I stood underneath the lip of the yellow and white striped tent, in shock and in awe of all that loomed around me. Auctioneers hollered out their fast-lipped spiel as old men flashed their buyer number cards, fingers, and nodded their heads to bid again and again on a huge assortment of items. Old cars, buggies, plows, shovels, rusty chains, farm equipment odds and ends, car parts, toys, baby strollers, furniture – all collectibles. The man who had amassed this collection had died, and now it was all up for sale.
“Auction! One hundred, one-fifty. We’ve got one hundred, now one-fifty. We done? Who’s buyin’? One-fifty, One-fifty. One hundred goin’ once. One hundred goin’ twice. You? No. One hundred. One hundred. Sold! One hundred dollars. Buyer number… 413!”
Two auctioneers worked at once, yelling into megaphones that were attached to speakers. People grouped around the action, not only to buy, but also to watch. As I stood in the clearing between the two masses of people, the noise was overwhelming. There was so much to see, so much to hear.
I was in Port Hope, Michigan. If you haven’t heard of it – it’s in the top of the thumb area of our mitten-shaped state. It’s a very beautiful place.
I hadn’t really wanted to go to the auction. Port Hope is about a three-hour drive from my city, and, on top of that, I don’t really like rusty old bits and pieces. I like to think of myself as a minimalist: Who needs all that stuff? I agreed to go, anyway. Why not? I like to view every opportunity that you don’t really want to take as an opportunity for adventure.
I am so glad I went. It turned out to be quite the experience.
Going to a estate auction is similar to going shopping at a thrift store – you don’t really know what sort of people you will find there, and you don’t really know what you’ll find there for sale. That’s what makes them both so exciting, right? Sure.
So, yes, the auction was huge. There was just so much stuff. And it was interesting stuff – not like those little angel figurines you find at your local Goodwill. Old Ford vans. Piles of what use to be cars from the ’30s. Shovels, rakes, other strange farming implements – all made of rust. Tents full of collectible children’s toys. Percussion instruments. Trailers, tractors, washing basins, mirrors, stools, chairs, baby buggies, horse carriages, hundreds of bicycles. So much stuff.
Oh, and there were Mennonites.
Now, maybe you’re more familiar with Mennonites than I am. That wouldn’t really be a difficult thing – I know basically nothing about them – or anyway, I knew nothing about them then. Like I said, you never know who you’ll run into at an auction. It was a very interesting sight to see: Old, farmer guys, young kids, people from the country, people from the city, cowboys and their little cow-children, and Mennonites, and me. The Mennonites stuck out because of the way they looked. It wasn’t just their homemade clothing (very cool – where can I get me a Mennonite-made shirt?), but their bodies, their hairstyles, their hands, even their language.
You could tell these people were hard workers. Their back and arm muscles were much bigger than the “modern” men’s that surrounded them. Their hands were big, and callused, from lifetimes of hard farm labor. One older man was missing his index finger. My mom guessed he lost it in a farming accident. Another had an (actual) wooden leg that made it difficult for him to walk. All the men sported beards, bowl-cut hair, and suspenders; all the women donned bonnets, aprons, and long dresses. I even spotted a little three-year-old Mennonite boy (so cute!), walking through the crowds with his father, wearing the same getup as the older men.
As for their language, yes, even that was different. I’ve no idea what it was – Wikipedia suggests some sort of German, or Dutch – but I will admit to scooting closer to two older gentlemen as they were conversing in an attempt to listen in. Little good it did me!
It was an amazing thing to watch: Mennonites and men and families and teenagers and city-slickers all bunched together, all mingled, all enjoying their auction visit together.
(I wish I had had my camera. Ugh! Don’t you hate when you don’t have your camera?!)
(Yes, ok, also, I eyed the Mennonite guys from afar. You would’ve too, ok!)
Honestly, standing there in the dirt with those suspender-clad men, I felt sort of worthless. I don’t do hard labor to support myself. I spend a lot of time on the internet. I don’t make my own clothes (with pants with double-pockets!), I buy them from mass-producing companies. I don’t raise all of my own food – I buy it from huge chain grocery stores for way too much money!
Should I be like the Mennonites? Should we all be like the Mennonites?
Maybe a little.
