MA Road Trip: Getting to Know Lake Michigan
SOUTH HAVEN, Mich., Aug. 8 -- "Michigan and sand dunes? I never thought these two words would be in the same sentence," my MA map producer extraordinaire Julia wrote in an e-mail. I was thinking the same thing. Aren't sand dunes the stuff of deserts in exotic locales?
Meanwhile, my travel companion Jules, a lifelong Outer Banks beach bunny, was struggling with the notion of fresh (rather than salt) water beaches and the absence of sea shells. Sure enough, just as we turned the bend off the main strip of Ludington, we were quickly shown the errors of our preconceived notions with a front-and-center view of the most majestic and wildly surreal sand dunes and yes indeed, certifiable beaches for strolling, sunbathing and swimming!
Before we headed out of town, we did some window shopping along the main drag, and with the help of Marsha, who runs the Evergreen Natural Foods Market, made our way over to the Plaza Café , the one place in town offering both vegetarian and gluten-free vittles (and some organic stuff). We met owner Tom McKenna who's running the kitchen with his son, Patrick, who's headed to culinary school in the fall.
While we waited for our food (Jules ordered gluten-free pancakes and I got a very tasty black bean burrito), I spotted an article in the Aug. 6 edition of the Ludington Daily News about a local resident who has been circulating a petition to keep the town's only Starbucks from closing, as part of the coffee company's nationwide sweep of store closures. (The Ludington location has been open just a year)
On our way to South Haven, we breezed through Saugatuck (missed the exit, alas) and Holland, but instead made a beeline for the town of Fennville, one of four major wine-growing areas of Michigan. According to the Web site of the Michigan wine industry, there are 56 wineries throughout the state, making it the fourth largest wine-growing state in the country.
We tasted a handful of local vintages at Fenn Valley Vineyards, including the latest batch of blueberry wine, a sweet elixir served chilled. When we arrived in South Haven (which is adorable, by the way), we found the retail store for Warner Vineyards, and we both agreed their blueberry wine was far less sweeter -- a good thing -- and learned it is made exclusively from South Haven blueberries.
About those blueberries -- that's precisely why we are here. Home of the National Blueberry Festival, South Haven is considered the blueberry capital of the world. In its 45th year, the festival kicked off last night with a blueberry pie and ice cream social, and of course, I had to give the local a la mode a whirl (which earned very high marks -- licked the plate clean).
This morning, the town (which has been referred to as the "Catskills of the Midwest) comes alive with nothing but blueberries and we can't wait to get downtown and take in the berry enthusiasm. A full report, with photos, will be available in Monday's blog space.
For those of you who mentioned Sherman's ice cream as a must-have item, I have very exciting news: the Hampton Inn where we are staying is literally across the street from the original Sherman's , and yes, we'll be making a stop at the dairy bar before we head to Chicago this afternoon.
This weekend: I'm headed to Madison, Wis. and farmland environs, with a report from the Dane County farm market on Monday. Have a delicious weekend!
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