Thursday, May 11, 2006

High Gas Prices Fuel Idea for Hometown Vacation

Only a year and a half ago my wife and I were celebrating an anniversary in Hawaii and were struck by the fact that gas was selling for $2.70 a gallon. We figured we could deal with it because we were on vacation and would return to reasonably priced gasoline soon.

Now, with gas at the same price levels here, we are thinking it might be good to spend our vacation here at home. The truth is, we have often chuckled when we go away in the summer and return home to see the Tri-Cities bustling with vacationers from all over. We wonder, why do we leave? Obviously, it’s just for a change of pace and to force relaxation away from the temptation of doing yard work or other projects around the house.

But, this year in addition to a week up north, we are talking about spending summer vacation time right here at home. Here are a few ideas we have for making the most of our time off, if not time away.

We have always thought it would be interesting to take the Trolley that we see carting about happy tourists every summer season. It’d be interesting, as local residents, to see what it’s like to ride the trolley, and to listen to what those drivers are actually telling tourists about us. Taking the trolley, of course, would also save gas.

One summer a few years ago, I was hanging out near the fishing boats having a latte with my wife and some friends, when a couple asked us if we knew of a place nearby to rent bikes. We gave a few ideas. But the thought occurred to us, there are wonderful bike paths in our community that can take you to several parks, all the way to Holland, or around Spring Lake. One vacation day at home could be spent riding around Spring Lake, stopping for lunch in Fruitport and then ice cream at Miss Lisa’s or the Front Porch. This would require no gas, and depending on what you eat, could generate some.

Speaking of parks, those same bike paths connect most of us to Hoffmaster, Grand Haven State Park, Rosy Mound, Kirk Park and other beach locations further south. A bike ride to the beach, with a backpack of refreshments and reading material, could make for another fine day of vacation. The only hard part would be pedaling home after being relaxed in the sun all day. But you would have saved on gas again.

Another great vacation activity would be to attend Concerts in the Park, on Tuesdays in Grand Haven’s Central Park, as well as Concerts at the Point, at Mill Point Park in Spring Lake on Thursdays. Both are put on by the Grand Haven Area Arts Council and are absolutely free. If we still had “Stompin’ at the Stadium” jazz concerts in the waterfront stadium in Grand Haven, you could make a week off at home a de facto music festival.

Another more cultural activity would be to visit the Tri-Cities Museum as well as other historical and art museums in the region. It’d be a good rainy day activity. And, if you’re like me, you hardly ever take advantage of local museums unless you have out of town guests. The local museums are in biking distance, if you still want to save gas.

It’s unfortunately too late to take a ride on the Harbor Steamer, since the local landmark is in dry dock and for sale. I had always wanted to take a cruise on the boat as a tourist in my home town. But we still can engage in the popular tourist activity of walking the pier, getting a hot dog or some ice cream, and watching boats go up and down the channel. As the boaters look at us landlubbers with pity, I will pat my bike seat and revel in the knowledge of gas dollars saved.

If you wanted to do just a little driving, you could head up to the Getty Drive-In in Muskegon and enjoy a double feature at dusk. This place nearly closed a few years ago until locals stormed the gates trying to take part in a classic American summer activity one last time. Since then it has been re-popularized and remained open. You can bring your own food to recover the cost of the drive up there.

One must-do activity for a stay-at-home vacation is to literally stay at home. Many of us do so much work in our yards and we rarely sit in them and enjoy the natural splendor we have created. I plan to grab a good book and a tall glass of iced tea and sit in a hammock in the yard or lounge on the patio and relax. At least until I notice something in the yard that needs work.

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