Normally the sight of a large man lifting a small child up by the ankles and shaking him vigorously over a parking lot would send me running for the police. But in this instance, I laughed. In Silver Lake,Michigan, with its thousands of acres of rolling sand dunes, I imagine this is a regular occurrence.
The small boy was waiting with his family for his turn to ride over the towering dunes at the Mac Wood’s Dune Rides. As we waited, we couldn’t help but laugh as the father shook the sand off of his son. It came from every nook and cranny – from inside ears, between toes, out of hair, cascading from pockets – and his younger brother danced excitedly beside his father’s leg, shouting, “Do me!
By the end of the afternoon, we would all need a good ankle shaking.
Our adventure started off with a chummy older woman narrating from behind the wheel of our 20-passenger dune buggy bus. Our driver – part grandmother, part Helio Castroneves – flew up dune and down, around curves and along valley trails, stopping here and there to describe the forces in action. It was then our turn to climb a dune, only we did so on foot – or rather, on hands and knees. With lower extremities screaming for relief, my teenaged children and I reached the top, where we enjoyed an amazing view – acres of blinding sand surrounded by a green oasis of trees, blue lakes and quaint suburbs.
Wanting to see more, we hiked to the off-road vehicle (ORV) use area where we watched dirt bikes, sand rails, four-wheelers and modified SUVs climb, skid and fly this way and that. As the six of us stood there, a bright red Jeep pulled up and a man with aMinnesotaaccent said, “Wanna take a ride?”
Did we? Heck, YES we did!
We climbed in, Tom introduced himself and we were off. First he drove us through the tamer portions of the ORV area, pointing out hidden marshes and hard flats. Passing a giant dune, I commented on its height, which elicited from Tom a snicker. “That’s nothing,” he said. “Wait until you see what we’re going to climb.”
Rounding that dune, we approached the bottom of one that looked to be nearly vertical. Without so much as a running start, Tom stomped on the gas pedal and we were off. The modified Chevy 350 engine pulled us up, up, up to the crest where we seemed to teeter like Wiley Coyote in a Saturday morning cartoon. Tom stopped and we laughed, taking in the view. Ahead of us lay dune after rolling dune. It was, as my son so rightly said, awesome.
Tom proceeded to conquer dune after dune before depositing us, sandy and spent, back where we started. It was an unplanned adventure that spoke to so many things I love about traveling – beautiful scenery, exciting adventures and proof that the world is filled with good people. We thanked him and walked away with memories that will last a lifetime. And as for the sand, it’s still rolling out of my ears.
Check out Robin’s blog for more travel tidbits!