A trip to the big lake

By David Lindeman

Contributing Columnist

Every June, our grandchildren escape the Wild West of Denver and return to civilization for a visit to Ohio. Invariably, their visit includes a trip to “the lake.”

For the past few years, we have gone to Lake Erie. This year, we decided to take them to the big lake – Lake Michigan. I have fond memories of going to Lake Michigan when I was very young, which is a very long time ago. We went to a place called Pigeon Lake – at least, until they built a big power plant on the lakeshore. I remember it being a big place. A few years ago, I went back and discovered the power plant was still there. The lake was, too, but it really was kind of small. I guess I was much smaller then myself so the lake seemed big.

This year, we ended up finding a place in Muskegon. The owner of the place we rented told us that Muskegon was a blue collar town that fell upon hard times when the auto industry went bust. You can see that in the town’s empty factories and empty lots. But he told us the beach was great.

He was right.

We were just two blocks from the beach, which is pretty much all our grandkids cared about. It is a huge and beautiful beach with plenty of room for everyone.

Every morning – and the kids’ mornings start early – we go to the beach.

I’m not really much of a beach guy, but I was prepared on that first day. Long beach pants, sandals, shirt, sun block everywhere else. We had all kinds of sunscreen, from natural oils to special children’s lotion, but I insisted on Coppertone. Back when I was a teenager, all the girls lathered up with Coppertone to get a tan. Now you use it to block the sun. I really don’t care if it works or not, I just love the smell. It brings back great memories.

Anyway, we hit the beach. My grandson and granddaughter have different philosophies on building sand castles. She carefully builds and decorates the walls and repairs them as soon as a wave hits them. She’ll even lay down in front of the walls to protect them from the waves.

He builds the walls as fast as he can and then destroys them himself before the waves can get to them. In the course of a morning, she builds one castle, he builds and destroys a half dozen. There is some satisfaction in being a beach Godzilla.

I help build (and destroy) sand castles and take my sandals off to feel the sand in my toes.

That night, I am taking a shower and have a sensation of needles in my feet. I look down and realize I was so busy smelling the Coppertone I forgot to put any on my feet. Sunburned feet. Fortunately, my wife has come prepared with some kind of sunburn remedy. The next day, I make sure I Coppertone my feet. It makes them smell good.

We get into a routine: beach in the morning, trip in the afternoon, beach at night. We go to Holland (the town in Michigan, not the country) and see a genuine windmill and various other Dutch things. We go to downtown Holland and my grandkids discover Kilwin’s, the fudge and chocolate store that is in every Michigan town. The kids love it (but not as much as I do. I remember Kilwin’s from my family’s trips 60 years ago).

One day, the kids and their mom go to a water park while my wife and I take a little lake cruise. We go by the coast guard station where there is a tugboat named the “Carol Ann.”

“Hey look,” I say, “they named a tugboat after you.”

Maybe my romantic concept needs a little work.

After a week of Frisbee throwing, kickball, castle building, walking out to a lighthouse that sure looked closer than it was, playing games and generally having fun, we head home.

As we pull into the driveway, I realize I feel like I have just played a 7-game NBA finals – all in one day. I actually end up going to bed while the sun is still up. After all, I have to get up and go to work the next morning. Maybe then I’ll get a little rest from our vacation.

David Lindeman is a Troy resident and former editor at the Troy Daily News. He can be reached at [email protected]