Columns Saugatuck/Douglas Commercial Record

Blue Star

By Scott Sullivan
Grand Valley
Half a league, half a league, Half a league onward … into Grand Valley, where Ottawa Impact lies.
“Siri says go straight,” said my daughter Flannery. I switched lanes from the Saugatuck exit to continue due west towards Port Sheldon Street through Ottawa County’s heart.
Summer backroads are catnip for photo hunters. Once the Jenison exurbia thinned, the clover scent strenghthened. Soil was peak-summer green, homes tidy. When we crested hills, the Grand valley opened on checkerboard fields dotted with silos and divided by more river tributaries.
Campaign signs cropped up where residents felt they mattered. “For Freedom and Family: Joe Moss” read large ones, red, white, blue and repeated often.
Similar signs appeared nearby for OI peer Sylvia Rhodea, most often perched before hillside estates but also near roadside fruit stands and corner gas stations selling live bait from coolers.
“Look at those blue flowers!” said Flannery.
“Wild ones,” I said, “weather winter salts, grow up roadside till, they swallow signs and you can’t see around corners. Given a chance, they grow right through asphalt.” Shut up, you’re lecturing.
Siri kept us straight. “We’re in Borculo!” I exclaimed. “Ever been in Borculo?” She had no special memories.
“I took Mom to Burnips once for the Penasee Globe. Name makes me think of Borculo. What a beat. We could write about a church gig maybe.“Even came with me to an Orangeville Township board meeting with agenda marked on a chalkboard. Guys dropped in from the O-ville Tavern to raise a ruckus about no issues except because.”
Theirs not to make reply, Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die, Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s 1854 “Charge of the Light Brigade continues.
We exited Port Sheldon near an Exxon station onto U.S. 31 north. Holland to Grand Haven. This unlimited-access stretch I remembered from childhood trips with family from Indiana to Crystal Lake. “Grandpa and Grandma Sullivan had a cottage southeast of Alma in Montcalm County ,,,” She’s already heard it.
U.S. 31 parallels the old road, West Olive, and runs through that settlement past blueberry farms pet rescue centers, nurseries and many small churches with white crossed steepls founded by Dutch settlers stretching back to the 1840s.
Left on Hemlock Crossing Road leads to the Ottawa Observatory overlooking Pigeon Creek, also name of a touring Shakespeare company which plays often here to its wild southwest.
“Lot of signs for Joe Moss and Joe Bush,” I said. “One’s re-running for board chair, the other One brings God, the other water to thirsty people.”
On our right was Pipeline Underground Saloon, Roundabouts Play School, Rock Solid Granite and the Stable Inn. “Right on Comstock Street,” Siri said.
I dropped off Flannery at her childhood girlfriend Audra’s new apartment shared with musician boyfriend Brandon. Audra’s parents have also moved from around the corner to Grand Haven near Lake Michigan.
Canon to the right of me with the passenger seat unoccupied, I got lost — my favorite way to experience countryside.
Here was Robbins Road with Grand Valley State University off-campus housing. Remember first year out of dorms, batching it with fellow students, newly freed?
The Grand ran north to south here with no west bridge crossings on thes backgrounds. I’d lost my way here before too, I remembered.
Robbins T’d into 152nd Avenue, where banks grew wilder and causeways channeled bayous into culverts. A red-and-white “Restore Reason” sign poked between wildflowers and a crooked mailbox at a drive leading to a one-level with an unfenced backyard vanishing in a meadow.
Family and Freedom or Reason? But are Freedom and Family always paired against Reason? Decide, Ottawa, decide.
Mercury Drive curved curved across the Pottawattomie past Hope Church and turned into Green Street over the Grand at last to, on North Cedar, the Rusty Moose Garage.
Albertus van Raalte was Ottawa’s first Dutch settler here, books say, in 1847. Seven years later England’s Light Brigade — 670 men with sabers and lances riding unarmored horses — set upon Russian forces in the Battle of Balaclava during the Crimean War.
It was all a mistake. Commander Lord Raglan couldn’t see from his hilltop horse past the next hill, behind which the enemy had withdrawn most of their 25,000 infantry, 4,000 calvary and some 40 cannons.
The mission did claim the next hilltop briefly. England celebrates the Light Brigade’s valor to this day while quibbling over who miscommunicated what to who, English being English. Who rules Crimea still is disputed too.

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