Well, that vow lasted for all of a month as last weekend I found myself visiting yet more Michigan dunes — this time in Saugatuck, a town about an hour away from Kalamazoo.
Now before you all start rolling your eyes at me and my inability to stick to my soul-vows, I will assure you the trip wasn’t entirely my fault.
First of all, Michigan is so chock-full of sand dunes, you can’t really go more than four weeks in this state without ending up on a sand dune. That’s just how Michigan geography works.
Secondly, the trip was free because I did it for work and I have a strict never-turn-down-free-trips policy.
You see, this month I’m teaching a group of Japanese teachers, who arrived in Michigan last weekend. So the first thing we did to welcome them to the state was to cart them off to go see some dunes.
Because, apparently, this is how international visitors are greeted in Michigan: “Hello, welcome to Michigan! Behold, our large hills of sand! Please enjoy your visit!”
Luckily, we did take it a bit easy on them. We didn’t force them to climb up and down the dunes for hours and hours like I have been known to force myself. Instead, we rode over the dunes on a dune buggy.
This, I’ve decided, is the way to do dunes if you’re going to do dunes.
Sure, you don’t get quite the same sense of accomplishment riding in a dune buggy as you get from trekking up and down the dunes on your two bare, blistery feet.
But, you also don’t get dehydrated and delusional.
Plus, you get to do this:
It was basically like riding a roller coaster. Except the roller coaster was made of sand.When we first arrived at the Saugatuck Dune Rides, we were told to sign a waiver.
This must be another traditional, Michigander way to greet international guests: “Hello! Thanks for visiting the Mitten State! Can you please sign this form that says you won’t sue us if you die? Kthnxbye.”
After signing the form, we were shown to our dune buggy — a bright blue vehicle that resembled a mini-bus minus the roof.
I promptly climbed into the back seat because I’m lazy and that was the only seat with a step stool next to it. Three of the Japanese teachers climbed in after me because they probably thought I knew what I was doing. I should have told them that they should never follow me ever because that’s a recipe for disaster.
But I was too busy reading the sign that said this:
In other words, “Sit in the back seat if you don’t mind TOTALLY HAVING A HEART ATTACK.”The buggy soon took off over the dunes. Our college-aged driver careened the vehicle up and dunes, while we all screamed and took selfies.
Or, at least, that’s what I did.
The buggy would stop periodically for our driver to point out environmental features, like grass.
Or gimmicky features, like fake dummy legs sticking out of the sand.
My favorite part of the tour was when the driver pointed to a large sand dune covered with trees and explained that underneath the sand dune lies the remnants of the once thriving mill town of Singapore, Michigan.
Singapore was founded in 1836, and abandoned less then forty years later when deforestation caused the winds and sands from Lake Michigan to overtake the town. In his spiel, the driver claimed that several buildings still remained — including a hotel and a church — all buried underneath the dune.
This must be another Michigander way to welcome out-of-country guests:
“Welcome to Michigan. Where our sand dunes EAT ENTIRE TOWNS. You should probably try not to get eaten by a sand dune while you’re here. Good luck!”Have you ever done a dune buggy ride? How was it?