The move from Chicago to Grand Rapids, MI was quick. What I remember most of the move is that our car was jam-packed with stuff. I had underestimated the amount of things we had to move. We had rented furniture and this was the cause for the underestimation. Moreover, we had carried a LOT of stuff on our first visit there. So the final move was supposed to be an easy one. However, what I didn’t realize was that the remaining items were all loose ones and I had to spend a lot of time walking back and forth from the house to the car, carry one each at a time. So what I thought would take 2 hours took almost five! The other impact of a car being full is that Rama had to sit cramped in the back seat for the 3 1/2 hour journey. But the drive was great! Grand Rapids is a beautiful small town which immediately charmed us from the likes of a bustling but dry Chicago suburb. The apartment we were moving to was spacious comparatively. The good thing about a small town is that you can drive across in less than 15 minutes. Grand Rapids in next to Kalamazoo, MI. I remember when Dale Earnhardt got killed in his speed car, the speed at which he was travelling, he would have cover the distance between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo in 15 minutes (all of 60 miles!).
In contrast to the previous assignment, the new project was less demanding and fell within scope of my skill set. This made me more comfortable from day one. And there were a lot of families in the same boat as us – small child, recently arrived in US. There were some established players who were very friendly and helped us out get accustomed to the place pretty soon. It was spring time and the time the project permitted me had us start exploring the city very soon. We soon made trips to neighbouring cities – Saginaw where there were sand dunes, Holland with its lake shore, and even to Traverse City and Mackinac Island a bit later. Spring time in Michigan means you gotta visit Holland for its famous replication of the Tulip gardens and festival from the Netherlands. We hadn’t seen anything prettier than the endless spread of the flowers. Despite the still chilly air, it was an enjoyable trip on of the weekends. We had Rama’s cousin visit us from Philadelphia and they were enthralled with our little boy.
Soon it was May and we celebrated our son’s first birthday renting out the community hall of the neighbouring apartment community. Rama had cooked for all of the seventy-five guests and it was quite an effort. Thinking about it, we both wonder how she did it with a small baby to look after as well. I had grated a ton of carrots for the carrot halwa, that was my contribution. With help from Ranga’s family and other friends, the event went on very well. It was the time I had bought my first camcorder – a Sony – and it was an expensive one at around $1500! It took a lot to convince Rama that it would pay off in the long run and it did. Even today we watch videos of Vikas when we get bored with TV or whenever we wanted to reminisce.
Three years in Grand Rapids rolled by pretty fast. Every fall, it was a ritual to drive up north to Mackinac Island. Crossing the bridge with gusts of 50 mph was always a challenge. Once we got to the island, it was just plain beautiful. No motor vehicles are allowed on the island. Any movement we needed was by horse carts or bicycles. The island had a lot of chocolate shops and quaint stores. The Grand Hotel on the island is pretty famous and was the setting for Christopher Reeves 1980 movie – Somewhere in Time. I have promised Rama that I will take her back to the island and the hotel sometime in the future and it still stands – pending!
Fall trips in Michigan borders on the glorious. The spurt of colors are a visual treat. And once you cross the island and onto the upper peninsula, population becomes really sparse. You can drive for 100s of miles and meet just a few fellow humans. Endless stretches of pines make driving a bit anxious on dark and cloudy days. Such drives are peckered with stops at quaint farm lands and shops selling vegetables and cider. We had once driven all the way up to St. Sue Marie where the locks are an engineering marvel. These locks help ships navigate the extremely turbulent waters safely. The two lakes at this point have a great difference in height and this causes the turbulence. In the past over 100 ships have capsized in these waters until the locks were built. The building of the locks are another fascinating story with the project working through severe winters. On another fall trip, we had visited what is called as the Pictured rocks. This is a boat ride and the splendid glory of mother nature is very evident as is the alarming quietness around the area.