Michigan

 

Our first stop was Holland, MI,  a middle class town and is working very hard to bring themselves up from the economic problems that the recession has wrought on most of the country, but has hit Michigan especially hard.   Holland, MI got its start in the 1800’s when it was settled by Dutch immigrants and it still has some of the nostalgia from the old country, but it is mostly in name only.  

What was interesting on the “main street”  was a rolling bar…….four or five patrons on either side of this wagon are pedaling as they drink and a bartender in the middle is also steering….pretty cute…..   I have not talked about the winters which are quite difficult in the whole Lake Michigan region, but Holland has dealt with some of the problems by installing heated sidewalks in the downtown area to battle the ice and snow.     

 Holland’s main downtown street runs directly into a park which is on Lake Michigan.  There is a marina, just as there is a marina in almost every town or city located on the lake.   There are many sail boats and some motor boats, but there is usually a jetty or water break to protect the marina from the rougher waters in the lake….maybe it is really an ocean!   The park at the lake was quite large and offered a great sense of what we could see in our lake visit.  

Holland like many of the other towns and cities we visited is an older city that has tried its hand at re-gentrification and in some respect it has worked quite well.   The downtown area has many nice restaurants and stores and lots of people.  

 

 

Traverse City, Michigan Film Festival Traverse City, Michigan Winery

Then we traveled to Traverse City, the cherry capital of the world…..and hosts a cherry festival each year.   It has wineries and offers cherry based products in almost every form including wine, jams, preserves and butter,   It is a major tourist point of reference both in the summer and winter as it has beaches, boating, skiing, swimming and a great deal of other varied seasonal sports.  It is located in a particularly scenic area along the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay.  

Traverse City is charming and full of life… with great restaurants and shops.   The week we were there they were having their annual film festival.   Michael Moore lives here and he has put a great deal money into rebuilding the State theatre and getting this weeklong festival to be a reality.    I did get into the State theatre, which was very beautiful and the seats were extremely comfortable.   I was told that this film festival is second only to the Sundance film festival that is held in Park City, UT.    There were crowds in town all participating in the ongoing festivities that is centered in the State movie theatre and at other venues in town including the local college.  

There is a huge park running along the shores of the Grand Traverse Bay with swimming and boating right in the downtown part of Traverse City.  

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan Lighthouse Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park, Michigan

We visited the Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore which is a real gem……full of history and significant geological stories.    The legend has it that a mother bear and two cubs were swimming across Grand Traverse Bay and when the mother bear reached the shore she waited for her two cubs to swim to shore, but they did not.  And so there she waited and the next day the cubs did not arrive, but the two Manitou islands appeared that today symbolize her cubs.

But in a geological sense the lakeshore consists of the remains of glaciers that have carved out the deep basins of the Great Lakes leaving a rocky moraine base upon which millions of tons of sand and debris were deposited on the shore leaving miles of sand dunes and beaches.

We also visited a lighthouse at the tip of the Old Mission peninsula, a unique beach and were able to observe some beautiful scenery.   There are a number of wineries on this peninsula and we stopped at one for a tasting…and we bought some wine for later.  

In Traverse City, we stayed at the Grand Traverse Resort which has three major golf courses…one designed by Jack Nicklaus, one by Gary Player and the last William Newcomb.   There are many other amenities at the resort along with the casino.   They gave us a total $60 in credit for the two days to play at the casino and Lila won $117 (over both days) so we took off……

Traverse City, Michigan Lakeshore

Sleeping Bear National Park Sand Dunes

 

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Mackinac Island Harbor Mackinac Island Lakeshore

After departing Traverse City, we stopped for brunch in the town of Bayview/Petoskey….very quaint.   The lake front is lined with huge Victorian homes all of which are primarily summer residences as they are not equipped to deal with the winter months.   We had lunch at the Bayview Inn in this town…wonderfully picturesque and right on the shore of Lake Michigan.   Along the way we went through the town of Charlevoix, an extremely charming town and mainly a summer place to visit for most people….

