We had planned a getaway for Memorial day that was a little quirky and not like us. Little did we know that a tornado would get in the way. Due to said tornado, I had closed myself emotionally. While you could say I had a “good time.” I don’t have any emotions to go along with the trip, something I typically have. My wife wrote a blog post from her point of view, I highly recommend reading to see the contrast in our points of view.
We left as soon as we could on the Friday after the tornado and drove about halfway to our destination, St. Joseph / Benton Harbor Michigan. We stayed the night in Lafayette, leaving early so we could arrive at our destination early.
As soon as we arrived, we learned about these two cities the hard way. There seems to be a strong sense of division. While St. Joseph is a nice, quaint resort community, Benton Harbor shows all of the “what used to be” looks. There are many homes that used to be mansions, but are now dilapidated; some even boarded up. It’s downtown area almost looks like a ghost town from the 1950′s. There is some new growth, but it still feels like a ghetto.
The first thing we did was check into our hotel. It was a pretty funky Courtyard by Marriott. We decided to find something to eat, explore, and just relax that evening. The views from St. Joseph are absolutely amazing. It’s a great little resort community. The whole time I was contemplating about what was happening back home and trying to calm my nerves by smoking copious amounts of tobacco.
Sunday was a mixed bag of not great weather conditions, so the beach was not an option. After having the best breakfast I’ve ever had at any hotel, we headed for St. Joseph. Our first stop was downtown. They have a charming area filled with high fashion shops, and typical small town businesses. They have animal statues on just about every corner, decorated in many different ways. Taylor loved the “Cash Cow,” a cow covered with REAL money. It was of course in front of a bank. My fave was “Vincent Van Goat,” which had a depiction of “Starry Night” on one side and “Irises” on the other.
We then went to the most interesting pizza place I’ve ever been to. Silver Beach Pizza is a pizza place located within an Amtrak train station. I had an ice cold beer and a very good barbecue chicken pizza. It was most excellent!
We then went to the Curious Kids museum. It was fun for both the girls. Taylor enjoyed encapsulating herself in a bubble. Amelia enjoyed the water table, and acting OCD with random items. They’ve ran out of space in the converted brick house they are located in, so with the price of admission you can also access their addition, which is located next to the indoor carousel. We then went there. They have stuff even the adults can appreciate. They have a climbing wall, water tables galore, space items. It was quite fascinating and good stuff. We then went and had fun with the carousel.
We were a bit nervous, as Amelia had never been on one before. She was a trooper, and had a blast. It was good family fun for all!
Amelia’s nap time was approaching, so we headed back to the hotel. Which was perfect timing, as a severe storm approached. After going through the tornado, this was the first time a storm actually scared me.
That night, we played in the pool – all of us. This hotel has a very interesting pool, it has an indoor and outdoor section; you can swim to either section through an opening in a glass wall. We then found an arcade was in a mall not too far away and decided to check it out. What we discovered was a mall that was essentially dead. There were no anchor stores at all. While there were interior stores, there weren’t that many. We played for an hour or so and then went back to the hotel.
The next morning, we stopped at beautiful Silver Beach. The difference between an ocean’s beach and a large lake’s beach is pure calm. It’s an amazing place, with an amazing view. The girls had fun, I put Amelia’s feet in the cold water and she didn’t want to leave! The sand was so fine and plush that we decided to bring home a bucket full. We all have glass jars of it to help remember the experience.
As fun end to our short trip, we stopped at Fair Oak’s Farm in northern Indiana. It’s a large dairy farm that gives tours and offers many learning opportunities for children about where our dairy products come from. We took a bus tour, which takes you through some of their barns to see how the cows live and what they eat. Amelia sat with me, and I told her that these are cows, they go “moo.” She started repeating me, it was adorable. We then saw their carousel milker. It’s an amazing machine that lets them produce vast quantities of moo juice.
We then went to the birthing barn, and witnessed the births of two calves. While I had seen this many times as a child, Rachel and Taylor had not. I think it was a good experience for both of them.
Next we stopped by the kids area, where Taylor got to do something she hadn’t done in a while, jumping on trampolines while attached to bungee cords.
We then visited the store, where I sampled some cheese. We bought some souvenirs for the girls and they had some ice cream.
I had just started to heal from this life changing event, and our vacation was over. Coming home was almost like a nightmare coming true. While it was nice to get away, the mental extremes that it forced me to go through were almost too much to handle.