I awoke feeling… lightheaded and dizzy.
As I discussed urgent care options with Nancy and Conor, I started to spiral internally: Yup, my trip is definitely over. I can’t handle the riding. Of course not. God, this is more embarrassing than a wreck… (knocks on wood) although obviously I prefer this as a way for the trip to end. Oof. Why did I even buy a motorcycle? Kai’s mom Sandy kindly offered to let me borrow her car to visit my brother. I could ride the bike back to my parents when I was feeling better. Or ship it if necessary.
At the urgent care center, I described what was happening. The doctor looked in my ears. She then excused herself, got a tool, and used said tool to remove a giant chunk of wax from my left ear. It was gross. And mildly painful. She explained that I had fluid in my ears. Allergies. From all the exposure on the bike. To particularly high amounts of pollen in the air currently. And possibly smoke from Canadian wildfires across the lake too. That’s what was causing the vertigo-like symptoms. I couldn’t believe it.
I was given a prescription and told to take Claritin and Flonase daily. I’d be fine. Just no riding until the dizziness was gone. I felt relieved and noticeably better. Clearly my anxiety hadn’t been helping matters.
So, we made plans. That afternoon we’d head to Kai’s mom’s place in Hancock. From there, Conor and I would push on to Calumet and then to the cabin. The following day Sandy, Nancy, Conor, and I would all do a proper “Keweenaw Cruise.” I’d leave my bike in Marquette the whole time and take a break from riding. I called and cancelled my campsite at Badlands National Park for Friday — I wouldn’t make it in time. They didn’t have spots for Saturday, so I’d need to find a hotel. I figured I’d deal with that later. No point booking anything until I was feeling better.
On the way to Hancock, we stopped at Canyon Falls roadside park. This was a favorite pit stop of Kai’s on the road between his mom’s and his aunt’s. There are small cliff jumps into a swimming hole just downstream from the falls:
After a brief stop at Sandy’s place in Hancock, we headed onward to Calumet. In the late 1800s, Calumet (then called “Red Jacket”) was copper country’s gleaming metropolis — over half the US’ copper was produced here. Now, it’s basically a National Historic Park with a population just over 700 (I’ll go ahead an call it my fourth national park of the trip):
The downtown historic district has some cute antique shops and cafes. We stopped at a saloon, Shute’s, that was a favorite of Kai’s:
And at a bar, Luigi’s, that Kai had used as a location in his short film, “Copper on the Chopping Block”:
Calumet was full of cool, historic things to check out. An opera house. A fire station. The old mining company offices, now headquarters for the national historic park. A favorite of mine was this railroad snow plow used by the Calumet and Hecla Mining Company. It would be pushed by a steam locomotive:
And, let us never forget, Michigan’s oldest concrete pavement:
It was really nice to hang out with Conor and share stories. We saw a lot of the same things in Kai — from his greatest qualities to his worst. I was glad too that Conor could ease some of the burden of hosting me from Kai’s mom. This time was surely more than emotional enough for her without having to worry about whether or not I was having an okay time.
Later, we stopped by Kai’s one-time stepdad Mark’s place. His sauna was featured in “Copper on the Chopping Block.” I had never met Mark before, but he knew me from conversations with Kai and had seen several short films of mine. That felt special. I guess it’s pretty human to wonder if you matter enough to someone for them to talk about you to others. I wonder about this less now. Whether or not I matter to people. I do. Just like Kai did/does. I can see it in the giant hole he left behind. I think about all the people standing around the edge of that hole now.
We ended the day at the family cabin on Lake Superior:
That night Conor and I had planned to build a fire by the lake and cook foil packs with brats, potatoes, peppers, and onions. But, it was cold and windy. And, if all of my motorcycling had taught me anything, it was that sometimes it’s okay to take the easy route. As I went to bed early, after a warm shower, I thought to myself: those brats we cooked on the cabin’s stove tonight tasted perfect.