Making Michigan Memories

Ready to Roll

I’ve been going to Michigan my whole life.  That’s because my dad was from Grand Rapids.  Growing up, my parents would pack us kids into our giant station wagon and off we’d go every summer to stay with my dear Aunt Edna.  Even though she put too much pepper on our fried eggs, we loved it and were in heaven.  My mom loved the lake, so in 1973, she asked Gene and Sharon, my Michigan cousin and his wife, where we could go in Michigan and stay on the Lake.  Gene and Sharon looked at each other and simultaneously said one word – “Pentwater”, and thus a tradition was born.

Most years, we’ve stayed at the only motel in town, Channel Lane Inn – which is on the channel, of course, such a pretty spot, but this year, we have our new travel trailer, so I made reservations for Dan and I to stay in Charles Mears State Park.  I was only able to get our reservation by checking repeatedly for cancellations, and after several weeks of trying, I was rewarded with 10 days on site 152.

Besides the 10 days in Pentwater, we planned for an extra night on our way there and back.  This allowed us to travel at a relaxed pace and to arrive with energy still left in our tank.  Our goal whether we are heading to or from Michigan is to get Highway 80 behind us.  If you’ve ever been on Highway 80 between Chicago and Michigan City, you understand.

Our Boondocking site in Coloma, Michigan

In anticipation of our first travel day’s stop, we joined “Boondockers Welcome” where kindness and generosity are embraced, and hosts freely offer their outside parking areas to those traveling in a fully contained RV.  We made reservations to boondock in Coloma, Michigan.  One of us was excited to boondock, and one of us was way more leery of this new, wild and crazy, adventure.  As I anticipated, it worked out great, with our kind hosts assisting us as needed when backing in and with a needed 30 amp extension cord.  We headed on our way around 10 am the next day and were grateful for this resource.  The one year joining fee is $30, so this one stop already paid for this membership.  Hopefully, we will be using it a number of times in the coming year’s travels.  While I am no Slim Potatohead, I can say we have boondocked, and I am kind of proud of that.   

Our campsite at Charles Mears State Park

After about a 3 hour drive from Coloma, we arrived at our 10  day destination, site 152, at the state park in Pentwater.  It always feel magical driving into Pentwater for the first time each year.  Now I am not going to say it wasn’t an adjustment going from Channel Lane Inn to site 152 in the park.  It was.  First, there are only electric hook ups, no water or sewer.  Second, campers are packed in there like sardines, and third, there is sand everywhere.  The upside is, the campground is right off the beach, and we get to stay in our trailer which I love.   The campground is also close to town, which – like staying in Channel Lane – means you can walk or ride a bike almost anywhere.

We did adjust though.  Dan managed to get the camper backed into our site.  The shower house was clean, and we never had to wait even though the campground was full at times.  We had a broom to sweep out the sand.  The campground host offered 2 really long hoses which could be wheeled to allow for easy filling of our potable water.  We were simply giddy when we learned there is a pump out service which comes twice a week from Ludington, and for $25 cash, they will pump out your tanks.  We only needed this service once, but it made all the difference.  We also met a young entrepreneur who offered to dump our trash for 50 cents using his bike with built-in basket.  This little six year old guy was just across the way from us, and Dan looked for him every day when our trash was full.  With all these luxurious amenities, it wasn’t long before we stopped thinking about Channel Lane and began enjoying being in the campground.  Campgrounds have a special ambiance, and at Mears, it is the best.  You can’t beat riding your bike to the beach in the morning to enjoy the lake view with just the seagulls or watching a magnificent sunset and then walking back to your site and seeing and smelling the nightly campfires.


The annual week in Pentwater isn’t just Dan and I.  It’s much of my family along with extended family and friends.  Dan and I arrived 3 days before everyone else and when the others arrived, they were close by.  Many of them stayed in Channel Lane and some in a nearby rented house.  This Pentwater week is a special time where we spend time together, have fun, and make memories. 

The week’s activities include beach days, shopping at the Farmer’s Market or in town, eating ice cream, playing putt putt, bike riding, watching sunsets, a family dinner with everyone and whatever anyone wants to do.  There’s lots of activities – like kayaking, horseback riding, or riding the sand dunes on an ATV – all of which we’ve done in the past.  One activity we’ve done a number of times is to bike ride the Hart-Montague bike trail which is about 22 miles one way.  We only ride a portion though, the part that takes us to the dairy farm where we have lunch and enjoy the all-you-can-drink milk.  Other choices for things to do include checking out the Silver Lake area or Ludington State Park and its lighthouse.  There’s plenty to do all around, but the best is simply to relax around Pentwater and do whatever the day brings.

Putt Putt Pals

We usually start our week with a trip to Ludington to stock up on groceries.  An Aldi’s opened there a couple of years ago, and we are still very happy about.  While we eat most of our meals “at home” in Pentwater, we are sure to eat at least once at “Grinders”, an Italian sub shop.   After dinner, most evenings we make our way to the beach to watch the sunset.  There’s always a lot of people there, but most leave once the sun has said goodbye for the day.  A secret is to stay a bit after the sun disappears on the horizon, as that is when a sky is revealed with stunning shades of pink, purple and orange.

Best Show on Earth

This year, we continued with the Channel Lane Pickleball tournament, started last year by Alex.  Alex organizes it all, provides the net, paddles and ball, and it is really fun – to play and to watch.   He draws the court and our “sponsors” ads with chalk, and he sets up the tournament bracket.  My understanding is the net we use is somewhat smaller than regulation, but it works fine in the driveway at Channel Lane.  Unfortunately, while the tournament began this year, it had to be suspended due to construction in the area.  So, for now, the coveted trophy will stay with last year’s winners, and Dan and I have another year to improve our game.

Pickleball Commissioner and the court
Current Pickleball Champion 

This year, we also enjoyed a visit from our original Pentwater advisers, Gene and Sharon.  They came to town on Wednesday morning.  We visited for awhile, and then some of us drove to a local take out restaurant, Bortels Fisheries, for lunch.  We got our meals and then drove across the street to a hidden gem of a city park.  Here you sit at a picnic table, enjoy the view and conversation and eat your delicious fish.  Of all the years I have gone to Pentwater, this was the first year I made it to Bortels Fisheries.  I don’t know why; it just happened that way.  I will definitely go back, and next time, I plan to try the smoked salmon which gets rave reviews.

Sharon and my sister, Linda, at Bortels Fisheries
Bortels dining room

Our ten days were over quickly.  On our way home, we chose Kankakee, Illinois for our stopover point.  However, there were no “Boondockers Welcome” hosts in the area, so we stayed at a KOA and enjoyed the full hookups; Dan was so happy.  While in Kankakee, I discovered there is a Frank Lloyd Wright home there which can be toured.  However, at this point, we really just wanted to continue home, so we put this in the books for the future.  God willing though, we will be this way again, not just once, but hopefully many, many more times, so we can keep making our Michigan memories.

Channel view to town
Channel view to Lake 


  1. […] Dan and I stayed at Channel Lane for years. Once we bought our travel trailer though, we migrated to Charles Mears State Park. Our family still stays at Channel Lane, so we often stop by the motel on our way to here or there or to have a meal with everyone. But our home base is the state park. I wrote a review about Mears State Park on Campendium, and I wrote about our “transition” to the park in last year’s post about Michigan. […]


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