Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Wednesday, 6/20

I wonder if our rate has gone up or gone down?

I saw a statistic released yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control showing that the smoking rate in the US has gone down to 14% overall. It's the lowest rate in history, and a sign that people are finally realizing that there is nothing at all good about exposing yourself and others to cancer-causing chemicals.

Maybe there's a little hope for the world yet.

About a decade ago I was curious about Marquette County's smoking rate (I think for a “What's Up, UP” question), and in the course of research found that Marquette County had the lowest smoking rate in the entire state. Back in 2007, Marquette County's smoking rate was at 14%, which is what the rest of the country is at now. So in the past 11 years, has Marquette County's rate dropped even further, or were we just a decade (and change) ahead of our time?

I'd be curious to know.

I know people still smoke in Marquette County. Trust me, I know that for sure—every so often we have a contest winner come in to pick up a prize reeking so strongly of cigarette smoke that we have to open our doors just to air out our lobby. I don't know if those listeners are aware they smell that bad, or if they're just nose-blind, but it's bad. Really, really bad. So I do know that some people in Marquette County still smoke.

I also know that a lot of temporary residents and tourists smoke, as well. As I wrote about last May, there was a marked decrease in the amount of people I saw smoking the few weeks after NMU let out for the year. So a chunk of the people in Marquette County who smoke aren't from here (and, trying hard not to stereotype, I noticed that a lot of those who do smoke have out of state license plates on the cars near which I noticed them).

Spending a lot of time walking around downtown Marquette, you notice that some—not a lot, but some—of the people visiting us are puffing away, too. In fact, Loraine and I have a running gag going that if we see someone smoking on the sidewalk, it's most usually a tourist, especially when they blow smoke in the direction of passers-by.

Yoopers just seem too gosh darned polite to do that.

But overall, I have no idea how many residents of Marquette County still smoke. I have no idea if we still have the lowest tobacco usage rate in Michigan, or if we've just settled in amongst the pack. Maybe I'll have to do a little more digging; if any of you know, please share. No matter what, though, it's nice to see that the country as a whole has decided that smoking sucks.

Something that people around here started realizing and putting into practice over a decade ago.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Tuesday, 6/19

Okay. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't the bike.

As you may recall, I got a new bike last weekend; specifically, this Giant mountain bike--

I really needed a new one for many different reasons, not the least of which was I wanted to keep up with Loraine when we went out together. She has a new bike, and when I was riding my 27-year old paperweight along side her I'd soon find myself looking at her back from a distance of, oh, a kilometer or so. So I thought getting a new bike might help in that regard.

Well, it did. Until it didn't. We went out Sunday between the thunderstorms, and ended up riding just over 15 miles out to Harvey and back, and then all through the city bike path system. It was sunny, it was 85 degrees, and it was a glorious day to test out my new bike.

And I almost—almost--was able to keep up with Loraine. Until I couldn't.

First of all, let me say my new bike is about 2,400% better than my old bike. I can accelerate quickly, and there's absolutely no comparison in going up hills. That's so much easier than it was with my old paperweight. But because it's different, physically, from my old bike I noticed it almost takes an entirely different pedaling style, one that I'm not used to. So while I was kind of able to keep up with Loraine (who, as we've established, is a monster when it comes to athletics) after a while my legs started to complain about this entirely new pedaling style. And by the end of the ride I was once again looking at Loraine's backside, although only from a distance of a couple of hundred meters instead of a whole kilometer.

So I have that going for me.

I'm hoping that as I get used to riding the new bike, and as my legs build up, I'll be able to keep up with Loraine even better. I don't know if that's the case; after all, as my leg strength builds up so does hers, so by the time I'm ready to go she'll be three steps ahead of me. Not that it matters; riding with her is the important thing, and besides, it gives me something to work toward—being able to keep up with her, I mean.

Wish me luck. And keep your fingers crossed that my new bike helps, if even just a little!


Monday, June 18, 2018

Monday, 6/18

Okay, Mother Nature. You can lay off the U.P. for a while.

Between the massive windstorm and power outages we had around Marquette Wednesday, the unexpected flooding in Ironwood Friday, and then the unprecedented destruction in the Copper Country yesterday, you'd think that Mom N has something against our little piece of paradise. I don't know if we did something to piss her off, or if we just happened to be the lucky target when she decided to unleash a little fury on the planet, but the past four or five days have just been something around here.

And it can stop any time.

