After a smooth 120 mile run south from Charlevoix, we pulled into Ludington, MI. We knew we only had one good day on the water before it turned bad for a few more days. Becky from True North met us on the dock when we arrived. What a wonderful Harbor Host! She had seen me logged in on the AGLCA Meets app and sent me an email saying she knew we were in Charlevoix and was wondering if we’d be stopping through Ludington. I happened to get that email the morning we pulled out heading for Ludington. We chatted on the dock for quite awhile and it was great to catch up. We met Becky, her husband, brother-in-law and sister-in-law last fall on the rivers on our way to Green Turtle Bay. She reminded me we were docked right next to them at Green Turtle. Molly and Ben both remembered that as well. My memory is great for a lot of things….that is not one of them. Molly has picked up Ben’s knack for recognizing and remembering boats wherever we go. We had a lovely visit chatting about the loop, the Bahamas (where they hope to go this winter!), Canada and everything else. Becky generously offered that her car was available anytime we may need it if we would be around for a few days.
We got off the boat and headed to P.M. Steamers for dinner. My grandparents had a house in Ludington for the first 20 years of my life so I spent a week or two there every summer. We spent most of our time at the house and on the beach in front of the house. But we would come into town a couple times for P.M. Steamers, House of Flavors and Scotty’s. So, it was fun to walk around and find these places of my youth. We had a great dinner and watched the Badger car ferry arrive as we were finishing up. We were all pretty tired after a long day but gave the girls a few minutes at the park to run off some energy before heading back to the boat. Watching the Badger unload and watching the sun set on Ludington was just beautiful.
Sunday morning was our only possible chance of heading south. We could see some waves crashing over the break wall but it was hard to see their direction and how bad they actually were. Ben wanted to give it a try and at least see how it was. Pentwater was only 15 miles south but there is not much to do there so if we were going to be somewhere for a few days our better choices were to stay in Ludington or make it 50 miles south to Muskegon. So, we gave it a try. We got out towards the lighthouse and were rocking and rolling. But we needed to get out and change direction to see how it would be. Waves were kind of big and mostly we were slamming into all of them. Madelyn immediately freaked out and panicked a bit in a way she hasn’t in a long time. Oh, Lake Michigan! Molly was fine but figured she’d soon be sick, I was not enjoying it but can keep it together if I need to. But five hours of that did not sound like fun so we turned around and went back to the marina.
Once we decided we were staying put we knew we’d be there for a few days. The girls and I headed to a very small church close to the marina and then met Ben to walk around a bit after. We grabbed some lunch on the boat and headed to the playground by the marina to play. It was a hot sunny day and we made our way to House of Flavors after the playground. You’ll notice that Madelyn is wearing a tank top and capri pants while Molly is wearing long sleeves, has a sweater and vest tied around her waist. They are cut from different cloths!
Ice cream in hand we walked to the beach and out to the lighthouse. The sand felt great. It was warm and soft and the girls had so much run running up and down the dunes.
We made our way out to the lighthouse. It’s a LONG walk out and as we got further out the water got rougher and rougher. I commented that it was a good reminder that we don’t mess with rough water. We are not in control when the water is like that. We watched mesmerized as the huge waves crashed into the boulders on the wall, sometimes coming up and over the path we were walking on. We made it out to the lighthouse and walked all the way around. Ben took the girls to the edge to look over and we all agreed it was just fine we hadn’t gone anywhere. The lake did not look good out there.
After a long walk back from the lighthouse and back around the beach we walked over to the little grocery store to pick up some bread to go with dinner. By now Madelyn, who can play for hours at the park without issue, was whining nonstop about her tired legs. We had covered quite a few miles, but we do that a lot of days so we pushed on. After an early dinner on the boat we headed up the dock to watch the Badger come in to port. We met a lovely couple and their dog on the dock and soon realized that coming to watch the Badger dock is a “thing” in Ludington. This guy comes to watch seemingly every night. He knew others there and it was quite the gathering. The park was packed and people were milling around waiting for the loud horn signaling the Badger’s arrival. Soon enough, as the sun was starting to set, it arrived. It is a coal burning vessel with a plume of disgusting black smoke at all times and yet it was beautiful to watch it come into the channel with sunset in the backdrop. The Badger does quite the move to dock. It gets midway in the basin, drops its anchor and then spins on it’s anchor to back into the dock. It’s a fascinating process. The anchor dropping was like nothing we’ve heard before. The clunk of metal was impressive. Once docked and settled the Badger sounds her horn again and the echo can be heard for quite a distance.
The Badger is both a Michigan and a Wisconsin historical landmark and on the National Registry of historic places. It is also a National Mechanical Engineering landmark (I didn’t know that was a thing…). It carries cars, and tour buses, and semi trucks and people. It leaves every morning at 9 AM and returns at 7 PM, traveling each day across the lake to Manitowoc, WI. I remember watching every day as a kid when I was in Ludington. We would wait for it to go past my grandparents’ house every morning and then we would watch for it again every evening.
