Sunday, October 18, 2009

Benton Harbor

Lovely day for a drive. Bright sunshine and blue skies all day long.

Stopped along the way in Iowa to get some caches in Durant and Wilton. It's always fun to crossover the mighty Mississippi River. Then came Illinois. We stopped for lunch at Mindy's in Merkona. I loved the picture on the outside wall by the front door. It shows an old fashioned outdoor family picnic - it was interesting to look at the faces and imagine the relationships.

I-80 was busy, but traffic was only moderate until we got south of the Chicago area. The Interstate by-passes Chicago, but there were construction barrels everywhere even though they weren't working on Sunday. At one point the driver in front of us wanted to change to the right lane, which was full. He kept signaling and slowing down, until he almost stopped right in front of us. He passed up several opportunities to merge over. Traffic was coming up behind us, and he was an accident waiting to happen. Finally he got up the nerve to change lanes, but it was very nerve-wracking!

At last we saw the wonderful Michigan sign - home again! (Almost)

After a brief rest at the Comfort Suites of Benton Harbor, we took a drive to look at Lake Michigan. We drove through a part of Benton Harbor that was very discouraging - a very depressed and depressing area. Many, many houses were boarded up or had broken windows and had obviously been abandoned. The downtown area was an urban nightmare - empty buildings, broken windows, etc. - it looked like downtown Detroit.

When we entered St. Joseph, things changed abruptly. It's a beautiful, clean, viable city, the exact opposite of Benton Harbor! We found two beautiful Lake Michigan beach parks with all of the amenities, including art work, rest rooms, picnic tables, benches, playgrounds, and everything you could ask for. Some of the homes along the lake front were breathtakingly beautiful - shiny and new, and absolutely huge.

It was a disturbing contrast.

We had dinner at the Texas Corral near the motel. When we were in Texarkana we had wanted to find a place we had been to a few years ago - a steak house with barrels of peanuts, and you just toss the shells on the floor. We didn't find it in Texarkana, but we found it tonight in Benton Harbor! It's a great place - the parking lot was full, and people of all ages were enjoying the casual atmosphere - from grandparents to babies. We enjoyed it so much. Our waitress was perky, competent and helpful. This was a very pleasant way to close out our trip.

Tomorrow we plan to drive up US 31 along the lake shore and maybe do some caching in the Manistee area. Tomorrow night we'll be at home in our own beds.