Saturday, January 17, 2009

Welcome, New Year

Into the lake

Sea kayaking on Lake Michigan
On New Year's Day, I flew to Michigan to spend a few days with Greg's family at their home near Traverse City. It was a relaxing time for all of us away from TV (well, mostly away from TV) and the news and cell phones, and the short, cold, cloudy days made for great beer drinking. In fact, we reverted to old Prague habits and elected for the "steady drip" method of consumption. In our estimation, most events - including sea kayaking and snow mobile touring - were better done with at least a little help from the liquid jacket.

Cross-country skiing right down to the water

My flights up were quick and easy - and free because I'd been bumped from a flight earlier in 2008 - and as I walked out of the airport, Greg and his mom pulled up to the terminal. For the next few days, we ate leftover Christmas cookies and drank fancy beer. We also checked out the peninsula via snow mobile more than once. On our second night, Greg led me on a 3-hour tour that started at midnight and involved racing up and down a snow-covered grass airstrip before some hill climbing through trees in the dark. The next day we visited some of the same places by daylight with his family, and before the end of the night we were jumping the snow mobiles over a levee near Greg's house.

Specially designed sea-kayak suits

We figured it'd also be fun to spend some time on unfrozen water and got out the sea kayaks for an afternoon of drinking and paddling on the high seas. Because it was so cold outside, we donned wetsuits under our clothes and rain suits over our clothes. I think mine was designed for an 8-year old girl - I couldn't really inhale deeply - but it did keep me warm. I don't know if you've ever tried to get out of a sea kayak while it's floating, but it's tough. I almost ended up in Lake Michigan when we landed to take a leak, but that didn't go as poorly as Greg's attempt to, uh, relieve himself without first removing the top half of his wetsuit.

Greg catching some air on the snow mobile

Yes, we had matching snow-mobile suits

Between great adventures, we watched Ewan McGregor & Charley Boorman's documentary film - Long Way Around - of their adventures riding BMW motorcycles around the world - from London east through Europe and Asia and eventually America to New York. It's worth a look. We worked in some cross-country skiing to do something semi-active, and we even tackled the icyest sledding hill I've ever experienced. We chopped wood for the family fireplace, and you can see some excellent instruction from Greg below. He even managed to sneak a piece into my luggage before I left. I suppose that's his way of leaving me with something to remember the trip by, as if that could ever be an issue. Thanks to Greg and his family for welcoming me in as one of their own and sharing an awesome couple of days with me. I hope to visit again sometime.

One of the sweetest sounds you'll ever hear...

Greg demonstrates the correct technique to split a log.

An action shot of Greg doing what Greg does

The ever-popular "hand split."

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