Silver Lake, Michigan

Leaving Benton harbour on the Greyhound according to Plan B (not going all the way on to Detroit) involved a change of bus two hours later at the flamboyantly named town of Kalamazoo. It wasn’t much of a bus station, just a few unlabelled bays in a car park where several buses loaded and unloaded over the next half hour with very little indication of what was actually going on. There were two buses labelled Chicago but none with a sign indicating that it was going to Detroit. Any attempt to request information was cold-shouldered and the drivers seemed to be deliberately hiding in their cabs.

It seems rather unbelievable now but the driver of one of the “Chicago” buses suddenly flipped his sign over to read “Detroit” and drove his almost empty bus out of the bus station at some speed. Mercifully, I was not the only person left on the kerb in an open-mouthed state of near panic and somehow, someone seemed to know that there was another bus going our way half an hour later. Thank goodness for the Indian Trails bus company and a friendly driver who collected up all the strays without even checking our tickets. Perhaps this happens on a regular basis?

For the next few days I relaxed at Elisabeth’s home by Silver Lake, half an hour outside the University town of Ann Arbor. It felt rather strange to be at the airport to go with David to meet her on her return from Indonesia but it was very exciting to hear all about some of the more exotic destinations on her itinerary. Since we parted in Yogyakatra seven weeks ago we have both crossed a few lines of longitude but I’ve been flitting between countries like a butterfly while Elisabeth has focused in on the more complex cultural details of just one country (albeit a huge and diverse one) with something much more like academic rigour than I have been able to summon for many years.

So we swapped stories and “hung out” with the not too intellectually challenging pursuits of dipping in the lake, visiting Cap’n Frosty’s outdoor ice cream parlour, having my picture taken in the little village named Hell and completing the most challenging jigsaw puzzle in her collection.  Unsurprisingly – a map of the world. But how can I overlook the culinary highlight of the visit? The Awesome Onion: “a super colossal sweet onion cut to flowering, served crispy and golden ready to pluck and dip in our tangy awesome sauce”. Served with “North Peak Diabolical India Pale Ale”, no less. Indigestion anybody?

There is, of course, a serious side to the conurbation of academic institutions that is Ann Arbor, set in beautiful countryside fifty miles outside of Detroit. A societal contrast that needs no further comment from me. Whilst not actually being one of the obscenely wealthy Ivy League group, the Gothic architecture of the University of Michigan is so festooned with this creeping plant that it has earned the unkind sobriquet “Early Adams Family”. The Washtenor Community College, on the other hand, is much larger than its name suggests, with thirteen thousand students of all ages and backgrounds taking both academic and vocational courses. An altogether more “accessible” institution in all senses of the word.

But then again, how could I fail to feel at home in a city that boasts a shop named Nicola’s Books in the Westgate Shopping Centre?

Categories: North America

1 Comment

  • Sandy says:

    Ahhh the blooming onion experience–once you try it you will never eat one again. I had mine with four people at the Outback restaurant. Some people are looking more forward to it than the delicious Mahi Mahi. I don’t understand.

Leave a Reply