To grandmother, with love

I drink from a cup labeled, “To Grandmother with love”. What’s up with that?

In 1984 I was the new kid in town, relocated from Wisconsin to Northern California. I was the backwoods rube to some and the whiz kid from the promised land to others. To Bonnie, I became “Mom”. (Need I say she was older than I?)

I grew up in Wisconsin and never thought I’d leave. Circumstances in 1983 changed all that. I went to a national conference that fall, resumes in hand, looking for work. I was offered a job as the Maintenance Director of a low-income housing co-op in Santa Clara, California. Seventy nine families jointly owned a sprawling townhouse project, complete with swimming pool. In 1963 someone had convinced HUD (the Department of Housing and Urban Development) that even poor people needed swimming pools in the desert. Among new skills, I learned swimming pool maintenance.

I bought a beat-up 1975 GMC van to move my self and stuff to California. I hadn’t had a car for over 10 years (and even that one I’d only used for a year or so; it mostly sitting parked). Arriving in California, I quickly discovered how attached people were to their cars. Many felt sorry for me. I had planned to move out there and resell the van. It became apparent quickly that it had no resale value and that a car becomes a necessity in a place like that. When the van died, I almost bought a 1962 Jaguar (like that driven by Inspector Morse in the BBC series). Instead I bought a Toyota Corolla.

I was offered a scholarship to attend Co-op Camp Sierra, a training center in the mountains near Shaver Lake. I soon discovered that Wisconsin was seen as the center of the co-op world. We had had a vibrant co-op economy starting in the 1920s, when Finnish immigrants in the northwoods developed their own co-op label products.

Image from Finlandia University

Even the little co-op I had co-founded was known out there. We were seen as the vanguard. As my friend who worked as a management consultant said at the beginning of his seminars, “a consultant is an ordinary person far from home.” I discovered the truth of this in California. Ideas that nobody listened to here were seen as wisdom out there. Crackpot schemes here were paid for there. Folks seem to think that the more they pay for something, the more it is worth. If an employee you’re already paying has an idea, it is of no value. If the same sentiment is echoed by a high-priced consultant, it is now the word of god.

Another consultant friend was charging $250/day for his services. He was subcontracting Bay Area work to me so he could travel less. He decided he wanted to work less, so he raised his rate to $400/day. He had more work than he could handle. If he charged $400/day, he must be good! (Or so folks thought.)

So I got to camp and was soon put to work. From the shy backwoods kid who didn’t know anybody, I suddenly was thrust into the midst of running the camp, and was forced out of my shell. Bonnie, the Camp Manager, made me her Administrative Assistant. That’s fancy talk for what she really called me – “Mom”. My job was to make sure she got everywhere on time, that she had all of her stuff with her (a rolling suitcase on mountain trails isn’t the easiest thing to move around), and that no one stole her cigarette lighter to sell at the camp auction. I failed miserably at that last task one year, when it was I who stole it and ran up the bidding at the auction – as auctioneer and co-conspirator, I planted a few shills.

Bonnie had grown children and one year they gave me the pictured mug at camp to thank me for keeping their mom in line; and that’s how I became a grandmother before I turned 40.

Testifying before the Senate in support of the National Consumer Co-operative Bank Act, Bonnie said, “The co-op is my church.” [From National Consumer Cooperative Bank Act: Hearings Before the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions…]

Bonnie died too young. One of the campers had once asked me to nominate her for a MacArthur Fellowship (“genius grant”) for her work at camp and in the co-op community. That’s how much my “daughter” was valued by those around her.

A Modest Proposal (with apologies to J. Swift)

US Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) has suggested that we keep COVID-19 in perspective: “We don’t shut down our economies because tens of thousands of people die on the highways”; COVID-19 “isn’t a death sentence except to maybe no more than 3.4% of our population”.

Since 3.4% of our population is not ten thousand but more than ten million people, perhaps he is responding to what he sees as overpopulation. COVID-19 may be his way of thinning the herd, bringing our population down to a more acceptable level. If that is the case, perhaps we could just eliminate, for example, the Dallas and Seattle metropolitan areas with a couple of well-placed large bombs. This would lower the population and eliminate crumbling infrastructure. He may prefer other cities. Let us not quibble over details. Eliminating the entire state of Wisconsin would only get rid of half as many people and, besides, where would folks from Illinois go for vacations?

