Background – Mary Ann will occasionally take a trip to see her sisters in Florida, Minnesota, or Illinois. With my family nearby that doesn’t apply to me. I got to thinking, “Heck, she is leaving on a vacation and I am staying home. Maybe I will take a vacation by myself. I’m retired and have the time.” After discussing it with her, she agreed that I should take a ‘vacation’ while she is on her ‘vacation’. (I was invited to join her and the sisters, but … No way, no way, no way. Haha). So where to go? I settled on Michigan since I thought it was a place that had no good reason for us to vacation together. It would give me a chance to see places where I used to live, which might bore her to tears. And I would also have the opportunity to practice my photography – landscapes and cityscapes.
Warning to readers: Unlike my other more ‘interesting’ experiences (Haha), this may not be as exciting for readers to appreciate and replicate. (My brothers and sisters might relate to this, though.) Bear with me.
There are four cities/towns in Michigan that I have memories of as a kid. They are Grand Rapids, Paw Paw, Muskegon, and Lansing. I was born in Grand Rapids. I have only a few memories of one of the houses that we lived in there. After all, I was pretty young then. At the age of 3 or so we moved to Paw Paw, where we lived for 3 or 4 years before moving to Bethesda, Maryland. I have lots of memories from Paw Paw. My Mom’s parents lived in Muskegon and my Dad’s parents lived in Lansing. Both sets of parents moved to Maryland after we relocated east.
I drove first to Paw Paw (11/8/17) since I had the most memories of that town. Paw Paw is a village, population 3,500, in southwest Michigan. The population has barely grown in the 55 years since I lived there. Although it is the county seat, there is not much else. Maybe it is a commuter town to Grand Rapids or Kalamazoo, or a stop off the interstate. I did uncover two bright spots – St. Julian Winery and Paw Paw Brewery. I visited both for tastings. The wine was good and so was the beer. The village is so small, for what I wanted to see, I could have jogged around the lake and seen the whole town, but it was freezing cold and I had my camera to record some memories. I stopped by the house I used to live in, the elementary school I briefly attended, a cemetery near our house that I knew was there but does not show up in maps, the scary bridge that crossed the hydroelectric dam on Mona Lake, the skeleton of the Tastee Freez we used to have ice cream, and the downtown area.
The ‘scary bridge’ was a narrow road over the lake which barely fit a car between the hydroelectric building on one side and the lake on the other, no safety rails. When you are 5 years old and can’t swim, don’t have seat belts on, and your mother is driving fast over the bridge screaming “We’re all going to die!” you get pretty scared. My younger sister, Karen, was just as petrified as I was.
Next I drove west to Lake Michigan to photograph lighthouses. I went to South Haven and then Grand Haven. It was colder on the coast with high winds, making for some good photographs. I then drove up to Muskegon (actually North Shores) to see my grandparent’s old house (Adolph and Anita Dasler). I didn’t stay long (you don’t want to stay long in Muskegon), high-tailing it to Grand Rapids.
I decided to lodge in Grand Rapids for the rest of the trip. From there I could get to any other place I wanted to see in about an hour or so. Seems like a lot of people live somewhere else and commute to Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids is the second largest city in Michigan, about 200,000. From what I hear it is the best city in Michigan and also claims to be Beer City, USA.
While in Grand Rapids, I stopped by the two houses where I lived and the hospital where I was born (Blodgett Memorial Hospital). The next day I took a tour of the countryside, visiting a few small towns and covered bridges. I also met up with my wife’s nephew, Bryce, for lunch as he does one of those commutes from a small town on Lake Michigan to Grand Rapids.
The next day I did a walking tour of downtown Grand Rapids. While staying in downtown, I stopped by a few of the breweries – Founders Brewery, which sells craft beer nationally, and the Grand Rapids Brewery.
Then I took a day trip to Lansing to see the house where my grandparents (Oyvind and Dorit Rydland) used to live. While in Lansing I spent the afternoon visiting relatives, Pat and Pat (My godmother’s daughter, Patricia, and her husband, Patrick), catching up on our families.
So that was the extent of my personal road trip experience. It was interesting taking a trip by myself. I had the opportunity to do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. On the other hand, it would be better to share it with my travel partner. I realized that this would be a good trip to involve Mary Ann, however we would definitely have to pick a better (warmer) time of the year!
Scary bridge in Paw Paw, Michigan
Lighthouse at Grand Haven, Michigan
Cityscape of Grand Rapids, Michigan