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July 1, 2002
Michigan: Silver Lake Sand Dunes (Russell)

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Climbing the dunes at Little Sable Point on Silver Lake

One year ago, we began our trip around the world with a vacation at the beach.  We decided to end our trip the same way.  While we knew we wouldn't find anywhere as exotic as Rarotonga in America's Midwest, we did our best.  Beginning on June 29th, we parked ourselves at Silver Lake Sand Dunes on the west coast of Michigan for one last vacation at the beach.

That morning, we didn't leave the Woodhaven/Riverview area until well past noon.  We had made plans for Colleen to come over and swim with the boys for one last time, but we lost several hours when both parties sat around waiting for each other to telephone.  In the end, Colleen, Cameron, and Joss were able to swim for about an hour (the boys showed off how they are now able to jump into the 9-foot deep end); and Colleen was given a show-and-tell of the boys' pins and Joss' stuffed animals (he now has 18).  Quite by chance, Gail ran into a long-lost childhood friend and spent quite awhile catching up on old times.

It took us four hours to drive Highway 96 across Michigan from east to west before we arrived at Mears in the early evening, where we had booked three nights at the Dunes Waterfront Resort.  During this busy time of year we had to settle for a single "smoking" room with two double beds, but the balcony overlooked Silver Lake and the sand dunes.

For the next several days, we had a wonderful time relaxing and re-acquainting ourselves with America.  The 95 days cooled down to 85 evenings.  At the local "Cream and Dogs" stand, we enjoyed chili dogs, hamburgers, polish sausages, root beer floats, and chocolate malts -- we enjoyed a dinner there so much thatt we went back again the next night.  At the local market, Russell bought a bag of cheddar cheese popcorn, and Gail bought fresh cantaloupe and strawberries to make a fruit salad back in the room.

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Enjoying "American cuisine": a chili dog and a root beer float

The Silver Lake Sand Dunes comprise 2,000 acres of "live," shifting sand hills 1.5 miles wide and 3 miles long between Lake Michigan and Silver Lake.  The water is fresh, not salty; and you can walk straight out a hundred feet and still have the water only up to your waist.  On June 30th, we went on our only commercial excursion, the Mac Woods Dune Rides.  For almost an hour, John the driver took a dozen of us across the sand dunes in a topless 4WD bus as he explained the natural history of the area

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Mac Woods Dune Rides

The rest of the time, we just played.  Joss bought yet another stuffed animal (a squirrel that he named "Chucky" then renamed "Rocky"), while Cameron bought a Frisbee that we tossed around at the playground.  We didn't make much use of the resort facilities -- the pool was too cold (and only 3' deeep) while the Jacuzzi was too hot -- so we spent most of our time at the Little Sable Point Lighthouse area.  The 1874 lighthouse itself, at 115 feet high, is the largest on Lake Michigan, but it has been automated since 1954, so there isn't much to see.  But in the surrounding area there are fun dunes to climb and a great beach.  Gail sculpted a giant dragon and a sand city that had other people stopping to take pictures.  We spent so much time in the water and on the beach that by the end of our "vacation," all of us except Cameron were sunburned (after those many months in rainy Europe, we were no longer used to sunlight).

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Gail's sand dragon guards Cameron and Joss at the Little Sable Point Lighthouse

As we watched our last sunset over Silver Lake, we reminisced how we had seen the same sun set a year ago over the ocean at Rarotonga.  Our trip around the world is now coming to an end.  Tomorrow we will drive another four hours to spend the night in Chicago, Illinois.  On July 3rd we will board Amtrak, then spend the next two days riding across the United States, celebrating our Fourth of July on a train.  And on the evening of July 5th, we will be home again.

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A last sunset over the beach


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