Matt has been writing some articles for Dig the Dunes! We thought you would like to learn a little more about him.
What brought you to the dunes? I grew up on a farm in a small town called Union Mills. It’s in southern LaPorte County. I’ve lived all over the Midwest—Milwaukee, Cincinnati, Bowling Green, Ohio, Indianapolis, Chicago—and moved back to the area to help my dad on the farm.
How long have you lived here? I’ve been back two years now.
What is your favorite thing to do in the area? In the summer, I like to roll down the windows of my car and drive Highway 12. Pass the faded industries in Gary and the old roadside stops still standing. There are a few miles where you’re cruising through the Dunes National Lakeshore on both sides of the road. It’s really something. Every mile or so, you can jump over to the shoreline and gaze out over the Lake Michigan water and the Chicago skyline. I’m amazed more people don’t travel on that road.
Tell us a secret about the dunes. There are natural cacti growing in the Dunes! How cool is that? That’s not a secret, but I still think it’s amazing. Also, Jimmy Hoffa is buried there, but don’t tell anybody.
Give us your top three “hidden treasures” (restaurant, shop, trail, beach, event…really anything!)
I love old cars and the LaPorte County Museum has an original Tucker in its collection. It was a revolutionary car in many ways and Preston Tucker was an interesting character. They only made 51 cars.
I like my beer and Burn ‘Em Brewing in Michigan City has some of the best anywhere. They have a lot of original live music happening and you can meet some interesting people there too. It’s always a good place to stop.
I’m a fan of Mucho Mas tacos. I highly recommend the single taco plate. Chorizo or steak, Mexi style, with black beans on the side. Add a drink and it’s 7 bucks and change. Can’t beat that and it’ll fill you up.
What would you like to teach people about the dunes? Nature is a precious resource and once it’s destroyed, it’s nearly impossible to build up enough financial and political will to restore it. If the State of Indiana had its way, every last acre of the Dunes would have been turned into industrial development years ago. I support economic development, but not at the expense of the most diverse ecology in North America. More people need to know what a treasure it is and learn the history of the people who fought to protect and maintain the Dunes over the last 100 years.
Anything else? I have an insatiable curiosity that has led me to publish four books based in our area—three works of nonfiction and one photo book. I love history and great story telling. There’s a lot of amazing history around us, you just have to look and then do some digging. On my website, I share some of my shorter stories and provide information about my books. People can visit me at www.matthewawerner.com