Happy July 4th, 2014!

The mighty Mackinac Bridge.

The mighty Mackinac Bridge. Click to embiggen.

I haven’t posted anything in awhile so I thought I’d at least throw up a small entry hoping everyone has a safe and enjoyable July 4th celebration. That’s for my fellow Americans, obviously. You folks in other lands probably don’t join in on this most gratuitous excuse to light off tons of sky explosives. Or maybe you do. I’m always up for a good excuse to set off explosives.

I’m on vacation and Anne and I just got back from a couple of days up at Mackinac Island. I’d not been there since my early teens and she, despite being a life-long Michigander, had never been so we decided to head up and stay at a very expensive hotel on the island proper: The Stonecliffe. We got a package deal that included round trip ferry tickets, one round trip horse-drawn shuttle to and from the hotel, complimentary breakfasts, and the room itself which had a very nice view of the Mackinac Bridge from our third floor window. We were supposed to take a boat tour of local lighthouses when we got to Mackinaw City, but it was canceled due to high winds. Which, considering how green around the gills Anne was looking after the very bumpy ferry ride over, is probably for the best. It was akin to riding a good log flume and Anne had forgotten her Dramamine.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

Just a few of the zillion or so bikes moving through downtown at any given time. Click to embiggen.

The island is interesting in part because there are no automobiles allowed other than a handful for emergency services (fire, ambulance, etc.). If you want to get around the island you either walk, employ a horse of some fashion, or ride a bicycle. Anne and I are still working on getting into the habit of walking and our hotel was a couple of miles further into the island from the downtown area near the shore so we took the hotel shuttle back and forth rather than trying to walk it as we didn’t want to be unable to walk once we got there. I’d guess the stretch of shops and attractions is at least a mile or so long and we walked up and down it a couple of times over the day and a half we were there so we definitely got our exercise in.

It was fascinating seeing all the horse drawn carriages and flatbed service vehicles. The island’s UPS person had his own wagon that he pulled around with the items he had to deliver, but he was still dressed in his traditional brown uniform. It definitely gives you a good idea of a time period before cars became ubiquitous and how much slower life was as a result. The trip to and from the hotel into town was 25 to 35 minutes depending on how many folks the horses had to haul. It was much quicker if you used a bicycle.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud's Market.

Random tourists and more bikes outside of Doud’s Market. Click to embiggen!

Speaking of which, this island would be paradise for bike enthusiasts like George Wiman. The number of people on bicycles is just amazing once you get into mid-morning and beyond. The amount of horeshit all over the place is pretty amazing too, though the teams of people who clean it up do a surprisingly good job at it. Still, if we ever have to go back to a car-less society, I vote we stick to bicycles and not horses. You can bring your own bike to the island (we saw a number of folks in far better shape than we doing  just that) or you can rent them from any of a dozen vendors at fairly reasonable prices. The island is quite hilly so you’ll want something with at least three gears to make going up those hills a bit easier. They had every kind of bike you can imagine for rent including tandems and those third-wheel extensions that allowed a child to sit behind an adult and contribute to the effort. We didn’t rent bikes this time out, but we’re planning on going back and doing so next time.

So that’s a small update on what I’ve been doing over the past few days. Needless to say, my legs are very sore from all the walking. Not to mention being on the third floor of the mansion/hotel we stayed in that doesn’t have an elevator. We had a good time and if you’ve never been to Mackinac Island then I would highly recommend it. One thing I was fascinated with is the idea of living there year-round which there’s about 500 people who do just that. They had a DVD on sale about living there during the winter which made it seem very idyllic, but the handful of folks we talked to said it could be pretty rough. There’s a period of time where there’s too much ice for the ferries to make the trip, but the ice bridge hasn’t quite formed yet so unless you fly out (there’s a small airport on the island) you’re pretty isolated. Oh, but what a place to be stranded! The homes are amazing and the view is wonderful.

Here’s a few more photos to close this entry out: