Ice Balls On The Shoreline

Who says it’s dreary up on the shores of Lake Michigan?

It’s not uncommon, apparently, for the lake to create large ice balls during the winter.  The ice forms along the shore of the freshwater lake, breaks off, and tumbles back and forth in the waves, growing in size as it does so.  The churning action also knocks off the rough edges of the ice and leaves it looking uncannily like a white, smooth, round beach ball.  It’s a pretty amazing sight — like white mothballs or marbles along the lakefront, or the round ice cubes you sometimes see at fancy cocktail parties.

In Ohio, we typically don’t have much use for Michigan.  But even the most ardent Buckeye must admit that the ice balls of Lake Michigan are pretty cool.

Surf Chicago

Saturday afternoon, Richard, Kish and I took a long walk along the shores of Lake Michigan in downtown Chicago.  What we saw was not the Chicago I’ve come to know during my many wintry visits.

It was a beautiful day, with temperatures in the 80s and bright blue skies, and the shoreline was hopping.  There were hundreds of bikers, joggers, and walkers using the paths, and when we got to the Oak Street Beach it was like we had been teleported to Florida. Sailboats and motorboats bobbed in the surf, palm trees bowed and swayed in a strong, warm breeze, and the beach was packed with swimmers, sunbathers, occasional dippers, and drinkers. Dozens of people were savoring cold adult beverages at the Oak Street Beach bar and grill.

The surf crashed against the break wall next to the beach and the spray felt cool in the summer air.  I’m sure the water was cold, but there were lots of people in the lake and they all looked to be having a good time.  If you’ve got a Great Lake — even one that is only swimmable for a few months — why not make maximum use of it?  I’m sure it makes living in Chicago a bit more interesting, and a bit more fun.

Fishtown

Kish and I are up in northern Michigan for a vacation.  The other day we went to visit “Fishtown,” which is a part of Leland, Michigan.

“Fishtown” is an area that used to be used by commercial fishermen on Lake Michigan.  There is still a functioning smokehouse there and lots of fishing vessels that you can charter, as well as a boat you can take over to some nearby islands, but most of the structures are occupied by gift shops, t-shirt emporiums, restaurants, bars, and other businesses that cater to the tourist trade.

Fishtown is small in size, but is still a real treat for the senses.  The structures are wooden and weathered and gray with age.  There are some unusual objects here and there, like a rack used for drying nets, a metal fish windsock, and various nautical items.  The smells are the kind of smells you associate with the waterfront, like the smell of fish and of decaying plants, intermingled with the very enticing smell of whitefish being smoked.  And the sound is the gentle slap of the water against the pilings of the pier and the occasional cry of a seagull.

Fishtown is a good example of the kind of pleasant and interesting surprises you often find when you travel through America and are willing to go off the beaten path.