A Goldfinch Epiphany: Rubber Ducks and Paddleboard Races

Cyling up Smoky Hollow Road (Without Goldfinches)
Cyling up Smoky Hollow Road (Without Goldfinches)

By MIKE NORTON

One of the things I’ll never forget about my four-year stint in the Coast Guard was standing the occasional bow watch on the old USCGC Blackhaw and watching the dolphins race along the bow of the ship as she made her way through the sea. Strangely enough, I was remembering that feeling this morning as I bicycled the 20 miles to my office along the east shore of the Old Mission Peninsula.

There weren’t any dolphins, of course. But every so often, in just the same playful way, small bright flocks of goldfinches would come shooting out of the tall grass and fly with me for a few seconds like little lemon-colored rockets before veering back into the meadows again.

I love those little epiphanies. Don’t know if they’re messages or reminders, but they sure help to get the week off to a good start!

Also, this one has provided me with an excuse to mention the Third Coast Bicycle Festival, which got off to a rainy start on Saturday with the Cherry Roubaix charity ride and Old Town Criterium races. The soggy weather didn’t deter the hundreds of cyclists who turned out and raised over $6,000 for the Munson Women’s Cancer Fund – and now, of course, the weather is just perfect for cycling. All week long, there’ll be rides, races, demonstrations and other fun. (Who knows? You might get to acquire your own temporary fan club of goldfinches!)

Racing Waterfowl Enter the Water at Bellaire's Rubber Duckie Festival
Racing Waterfowl Enter the Water at Bellaire’s Rubber Ducky Festival

On the other hand, if you prefer your birds to be a little less flighty, you could head over to Bellaire on Saturday for their 24th Annual Rubber Ducky Festival. The folks in Bellaire have already begun their yearly 12 Days of Summer Celebration, which includes sidewalk sales, children’s activities, movies, bingo games, picnics, a parade and lots of other small town fun – but the highlight of it all is this strange event where they dump 2,000 yellow ducks into the Intermediate River for a quarter-mile race down to the town marina.

The attraction? The ducks are numbered, and you can place a $5 bet on each one. They hand out cash prizes for the winners, starting with $500 for the first duck over the finish line, all the way down to number 27. (OK, what’s the significance of 27?) For a full schedule of events, call Bellaire Chamber of Commerce at 231-533-6023 or visit their web site at www.bellailrechamber.org

Saturday is also the day of the 3rd Annual Traverse City Wine & Art Festival, held on the lovely lawn at the Grand Traverse Commons. It’s a great way to sample wines from the Old Mission and Leelanau peninsulas paired with tasty foods from local restaurants, and discover for yourself some of the amazing artworks, musicians and performers this area keeps on producing every year.

Meanwhile, there’ll be a lot of action taking place out on West Bay this weekend when a new event – the TC Waterman stand-up paddleboard races – take place down in front of the Open Space. Stand-Up Paddling is being billed as the world’s fastest-growing water sport, and this series of sanctioned races includes a 3.5-mile “close-offshore” event that’ll be convenient for onshore spectators to watch, as well as a nine-mile “down-winder” race from Bowers Harbor  to the Open Space.

There’s also a host of open age-group events, kid’s races and relays. And if you’re interested in learn more about stand-up paddleboarding, there’ll be lots of folks from local surf and paddle shops on hand to offer advice and demonstrations.

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About mikelovestc

These days, I’m the media relations guy for the Traverse City Convention & Visitors Bureau, but before that I spent 25 years as a reporter and columnist at the Traverse City Record-Eagle, a job that frequently took me out into the most remote backroads, forests, beaches and islands of the beautiful Grand Traverse Region. My strategy was pretty simple — just drive, paddle, ski or walk until you’re certain you’re lost, and then find somebody to talk to. It was a great job! I never intended to live in Traverse City. I grew up in Grand Rapids, spent four years in the Coast Guard in places like Miami Beach, Monterey and San Francisco, and when I finally graduated from college I took a summer job at the Miami Herald. To my surprise, I discovered I didn’t like the tropics nearly as much as I thought I would — and when the Record-Eagle offered me a job I took it, figuring I’d put in a year or two and head off to someplace like Seattle or Portland. What I discovered very quickly is that this place gets to you in a variety of unexpected ways. The beaches here are as lovely as anyplace else I’ve ever been, the weather is mild all year round — warm enough for swimming in September and cold enough for skiing in December — and just about the time you’re getting tired of one season you get another one every bit as pleasant. The people are laid-back and friendly, the music and arts scene is awesome, and the place still hasn’t gotten so sophisticated that a guy like me feels out of place.
This entry was posted in Antrim, cycling, Festivals, Outdoor Sports, races, summer and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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