“I need to use the restroom,” I said to Fred as we whizzed by a Marathon station.
“A little heads up would be nice,” he responded.
“It comes on suddenly,” chimed in his mom from the back seat.
I turned around, trying to face her. “Thank you! Finally I have someone on my side who understands!” I am notorious for having a small bladder, which is especially apparent on road trips. Fred’s mom has the same affliction. It was nice to know I wasn’t the only one in the car who frequently had to stop.
“Alright,” Fred said, “the next gas station I see we’ll stop.”
The four of us, me, Fred, and his parents, were taking a weekend mini-vacation to Michigan. Specifically we were headed for Muskegon Beach. Fred and his parents thought of the trip idea Friday afternoon. Fred’s parents are on vacation this week but didn’t have any plans made. When the idea of going to Michigan came up, they asked us to go with them. It sounded like a fun way to spend our time. We’d been trying to think of things to do on the weekend and there’s only so much one can do in town. Fred also wanted to be outside as much as possible but it’s been so hot lately that it’s not much fun to be outside for very long. What better way to kill two birds with one stone than to go to the beach? And since we live in the Midwest, our choices were a bit limited. We quickly accepted the invitation.
“There’s a gas station,” Fred said as he started to pull the car over.
“Not a BP!” I exclaimed.
“Why? Are you afraid of spills?”
I tried to glare at him but he didn’t buy it, probably because of the smile on my lips.
We got on the road a little late so by the time 2 o’clock rolled around, we were still 2 hours away from our destination. Fred suggested something closer and so we found Silver Beach in St. Joseph. As we circled through the town trying to find a spot to park, we kept seeing throngs of people lugging beach gear and heading toward Michigan Lake. Finally we opted to pay for parking and pulled up to a lot. The attendant said it was $20 but we figured we’d be looking for another hour if we didn’t take him up on the offer. I forked over the bill but not without grumbling, “Boy, you’re making a killing today.”
We gathered our stuff and headed for the beach. Apparently the crowd we saw was not only there for the beach but also for a festival. Carnival rides were set up alongside food and game booths. A sign warned us about prohibited items:
We couldn’t figure out why the word “dogs” was in quotes so we continued on.
The sand was hot beneath our feet and we wasted no time getting in the water. It’d been close to 15 years since I went swimming in a lake and that was a much smaller lake (I’d felt the algae brush my feet in that lake). The waves swept over us as we waded in. The water wasn’t too cold, but just cool enough to be relaxing.
We stayed at the beach for a couple of hours, drying out in the sun between swims. When we were ready for dinner, we headed back out the way we came. There was a little street with a bunch of cute shops that we’d passed on the way down. There was a cafe in particular that caught our eye. It was the Chocolate Cafe. There was more than just chocolate there, of course. There was soup and sandwiches (on top of ice cream, cheesecakes, and espresso drinks). The chocolate was made by the South Bend Chocolate Company, an establishment to whom I like to give my money. The jumbo milk turtles are my favorite and worth every penny.
After dinner we headed to our hotel in Grand Rapids. The combination of being out in the sun, all the walking, and riding in a car put me to sleep (car rides always put me to sleep). We stayed at the Days Inn and of all the places I’ve stayed in my 29 years, this one was my least favorite. Our first room had dead ants on the floor in the bathroom. While I was glad they were dead, I was not happy to see that no one could be bothered to sweep them up. Fred told the front desk and we were hoping that they would upgrade us to one of the jacuzzi rooms, but instead they just bumped us down the hall. The room appeared fine and so we settled in for the night.
At least, we tried to. Fred sat down on the bed and let out a moan.
“Soft?” I asked.
He shook his head. “Come here.”
I sat on the bed. There was no give to it, no bounce. The thing was like cement.
Now, you have to understand that Fred prefers a soft mattress while I like something firmer. His mattress at home is nice and soft and I do enjoy sleeping in it. I think my mattress is still rather soft with the pillow-top but Fred claims that it’s made of marble. So, since I thought this hotel mattress was hard, imagine what Fred thought it felt like!
We showered the sand out of hair and scrubbed the lake residue off our skin. There was no shampoo and the body soap left our skin feeling dry. When I dried off, I remarked to Fred how not soft the towels were. “They feel like sandpaper!” he agreed.
“I think they’re supposed to exfoliate your skin,” I said, “while simultaneously removing it.”
I spent the night tossing, trying to get comfortable. With no give in the mattress, my back felt stiff and it hurt slightly. I tried to give my neck some support by hugging the pillow, but that caused my arms to frequently fall asleep. The majority of the night was spent with my bones creaking as I stretched my legs and back so they wouldn’t stiffen up. When morning came, I shot out of bed and refused to touch it again, even just to sit on it to put my shoes on.
As we were getting ready to leave, I called Fred into the bathroom. I pointed to the ceiling above the shower. It was leaking. At that point we just had to laugh. Next time, we figured, we would spend the extra $20 and stay at the Comfort Inn.