In October 2001, Jon and I attended the Great Lakes Lighthouse Festival in Alpena, Michigan. This annual event was in its infancy back then. Over the years, it has grown quite large. Great Lakers love their lighthouses!
I was asked to speak at the event in 2001 and had a book table to sell and sign my books. It was beautiful autumn weather that Columbus Day week as we drove from Connecticut to Michigan in our motorhome. We arrived early and had a few days to do some sightseeing, so we headed off to find lighthouses.
First, we went north to the Mackinac area, then turned south along the eastern shores of Lake Michigan. As we approached Grand Haven, I peeled my eyes for the pierhead lighthouses at the mouth of the Grand River, about 40 miles north of Kalamzoo. There are two of them that create a "range" for vessels to stay in the channel as they head into the river.
"I see them!" I shouted.
Jon looked for a place to pull over--not easy task in a motorhome. He was busy scanning at the roadside while I kept the lighthouses in view.
"There's a park of some sort over there," Jon said. "I'll pull in there long enough for us to get some photos."
We drove into the park and eased our motorhome into a parking space. There were people everywhere, picnicking in the sunshine and walking the beach along the pierhead. Some were on the pierhead itself walking out to the lighthouses. The parking area was full of cars. There were quite a few motorhomes too. In fact, we had managed to park alongside several of the RVs, all lined up in a row. Jon shut down the motor, cracked the windows, and said:
"How about we have a quick snack before we walk out to the lighthouses?"
Good idea. I went to the back of the motorhome to our small kitchen to fetch peanut butter and crackers and iced tea. The big window in the kitchen overlooked the beach and the lighthouses. What a view! While I made the snack, Jon went outside to look around and do his usual check on the RV. Moments later he was back inside with a big smile on his face.
"You won't believe this, but we've backed into an RV space with hookups for water and electricity. This isn't just a park, it's a little RV park--right here looking out over the lighthouses!"
Sure enough, there were hookups behind our RV. Earlier in the day, we thought we might stay at a state park father down the shore, but this was perfect. Jon paid for our space, hooked up the water and electricity, and we had our snack. Afterward, we walked out to the beach and then to the pierhead to visit the lighthouses.
That night as I prepared dinner, the sun dropped low and made a shimmering path of light across the lake. The beacons in the lighthouses clicked on and made for some amazing photos. I couldn't stop looking out the kitchen window. How lucky that we found this spot, and by accident! When dinner was ready, we sat outside in our lawn chairs facing the lighthouses and the lake as we ate, still amazed that we had unknowingly backed into an RV space with such a fabulous view.
A few days later we arrived back in Alpena in time for the lighthouse festival. I had a book table for sales and signings and gave my presentation each day of the event. It was based on my title Guardians of the Lights, which sold well after each presentation.The festival was wonderful, with lots of tables and spaces filled with lighthouse goodies and many excellent speakers.
A few spaces away from my table was a young woman with her paintings of Great Lakes lighthouses. I admired her work, especially her watercolor of the Grand Haven Pierhead Lighthouses. I told her the story of how Jon and I ended up with the best view possible by accidentally backing into an RV hookup space near the lighthouses. A few hours later I passed by her display again and saw that the Grand Haven painting was gone. No surprise. It was pretty and would look nice on someone's wall.
At the end of the festival on Sunday afternoon, we packed up my books and slide show and fired up our motorhome to head back home to Connecticut. But first, we did a little more touring. We drove up to Mackinac Point, visited the lighthouse there and then crossed the bridge to the Upper Peninsula before finding an RV park for the night. It was dark when we pulled into our space and hooked up, and we were tired. Dinner was sandwiches and soup. While I took a shower, Jon made up the beds.
As I emerged from the bathroom in my RV pajamas, Jon handed me a cup of tea and gave me a hug.
"I got my favorite author a little souvenir from the festival," he said, motioning to my bed. On my pillow lay the framed watercolor of the Grand Haven Pierhead Lights....