Tag Archives: memories

Back, and There Again

I GUESS IT’S TRUE WHAT THEY SAY: You can’t go home again. You can’t even go back to where you’ve been.

Last weekend I worked a race at a cider mill near Charlotte, MI. I’d had lunch there many years ago during a long bike trip, and looked forward to seeing it again. My route would also take me through Eaton Rapids, a classic Michigan small town for which I have particularly fond memories.

That first bike trip, I’d been struck by how charming its main street was. I’d stopped at a coffee shop (naturally) with terrific chocolate chip scones, had a nice chat with the baristas, and enjoyed the view of the pretty pond out in back. I arranged to go through it again during my 500-mile bike trip in 2012, and had another welcome break there.

The place back then. Later renamed Evelyn Bay Coffee.

I’d been told at the coffee shop that there was only one “Eaton Rapids” in the entire world. Someone in the UK had put that to the test once by addressing an envelope to a friend with the address reading only Eaton Rapids – no state, no zip code, no country – and it had been successfully delivered. Urban legend or not, it’s a good story.

Swapping stories with Aron and Andrea at the coffee shop.

This visit was a bit different. Instead of cruising on my bike on a warm summer afternoon, I drove through at 6 a.m. on a cold morning in my Jeep, towing a U-Haul with my Zero Waste equipment. No worries, though. There would be time after the race to see the town again and have my coffee and scone.

The race went well, and we were finished, packed up, and out of the orchard just before it clouded over and a light rain began falling. I pulled out my phone and asked the “Big G” for directions to the coffee shop. But there were no results. Just a sandwich place that served coffee drinks.

A more detailed search turned up Evelyn Bay Coffee at the address I remembered, but it was closed. Not a good sign. But Charlotte also had a coffee shop with that name, so I drove there. After ordering lunch and coffee, I asked my server (a co-owner) if she knew what had happened to the shop in Eaton Rapids.

“The owners sold out,” she told me, “and the people who took over just couldn’t make it work. They offered it to me, but I had my hands full managing this one. Too bad.”

Still, as I drove through Eaton Rapids on my way home, I stopped to take a look around. The coffee shop is now a Mexican restaurant. Sigh.

The place today. (I didn’t ask if they had chocolate chip scones.)

I walked down the main street and browsed a bric-a-brac shop of vintage items, but I couldn’t shake a feeling that matched the weather outside – dull and gray. Perhaps on a sunny day filled with the gorgeous fall color, I might have recaptured some of the nostalgic glow. But even the other buildings and shops now seemed – well, just ordinary. I returned to my warm, dry car and headed for home.

And yet, on the way down M50 I passed another place I’d stopped at on that same trip – a party store, of all things.

The sign that had read, in part, “Dragon’s Milk” had intrigued me enough to turn the bike around and go back to find out what that was all about.

I’d found out, as most of you probably know, that Dragon’s Milk is a type of dark, strong beer. While it didn’t appeal to me much, I just had to get a bottle to share with my D&D gaming group. And there was the store, all by itself along the road, looking the same as ever. I didn’t stop. They didn’t have scones.

But this experience doesn’t mean I want to return to those times. Life goes on, and a lot has happened since then that I wouldn’t want to give back. Like, for instance, getting hugged by my daughters after my safe arrival at our campground during that 500-mile trip.

I can always go back, too; maybe next summer another bike trip out there will be on the docket. And even if I don’t, I’ll always have the memories of those summer days by the pond, with good coffee and scones.

‘Tis Better to Do than to Receive

At the start of my Monday evening yoga class, we lie flat on our mats, lights dimmed, and our instructor tells us to “go to a favorite place.” This is necessary preparation; we must relax and think happy thoughts while attempting to turn ourselves into pretzels.

I take myself to hanging out at our campground up north, or running the Vasa Trail, or most often, on my bike on a beautiful summer day, riding from small town to small town just to see what comes next. Like coming across this doughnut shop in Durand, or the Civil War camp in Jonesville, or the synchronicity of riding straight to a bike shop in Ionia I didn’t know about just in time to avoid a catastrophic mechanical breakdown.

All right, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

Okay, my Dances with Dirt medals ARE pretty cool.

These experiences, and the memories from them, mean far more to me than medals, or race swag, or most any “stuff” I get, whether from events or presents or whatever.

Which those dearest to me find very frustrating this particular month.

Not because of anything I’ve done, but by what I don’t. My birthday and Christmas are just a couple weeks apart, and when I’m asked, “what do you want for your birthday / Xmas” I don’t give them a lot to work with. Online wish lists have been some help, when I remember to actually put items in them.

Recently I got a desperate text from DD #1 – “WHY IS YOUR WISH LIST EMPTY?” and DD #2 texted, “Your wish list has one item! And I can’t get it til the 26th…” Even my DW pitched in, using the word “plea” in a phone call to me. I went there and added a few more things, but frankly, my heart wasn’t really in it. I was doing it more for them than for me.

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can't play with them!

I do NOT understand Christmas. The humans put up all these great toys, then tell me I can’t play with them!

I came across an article online that pretty much summed up my attitude toward all this. A study found that while pleasure from getting a new “thing” fades after a few months, people place more value on their memorable experiences. That is, what they did is more important than what they have. For most of my life, other than my mandatory greedy kid phase, I’ve found it more fun to give stuff, or do stuff, rather than get stuff.

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

Only 500 PB&J sandwiches to go!

2014 was the most memorable running year I’ve ever had. And not because I filled a drawer with shirts, or a box with age group awards, or got a camp chair and cool jacket at the volunteer party. It’s the memories of the events themselves that give me the warm fuzzies, and allow me to survive yoga classes. It’s the sense of accomplishment from finishing the events, from talking to people I met on the trails, and working with the terrific events staff at setup and registration. And from many “living the moment” experiences and the feelings of gratitude from being healthy and fit enough to run, and run well.

Go and do!

Woodstock Saturday Finish (JW) - 2018

(Disclaimer: if anyone feels like sending me a gift card to my favorite running store, you won’t hear me complaining. You might even get featured on someone’s blog – which, by the way, just made the “Best of Ann Arbor Area Blogs” list for the second time.)

Seriously (for once) – I hope you all have a safe and wonderful holiday, in whatever form it takes. God bless us, every one!