Beaches and Back Roads

A recent trip to South Haven, MI was just what I needed. Having made the trip from Ann Arbor in record time, my first order of business was simple: slow down. I headed to one of my favorite spots, The Idler. While there, I learned the moored boat-bar now serves breakfast on the weekend – this is what we call a “game changer.” Through conversation with the couple seated at the bar next to me, I learned their family and mine both have roots in Paw Paw, MI and even bowled together.

Having taken the opportunity to sleep in, perhaps a little later than planned, I made my way back to The Idler for brunch consisting of sausage gravy and biscuits, and a delicious spicy Bloody Mary. I then made my way down the canal to enjoy the sights and sounds of Harbor Fest, including vendors from all over, musicians, artists, and dragon boat races, culminating in some much appreciated time on the shore of Lake Michigan.

I eventually made my way back into town, and had lunch at a new favorite of mine: a restaurant called Taste. Located where Haborside Bistro once called home, Taste is the labor of love of Heidi and Joel Gesiakowski, and they have crafted a fabulous menu. I highly recommend checking it out.

Stopping at another restaurant for an early dinner, I found myself seated to a young woman who was friends with the bartender and a couple of the servers. Sadly, I overheard their conversation about her sister, who had recently been the victim of domestic violence. To make matters worse, the guy seems to have literally gotten away with murder, and is still a free man. While she was in the restroom, I quickly paid her tab and made my exit, in order to remain anonymous.

The following day was the last of my mini-vacation, and I began my trek back home. Not long ago, I had a conversation with a friend regarding road trips. Obviously, they aren’t for everyone, but I’ve come to enjoy them after all these years. Especially when they take place on the back roads of Michigan. My trip TO South Haven needed to be quick, so I could get to my destination and begin my weekend, so I took the freeway. The trip back, however, was to be as leisurely as possible, so I kept to country roads, and oft overlooked highways which meander through quaint small towns.

On the freeway you see road, trees, construction cones, and the bumpers of the cars ahead of you. My path home would allow me to see villages, largely unchanged in the last fifty years, with flag-lined streets. Storefronts harkening back to a simpler time. Butcher shops, barber shops, hardware stores, and general stores. Town squares decorated with flowers. Civil war canons, and monuments to town founders.

Homes with porches that reach clear around the back, adorned with bunting and rocking chairs. Honest to god rocking chairs. VFW halls, and Moose lodges. Drive-in theaters, and blue plate diners.

Roads lined with broken pines, reaching towards the sun. Mangled, majestic oaks with twisted branches. Maples reaching across creating a leafy, shaded tunnel. Willows, weeping silently in the summer sun.

Lakes. Ponds. Rivers. Barns, built perhaps a century ago and long since vacant, having collapsed under their own weight. Fields of wheat, acres of corn, and a sea of soy. Horses frolicking in their pasture, as cattle graze upon rolling hills.

Truly, road trips can be a beautiful thing. The trick is choosing the right path, and then taking the time to actually enjoy the ride…and the scenery.

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