A few weeks ago when Jonathon and I realized we would be crossing paths we had the following text exchange.
HIM: Do you want to go to Gary, Indiana?
ME: I know nothing about Gary, Indiana.
HIM: I heard it’s so dangerous even truckers try to avoid it.
I know nothing about Gary besides it’s a song in the The Music Man. On the drive from Chicago he mentioned that it’s the birthplace of Michael Jackson so, of course, we had to stop and pay tribute to the King of Pop. Exiting the freeway, I mean, the expressway, you immediately see the profound desolation that turns drivers away from Gary. The streets are wide in scope and there are more potholes than actual asphalt. The sidewalks are overrun by weeds and the buildings are eroding away brick by brick. The birthplace of Michael had a lot less fanfare than I expected. There was no museum or crowd of Japanese tourists. It was just a small house blocked off by an iron gate and a pillar indicating we were in the right place. We snapped a few photos and took off before the neighbors came out to stab us. At city hall we saw the logo of the Gary, a vat of molten steel being poured on the earth signaling both the town's storied history and it’s toxic future. Driving out of Gary I pulled up an article from Business Insider titled “Driving Through The Wasteland of Gary, Indiana Will Make You Sick.” This sentence stuck out for me:
“The desolation of human endeavor lay across the land like nausea made visible…”
A slight overstatement, but I understand the sentiment. There’s a weight to Gary that made us drive in and out of there in 30 minutes. Hopefully this weight doesn't affect the citizens of Gary and they choose to either thrive or seek out change.
Why do I want to go to Michigan? Because it’s one of the 14 states left in America that I haven’t seen. The immediate visual draw upon entering Michigan is, much like New England, the expressways are flanked by tall, green trees. We drove to Holland State Park on the west coast of Michigan to camp for the night. Jonathon had all of the camping supplies already and I, ill-prepared with business casual clothes, ended up sleeping in the car that night while he had his tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag.
Holland appears to be a seasonal town as driving through you see families riding bikes with orange flags flapping from the back, girls in bikinis eating ice cream, and retired septuagenarians jogging down the street. The entire workforce of Holland appears to be teenagers working summer jobs from the camp rangers to the baristas right down to the sanitation workers.
When we checked in to our campsite I asked the “front desk” girl where her favorite place to go get food was and she said, “I really like the baked spaghetti pie at Hops at 84 East.” That’s the last time I ask a teenager for a food suggestion.
There’s a slight accent to the good people of the Midwest where they seem to draw out their vowels in a nasal tone. It reminds me of the mom from one of my favorite childhood cartoons Bobby’s World “dontcha know.” I told Jonathon I would have the accent perfected by the end of the week.
We had lunch/dinner at the outdoor beer garden of the New Holland Brewing Company surrounded by children at Kid’s Night who were painting, running around, and eating French fries. When we got back to the beach there was a lightly falling rain so we walked to the edge of the pier.
Back at the campground I noticed we were completely surrounded by RVs, some three times as long as my truck back home. They had full outdoor kitchens including toaster ovens, propane barbecues, and microwaves. That's more "glamping" than camping to me, but I respect their swagger.
At the end of the night, we started a fire and drank cabernet and ate Oreos until the stars came out.