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Idyllic, Lazy Days at the Beach and a High School Reunion

8/07/12 - Grand Haven, MI

Heading back to the west 'coast' of Michigan to spend some quality time with family, friends and old high school classmates

We've just returned from ten days of touring up and down the west side of our home state of Michigan, enjoying near-perfect summer weather and a multitude of family visits.  You could say the unofficial theme of this trip was reunions.  It all started because it was time once again for Caroline's GHHS Class of '87 high school reunion.  She had so much fun five years ago at her 20th, that the minute she left, she vowed to return for the next one.  And now it was nearly upon us.  Neither of us had had the privilege of being in Michigan during one of their wonderful summers in quite some time and Scott had yet to meet our niece Kate who was turning one-year-old on the day of the reunion itself.  Furthermore, Scott's parents and closest cousins would all be together in one place on their annual vacation up at Torch Lake the week leading up to the reunion.  Add to that that Caroline's sister and her family had rented a beach-front cottage on Lake Michigan for that week as well, and the timing couldn't have been more perfect.  We decided it would be a good time to make a week-plus trip of it, visiting with extended family on both sides as well as Caroline being able to attend her reunion.  So we planned one of our typical multi-part trips (which have the hallmarks of lots of driving around and sleeping in way too many beds) of which we should be famous for if we are not already.

Planning-wise, it was a challenging trip from the very beginning.  In the spring of this year, it was looking quite certain that we'd be living in Singapore by this time for Scott's job, in which case we'd be more likely to be vacationing in Thailand or Vietnam than Michigan.  Even when the expat opportunity was removed from the equation, Scott was scheduled to be in Singapore for work for the two weeks preceding the trip and he booked a ticket to fly directly from Asia to Chicago, planning to meet Caroline in Grand Haven.  Then at the last minute, Scott took a new job and cancelled the Singapore trip, still planning to meet Caroline in Grand Haven, since she planned to fly in a couple days early to spend time with her mom and stepdad.

The drama continued when Caroline's connection out of Chicago got cancelled and then she lost her ID and credit cards, causing her to spend the night and following day in Chicago with only a small carryon bag and a limited about of cash.  To make matters worse, Scott had her cell phone with him since he had had to turn in his work Blackberry on his way out the door to the airport to catch his flight to Chicago and was driving to Grand Haven in the middle of the night.  We mistakenly thought that, of the two of us, he would be the one more likely to need it.  But 24 hours later, after a challenging day at O'Hare (originally there were no available flights until after Scott would arrive at Caroline's parents!), Caroline was on her way to Muskegon via United Airlines and the relief of being among family, combined with sunny, warm weather quickly made it all a distant memory.

Our vacation was carefully divided up into three segments: 3 days up at Torch Lake with Scott's family, 2 days on Lake Michigan with Caroline's sister and extended family and 4 more days in Grand Haven with Caroline's family (extended at the last minute so we could connect with Caroline's Aunt Nancy, visiting from Washington D.C.).  Torch Lake was just like Scott remembered it from his youth, filled with lazy days hanging out with parents, brothers, an uncle and 'aunt', and several cousins.  There were two notable differences from the old days: the water was actually warm(ish) and there were lots of little kids, belonging to Scott's three cousins, running around.  Both of these new developments only made the Torch Lake experience even better!  The seven children in attendance ranged in age from four to nine, the youngest being a tiny infant at our last meeting.  The newest generation of cousins all got along marvelously and it was a real pleasure having the opportunity to spend time with them.  We especially enjoyed hanging out with Marylin, the eldest of the bunch and a charming young lady who actually thought we were kind of fun and cool (I think).  We had good timing for the trip, since I assure you we won't be considered cool for much longer!  Highlights of our time at Torch Lake included sandcastle building with the kids; cruising in the the pontoon boat; dinner at Pearl's with the whole gang in Elk Rapids; ice cream in Alden; playing Left, Right, Center with the kids, Grandma 'Nise and Grunkle Jerry; morning Aeropress 'wars'; the evening 'wine bell' and enjoying a gourmet dinner with Scott's college friends Ryan and Leigh in Traverse City on their deck nestled in the woods.  But the best part was spending lots of lazy time lounging in and around the water, drinking cheap beer and doing some serious reconnecting with the people we've missed since our departure from Michigan in the late '90s.  We could have happily spent the entire week at Torch Lake but, alas, before we knew it it was time to move on.

