Well this year I finally did it, and it was exhilarating! I’m speaking, of course, about the annual New Year’s Day tradition of taking a dip in Lake Michigan. My 16 year old nephew Eric and I made the trek down to Bradford Beach to find the roads blocked off from the top of St. Mary’s Hill and the bottom of Lake Park so we had to park about a half mile from the beach, which almost put the kabosh on the thing. I expected there to be dozens of people down there but it was hundreds, maybe a thousand. The official plunge is at noon but due to the parking situation (I had foolishly expected to park in the lot or along Lincoln Memorial Dr.) we were about 25 minutes late. No problem, there we’re still people getting in with and after us and cheering us on!
I’ve had some extended New Years Eves over the years. It is the one night when bars never have to shut down and if you’re dedicated you can put yourself in quite a frame of mind by the morning. This, however, was not one of those years. I knew that we were going to FEEL Lake Michigan. Eric and I had our swimsuits on under lots of clothes, cranked the heater in the car, and jogged halfway to the beach, so when we got there we were pretty warm. On the beach we quickly stripped down, dashed out into waist deep water, dove down fully under, and got the hell out! Toweling off and getting dressed was COLD, and as I shook the water from my hair the tiny droplets were ice, but we never got shivering cold. My feet had a cold burn from standing on the frozen sand but that went away. Quickly we were back in our clothes and feeling good. We checked out some crazy revelers in various stages of undress and intoxication (like a Samurai in just a robe and slippers, icicles in his beard, making sexual jestures with his sword) before making our way back to the car. A stop for some hot chocolate brought us back to full recovery.
I’m going to do this again next year, but I’ll get down there earlier and bring the hot chocolate with me in a thermos.