Wednesday, September 4, 2013


(written by J)

Our first stop on the Michigan portion of vacation (Sunday morning) was The Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, on the southwest side of the Detroit metro area.  On the way from our hotel to the museum, there was beautiful scenery including dilapidated vacant buildings missing windows yet covered in graffiti.  The area where the museum was though was nice - it was like Colonial Williamsburg right next to a Ford automobile factory.  There was an old timey village where you could explore what Detroit was in colonial times (I guess when it was strategic ground during the French and Indian War).  We chose to do just the museum because we were headed to Mackinaw City (5 hours north) that same day.  I entertained myself when buying the tickets by ordering tickets for 2 adults and 2 "utes" like the way Joe Pesci pronounced youths in the classic movie My Cousin Vinny. The museum itself was in an old picturesque building.  It had lots of old cars, fun neon signs, and an area were you could make paper airplanes (the kids loved that!)

After we finished at the museum, we made a pit stop for cherries and lunch in Ann Arbor.  We got cherry candies and cherry wine at the downtown Cherry Republic store.  Then based on the recommendation of the staff at Cherry Republic, we ate lunch at an Ann Arbor institution, Zingerman's Deli.  It was outstanding!  After that, we got back in the minivan and traveled the approximately 300 miles up US 23 and I-75 to Mackinaw City.  Mackinaw City is literally the last stop before you take the 5 mile Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It is also a tourist town from which ferries sail to nearby Mackinac Island.  Yes for those of you scoring at home, Mackinaw City is spelled differently than Mackinac Island or Mackinac Bridge.  Regardless, both spellings are pronounced Mackinaw.

We arrived at our hotel which resembled a log cabin around 7PM on Sunday night.  Were the kids hungry?  No, they saw the indoor pool and begged and begged until we said okay.  The good thing about northern Michigan in summer is that sunset isn't until 9PM so it doesn't feel as bad eating dinner at 8:30PM because it is still light out.  After a delicious meal at local pizza place, B.C. Pizza, we hurried to the Mackinaw Crossings outdoor mall to catch their laser light show at dusk.  We got to the stage area where people were already sitting around waiting for it to start.  This was about 9:15 PM.  We picked a spot and waited patiently and then impatiently.  Someone asked me if I knew when it was supposed to start but I had no idea.  All I knew is that the show was supposed to start at dusk.  Apparently, dusk in northern Michigan is 10:08 PM because that's when the show began.  It wasn't very impressive.  There were lasers set to music.  Most of the lasers seemed identical except for one where Santa was doing Gangnam Style set to the music of Gangnam Style.  That was a puzzler.  We left before the show concluded because we were bored and tired.  I hope we didn't miss a spectacular grand finale.  I'm pretty sure we didn't.

The next morning (Monday), we took a ferry over to Mackinac Island.  The boat ride over was about 20 minutes and for added entertainment, the boat went under the Mackinac Bridge, prior to heading over to the island.  I must note that the woman who we bought the tickets from had fabulous hair.  She was older but her hair was bright red, kind of curly, and incredibly high.  Once on Mackinac Island, we took a horse-drawn carriage ride around parts of the island.  The town of Mackinac Island is unique in that they don't allow cars on the streets - only pedestrians, bicycles, and horse-drawn carriages. 

It was a very enjoyable, entertaining, and eventful ride.  We rode down the main street and then headed up a hill towards the Grand Hotel, the quintessential landmark of Mackinac Island.  The hill to the right of the hotel was quite steep so our driver/tour guide let the horses rest at the side of the road.  During this downtime, the driver asked all of us on the carriage if anyone wanted to guess how long it took to build the Grand Hotel.  Someone said "6 weeks" and the driver said that was the closest guess he's heard in a while.  He asked for any other guesses and Z replied "6 weeks and 1 day" prompting laughter throughout the carriage and the driver said "What is this, The Price is Right?"  The correct answer was 3 months so Z won and can "Come on Down!"  After that, we continued up the hill and then stopped again to give the horses another break before they reached the top of the hill.  I don't remember what the driver was saying but I saw this young guy flying down the hill on a bicycle.  I also saw an older gentleman start to pedal his bike into the street.  Moments later, the young guy flying plowed right into the old guy.  It was kind of surreal.  Both riders went down in a heap and stayed down for a couple minutes.  Eventually, they both got up and rode it off so to speak.  It is certainly something I won't ever forget.  The rest of the ride was anticlimactic.  B and A had H take pictures of pretty much every horse they passed.  This is the best of those pictures.