Monday morning I was up early and caught an amazing sunrise. The water may have been crazy and the wind howling but the sunrise is a calm reminder of how special our world can be. The start of a fresh day. Another day we are blessed to be on this adventure. The sunrise holds so much promise for what is ahead.
It turns out we had quite a bit ahead on Monday. We knew we weren’t going anywhere on the water so we started school. While working on school work I called the local post office to find out about passport application acceptance hours. I had filled out passport renewal information for Molly and myself that morning as both of our passports expire in October. The person I spoke with suggested it was usually good to come between 10 and 2. By 12:30 when we were still waiting for Madelyn to finish her work I finally decided to pack her stuff up so we could go. We walked the 6-8 blocks to the post office. We had decided we wanted to take care of this in Michigan to get the process going as soon as possible. The second driving factor was that it is a MISERABLE process in Chicago. Renewing a child’s passport at a post office is a nightmare. Molly and Madelyn have each had 2 passports so far, this being Molly’s third, and each visit brings a new adventure with the passport application folks. I don’t know if it’s a requirement to be awful but if you live in Chicago you know what I’m talking about. Instead, here in Ludington, MI we walked in, waited our turn, went to the counter and a lovely lady answered all of our questions and was nothing but pleasant. She suggested we run to Walgreens or Meijer for pictures. They are half the price elsewhere and she indicated the photo process there was very slow. So, we called Becky and asked if we could indeed use her car. She is a saint and had it to the marina in under 30 minutes! We drove to Meijer, got our pictures taken, stocked up on some groceries and headed back. I love looking back at old passport photos of the girls. Five years is a long time so they have inevitably changed a lot. But this time around I hardly recognize this grown up young lady in the picture! Where did my little girl go????
We went straight back to the post office and back to the same lady. She was efficient and pleasant and had us in and out as quickly as she could. So, before too long hopefully we’ll be all set for international travel again!
I promised the girls the park and beach after all of this passport nonsense. Madelyn had lost two ankle bracelets in the sand the previous day so the girls and I retraced our steps and walked back to the beach. One was a bracelet she made so no big deal, but the other was a souvenir from Hopetown in the Bahamas. We got back to where we started the previous day and Molly spotted one of the bracelets! Unfortunately the Hopetown one was never found. We decided that means we must go back! The girls dug holes in the sand until they reached water. Then we moved onto the playground on the beach. I had been counting on the dunes for some exercise so I ran some dunes while they played and then we all three headed to the taller dunes for awhile. They played at the beach playground until the sun started to go down. The air is hot on a sunny day but we are quickly reminded that it’s October and the minute the sun starts to go down even a little there is a fall chill in the air.
Tuesday morning we packed up backpacks and headed to the library for school. It’s right next to the Post Office so we had discovered it the day before. It had a great back area with booth style tables where the girls could spread out and work. We spent the morning working on school there and then the girls rode their bikes and Ben and I walked to House of Flavors for lunch. We had to finish up school work after lunch and then headed to the park to play for the rest of the day.
Wednesday was the day we thought we’d be able to head south. But alas, Lake Michigan had other plans and Wednesday was no longer an option. At this point Ben was quite stir crazy worrying about getting south and tired of sitting still. Between school taking up at least half the day, a fabulous park close by, a good library and a beach the girls and I were ok. Although I understood the worry about getting south. We were still a long ways from Chicago. We headed to the library again for school. After we were done Maddy was desperate to play in the kids’ area. Ben and Molly headed back to the boat. Ben had started to wax the boat as it’s pretty tired looking after 13 months of travel. So, he kept busy with that while Molly played inside. Madelyn was happy as a clam. She had a train set, dolls, a kitchen set, all sorts of things to play with. Finally at 3 pm or so I told her it was time to go. We went straight to the park and Molly and Ben walked up to meet us.
While we were at the library working on school I texted Becky to ask the name of the pizza place she mentioned. We figured we’d eat out since we’d been here so many days and done a lot of boat meals. She called me back and said that she can give me the name of the pizza place but that she was planning to call and see if she could stay with the girls so Ben and I could have a date night!!! Did I mention how wonderful she is? She came over at 5 pm. Ben and I headed out for a couple of errands (in her car again!) and then to a local brewpub for dinner. We had a great meal and truly appreciate Becky’s generosity. Adult only time is so rare and yet so great to get out and reconnect a bit! Meanwhile the girls had even more fun. Becky brought a big bag of things her grandkids play with. She took them to House of Flavors for dinner. After dinner they walked past the Badger crew and saw the same folks from the other night. Back on the boat they did puzzles, played games and looked at pictures of her grandkids. Ludington is in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most sand angels at one time as well as the longest ice cream dessert in the world at House of Flavors. Becky and her grandkids got to participate in both! The girls told me all about it. The ice cream dessert was over 8 blocks long! Needless to say the girls had a fantastic evening. Becky is just another example of the amazing people we have met on this journey. Ben commented the other day that it’s so special that our kids have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people. What an experience for them.
Thursday’s calm water finally arrived! After 5 nights in Ludington we were on our way south to Muskegon.