After that day, I was left wondering that. I was also left with the mental image of the modern people and the Mennonites together. It was like the old generation of Americans had stepped from the past into the estate auction. It was, to be descriptive, really neat.
Always do the things you don’t really want to do – you might have a good time, or learn something, or both!
Also, there was pie. Mennonite pie.
Waking up in Vegas…
Did that Katy Perry song pop into your head just then? It was in mine at the time as I woke up, as they say, in Vegas.
Without the glitter.
Las Vegas is an interesting place. Or, more like, it’s an interesting strip of road. That’s most of it – a least, that’s where most people hang out. (Downtown Vegas is just as cool and interesting, in my opinion, but not as popular.)
So, let’s be honest – Vegas is a strip of road. With really fancy, expensive, glitzy hotels. And lots of people. All sorts.
“Vegas is the perfect location to host your mid-life crisis” – Me, via Twitter
Did I just quote myself? Anyway.
After the whole waking up in Vegas thing, I checked out of my hotel (the Tropicana!) and then stayed at my hotel.
Why? Why, you ask? Because outside of my hotel was 110 degrees (F) and Nicole and I were not about to set back into that at 11 in the morning. Some things you have to slowly ease in to.
Like a pool.
Like the hotel’s pool! Did you like that transition?
When in the middle of the desert, one searches for water. Luckily, the Tropicana has a rather large amount of water that they allow their guests to swim in.
Unfortunately for me, I had just become a non-guest of the hotel minutes before attempting to swim in their guest-only pool.
This caused a problem when I tried to get a couple of towels – from the people working in what can only be called the “towel tent”.
Me: Could I have two towels?
Girl: Sure. *hands me two towels*
Me: Thank you!
Girl: Sure. Do you happen to have your room key on you?
Me: Umm… no….
Girl: Could you go get it?
Me: Umm… I don’t have one…
Girl: Are you staying with someone who has one?
Me: Umm… no…
Girl: Are you staying at the hotel?
Me: Umm.. well, we stayed last night, and we wanted to check out the pool…
Girl: Oh, so you’re already checked out?
Me: *assuming police were going to jump out of the nearby bushes and arrest me* Mmhmm…
Girl: Oh, ok. That’s fine.
Me: ok. ….. bye.
Ok, maybe it’s hard to show the tenseness that was happening in that conversation. Awkward silences are hard to capture in text form. Just picture a situation you’ve been in where you got caught doing something you weren’t supposed to be doing and were confronted and you attempted to tell the truth without telling truth…. simple, really!
After swimming and using the towels (illegally), I lounged on a pool-side lounge chair and read some dirk gently’s holistic detective agency by my dear friend Douglas Adams. As good as that book is and was, I discovered that I am very bad at lounging.
I just wanted to do something! It was so frustrating just sitting there, because I knew that I had to sit there (because we had something like 5 hours until we could head to the airport), and because I wanted to go do something (even though it really was impossible to go do something else, because – uh, it was hot! – so walking around outside was a no-no. And what else is there to do in Vegas? Gamble?! Nah.)
I’m an explorer. I don’t sit! It was outrageous! But, I sat. And, I read. And, I kept checking the time.
Finally, finally, finally, enough time passed so that we could go do our next planned activity – froyo!
I love me some frozen yogurt. I really do. And self-serve is where it’s at! None of that girl-behind-the-counter-makes-it-for-you crap!
Strawberries, kiwis, mochi, little bit of oreo crumbles, and some gummy bears on top! Mmmm…
Anyway, enough of that. (Even though after I had finished my cup I wanted more! It was good, ok? Don’t judge!)
We managed to spend about an hour nom-ing on our deserts… and then we still had hours and hours to wait.
(Note to self and others: late-night flights kind of suck! And if you’re in Las Vegas in July with nothing to do… you may as well book another night at a cheap hotel and stay inside and watch TV in air-conditioned comfort until it’s time to go to the airport! Ah, the lessons you learn.)
So, I will ask the question once more: “What does one do with hours to go until their flight home?”
You, with a knowing look in your eye, “Go to the movies!”
Me: “That’s right!!”
Yes, I went to the movies. Again. For the second day in a row. Whatever.
