Part two of my Michigan vacation recap! After a great few days on Mackinac Island, my family and I began the five-hour drive down the western side of the state, heading for the twin towns of St. Joseph and Benton Harbor, on the shores of Lake Michigan in the southwestern corner of the state. This is where my mother grew up, and where we visited my grandparents multiple times a year all throughout my childhood.
My mom inherited my grandmother’s place, and that’s where all nine of us were headed when we heard that a terrible storm had swept through the day before, leaving 80,000 homes without power. Ours was one of them. We also heard that it might take 3 days to get power restored. Yikes. Not a great thing to hear when you’re just a few hours away from arriving! My sister and I jumped on our phones. Six other family members were planning on meeting us, so we had them delay their drives for a day. My sister reserved rooms as a hotel (with power) down the street. Since we now had some time to kill, we found a restaurant in a cute town an hour before our destination, and made a reservation.
That town was Saugatuck, and it’s known in western Michigan as being a cute, artsy, charming town. We had a lovely dinner (I ate grilled fish tacos), did some shopping, and heard a Jimmy Buffett tribute band play in the park. Next to the park was the Saugatuck Chain Ferry, a nearly 200-year-old passenger ferry that crosses the Kalamazoo River every few minutes.
The ferry is rigged to a chain that lies under the river, and it’s hand-operated, so by turning the crank, you pull the ferry along the chain, all the way to the other side. It only costs $1 to ride (what a steal!), and I got to crank it halfway across, so that was a pretty unique experience, especially when you consider that this is the last surviving chain ferry in the United States!
By the time we arrived in St. Joseph later that night, the power was still out, and we crashed at the hotel. I got up early the next morning and went for a run, back to the house… only to find out the power was still out. I ran back to the hotel with the bad news… and with a 3.5-mile workout under my belt.
Luckily, the power came back later that afternoon, while we were at the movies, and the rest of the family showed up, and lots of fun was had. We played putt-putt golf and drove go-karts that evening, and the next day (the Fourth of July) was spent at a beautiful beach called Tiscornia Park, which is next to the St. Joseph Pier and Lighthouse.
A few of us walked to the end of the pier, which I haven’t done since I was a kid.
I also helped my nephews and niece dig a big pit in the sand. It eventually got so deep that when the kids sat down in it, they disappeared completely!
We also got a double dose of fireworks that night. First, we watched the town’s fireworks from a prime spot on top of the bluff. Then we set off our own fireworks that my sister’s boyfriend brought with him in a nearby field. Go America!
Like on Mackinac Island, I tried to photograph and tweet everything I ate during my time in St. Joseph, but that kinda fell apart towards the end of the trip. There’s still plenty of pictures on my Twitter feed, but not everything made it on there. I couldn’t manage to hold food and my camera and not get sand on any of it at the beach, so I didn’t even try. And one night I got really hungry before bed, and my midnight snack ended up being way too big and comprised of way too much junk food: nuts, more nuts, chocolate-covered nuts, other types of nuts, and cold pizza – I had forgotten how much I love cold pizza!
OH! And I brought with me a couple delicacies that I had stumbled upon in a store in LA: actual snacks made from larva and crickets:
I was curious if my nephews and niece would try actual bugs with me, and to my surprise, three of the four dug in, and two of them came back for seconds… then thirds! It was pretty unanimous: the crickets were better!
I also stayed active, working out every day. In addition to the aforementioned run, I got in two killer bike rides on my dad’s bike. One was 13.1 miles, and the other was 14.2 miles. The longer ride followed a route that I did when I visited a few years ago (read my post about it, which contains more great pictures of St. Joe).
I love this route because it takes me past the house that my grandparents lived in when I was much younger, as well as the place where we had Easter brunch every single year. Here I am in front of the house:
I arrived in Michigan on a Saturday, and the next day was largely spent getting to Mackinac Island. Starting on Monday, I worked out every single day of the vacation, including the following Saturday, before hopping on a plane to come back home.
Keep it up, David!
Next Up: My long-overdue July weigh-in and progress report!