Monthly Archives: July 2011

Navigating the Flood


My intentions for today’s walk were simple; walk through some areas that have been affected by the flooding that hit our area. After checking some of the news feeds I found a few spots in Lansing that I thought would still having some flooding issues. At this point in the project I have walked at least a little bit in quite a few locations. Before heading out to a walk I mark it out on my Gmaps Pedometer site to see how long of a walk it will be. My intended walk for today was just over 3 miles. That comes in as a good hour walk. Another factor that often plays into my walking schedule is whether I need to run an errand before, during or after a walk. Today I had to make a stop at our bank. Our bank is located on Cavanaugh St. in Lansing. One of the locations I thought I might walk to was Cavanaugh towards Hawk Island. I had read that the river trail was flooded and thought heading in that direction would be perfect. Not only that, but the credit union was giving away super cool, free water bottles to celebrate an anniversary. So with water bottle, camera and map I left the bank parking lot and began my journey. At a steady pace I made my way to the new river walk extending south from Hawk Island. I would take that to the new Maguire Park and then to the Jolly and Aurelius intersection. I could take Cavanaugh all the way to Aurelius but I had already walked that. So from the corner of Jolly and Aurelius I would walk back west to Pennsylvania and back to my car at the bank on the corner of Cavanaugh; a nice walk.
Due to extraneous circumstances this plan was a no-go. At the river trail there was indeed flooding. I was able to wade through some minor flooding and continue along the trail. I took some photos of the poor homes and a car that were hit pretty hard. Then I came to this:

The end of the road. I guess I had forgotten to pack my blow up raft for this part of the journey. So I back tracked. I don’t like to back track. So much so that after walking back a block to a cross street (Tranton) that took me to Jolly and making my way to the intersection of Jolly and Aurelius I refused to re-walk Jolly. Instead I went down Aurelius. On an almost 90 degree day, full sun, with no sidewalks I walked an extra 2.6 miles just so I wouldn’t have to re-walk a small section of Jolly. It was a stubborn mistake. However, I will enjoy marking the 5.6146 miles off my map I use to keep track of my walks.

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Peaceable Park


There’s times when seeking out a place of refuge is necessary. One might think that within the Lansing city limits this escape would be impossible. However, despite the many hustle and bustle areas throughout Lansing there are a multitude of locations that provide this perfect peace. Today I cut across Lansing using the expressway to expedite my travels. At the MLK Blvd. exit I am forced to dramatically reduce my speed and participate in the game of follow the leader with other southbound travelers. Having lived in this area for 8 years this area is very familiar to me. However the gaping emptiness of the torn down Oldsmobile plant now produces a bit of a shock; like seeing a man who normally wears facial hair right after a shave. The thought is quickly replaced by the pleasant view of the Grand River that floats gently below the bridge on this route. Turning right onto Moorse River Dr. quickly calms my mood as the road itself lends to a slowing down, relaxed feeling. Centerpieces of ornamental plants have been built into every block, forcing drivers to slow down and ease into the neighborhood. A few blocks in there is a traffic circle that diverts drivers into the really glamorous part of this neighborhood, much like the glass, circular doors found at the front of fancy a building. The final set of speed deterrents are the 15mph speed bumps that create the feel of riding soft waves on a lake. A few more blocks and we find the entrance to our peace; Frances Park. This park has always been one of my favorites. It is a perfect location of any park in the Lansing area; especially with the addition of the walking and parking trail to the north of Moorse River Dr. We easily park (as of right now it is one of the few Lansing area parks that doesn’t charge yet for parking) at the playground and the twins quickly escape the back seat even without me pulling the seat forward. I grab the lunch foods; sliced turkey, buns, nectarines and carrots that I just purchased at Meijer. I find an empty picnic table and smile at the other mothers sitting a few tables over. Even the weather understands my need for peace and has created the perfect atmosphere for relaxing. The gentle, cool breeze and lack of sunshine is a nice change from the extremely hot and sunny weather we’ve had here in Lansing this whole month of July. From my seat I can see the river and it only adds to the serenity.