Row, row, row your boat

gently down the Ausable River, dropping 1000 feet over the first twenty miles.

We kick off the final week with a short and easy day. My new tire made it 55 miles before its first flat – that puts me in double digits for the trip. I hit a debris field on a bridge and found a wire sticking out of my back tire.

Lunch was at Ausable Chasm. For a mere $18 I could take a walking tour. I decided to be satisfied with pictures from the bridge.

We rode over a covered bridge (Ron from Niagara Falls exiting bridge). Despite the flat, I was early so I rode past our destination for a snack at the North Country Co-op in Plattsburgh, NY.

We’ll pass through five states in our last five days.

Last thoughts on Lake Placid:

Lots of folks running, biking, and smoking cigarettes (not all at the same time);

I heard English, French, Portuguese, German, Dutch, and a couple of languages I didn’t recognize- lots of French speakers;

The town is living on past glory, with several shops dedicated to memorabilia from the 1980 Olympic hockey team;

Placid Planet Bike Shop made a killing off our group, selling at least a half dozen of their jerseys ( the shop is for sale, if any of you are looking for a career change);

The town is not actually on Lake Placid, but on Mirror Lake ( which did not resemble a mirror while I was there) – Lake Placid is a short hike from the town;

An ice cream cone at the Ben and Jerry’s store costs more than a pint at the grocery store;

I did not make it to the top of the ski jump for a photo of scapulo-humeral rhythm (a Dr Bersu reference) but did get a photo of the ski jump.

 

 

And on the 7th day…

We don’t yet rest. Seven days, 602 miles. Tomorrow we rest. Today, on the other hand, we ride 99 miles.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about. Today is the first day of Co-op Camp Sierra. This is a camp that was started in 1939 – that makes this the 80th year of Co-op Camp. Camp Sierra itself has been here a few years longer.

Camp Sierra
From Campsierra.org (For a week each year, we used to mount another log center top that said “Co-op”. It was carved by the same person who carved the originals.)

My introduction to camp came in 1985. I had a new job (Maintenance Director of Twin Pines Co-operative Community) and they sent me to camp to network and hobnob with my fellow wizards. Little did I know it would lead to an annual job for several years and a place I’d later bring my whole family.

You’d probably call me the Administrative Assistant to the Camp Manager. She called me img_0009her Mom. It was my job to make sure she got to all of her meetings on time and to drag her rolling suitcase around on the trails, as well as help plan and run the educational programs. For this, her kids later rewarded me with one of my most precious possessions.

Co-op camp was officially a place for people from the California co-ops to gather for continuing education in a mountain setting. It was and is much more.

potholesJPGIt also has the best swimming hole around, miles of hiking trails in national forests, nearby Sequoia groves, and possibly the biggest tie dye project ever. (Camp photos from coopcamp.com) Lodging is in either your own tent or a camp cabin.cabintiedyeJPGWhile I didn’t bring the “grandmother” mug on this trip, tomorrow morning I will raise my cup on our first day of rest, in solidarity with my old friends at camp, who will be raising their cups on one of the cabin porches. I haven’t been back since 2006. Someday…

But what about today’s ride?

Oh yeah. The rain lasted all night but stopped by morning. The day started chilly, with fog/low-lying clouds. We packed up wet with one of the riders humming circus music. We are kinda like a traveling circus, rolling into town, setting up our tents, and leaving in the morning. We don’t provide much of a show.

We started flat and easy, retracing our steps from yesterday. The road started to tilt upward and the sun came out so we shed some clothes. We rode up and over Thompson Pass, with a gradually increasing slope, to 10% for the last mile. At the summit we crossed into Montana and Mountain Daylight Time.

A fast downhill seemed to go on forever and, as the road flattened out, a tailwind pushed us along. Only a little over 4 hours in the saddle today.

Tomorrow is another 100+ mile day over busy highway to Missoula. Then comes our day of rest.

I can’t upload photos from my current location. I should have better luck in Missoula. It’s past my bedtime anyway, and a wall of dark clouds is closing in.