All Who Wander…

Visiting Nowhere May Just Be The Best Thing Ever


Buddys Beach
Jordan Lake Beach in Lake Odessa, Michigan

Does anybody remember the classic American small town? Anybody?  I grew up in such a place–so small, the population numbered under a thousand and there was only one traffic light (and it was the flashing, blinky-red kind) as you drove through.

This weekend, my son picked Exit 59 off Highway 96 heading eastbound, toward Lansing, Michigan, as his road trip du jour. We’d taken this route a few times before, but never got past a quick, farm-glutted glance at Clarksville and a Where-The-Hell-Are-We-Now? tour of Saranac, Michigan.*

This time would be different!

“Okay honey. We’re at Exit 59. Which way now?” I call from the front seat.

My child, who has been grinning the entire way, begins barking commands:




Eventually we ended up at a most-delightful destination: Lake Jordan in Odessa, Michigan.

Odessa MICH

We dined at the under-construction, but-still-popular Buddy’s on the Beach. Even with half the building covered with rough-edged plywood, the place was hopping. I only saw two servers working the floor and they never stopped moving.

Buddys 1
Buddy’s on the Beach – Getting a Facelift!

Tequila–I’m not making this up–was our waitress and, even though the meal took a while to arrive, due to the popularity of the joint, she stopped frequently to check to make sure we were okay. She recognized Little Man’s quirky behavior right away and gently made sure he was doing okay, even though she had to be off-her-feet, worn-out catering to so many.

The food definitely falls into the standard diner fare–burger, fries, pizza–category. Hearty and hot and big enough for leftovers to go home. I would say, the pizza definitely looks like the star of the establishment. They were flinging pies and burgers left and right. I had ordered a wet burrito and it was huge. I had to double-check to make sure I hadn’t inadvertently ordered the ‘Grande’ size which claimed to be a pound and a half.

“Nope, ” says Tequila, “If no one asks, we always serve the smaller size. The Grande is huge.”

She holds her hands out like she’s carrying a football…or a ten-pound baby.

Baby Burrito - Not Actual Baby Size
Baby Burrito – Not Actual Size of a Baby.

Little Man, of course, went with his favorite: Bacon and Pepperoni Pizza.

Pizza - Bacon and Pepperoni
I had to get a picture quick before it was all eaten!

The food was good, solid fare. I suspect ordering a burrito at a place that specializes in hamburgers and pizza was probably an oversight on my part. But it was good-n-plenty enough. The French fries that floated past me looked to die for.

The place is family friendly, even with a smallish bar on site.

Just turn left at the side entrance, you can’t miss it.

I suspect the beer-on-tap is intended for the thirsty ten-pin aficionados in the adjoining bowling alley.


Well not THESE aficionados…unless it’s rootbeer on tap.

If you travel with a special needs child, this might be a chancy place. It was a little dark, and crammed with families and the neighboring bowling alley added a certain level of excitement. That said, the wait staff was superlative. The management even schlepped orders when necessary.

The outside park with a clean, if unsupervised, swimming area, was inviting and the small-town atmosphere couldn’t be matched by any five-star establishment, no matter how nice the décor.

You could tell Buddy’s has higher aspirations by the in-laid flooring and outer-space, motion-sensor sink and hand dryer in the women’s restroom:

Flooring not pictured because guests were using the facilities, but trust me, Buddy’s is going places. Although…for the men…the trip requires a detour:

Port-a-John Option

We dined and dashed, but I was able to see that a special event was taking place in the bowling area. Tables had been set up and crafts like crocheted blankets and other miscellany were on display. A quick inquiry turned up that it was a local fundraiser for the “Richards Family.” I was assured it was referenced on Facebook, but a later search turned up unsuccessful.

I kick myself now for not being more diligent. This is the kind of effort that deserves recognition. It is representative of the kindness of small towns that doesn’t tend to hit the big-time news.

Calling Buddy’s the next day didn’t clear things up. The manager I spoke with hadn’t been there Saturday. He thought it might be a softball fundraiser for the local Lakewood Girls’ Fastpitch Softball team and recommended I check out the school’s website. I uncovered zilch! Another no-go for my investigative reporting.

I can recommend the Annual Lakewood Area Lion’s Club Chicken Bar-B-Q, however. It smelled fantastic as they were setting up. And if my kid would have hung around for its start time four hours later, I’d be reporting the quality as well. A picture will have to suffice:

Lake Odessa BBQ
They take their rotisserie chicken Bar-B-Q seriously in these parts!

Sadly, the event happens only once a year. So, set your calendars for a nice weekend in May 2018 and check back. I certainly plan to.

From the winding, lonesome roads of Michigan. Peace out!

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Not to diss Saranac but even the people who are born there probably wonder how the hell that happened! According to Wikipedia, the claim to fame of the 1.15 square mile village is the ‘world-renowned’ geologist J. Harlen Bretz.

24 thoughts on “All Who Wander…

  1. I live in a small town, though we have a 3? 4? stop lights because two US highways go through it. Our town has 4000 people. The other small towns around have claims to fame — an astronaut, Kent Rominger, came from Del Norte, the next small town to the west, and Jack Dempsey came from Manassa, a small town to the southwest. As far as I know, Monte Vista’s claim to fame is Bear. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. 4000 people practically makes you a metropolis! But I don’t know that you can lay claim to being the origin to the entire ursine population. Or is “Bear” a typo for “Beer?”
      I am impressed with your neighboring star capacity, though. Jack Dempsey, huhn? And an astronaut. There is probably a bar joke somewhere in there…

      A boxer, an astronaut, and a bear walk into a bar in Manassa…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Good lord, I accidentally replied to your comment with one intended for someone else. Took me forever to realize I couldn’t get rid of it from my phone.

      Perhaps you can come up with a punchline to the joke I was trying to write? (This will teach you to be nice and take time to comment on my blog!)

      A boxer, an astronaut, and a bear walk into a bar in Manassa….


  2. I live in a small town, too, that’s just big enough to dilute the inbreeding. You’re right about the neighborly kindness you find here. I love your method of taking road trips. It is chancy, but what wonderful surprises you’ve had!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Definition : A dine and dash is a form of theft by fraud, in which a patron orders and consumes food and beverages from a restaurant or similar establishment with the intent not to pay….lol. Is this a blog post or a written confession 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In my world, it is defined by trying to eat enough MY food before my son is finished eating HIS and wants to leave. But I liked the misuse of the vocabulary enough to risk stealing it for my purposes.

      By the way, the very best ‘dine and dash’ scene I’ve ever watched was on That Seventies Show! If you haven’t seen it–now THAT’s a crime!😉

      Liked by 1 person

  4. The event that happened in the bowling alley area on that day was for the Richards family… Their daughters play fastpitch softball. Their father has stage 4 cancer and it was a fundraiser to help the family with costs that are accruing.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The fundraiser was for one of the 36 year old Fast Pitch Softball teams coaches battling cancer. Thank you for visiting Lake Odessa!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for that information. I am editing my piece to include what information I can find so anyone interested might support the family.


    1. Somehow, that sounds like the title of my life…or the start of a weirdly appropriate eulogy for someone who gets as lost as I used to do before I got a car with built-in mapping. I’ll check it out though. When the sun stops frying us like ants on a hot plate.

      Liked by 1 person

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