Race Weekend & a great birthday…

images.pngA week ago today, I celebrated another birthday. And it happened to fall on our NASCAR “race weekend” at our cottage in Michigan.

This annual event begins on Thursday, with the arrival of my sister and her husband from Ohio, followed on Friday by my son and one grandson, accompanied by a couple of other friends. Every June, we all make a pilgrimage two-and-a-half hours over to Brooklyn, Michigan, for the Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday.

Before that, though, there’s plenty of fun in the lake and a traditional pontoon “Sinatra cruise,” on late Saturday afternoon. (I had to fend off the many requests by my little grandson to change the music. He’ll learn.)

In years past, we’ve had good weather, lousy weather, and in-between weather. This year’s was probably the best ever. Pleasant temperatures during the day and comfortably cool ones at night were more than we could have expected.

And then there is always the concern about what the weather will be like for the day of the race on Sunday. Again, we’ve run the gamut from unbearably hot conditions to miserable rain, more rain, and still more rain in years past.

Not this year. It couldn’t have been any better from the time we pulled away from the cottage at 5:30 a.m. until we returned about nine that evening. Our pre-race tailgating was outstanding, and the race itself was one of the best. Afterwards, we all enjoyed the pulled pork our son had smoked on charcoal and hickory chunks all day on Saturday at the cottage.

Our son, Josh, getting ready to get the pork butt on the charcoal 

When it was time to break down the canopy and flagpoles, put away the tables and chairs and load up the F-150s for the trip back to the cottage, we all were in agreement that it had been a terrific day at Michigan International Speedway. And it had been a most wonderful way to celebrate my birthday!

Out of “exile”–for the moment…

jollyYetI know I’ve said that I’m taking the summer months “off” from tending to my blog, but over the course of the past several weeks I have had a few “life moments” that I simply feel inclined to write about.

At the top of that list is I “officially” was inducted into the Medicare Club one week ago on my birthday, and as I write this from my self-imposed “exile” up here at our summer cottage in Michigan, I’m happy to report that they haven’t come to haul me out to the funny farm due to elderly ramblings or other strange carryings-on. (They could have done that so many times previously!) Instead, all of the company that was here over the weekend for our annual NASCAR Race Weekend had to leave and return to their own lives and niches in the world.

And though I enjoy spending time alone, where I can read and write unfettered by interruptions and other such distractions, I must admit that right now I’m feeling rather lonely and wish I had some of the folks who were here this past weekend to prop me up and make me feel as though it’s OK to be this age. Turning 65 sort of does that I’m finding out.

After all, my birthdays used to be spent playing baseball for most of the day, running and chasing fly balls and batting and running the bases and all that was good about being a young kid who had a birthday in June. I could no more run like that again, even in my dreams, and so I just smile at the memories of all those summers past when the future was out there waiting for me to figure out how to get there.

And, even though I can no longer race around the bases on sweaty, sun-drenched afternoons of pickup games on homemade fields in Indiana, or run down that long drive off the bat of a power hitter, I’d like to believe that I’m still the same person I was way back then.

And now that I’m a year older (and wiser?), I’m beginning to give some thought to that thing called mortality. How many years do I have left has never been a question I100_6021 dwelled too much upon, because it always seemed so “out there” and something I’d never have to deal with for a long, long time—until now!

It’s the little things that really come into play, too. Walking the garbage down to the dumpster each day becomes an excursion of appreciation of all the beauty surrounding my life up here. Filling the bird feeder and watching the various avian species swoop and dive in for their feedings and then take off for places unknown is a daily delight. Chatting with the hummingbirds as they hum and buzz around the feeders I religiously keep cleaned and filled is another ritual of cottage life that I’ve truly grown to appreciate.

Perhaps I’m not quite ready for the pipe and slippers realm just yet, but I’m finding myself becoming more and more tuned in to those things I’d never paid attention to in the past. I suppose none of this is a bad thing. At least, I’d like to think not. Whatever, life in the Medicare Club can’t be all bad!

Well, for now, I’d best go check out those hummingbirds and make sure the lake’s still out there

Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis ju...
Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis jugularis) perched and feeding from a bird feeder. Batalie Beach, Dominica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

behaving as it should…

Summer reading & “Race Weekend” on the horizon…

So far in the two weeks that I’ve been up here at my summer place of exile, in the land of southwest Michigan, I’ve read a number of fun and interesting pieces of writing. And though I should be devoting more time at this point to doing my own writing and working on my next project, I have found the reading life much more beneficial at this point. I know, as in summers past, I’ll get the writing juices flowing about this time next week. And there’s a good reason for this. But first, my thoughts about what I’ve managed to read up here on the shores of Magician Lake.

Philip Caputo
Philip Caputo (Photo credit: Airstream Life)

I began my summer reading with Philip Caputo’s delightful book The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It’s an easy and pleasurable read, mainly because I love stories of folks who have “hit the road,” and it is one that makes one wish to pack up and join up with Caputo and his wife and their two English setters as they roll along, mile after mile, in their pickup truck with a vintage Airstream in tow.

