Lake Michigan Beach to St. Joseph. 13.4 miles/110.1 total
This will be a relatively short walk today, from the countryside down into Benton Harbor-St. Joseph. The first 9 miles is nothing but road, and then the city begins.
Spent a couple of restful nights in the motor home in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in South Haven, where people in motor homes apparently feel free to spend the night, along with miscellaneous truckers. Nice deal. And close to a store if you need it. Everything in the motor home is working well, except for the generator. That works only when it feels like it. I think it's the batteries or the solenoid. I'll have to get it checked out tomorrow, when I'm taking a day off from walking. Without the generator I don't have AC power, which means no computer (the battery is shot on the laptop). Everything else runs on DC power or propane--refrigerator, hot water, the stove and oven, the lights.
Each day presents a new challenges to my muscles. The foot problems are largely gone. They've toughened up, I guess. Now it's one set of leg muscles or another, depending on the day. Yesterday it was the hips. Today it's the quadriceps and the left calf. It's always something, as Roseanne Roseannadanna said.
Usually about two miles into the walk, when the aches and pains are beginning to declare themselves and I haven't gone far enough to feel that I've accomplished much, I get into what you might call the dark day of the soul. I start to wonder if I can do this, and whether I want to do it, and what I would do if I didn't finish. Dark thoughts. Then something comes along to divert my attention.
Today I see a public beach access called Hagar Park and decide to walk down the steep steps to the shore, to walk along Lake Michigan. Very tranquil. The lake is like glass, and all misty. The dunes have forgiven me, and I them. I look off to the southwest in the direction of Chicago. I walk along for about forty-five minutes, going south, figuring I'll find another way back up to the road sooner or later. I am put in mind of Lewis Carroll's poem "The Walrus and the Carpenter."
The walrus and the carpenter walked on a mile or so,
And then they rested on a rock, conveniently low,
And all the little oysters stood and waited in a row.
"The time has come," the walrus said, "to talk of many things.
Of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax, of cabbages and kings,
And why the sea is boiling hot, and whether pigs have wings."
It's not briny on the beach, and there are no oysters or other marine life in evidence. Just small smooth stones, and not too many of them. Finally I find a way up and out, an asphalt path climbing steeply up the 80 foot cliffs, and back to the main road, M-63.
At the Hagar Bar and Grill, they're advertising a Hot Legs Contest this weekend. With all the walking I've done, my legs might just be hot enough to enter. Take a walk on the wild side.
A few miles down, on the left, is none other than the World Headquarters of the Whirlpool Corporation. Who knew? Right here in Benton Harbor. I have to put in a good word for the product here, because Whirlpool washers and dryers have always been, in my experience, good reliable appliances. For years Sears sold Whirlpool stuff under their Kenmore brand name. Also, Whirlpool bought the other really good appliance company, Maytag, a few years ago. So they've got it all going on, as they say.
I'm obviously not walking through the urban part of Benton Harbor. Where I am it’s all expensive subdivisions and golf courses in the process of being built. Finally I catch sight of some tall buildings and a water tower that says St. Joseph. It’s the city of St. Joseph that I’m primarily going to be walking in. The twin cities of Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are divided by the St. Joseph River as it flows into Lake Michigan.
After the walk, at the computer, I get the story on these twin cities. Benton Harbor, which was settled in the latter half of the 19th century, is the younger of the two. It was named for Thomas Hart Benton, a Missouri Senator who was instrumental in helping Michigan attain statehood. St. Joseph was settled in the early part of that century, and was full of shipping magnates, timber barons, etc.
Also, interestingly, the demographic makeup of the two cities is starkly different. In effect, Benton Harbor is St. Joseph’s slum. Benton Harbor is 92.4% African American, while St. Joseph is about 90% white. Which explains why 92.4% of the patrons of the McDonald’s in Benton Harbor I’m sitting in typing this (still can’t get that generator to run) are African American. I missed this on the walk. The part of Benton Harbor I visited must have been the home of the 5% of the population that is white.
I walk over the river. At Main and Broad streets there are statues of animals—giraffe, a gorilla, a rhino, a lion. Brightly colored. This is a close in St. Joseph as things get to Africa, on the whole. St. Joseph has taken on itself the title of “Michigan’s Most Romantic City.” I’m not feeling the romance, but what the hell, this might be the wrong time of day.
Finally I reach the end. For such a short walk, this one has been tiring, and I'm looking forward to some time off tomorrow. Hot legs.