Returning to Holland… after 15 years!

Last week I had the pleasure of returning to Holland, Michigan after 15 years. While I was there this time for a jam packed work trip, I still managed to re-live some of my past traditions as well as explore some new ones!

Let me start by explaining why I used to go to Holland frequently and the traditions that came with it. I was on the swim team in high school and to kick off the season we would go to Swim Camp every year in August. Swim Camp was always the first week that the fall athletes are allowed to practice and for us we would pack our bags and head to Holland for the week. Now, I’ve never understood why other sports call their camp’s ‘camp’, because we literally camped in tents. Complete with campfires, s’mores and a clubhouse. We would have two practices a day, an activity (such as laser tag, go-karts, beach, etc.), the parents would cook all of our meals in the clubhouse and most importantly we would bond weeks before school started.

ME!!! From Swim Camp in 2006

When I went to college and became a grown up I just never went back to camp. Life just happened where I never had a chance to go back to Holland… until last week. I was in charge of picking a spot for a Board Retreat in August for my work, naturally… I picked Holland! Due to my busy schedule, I was only there Wednesday and Thursday. But you better believe I made the most out of both days and didn’t get home until 11:30pm Thursday night!

I can’t explain my excitement driving into Holland for the first time! I was beaming as I passed by Craig’s Cruisers on my right followed by the Hope College sign on my left. While I had my GPS set to the City Flats Hotel, I passed it in an instant. I needed to know where it was, but that’s not where I was actually headed. That’s why I arrived in Holland 3 hours earlier than I really needed to be there, I was headed to water. Instead, without even using a GPS (for some reason) I pulled into Kollen Park. It was there that I got out of my Jeep to stretch my legs, a grab a spot along Lake Macatawa to enjoy the rest of my morning coffee and eat my breakfast.

On my way back to my hotel I stopped by LemonJello’s to grab an iced latte. I had a busy day ahead of me after all! This quaint corner coffee shop was hopping. Funny enough, I even parked behind where I had made reservations for our Board Dinner. Originally, I was going to park at the hotel and then go and find coffee but it turned out to be on my way. I seemed to keep finding everything by accident. It was kind of wonderful!

Now, here is where I went into ‘work mode’: checking in, going up to my room, setting up the conference room, answering emails/phone calls from Board Members arriving… I managed to have enough time to look up at Mario (my fabulous City Flats helper) an hour before the meeting and say “place for lunch?”. He named a couple of places that were a block away, New Holland Brewery being the closest. Not to mention bright and orangey.

I’m so bummed I didn’t get a chance to go back and try any of the beers at New Holland! But, the temperature was in the 90’s and the first thing on the Board Retreat agenda was a walking tour of Hope College. So, I knew that it was not in my best interest for lunch. Instead I ordered the double cheeseburger and a diet soda. All while continuing to answer emails and now text messages for work. However, at that point it was nice to relax for at least 20-30 minutes. The burger was absolutely amazing!! I ordered mine with provolone cheese and the fries were seasoned perfectly. Luckily, I brought a cooler and had a fridge in my room so those leftovers totally came home with me and were happily eaten over the weekend.

Speaking of the Hope College tour, that was a bit different this time around. There have been quite a few changes in the last 15 years on campus! It was a Swim Camp tradition that Coach Jolly would take the seniors on a tour of the college, so it was actually one of the last things I did. Only this time I didn’t get to see the pool or athletics. For some reason there was a heavy emphasis on the science side… something about space… oh yeah, and a nuclear reactor! However, I couldn’t help but smile when I saw that old anchor!

I had made reservations at Hops 84 East (Thanks Joni!!!) months ago for my Board Dinner. Unfortunately, I may have even influenced some new swimmers to go there the week before (Swim Camp was the week prior) during their Dinner on 8th Street. Oops! Sorry Coach Andrew! Didn’t realize it wasn’t on the approved list… I had heard from the Ladies that the food was amazing and it was an excellent choice! I can now attest to that statement!! I didn’t get pictures of my food or drinks as I didn’t know how to without it looking awkward. (Remember, I was there for business.) I had the Dry Rub Ribeye and it was out of this world!! I normally cannot eat a full steak on my own, let alone a 5oz steak. So, how in the world I ate a full 10oz steak in one sitting is beyond me! That might say it all right there! It was that good! The rub was so different, and the sauce was simply delightful. I also had their Beermosa, which is a mixture of Oberon, White Wine and orange juice. That was a refreshing combination that actually paired well with my steak.

Thankfully, our group did not order dessert after dinner. Some of them were headed to Kilwan’s a couple doors down, others were headed back to the hotel or elsewhere. As for me, I was headed to Captain Sundae! This tradition even my Dad was calling me about wondering when I was going to stop by. Captain Sundae is a local Dairy Queen of sorts, only WAY better! The prices are better for sure and they are known for their many different types of sundaes. The decor outside is very eclectic and filled with pirate ships, captains, fairy doors etc. Of course, they have added locations and even a putt putt course since my last visit. Somehow, I still managed to visit the same location I always did.

I ordered the Tommy Turtle this time, I didn’t eat near half of it. Not after that steak y’all. But it was as wonderful as ever! I used to order the Beach Bum every year, I love me some cookie dough! I managed to get mine back to my room and get ready for my busy day ahead.

The work part of my second day pretty much lasted from 8am – 5pm. I checked out of my room at 7am, had them open the conference room for us all and then loaded the last of my things around 5pm. Now, if you’ve been following me for a while you know how I end EVERY work business/conference trip… I luggage cart surfed after everything was said and done! πŸ˜‰ No one was around to take my picture or record it, which might be for the best.

The moment I got into my Jeep I knew exactly where my next stop was, Holland State Park. It was another Swim Camp tradition that kind of changed a bit over the years. We used to take team pictures at the Holland State Park sign, somehow over the years they now take them in front of Big Red, the lighthouse. Either way, we all hit the park to hit the beach. It’s filled with a LOT of memories.

I was on the phone with my Mom when I was en route to the park catching up on my day. When I told her where I was headed next she went “Wait! Isn’t that where that pier is where you got in so much trouble that you almost got sent home from camp?!” …maybe.

THE Pier. Yes, I did return to the scene of my crime. No, I’m not sharing that story publicly. Just in case any future Lady Bulldog Swimmers find it and get any bright ideas… BTW – I still don’t know who actually told on us. :/

I made a quick stop at the actual site of Swim Camp, Kamp Kiwanis. The gates were closed, but it was still good to stop by my ‘Holland Home’ once again.

My last stop of the night was another dinner recommendation, (Thanks Anna!!) Boatwerks. Boatwerks is the only restaurant that is on Lake Macatawa and has breathtaking views of the water. I had seen it when I was at Kollen Park the morning before before enjoying breakfast. I told you, I kept accidentally finding everything that was on my list. I accepted a seat in the sun, not bad after sitting in a conference room for two days; so the first thing I ordered was a frozen lemonade. It was really delightful! Like a frozen slushy! I got the original, but there are different flavors that you could add as well. I ended up ordering The Werks pizza for dinner and it was absolutely wonderful! It came out hot with a thin and crispy crust. The Werks had sausage, pepperoni, green peppers, black olives, pepperoncini, mushrooms, pomodoro, cheese blend and parmesan. Pizza is one of my food groups, and it was just what I was needing after my couple of days. My service and waitress, Delaney was absolutely wonderful! It was truly a perfect and relaxing way to end my trip.

I had an absolute blast my couple of days on the west coast of the state! I am so ready to go back and can’t wait to explore more when I have more time! Have a blessed week y’all!

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