Getting There

by Don Wierenga 2001

We have rockets and space craft traveling to outer space at the rate of about six miles per second. A jet airplane travels about 10 miles in a minute. It takes me about 3 hours to make the 150 mile trip to Glen Lake. Sixty five years ago it took about twelve hours. Time is not always a factor in getting there. The journey to our space station and back has become fairly routine. What happens when it gets there is what counts. With all the security checks and changing planes, my two hour flight to Denver took about six hours and was not very enjoyable. My trip up North is a challenge to get there safely and quickly

Now, to a seven year old back in 1937, anticipating, preparing for and “getting there” was often the best part of the vacation. I recall making elaborate plans to pack enough pieces of scrap lumber to complete my fantasy project of building a miniature house, only to be told there wasn’t room for a box of wood on the running board of the old Dodge sedan. The running board that had a scissors type gate to keep luggage from popping out when we hit those humps in the road.

So, when our family of seven or eight was finally loaded, it was with a great deal of excitement and adventure that we began our journey. Unless you were passed off to one of the relatives that often made up the caravan, and you had to be quiet and polite, at least at the beginning. Fortunately, we made frequent stops. Some planned and some out of necessity. It was at those times that we could rejoin our own family or negotiate to ride in a more kid friendly car. In fact it was not unusual to create your own necessity, although we could always count on two or three flat tires to break up the monotony.

Grandma DeKorne loved Glen Lake even more than we did. She loved flat tires, too. According to my cousin Jack DeKorne, “Grandma would get out a large tim canister full of bobbelaars. She would vigorously shake it and the sound would bring all the kids running to her side! she was smiling and happy while the uncles sweated and labored to jack up the car, remove the wheel, take the tire off the rim, patch the tube, put it all together and finally pump up the tire with the hand pump. Knowing that it would probably happen again quite soon.”

Scheduled sight-seeing stops were pretty much routine. The first stop was often the fish hatchery near Reed city. They had several sturgeon that were six or seven feet long. They looked menacing and it was a toss up if I wanted to watch the fish or get back into the hot car with the heavy, prickly upholstering and hope for another flat tire.
The stop I enjoyed most was at Traverse City. Not only did it mean that we only had about an hour to go, but it meant a visit to Clinch park and the replica city they had created. The little village with its scale models of familiar homes and buildings was fascinating. You could put a nickel in the machine and the train would make its way through the city or a boat would be launched to float out into Grand Traverse bay. I would think about my scrap blocks and building my own little village.

Our daughter Debra wrote about Glen Lake. She called it “The most beautiful place in the world.” She explained: “It has a beautiful name: Glen Lake. A glen is a secluded valley, something you can’t see from a distance; you don’t know it’s there until you are there, too. At Glen Lake the valley is wide and deep and filled with water that is absolutely clear. Around the edges, where the water is shallow, its color is khaki green, but the large deep center is an opaque bluegreen--a color that I don’t believe exists anywhere else in nature and that as a teen ager I tried to replicate, unsuccessfully and to the great consternation of the man at the paint store, on a wall of my bedroom in the house where I grew up.”

It is to this secluded valley, to this spectcular glen, that we are now approaching. Time is a factor. It will be getting dark soon and we might be able to catch the sunset and that magic moment when it touches the sand dune and everyone becomes very quiet. It’s also important that we have a clear view to find who will be the first to shout out in that sing-song chant; “I see the lake!” There will be false sightings. I will make my proclamation at every turn just to make sure I won. Intuitively, however I will know exactly the turn that will give me my first spectacular view of Glen Lake. We will have the usual debate about who won and the accusations that someone “Didn’t really see it . . just said they did.” But none of that will matter. In five minutes we will be in those crystal clear waters, clothes and all.

The trips continued, almost uninterrupted, for every summer. After grandpa died a special cottage was built for grandma, planned by her children and built by my dad. It wasn't long before uncles and aunts and then cousins bought their own Glen Lake property. In 1967 four of my siblings and I, did as well. Glen Lake became the secluded valley of my life. A place reserved for my strongest feelings. A place where I stored some of deepest feelings. Those of joy, serenity and hope as well as sadness, frustration and despair. It is my connection to the past. Thoughts and memories of my DeKorne grandparents, their 12 children and the 396 direct descendants that followed, are filtered through the waters of Glen Lake.

It is also my connection to the future. The sharp turns have been straightened, roads are paved, tires are no longer an issue. Most trips are uneventful . . . until that final turn. It’s still there, giving just a glimpse of “The most beautiful place in the world.” A view that is quickly obscured by the next turn but which leads to the final half mile of gravel road, the little white cottage and Glen Lake. We have arrived. It also opens my personal secluded valley and, I think, that of my children and grandchildren.

As property values escalate it’s tempting to envision a monetary gain. Money that would be welcomed by struggling families, just as we struggled to pay for our share in 1967. But we have made a decision to never sell. It will always remain in the hands of the original owners and their descendants. We can only speculate what twists and turns the future will bring. . . what “Getting there” will be like. Maybe even that final turn will be removed and the secluded valley will be revealed in a different way, just as the twists and turns of life open to new personal secluded valleys and new ways to view what is ahead.

Sometimes anticipating and getting there is half the fun. Other times, it’s pure drudgery. In life, getting there is the only thing that matters. The destination is secure. How we travel the road is what really counts.