Letters 10-24-2016

It’s Obama’s 1984 Several editions ago I concluded a short letter to the editor with an ominous rhetorical flourish: “Welcome to George Orwell’s 1984 and the grand opening of the Federal Department of Truth!” At the time I am sure most of the readers laughed off my comments as right-wing hyperbole. Shame on you for doubting me...

Gun Bans Don’t Work It is said that mass violence only happens in the USA. A lone gunman in a rubber boat, drifted ashore at a popular resort in Tunisia and randomly shot and killed 38 mostly British and Irish tourists. Tunisian gun laws, which are among the most restrictive in the world, didn’t stop this mass slaughter. And in January 2015, two armed men killed 11 and wounded 11 others in an attack on the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo. French gun laws didn’t stop these assassins...

Scripps’ Good Deed No good deed shall go unpunished! When Dan Scripps was the 101st District State Representative, he introduced legislation to prevent corporations from contaminating (e.g. fracking) or depleting (e.g. Nestle) Michigan’s water table for corporate profit. There are no property lines in the water table, and many of us depend on private wells for abundant, safe, clean water. In the subsequent election, Dan’s opponents ran a negative campaign almost solely on the misrepresentation that Dan’s good deed was a government takeover of your private water well...

Political Definitions As the time to vote draws near it’s a good time to check into what you stand for. According to Dictionary.com the meanings for liberal and conservative are as follows:

Liberal: Favorable to progress or reform as in political or religious affairs.

Conservative: Disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditions and limit change...

Voting Takes A Month? Hurricane Matthew hit the Florida coast Oct. 6, over three weeks before Election Day. Bob Ross (Oct. 17th issue) posits that perhaps evacuation orders from Governor Scott may have had political motivations to diminish turnout and seems to praise Hillary Clinton’s call for Gov. Scott to extend Florida’s voter registration deadline due to evacuations...

Clinton Foundation Facts Does the Clinton Foundation really spend a mere 10 percent (per Mike Pence) or 20 percent (per Reince Priebus) of its money on charity? Not true. Charity Watch gives it an A rating (the same as it gives the NRA Foundation) and says it spends 88 percent on charitable causes, and 12 percent on overhead. Here is the source of the misunderstanding: The Foundation does give only a small percentage of its money to charitable organizations, but it spends far more money directly running a number of programs...

America Needs Change Trump supports our constitution, will appoint judges that will keep our freedoms safe. He supports the partial-birth ban; Hillary voted against it. Regardless of how you feel about Trump, critical issues are at stake. Trump will increase national security, monitor refugee admissions, endorse our vital military forces while fighting ISIS. Vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence will be an intelligent asset for the country. Hillary wants open borders, increased government regulation, and more demilitarization at a time when we need strong military defenses...

My Process For No I will be voting “no” on Prop 3 because I am supportive of the process that is in place to review and approve developments. I was on the Traverse City Planning Commission in the 1990s and gained an appreciation for all of the work that goes into a review. The staff reviews the project and makes a recommendation. The developer then makes a presentation, and fellow commissioners and the public can ask questions and make comments. By the end of the process, I knew how to vote for a project, up or down. This process then repeats itself at the City Commission...

Regarding Your Postcard If you received a “Vote No” postcard from StandUp TC, don’t believe their lies. Prop 3 is not illegal. It won’t cost city taxpayers thousands of dollars in legal bills or special elections. Prop 3 is about protecting our downtown -- not Munson, NMC or the Commons -- from a future of ugly skyscrapers that will diminish the very character of our downtown...

Vote Yes It has been suggested that a recall or re-election of current city staff and Traverse City Commission would work better than Prop 3. I disagree. A recall campaign is the most divisive, costly type of election possible. Prop 3, when passed, will allow all city residents an opportunity to vote on any proposed development over 60 feet tall at no cost to the taxpayer...

