Wednesday, July 24, 2013
Before we were ready to wake up, the ranger was “knocking” at our door demanding payment for our night’s stay. We had arrived after hours, and thankfully had picked a site that nobody had reserved for the next two nights. (UHG! can you imagine if we had to pick up and move?? More on that later.) Since The Hunni was now here, I just rolled over and burrowed down in my sleeping bag. I no longer had to take care of everything, and I loved it. Since he was out anyway, he decided to find a store that sold bacon, and found out that the local mom-and-pop store also sold homemade doughnuts!!!! (More about the doughnuts later.)
I finally decided that I had better get up and start breakfast–pancakes again.
And then we were off and crossing the Mighty Mac for the third time this trip. We could have caught a ferry from the Mitten side, but we just weren’t thinking.
I had packed the bikes, but I knew some of them needed work, so we just threw in a toolbox. Last year, my bike got stolen. Not everyone on our block has bikes, so they are in demand, and our general house rule is that neighbors and friends of neighbors are allowed to ride any of our bikes up and down the block, but not around the block or to the corner store. A high school boy who had played basketball at our place several times (we are on of the few houses with a hoop) asked to borrow my bike. I said, “Sure”, but reminded him that he was not allowed to go to the store with it (a common question.). He said he knew and then asked again. I again, said, “yes”. Then he got on my bike and rode to the end of the block while I watched him. Then he kept going, and going, and going. I thought that perhaps he would just go to the store and return, but “nope!”. He had just stolen my bike while I watched. We tried different ways to get it back–like grandma’s house, and such–but it was probably quickly sold. (There is a whole lot more to this story, but that is enough for now.) So when our neighbor Snake Man had put some bike out beside the road for the Dumpster Divers, we snagged one. It looks awful and wobbles a bit as the rim is bent, but it does propel me forward, so for the present that is my bike.
The Daddi patched some holes and tightened chains and mended some spokes. We had missed the ferry and had 45 minutes until the next one, so we decided to grab some lunch.
The Driftwood Bar, Restaurant, and Motel was right next to the ferry launch, so we walked up and asked for seating on the porch. The Driftwood caters to the winter crowd as much as the summer crowd with ice rinks right on the lake and several winter sport challenges or snowmobile drive ins.
I was very surprised to see a “Po’Boy” on the menu. A “Po’Boy” is a New Orleans sandwich, and since my mom was born and raised and New Orleans, we have had some mean Po’Boys down in the French Quarters. The best Po’Boy is a fried oyster Po’Boy, but all the others are just as good. Please do not confuse a Po’Boy with a Sub sandwich, they are quite different. (But more on that later.)
I had not had one in years, and loved this one. It was a Michigan version, but delicious.
Baseball Boy loves BLT’s–without the tomato of course and with cheddar cheese.
Little Man and The Daddi split the local Friend Whitefish platter. As you can see, there was plenty.
And Eloise had a pulled pork sandwich. Everything was good. The only problem is that The Daddi was convinced that we were going to miss the boat–even though we had a view of the lake and the coming ferries. So we ate using big bites and quick swallows.
We made the ferry, and enjoyed the trip over. Mackinaw Island is famous for three things:
- No motorized vehicles–only bikes and horses
- The Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel seems lovely in every aspect, and some day when our budget has a little more “budge room” in it, I would like to stay there.
As you turn into the harbor to dock, a lighthouse greets you. Michigan has over 150 lighthouses (number varies from 124 – 247) Round Island Lighthouse is now part of the Hiawatha National Forest and protected.
Mackinaw Island is completely unique. As you set off the ferry you enter a slower pace of life, but with all the modern conveniences. There is probably not a cleaner town in America despite the fact that horses poop on the streets. (Swept up by a street sweeper who is also in a horse drawn wagon.)
Here we are pulling into the dock. A little advice about bikes. We brought our own and we made a mistake. Here is why. Bikes cost about $6 an hour to rent. Bringing bikes across on the ferry will cost you $8 per bike. Pulling the trailer with the bikes in the back doubled our gas bill the entire trip. If you are just planning on visiting Mackinaw Island for one day, it would be cheaper to just rent some bikes for a couple of hours.
Main Street is a bike madhouse, so we quickly took a side street to get out of town.
Now everyone bikes on Mackinaw–including chefs.
Mackinaw Island is a cute little destination, but it is also a completely contained functioning city. Some residents live there year round. I find this micro-environment fascinating.
For Kindergarten, my daughter loved an Usborne book called “Things People Do.” It is set on the imaginary island of Banilla and showcases all the jobs and businesses of a town. (A social studies lesson.) I loved the names as the doctor was called Penny Sillin, the builder was called Manuel Labor, the ballerina was called Honor Toze, etc. . . Perhaps Mackinac Island is as close as life can get to the imaginary island of Banilla.
Let’s take a tour.
The local Post Office. Everything that comes to the island either comes in by boat or by plane. Everything is then delivered by horse, by hand cart, or by bike. That means in the winter, mail gets delivered by horse. Here is a link about the winter horses on the island.
The Fire Department. Now there are a few exceptions to the “No Vehicles Rule” on Mackinac Island. There is one fire truck, one ambulance, and I did see one concrete mixer and backhoe. But the local fireman take bikes to and from work.
The Police Department. Now I don’t know how the ticketing process works with bikes. Can you get a “parking ticket?” Can you get a speeding ticket? I wonder. I did find the rule that states that the island speed limit is 20 m.p.h. With 3,000 local bikes, 65,000 bikes brought over by the ferries, and 1,330 more rental bikes, each summer day could easily host 1,000 bikers. The police department patrol on bikes in the summer. There are about 500 – 600 year round residents, and in the winter, the police department uses a motorized vehicle to help transport the elderly to church! and to medical appointments. Here is another link about the police cars on Mackinaw Island. A back up car is also housed in case of a breakdown in the original police vehicle (auto repairs stores aren’t exactly next door in the winter.)