If you haven't seen the pictures or video of what happened in Houghton, Hancock, and (particularly) Lake Linden yesterday, it's worth your time to check some out. I've spent a lot of time in those areas, and I'm just stunned by the destruction that occurred. The National Weather Service in Marquette has called this a “once in a thousand year” event, and I hope for the sake of our friends in the Copper Country it is just that.

Unfortunately, I don't think it will be.

With the way we're inexorably changing the planet's climate, predictions made by smart people are coming true. Climate scientists say that, as the planet warms, weather events will become more extreme, which was proven by the “hurricane” we had here last October and the mass devastation yesterday in the Keweenaw. And it's not just happening around here. In Europe, they're setting records for heat each and every year. In Germany, flash floods destroyed several towns and killed a couple of people; the storms also closed the gorge through which Loraine and I were supposed to start our day-long hiking expedition when head over there in a few months. Of course, by the time we're supposed to leave to actually start the hike, who knows what the weather will be like?

Snow here so we can't leave? Flooding that inundates Munich, where we're supposed to land? A plague of locusts somewhere in the middle? I have no idea. I just have this feeling that at least one strange thing will happen.

After all, it seems like we've broken the planet. Mother Nature's just lashing out in anger.

I hope our friends in the Copper Country have been through the worst of it, and that as morning dawns today their skies are clear. I hope that the damage looked worse that it really was, and if not, I hope repairs are quick and relatively painless. No one should have their lives ripped apart, especially by torrents of mud & water. If there's anything you need, just let us know. And to Mother Nature, you can move on now.

We really like you up here. It'd be a shame if that changed.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Friday, 6/15

I probably should've done it 15 or twenty years ago, but I suppose it's better now than never, right?

Those of you who've been reading these on a regular basis know all about the bike I've been riding for, well, forever. It's a 1991 Shogun mountain bike that's seen better days, but it gets me where I need to go and, most importantly, makes me work real hard to get there. It's an old bike with an old gear system, and I get twice the workout trying to keep up with anyone around me.

From a conditioning point of view, at least, that's a good thing.

Last year Loraine went and bought herself a new bike, with a high tech gear system and a light frame and all that good stuff. So when we've gone out riding together she's able to zoom off down the trail while I'm pedaling as hard as humanly possible just trying to keep up with her. However, because her bike's so good and light (and because she's a monster athlete) and the bike I'm riding is old and heavy I'll be 200 or 300 meters behind her before either of us even realize it. And that's no fun. So when we finished a ride this past Sunday (where she actually had to stop & wait for me) we decided it was time.

We rode home, walked over to Downwind Sports, and I then came home with this--

It's a Giant Talon 3 that weighs about a third of my old bike, with a high tech gear system and disc brakes. You don't have to strain to pedal, you can accelerate without raising your heart rate to dangerous levels, and you can stop on a dime. It's basically everything you should have in a mountain bike these days.

It's basically everything my old bike was not.

I have not yet gone out on a big ride with Loraine to see if I can now keep up with her. If I can, cool. If she still rides a little faster than me, that's cool, too. After all, like I said, she is a monster athlete. But either way I know that I will be getting a much more efficient and faster-paced workout, and I don't think she'll have to stop and wait for me. I'm guessing that's a good thing.

I don't know what I'm doing with my old bike yet. For now, I'm just keeping it at work, just in case, for whatever reason, I might need one. Like I mentioned yesterday I used it to head down to the beach on my half day Wednesday, so it does seem like it could come in handy on occasion. Besides, I 've had the bike since the early 90s. It's served me well (that one accident five years ago notwithstanding). It deserves a graceful retirement in one form or another.

I just don't know what that form will be yet.

So that's one of the things I have planned for the weekend, a long ride to see just how good the bike it. I have a feeling the difference between the two bikes with be startling, like going from a Model A to the space shuttle Atlantis.

I'll let you know how it turns out.

Have yourself a great weekend, and if you can, have a great day with your dad Sunday!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Thursday, 6/14

Now that the insanity of the past week is finished, I was finally able to do a couple of things I've been wanting to do all summer (or what we've had of summer so far). Yesterday, for the first time since (I think) last August, I went to the beach.

It was glorious.

Because the weather was supposed to be nice (and it was), I took a half day yesterday just to do the things I haven't been able to do all year. I went down to McCarty's Cove, just let my toes sink into the sand and the sun wash across my face, and immediately felt better. I don't know why, but there's just something so...zen, at least for me, about walking down a warm & sunny beach that I wish I could do it every single day of the year. I know my mental health would appreciate it.

Now I just have to figure out how to do it while living in Marquette, where it snows nine months of the year. Wish me luck on that.

