Surely, for me, one of the joys of travel comes from the residual effects, the memories that endure for some time after I return. I think that’s especially true when it comes to those warm-weather trips as the next gathering winter blast readies itself to come sweeping across our Buckeye flatlands.
For me, the warm-weather trip from last summer that may very well help me look more optimistically toward future days of warmth several weeks from now was, for my money, one I took with my Lady Jane to a vastly underrated vacation state, Michigan, to Grand Haven, a town of about 11,000. Even the most hardened Buckeye football fans who conjure up such dastardly and venomous thoughts of those Wolverine helmets have to concede when it comes to regionally doable trips, it’s pretty hard to beat our northern neighbors.
While in the past, Lady Jane and I have sampled some really beautiful parts of Michigan, especially that Glen Arbor-Travers City region off one of the most scenic asphalt stretches you’re likely to find, M-22, one that follows the Lake Michigan shoreline through the northwest portion of the state, I really hadn’t considered the Grand Haven area until last July.
While ordinarily my gal does not permit me to meddle in the travel itineraries she does so very well, she will sometimes allow me to put together a weekender here and there. I think, she figures, even if things go horribly wrong, well, it’ll be over in 48 hours or so anyway, right?
Last July, when it came to Grand Haven, I think she would tell you I did pretty well. While my lodging selection wasn’t all that posh, a Rodeway Inn on South Beacon Boulevard, it was reasonably priced, just a Lincoln and a Hamilton shy of three Franklins (come on, you can figure this out!) for two nights in a no-frills-but-clean room. What also appealed to me was it was miles from the more active and noisy boardwalk area where we would spend so much of our time.
Perhaps as a younger version of myself, I’d want to be “amongst ‘em” the entire time, but, nowadays, I prefer to visit the high-traffic areas when I travel during the day and then, when it’s time for slumber, recede into the shadows of relative tranquility several miles away.
At just a tick or two over 250 miles from Lima, well within my 300-mile outer limit when it comes to what I’m willing to travel for a weekend, Grand Haven was perfect. The boardwalk was very interesting, all three miles of it, that parallels the Grand River before it flows into Lake Michigan. The parade of fellow pedestrians on the boardwalk and, especially, the flotilla of boats, both luxurious and rather humble, heading towards Lake Michigan and returning never stopped on Saturday and Sunday. Boats have always fascinated me, not the owning of them, you understand, just the watching part!
I also was very interested in the Chinook Pier area, where the fishing charter boats go in and out. For me, the real entertainment was watching a charter come in and watching the crew display the fruits of the fishermen’s labors on hooks, in this case, steelhead trout and coho salmon, some of which I was told were well over 25 pounds. Then there came the cleaning of the fish by the charter staff as they bagged the large deliciously fresh looking red fillets for those willing to pay the price.
Renting bikes on Sunday on a beautiful day gave us about 20 miles’ worth of experience exploring, especially the residential areas where it seemed as if it may very well have been against the law not to festoon the beautifully landscaped property with at least a couple hundred dollars’ worth of flowers. On most porches, a Coast Guard flag also riffled in the breeze. The banners bore the Coast Guard’s motto, Semper paratus, Latin for “Always prepared.” You see, Grand Haven is a Coast Guard station town and so very proud of that heritage.
With a beautiful downtown area with a great museum that did an excellent job of showing the history of the region’s tri-city area, one consisting of Grand Haven and nearby Spring Lake and Ferrysburg, and the ambiance at The Brewhouse and the delicious frothy bubbly amber-colored Founders Porter, infused with caramel malt, I think I did well planning this junket.
Yes, when the winter winds gather, I think it’s helpful to be able to make some withdrawals from my memory bank, and the currency will be the recollections of a certain warm-weather mini-vacation when the order of my two days was a pair of cargo shorts, a favorite T, a bike and some warmth on my face.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.