After letting the kids play a while and completing our lunch we walk over to the rose garden. Before entering the garden area we pass by the pavilion which is actually a 3 season room. I remember using this room for a high school band picnic many years ago. I think that was the last time I was in this area. It is the perfect place for any type of outdoor picnic or even a wedding. This rose garden is very similar to that of Cooley Gardens yet it has its own majestic feel. It too creates an isolation that can cause the imagination to create a multitude of escape destinations; castle gardens, Italian Villa, French cottage. If I had the time I think I could meander through every path, smelling every flower type (over 155) and inspecting all species of plants. There are grass walkways and mulched trails. There are bricked walls and wrought iron fences. Up a set of stairs you find yourself beneath a vine encased pergola adding a new layer of sophistication. Stepping out from this protective covering and moving west quickly reveals the height and beauty of this park’s location.

Lansing is often thought of a rough, coarse, salt of the earth, car building tough city. But it also has a strong gardening, architecture, design, agriculture, philanthropic history that needs to be shared and enjoyed just as much. One might fill the pocket-book, but the other fills the heart.

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Cool it, Lansing


Once inside the towering tunnel of trees the loud city noises become muffled background sounds. The most audible sound comes from the birds twittering around and the wind blowing the tree tops far above our head. After walking the six blocks down Clifton Ave. from Pat’s childhood home we were at the entrance to Scott Woods. This park had back handedly gotten in on the Hawk Island renewal a few years ago. At the very end of Clifton Ave. sits this sentry cove; a beckoning preview of what sits within its treescape. Instead of the old dirt paths and rustic signs it once had the city has paved a walking path wide enough for two way pedestrian traffic. Well built bridges cover the slow flowing streams or even dried up riverbeds. There have been recent additions of directional signs leading walkers to their proper destination; whether it’s to Potter Park, MSU River trail, McGuire Park, the Soldan Dog Park or Hawk Island. Only in location does this new Scott Woods resemble the single file trails leading to a small gravel pit that Pat took me to while we dated twenty two years ago. The old air plane hangar is no longer there. In fact the gravel pit is no longer there. It’s really hard to explain what happened in this area; a landscaping on steroids. Bulldozers brought in piles of dirt, redirected hills and islands and developed a recreational masterpiece. The gravel pit became a gorgeous lake with a picturesque island in the center. Pavilions and picnic tables are scattered in perfect symmetry throughout the park. The community meticulously constructed a playground that can entertain children for hours. (I know this for a fact). The cemented trail all around the park lends for roller blading, walking, biking and in the winter skiing. Fishing is a common sport in designated areas around the lake. There is also a boating area for enjoying the water without getting wet. However, if getting wet is your intention, as it was ours on this overly hot day, then the greatest adventure at Hawk Island is the splash pad.

We knew we were getting close to the watery play area as we continued our walk. We could see the lake through the trees. The increase in frequency of passing pedestrians also gave us a clue.
Then we heard the screaming. It was the constant squealing, giggling, yelling and laughing of hundreds of Lansing residents refreshing themselves in the lake and at the splash pad. It called to us from around the trail. With sweat dripping down our backs we could only hope that we would reach that refreshing water soon. We made the turn onto the trail that took us directly to flowing, crystal clear fountains. We walked past the boat area; we passed the trail to the playground and beach and walked right through the gate to the Hawk Island splash pad. We waded through the clouds of chlorine and suntan lotion and joined the throngs of people that we had just heard screaming in the distance. For the next hour we stood under buckets filling with water, slowly spilling onto our heads. We ran through tunnels of shooting water and stood on holes in the ground gushing water straight into the sky. We used guns to shoot the water and cones to redirect it. It was the hottest day of the year and many were out seeking anything to refresh them and to wash the sweat from their bodies. With these incredibly warm summer days many would have no other way to cool down and definitely not have anything this cool!