Our trip continued north along Lake Michigan and we approached one of the largest suspension bridges in the country (….they told me that).   The bridge, built in 1957, would take us across Straits of Mackinac to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the ferry to Mackinac Island.   The bridge crosses four miles of swift, windswept waters that connect Lake Michigan with Lake Huron.

We drove 100 miles from Traverse City to St Ignace, MI, which is located in the Upper Peninsula, in order to catch the ferry that would take us to Mackinac Island. 

Just before the bridge on the lower peninsula is Mackinaw City but the island where we are staying is Mackinac Island and both are pronounced with the “..aw” sound.   The land was originally an Indian Territory and was spelled “MICHINNIMAKINONG” …..I thought you would like to know that fact. The land was stolen from…oops, settled by both the French and the English.   The English took the "Mackinaw" spelling and the French took the "Mackinac" spelling, but both are pronounced the same.  

Just across the bridge we get to Arnold’s ferry dock…unloaded the car, they put our luggage on the boat, we bought ferry tickets and they took the car to park for three days….all just that fast.  The boat trip is about thirty minutes and as we arrive on Mackinac Island our luggage goes directly to our hotel and we leisurely walked through town about a third of a mile to the hotel.

At first glance the island was not what I expected….. there are hundreds of bicycles and horse drawn carriages…no cars are allowed.  But there are also many tourist type stores where the ferries come in…stores that sell taffy, fudge, t-shirts and the other things that tourists buy, including a Starbucks coffee shop where I buy.    Many people come for the day so it does quiet down in the evening. 

 

Bicycles Line the  Mackinac Island Main Street Mackinac Island Village

We stayed at the Island House….one of the oldest buildings on the island.    But then again there are many such old structures dating back to the 1600s.  In the morning we headed out of the village……just as the day visitors were flowing in via the ferry boats at a sizeable rate.   The day visitors rent many of the bicycles and you do have to watch where you walk and especially when crossing the road. 

We hiked along the periphery of the island until we reached a trail that would take us up to the Arch Rock formation….it was a nice climb up and worth the trip as there was a spectacular view to the water below.  When we were back on the road we headed to a hotel where we just relaxed and enjoyed the scenery and the peacefulness of the island. 

Back into the village, we walked to the Grand Hotel…the grandest of the grand hotels, it is so grand that they charge you ten dollars to visit their grand lobby….not me…..I was stopped at the door…..must have known I was coming.  Then again I would not let me in even for ten dollars.  We had originally planned to stay at the Grand Hotel, but it was dress up time after 6:00 pm……again not for me.

We arranged for a horse drawn carriage tour around the island, which took us into the middle of the island.   Our tour took us through the “old” money homes, the very nice homes and the homes where the people who make the island function live.   And their location is directly related to the distance from the lakeshore as the home prices decrease ……who would have guessed.

 

 

There are only three motorized vehicles on the island, a police car, an ambulance and a fire truck…and they must remain hidden until needed.    Travel on the island consists of horse drawn wagons for people and for commercial purposes in addition to the bicycles.  One of the joys of being on the island is the aroma tha generally spreads through the ever presence of the horses.   As a tourist you can get a taxi wagon, a tour wagon or even a hotel wagon if your hotel provides one…the Grand Hotel does with top hat service. 

Eighty percent of the island is set aside as parkland and is protected and most of the other land is leased to those who have homes on them.    Toward the center of the island the topography is steeper hills with great views of the village and lake below, and these hills also keeps it somewhat private for those who live on the island all year long.   It also protects them from the very harsh winter snow coming off the lake. 

Completely around the periphery of the island is a paved road which is great for riding bicycles; I rented a bike and rode around the island.  It is an eight mile ride with fantastic views and wonderful opportunities to just stop and watch the shoreline.   In the winter, after New Year the families donate their Christmas tree to mark a path from the island to the mainland over the frozen ice for snowmobiles to follow.

 

Arch Rock Formation on Mackinac Island

Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island Grand Hotel Carraige