A few hours after our departure from Torch Lake, we arrived in Holland to find Caroline's sister, Jen's family and another amazing spot awaiting us.  Jen and Ivan's rented cottage, situated right on Lake Michigan, was a large, fully-appointed home and had a prize location, indeed.  With the house located just steps from the pristine beach, we spent more time in the water and lounging on the sand, slowly turning a golden-bronze as the stress of the past year-and-a-half continued to melt away.  Scott (and later Graham) exhibited admirable patience with almost 6-year-old Christopher, who was going through a bit of an antisocial Legos-and-DS-video-game phase, and it was fun to catch up with Jen and Ivan and to spend more time getting to know Kate, whose first birthday party we'd be attending later in the week.  Caroline's mom, Jane, took advantage of her twins and their families finally being in the same place at the same time and organized an unofficial Bosch family reunion at the lake.  Jane invited Caroline's Aunt Mary, cousin Amelia and Amelia's husband Graham to come from Wisconsin and Indiana, respectively, for a day at the beach.  Mary and Jane lovingly and skillfully prepared a Middle Eastern picnic lunch,  followed by a dinner of delicious local brats, grilled to perfection by Ivan, along with cold vegan-friendly picnic salads.  Our white sangria was also a hit as were Amelia's scrumptious vegan chocolate chip cookies and it was a wonderful time catching up with more family whom we don't see nearly often enough.

Somehow, with the blink of an eye, an entire week had already sped by and it was now time relocate to Caroline's mom's house for Kate's birthday party and then on to the big reunion - the official one of the trip - celebrating 25 years of life since high school!  Kate was a model birthday girl, attacking her cake with gusto to the point of requiring a bath afterward and showing at least moderate interest in her gifts, including her customized felted blocks, imported from an artisan friend in Mexico, from her Auntie C'Lo and Uncle Scott.  After the party, Scott dropped Caroline and Jen off at the Elks Club for the reunion and continued on his way for pizza and a beer on the deck at Kirby, with a prime view overlooking all the Coast Guard Festival Friday-night action.  Although the reunion was somewhat sparsely attended, Caroline had a good time reconnecting with old high school friends and particularly enjoyed the group photos for each elementary school as well as the fun 80s dress-up props and retro tunes.

Although lots of good times were had everywhere on our itinerary, it was a relief to be on our final bed of the trip at Caroline's mom's (complete with room to spread out as well as a private bath) and our remaining days in Grand Haven were quite relaxed after the party atmosphere of birthdays and reunions.  On Saturday, following tradition, we casually watched the Coast Guard parade from Jane and Bill's comfortable front porch and passed the remainder of our visit in a haze of boardwalk and pier strolls, munching on the requisite Pronto Pups and ice cream cones, and taking in Grand Haven's stunning nightly sunsets.  These pleasant daily activities were punctuated with two final events: a visit to Scott's best man, Chris' family in Dewitt for some very active play with 3-and-a-half-year-old Zach and a more sedate meeting with mild-mannered Liv (age one-and-a-half) and a quick meal at Champps and on Monday a more leisurely and relaxed lunch at Snug Harbor and a stroll to the pier with Caroline's Aunt Nancy, who was also in town for her high school reunion.


After a very busy and stressful 14 months back in the Bay Area, this trip was a wonderful way to recharge, rejuvenate and reconnect with those who matter the most to us, in a relaxed and familiar setting.  But for our next travel adventure we're already hoping for something a bit more exotic and adventurous...stay tuned!


Vito, Marylin & Jimmy work diligently on their sandcastles


Dinner at Pearl's - Don stops by for a visit from the parents-and-kids table


Bill (aka Grandpa Mustache), Sally and the next generation of cousins


Caroline & Kathy prepare to enjoy the sunset from the dock


Jen enjoys a relaxing, kid-free meal at Snug Harbor


Contemplating Lake Michigan


Scott & Christopher check out the other boogey boarders




Kate enjoys a ride from her Grandpa B


Cousin Amelia relaxes on the beach after a swim


Ivan mans the grill while Jane helps prepare the buns


Everybody, now!


Kate loves her birthday cake!


Caroline & Jen get into the '80s props at their 25th high school reunion


Christopher's favorite part of the parade?  Why, the candy they throw, of course!


Caroline gets her Grand Haven 'delicacies' fix after the parade


Caroline, Jacque, Zack & Liv at Champps


Just another gorgeous sunset over Lake Michigan...




Scott meets Kate for the very first time in Grand Haven


Beautiful blue, crystal clear Torch Lake


Caroline, Dave & Brian do some catching up near the water's edge


Marylin puts some finishing touches on her sandcastle


The Brooks Brothers and the Others


Cousins Don & Scott proclaim: "It's Miller Time!"


Darrin tests the waters on the paddleboard while Jerry takes a spin in the "low-rider" kayak


Denise loves her noodle!


Dinner at Pearl's - the adults table


Caroline, Jerry & Scott all screamed for ice cream!


Sunset over Torch Lake


A beautiful night for patio dining at Snug Harbor in Grand Haven!


Three generations of Bosch!


Catchin' a wave!


The men who love the Ladies Bosch (plus Kate)


Kate loves playing in the sand with her Uncle Scott


Amelia & Graham are happy to be spending a day at the beach


Ladies Bosch family portrait


Posing with Kate on her first birthday (DS Boy in background was too 'busy' to join the photo)


...and then a frosting-covered zombie appeared at Kate's party...


Continuing with the '80s theme, jello shots were on the cocktail menu at the reunion


Grand Haven's newest Coast Guard booster


Scott shares a long-overdue beer with his best man, Chris


Caroline & and her Aunt Nancy


Farewell!  Until next time, beautiful Michigan!