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Great Lakes Road Trip: Part 2 - Michigan’s Mackinac Island

Goodbye job stress, family stress, world stress! From Wisconsin’s Door County we ambled across Michigan’s remote Upper Peninsula on a two lane road glimpsing seagulls hovering over the vast bays of Lake Michigan. Destination: little Mackinac Island at the top of Michigan’s "mitten". X hours later: Hello, travel stress! Wrong parking lot! RUN! RUN! along the waterfront to catch the Mackinac Island Ferry, almost ready to depart. Our disheveled, panting carcasses warranted stares from the more disciplined travelers but clamber aboard we did. Look out Lake Huron, the second-largest Great Lake! Before us stood the five mile long Mackinac Bridge that connects Michigan’s Upper Peninsula with its "mitten" mainland through the straits of Mackinac. Majestic in design, it sports three tiers of cross panels on its main vertical supports, rectangular cutouts making an attractive pattern. For a moment I am a child again, relegated to the back seat of our blue station wagon, my Dad at the wheel, solid as a rock, guiding us from Grandma’s tiny apartment in Rutherford out to Long Island, across New York’s mighty bridges and eerie tunnels. My spirits always soared as I’d see the Manhattan skyline come into view directly ahead of us as we’d descend from atop the New Jersey shoreline, down the curving spiral of highway to the entrance of the Lincoln Tunnel. Funny how a trip to somewhere you’ve never been can take you back to a place, a person you once were: Somewhere in Time, indeed. From the shimmering waters of Lake Huron, the Grand Hotel with it’s 880 foot long porch and massive white columns commands the shoreline like a fortress, secure in its greatness and history. Built in 1887, five presidents have stayed there (that’s Truman, Kennedy, Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Clinton), and a movie, Christopher Reeve’s "Somewhere in Time", was filmed onsite, as noted on numerous plaques around the island. Cars are not allowed on Mackinac Island. Even deliveries are transported on horse-drawn carts. Disembarking, we were ready to leave the cars AND the boats behind, renting bicycles at the dock. Exhale - now the joy of freedom set in. The first thing to hit us as we wandered up the bustling street, filled with colorful awnings, old fashioned lampposts, and tourists in horse-drawn carriages, was the buttery scent of fresh fudge. A Mackinac legend says they propel the scent onto the street by fan to lure in unsuspecting victims. Knowing this full well, I succumbed nonetheless: pulled like a zombie into Murdick’s, "The Original on Mackinac Island since 1887", unable or unwilling to fight back. A gentleman donning white cap and apron, spread the melty fudge out on a stone table, shaping it with a trowel the size of a yardstick. The smell reminded me of my grandma’s revered chocolate fudge frosting, which she cooked over her stove, buttery and rich, then let harden to perfection on her homemade white cake. Good thing we rented bikes - surely I can petal off at least one swallow of this chocolate heaven. Son and Daughter were raring to go - so off we pedaled, past the handsome white and gray St. Anne’s Catholic Church (1874) and Mission Church (1829) topped with cross and weather vane, respectively. Each charming neighborhood house seemed to hold a tale from the past sure to fascinate at a winter fireside gathering. But we ventured on. My fondest memories of the island originate here. Sauntering along the narrow, lakeside bicycle path, the island seemed both peaceful and exciting, endless and intimate. Seeing Lake Huron, with its infinite horizon and ever darkening shades of aqua blue, a calm took hold of me. Life is beautiful, indeed. Climbing the endless stairways 154 feet up the hump that is Mackinac Island just about killed me, when we reached our woody destination- Arch Rock, a natural limestone archway that gracefully frames the sea. Best of all was the view - we could see the bends of the path from which we had come and the shimmering depths of Lake Huron beyond us. Back down on planet Earth, conflict ensued: Son wanted to circle the island by bicycle. Daughter wanted to horseback ride. Dad and Daughter saddled up at Jack’s Livery Stable for an adventure which took them right past the grandness of the Grand Hotel, viewing the lifestyles of the inner island, while Son and I took off to explore lower passages such as "Devil’s Kitchen" and happened upon plaques showing where Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve’s characters first met near the water beneath a tree in the film "Somewhere in Time". Had we arrived earlier we would have explored the historic Fort Mackinac, British Landing, or the photogenic Round Island Lighthouse. I’m ashamed to admit, so pressed for time were we after our easy meandering, we gobbled down corn dogs from a downtown vendor, then raced to return the bikes before sailing back to the mainland. Ever the shopper, I tempted fate by ducking into the nearest souvenir store ("I think I still have five minutes!") and snatched up the perfect item: patches for the kids’ collection: "I Biked around Mackinac Island" and "I Horsed around Mackinac Island". They didn’t have one for me which would have read "I exhaled around Mackinac Island".



This post first appeared on The Road Traveler, please read the originial post: here

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Great Lakes Road Trip: Part 2 - Michigan’s Mackinac Island

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