Saturday, August 23, 2008

Pétanque Up North

Boules Awaiting Play
Originally uploaded by aegan6
Pétanque is not just a sport for the well-defined pistes in Cadillac Square, at the Riverfront, or in Royal Oak. In fact, even the make-shift pistes in Rochester Hills are still pretty "artificial" compared to the places I've been playing recently.

The Great White North of Michigan—roughly defined here as anything north of Saginaw—holds many wonders, both natural and artificial. One of these wonders is the annual camping trip that my father and two long-time friends have been doing since they were my age; about 8 or 9 years ago, they decided to bring their sons up with them, and our party ballooned to six campers who enjoy the luxury of Coleman stoves, slow-cookers, and ovens, a good beer and good liquor, and relaxation.

Traditionally, a frisbee and a football of some type would make their way up with us, but this year I brought my boules and a set I borrowed from Jeff. I taught the assembled masses the rules and basic play of Pétanque, and we set up on an empty campsite across from our own. The site was mostly loose dirt, with a lot of roots, pebbles, and grass interspersed for a difficult and amusing piste. Enjoy some more photos at my flickr account, and take my word for it—Pétanque can be played on pretty much any surface, and taking your boules somewhere new can really improve your game.

By the by, the results were pretty interesting. I played my friend Carl and came from an 8-4 deficit to win, 13-12. My father and I played to a 13-7 victory for yours truly. My father played his friend Tim (Carl's father), and won 13-0, thus making Tim the official Kneff Lake Fanny. There's a picture, but it's not one that I'm sharing. The dads played each other and had some pretty competitive games—my father did well for himself, and it got to the point where I could go back and keep an eye on the brisket that was cooking away in a dutch oven in our fire pit, and leave the boules-players to their own devices.

This past week, I spent some time in Traverse City, and played our hundred-year-old French game in front of a Hundred-and-one-year-old Bed and Breakfast on the Old Mission Peninsula. I'll have the pictures I snapped from that game—in which I once again defeated my father, though by a much closer score, 13-10—up after this weekend of renfest.

It's always a pleasure to take a game on the road so simply, and to expand my skills by challenging myself to learn the new terrain, the quirks of it, and so on. Of course, I also get to spread the word about the game, and that's just as fun.


Jeppy said...

Excellent account Aaron, I tried playing petanque at my campsite in Manitoulin this Summer as well. You're right, the ungroomed piste along with sticks and large stones makes for a technically satisfying game of boule. It'd be great to try out down in Detroit (though any major gravel disruption will kick us out) I think tossing a salad of sticks around the piste can simulate the experience. But, it's nothing like the real thing!

diveborabora said...

Nice post Aaron. Enjoying reading about petanque in Michigan outside our normal circles... Thanks for keeping us fellow players in the loop, very nice.

Mac said...

Glad you two liked the post. I try to keep things a little interesting.

So, my move to Ann Arbor approaches quickly. I might have to pick up some extra boules to take with me and foist the game upon unsuspecting dorm-mates. Gotta get my money's worth out of my boules.

diveborabora said...

Mac - We have fellow petanquers playing in Ann Arbor! Email me and I can help you get hooked up with them. -Joe