UPDATE CAR: Fixed! We needed a new radiator and a new thermostat, but at 11:30 this morning, $500 bucks lighter, we were back on the road and heading toward Nashville, Tennessee. But that is a later post. Suffice it to say, that Nashville is much more civilized. It sells beer and wine in its grocery stores as well as other stores called wine and spirits. I am now watching Harry Potter on the TV with the kids and enjoying a nice Washington Merlot. We are back on track people!
Grand Rapids, Michigan
The morning after July 4th was July 5th. Duh. But seriously folks. I did not go out for a run as the heat was… because, well, I didn’t feel like it. I did however wake everybody up at seven in the morning, which meant that we were on the road by nine. This was to be a family vacation, taken with J’s sister’s family in one vehicle and us following. Destination? Grand Rapids, Michigan! Why? I don’t know. Apparently there are dunes there that are quite spectacular. The drive there was pretty bland, the same scenery since Montreal. Farms, farms, and more farms with some trees. (An aside- I we were able to get NPR for a bit and actually heard a radio broadcast of The Moth! Woohoo! Viva NPR!) We did stop off at a Target (which is America’s equivalent of Zeller’s, a fact known to everybody but me apparently) for some after-bite (those Detroit mosquitoes were vicious) and other trinkets, but besides that the three hour drive was unbroken. We arrived at our first destination, the Frederic Meier Sculpture Park and Gardens at around 12:30. And we stayed there all afternoon, despite the heat pressing down on us like a troll trying to squish us into a spread for his bread (human butter), despite the outcries of the children, we soldiered on. All to see a few glass sculptures from this dude Dale Chihuly (who, incidentally, has been featured in every museum we’ve visited in every city since Grand Rapids- I kid you not) and oh, a Rodin, a Maillol, Lipchitz and other people I don’t know well enough to name drop.
But really we were following the glass sculpture map around. Why? Because my brother-in-law and I are control freaks that why. The map said to do it this way so come hell or high water, we were going to do it. Screw the children and their heat stroke.
Yeah. It was lovely though and if you’re ever in Grand Rapids and want a long walk, I would highly recommend it. Just wear good shoes, and if it is in the middle of summer, wear sunscreen, a hat and bring about a gallon of water (some to dump on your head and some to drink).
We finally found our hotel, reserved through this nifty site my sister-in-law (I’ll call her A from now on) introduced to us called hotwire, where you get good rooms discounted. It was just one of the Holiday Inn Expresses in the middle of suburban anywhere (seriously- we couldn’t find it at first as it was hiding behind a strip mall) but the kids were over the moon. We had booked them their own room and it had a pool. Everybody happy. Taco Bell, cartoons for the kids and cocktail for the adults and voilà the perfect American experience.
Me, soaking up the ambience in the Taco Bell (or trying to convince myself that, “for fast food, it’s not so bad…)
July 6th- Saugatuck Dunes State Park
Next day. Another early start, which means we were actually out of the hotel by ten. About a half hour drive away were the mythical dunes of which we’d been hoping and praying for at Saugatuck Dunes State Park.But the parking lot abutting a forest did not bode well. However, a nice keeper came along and gave us a map of the place and we discovered that the beach was just a couple miles hike away through mosquito infested forest. Did this daunt us? No sirree.
Climbing that last dune. Sand is hard to climb in by the way, just in case you missed that in Lawrence of Arabia…
We soldiered on, trudging through the sandy paths until we arrived at a sand dune denuded of trees, higher than we could see over and steep to climb. We pushed through the soft sand to come to the top where, before us, was the majestic sight of Lake Michigan and a pristine, sand white beach framed by a light, green grass swaying in the ferocious wind.
And the wind was ferocious. We had to find a semi-sheltered cove to put our stuff as it would have been buried by the sand. As it was, just walking down the beach was a painful experience, with the sand stinging the calves of our legs. But we are stalwart travelers as I mentioned before and we would not give up. We changed into our bathing suits and flung ourselves into the waves. And thus we spent the most enjoyable hour and a half of our trip so far. The last time I encountered waves like that was when I was nine years old and on a cruise to Mexico. I think the beach was at Puerta Vallarta, but I’m not sure. I remember standing waist deep in the water and jumping the huge, rolling waves for a long, long time. It was rhythmic, exciting, relaxing. I have a terrible memory- I don’t remember many things. But that experience I will never forget. Lake Michigan had the same affect on me as the waves did for my nine-year-old self. And I wasn’t the only one. J, who usually does not like to swim, stayed in the longest, floating around, letting himself be bullied by the crashing waves. It made the hike in and out totally worth it.
I highly recommend going to the dunes found on the coast of Lake Michigan on a windy, sunny day. I really don’t know why waves are so fun – is it the feeling of being cradled by such an immensely powerful force? Is it the amusement park feel to them? I don’t know. They are both scary and comforting at the same time. Whatever it is, it is FUN and you should do it.
We left the park at around 2:30 after picnicking in the little park by the car. Goodbye and see you in Montreal to the relatives.
Next stop Indianapolis! (that will be in the next issue ’cause it is 10pm central time and I’m tired of being on this computer…)