Our last full day in southwest Michigan we took the girls on the classic Saugatuck Dune Ride, then drove to Holland for the afternoon. A flotilla of bikers accompanied us on the road bearing orange signs that told their origin state - lots of Iowans, whoo whoo! We would overtake them and let them catch up with us again at the New Holland Brew House and then a couple days later, again at the Sleeping Bear Dunes.
The girls and I had seen the tulips and Ye Olde Dutch stuff on other visits to Holland - today we were here for a production of The Borrowers at the local Christian college. If you, like me, loved as a kid this children's story about a family of tiny people who live under the floorboards and "borrow" from and perplex the "human beans" who live above, then you'll understand how excited I was to introduce little Arietty to my girls. The college kids gave it their best and with the help of little eight inch high puppet dolls when the Borrowers interact with big people and some big puppets flying around as dangerous wasps and friendly moths, my girls were charmed. You should have heard them scream with laughter when the little puppet mom and daughter attacked the evil housekeeper, Mrs. Driver, with a hat pin. A triumph for the little people!
We said goodbye with hugs and tears to Sal and Erik the next morning and took the coastal scenic route north. World's biggest weather vane! Then, after a couple of hours, we passed Crystal Lake!
Such sweet memories here of vacationing for a week with Sally and her parents at the Chimney Corners Resort when I was fourteen. Campfires on the beach! Lying on the sun-baked surface of the floating wooden raft, dripping, heart beating from the swim. Uncle Bob hooking a seagull rug in the cabin on a rainy day. Aunt Joan asking, "Where's Sally?" I didn't know, then we looked out the picture window toward the lake like we were looking at a movie screen and there she was, moving across our vision, rowing in the whitecaps before a coming storm, hauling herself almost upright with each pull of the oars. And on one of the last days, walking in the woods, holding hands with a boy from Detroit. Bill. Bill Weiderman. Feeling too sick with excitement to eat, even pancakes. Making out (for the first time!) with that boy in the dark on the beach the last night. Elton John's "Daniel" on the car radio as we drove away...
"Girls! Be quiet! Mom is remembering!" Randy yells at the rowdies in the back seat as we speed by.
On and on up the twisty roads to Glen Arbor, a sweet tourist town about three blocks wide, surrounded by pretty pines, on the edge of Sleeping Bear Bay. Dinner at Boondocks, not on the fun and crowded outdoor deck, since the girls were tired and rarely like the conventional, but inside the cozy cabin dining room. Fried walleye and cole slaw, yum. Raw carrots for the girls with their pasta.
We stayed at up the road at the Homestead, a huge hilly spread of condo buildings, cabins, homes, ski lift, three or so hotels, pools, and shops with woods all around. We have a condo that faces the water beyond a clear water creek and grassy dunes. A short walk over a wooden footbridge to the narrow beach.
The next morning we made the epic Dune Climb that I had promised the girls before we left home. "We'll climb a mountain made out of sand! And then you run down as fast as you can, but the sand is so soft, even if you fall, you won't get hurt!"
That's the way I remembered it from when I was a kid and that's the way it was. Like childbirth, the effort to make it to the top is not what you retain. Not the slog of steps, each slipping back half the distance you moved up, your breath already gone after a fraction of the climb. Nor that beautiful view at the top, even though to the west it's bluest Lake Michigan and more dunes and placid Glen Lake to the east. You catch your breath and snap a shot and if you're like me, yell, "Worth it!" But that's not what you remember most.
It's the running down that hill that we came for, answering the call of that great downward expanse, feeling the pull of the bowl of sand that calls you to tilt your body toward the slope until gravity catches you off-balance and you must run. Great loping strides down, down, down onto soft yielding sand, faster and faster. You're breathless with laughter and the thrill of moving in a way between flying and falling with style, as Buzz Lightyear would say. Down to the bottom, in what feels like moments, of the hill that felt like it took an hour to climb.
Scenic Drive turnoff. Looking north toward the twin islands, South Manitou and North Manitou.
We drove the twisty and steep Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive, wondering how on earth Julie and Bobby bike it, stopped for pizza in Empire, then drove ten miles south on Route 22 to Riverside Canoe Outfitters. The girls had to be extracted from the crammed aisles of the log cabin gift shop, but we eventually got them down to the riverside and each in her own inner tube.
The water was cool on this warm and bright August day, the riverbed was sandy and the banks pretty with green woods and cabins and their tiny docks tucked among the trees. Randy was satisfied to float and try out his new mesh bag as a cooling system for the beers while Mia chased minnows and Nora kicked her way into the lead ("It's not a race, Nora!") I grew impatient with the pace so I stood up in the knee-deep water and waded instead, pulling my tube behind me. Cool in the shadows near the banks, warm in the center of the stream. After about an hour or so of splashing and floating, we hit the landing point, got out and carried our floaties (make that Randy and I doing the carrying) down a ten minute trail back to the outfitters. Next year we'll do the longer trip that takes us all the way to Lake Michigan where a van gives us a ride back to start.
Dinner was at The Cove, all the way up in Ye Olde Fishtown, a neighborhood of Leland, Michigan where tiny fishing shacks next to a trout stream have been reconditioned as gift and candy shops and restaurants. Very picturesque. The Ferris Wheel drying racks for the catch of the day were cool, as was the blocky boat design on a t-shirt Randy bought. We would see the actual ship that was the inspiration for the design on our last day at Sleeping Bear - it had not much more embellishment.
Another beautiful sunset over Sleeping Bear Bay.