Searching for Dry Land

June 21, 2013

I love riding a motorcycle.  Seeing the country the way I have on the saddle of my Purple Pony, as I’ve come to call my bike, seems to make the land come alive around me as the wind presses against my body, my feet fly at 60 mph 10 inches above the ground, and the smells invade my senses. I proclaim there’s no better way to see this country in a motorized vehicle. By bicycle, by foot, as a Lewis and Clark explorer?   Sure, that’s got to beat how I’m doing it, but I don’t have the time, resources, or physical ability to do it that way.  A motorcycle suits me just fine right now.

Well, if we’re talking ‘immediately’, then I’d say I’m better off in a car, or staying put right here in my hotel room in Marquette, Michigan. This is what I’m surrounded by right now.


I’d take this weather personally if I didn’t know that the Upper Peninsula’s been drenched in an unusually wet spring and early summer. I’d also stay put and wait this thing out if the weather report for the next five days indicated things will change. It’s not going to, however. So I’ve been sitting in front of my computer and checking the weather for the next few days in places east and south of here. I’m looking for a path where I can land in a dry area 150-300 miles in a southerly or easterly direction for the next four or five days until I get back to southern Vermont. I may have found one place today – Blind River, Ontario, Canada – but I have to wait out this mass of rain that’s patiently moving through Marquette at the moment. I’ve been given a reprieve to check out late from my room at 12 o’clock. But then I have to make sure that if the rain is past I don’t catch up to it on my way east to the U.S.-Canada border crossing at Sault St. Marie.  This storm may be only be moving at 20 mph while I’ll be moving at about 50 mph.

My frustration with the weather has surfaced frequently this past week. It’s all put quickly back into perspective, however, when I think of the real troubles others are facing with weather around the world – floods in Alberta, Canada; 14 people killed in tornadoes in Oklahoma; tens of thousands displaced from flooding in India. And here’s some of the worst of it – it’s almost always the poorest who feel the brunt from these severe weather patterns. Thinking about this helps dissolve some of my frustration.  It’s all about perspective.  I’m fine. I’m healthy. Maybe I’ll remain wet or damp for the next few days, but I’ll always be able to ditch it into a hotel to dry off.  Can others say the same?

I remain thankful for this experience, wet or dry.  What a trip it’s been!!!  In retrospect, perhaps my rain stories will become the most memorable. Who knows.

Unfortunately, the rain has forced me to miss many of the sites and events I wanted to experience on the U.P. In my previous post I mentioned three of the nicest people I met on the U.P. who told me about a festival that celebrates Finnish-American culture. The Upper Peninsula has a rich history connected to the Finnish immigrant experience, which began around 1865.  Before I landed here I had no idea.  As someone who’s been intrigued by other cultures – not least of which is my own country’s rich heritage defined by the immigrant experience – I had to go to the Hancock/Houghton area for Finn Fest.

Finnish/AmericanWhen I arrived in Houghton Finnish and American flags were flying everywhere.  I met my new friends, Kayo, Marlene and Harlan (see Yoopers and the U.P.), at the opening ceremony on the campus of Michigan Tech University on Wednesday night.  As I entered the auditorium I saw Kayo, who invited me to sit with them.

The opening ceremony started with the singing of the Finnish and American national anthems. Click below to hear the Finnish national anthem.


This was followed by a speech by K. Marianne Wargelin, Chairperson of FinnFest USA, and the Secretary of State of the Republic of Finland, Pertti Torstila. During his speech he referred to an event he had recently attended where Joe Biden was present. He referred to him as Vice Minister. I liked that reference. It sounded “continental.”

Multiple generations of dancers, performers and singers were festooned in colorful traditional clothing from Finland. Here are some pictures and audio from some of my favorite performances.

Jimmy and Sampo

Listen to their song here:

The Karjalan Polkka

Karjalan polkka

Karjalan polkka

Karjalan polkka

The Finn Hall Band: Lannen Lokari (The Western Logger)

The Western Logger

Listen to some of this song here:

Home Unknown by Kaivama


Hear their song here:

Here are a few more pictures of dancers, singers and festival participants from the United States, Finland and Norway.

Young dancers perform to music by the Finn Hall Band.

Young Performers

Young performers watch the end of the opening ceremony.

Young performers watch

A Norwegian family dressed in traditional “Sami” clothing.  The Sami traditionally come from the northern-most regions of the Scandinavian countries.


I planned on staying in the Hancock/Houghton area the following day in order to attend lectures and dances. FinnFest would continue through the weekend, with thousands of people coming from all over the United States and Scandinavian countries. Read more about FinnFest here.  The weather had other plans for me, however. I woke up to drenching rains the following morning. I had to break camp in the rain.  I had no intention of traveling from venue to venue in the rain and sitting through performances and lectures soaking wet. The weather called for riding for drier ground. Or at least I thought that’s what I would be doing. The rain sniffed me out and followed me all the way to Marquette, where I’m currently waiting for a mass of water-logged clouds to pass before I ride east to the northern shores of Lake Huron.

Sending my many blessings.


All content Copyrighted © Stephen Tavella

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