This is City Hall. The City Council meets here. I couldn’t find a lawyer that serviced Mackinac Island, but I am sure they exist. Actually, further search took me to a place that specializes in DUI biking tickets. Click here.
The Medical Center. Circled you will see the ambulance of the Mackinac Island Medical Center. Dr. Jennifer Shockley is the resident doctor and with her family lives on the island year round. The Medical Center has an X-ray machine.
The UPS “van”. This horse drawn cart is the UPS truck.
In this photo you can see the local UPS man making his deliveries. In the summer the UPS man delivers about 350 – 400 packages daily!!! Here is a link.
We took the 8 mile ride around the perimeter of the island. It is much easier on the nerves of this Mommi biking with kids when there isn’t the threat of being hit by a car.
Along the route, we came to the Mackinac Island School. Kids walk or bike to school. There is a school bus, BUT it is kept across the Strait of Mackinac in the city of St. Ignace and used for field trips or team travel to sporting events. The school houses between 80 – 120 students in K – 12 grades. About 20 students are high school age. In 2012 they had a ceremony in the gymnasium for the four high school graduates. Snowmobiles are allowed in the winter, so kids get a lift on snowmobiles to school. I wonder if they are hiring? This place is sounding better all the time!
We stopped for a water break in a shady picnic area. Now no micro-environment would be complete without a nature area, and Mackinac Island has just that–a state park.
There are over 70 miles of hiking trails/biking/equestrian trails throughout the island. And along most of these trails is poison ivy, so wear long socks and don’t squat and pee.
Since the island is hilly, there are look-outs and other natural features like the Arch Rocks. Here is a printable map of the island and it’s trails.
During the summer season, there are over 500 horses on the island. Our neighbor Mrs. Thelma’s son is one of the horse vets on the island. Horses, along with many other goods land here. During the winter, only about 12 horses reside because snowmobiles are allowed during the winter and much is transported on them. Residents must rely on air and water transport for all goods except when the ice bridge forms. The Ice Bridge forms when the Strait of Mackinac freezes over and snowmobiles can freely go back and forth to the mainland–a 4 miles ride. Residents use their left over Christmas trees to mark the trail. Plywood covers the weak spots, and you are advised to wear a life jacket. The ice bridge usually forms in February and can last from 4 days to 2 months. If you aren’t a dare devil, you can always take the airline that costs about $25 each way.
Here is a trailer to the movie Ice Bridge. I haven’t seen the movie, but plan on checking our library for it.
The views along the 8 mile perimeter tour are almost Caribbean in color, but all you have to do to remember that you are Up North is step into the water.
We were about half way around the island when we came to this rocky beach filled with inuksuks. [in-ook-sook] An inuksuk is a rock sign post used by the Inuit people.
You probably remember them from the 2010 Canadian Olympics.
We decided to build our own. Baseball Boy and Little Man built several and then threw rocks at them and knocked them down.
This is our attempt. It might look large, but. . .
. . .this male and female inuksuk are about twice the size.
When we finished our 8 mile bike ride, we were ready for some ice cream and coffee.
I loved this painting in the ice cream shop. It is by Mary Bea, and here is her Facebook link. She has many other great paintings.
After eight miles, we all splurged and got waffle cones piled high.
While eating our ice cream cones, the garbage man came by. Even the garbage is carried out by horse and wagon. Now on this little island that has everything, Mackinac doesn’t have a land fill. Their landfill closed in 1992. The garbage is all carried out. BUT the island does have an aggressive recycling program and despite all the tourism produces about half of the garbage other cities of the same size produce.
All compostable material stays on the island. It goes to the Solid Waste Handling Facility found in the center of the island where it is mixed with manure and straw (found in abundance on this island), composted, then sold as top soil. Islanders are encouraged to sort their trash correctly by being charged only $1.50 per compostible waste. Other garbage costs $3.00 per bag.
Recyclables are processed for free as they are sorted on the island and then sold on the secondary market.
(Bottles being collected to recycle.)
Now they were able to implement this program without raising the taxes! Sounds like a working program to me.
Every community needs a real estate office and a bank. Here they are side-by-side. Real estate is always at a premium on an island, and prices range from about 350,000 for a three bedroom house to 3.5 million. Here is a link.
And that brings us back to Main Street. There are museums on this island, both a Boy Scout and a Girl Scout Camp, several churches, many restaurants and bars, shops of all kinds, America’s oldest grocery store, and of course. . .
. . .a Starbucks.
We ended our visit with fudge (more on that later) and a kite purchase (more on that later), then decided to take the ferry back across the water.
The 6:30 and 7:00 ferry rides include an additional tour of the Mighty Mac bridge free of charge.
We had been on the Mighty Mac three times now, but this time we got to look up from under the bridge. All I have to say is, “It would be a long way to fall if your car got blown off.”
Tired from a week of fun we headed back to our camp site.
A quick stop at the grocery store, and we had food for supper, two breakfasts, and one lunch.
Back at the campsite, the light had turned golden.
The kids played on the sandy beach while we got supper.
It was hamburgers over the fire, followed by smores.
What a beautiful spot to be.
And with my favorite people in the world.
One more day of camping before we head home. Thanks for coming with us.
P.S. If you want to learn more about life on Mackinac Island, here is a blog about life on Mackinac Island. It is well written and interesting.
P.P.S. If you are just now joining us, you can follow our entire trip via these links.