Home Sweet Home


It was September 1, 1996 and we were finally signing the closing papers. For the last four and a half years we had been living in Richmond, VA. For the last 3 months we’d been living in my in law’s basement. Now, finally back in Lansing we were about to become home owners for the first time. A few months earlier a realtor friend of ours told us he had found the perfect home. And he was right. It was a cute Cape Cod with 3 bedrooms 1.5 bath, and a huge deck. It was located in a very quiet neighborhood, two blocks from the elementary school. Our oldest would be going to kindergarten there now that we signed the papers to our house. Colonial Village was our new home for the next eight years. In that time we refinished all the hardwood floors, put ceramic floor in the kitchen, replaced two toilets, tiled the shower and repainted a lot. I put in a garden and added perennials every year. We hosted birthdays and holidays. The neighbor kids played at our house and every one else’s too. We lived a mile from my grandma’s house and walked there often in the summer to swim. We were close to an L & L for quick grocery items, Hollywood Video for movie watching, a Chinese restaurant, a bank, a salon, a Quality Dairy and even our dentist. We loved it here.

Walking through this neighborhood yesterday it seems that many of the qualities that made me love it all those years ago are still securely in place; friendly neighbors, well kept lawns, expansive flowerbeds. I was greeted multiple times with a smile, a wave or even a bit of small talk. There were quite a few dog walkers and children playing at Elmhurst Park. I had worried a bit that the housing bubble might have roughened this neighborhood up a little. There were rumors of nefarious behavior in the news recently. Despite some peeling paint at the edges the rest of the neighborhood seems to be solidly intact. It’s a shame the city is having such a hard time financially, as Elmhurst Elementary could really use some tender loving care. The playground needs repairs and paint was peeling on the school. The bus driveway needs to be repaved as well. But the school is still there; still open. The flags are still waving and the signs are still in place. In just under two months the doors will be held open by smiling teachers allowing the flow of sun tanned, excited children back into its embrace. I hope somewhere there is a young family with a young child who just became first time home owners. I hope they enjoy walking their child to school and can hear the children cheer on the playground when they are out for recess. I hope they can walk down the few blocks to capture their child in costume on Halloween, or participate in field day or other school activities. I hope they get to embrace all the joys that living in this community has. I know we did.

***Special note** This walk was 3.0839 which officially places me over 100 miles for this project!

All Roads Lead to Common Ground


It’s July in Lansing and the orange traffic barrels have once again made their way onto the city streets. Some are put out for the typical road construction projects. However, another set in downtown have been strategically placed to funnel streaming festival goers to their destination. From Shiawasee St. to Grand Ave. to Saginaw St. to Cedar St. a full city block becomes the epicenter for the summer entertainment; Common Ground. The Adado River Front Park, with its usual activity being exercisers and nesting ducks, transforms into a bustling arena consisting of two full sized stages, adult beverage tents, and an array of food vendors. Each night starting around five thirty, just as dusk descends on the city, droves of eager residents enter the gated community.
This year I found myself, not as one of the eager gate waiters like years past, but rather staff; LSJ staff even. A good friend of mine needed help and I was happy to assist. She recently landed the job of manager for Gannett’s Lansing based DealChicken.com. I was so excited to see her with an online presence again that if she had asked for people to jump off the Boji Tower with her I would have agreed. Luckily for me she only needed helping hands to collect email addresses at the most popular music festival in Lansing. Now, if she had mentioned that the shirt I needed to wear was the brightest yellow possible with a picture of an egg with legs on it? Well, how tall is the Boji Tower?

