My husband, Danny, and I wrapped up a wild summer filled with travel by heading to Michigan for a wedding. Knowing this would entail a variety of transportation, our children opted out. They couldn’t take the vacation time. After an uneventful flight (Yeah!) from Denver to Detroit, we rented a car and drove up north to the top of the state.
Growing up in the sister state of Wisconsin, “up north,” was synonymous with vacation and cottages on lakes. Now that I think about it since Madison is located in the southernmost part, almost everywhere in the state is north.
After a four-and-a-half hour drive, we arrived in Mackinaw City. We paid a toll then drove over the longest bridge in the western hemisphere, 8,614 feet long, to St. Ignace. The Mackinac Bridge links the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan.
I learned something! Apparently, because Lake Michigan is on the west coast and Lake Huron on the east with the Straits of Mackinac between them, the entire state is a peninsula. The peninsula has a peninsula. I traveled there to ski Indianhead Mountain back in college. We fondly call the U.P. (upper peninsula) inhabitants, Upers which is pronounced – youpers.
Obligatory lighthouse photo.
The next day, we checked our luggage at the dock. We left our rental car parked in the lot and took a ferry from St. Ignace to Mackinac Island. I witnessed my first peek at Lake Huron. We weren’t all the way north yet.
We sat topside to take in the view.
Mackinac is no ordinary island. They only allow bicycles and horse-pulled carriages for transportation. Since I love horses, the smell of horse apples (manure) didn’t offend me like it did some of my compadres. It competed with the fragrant smell of fudge. Oh yeah. Of the 120 shops, almost half sell the chocolate confection.
And the competing smell…
We soon discovered that carriages in movies are very unrealistic. Have you ever noticed how the horses pulling them are galloping in most scenes? Yeah, well, on Mackinac Island, they rarely trot. The horses would pass walkers along the roadside, then the carriage driver would let them rest. The pedestrians would walk by and wave.
We hoofed it in the rain. Doesn’t that carriage look super slow?
We stayed at The Inn at Stonecliffe located about two miles from town and rode by carriage at night. High heels and horse manure don’t mix. There was a poop patrol who had the futile job of shoveling, but futile is the key word.
The carriage drivers were characters. While riding back late at night after the rehearsal dinner, one told us although the islanders lock their doors in the summer to keep inebriated tourists from wandering into the wrong house, it is a relatively quiet island. No one bothers to lock them in the winter. I mentioned that would save time when borrowing sugar. You could just walk in and help yourself.
Then he remembered something. “The first gun law in the country originated on Mackinaw Island. Roe v. Wade,” he said. It was all we could do to keep from laughing. He got all riled up and said Roe v. Wade about five more times while giving us the particulars of the case.
I asked him about Mackinac versus Mackinaw. I wondered which was right. He said, “The original word Mackinaw is the Native American word for turtle.”
Danny pointed out since he was such a “reliable” source of information, I better check my facts.
Pond shot a man for prying the roof off his net house.
There was a “Make my day,” case which happened in 1859 when a landowner’s outbuilding was damaged by an angry mob. He shot and killed one of the men. The case was dismissed since he was protecting his property. People v. Pond. Yep. Just like Roe v. Wade.
Michilimackinac was the original Native American word meaning The Great Turtle. Mackinaw means woolen coat and came later. Whether it is spelled Mackinac or Mackinaw, it is always pronounced Mackinaw.
We bicycled seven miles around the island and I realized why the horses needed to rest. There were some steep climbs and cruiser bikes were without granny gears. I wanted to stop and catch my breath, but there was no rest for the weary.
Dodging the piles…
After the wedding, Danny and I took the ferry then drove to Traverse City. We were back in the land of cars.
We explored the Warren Dunes State Park.
We found a lovely little town and the Cherry Republic which sold cherry “pop” (soda), cherry wine, cherry salsa, and of course chocolate covered cherries.
A cherry pit spitting arena with rules.
And the rules…
When buying (what else?), cherry pie, the man behind the counter asked, “Have you been up north yet?” He was referring to a twenty-mile loop, you guessed it, just north from there.
We laughed so hard. Danny had to buy a t-shirt.
We were up north the whole time! I guess it’s all relative.
Where would you like to travel next summer?