Sunday, June 24, 2007

early-mid summer in A2

I've started to write a post about my experiences at the U.S. Education Department regional hearing on the Spellings Commission report (lively, I suppose) and recent goings-on at EMU (not very uplifting), but I decided that both were too complicated to put here. Suffice to say that I'm learning a lot. I've been far, far busier than I imagined a summer-after-sabbatical would be, which is to say I'm working like a fiend, but it's all interesting.

But now, it's time to talk about something else: reasons why it's great to live in A2 in the summertime. The first reason is mountain biking. Thanks to my friend Maria, the most naturally gifted athlete I've ever seen, I have taken up mountain biking (which, given that there are no mountains, here, is more trail biking). There are many great courses around Ann Arbor and in Michigan, many of which are mapped out on the Michigan Mountain Bike Association web page. I bought my bike with money from doing the WAC and advanced WAC workshops with Ann Blakeslee, which I think is a pretty good tradeoff - I liked doing the workshops, I get a new bike. I have to say that I have never loved a piece of exercise equipment like I love this bike. It's a Trek 4300, 16" frame. Trek (and many other bike companies) are making women's specific design bikes now, so this bike has a shorter distance between the seat and the handlebars and a great seat. (The photo I've linked to doesn't include the pattern on the seat that mine has - sort of flames. I figure they make me go faster.) I can't quite say why mountain biking is so fab, but here are some reasons:
*It's very technical and requires a lot of concentration
*There's no traffic through the woods
*Cadence is WAY more important than resistance
*It's just basically awesomely fun

We're in the midst of a drought here in SE Michigan, which is such an unusual experience I can't begin to say, so the trails have been GREAT - hard packed and dry. Yesterday Scott (the spousal unit) and I went through this place called Olson Park, and it felt like the grass was actually cutting my legs a little. But no matter. Scott also did a header over his handlebars, but he's fine. Just one of the elements of mountain biking that makes it exciting, that little possibility of danger.

So - accessible mountain biking is one great thing about summer in A2, which is really the theme (such as it is) of this post. Another great thing is the Ann Arbor Summer Festival, which is going on now. Last night we went to see a group called Strange Fruit, Australian aerialists (?) who perform on poles. My friends/colleagues Steve Krause and Annette Wannamaker were also there (we didn't see the Krausemakers, but they saw us), but Steve took some video and put it on YouTube/his blog. Check it out. It was a BEAUTIFUL night, and it was super cool to see these people on top of poles swinging back and forth against the Rackham Grad School building (which is a lovely building) and the blue sky with high cirrus clouds, etc. Really lovely.

Number three great thing about Ann Arbor is its relative accessibility to Michigan's #1, no holds barred, absolutely best feature of all - Lake Michigan. This side of the lake, in case any of the tens of you are on the other (Illinois/Wisconsin) side, is SO much better - it's incredible. Like the ocean without the salt and the biting fish. (Of course, also no great snorkeling, but whatever.) Today will be our first summer visit - very tinily brief - to the lake. We're taking Nora to camp. Her camp (Crystalaire) is on Crystal Lake, which connects to Lake Michigan via the Crystal River, which goes into the Betsie Bay. In about a month, we'll go on our annual yearly vacation to Beaver Island, which is a fantastic place - much swimming, biking, sitting on the beach and reading books... lovely.

So - those are some things about summer and Michigan. It still makes it worth enduring the crummy November-March stretch, so that's good...

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