.

As we were jogging down the street and began darting between houses, Jeff asking for a bottle rocket and me handing him his first load of ammo as we were doing so, I began to think that our Dads may be picking us up from a local jail cell before this was all over.  What would I say??  “That’s not mine.”  Or, “I don’t know how that fire that burned down five houses got started.”  Or, “Dogs howling and barking all over the neighborhood?”  (I begin to break down, sobbing uncontrollably) “It was him, officer!  I was coerced and forced into this against my will!  He made me hand him those bottle rockets!  I…I….(Oh, no!)  Hi Dad….”

So there I was, trailing Jeff as we jogged down back alleys and became one with the dark that was the night around us (actually, it was a well-lit neighborhood with plenty of street lights, but that’s what it felt like).  At different times we would stop and take up position.  I would hand Jeff a bottle rocket, he would put it in the launcher, light it and tap the rocket down into the launcher.  We would wait an eternal two or three seconds as the fuse burned and we eventually heard a  FWOOP! sound that told us the bottle rocket had left the launcher like a missile cut loose in the water to leave its mark on an unsuspecting target with no way to stop it.   We got this routine down so well that muscle memory took over and we began launching bottle rockets from a full run.  Somewhere along the way, though, one of Jeff’s neighborhood buddies joined us and took over my role (a position I very willingly gave up), so now all I could do was make sure I hid and ran and kept up with the other two.

We made our way to the lit-up tennis courts (yes, this neighborhood had tennis courts) and Jeff proceeded to ask for another bottle rocket.   These tennis courts were nestled in the bottom of an earth bowl, surrounded by trees on three sides (which is where we were hiding out).  I watched his buddy hand him a bottle rocket with shaking hands.  As I got my hands calmed down, I watched as Jeff placed it in the launcher and lighted it.  FWOOP!  We watched as it arced itself over the middle of the tennis courts, an increasingly loud whistle giving way to a very loud BANG!!.  Foul language wafted upwards from the courts as the unsuspecting victims looked up into the sky, wondering what atrocity had just befallen them from the sky above.  Jeff launched another one.  FWOOP!  BANG!!  Now at least one of those unsuspecting victims had turned rogue and was walking in our direction very fast.  We turned tail and ran like the wind for a block or two.  We started to see vehicles driving around more frequently.  They’re on to us.  They’re hunting us like dogs.  We were “on the lam”, fleeing like the criminals we were!

We found ourselves inbetween apartment complexes, looking down a swath of backyard fifty feet wide and fifty yards long.  We all looked at each other and we all knew what the other was thinking.  Me:  No!  You wouldn’t….you really want to, don’t you…..but….  Jeff (and his buddy):  This is perfect!  How can I pass this up?!  Give it to me! (in Jeff’s buddy’s case, Give it to him!).  When Jeff launched that rocket, the whistle it made ricocheted off the backsides of the apartment complexes, making it five times as loud as it normally was.  As a result, the BANG! we normally heard from a bottle rocket was more like a BOOM! from a cannon.

We all  turned and fled the scene, me going the direction I was pretty sure was Jeff’s house and didn’t care if I was right or not, and Jeff pleading with me to go with him and his buddy as they headed off in another direction.  He saw I was done, though, so he acquiesced and walked with me back to his house.

I was emotionally exhausted.  Spent.  Ready to turn in for the night (or at least turn myself in).

I’ll tell you this:  There’s nothing like a hard night’s running from justice and the long arm of the law to really appreciate a good steak.

The Bus RV

Cindy’s Dad had an interesting idea one time that we all got to enjoy the benefit of for quite a few years.  (When this guy thought of an idea to get something done, you usually paid attention to it.  This is the same guy who helped my Dad equip the back of our van with that bench and table that turned into a bed.)  For a number of years, he was the township supervisor for Bath (the town that I have mentioned in earlier stories where I grew up).  It may have been during this period of time, but regardless, he got the news that a school district was getting rid of a school bus that was in decent condition.  His idea?  To have a number of families go in together on the purchase of this bus and make it into an RV of sorts that all of those families could use whenever they wanted to.  I have no idea how many families went in on it, but ours was one of them (I believe quite a few others from my parents’ Euchre Club that they were a part of went in on this bus-turned-RV as well).  Thus began an interesting process to watch this RV take shape…..

It was somewhere around my sophomore/junior year of high school when this project began.  It took at least most of the summer that year to do it, but I remember quite a few trips over to Cindy’s house to help work on this thing.  I remember being old enough to actually do the help of an adult, but only two things stand out in my mind about that phase of the project:  tearing out the green bus seats (which I totally enjoyed doing–there’s something about knowing I sat in seats like that as an obedient little kid that made me want to take all my aggression out on them as a teenager) and painting over the yellow color on the outside of the bus (again, pent-up aggression that probably came from waiting at the bus stop and seeing that yellow-colored beast coming down the road towards me to take me someplace that I didn’t want to go to be with a bunch of kids I didn’t want to be with….wait, this sounds too much like Calvin & Hobbes).

So when it was all finally finished, it really was a sharp-looking RV!  Some of the seats towards the front of the bus had been reupholstered and repositioned for bench seating at tables (like back-to-back restaurant booths) with the capability of the tables being lowered to the benches to become beds for sleeping.  I’m fairly certain that there was a small kitchenette of some sort towards the back, with storage for luggage, camping gear and food stuff on the opposite side of the kitchenette.  I don’t remember it having a toilet, so as much as us teenagers would have liked to give it a nickname like “The Rolling Turd”, it just wasn’t meant to be.

Quite a few of these families that went in on the bus-turned-RV were all part of an annual trip to a fantastic German/Austrian-based town called Frankenmuth in Michigan, which they did every first weekend of December.  They took the newly-constructed RV every year for that trip, and I remember joining them in the RV for the first time my first Christmas out of high school (and I seem to remember that that may have even been the last time the RV was taken for that trip).

My last memory of that RV is when our family went with Cindy’s family in the RV down to Cedar Point in Ohio and stayed in the campground that’s right there on the funpark grounds.  It makes a world of difference staying there on the grounds vs. a hotel somewhere close by!  You can stay in the park right up to closing time and not have to drive anywhere–just walk back to your campsite.  Then you can get up in the morning and enjoy some breakfast and still have time to be one of the first through the gates when they open.  If you get an opportunity to do something like that, take advantage of it!

Funny thing about that trip, though, is the fact that my Dad never got on any rides.  He never did like that kind of thing.  I can remember plenty of times at the county fairs where he just walked around and watched us kids have all the fun.  I believe he did the same thing at Cedar Point.  In fact, he may have just stayed back at the campsite and took it upon himself to be the official fire-stoker.  Of course, Cindy’s Dad would have gladly joined him in shouldering that responsibility and probably did.

That’s a good memory to end the RV with…..