A Living Civics Lesson

We all remember high school civics, that dreaded class taught by an earnest yet numbingly boring guy who probably was the assistant wrestling coach.  He spoke of the balance of powers, the three branches of government, and how a bill becomes a law.  And, most of all, he talked about how important it is for each citizen to exercise their franchise.  “Every vote counts” and “every vote is meaningful” he would say, as most students rolled their eyes and some audibly snickered.

Well, yesterday voters in the primary election to select the Republican candidate for Congress in Michigan’s First Congressional District got a real-life civics lesson.  More than 99,000 voters cast their ballots in a multiple-candidate runoff, and according to the preliminary results on the Michigan Secretary of State website, top vote-getter Dan Benishek leads Jason Allen by exactly one vote.

No doubt there are ardent Jason Allen supporters in the District who, for whatever reason, just didn’t get around to voting, and now they are kicking themselves because they are personally responsible for their candidate’s loss.  And it is equally probable that somewhere a civics teacher is smiling, knocking together their chalk-covered hands, and saying:  “See?  I told you so!”

A Few Final Thoughts About Northern Michigan

There was a lot to like about our trip to northern Michigan, and a lot that surprised me, too. A few final points:

I was amazed at the physical beauty of the place.  It seemed as if every turn of a corner offered another striking vista.  I’m not sure that pictures can do it justice.  One of our favorite views was a farm scene that featured a series of three unusually designed wooden barns painted brilliantly white, located behind a farm field left in pasture, with purple blossoms spread among the green grasses as if a giant had walked by and strewn violet dust across the landscape.  It was so attractive we just had to stop the car, get out, and take a picture.

The church at Omena, Michigan

The area that we visited, just slightly north of Omena, Michigan on a finger of land that stretched north between Lake Michigan to the west and Grand Traverse Bay to the east, seemed perfectly suited to riding bikes.  It featured gently rolling hills that made you work a bit on the way up but allowed you to coast pleasantly on the way down, winding lanes, lots of tree cover and areas of cool, deep shade, and not too much vehicle traffic.  Even better, the pretty scenery was great motivation to pedal just a little bit farther and make sure you weren’t missing another visual treat, whether it was a beautiful old church, a field of cherry trees, a hidden lake tucked back among the trees, or a brightly painted vintage Victorian home.  It was a bit of a coin flip as to whether Kish and I would bring our bikes on the trip, and we ended up being very glad that we did.

The harbor at Omena, Michigan

The waters of Lake Michigan and the Grand Traverse Bay are crystal clear and a Caribbean-like blue from a distance.  Anyone used the muddier waters of Lake Erie will be astonished that they are on one of the Great Lakes.  Kish reports, however, that the water is very cold, particularly when you get below the first few inches of water that has been warmed by the sun.  The Grand Traverse Bay differs from Lake Erie in another way:  unlike Ohio’s Great Lake, which tends to have a squishy mud bottom, the bottom of the Grand Traverse Bay — at least where we were — had a bottom that was covered with slick algae covered stones.  Pick your poison.