Saginaw USA, Why Not Exactly?

by Kevin Burton

   I think I’ve found America kids! This after considerable searching. You’ll never guess where.

   Listen to this:

   “The Saginaw Valley Rail Trail is one of Saginaw County’s gems, stretching 11 miles from St. Charles to Saginaw. It incorporates a number of natural features including: seven bridges over various rivers and creeks, The Shiawassee State Game Area and many wetland areas. The Rail Trail also offers an equestrian trail, trail shelters, restroom facilities at the Van Wormer parking lot, viewing platforms and benches.”

   This of course, is from the Saginaw County, Michigan website.

    My wife Jeannette and I have been talking about vacation destinations. Many that interest her, such as Mt. Rushmore, don’t interest me. Many that interest me, such as San Diego, don’t interest her.

    Our discussion has been a long and winding road all its own.  

   The other day in a grocery store, while looking for Sports Illustrated, my eyes fastened on Rand McNally Road Trips, Great American Getaways. I held the magazine up for Jeannette to see.

   “Yeah!” she said.

   The magazine promises “73 incredible journeys.” We’ve already done a version of Phoenix to Flagstaff from page 33. Haven’t finished checking out the magazine.

   The Frontiersman, the Wasilla, Alaska newspaper I used to write for, ran a story recently on how Alaska has the most “hidden gems,” mostly unknown tourist attractions, on  So we looked up the “gems” in Kansas and neighboring states.  Some of them seem kind of cool. Still looking at those too.

    At some length I’ve figured it out though. Vacations have nothing to do with destinations.  Nothing whatsoever.

   Surely you’ve heard the brilliant song “America” by Simon and Garfunkel. Some reviews from Wikipedia:

   “Stephen Holden, in reviewing Simon & Garfunkel’s Greatest Hits in 1972, wrote, “‘America’…was Simon’s next major step forward. It is three and a half minutes of sheer brilliance, whose unforced narrative, alternating precise detail with sweeping observation evokes the panorama of restless, paved America and simultaneously illuminates a drama of shared loneliness on a bus trip with cosmic implications.”

    “Thom Jurek of Allmusic described the song’s central question as an “ellipsis, a cipher, an unanswerable question”, a song in which “sophisticated harmonic invention is toppled by its message”.

   David Nichols, in 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, called the song “a splendid vignette of a road trip by young lovers; both intimate and epic in scale, it traces an inner journey from naive optimism to more mature understanding.”

    American Songwriter deemed the song “essentially a road-trip song, but like all road trips, it tends to reveal as much about the participants as it does about the lands being traversed.”

   In the song, the protagonist leaves Saginaw hitchhiking, then Greyhounding to “look for America.”

   Hearing the song this week made me think, what if America is in Saginaw?  It’s the first place I’d look, based on the song. That’s how my mind works.

   So here’s the deal. This could save you a lot of research through tourism websites:

   The key to a great road trip is knowing who and what you’ll be coming home to.  Get that part right and everything else will fall into place.

   I’d be just as happy attending a small college choir recital in the middle of nowhere as at the Eiffel Tower, as long as I am with Jeannette.

  This talks a lot of the pressure off, not having to find the perfect hot spot.  Note to all those who would pave paradise and put up a parking lot, we’ll find our paradises just the same, hand in hand.

   In America the narrator says “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why.” This has nothing to do with America, which is not so much a place as a state of mind. This has to do with a heart built by and created for God, that has turned its back on God.

   As for Saginaw, to echo James Taylor in his song Mexico “I never really been so I don’t really know.” But why not Saginaw?

  I plucked the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail from a bunch of other local points of interest.  I don’t see why that wouldn’t be a fine vacation spot.

   If we were young and carefree and living in the USA that used to exist, maybe we could hitchhike to Saginaw, do a reverse Paul Simon and see how that worked out.

   On the forever young tour, I’ll have the truckstop cheeseburger, hold the kale. But I’ll eat chicken and peas on any road we can travel together.

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