Thursday, September 17, 2009

Day 6: The tunnel

Holland to Douglas. 12.5 miles/63.5 total

Another beautiful day for a walk, sunny and about 70. Heading pretty much straight south now, along the Lake Michigan coast. I guess I'll be going south for the next few months.

Leaving the southern suburbs of Holland, I cross from Ottawa County into Allegan County. Not long after, I get to something called the Washington Avenue Tunnel. Pretty fancy name, considering that I'm out in the sticks at this point. And I'm wondering why a tunnel is necessary here. On the car ride down this road earlier in the day, I saw the signs that said no trucks carrying explosives were allowed in the Washington Avenue Tunnel. That made sense. What I failed to see were the signs near the entrance that said "Bicycles and Pedestrians Prohibited."

So on the way back up, on the bike, I was building up a head of steam, going downhill into the tunnel, when I saw the no bicycle signs. Ooops. Well, the tunnel is four lanes, and there wasn't much traffic, so I decided to brass it out, and put my head down and ride like hell through it. It was only a quarter of a mile long anyway, curving slightly. As I climbed uphill on the way out, a couple of cars kindly honked at me indignantly, even though I hadn't inconvenienced either of them in the least. People whose mission in life is to police the social contract that binds us all, I guess.

Well, here I am, walking south toward the tunnel again, and wondering what options I have. There are absolutely no other roads around. I figure out that the reason for the tunnel, way out there in the outskirts, is that it goes under part of the airport, maybe one of the runways. So, being on foot, I could climb up the grass embankment on the side of the tunnel and cross the airport runway, climbing at least four fences in the process. But this choice strikes me as the more foolish one. I could imagine strolling across the runway of the Tulip City Airport and being descended upon by homeland security Valkyries. No, airports have become zero-tolerance places for nonconformity, however lighthearted and practical it might be. Even small landing strips are known to have signs on their fences warning that trespassers will be waterboarded on sight. So I walk through the damn tunnel. And a really nice walk it is, too. There's a catwalk, elevated about three feet above the motorway, with a stout iron railing. It was obviously put there so that authorized personnel could walk through the tunnel all day long, if necessary.

Well, the sky doesn't fall and no cops come along, and that's about the only thing that happens today. I visit a couple of cemeteries. The first, East Saugatuck Cemetery, a couple miles south of the tunnel, is chock full of dead Dutch people. All of them, without exception, as far as I can tell (Dutch and dead). Overbeek, Vandenberg, Brink, Kuiper, Sprik. So Dutch were these folks, that the epitaphs on their tombstones are in Dutch. The second cemetery, much larger, is just outside the village limits of Saugatuck, and appears to be pretty much full of Yankees, folks with names like Woodworth, Hanson, Butler, Powers. So Saugatuck was not settled by the Dutch. Both necropolises are peaceful and shady, filled with huge ancient trees that are like monuments of their own.

The village of Saugatuck is a summer tourist destination, catering to arty types up from Chicago, and has been since the 1800s. It has a beautiful harbor (actually a wide part of the Kalamazoo River as it heads toward Lake Michigan) filled with yachts, and lots of boutiques, art galleries and co-ops, upscale knick knack stores, and bars and restaurants. The houses range from stately two-and three-story Italianate mansions to smaller Arts and Crafts bungalos. The place smells like money.

Douglas, over the bridge that crosses the narrow part of the harbor, is smaller, but with the same collection of galleries and boutiques. This is where my walk comes to an end today.


Anonymous said...

I think my mom and I had lunch there last summer. It was tranquil. Lots of shoppers with appliqued sweatshirts. You are getting into the fruit growing regions. Maybe you will find some grapes. Linda M

Peter Teeuwissen said...

Some fruits grow and some migrate.