Friday, February 15, 2008

The "Getting High" Series

Last July I made a cross-country trip anchored on two events, my high school reunion and my nephew's first birthday. The trip included stops in Illinois (where our plane landed), Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and California. (I don't include the layover at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport as a "stop.")

George Mason University student Richard Morrison accompanied me on the trip, and we played tourist for most of the two-week journey. I have already posted video from our visit to the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. YouTube has a video of "Gavin's First Birthday Cake," which may end up here someday, too -- perhaps in time for Gavin's second birthday.

Along the way, Richard and I had several opportunities to get high. Don't fret, drug warriors: By "get high," I mean nothing more than that we climbed to a height that provided breathtaking vistas of the landscape around us.

Our first climb was to the top of the Wisconsin state capitol building in Madison, courtesy of State Senator Glenn Grothman, who obtained permission to see parts of the capitol usually off-limits to tourists. (There is still more video, so far unedited, of the capitol's chambers, committee rooms, and reception areas -- that will be posted here eventually, too.)

"Getting High in Wisconsin, Part I":

To tell the truth, my acrophobia kept me from going all the way to the top, but Richard braved it along with recent Marquette High graduate Joseph Kay. They provided the most dramatic video.

At Rib Mountain State Park near Wausau, however, Richard and I both reached the summit. Rib Mountain is the third-highest peak in Wisconsin, at 1,940 feet. A 60-foot tower brings the full height to 2,000 feet, with a view on a clear day that encompasses several counties.

I remember visiting Rib Mountain as a child with my parents, but this was my first time there in nearly 40 years. The tower was the same but didn't seem to be quite so high as it was when I was 8 years old.

"Getting High in Wisconsin, Part II":

After Wausau, Richard and I headed farther north, passing through Manitowish Waters, where my family and I used to vacation, and ending up in Hurley, said to be the Wisconsin town with the most taverns per capita. My friend, Gene Cisewski, is the innkeeper of a bed-and-breakfast in downtown Hurley called the Anton-Walsh House. Gene is also president of the local historical society and a former member of the Iron County Board of Supervisors.

Gene took us on a tour of the area, which included a trip to Bayfield and Madeline Island in Lake Superior and to several of the picturesque waterfalls along the Montreal River and other streams that traverse the Wisconsin border with the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. (There's plenty of unedited video from those days, too.)

When we crossed the border into Michigan, Gene took us to the Copper Peak Ski Flying Hill, one of the tallest structures used for snow skiing anywhere in the world. Once again, I clung to the floor about halfway up the man-made hill, but Gene and Richard made it all the way to the top, where the view on a clear day encompasses three states and Lake Superior.

Coincidentally, I recently had a chat in Washington with the man who was instrumental in raising the funds to build Copper Peak, and I may write about him and his efforts once I have received permission to do so.

"Getting High in Michigan":

The Midwest is not the most likely place to find great heights with dramatic vistas. That's not so in California. Even the Reagan Library looks down on Simi Valley from a peak of its own.

The day before we went to the Reagan Library, Richard and I visited the Getty Center in Los Angeles, which also sits atop a mount. You can see downtown Los Angeles -- even on a Sunday, enshrouded in smog -- and surrounding canyons from the Getty's plaza.

This video also includes some shots from inside the Getty museum.

"Getting High in Los Angeles":

As I have already suggested, there will be more travel videos posted here as time permits. Last year (2007) was a big travel year for me, with trips to Las Vegas, New Orleans, and Austin, as well as Milwaukee, Hurley, and Los Angeles. That resulted in a lot of raw video that has to be reduced to 10-minute segments suitable for posting to YouTube and cross-posting here.

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