Yes Vote Explained A “yes” vote on Prop 3 will give Traverse City the right to vote on developments over 60 feet high. It doesn’t require votes on every future building, as incorrectly stated by a previous letter writer. If referendums are held during general elections, taxpayers pay nothing...

Beware Trump When the country you love have have served for 33 years is threatened, you have an obligation and a duty to speak out. Now is the time for all Americans to speak out against a possible Donald Trump presidency. During the past year Trump has been exposed as a pathological liar, a demagogue and a person who is totally unfit to assume the presidency of our already great country...

Picture Worth 1,000 Words Nobody disagrees with the need for affordable housing or that a certain level of density is dollar smart for TC. The issue is the proposed solution. If you haven’t already seen the architect’s rendition for the site, please Google “Pine Street Development Traverse City”...

Living Wage, Not Tall Buildings Our community deserves better than the StandUp TC “vote no” arguments. They are not truthful. Their yard signs say: “More Housing. Less Red Tape. Vote like you want your kids to live here.” The truth: More housing, but for whom? At what price..

Home · Articles · News · Features · Swim, Jim, Swim
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Swim, Jim, Swim

Kristi Kates - October 20th, 2005
He’s swum across five Great Lakes and has set 13 world records. Pretty good for someone who nearly drowned when he was three years old, and, as a result, developed a lifelong fear of swimming. But if you knew the man, it’s nothing more than what you’d come to expect from Michigan’s own Jim Dreyer.
Most people who live in the Great Lakes state know just how challenging those lakes can be. Beautiful, yes - but they’re also rife with riptides and currents, temperature changes, and of course, their vastness. The largest freshwater system in the world, the Great Lakes are sometimes referred to as “inland seas,” and, in part due to their size, can experience many of the same dangers as the ocean, including sudden and severe storms. Jim Dreyer grew up around these lakes, and has grown to appreciate them as much as he respects them - although his introduction to them wasn’t the best.
“I did nearly drown when I was three,” Dreyer reflects. “My sister pulled me from the water at our family cottage. So I grew up with a fear of water. That’s why what I’ve done seems so unlikely, even to me.”
At the age of 32, Dreyer decided it was finally time to teach himself to swim at the local pool near his hometown of Holland, Michigan, but found it a hard process for someone hesitant to put his face in the water. A helpful lifeguard noted Dreyer’s efforts, and helped enroll him in swimming lessons.
It was a humbling experience for a man who was already an accomplished runner, biker, cross-country skiier, martial arts aficionado, and semi-pro baseball player.
“I mean, this is what they teach little kids,” Dreyer chuckles, “so my swimming career had real modest beginnings, for sure.”

And it was a long, carefully thought-out path from those lessons to the world records that Dreyer’s set, even though it only took him two years between starting those lessons to setting his first world record, 65 miles swum straight across Lake Michigan from Two Rivers, Wisconsin to Ludington, Michigan.
“I’ve always admired triathletes,” explains Dreyer, “I was an athlete myself, and I knew that there were certain things I could do. But swimming would force me to face my life’s biggest fear, and I figured that if I could do that, then any other hurdle in life would seem smaller by comparison.”
Once Dreyer tackled that fear and began swimming in earnest, friends and colleagues noticed that he could “swim and swim and swim” once he got going. Dreyer didn’t notice this as anything out of the ordinary, since he didn’t start swimming until his early 30s. But entering something called the Lake Michigan Swim Challenge made him realize how skilled he’d become.
“A company called Johnson Control was promoting a program called the Lake Michigan Swim Challenge,” Dreyer expounds, “you’d spend six to eight weeks swimming at the local pool, and you’d write your progress down as you went. They tallied the miles as if you were swimming Lake Michigan, for fun, to see how far each person could go. Well, most people would do maybe 20 miles or so... but I’d managed to “swim to” the Mackinac Bridge, and I was already working my way back down the “coast” before the Challenge was over.”
And once the seed of swimming Lake Michigan was sown, Dreyer plunged into expanding on that very idea.
“I thought, what if I was swimming all these miles at once; could I actually do it? Then I found out that no one had ever swam between Michigan and Wisconsin. So there was the challenge.”