We saw Brave, which was actually really good (I love her hair!), although I wrote a better ending to the movie in my head. Tell me if you think it’s better than the actual. (And if you haven’t seen the movie, feel free to skip to the next paragraph! I’ll meet back up with you there.) Ok – so, you know that giant bear that everyone and their father wanted to kill? Ok. And you know how the girl’s mother wanted her to get married to one of the sons from the different Kingdoms? Ok. And you know how that witchy lady said that that bear was actually a guy that had wanted to escape from his life or something? Ok. Umm, hello, Pixar! Do I need to spell it out for you? My ending wouldn’t even have violence! What kind of Pixar movie kills off someone/something?! Here’s how you do it properly: Have Brave (is that the girl’s name? I forget.) get the witchy lady to turn the biggo bear back into that super-attractive guy that we all know he must have been! And then: ta-da! Brave has got her a husband, and the bear is gone (with no squishing), and they all live happily ever after! You’re welcome, Pixar. Feel free to contact me for any plot assistance in the future. Love, Jenni.
After the movie ended, we once again found ourselves in the oven-like heat that was Las Vegas. No, not again! We then ran back to our hotel that wasn’t actually our hotel anymore. Home sweet home! Nicole tried her luck at a blackjack table, which was pretty cool to watch. We even had the dealer teach us how to play – because neither of us had any idea how to play blackjack. Then Nicole lost $5. Then we left our hotel (so long!) for the very, very last time.
It was time, finally, to go home.
Before that, we had to take back our car. (No, we did not put that scratch there! Thank you very much, mr. rental car guy!) I snapped a picture of our silver Ford Taurus baby as we walked away from it and towards the shuttle bus that would take us to the airport. Fun Fact: Our trip mileage counter read 1,500. 1,500 miles! In a week and one day. What a week it was.
At the airport, I almost got through security without them stopping/patting/arresting me. But when they called “Who’s bag is this?” while pointing to my little red luggage, I claimed it quickly and without surprise. Now what? Apparently their machine only took a picture of half of it, so they had to run the bag through again. Or something. I just nodded and clutched my shoes while many of the people who had been in line behind me streamed past. Then I grabbed my luggage and (trying to be very non-suspicious) strolled along to my gate.
Before that, we had to fly to Phoenix. Again, the flight seemed to take only a few minutes. Well, apart from the very nice (talkative) lady who wanted to tell us all about her 7-month stay in Hawaii, and how she had already been on a plane for 5 hours that day, and how it was going to take her another 4 hours to get home, and how a gallon of milk costs way too much in Hawaii, and etc.
Here I’d like to mention how much I love flying. Every part of it. Even, and especially, the people.
Then, home. After an hour layover, we boarded our flight to Detroit, MI. Home. It was 11:15PM as we found our seats and settled in on the plane. It was 6:20AM as we got off the plane and found ourselves, finally, unfortunately, thankfully, wonderfully, terribly: home.
After one week and one day, we had returned. To the land of trees, it seemed to me. Trees and lots of green. Michigan. After a week and one day of exploration. After the first trip west.
I don’t know how to sum up my trip; If I should, or if it’s even possible. When people ask me about it, I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to explain.
I went. I saw.
You should too.
My entire day in San Francisco was kind of a hilarious disaster.
Nicole and I got up early in time to catch the free breakfast at our hotel. Carrying our bowls of cereal, cups of juice, and plates of waffles, we headed back to eat in our room since the “breakfast room” was full.
That was the plan anyway. Our hotel room door wouldn’t open. Somehow the lock mechanism had broken or gotten stuck in the door, and our door card couldn’t open the lock.
So, I set (carefully!) my waffles and juice onto the floor, told Nicole to guard them, and headed down (from the sixth floor) to the main lobby via the staircase (the creaky old elevator is an entire, even longer, story). I told the guy at the desk that my card wouldn’t open the door – so he gave me a new one – card, not a new door. Although, as it turned out, that’s what we needed… sort of…
Did the new card open the door? Nope! Although, we did try to make it work several more times. Then, Nicole took over (while I guarded the now-soggy cereal) and marched (again) down the stairs to the lobby.
After about 15 minutes (and one European couple’s strange looks at me as I stood looming over several plastic plates full of food in the corner of a hallway), Nicole returned – with the Manager! We were finally saved!
Yes, it was that dramatic.
Only – no, we weren’t. The manager had brought another key. And, when he tried to open the door himself – it didn’t work! Surprise! So, back down to the lobby he went. Finally, he returned with the (magic) master key (card), and got our door open in one swipe!