For two evenings, attired in my fashionable yellow shirt and a clip board, I stood at a dedicated LSJ table asking visitors if they would be interested in signing up for Deal Chicken a local daily deal email service. Some signed up on the spot. Many people politely declined. Some were interested, wanted more information, and then signed up. A specific group type, not trained in proper etiquette, stuck their nose in the air and ignored me. And one told me; “Sorry, I’m allergic to chicken”. I was fascinated by the array of personalities that passed by. It was a kaleidoscope of Lansing’s population. I was overjoyed when I recognized someone in the crowd, confidently shouting their name. As they walked over to my table I would smile and ask if they’d like to sign up for Deal Chicken. My son’s diving coach from Haslett High School, the founder of Lunch with a Purpose, family members and a few friends from my old neighborhood all signed up. I had a friendly exchange with Lance Enderle, a former Eastern alum and contender for congress. He called me sweetheart. So did Evan Pinsonnault as he gave me a hug asking if I walked here for my project. How sweet that he remembered me.
One of the other volunteers there who was passing out booklets said to me that this was really helping her get over her shyness; being able to walk up to people and talk to them. I would have to agree that my City Saunter project has also done that for me. It has given me a sense of confidence I never had before. I’ve been able to see how easy it is to make a difference, to meet others who are trying to make a difference and really enjoy being a part of that commitment. Now that’s a deal I’m not chicken to try out.

Summer Storm


The meeting had already been delayed an hour due to threatening weather so with a break in the clouds we took the chance. As I pulled off the highway streaks of sun threatened my visibility. The storm, I thought, had indeed passed. This July in Lansing had produced highs over 80 every day so far and not a drop of rain. For the last three days the humidity partnered up with temperatures in the 90s has created a pool side paradise. It should have been no surprise that stormy forecasts had been added to the menu. However, like a spoiled child wanting just one more treat, I protested with each grumble of thunder. I guess I got a little use to the 10 days of continuous sunshine! Who wouldn’t? In Lansing our line of thinking is; “if you don’t like the weather, wait a few minutes”. So to have ten continuous days with sunshine, warm weather, a soft breeze and no rain, well, that’s not typical.
Getting out of the car we greeted each other with a smile and a handshake. I had already slung my camera, extra lens case and map over my shoulder and neck so we were ready to walk. My interviewer, Emanuele, pulled a small recording device and a purse out for our walk. In the post rain shower there was a bit of humidity seeping back into the air but the cooler air flow kept it at bay. We began walking. After a few minutes Emanuele started asking her questions for MSU’s radio station IMPACT 89 Exposure Show using a microphone connected to the recorder. We continued past Sexton High School and as we came to Martin Luther King Blvd. we stopped the interview until we could walk to a quieter area. As we turned the corner onto W. Ottawa St. we came face to face with our future weather event. As the dark blue clouds swirled over our head we joked that maybe it would just blow past. I suppose the joke was on us, since there was no chance this storm was missing us. In fact, within seconds the rain started. At first we were able to dodge some of the rain by going from one tree cover to the next. The rain became heavier and constant. I stuffed my camera under my shirt as Emanuele threw open her leather purse to safe guard her equipment. We made it another block and the rain still came flooding down. We were now jumping over puddles, slipping in our summer sandals and regretting the choice of white shorts. Ok, that last one was just me. At this point I was seriously concerned about my camera. I started eyeing over the recycling bins to find any discarded protection. I was able to pull out a plastic tub and put it over the back end of my camera. It would have to be enough. A few minutes later we were back at our cars. The rain was stopping. The interview was over and once again a mid Michigan storm had passed. This will be my most memorable interview so far; roughing crazy weather together will do that!
*I have no new photos for this walk, as my poor camera is sitting in a pile of rice; drying out.