Of course there is much more than a simple reporting of the various places they pass through. More important, there are the people whose lives, for one reason or another, are forged in the towns—dying or thriving—where they live in today’s America. It’s this very thing that is the force behind Caputo’s purpose of making the long trip in the first place. As he travels along, the question, what holds us all together, surfaces at every turn, in a light and humorous voice every mile of the trip. It’s a wonderful read!

My other is A Study in Sherlock, a collection of short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes Canon, and I found each story therein to be well written and equally as fun to read as Caputo’s book.

Being a longtime Holmes fan, I enjoyed the offerings of featured writers such as Lee Child, Jerry

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...
English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margolin, S.J. Rozan, and Dana Stabenow, to name a few whose work makes up the contents of the book. I was familiar with Lee Child from his Jack Reacher books, but most of the others were new to me. I must say, that their stories in this collection have whetted my appetite to read more by each of them. I suppose that’s how we increase our reading wealth.

Now, as for my own writing efforts to finally get kickstarted next week is simple: Our cottage is busy with our two grandkids for a few days, followed by our annual NASCAR “Race Weekend”  beginning this coming Thursday.

For many years, several relatives and friends gather here for a multi-day party leading up to our trek over to Michigan International Speedway very early Sunday morning for the race. We’ll return that night and everyone will filter out for their homes in Illinois, Ohio, and various other points on the map on Monday. After a brief recovery period, I’ll be ready to get my writing routine in full gear when it will be just me during the weekdays.

And so this will probably be the last post until that time. I’m sure I’ll have some cogent points to make about “Race Weekend,” so come on back next week. It’s sure to be worth the effort. Until then…CortlandWriter

The grandstands for Michigan International Spe...
The grandstands for Michigan International Speedway in Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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“Race Weekend” and a special Fathers Day…

Time to catch up…


Shot by "The Daredevil" at Daytona d...
Shot by “The Daredevil” at Daytona during Speedweeks 2008 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Every Father’s Day weekend for the past several years, our cottage here on Magician Lake has become “ground zero” for a NASCAR “Race Weekend,” culminating with the Sprint Cup race on Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.


This annual event begins with the arrival of my older sister and her husband on Thursday morning, followed by my son and grandson and a couple other “regulars” from home on Friday. When the weather is nice—which it was early on—most of the time is spent down on the pier, in the water, or on the pontoon boat. A few of the group play golf on Saturday morning, while “gramps” stays at the cottage and has fun with grandson, Jack, and tends the coals in the Weber where a pork butt smokes gently away, preparing to end up as pulled pork for the post-race sandwiches at M.I.S. on Sunday.


My son and my sister carry out a necessary task early Saturday morning—an annual tradition—of shopping for food and other goodies needed for the Saturday night meal and the next day’s food supplies over at the speedway. Don’t even ask to go along with them as they visit the Meijer store; it’s their own domain and one which requires no “outside” tampering or tweaking!


Of course from Thursday on, there is plenty of cold beer and other refreshments available for all tastes. It’s a well-behaved gathering, full of many laughs, jokes, and various other forms of goofiness. And since we hit the road for the two-and-a-half hour drive over to M.I.S. In Brooklyn, located in the Irish Hills, by 5:00 a.m., it’s usually a pretty early night on Saturday.


This year, most of us Chicago Blackhawks’ fans stayed up to listen to the game vs. Boston. Since no TV was available, we were gathered on the porch, around the little portable radio, late into the night. Alas, the outcome was not good for us. Losing in overtime, the team gave none of us reason to stay up to listen to any post-game chatter, so radios were clicked off as soon as Boston scored its winning overtime goal.


Disappointed? Yes, but all was forgotten once we rolled out onto I-94, eastbound for a day of fun and more refreshments and good memories. Arriving before 8:00 a.m., we ended up with a decent parking spot in Lot 3A, our regular area, and breakfast was soon in the offing before the morning got too far along. Eggs, bacon, hash browns, biscuits, and gravy were tasty and well received.


And so we all settled back and enjoyed the morning, before heading into the track and our seats for the start of the race. The “iffy” weather cleared out, and it was a sunshine-filled afternoon—perfect for the race!


Sitting beside my seven-year-old grandson and my son was special on this Fathers’ Day. We are fans of Roush Racing (Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards) and both had very good races, particularly Biffle who was the winner when it was all said and done.


Afterwards, it was back to the tailgate area for the pulled pork sandwiches and various “sides” and more cold refreshments. Wife Carolyn was one of the designated drivers, and friend Ed was the other one, so we had that arranged ahead of time. It was good to relax in the shade of the pop-up tent and to enjoy the delicious food. I always enjoy that part of the day before we have to break things down, pack the Ford 150s, and drive back to the cottage. The food is always wonderful, but perhaps it was even more so this year since my driver won the race!