In we barged into our room, soggy cereal and waffles in hand. The manager said he would get us a new room, and then he left. Yes, we then ate our cold, soggy, breakfast. And it was good!
Later, after transferring all of our stuff into a new room (right across the hall from the “breakfast room”!), we were off to explore San Francisco. We even had a route mapped out. First, to the cable cars! Then, to Pier 39 to see the sea lions, then off to the Golden Gate Bridge, and, lastly, a stop at the Golden Gate Park.
However, disaster followed us throughout the day. I could write forever on all that happened to us, so I’ll just give you the summary.
Cable Cars? That went well enough. We found the ticket booth easily, stood in line for twenty minutes to get tickets, and then went to board a car. Only, there was an hour-long line to board. The walk to Pier 39 was only 45 minutes from where the cable cars were located – it would have taken us way longer to wait for the cable cars than it would to walk there! So, we decided to walk down a couple blocks and try to get on the car further down. However, that didn’t work out – turns out, most of the people who got on at the first stop wanted to get off at the last stop.
“Next car, guys!” – Cable car driver, as he drove past the group of people waiting under the bus stop sign.
So, we walked. Up, up, up the steep roads between us and the bay. Finally, we reached Pier 39.
There were no sea lions at Pier 39.
Turns out, we visited during their mating season – a time when they are far, far, away from San Francisco. There were only three sea lions to be seen. Two of them were snoozing on the “sea lion dock”, while one was attempting to snooze on the “boat dock”. We watched then as a dock worker, pushing a large garbage can in front of him, attempted to scare the sea lion off the dock and into the water. He managed to do so – but only after the sea lion ran towards the man, literally barking mad.
With nothing much else to see at the pier, we were off to the Golden Gate bridge. We hopped on a city bus – which promptly took us in the wrong direction. Yes, we took the wrong bus – all the way to its last stop. Then, we waited for the bus driver to take his break… and, finally, we hopped on the bus again, this time headed in the correct direction, and made our way to the bridge.
It is beautiful! Quite a sight. Once we had snapped enough photos of the bridge itself, we wandered around the area a bit and read up on some Golden Gate history.
It was about 6:00PM when we decided to head to our last stop – the golden gate park.
To get there, we had to take a bus, and then another bus – and then, one more. We were bus-riding professionals by the end of the day! Well, sort of…
We got off at the wrong stop – one stop too early. We were close to the park, though! And during our walk of several blocks to catch a bus towards our hotel, we managed to see some pretty spectacular sights. We saw some of the park, so we were happy.
Until we realized, about an hour later, that we were, in fact, horrible bus-riding professionals.
After a half-hour of walking to our next bus stop, we sat down at the bench and waited. I noticed a phone number that was available to call that would tell you the next time the bus was predicted to arrive at your particular stop – so, I called.
“There are no predicted times for your stop. Either the prediction equipment is damaged, or there are no scheduled stops for your location in the next 90 minutes.”
What? Oh, crap.
With the way our luck had been going so far that day, we decided that the latter was probably the actual reason there was no prediction. So, on we walked, toward the direction of our hotel – miles and miles across town.
Then, we spotted a bus on the route we had been wanting! It was going in the wrong direction – but we knew how to handle that: We would simply ride the bus all the way to its end, then ride it back again. We were desperate for a ride at that time (it was getting dark, and we were tired), so we hopped on the bus, and waited.
“Last stop!” – Driver
“Are you going ‘round again?” – Me
“No, this is the last stop. Busses don’t go in that direction anymore tonight.” – Driver
“…” – Me and Nicole
Yes, we had taken the bus in the entirely wrong direction, and now we found ourselves even farther from our hotel, with no bus to take us in the opposite direction.
We stood on the corner as our last hope drove away.
Yes, it was that dramatic.
Then, a woman walking nearby asked if we needed help. Yes! Yes, we did!
(I would like to interrupt myself to say thank you! Thank you, San Francisco, and your people, for being so kind to visitors in your city! We had several people offer to assist us over the course of the two days we were in your city, and whether we needed it or not, it was much appreciated. Thank you!)
Turns out, we were only a block away from where we needed to be: At the stop for the bus that would actually take us all the way back to downtown San Fran. And, as the cherry on top of that good news: the bus was going to stop right by our hotel! We were saved!