Family Tradition Day


They started out as a sporadic disruption to the quiet night; an unexpected boom like thunder. Much like a storm the bangs increase in occurrence and intensity until tonight they make their climatic finale. The explosions of fire crackers, fireworks and sparklers all have a stage call tonight at dusk. With the anticipation of this fine show, many families have created a set of rituals that have been in place for decades. For me, I have spent almost every one of my 41 Fourth of July’s at my Grandma Foster’s house. Nothing means home more to me than her house. It has been my true north; my consistent place, my unfaltering safety net. The Fourth of July picnic at her home was the first official picnic of the year. It was a time to come over, swim in the pool, enjoy home cooked food and socialize. My grandmother housed all seven of her children at this home. At times she housed a few of her 16 grandchildren as well. And usually a fair amount of this clan would return for this one picnic. With the passing of years and the addition of 13 great-grandchildren, it would not be uncommon to have well over 30 family members together for the holidays. We would fill the pool, filter out to the front yard, play games upstairs and sit at the kitchen table.
Walter, Uncle Mark, me and Uncle Scott ~1978ish.

As a young person I highly anticipated this picnic. My brother always had big plans to create the best “firework” ever. Usually it involved some of my dad’s gunpowder discretely taken from the gunpowder horn my dad kept for his antique gun. Five miles south at my grandma’s house my uncle Scott would also be creating his explosive concoctions as well. At our arrival the two of them would set up their creations and we would test them out. I believe neither ever created their true master piece, but each year they gave it a good try. The best thing about this picnic was that it didn’t end after swimming or even after the food was put away. This night the party went late. The shadows would start to get long with the setting sun. The adults would start packing up chairs and blankets, spray us down with bug spray and load us into the cars for the short ride downtown for the best part of the night; sitting on a grassy hill, surrounded by family, watching fireworks light the night sky.
Sometimes things change however, and the perfect picnic fades into memory. There are the divorces that left uncles or aunts or mothers uninvited. In 1989 I joyously goofed around with my 17 year old brother at that year’s picnic, not knowing it would be his last. Two weeks later he died in a car accident. Grandma and grandpa’s house turned into grandma’s house when grandpa passed away in the late 1990s. In 2008 grandma hosted her last Fourth of July picnic. At the age of 80 it had become too much.
Time marches on and changes are made. This year I hosted the Foster picnic. It wasn’t the same but it was a lot of fun! In a few minutes I will start to load chairs and blankets into the car and spray the kids down with bug spray. You see, I was taught by the best and my grandma’s traditions will live on in me; especially the potato salad. Happy Independence (Family Tradition) Day.

Making Ways


On the east side of Lansing, south of I-496 freeway, a simple street with an inspiring name got a face lift recently. This wasn’t the first time Mt. Hope Ave. was altered in some way. It’s gone from a two lane road to a four lane road and now this change will make it three lanes. The road itself was not altered in any way at all. Essentially Mt Hope got a paint job. It took two days. Someone got paid to do it. Works for me! Starting at the 127 over pass a new center lane was added, outlined in bright orange. To either side there is now one lane in each direction replacing the two lanes it previously had. This new configuration allows an extra two feet along the edge; creating a bike lane. Already, even in its infancy, it was being used by bikers, joggers and myself; the bike walker.
The idea behind this bike path is to connect a section of road from the southern end of East Lansing to the newly constructed bike trails along Aurelius. This area recently upgraded its walk ability by adding bike trails and walking paths connecting the river trail to Hawk Island. It’s these simple changes that add to the mobility and choices for mobility to the residents in the greater Lansing area. At this time a person can get from downtown East Lansing all the way to Moorse Park, to the south and Turner Dodge to the north entirely on a non road bike path. These paths also pass by down town Lansing, Old Town, Potter Park, and many other various parks and businesses. By creating these additional bike lanes on the busier roads and connecting them to existing trails we only add to the flexibility of our residents. We can now choose to bike to work, walk to the park, shop at multiple shopping districts or even visit family and friends without getting into a car. An added benefit, besides a health one, is that walking and biking allow a more intimacy with your surroundings. You notice the cleanliness or lack of in an area. You are within touching distance of fellow bikers and walkers. You can really see the person you are about to pass. You smile and say “hi”. They smile and say “hi”. You can’t really help it. Exercise releases endorphins and makes you happy. And that’s really good for the environment.