I woke up at 7:00 AM in the luxury hotel that is my Hyundai Accent to see the sunlight streaming through the trees. Most people scoff at the idea of sleeping in a car, but most people aren’t weirdo paramedics used to sleeping upright. The last time I drove across America, I did it in nine days to be the best man at a wedding in LA and I only got one hotel in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Where do you shower you may ask. Truck stops (euphemistically called “travel plazas” now). It’s just like the shower at your gym, except it’s a private shower room and someone cleans it after every person.
Jonathon was still asleep in his tent so I drove to downtown Holland to JP’s coffee to get some writing done.
At 10:00 AM we took a kayak out on the lake and paddled up to the lighthouse. I haven’t been kayaking since my friend Cindy took me out to the canals in Branford, Connecticut the day after a man named Jelly convinced me not to move to be a paramedic Raleigh, North Carolina. But that’s a story for another time.
When driving through Holland you can’t help but put your hand out the window and let the wind stream between your fingers. Everything is so scenic it distracts you from the fact that you’re listening to 102.3 “always the best in Christ-centered music.” We picked up two doughnuts at the De Boer’s Dutch bakery then headed to Saugatuck (or "the tuck" as I've decided to call it).
The only reason I know of Saugatuck, billed as “the art coast of Michigan,” is because I was going to apply for a writer’s residence there this fall. The town is more quaint than Holland but with even more character. Wind chimes hang from trees and cozy boutiques sell everything from gourmet mustard to scarves to wooden signs that say things like, “If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.”
The town of Saugatuck makes summer feel like an event, as opposed to LA where it’s 70 degrees every day. Of course you have to endure harsh winters to make it to summer, but the cycle of the seasons is beautiful and makes me miss autumn in New England.
We stopped for lunch at the Pumpernickel Bakery because I’m a sucker for any house converted in to a business, and had a Spanish scramble and a turkey sandwich. I’m used to traveling the world by myself but I always prefer to travel with others, mostly because I get to try more foods.
We walked on the Saugatuck marina back to our car passing boats named:
- Good Grief
- Send More Limes
- The Office
- Yes Dear
We drove to the neighboring town of Douglas and stopped at a gazebo to have our doughnuts and learned that geese hiss at you if you walk near them. Jonathon put it best when he said, “geese are total assholes.”
Driving towards Detroit we made a half hour detour up to Lansing because somewhere along Jonathon’s cross country voyage he decided it was a worthy quest to take a shit in each state capitol building. 12 states and counting.
En route to Detroit we spent 20 minutes checking hotel apps trying to find a place to sleep. We wanted a place sub $100 for the night but all hotels are the same at that price point. I’m always guilty of trying to maximize my decisions in life, but for something as inconsequential as this it really doesn’t matter.
We walked in to the Corktown Inn in Detroit to see a lady standing behind bulletproof glass. Welcome to Detroit. I waved at her as soon as I entered for the sheer fact that that’s not something people normally do. I always find doing something different jars people out of their routines and makes you memorable and sometimes you get better service. That’s why whenever a retail employee asks me the perfunctory, “How are you?” I always say, “Peachy.”
About a mile away in Corktown is the famous Slows BBQ punctuated by exposed brick and Edison bulbs. The brisket batch we had was dry but nothing a dash of their apple bbq sauce couldn’t fix. The baby back ribs were the best I’ve ever had and the sides weren’t too shabby either. We spent most of dinner trying to figure out if the attractive girl at the bar talking to the guy in cargo shorts was a prostitute.
The funny thing about talking BBQ to other Americans is that we're all BBQ one-uppers. If you tell someone you went to a great bbq joint, they will inevitably follow up with, “Yeah but have you been to X place in Y city?” Americans, we're passionate about cooked cow.
Across the street and down a field overgrown weeds stands the now abandoned eighteen stories tall Michigan Central Station. In his Parts Unknown show, Anthony Bourdain called this the symbol of Detriot’s desolation and “ruin porn.” There's a banner in front promising 1000 new windows would be installed most likely in response to the “Broken Window Theory” popularized by Malcolm Gladwell in his book The Tipping Point.
Walking through the grassland park back to our car we started to see embers rising up from the weeds as if the grass was on fire. They were fireflies. Jonathon and I, both native Los Angelenos, had never seen fireflies so we stood there for a few minutes like dumb city folk trying to take in nature's majesty.
We spent the rest of the night driving around night Detroit to get a scope of the city while listening to a French radio station from Canada.
[To read Jonathon's viewpoint of our journey, click here.]