After the carriage ride, we ate lunch, got fudge, got souvenirs, took some more scenic pictures such as this ...
and headed back to the mainland where we took more cool shots of the island like this.

Once we got back to Mackinaw City, we decided that it was time to venture across the lengthy Mackinac Bridge.  I really wanted to drive across it and we all wanted to put our feet on the ground on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  The bridge was under construction so there was only one open lane northbound and one open lane southbound.  The road itself was grooved as it appeared they were repaving it.  It was a little slick but not "we're going to plunge off the bridge" scary.  I drove a safe speed and successfully got us across to the UP where we got out of the car to view the bridge looking south and then back to Mackinaw City.  We finished off the evening just like the previous night with the hotel pool and dinner at BC Pizza.  We passed on the laser light show though.

The next morning (Tuesday), our final day in Mackinaw City, we went to the Mackinaw Point Lighthouse to start.  We were greeted by a stern employee who said A couldn't go up to the top of the lighthouse.  I pleaded with her asking if I could carry her up but she refused.  A and I waited outside while H, Z, and B went up to the top.  They came back and H told me to go up with Z and B so I did.  Turns out that the stern employee was right.  You needed a ladder to get to the very top and there was no way I could have carried A up there.  The college student portraying the lighthouse keeper at the top was excited to see Z and B come back to the top saying "I remember you two!"  The lighthouse was right on the shore of Lake Huron so after the lighthouse, we dipped our toes in Lake Huron.

Lake Huron is on the east side of the Mackinac Bridge.  Lake Michigan is on the west side of the Mackinac Bridge so we wanted to dip our toes in Lake Michigan as well.  Access to Lake Michigan was a tad bit more complicated.  We walked towards the bridge to try to get to the Lake Michigan side but there was a big "No Trespassing" sign.  We then started driving west but couldn't find any lake access.  H eventually saw a side road that dead ended at a very narrow street called Lakeshore or Lakeside.  Where the street dead ended were houses and in between two of them was a little sign that said "Public Access" presumably for small boats.  We hustled down there, dipped our toes in, and hustled back much to the chagrin of A who wanted to stay in Lake Michigan longer.

B was also annoyed because she got sand on her feet but at least Z was happy for the moment.  After lunch, we went to the Jack Pine Lumberjack Show and everyone was back smiling again.  This was quality entertainment.  The lumberjack host split the bleachers where we were sitting so our side cheered for one lumberjack and booed the other vociferously and the other side cheered the one we were booing and booed our adopted lumberjack.  There was tree climbing, axe throwing, wood chopping, and the piece de resistance, log rolling.  There was also a point during the show where the host asked for volunteers from the audience.  B was one of 4 children called to the stage.  There was a contest as to who could yell "Timber!!!" the loudest and longest.  The host said all 4 kids were winners and gave them all Frisbees and coupons for free ice cream.  In our opinions (note from H: it's a fact), B was definitely the big winner.  We finished our time in Michigan eating ice cream (they were very generous with their portions - 1 scoop equaled 2 1/2 scoops), playing mini-golf, getting very expensive drinks at the newly opened Starbucks that looked like a log cabin ($6 for a venti hazelnut frappucino!), eating dinner at B.C. Pizza again (we loved that place - the pizza was great and I think it was cheaper than Starbucks for H and I), and standing on the shore of Lake Huron throwing rocks into the lake.

I was very impressed with Michigan and I enjoyed our time there immensely.  The people were very friendly.  I would also say that 75% of the people up there were wearing Detroit Tigers gear.  They love their Tigers in Michigan.  The Lions not so much.  It was a couple days into the trip that I finally saw someone wearing Lions gear.  Here are a couple more fun tidbits from Michigan.  They call soda up there pop.  They even went so far in some restaurants to label lids for soft drinks as "pop lids."  Also, there are a great number of seagulls in northern Michigan and they like to shed feathers.  The kids collected feathers everywhere we went up there.  They could probably reconstruct a bird out of all of the feathers they picked up.  Finally, the quote of the trip occurred at an Arby's in Bridgeport, Michigan.  We were happily eating our lunch when we hear the manager chatting with a customer ordering.  The money quote was she asked the customer, "Are you a gravy guy?  Do you like gravy on things?"  It was just so out of left field and it made us chuckle.

Next stop, Sandusky, Ohio, home of Cedar Point.  To say Z was excited would be an understatement.

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