As I work my way down the west side of Michigan, I continue to find spectacular evidence of summertime paradise. Lake Michigan is magnificent, and is as vast and enjoyable as any coastal ocean beach. Above is a view of Grand Haven State Park, on the coast of Lake Michigan and which also includes beach side camping. Most notably, the weather here has been fabulous – high 70s to low 80s during the day, and cool 50s/60s at night, with little humidity. Perfect for sightseeing, or just hanging out in the hammock.
Seeing The Sights
As luck would have it, I arrived just prior to the start of the annual US Coast Guard Festival. This 10-day long event in Grand Haven, MI is filled with all sorts of activities including USCG ship tours, cardboard boat races, nightly music festivals, and a carnival. I learned that Grand Haven is certainly a Coast Guard town and is home to a USCG Sector Field Office. In fact, it officially became “Coast Guard City USA”, having been so designated by an act of Congress, signed by President Clinton in Nov 1998. As I biked through the area, I couldn’t help but notice the vast amount of Coast Guard flags of all types and sizes flown on homes throughout the town. I suspect there are many USCG retires that call Grand Haven home.
I have to admit, I knew very little about the Coast Guard, and saw this as an opportunity to get a bit of knowledge on the subject. This is especially important now that I have a son-in-law who is retired USCG (and who was very jealous that I was here at the festival). The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security and is responsible for an array of maritime duties, from ensuring safe and lawful commerce to performing rescue missions in severe conditions. Several of the ships I toured are stationed in the area of Lake Michigan and up through Sault Ste. Marie. Their missions varied from light and buoy maintenance, to ice crushing to maintain passageways in winter, to safety and rescue operations. One thing was clear from everyone I spoke with, both active duty and auxiliary members alike, they were very proud to be members of the Coast Guard, and felt very strongly about the missions they support. It was quite a fun day spending time with them, and learning about the vital role they play in protecting and servicing our nations waterways.
Grand Haven is also home to Grand Haven State Park – nationally known as having one of the top five beaches in the country. The 48-acre park with its beautiful sandy shore along Lake Michigan consists entirely of beach sand and provides scenic views of Lake Michigan and the Grand Haven pier and lighthouse. The campground, which sits waterside in the corner to both Lake Michigan and the Grand River Channel, features over 160 recreation sites for RVs of all types – from tents to a full size motorhome. The one thing missing from this whole area was better bike trails. Bikes travel on the sidewalks sharing that space with pedestrians. It might have just been the crowds from the festival, but bike riding was not very effective as I found myself walking the bike more than riding it. But alas, it was a wonderful day in a wonderful town with a wonderful festival.
I Met Some New Friends
I had the pleasure of meeting some new friends here in Muskegon. You may recall from my Bushnell, FL visit, I reconnected with an old buddy named Scott – my first Air Force assignment roommate at Little Rock AFB. He is a native of Muskegon, having been born and raised here – coincidently just a few blocks from the campground. Some of his family still resides in the area, including his sister Sue and her husband Ted. Scott reached out to Sue, and asked that she make for me a family traditional fresh blueberry pie. They were kind enough to oblige, and came out to the campground to deliver it. Now I’ve certainly had blueberry pie before, but NEVER like this! It was amazing! After enjoying this absolutely wonderful pie, I will never again think that the store bought variety can even come close to a real blueberry pie. Thank you Sue and Ted (and Scott) for this lovely gesture.
They were even kind enough to invite me several days later to join them and several of their friends in a Friday night out to dinner. It was lots of fun – and a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the company of others for an evening dinner. And most of the folks, including Sue and Ted, are also RVers, so we certainly shared that in common. Thanks again for the invite!
Once again, I’ve had the pleasure of chasing down some of the lesser known, yet still very interesting sideline attractions. One was located in the town called Montague, MI, and has the prestigious claim to fame as being the world’s largest weather vane. This fully functional vane stands 48 feet tall, and weighs upwards of 3,500 lbs. The 14 foot ship that adorns the top is the schooner Ellenwood. Before roads and railways were built in west Michigan, all commerce and most personal travel was done via water transportation. The lumber cut in Michigan in the 1800s was delivered by boat to other Great Lakes ports such as Chicago and Milwaukee, and was used to build those great cities in the 19th century. The Ellenwood, owned by a Montague family, was a well known lumber schooner of that era, and thus takes the top position on the weather vane.
Another interesting visit was to a gem factory located in Shelby, MI. This factory has been in continuous operation since the 1970s, producing raw, uncut gemstones replicating diamonds, rubies, emeralds, sapphires, and the like. The tour started with a 20 minute video of the process, followed by a tour of their products in a retail store. They only sell their product at the store – no where else. It was a fascinating process that starts with using a seed to slowly grow the crystals over a 30 day period, followed by cutting, faceting, and polishing them into replicate gems. They have much the same cut, clarity and color as their genuine counterparts, but at a fraction of the cost. It was a really cool family operation that notably takes a great deal of pride in what they produce. Very cool indeed!
Introducing Fun Facts
You may (or may not) have noticed there is a new menu option at the far top right of this website titled “Fun Facts”. I was inspired by another full-time RV blogger who had a similar section on his blog with all sorts of travel facts and figures, and even an animated video of his travels so far (which for him had just surpassed five years). So, I decided to create my own Fun Facts. When you’ve finished reading this post, have a look at the new page to get a small glimpse of some of the fun statistics associated with my full-time RV lifestyle. As a preview, here is one of the featured items on the Fun Facts page. Enjoy!
I’ve got two more weeks here in Michigan, and lots to do and see. I’ll be visiting Grand Rapids to tour the Gerald Ford Presidential museum, and checking off several Roadside America items along the way. I’ve also got several parks with bike trails to visit, and a return trip to Grand Haven to see the musical fountain. Looks like I’ll also have the pleasure of hosting a visit from my former boss Mary who is sort of in the area. Her and I will spend a day visiting something yet to be determined. Looking forward to that. Till later, safe travels!
P.S. – I’ve collected a bunch of these silly RV related cartoons, so I’ll be sharing them with you here every now and then. Hope it gives you a chuckle.