Friday, July 18, 2014

Bug world and Tales from the road

Diane Lopez Hughes and Maya Evans explore Michigan City.


For two nights, a campsite at the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore was our home. It was not only home to us and a variety of other campers, it was also home to a large quantity of mosquitoes and other biting insects. The insects discovered Maya Evans and me and called out to their friends and relatives that dinner was served!
Not wishing to become Buggy Dinner (or lunch or breakfast), we tried spraying massive quantities of insect repellent all over any inch of exposed skin on our bodies. Unfortunately, as it turned out, Maya was such a tasty treat that the insects kept taking taste tests, despite the bad tasting insect repellent.
Maya, Alice, and Ruth discover their inner divas.

Ceylon drove to the walk from Memphis, Tennessee.

Ruth waits to get Ceylon's attention. Ruth lives in a Catholic Worker house in Minneapolis.

Jessica lives in Kalamazoo. She had recently spent 26 days in jail after being arrested protesting against tar sands oil and pipelines and the potential for disastrous spills. She climbed a tree and sat in it until the cops removed her.
We ate dinner at a picnic table and we told jokes and stories and relaxed after a long day of walking that took us from Gary to a stopping point somewhere on the road to Michigan City, Indiana. It was a total of sixteen miles. We tried taking selfies with Ceylon's cell phone but we looked ridiculous because we were laughing so hard. We sang silly songs and we ate chocolates. 
It felt good to unwind and to enjoy the natural world...
... except for those darn (smack!) mosquitoes... and... oh... it got so cold! I wrapped myself in a blanket... and would have started whining about the cold weather and the ravenous bugs... but then I noticed that some of my friends from previous walks showed up... Joshua, our regular one-man band (he sings, plays the guitar, and the drums, but he can't seem to do all of that simultaneously) and Barbara, a music teacher from Appleton, Wisconsin, who sang rain songs with me when we were walking through a heavy downpour in Wisconsin two years ago. Jim, a friend of Barbara's, also came to join our merry group.
One of the most wonderful thing about these walks is the friends you meet on the route... and seeing them again is very delightful.
The bathroom facilities were primitive and, therefore, worthy of story telling. Along the way to the bathroom facility, I met people and dogs. I always like seeing people include their dogs in their family vacation. The woods make a good playground for a dog, as well as for kids.
It got dark and we retired to our little tents to continue the hilarity and to eventually sleep. My sister Vivian and I carried on a conversation via text message. My comments got sillier and sillier as I got more and more sleepy.
In the morning, we returned to the road to continue our walk. By this point, I was convinced that my feet were going to fall off and that I would have to learn how to walk on my knees or my hands or my elbows or...
Jim, however, saved the day. He had a big box full of foot care supplies. He told Buddy that we would join the walk in progress. We sat on the side of a narrow road and Jim attended to my feet. The nearest building was a training center for the United Steelworkers. Before long, someone from the United Steelworkers came to talk to us. He wanted to know more about our group because he and some others saw people walking by with picket signs. They thought that we were union people on strike. We told him about the drones and he agreed with us that killing civilians by remote control (or in any other way) is a bad idea.
With my feet bandaged and moisturized, Jim and I were able to rejoin the walk.
We were headed to Michigan City. 
As we were walking, we met a man named Johnny. He was standing outside of a small house and he wanted to tell us something. He wanted to tell us that he did not agree with our message of ground the drones. This Iraq war veteran told us that the drones protect our troops and are, therefore, necessary. Johnny also shared a bit of his personal history. He said that he has post traumatic stress disorder from having served in the U.S. Army in combat missions. He cannot work. He said that he has lost family members to the war. He added that he spent a year in a military mental hospital at Fort Knox, Kentucky. When I asked him if he wanted me to pray for him, he said yes and he told me his full name and his military rank (sergeant). I said that I would pray for him.
Prison zone. The sign says it all.
In the afternoon, we arrived in Michigan City, a rust belt city with, oddly enough, a huge state prison right in the middle of the city. It is surrounded by huge fences and razor wire and all of the other things that make you think prison or Berlin Wall. There were vehicles full of correctional officers everywhere, but we saw no inmates. Maybe the prison officials did not want the inmates to see us and our signs as we walked past the prison, which looked like a captive city behind razor wire.
Prison is a growth industry in the United States...
We returned to Bug World for another delicious meal, hilarity, and a not-so-good night's rest in freezing cold tents. We heard train whistles until late at night. Apparently, someone was having no trouble sleeping because we could hear snoring from somewhere beyond our tent. It reminded me of my time in federal prison when I was placed in a room with a bunch of roommates who asked me, "Do you snore?" I said that I didn't know. They then informed me that I had moved into the SNORING ROOM. They weren't kidding, either, because they produced a cacophany of snores. With earplugs, I was able to sleep.
But I digress. Back to Bug World.
Fortunately, that was our last night at being a Mosquito's Favorite Meal. In the morning, we packed up our property and our tents and put everything into the big white van that served as our support vehicle. We drove past the prison and saw that inmates were outside, walking on the track and playing sports. We started our day's walk in downtown Michigan City, walking past shops that were still closed because it was too early for them to open. We passed colorful spring gardens and we took pictures of the gardens and of one another. 
The weather was gorgeous.
We were going to the beach.
We walked out of the rusted part of the rust belt and onto a neighborhood of vacation homes, where only a few residents stayed for the entire year. Cameras came out and we took pictures of Lake Michigan, the houses, and one another. Maya, Ruth, and I spent a little bit too much time enjoying photography, and we became separated from the rest of the group. As we wandered the side streets, a woman named Peggy offered to help us find out group. She told us that she is a nurse practitioner and that she teaches nursing at a nearby college. We decided that it was OK to get into her car. Peggy was our angel. Before long, we were reunited with our group at a beach, located either in Indiana or in Michigan. Some members of our group went swimming but I decided that, with the ointments and bandages on my feet, I would just walk on the beach and look for seashells. 
There really were almost no seashells. Instead, I found colorful stones. Some of the stones were smooth and others were rough. Some stones looked like paintings and others more like stained glass. I collected a bunch of stones to take home for my stones collection in a jar. The beach was teeming with life: parents and children, and groups of teenagers.
We left the beach and we left Indiana.
Joshua enjoys wading in the water...

A great variety of stones at the public beach on the border of Indiana and Michigan.

Brian and Deb find a scenic place to plan strategy.
We left central daylight time and discovered that an hour had also left us. We were now in the eastern time zone.
We had just walked into Michigan.
It felt exciting to walk into another state...
To be continued...

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