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Getting Away From It All

Recovering today from possibly one of the best and least productive Memorial Day weekends in history. God bless our veterans, and God bless God for the amazing weather.

A little bit about where I was: Port Austin, Mich. My father was born and raised in Bad Axe. My mom was a little more country, living on a working farm in Verona. (Yes, these are all real names. Don't even ask me about Pigeon, Ubly or Grindstone.) So when they retired, they wanted to be back in Huron County.

Small towns are dear to me as a lifelong Michigan resident. Sure, Detroit and other metropolises have the sexy nightlife, rushing highways and endless sprawl. I am enamored with the community spirit – and humility – of a small town. And that is especially true on major holidays like Memorial Day, which gives you time to remember everything you should.

Some background: If you're not from Michigan, get out your Michigan map – you know…your hand. Port Austin is at the tip of the thumb. If you're driving north on M-53, you better turn right or left at that last traffic light or you're going into the Lake. Which wouldn't be all bad given the right circumstances.

There is this lovely park near downtown Port Austin where they typically celebrate Memorial Day. (This year, there was a huge thunderstorm, so the old school gym had to do.) It overlooks the Lake, a playground and the beach. Besides a full display of flags (national, local and more), there are seating areas devoted to each branch of the military. There also is a commemorative bell, meant for ringing if you are remembering a veteran or casualty of war. And there are brick pavers, which families could purchase and have the names of their veterans included in the memorial/park.

My dad is a veteran; he served shortly after high school and in between wars. So we always ring the bell for him and my other uncles who served, including one in Vietnam. My son, the soldier-to-be, patrols the Air Force bench, thinking of his future (at least, that is what he is planning and I would be proud to see him do). It is an awesome place to be; it is an even better place to take a moment and think of the sacrifices of others.

Port Austin is small now, but growing larger. They're redoing the park soon, giving people more public access to the water. The village recently added a Welcome Center and there are plans for a big old campground just outside of the main downtown. Until all those happy campers come flooding in, Port Austin will remain my favorite secret getaway, full of smiling families, beachcombers, Harley riders, local farmers selling produce at the weekend market, retirees and rugrats. There is miniature golf, eateries where they make every thing from scratch and even two candy stores, where you can find "Candy Sticks" (or what used to be known as candy cigarettes). It's my version of Kennebunkport or the Hamptons. Only fewer accents and loud Pulitzer prints.

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