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Holiday Weekend Round-Up

September 6th, 2005 Leave a comment Go to comments

This weekend we headed out to my parents’ cottage on Lake Michigan, which is about half way between Lansing and Chicago in a little town called Sawyer . While it was a little too cool to spend most of the weekend at the beach we did get a chance to explore the surrounding area.

Sawyer is a very interesting little town. It has a gigantic population of antique stores and privately owned restaurants (you have to drive to a town 20 minutes away to find a drive-thru of any type, which I consider a blessing). There are no large hotels, and the few motels scattered along the Red Arrow Highway (the old highway built before I-94) look like converted row houses. Dirt roads are everywhere, large parking lots are nonexistent, and I honestly don’t know how the majority of year-round residents make their living during the off season (I’m guessing they commute 20 – 30 minutes to nearby St. Joseph).

Whit & Jen pose in front of a hand painted mural

After just a few minutes in Sawyer you’ll notice something out of place: Most of the people are driving around cars that cost more than the house I’m living in right now. Despite its carefully maintained small Michigan town appearance, Sawyer is in fact one of the biggest holiday/summer destinations for wealthy Illinois residents. Sure you’ll see plenty of other out of state plates, but for whatever reason the majority of them are from Illinois.

Having lived in the Chicago area, I can say that on a personal level I understand why they are there. Illinois is pretty flat and featureless (excluding the urban landscape), while Sawyer is the quintessential Michigan town. Sand dunes, dense forest, roads that are never more than two lanes across, senior centers and plenty of churches.

Marketing doesn’t get any simpler than this

My wife and sister went with me to this roadside barbecue shop, which has the unique honor of having the only barbecue sauce I’ve ever seen my wife enjoy. We got a brisket sandwich and sat on a small hill next to the shop (where I took this picture), the three of us eating it with our hands and small containers of sauce for dipping. Honestly though, this is some of the best BBQ I’ve ever had, so if you’re ever in Sawyer be sure to keep an eye out for it.

As we explored we found a shop called Custom Imports. They sell all kinds of interesting thing from incense to skull-framed mirrors and $8000 hand carved Indian beds like this one:

Whoever sets up the displays at this store is a gifted individual. Large objects in the store (like this bed) are dramatically lit and have other objects inside or next to them (such as the painting and large pot seen here). The store is one large room attached to a series of small rooms, and it was in the small rooms that they put these incredibly ornate beds. They painted the walls to offset the colors (no plain white for these folks), and as you walk through the store there is always another surprise around every corner.

best viewed large

Maybe it was the Buddha painting, maybe it was the dark, dark blue walls, but whatever the reason I could’ve stood in this room for hours. The phrase “palpable silence” carried a lot of weight in there. As I stood, alone, having just discovered this room, it felt like the painting could’ve spoken to me at any time.

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