He worked with the Great Lakes Environmental Research lab in Ann Arbor to help him understand currents and weather conditions, and started training in 1997. In 1998, it was a done deal, a goal reached - something Dreyer thought was a “once in a lifetime achievement.” He didn’t realize what kind of reaction his accomplishment would draw.
“I landed on the beach, and there were media everywhere,” Dreyer says, “ I started doing speaking engagements and some endorsements. Then it occurred to me that, well, there are four other Great Lakes, and this would be a great way to raise attention to needy causes and maybe raise some funds as well. The whole thing really changed my life.”
Changed his life, indeed - and also kept him busy swimming the rest of the Great Lakes and facing multiple challenges to raise money for his two pet causes, Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.
In 1999, Dreyer swam across Lake Huron, succeeding on his third attempt, a new world record of 52.3 miles in 39 hours and 38 minutes of continuous swimming. The Lake Huron swim was plagued by dangerous shoals that prevented Dreyer’s support boat from following him during the critical final miles of the swim, so he finished the swim without nutrition and with legs so cramped and paralyzed that he could only swim with his arms.
In 2000, he conquered both Lake Erie (30 miles across) and Lake Ontario (56 miles). But Lake Superior would prove to be his biggest challenge yet.

This past August, Dreyer embarked on an event he dubbed Solo Superior, in which he’d not only swim across the most treacherous of the Great Lakes, but he’d do it without a support boat, pulling his own supplies, nutrition, lights, and navigational equipment in a dinghy for over 54 miles. If you thought just attempting to swim all five Great Lakes was dramatic - well, that’s nothing compared to what Dreyer would go through in his quest to cross the Lake they call Gitchee Gumee (“big water” in the Ojibwa language).
Partway across the lake, Dreyer’s GPS (Global Positioning Satellite navigation tool) stopped working, leaving him to rely on a fortuitously purchased $6.99 compass that he impulse-bought at a gas station on the way to his swim.
Of course, the GPS had given up in the middle of the night, forcing Dreyer to navigate by the constellations, rigging a flashlight onto the front of the dinghy he was towing so that he could use the inexpensive compass when cloud cover got in the way.
“That was pretty scary,” Dreyer recollects, “I knew that I had to fend off panic. I knew that I wouldn’t see land for several days. I think that was one of many things that made the Lake Superior swim the most emotionally overwhelming, difficult event I’d ever done.”
As a result of moving straps around to rig the impromptu flashlight, Dreyer also lost his dinghy a mere two hours after he lost his GPS.
“Suddenly the Zodiac that I was pulling felt a lot lighter,” he explains, “I turned around in the water, and the Zodiac was gone. My first thought was that I was going to die swimming in circles in Lake Superior. I could see a pinprick of light in the distance - the generator was still working on the Zodiac, so the lights were still on - but it was several hundred yards away. It took me a half a mile to catch it because the current had it.”

A scary situation for anyone - but especially for someone who was swimming completely on his own and had no way to contact anyone at this point.
“Not to be melodramatic,” Dreyer continues, “but the whole time I was chasing the Zodiac, all I could think of was, ‘you catch it, or you die.’ I mean - all the supplies were there, the lights, and the radio if I needed to call for help - and I was still over 25 miles from shore at that point.”
Once Dreyer got within four miles of shore he began relaxing a little bit, thinking about the end of his swim, and the celebration that would follow. But he’s learned to never say it’s over until it’s over. The notorious Lake Superior weather suddenly transformed from sunny skies to a monster storm, with 60 mile per hour winds, 15 foot waves, and frequent lightning. It was only Dreyer’s determination and experience that would see him through.
“The dinghy started getting heavier as it filled up with water,” Dreyer explains, “and as I got closer to the shore, the rip currents that were being stirred up by the storm kept pulling me back out. I had to keep making new runs at the shore, and I was running on empty. I couldn’t stop to eat, because I would’ve lost the battle. But I hadn’t slept in 60 hours. That last four miles took almost five hours to achieve, and the currents had pushed me north past the point I was supposed to land at, where my crew and the media were waiting.”

