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:

We’re home from Iowa no worse for wear.

This is just a quick note to let folks know we survived the trip. Expect an update that goes into details of the trip including some pics later once I get a moment to catch my breath. Work is busy today because we had a power outage on Monday that took a good chunk of the workstations down so most of my morning has been occupied dealing with the fallout from that.

For the moment I’ll just say that 8 hour drives are made much easier when you have a good GPS navigation system easing any worries about getting lost. The Garmin Nuvi 360 performed flawlessly and managed to find decent detours whenever we ran into road construction related backups. Our hosts drove us around all weekend so it didn’t get much use in Iowa itself, but it got us there and home again without incident.

Alas the trip wasn’t without some minor tragedy as, after getting through the whole weekend just fine, I managed to drop my newly repaired Canon Powershot A80 in the parking lot of our apartment complex re-denting the casing on the bottom corner and causing a decorative plastic ring around the lense to pop off. The camera still works fine, but I’m mighty unhappy with myself. I’ll also need to find some plastics appropriate glue to put the ring back on. It’s purely cosmetic, but I’d still like the camera to look halfway decent when I point it at people.

That’s it for now. Haven’t had a chance to see how well the pictures turned out, but will check that this afternoon when I get home.

Look out Iowa. This bastard is headed your way.

Momentarily Anne and I will be setting out on a road trip to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for a long holiday weekend visit with her best friend from college. I’ve been married to Anne for 8 years and we’ve been a couple for a decade now and I’ve yet to meet her BF because, well, she and her husband are in Iowa. Anne decided it was time we corrected that and started planning this trip awhile back. This trip is what got me my new Garmin Nuvi 360 GPS so I can’t complain. I’ll be taking both my newly refurbished Canon digital camera as well as the RCA Small Wonder camcorder to see if there’s anything interesting to document on the highways and byways as we make the eight hour drive. I’ll have my laptop with me so I should be able to check in on email and the blog over the weekend assuming there’s a wireless hotspot within range of where I am.

It’s been awhile since I’ve driven a long distance like this, last time was in my late twenties, so it should be interesting to see how well I hold up.