When I was a wee child, our family vacations centered around historical sites in the Midwest. Log cabins, rock formations, museums, and for several years, any place that had a connection to Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Someone in the family had a slight obsession.)
Sometimes I envied the kids whose parents took them on more exotic vacations, the kind with sun and sand and beautiful views, but mostly I really loved our quirky getaways. Nothing bonds a family together like getting stranded in South Dakota before the days of cell phones, only to be rescued by four nuns with a car phone in a town that proudly hosts the world's largest Jolly Green Giant statue.
The tales have only gotten stranger as the years go by. Two years ago, I ran out of patience trying to document all the strange things we saw and encountered in Milwaukee. I never even finished putting the pictures on Flickr. There were just too many adventures there.
This year's trip to Michigan was a littler tamer, but there are still too many stories to be told. When the first day starts out with a trip to a wooden shoe factory / painted porcelain factory / tulip farm / buffalo farm, you know you're in for a good time. And when that one location can only be accessed by a long series of u-turns (because Michigan has some weird phobia about left turn lanes at major intersections), you are too dizzy to remember any of the bad times.
Although Michigan is not on my list of States to Hate, it is under arrest for crimes against pizza. "Biscuit-like crust" should never be the best way to describe your award-winning Chicago-style pizza, especially when the restaurant serving said fare is within spitting distance of authentic Chicago pizza. (Heck yes, I train my pizza to spit.) However, we did survive the experience and live on to find much better food, like the steak from Crazy Horse and the gourmet chocolate from Kilwin's and the tasty subs from some little place in downtown Holland.
When we weren't busy gorging on food or buying more snacks from the grocery store, we found time to do what we do best—seek out the tallest, the oldest, the ugliest, the prettiest, the dirtiest, and the most bizarre. Our adventures took us to a functioning windmill, on a dune buggy ride, up and down one of the top beaches in America, through a mosquito-infested hiking trail overlooking the lake, past the world's largest weather vane, inside a rather old lighthouse, and aboard the Friends Good Will (a replica of a merchant vessel from the 1800s that was stolen by the British for use in combat in the War of 1812).
I hope I never forget how funny Mark was as he took us past the city on the lake that was buried under the dunes, but I won't mind forgetting how stuffy and crowded and falling apart it was on the fifth story of the windmill. My ankle will never forgive me for hiking in platform flip-flops, and my dad will never forgive Lake Michigan for his non-stop seasickness during our two-hour sailing trip. Adam will forever be held responsible for our bad experience with Younkers, and I think we all decided to blame my mother for the lame museum in the lighthouse.
What really matters, though, is that we endured all the good times and the bad times as a family. The uniqueness of Michigan and its people was the perfect distraction from all the stresses of life, and for that, we are all grateful.
Thanks for being weird, Michigan.