Western Michigan is really nice. Now I understand why so many wealthy Chicago residents purchase real estate out there and hang their Cubs banners from their porches. It's because the region is one-of-a-kind.
This ride began by returning to the Kal-Haven Trail and following it to its end in South Haven. Once there I rode North about ten miles en route to Saugatuck. It was just South of Saugatuck that I encountered Lake Michigan. I was elated to have reached this landmark. I hopped off my bike to observe the beautiful body of water. I pointed my gaze West by Southwest. I knew that Chicago was somewhere over there. I couldn't wait to arrive.
I mounted my bike and followed the shoreline to Saugatuck. My hostess from the previous night had told me about this place. It was an artsy little holiday destination on Lake Michigan. There was one intersection that had about four ice cream shops on it. There's really no reason to be entrapped by ice cream and frozen yogurt shops unless of course you're on vacation in some cute little Lake Michigan town. Saugatuck was great.
Riding from Saugatuck to Holland was all bike trails. Many of the communities and resorts that I passed by were named after the sand dunes that lined the Western Lake Michigan coast. Someone had told me the dunes were leftover from melted glaciers. For whatever it's worth, these odd sand dunes defined the character of the shoreline.
The weather had cleared up by the time I arrived at my hostess' home in Holland. I was received by her son, Ian. I quickly realized that there were a lot of erie parallels between this guy and myself. He had just completed a cross country bike tour, was a world traveler, enjoyed photography and was interested in getting an MPP. It's funny. I generally think of myself as a unique person. Then, as soon as I'm sure that I'm the only person who has done the things that I've done, I happen to stumble into a guy who did them all. Life never fails to surprise me.
The evening went well. I felt like I was at my parents' home. I basically sat in their nice basement and watched NBA playoffs while texting my friends. A pretty stock evening for me.
I joined the family for dinner. They were having a potluck style meal with some young couples from their church. I was excited to have the opportunity to meet some locals folks. I got a huge kick out of the conversation. Not because people were saying anything odd but because the conversation EXACTLY met the preconceived notion that I had of Holland, Michigan. I'll explain.
I briefly lived in Battle Creek, Michigan during the 90's. The only thing I knew about Holland was that it had tulips. In fact, everyone in Michigan knew that fact because of this silly jingle that somehow got around. It went, "Tulips are blooming in Holland, Michigan..." So, in my mind Holland was all about tulips. Twenty years after hearing the Holland jingle, I was in Holland having dinner with a bunch of Hollanders. And what did we talk about? Tulips. There was excitement about the upcoming tulip festival. Then there was the story of the malicious teenage girls that stomped on one of the guest's tulip gardens. Then there was the nightmarish story of some vandals who drove down the road, slashing every tulip they came across. I couldn't believe it. Life in Holland was ACTUALLY all about tulips. It was fun getting to know some Hollanders. In addition to tulips, they seemed to lead serendipitous lives. Some part of me was a bit envious of people who get to raise their family in Western Michigan. It is a lovely place.