Can’t see the forest for the trees

Apr 21, 2011

I have been blessed to have traveled in and out of the USA. For instance, take Chicago — not so far away, but just go there and experience the traffic. On the expressway, it’s bumper to bumper and there is no “good time” to drive the expressways. Drivers are racing in and out of lanes; truckers are trying to pass on through Chi-town to get to their real destination; and tourists are thinking, “Oh my! What have I gotten myself into?”

By comparison, U.S. 31 north in Grand Haven even on a Friday afternoon in the summer is a walk in the park. What’s not to like about that?

When I’ve traveled to the Seattle area, I yearn to get to the ocean and smell that salty ocean air washing up onto the beach, and look for broken shells to bring home as souvenirs. The ocean I want to get to is surrounded by massive expressways. Once there, the beach sand is like walking on kitty litter. Even the inland lakes have coarse sand and pebbly bottoms that are hard on the feet.

I found the nicest place to go swimming was in my friend’s condo association pool. That is only a delight if it’s sunny outside, which is a challenge for Seattle.
Here, I can drive along the shoreline of Lake Michigan and quickly find parking, run through wonderfully soft sand and find lots of flotsam to explore for souvenirs.

At least twice a year, my heartstrings pull me down to Texas to visit my family there. They live in the plains area and there are mesquite trees, dried-out river beds and a drought that has lasted more than a decade. Rain would be celebrated, but it sits on top of the red clayish soil, rolls over roadways since there is no drainage system, and has rescue crews out on expressways doing water rescues. Other than water troughs and the occasional shallow pond, that’s it for water on the landscape.

Here in the Tri-Cities, I can see rivers and lakes on my drives around town, not to mention a magnificent assortment of trees!

When our children were young, we went to Disney World and experienced all sorts of rides and entertainment. It was crowded, expensive and a bit over the top. Everyone had a great time — but after a few days of park passes, we were home again in the Tri-Cities. Now what do we do? How about the train depot park or a picnic at a dockside table to watch the boats and wildlife on the water? The Imagination Station behind the YMCA offers a really good workout and a wonderful view of the channel. If the weather is warm, the Lake Street Beach is an updated area with a real-life guard on duty! Or head to the north end of Spring Lake and enjoy Pamona Park, with its sandy play area, picnic tables and lots of grassy area to sit and enjoy the view of the lake. Need I say more?

When we would visit Louisville, Ky., we had a favorite independent bookstore that was always on our agenda. All our family loves books, so we always seek out the bookstores. Look no further than The Bookman, the mainstay bookstore in Grand Haven for decades. There’s new and used books, a large assortment of magazines and a cup of free coffee to savor while browsing the shelves.

And how about our two fabulous libraries! They’re perfect for a family of all ages to visit — especially on days when the weather has rained out the planned activities. Not only are they beautifully designed, but technologically outfitted in all areas for the young and old. Stop and spend a few minutes or several hours — there are books, magazines, DVDs, books on tape, ebooks, Wi-Fi access and comfy chairs for relaxing.

Once I arrive at a destination for a vacation, the last thing I want to do is drive another hour or two for sightseeing. Here in the Tri-Cities, we have it all in just about a 5- to-10-mile radius. Make the loop from Grand Haven and then around Spring Lake, Fruitport and Ferrysburg, and you have it all — water, sand, stores, restaurants, libraries, museums, parks, dunes, bike paths and lots of friendly people who will help you enjoy the Tri-Cities.

Artist Ed Ruscha made a career out of photographing and painting scenes along Route 66; scenes that showed gas stations, road signs, mountain vistas and even rainstorms rolling across the horizon. He made a career out of seeing “elements overlooked, yet seen at the same time.” There you go — it’s not a “brand” that we need, it’s the ability to see what we look at every day.

— By Janice Beuschel/Tribune Community Columnist

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