A Small Town Christmas

At Christmas, all roads lead home.”
~ Marjorie Holmes, American writer.

The Christmas season is usually the time most full time RVers really notice that they are away from the area that they had been rooted in most of their lives. This first year as full timers, even though we sold our ‘sticks and bricks’ house, we are fortunate to still be in the same general region we had been planted in during our careers. Not that we wouldn’t mind seeing decorated palm trees in Florida…

Just north of Grand Rapids is the small town of Rockford, Michigan. We drove up there this week to wrap ourselves in a little holiday spirit. Rockford is a city that is being enveloped into the outer reaches of the Grand Rapids metropolitan area, yet its’ downtown retains the small town charm of years long past. Coming into town, a banner over the road proclaims “Welcome Home For The Holidays”, and Rockford really lives up to that statement.

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The town was originally named Laphamville in the 1840’s after Smith Lapham, who helped construct the first sawmill dam on the Rogue River at that spot. When the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad came through in the 1850’s, they proposed a shorter name. A former resident of Rockford, Illinois spoke up and proposed they name the town after his former home, citing the ‘rocky ford’ below the dam. And just like that, Rockford, Michigan came to be.

Rockford is known as being the headquarters for Wolverine Worldwide, better known for its’ primary brand, Hush Puppies. While the manufacturing facilities have left town, the corporate offices are still here.

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One of the local favorite hangouts is the Corner Bar. This little gem was built in 1873. When Prohibition was repealed, a requirement to obtaining a liquor license was that the establishment serve food. First item on the menu was a chili dog. Over time, folks would see how many dogs they could eat in one sitting, and the Hot Dog Hall of Fame was established. A four hour time limit was set, and the rest is history. In 1982, Sharon Scholten downed 42-1/2 dogs in the time allotted. That record stood until 2005 when Belinda Gould made three attempts on three consecutive Fridays, the last being a success. It hurts just thinking about it…

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The streets are lined with unique shops. One place we had never visited was Old World Olive Company. We knew that one of our fellow RV-Dreamers had owned a similar shop in California, so we stopped in to check it out.

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While the olive oils were good, it was the balsamic vinegars that knocked our socks off. We purchased a Vermont Maple vinegar and a Mandarin Orange vinegar. That was a nice little gift to ourselves to use in our RV.

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One of the other stores in town had a rack full of red flannel underwear. The next town north of Rockford is Cedar Springs, better known for its history of making these crimson garments. The Red Flannel Festival is held there every year. They really do paint the town red!

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As mentioned earlier, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad once ran through Rockford. At its height, the railroad ran from Cincinnati, Ohio to Mackinaw City, Michigan. While most of that railroad ceased to exist, a good portion of the rail bed has been turned into various bike trails. The longest of these, the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail Linear State Park, runs 90 miles from Grand Rapids north to Cadillac, Michigan. It runs directly through the heart of Rockford. Many of the folks who live in Rockford and work in Grand Rapids use the trail in the summer to commute to and from their jobs. Most of the trail is asphalt, with some of the northern sections being crushed gravel.

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For dinner, instead of hot dogs, we opted for Grill One Eleven. This has been a favorite of ours for a few years now. Diana opted for the walleye. She has had their Reuben in the past, which she loves.

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I chose the gluten-free version of the Rogue River Rockafeller, which was basically a steak with scalloped potatoes and vegetables. But, as you can see, that description did not do it justice. It was outstanding.

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By the time we left the restaurant, the sun had set. On our way back to our vehicle, we were treated to a dazzling display of Christmas lights in the trees. It was a nice ending to an enjoyable afternoon, and a good break from caregiving for Diana.

So, wherever this season may find you…be it in familiar surroundings or in faraway places, remember that ‘home’ is in your heart. Diana and I have this plaque next to our door that sums it up for us:

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Happy Holidays to all, if we don’t post before then!

14 thoughts on “A Small Town Christmas”

  1. I couldn’t agree more – home is where my honey is! Rockford really looks like a charming little town! I love exploring these smaller towns, I find they have much more charm than the big cities. Happy Holidays!

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    1. Another local gem you would like, Inger, is Holland. They take the steam byproduct from their local power plant and heat the street and sidewalks in the downtown shopping district. It really makes shopping pleasurable in the winter! We will blog about that in the future.

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  2. Diana & Jim
    Rockford looks like a place that Bonnie and I would like to visit, so we will put it on our list of places to travel to.
    We had great news. Sold the house (Closing Jan. 16th). Bonnie retires Jan 9th. We are buying a 2006 Tiffin Phaeton Class A DP motorhome and will be “Full-Timers” on Feb 2nd. We are heading south.
    Enjoy your Holidays… Stay safe.. And we will look for you both later “Down the Road”
    Best to you both
    Bonnie & Fred Lee

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  3. What a fun day out. Rockford looks like a great little walking town. I agree, those balsamic vinegars are amazing aren’t they? I sure miss having all I wanted all the time. You can put that Vermont Maple on ice cream, oatmeal, yogurt or a drizzle on a yam or sweet potato with butter. Yumm. Your sign is adorable and I agree.

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  4. So let me get this straight — how long are you planning on staying near G.R. this winter. And how do you handle fresh water? Most RV facilities I know that far north want to turn off their water systems like the early part of October….

    We spent last winter in Florence Oregon — but being a mile off the coast we only had a couple nights below freezing in the coldest winter there in almost 30 years.

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    1. Hi, Peter!

      If you get a chance, take a look back at our October post “Preparing For Old Man Winter”. We are firmly planted here for this winter, as Diana needs to be near her mom…who is in frail health. Our campground installed a great heated water supply this winter, and we have a heated hose running from the spigot to our rig. Our setup sure isn’t the prettiest thing, but it has worked well so far.

      We love following your blog! Hope your holidays are wonderful!

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      1. I’ll take a look through the “Way Back Machine” and check out the post. I give you credit I don’t mind RV’ing in temps to the 40’s but beyond that point I’m not all that keen. Have done…. but not entirely by choice. I’ll have to pay attention to your comments about the winter — curious to see how the heated water supply works out. We have done heated water lines from the standpipe to the coach but thats’ a whole different story when you’re in an area that gets that much below zero weather.

        Best wishes for the holiday season.

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