Writing this from the peace and quiet of the cottage porch, where just a couple of days previous there was lots of talk, laughter, and good times, I realize that it was another terrific “Race Weekend” and anticipate next year’s already. Now, I need to get back to work on my writing and revising my novel. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter


Michigan International Speedway (2008)
Michigan International Speedway (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Good times at MIS…

Michigan International Speedway (2008)
Michigan International Speedway (2008) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch—In this case cottage—following a week back home in Illinois and then three days at Michigan International Speedway and various points thereabouts, I’m enjoying a day of doing basically NOTHING. (I’m not too sure about the structure of that sentence, but it will have to suffice as the lead for today’s post.)

It was good to be away from the lake and cottage here in Michigan for a few days as I was able to attend to many of the jobs that were way overdue in getting attended to: Lawn mowing, recycling dropped off, a visit to the DMV for a new license registration sticker, spending some time with my grandsons, and various other odds and ends. And, of course, the good wife was happy that I was there to do some of the “running” for a change. I was glad to do so.

Drove back up here in a heavy rainstorm on Thursday morning with my son as we prepared for our Friday drive over to Michigan International Speedway (MIS) for the NASCAR weekend. He and I have been doing this very thing since 2001, and each year we seem to experience new and unique things—especially out in the parking lots before and after an event.

Over the course of the years, we’ve met some very nice and interesting folks simply by having the good fortune to be parked next to them, beginning in the very early hours of race days. Spending much of the day getting to know them, to share laughs and stories with them, and to enjoy the total atmosphere of a NASCAR event with them is well worth the time, money, and effort that go into each year’s Race Weekend.

It’s good fun with my son and the people we have gotten to know over the years. Some acquaintances we have never hooked up with again, but this year marked the third straight August we parked near some good people from Superior, Wisconsin. We even purchased two of their tickets and now will be seated in their row, high up in the grandstands, for each year’s Sprint Cup race.

Now, I write from the quiet of the cottage on another gorgeous late afternoon in late August, enjoying a day of “R and R” and reflecting on the past three days and nights of all the fun, food, drink, and good times at MIS. And, as icing on the cake for a completely great weekend: My favorite driver, Greg Biffle, #16, won the Sprint Cup race! I really can’t wait until next year! CortlandWriter

Home for a spell before M.I.S. Race Weekend…

As I’ve written in these posts this summer, from our palatial palace on the lake in Michigan, it has been a most delightful time.


Now, I’m writing from home in Illinois. I’ll be here for a couple of days to take care of those duties such as mowing the lawn, something that now needs to be done in light of the recent rains. There also needs to be an oil change for my Ford Ranger sometime tomorrow.

An overpass for Michigan International Speedwa...
An overpass for Michigan International Speedway in Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I also will be getting things ready for our annual August Race Weekend at Michigan International Speedway this coming weekend.

My son and I have made this an annual event for many years now, and we are eagerly anticipating another fun time this year. We’ll leave from the cottage on Friday morning and take the “scenic” route (U.S. 12) over to M.I.S. in the Irish Hills in Brooklyn, Michigan. We venture through many miles of beautiful farmland and quaint towns along the way. Since we’re in no real hurry Friday morning, it’s a very enjoyable trip.

And, I’m proud to say, I’ve gotten some pretty good writing accomplished this past week. Still lots to do, but I feel it’s been rather productive. So, as the summer grows late with only a few more weeks to spend at the cottage on the lake “up there,” I have a rather full platter before me. And that’s good! CortlandWriter

Race Weekend…Come and Gone

Well, here it is, another summer day on the shores of a lake “up there” in Michigan. We’ve experienced two days of persistent winds, rising temperatures, and lots of sunshine. At this writing, though, it’s rather pleasant right here on the front porch. If these persistent winds decide to stop, however, it could be quite sticky and uncomfortable as the day wears on. For now, I’ll simply enjoy the persistence of the wind and hope it decides to hang around for another day or so!

Yesterday was “R and R” around here as the Race Weekend crowd was gone and the cottage could once more catch its breath. Ten people here in this little cottage sometimes make for “tight squeezes” here and there, but the weekend always seems to come off without any problems or other hitches.

Each year at this time, our group gathers here, beginning Thursday afternoon, for a trek over to Michigan International Speedway, just a little over two hours from here, for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race on Sunday. The days prior to Sunday’s early-morning journey to the track are filled with activities which include basking and frolicking in the lake, cruising on the pontoon, pulling the grandson (and any other brave souls) around on a tube, cooking out, and sitting in comfortable plastic chairs outside, having ongoing discussions of high intelligence—fueled by a few icy beverages!

Somehow we all manage to get to bed Saturday night very early so we can roll out by 4:30 Sunday morning. We arrived at the track right around 7 a.m. and ended up with an ideal parking spot in Lot 3 very near the entrance. The fun began with the routine of setting up and getting ready for a delicious breakfast. It didn’t take long for the expected rain to roll in and threaten to alter everyone’s plans for the race, but only a two-hour delay was the result, and the rest of the afternoon and race were in harmony. The weekend was good, from beginning to end, and as the saying goes: “All’s well that ends well!”