You’ve seen the commercials. Or if you haven’t, I’m going to tell you about them now.
On my Facebook page, I told you that in tribute to my grandpa who recently passed away, I would share with you my beloved childhood summer vacations.
Michigan? Every year we headed north for a week or so to visit my awesome grandparents. People would ask, “Michigan, why Michigan?” I’d reply, “We go every year, we’re visiting my grandparents.”
But it was more than that. I never wished that we took family vacations to Orlando, and I never understood why people didn’t get as excited about our trip as I did. I was hard to explain; Michigan was all I needed.
Heck I got so excited one time that I projectile vomited all over the back of my mom’s seat in the car, but that’s another story for another day.
Michigan vacations were everything a kid needs from summer camp without having to spend 2 months in a cabin with no AC and not enough bug spray.
Every summer the drive was a little different, we’d leave really early in the morning and drive through the states you’re supposed to fly over. 15-ish hours of corn, essentially. (I didn’t appreciate the scenery like I do now.) We usually did it in 2 days, stopping somewhere on the other side of Indianapolis for a few hours of sleep and a shower before heading out the next morning.
The anticipation of seeing my warm, bright and smart grandparents, getting a crunchy waffle cone of double scoop creamy Moose Tracks ice cream, feeling the crisp Michigan summer air, putting my toes in the warm sand and seeing the dark waves of Lake Huron on the shore was enough to drive any kid crazy. The second day always felt twice as long as the first.
My grandparents lived in various places in Michigan, so we got to explore different towns and neighborhoods, but spent most of our time just north of the Huron National Forest in and around a town called Oscoda.
Chances are, you’re unfamiliar with this area of Michigan. It’s full of people born and raised in the area with a lot of American Indian heritage, there’s the great lake, the cold and mysterious Au Sable River, and a few inland lakes as well. The Michigan summers lend well to spending time outdoors, and the resources for doing so were plenty. We always spent a day or so walking around the shops in Tawas or Oscoda or Harrisonville, we did the touristy things like visiting the sand dunes and a dinosaur park, and one summer we trekked up to Mackinaw Island.
Michigan was our land and we were born to conquer every nook and cranny (of the northeast side of the state anyway). My family might have been perturbed by my desire to soak up every bit of history we came across on family vacations, be it lighthouses, the logging industry’s influence on the sand dunes, the fort at Mackinaw, the locks at Sault Ste Marie, etc., but those facts make me a whiz at corresponding trivia topics at the bar on Tuesdays.
When we weren’t roaming around town, my sister and I explored every inch of the beach. J and I would go on long walks with my grandpa, find stones smoothed by the waves to paint with my me-maw, and collect hundreds of shells to commemorate our many visits.
Bonfires on the beach and our cotton crew necks and flannels kept us warm in the cool Michigan evenings.
Every memory I have of Michigan is a good one, even when I visited East Lansing for work and drove down to visit some friends in Ann Arbor. Even when we had a mini-family reunion in “the thumb” and went to the most magnificent perch restaurant in an old mansion almost resembling the Bates Motel.
Michigan stays off the radar for most travelers, but those who go there can’t help but go back.
Happy Valentine’s Day my sweeties. Tell those that you love that you love them as much as you can.
Thanks for reading! Until next time, adios, ciao, sayonara, good-bye!
Published February 2015.