Aside from the beach I also went running in the midday heat. I know some people (hi, Loraine!) think I'm insane for wanting to run in the absolute worst conditions for running, but what can I say? I like running when it's hot and sticky. I like having sweat pour out of every single pore in my body. And most importantly, I like not having to wear 18 pieces clothing just to make sure body parts don't fall off. It's amazing how much faster and harder you can run when you're not dragging several extra pounds of clothing along with you.

So that was my day yesterday. I wish it was longer, but it was nice just to get away from everything for a bit and do stuff I've wanted to do for a long time. Hopefully, too, it was just the first of many times doing it this summer.

Oh—and I did one more thing, too. I went for a ride on my old bike. That's OLD bike.

The story behind that tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Wednesday, 6/13

Okay. This is the last thing I write about the Great Fire of 1868. Really, it is!

At the beginning of the tour Monday night I showed everyone a picture of downtown Marquette from 1863, to show just how ramshackle and frontier-like the place looked five years before the fire. Specifically, I showed them THIS picture--

It was taken of what is now the 400 south block of Front Street, and was shot from approximately where the Father Marquette statue now sits. Since this block sits just south of where the fire ended, it wasn't affected at all by the blaze. So, at the end of the tour, as we were standing in the parking lot right next to where the picture was taken 155 years ago, I pulled the picture out again and pointed something out. There is a building on that block that actually bore witness to the Great Fire of 1868--

Specifically, the white house in the middle of this picture I took yesterday morning from the same place as the photo taken in 1863--

Don't believe me? Take a look for yourself, side-by-side and 155 years apart.--

That's right; there's still a building existing downtown that was in Marquette during the Great Fire. There are a few more windows in the building now, and the front door has been moved, but it's the same structure. I don't know for sure, but based on what people told me afterward and based on comments I've seen since, that one fact may have stuck with people more than any other. Apparently, several minds were blown that there's a building that old in downtown Marquette.

Who knew that would be one of the big takeaways of the whole thing?

It's funny, too, when you think about it. It's never been an important building or a building of which people have fond memories. Nope; it's just been a building that's held everything from meat market to a tobacco shop to a surfboard store (seriously) to what it is these days; a hair salon. It has a couple of apartments in it, too. It's never been an iconic building, but it's the one building still around that was present when (most) of Marquette burned to the ground.

I'm guessing the people living there don't even know that.

So the next time you're driving down Front Street or you happen to be visiting the Father Marquette statue, look across the street at the unassuming white building. You're looking at (at least) 155 years of history.

You're looking at the only building still standing in downtown Marquette that was there when the city burned in 1868.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Tuesday, 6/12

Well...that was a lot of fun!

Last's night “Great Fire Tour” went off without a hitch, as I was joined by a whole lot of people on a beautiful evening on the streets of downtown Marquette as I babbled about the fire that almost leveled the city 150 years ago. Just how many people? Well, this many people--

Actually, the picture (borrowed from WJMN Local 3) really doesn't do the crowd justice. I don't know for sure, but someone from the History Center estimated that around 120 people showed up, so we'll go with that number for now. And it's funny; I didn't know if anyone aside from one really dorky history buff even cared about the sesquicentennial of the event.

Guess that goes to show what I know.

Of course, that wasn't the half of it. After I posted yesterday's blog/history lesson about the fire, I shared it on a Facebook group, where it then got picked up by a couple of other sites, and before I knew it 3,359  people (at least as of 8 this morning) had read it.

3,359 people!!

Now, mind you, these babblings usually get around 100 people reading them on any given day. Sometimes it's a little less; on days when I feel like actually promoting it it that number could double or even triple. But to have 3,359 read it blew my mind. Like I said before, I had no idea if anyone even cared, much less having 3,359 people care (or, at least, care enough to read about it) about the history of the great fire.

Maybe there's hope for the world after all. 8-)

So thanks to everyone who showed up for the tour, who sent their apologies for not being able to show up for the tour, who read the blog, or who just sent along a message thanking me for sharing part of Marquette's history. I'm glad you enjoyed it, hopefully at least as much as I enjoyed putting it together.

So once again, thanks.

Oh, by the way.  Look at the picture from Local 3 again.  Notice the guy standing next to me with the speaker on his head?  You may be thinking to yourself, "Self, why is there a guy with a speaker on his head?"  Well, that's my dad, who volunteered to serve as a human speaker stand last night so the 120 people could hear what i was saying.  So thanks a whole bunch, dad!!

Tomorrow, the story of the one building still left in downtown Marquette that bore witness to the fire of 1868.  Then I'll stop talking about it.  Promise.