by Brian D. Meeks
Chapter 36 Day 36
Paco VanSistine, from Denver Colorado, by way of Green Bay, Wisconsin, was heading to Milwaukee, via Detroit. Originally, he had planned to fly straight to Milwaukee, but then found out about his crazy friend, Steve, who was going to run around Lake Michigan. He started with one mission, to see Iron Maiden in concert, and added a visit to Steve as mission two. He’s seen Iron Maiden twice before and thought the third show would be a great adventure. Music is important to Paco. He flew into Detroit Metro Airport, with plans to bike from there to Milwaukee.
His touring road bike, in a box, was simply unpacked in the airport, and he rode it from there due west, through Ann Arbor. Two and a half days later he had made it to Lake Michigan.
At around 10:20 a.m, Jarred was piloting the RV to the first planned stop and he sees a bearded fellow on a bike. He yells out the window, “Hey, aren’t you a Polkanaut?”
He was, in fact, the lead singer and the founder of the Polkanauts. They’v toured the U.K. The Polkanauts started as an Oktoberfest band, who created a play list comprised of polka standards and heavy metal. In the world of polka there is a mantra, “Polka, it’s happiness”.
An avid cyclist, he had planned his trip to the concert without knowing about Steve’s run, but then decided to change it into a concert and biking trip. He met Steve on RAGBRAI about ten years ago and wanted to see him on his run around the lake.
The choice had been made to stay at the Texas Road House parking lot, in the RV, in Muskegon, because they had to get Sara to her car.
Steve, started off the day, back on Lake Shore Drive in Saugatuck. Two miles in, it ended. The map showed more Lake Shore Drive, but there was a gap of about 200 yards before the road starts back up again. The choice was between going eight miles out of his way or crossing private property. The land had a fence, poison Ivy, logs, a no bicycle passing sign, and a sign that made it clear interlopers were not at all welcome.
Steve hopped the fence and went for it. Laws were being broken. The poison ivy threatened. Steve considered the possibility that there may dogs who would enjoy a Canjo snack. Steve is allergic to poison ivy and chose to walk across to the other side. Each step carefully placed, his ears perked for the sounds of dogs or yelling land owners, it took a while, but he made it.
Safely across to the other side, Steve picked up his running.
At night it cools next to the lake and South Haven comes alive. Captain Lou’s was spotted by Paco earlier in the day, so he suggests to Jarred that they check it out.
It seems that summer trumps Sunday in this lake town, and the place is packed. The crowd, mostly in their twenties and thirties, are in good spirits. John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” starts to play, a handful of couples take to the dance floor. None of them were alive when it was a hit, but still they dance. It is the sort of place where beer and July optimism mix perfectly. Well, except for Erin.
“This music sucks,” she says.
Jarred and Paco agree. It is obvious she is dying to dance, but not to this. She sits at the next table with a young man, who’s weight lifting build suggests that if he were to request a song for Erin, it would be played…immediately. The DJ is rather thin.
Erin had requested a song earlier and the DJ did play it, but only half way, which seems like some gross breach of disc jockey ethics. Everyone agreed.
Erin, 32, stunningly good looking, was easy to talk to, as was her brother, Chris. They seemed like they might be locals, but it turned out they are both here with their parents, who have a lake house in South Haven.
Chris and Erin live in The Woodlands, which is outside of Houston. Chris is an IT guy, plays rugby, and is training for a ‘Tough Mudder’, which is a half marathon with all sorts of obstacles. Erin is a single mother of boys, five and seven, which provides its own sort of course with obstacles.
Erin was born in South Haven, while her brother was born in Connecticut, and in their short lives have had to deal with cancer three times. Their father has fought and beat skin cancer, while Mom fought a battle with breast cancer, won, and then had to fight it again. She won the rematch, too.
Hanging out with these two remarkable people left an impression. It is hard to draw too many conclusions after thirty minutes of chatting over blaring eighties music, but it was undeniable that Erin and Chris had something. Self-confidence seems such an inadequate descriptor, but it fits. It is easy to imagine that their parents took on cancer with the same confidence that it was no match for their spirit.
It makes sense, though, as it is hard to imagine the life challenge that could intimidate a cancer survivor. Equally so, the family who suffered through the process, must also have the same strength. This isn’t scientific, but merely an observation. Still, their story inspires, as do all the stories from cancer survivors.
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