Tuesday, 8 July 2014

On cold day's unexpected end

I was woken at 3 AM by a tremendous rain storm. I took a look outside and was very glad I wasn't camping. I casually wondered if the water in the parking lot would flood into my room, then dismissed the notion as a result of watching too much Weather Channel. That channel makes way too much fuss about every last thunder storm.
The day proved gray, windy and quite frankly cold for July. I loafed out of town and along the coast of Lake Michigan. I soon decided that my hands were cold and that I should dig out my fleece gloves. I had felt a bit foolish for packing them, but they were just the thing.
At Rapid River, I saw a restaurant with the evocative name of "Jack's Eat" (sic), so I stopped for lunch. As I was finding a spot for Leonardo, a fellow long distance cyclist came up and yet another chat began. He was travelling very light by my standards, especially as he was apparently camping. No rear panniers but he did have a bag that sat inside the frame the bike. He was headed West and recommended the Star Motel in Manistique. It proved to be cheap, wonderfully spacious and very clean and nice to the point that in order to protect the carpet, I put spread out maps under Leonardo. However, I am getting ahead of myself.
I saw another pair of sandhill cranes beside the road. This time I could accurately judge their (small) size as they were that much closer to me.

I stopped at Manistique's tourist office. When he saw me come in, the guy behind the counter punched up the weather forecast as that was he found cyclists always wanted to know. It was 12 degrees Celsius out. I made a comment about how glad I was about bring my fleece gloves. He replied that one should always bring warm clothes to the Upper Pennisula regardless of the season! (Remember, this is the tourist information officer talking. ;-) )

As I neared the Star Motel, as recommended by the cyclist, I saw a circus tent set up near a mall. I gave it a once over and kept on going. I went to a nearby restaurant recommended by the nice old lady who ran the motel for supper. In the atrium there was a sign announcing the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus would be performing at 7:30 that night. I took this in and filed the information away. My plan had been to go into Manistique to see the sights after supper, but I thought I might give the circus a try if I got there in time, which I did. So I went to the circus.
Circuses are odd things for me. They feature in books and movies far more that they have ever featured in my actual experience. If I remember correctly, I have been to exactly one traditional circus, and that was a three ring affair in Santa Barbara at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Aside from some Chinese acrobats, my only other circus experience was a very early Cirque du Soleil performance with Aunt Lorna.

And yet circuses have played background roles in some of my bike trips. One of my memories from the trip in Spain was countless posters for circuses. On the Calgary to Winnipeg trip, I saw the circus-themed "Madagascar 3 Europe's most wanted".

Sadly the Culpepper and Merriweather Circus rather resembled the Circus in the movie before the Penguins buy it. It was a very modest one ring affair. Their advertising featured their big cats prominently. Alas, they were easily the weakest act. The two tigers and the magnificently maned lion seemed rather bored and unimpressed with their trainer. He made me think of Bruce Campbell's character on Burn Notice. After a few rather dull tricks, the cats were coaxed away and the cage was taken down by the trainer assisted by the roustabouts. I was struck by how small they were compared with to the lion trainer. Looking more closely, I noticed they seemed Latino looking.
Thankfully, the other acts were better aside though the clown wore thin at times. There was a great act from London, Ontario featuring six unicyclists. Another interesting act had two performing horses: one was a draft horse and the other a miniature horse! It wasn't a long performance and even that had a lot of schmaltz and padding.
Aunt Lorna had been a driving force behind my visit to the Cirque du Soleil as it didn't feature animals as she was an animal lover and circuses are so cruel to animals you know. Years later, I once asked a question about an apparent contradiction in my great aunt as she appreciated fancy horse riding (she was a very respectable rider in her heyday) as well as dog acts (she was also a prize-winning dog trainer). If there had been a circus featuring dogs and horses as well as humans, would she have gone? This relevant this evenings performance as aside from the big cats, the only non-human performers were the horses and a set of dogs. The latter really seemed quite happy to do their tricks.  Part of me thinks that the C&M might be well rid of the hassle of the big cats.


Margo and Chris said...

We went to Cavalia's Odysseo last Christmas.
It is a mainly equine version of Cirque de Soleil, and also originated in Quebec. I'm pretty sure Aunt Lorna would have approved thoroughly. Not that different from watching the Lippizanner stallions with her at the Montreal Forum.

Never go to a circus in China, though. It is barbaric to the creatures.

They (Han) are also not too nice to their minority people, who we saw displayed and exploited in some areas almost like animals. In one area (Yi) the minority ran their own tourism businesses. I wonder what underlies the differences? Things are evolving.

Susan Gwyn said...

My recollection is that I was the one who initiated the trip to that early Cirque de Soleil. Since there were no animals, I thought it would be perfect for Aunt Lorna. I remember making sure we could take her in in her wheel chair. It was in a tent on the Fairgrounds in Sherbrooke, and was wonderful. We took Granny to one several years later in Montreal, and it had become much snazzier, slicker with loud music which was not our taste. I'm afraid Granny did not enjoy it.