Friday, July 29, 2011

Upper Peninsula of Michigan & Mackinac Island

From Wisconsin we traveled east into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan making our first stop in Munising a town on the southern shores of Lake Superior; its attractions include the Painted Rocks on which we took a rain check, primarily as we had our rock tours in Arizona, Utah and the Black Hill of South Dakota…enough already! On our way to Munising we had not turned Matilda (the GPS) on and took a wrong turn which we realized after 8 miles down the road, so Tom did a U turn with the car in tow. I should have taken a video but was too intent on crossing my fingers and keeping my seatbelt buckled.  Now Matilda talks to us on all journeys. The Munising RV Park was right on the beach, it was the first hot day on the UP so after we had both paddled in Lake Superior I ventured in and had my first swim in the now warm clear blue waters of Lake Superior. Tom said he would wait until the following morning, but overnight there was a storm and high wind so he missed his chance. And, we were so close to the Lake.

Our next stops was in St Ignace-  a short version of St Ignacio’s - these people have never been to Ireland where we shorten  the name to Iggy, now you can’t get shorter than that. Town was about a short mile away and much to the horror of our Texan neighbors we walked into St Ignace each evening to enjoy pier side music on both nights. Smoked fish is the food delicacy of the region and we bought three different types and it is very tasty and better yet no cooking, just carve and eat. Lucky for me in this RV life most meat cooking is done on the BBQ; so I don’t cook meats as only men can work BBQs. Right? 
From St Ignace we took a ferry trip to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island a beautiful and unique island in Lake Huron, as no cars are allowed on the island everything is transported by bicycle or horse.  On the buggy rides the poor horses have to pull a lot of weight, with anywhere upwards to 20 people and the driver being pulled by 2 horses. There are 60 horses on the island which means that the horses only work a 4 hour shift daily. One would think that the resulting organic material would result in Roses and Rhubarb growing in abundance on the Island. Needless to say I got chatting to a man with a very large bucket whose job was shoveling you know what (I’m being sensitive!). I asked him if they used the contents of the bucket on the Roses seeing as there were beautiful parks and gardens with lots of Roses on the island.  No, was the answer they just pile it up in a heap at the back of the island and ship it (oops) over to the mainland. What a pile that must be from 60 horses?? For those of you who have heard my Niall Tobin tape of jokes about Noah’s Ark.  It’s all true!!

I wonder which peninsula Mackinac Island shipped their organic waste to Upper or Lower? 
We had heard before traveling over that the locals refer to tourists as “fudgies”. It did not take us long to work out why… the Main Street must have had at least 10 shops all with people making fudge in the  shop window. On the way back on the ferry most passengers were laden with bags upon bags of – you guessed it - fudge. We brought our bikes with us on the ferry and cycled the whole way around the island, all 8 miles taking in all the highlights, paddling in Lake Huron and Tom built a cairn of stones on the shore. There were numerous Cottages, some quite magnificent.  Up on a high bluff overlooking the town and harbor the Grand Hotel is the piece de resistance, quite large and painted white with yellow awnings over a wrap-around porch it’s magnificent. A drawback is that it costs $10 per person just to enter the foyer, so as you may imagine not too many “fudgies” are seen walking around in the Hotel. To reach the hotel one can walk (heaven forbid), bike, rent a horse and buggy or take the hotel carriage driven by a horseman dressed in Victorian hotel uniform topped off with a top hat. This is a popular venue for weddings, with a nearby picturesque little church on the way up to the hotel. The Grand Hotel is popular with honeymooners too. Before embarking on the ferry for our return we sat below the English Fort and watched the crowds perspire by; we were too tired to climb up the hill that’s our Irish excuse…and we’re sticking to it. 

Next day we drove north to Sault Ste. Marie to take a boat ride through the SOO locks from Lake Huron to Lake Superior and back via Canada. As Lake Superior is 21 feet higher than Lake Huron the locks were constructed in the late 19th century to allow ships small and large including now very sizeable tankards navigate all the way from the Atlantic to the US and Canadian ports in Lake Superior. The US has four very large locks; we saw one large tankard go into a lock beside us very slowly. When we entered the lock we were about 25feet below the quay, it took about 10 minutes for the lock to fill with 21feet of water and as we were sailing out the other boat was just about in in its lock.  We sailed around and heard about the steel works and the train that passes over the locks 4 times a day facilitated by swivel bridges and elevator bridges - I will post photos. We returned through the Canadian lock, yes just one, when built it was the biggest in the world however, on its opening day an American tankard hit the lock gates and it has never been the same since, down we went the 21 feet and sailed back to Sault Ste. Marie.  We drove back to St Ignace looking forward to crossing the Mackinac Bridge on our way to Harbor Springs and meeting up with my friend Place.

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