It is summer vacation time. Time to sit back and relax. While doing so this summer, I found myself discovering new ideas and affirming some other ideas.

My wife and I traveled up north for a week, to another lakefront community. Granted this one is larger than where we live, but a lot of similarities.

Hospitality: A warm welcome by staff at places of lodging or restaurants always starts things off right. At home, many of the places I go, they know my name and I love that. While away, I am a guest, and at so many places we visited, the welcome was as if we were a regular. It is good to see friendly service.

Good service is so important. From hotel staff who can correct a problem and not make you feel in the wrong, to food service that goes the extra distance. At one breakfast place, they even brought a carafe of both decaf and regular coffee. So good.

Summer staff: We stopped at a rural farm that had tours. Most of the young people were from the lower part of the state. They were friendly, informative and really into their work. I was impressed with their knowledge and enthusiasm. It was a reminder that young people not only want to work, but are good at what they do. Shows promise for the future. 

Signage: A recent conversation at a meeting said people don’t read signs. Perhaps, but I do. While away, I really appreciated good signs that pointed us in the right direction. This included the numerous signs for trail heads for the bike trails.

Bike Trails: And speaking of bike trails, I loved seeing how many there were up north and how many people using them. Appreciate all the local efforts to connect our bike trails.

On many of the trails we saw plenty of park benches. They are so wonderful to see and to use. Our local trails could use more park benches to encourage people to rest and enjoy. That is especially true on the newer Van Buren Bike Trail. Restrooms are another great addition, but more costly I know.

Another great addition would be having bicycle crossing lights. When a bike trail crosses a busy street, especially one where there is heavy traffic, or the speed limit is 45 or higher, having crossing lights can be a major asset. I think of the Van Buren Trail crossing Blue Star Highway. Having flashing yellow lights there that can be activated to turn red to allow bikes to cross would be fabulous. I have seen these elsewhere and hope we can see them in this area.

Restaurants: Word has it that South Haven is gaining another Mexican restaurant. That would make three. Really? While away we were able to eat at a Mediterranean restaurant and a Thai restaurant. There were many other options as well. It would be good to see more variety in our area.

Speaking of food, it was important to be able to look online and see if a place had gluten-free options. That’s very important for my wife. We discovered a number of places that listed those options. At others, you have no idea. One place we ate had the best gluten-free pizza. They had a number of other options as well. It would be good to see more places offer these options.

Rest areas: Driving a great distance, it was helpful to have rest areas along the way. Both on the highway and on two-lane roads. We have so few of those in this area, and that is unfortunate. I think of the one just south of Watervliet and wonder why they are not more of these types of areas.

Lastly, I was reminded of the importance of a local newspaper. While it was nice to have a free copy of a national paper at the hotel, to find out what was going where we were at, the local paper was the best help. While I wish our local papers were larger, I recognize the economics of the print media and am thankful for what can be offered. That you are reading this article means you appreciate this local option as well. For me, starting the day holding the paper and reading it with a cup of coffee, whether on vacation or not, is a good start to the day. Hope your summer is a good one.

Jeffrey Dick lives in South Haven. His email is: