We (Dit & Dah) live in SE Wisconsin, near enough to Milwaukee to frequent events in the area quite often, and take advantage of many good deals! One of which is the annual bike donation deal put on by Milwaukee Bike Coalition, in partnership with the Lake Express ferry, which, for those who don’t know, travels between Milwaukee, WI and Muskegon, MI across Lake Michigan several times a day except in late fall and winter.
In exchange for donating a bicycle to their bike drive, the Lake Express mails out vouchers for a round trip voyage on the ferry. I took this trip solo last year, donating a bike I wasn’t using just to make room in my garage. Since Dah and I had met early in May, that was my plan all along, to take a day trip alone. Just me. I was single and determined to not let lack of a partner keep me from enjoying life.
Of course, then I met Dah the week after and we hit the ground running, joyously hand-in-hand, in our new relationship, consistently finding fun things (or not so fun things – see previous post) to do to spend time together. At the end of summer I’d almost exhausted my calendar of possibilities for such travel, so I booked my voyage the day before my kid went back to school, and rode to MI like a nautical hitchhiker. Then I made my way around MI by bus, and, in part, as a literal hitchhiker! In fact, when the bus I was waiting for at the beach didn’t come as planned, I would have missed the boat home if it weren’t for flagging down the people I’d sat next to and made conversation with at the beach-side restaurant. Notably, my first ride was offered right out of the gate when we got in, by the aunt of a dancer/choreographer from my home town, Oak Creek, who had recently had a television appearance, and it was legit – I looked it up later.
Anyway, during the winter Dah and I had acquired junior size pink bikes from a thrift store that was closing its doors, which we purchased with the express intent of donating to the bike drive should it indeed come around again the next Spring, so that we could then transverse Lake Michigan together. Sure enough, as Earth Day rolled around, I heard about the bike collection, and Dah and I took our tiny kid’s bikes down to the ferry yard, turned them in, and in exchange we received our Lake Express vouchers a couple weeks after.
We were thinking of going at the height of summer, but there never seemed to be a good time. We had a lot else to do – especially since Dah is an avid follower of HAM radio events, and almost every weekend during summer there was something going on. Before we knew it, it was August already, and my daughter’s school had upped the start date by a few weeks, so we ran out of opportunities to go on a weekday before she went back. (I have to drive her to and from school, so I had to plan around that.) Then there was the Labor Day weekend, and we wanted to avoid the crowds. So we settled on going the weekend after.
We had done plenty of research about things to do in Muskegon, even found a supposedly haunted AirBNB, but then because we had to choose a time when the room was available, our trip got pushed beyond the tourist season, and it didn’t occur to me that then the bus wouldn’t be running along the Muskegon shore. Since most everything was located near where we were staying, we had decided not to rent a car, or pay to take one along on the ferry.
Another thing we hadn’t planned for was the possibility that the ride might not go as smoothly as I had experienced the year before. When we arrived at the depot, we were offered complimentary Dramamine, in anticipation of the boat experiencing 3-5 foot waves that morning. It didn’t sound like much, but we figured if they were offering us seasickness pills, maybe we should take them. Dah has said since then that he took them just in case they’d help, even though he knew they probably wouldn’t. But he and I are both suckers for anything that’s free.
It was really weird arriving there, pre-dawn, being carded and going through a brief baggage search and then being offered pills. But I enjoyed the off-center sci-fi vibe, and anyway I’m a pushover for experimenting with OTC medication for fun, so I swallowed it down in good humor.
The humor didn’t last too long though once we got on the boat and realized how much it was rocking! I had been on boats before and never got even a hint of wooziness, but, Holy Shit! I was feeling the sickness well up as soon as we boarded. Prayed and prayed but knew that I wasn’t going to be able to win that one mind over matter.
It didn’t help either that I’d decided to finish a crochet project that I intended to give to Faith, the Wiccan host of our AirBNB. I had acquired a free spice blend from Penzey’s Spices and wanted to give it to her in a little pouch. There wasn’t much left to be done with it, but trying to concentrate on repeatedly pushing a hook through small holes is probably the last thing you wanna do when the floor is churning. I finished it, but in retrospect I wish I hadn’t.
As the boat pulled away from the Milwaukee shore, the waves got worse. Dah seemed to be all right. By appearances, anyway, at least at first. I, on the other hand, was not handling it very well. At a point not long after, a cheery young lad in a skipper suit came by with a basket of Gin-Gin mints and puke bags, the former to supposedly help settle our stomachs, and the later for when they didn’t work.
To compound all this misery, I had to use the bathroom. Like, abuse the bathroom. I got up and struggled to find a footing, as the floor was tilting back and forth enough to throw people around. Eventually I shuffled ahead and intentionally hugged the wall then crawled along it for support until I came across the handicap bathroom. The women’s bathroom was just a short way down from it, but I didn’t feel I could make it that far. Thus began the intimate battle to balance face time and ass time on the head, a.k.a. boat’s toilet. It was not easy. Nothing about that trip over was.
After I made it back to our seats, Dah said he also had to use the bathroom. I warned him about it not being easy to walk. Still, he looked ok. While he was up, the family next to us seemed to be pitting to move closer to where we were sitting so their kids could have a better view of Finding Dory, which was the moving playing on the boat ride over. I heard the mom suggest that then saw her look over to me right as I peeled the puke bag open and unleashed a dragon hurl into it with perfect timing. The family moved farther away.
Dah returned from the men’s room looking pale as the dead and as if he had covered his face and shoulders in a bucket of water, which turned out to be sweat. A woman we took to be a second mate on the ship came over to see if he was all right. I was between fits of vomiting so somewhat capable of conversation. She was very concerned about how he looked, but commented that I was just fine, my color was good. To which I replied with a fit of dry heaving then a new round of vomit that must have been sourced from some previously undiscovered reservoir somewhere deep inside.
Thankfully, albeit likely because of the immense physical exhaustion, and by some miracle, both Dah and I managed to fall asleep in our seats, truncating part of the exhausting effort to withstand the ordeal of that trip. Dah even ventured outside on the sun deck as we approached Muskegon. I was kind of in a coma, but responded to his touch when asked to wake up, grab my shit, and mercifully depart.