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Reality TV

September 9, 2011

Shannon and I both despise rubberneckers. We hate the people who slow traffic to a crawl hoping to catch a glimpse of a fender bender or, fingers crossed, the jackpot of bodies strewn along the roadway. We similarly detest the beady little eyes that for some reason often drill into us when we arrive someplace new.

Maybe it reflects twenty years of city living, but we just don’t give a rat’s ass about what anyone else is doing. We don’t look. We don’t stare, because we don’t care. So it is with great shame that I confess how we were drawn in to watching reality TV of sorts.

It started with a long drive clear across Michigan to a place quite unlike any we imagined. We’ve long known that the proper noun ‘New York’ means New York City to most people not from the state. The diversity of 54,000 square miles is, in the popular imagination, reduced to the small spit of land that is Manhattan. I hadn’t thought about it myself, but Michigan, to me, had similarly become synonymous with Detroit. Instead of a gritty and industrial landscape, we found in Michigan rolling pastoral hills, quaint towns, aquamarine waters and the soaring sands of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

We spent a typical day hiking through the burnt sienna dunes of Sleeping Bear, which extend along a 35-mile stretch of Lake Michigan’s northwestern coast. At day’s end we happened upon an extraordinary sight: 450 vertical feet of sand plunging into blue seascape. Piled high by years of coastal winds, the dune’s rise from the lake appeared impossibly steep.

Far below, on a narrow stretch of beach, we saw small dots barely recognizable as people. These folks had climbed down the dune. I wondered if they had given any thought to the climb back up. This should be interesting.

With the unwarranted overconfidence typical of his age, we heard a teen say to his family that he was heading down to the beach and would be back in twenty minutes. Moments later he bounded down the slope with long strides, courting obvious disaster. We watched as he slowly gained speed, becoming more out of control with each step. Nearly two-thirds of the way down, his arms started pin-wheeling wildly as he fought desperately to stay upright. It ended with a stiff leg driving straight in to the sand, catapulting him ass over ears. A perfect face plant wasn’t enough to stop his forward momentum. Tumbling three more times he finally came to rest in a heap near the bottom of the dune.

I doubt at that moment he realized that his journey was less than half complete. I guess being a dumbass has its consequences. He’s young. He’ll learn.

For us, we were hooked on the drama.

Several people who had preceded him down had already started to make their way back up. We could tell it was tougher going than they ever imagined. Walking on sand is tiring. Climbing sand is damn near impossible. Nobody did it quickly or easily. The best of the group made steady, slow progress. Our brash young teen, who thought he’d tackle the challenge in minutes, took frequent breaks, doubled over as if praying.

His family had different ideas: “I think he’s puking.”

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Grant permalink
    September 14, 2011 2:15 pm

    Best blog post yet – so funny. I climbed a massive dune in Vina Del Mar, Chile – my thighs were burning like a Texas wildfire after a couple minutes. Definitely not for the faint of heart…

  2. September 16, 2011 7:27 pm

    I think I would have to look away if someone was running down a sand dune at full speed. As far as Michigan, I had no idea about the diversity of landscape. I remember seeing a Michigan Tourism commercial the other day and they don’t tell you all these scenes are Michigan until the end. Looks like a great place.

    • September 17, 2011 9:10 am

      We weren’t originally going to hit Michigan, but changed our route for other reasons and decided to take a look. Glad we did the Great Lakes have some stunning water and scenery. Glad we made the change.

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