Yes, it was that dramatic.
Getting on that bus was the best moment of that day. We didn’t have to walk anymore! We were on our way home! To food! To our beds! To not being lost!
And, after arriving, finally, at our hotel, we marched right over to our trusty Jack in the Box and ordered dinner. (Well, we marched there while assisting a blind man across the street… but that’s an entire different, and longer, story.)
What a day. What a long, hilariously disaster-filled day. What a wonderful, San Francisco filled day. Good night!
I’ve fallen in love in California.
His name is … frozen yogurt.
Yes, it’s true, I’ve found a new love. It is either very good or very bad that there are no frozen yogurt shops where I live. Both, I guess.
Yesterday we drove from LA to San Francisco.
Really, the drive took 6 hours, and it took another hour to find our hotel. So by the time we got settled in, it was getting late, and cold, in our new town.
But since we were starving, as per usual, we went out in search of chow – and got our first pedestrian glimpse of San Fran.
The first thing I noticed were the buildings. They’re small, compared to the buildings of LA, and cramped closely together – packed in tight on the hilly roads that are found here. They are beautiful – they look old, at least by big-city standards. The hotel we’re staying in here in San Fran is one of these buildings, and I can tell from the way it’s built that it’s definitely not a modern building. I think these structures give San Francisco a certain charm – and because of them I fell in love with the city a little bit as soon as I stepped foot into it.
I noticed the people of San Fran next. There were a lot of them – locals and tourists. I can always spot a local, no matter what city I find myself in. They have a certain look about them. They dress like they know what they’re doing. They know where they’re going and they plan to get there. The tourists here are similar to those found in other parts of California that I’ve seen – although here they’ve brought out their sweaters and long pants. Oh, did I mention – it’s cold here!
I guess I forgot that during our 6-hour drive, we were headed north. Northern California is cold, you guys! I am so glad I packed one pair of jeans and one sweater! Without them, I don’t think I’d make it here…
But, more about the people.
For some reason, I couldn’t figure this crowd out right away. Like, in LA, I felt like I understood them, like I knew how to blend in and make my way around. But here, even if I hadn’t had a bright-red sunburnt face, I felt like an outsider.
Suddenly, I didn’t know how to function. Walking down the road, I wondered, “Do I make eye contact? Do I stare at the ground? Do I smile? What do I do?”
I guess the etiquette here just seems different than LA – and it probably is. While still a big city, San Francisco is very different than Los Angeles.
Hopefully I’ll pick it up tomorrow as we explore the town.
Oh, and I almost forgot the good part!
We had Pizza Hut for dinner.
It is amazing how wonderful it feels carrying food “home” after not eating all day, and knowing that soon you will have a full belly.
And that is a fact I’m sure all San Franciscans can agree with. Yeah? See, I’m beginning to understand you already!
I’m going to California tomorrow.
Ok, ok – that’s not totally true. I’m going towards California tomorrow. I’ll be on my way to California tomorrow. It just sounds better the other way.
Me and my pal Nicole [N.] are off on a 8 day summer journey – from Detroit, Mi to Phoenix, from Phoenix to Las Vegas, and (finally!) on to California. We’ll be renting a tiny car to drive up and down and all over California and the west coast (also Vegas).
And it all starts tomorrow. My bags are (partially) packed! I’m ready! Let’s do this!
Since I’m pretty sure our packed-full days are going to fly by, I’ve decided to lug along my computer (through airport security! wish me luck!) and write a
daily nightly post here on my beautiful site!
So, if you really want to, you can follow along with me as I discover California…
California is important to me in a big way. I’ve never been there (I don’t count a 30 minute drive-through on a family trip to Arizona), not really, but I’ve wanted to go there for a long time now. A lot of the people I really admire either lived or worked or visited there. (Also, I really like oceans…)
I just feel like there’s a force that’s pulling people towards certain places – like London, or New York, or… California. There are places people just want to go.
So, this isn’t just a fun summer vacation with friends – this trip holds a lot of meaning to me. Who knows, I may fall in love and move to CA after college – or maybe I’ll hate it there! (Yeah, right.)
We shall see… Oh, and if you’re reading this and you’re from the LA area, or you’ve been there — Where should I go? What should I see? Tell me everything!