Cape Gargantua, Ontario - where Dreyer was supposed to land - is beautiful, but remote. There’s only one access road, the one that Dreyer’s support crew was waiting at. But Dreyer had been pushed by the storm over two miles further north, where he found himself faced with nothing but a sheer rock cliff.
“I finally made it to shore,” he says, “but I couldn’t go anywhere. I just climbed onto a boulder and touched the side of the cliff to prove to that I’d made it.”
The untold story here is that of Dreyer’s friend Tom Farnquist, the executive director of the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum, who had taken his boat across the lake to watch Dreyer finish. Farnquist was anchored when the storm hit, and quickly went out looking for Dreyer, finding him up by that sheer rock wall. Farnquist tried to get Dreyer in the boat, but Dreyer - determined as always - refused to get in the boat until he’d touched the cliff and officially finished the swim.
But Dreyer only had about three seconds to celebrate before the current pulled him and his dinghy back out to sea. Now that he’d “made it,” Dreyer allowed Farnquist to throw a life preserver out for him to grab onto.
“I was getting so delirious, I guess I yelled ‘what IS that?’ when the boat bumped me,” Dreyer remembers, “and Tom said, ‘It’s a boat! You need to get on it!’ Tom probably saved my life - I had nowhere to get out of the water, and no one could really get to me to rescue me. Tom is a scuba diver, and he had oxygen on his boat as a result, which was important, because at this point, I began to lose consciousness.”

Dreyer woke up in a strange vegetative state. “I could hear everyone, but I couldn’t communicate,” he explains.
His most surreal moment may have been hearing the boat captain asking the woman running the oxygen tank if he was dead yet. “I could hear him talking, saying ‘Is he dead? He looks dead!’ and all I could think was, please don’t bury me at sea, I’m still alive!”
The next day, after sleep and food, Dreyer - remarkably - didn’t even have a sore muscle, most likely a result of his diligent training and nutrition. He’d pulled 250 pounds of supplies for 60 miles, and had completed his five-lake mission, although he’d come close to death several times in the process.
It was all worth it for Dreyer, both to achieve his last Great Lakes goal and to participate in a special ceremony that involved honoring all of the mariners who have lost their lives in the Great Lakes, especially those that were on the Edmund Fitzgerald, the famed shipwreck that happened 30 years ago this year.
During his Lake Superior swim, Dreyer dropped a memorial urn containing a poem that he wrote plus messages written by survivors of the deceased mariners into 300 feet of water in the middle of Lake Superior, at the border between the U.S. and Canada. “I feel a definite affinity with the mariners,” Dreyer explains, “I’ve faced similar perils myself, and came close to my demise many times. Over 30,000 mariners have died in over 6,000 shipwrecks over the last 400 years on the Great Lakes. This was just a small thing that I could do to commemorate their efforts.”
So now that he’s swum all five Great Lakes, what’s next for this extraordinary Michigan athlete?
“Well, coming out of all this, I’m definitely in the best shape of my life,” Dreyer chuckles, “I see all of these good things happening around me, so I’m sure this winter I’m going to be working on something. The difficulty now will be in raising the bar so that the people and the media will want to follow along - that’s what helps me draw attention to the causes I feel strongly about, especially the Big Brothers/Big Sisters organization and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.” Dreyer takes a long and well-deserved deep breath. “After achieving this last goal, finding something to top it will be a steep order,” he concludes, “but believe me, I’m already thinking about it.”

Read more about Jim Dreyer and his achievements at his official website, www.swimjimswim.com, and keep an eye out for Dreyer in Northern Michigan - he’s set to make several appearances at various events around the Traverse City region, and is also being considered as Grand Marshal for this year’s Petoskey Holiday parade.*
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