In lieu of Italy, I spent a week in northern Michigan. Actually on the north-eastern shore of Lake Michigan. The area is nothing like Northern Ontario and the other Great Lakes. It has dunes, sandy beaches, resorts, cherry orchards, golf-courses and cultivated pine-groves. The image on the left is Dom, Alyssa, Mary and Daniel getting ready to climb the dune in the National Lakeshore Park.
It was a surprise to find National Lakeshore, I had no idea that the east coast of Lake Michigan is protected parkland. (In all the years that I’ve been traveling through Michigan, this is the first time that I ever visited the eastern shores of the Lake.)
I always assumed that Lake Michigan would be much like the other Great Lakes rocky and rugged. Instead it’s sand and gentle, rolling hills. It’s fields of sunflowers and beautifully manicured greens. It’s farmland and orchards. It’s the refuge of the car-manufacturing gentry escaping the industrial south for the dunes and shores of the “up-north”.
One of the things I enjoyed best about the trip was spending time with Daniel and Alyssa. The image on the right is a reflection – Daniel is being an eighth-grader and messing with his sister. (I’m glad to see Alyssa is still patient. Hope it lasts.) The five of us – Mary, Dom, Daniel and Alyssa – decided to spend an evening walking the downtown. The children and I ate gelato, dissed the tourists and mugged in every window.
Traverse City is beautiful. It has a nice balance. It is not some cheap beach-town littered with souvenir shops and trashy stores or some northern Michigan back-water, hick town. Rather the downtown is manned by local merchants who have managed to keep out the national chains, the graffiti and the garbage. They offer coffee shops manned by local kids, t-shirts designed and printed by local artisans. A canal edges the downtown allowing boats to dock; boaters to pick up pizza; ducks to swim and dive for food; tourists to shop for taffy and t-shirts; locals to work in a tourist environment without being swallowed up by the outsiders. The harbor is filled with motor-boats and sail-boats. It is landscaped with retaining walls and slips. And the sunset colors it red.