Mackinac Island

            August 27Mackinac Island was primarily settled because it provided an excellent location for a fort to guard the Great Lakes.  The first fort was built by the British in 1780.  While it was not attacked during the Revolutionary War, the fort changed hands several times in later years.  The village that grew up near the fort was home for fur traders and fishermen.  When the fort was retired in the 1890’s all of the Federally owned land (about 80% of the island) was given to the State of Michigan and it became the first State Park.  The State took steps to insure that the island would not get developed and required existing cottages to keep their Victorian look.  The fort has been preserved and today is operated by the State of Michigan as a historical park and museum.  Besides having many great displays, there were presentations featuring gun demonstrations, life at the Fort, and the memorable cannon firing demonstration which is best described as when history meets Penn and Teller.  After touring the fort we grabbed a quick lunch and got on our bikes for a tour of the island.  One of the things that really sets Mackinaw Island apart is that while there are paved roads, there are no motor vehicles permitted!  Everything is done by horse and wagon or bicycle.  (We did see a Parks Department dump truck in the woods and they say that there are emergency vehicles hidden somewhere).  The truly adventurous can even rent a horse and buggy and tour the island on their own.  There is a shore loop road that circles the island and lots of residential streets above the town.  We also saw several unique rock formations one of which is a natural arch.  We tried to go by the Grand Hotel, a giant turn of the century hotel which among other things was the place where the movie “Somewhere in Time” was filmed, but they were charging $10 to enter the lobby and had security guards that would make sure that all bike riders stayed on the street and didn’t stop for pictures (they also had signs on the sidewalks stating that to use the sidewalk you had to conform to their dress code).  Our legs tired from a good day’s workout we found a quaint looking Irish Pub where Stacie enjoyed seafood pasta and Dave had chicken (no surprise).

            August 28 – We wanted to stay and play on the island longer, but our lives in the real world were waiting for us and it was time to put the hammer down and head for home.  We took the ferry back to St. Ignace and crossed the Mackinac Bridge.  We left Michigan and then conquered Ohio.  Upon entering Pennsylvania and its famous turnpike Dave noticed that we were classified on the rate ticket as a commercial vehicle and were being charged higher rates.  We worked our way across Pennsylvania and pulled off the road in New Scranton as the sun set.  Dave had to question the attendant at the toll booth about our “commercial” status.  The agent explained that there were scales in the toll lane that measured each axle as a vehicle approached the toll both.  If the weighing system calculated a weight over 7,000 pounds then a vehicle was classified as commercial and had to pay more.  We knew Stacie had bought a lot of souvenir pins, so it was possible that we really did weigh that much.  Dave coughed up the toll and the agent told us to write our congressman in we didn’t like it (instead, Dave figured out how to swerve the truck as we approached the toll lanes so that only 2 wheels got weighed).  As it turned out we hadn’t picked the nicest exit to end the night and our only lodging choices were extravagantly priced hotels, or the less than optimum roadside motel.  We’d splurged with the Bed and Breakfast on Mackinac Island so now we had to pay the price.  We got a room at the roadside motel that was just big enough to fit a bed and the bathroom had the smallest shower we’d ever seen.  For dinner we picked an Italian place across the street.  When we walked in there were no other patrons and the sign said to seat ourselves.  After 10 minutes of waiting Stacie went to the kitchen door and knocked.  A waitress came out and apologized for not noticing us.  The meal was OK, but it wasn’t a fitting end for an adventure like ours.

            August 29 – We woke up early and were pleased to see that the truck hadn’t been stolen overnight.  Today was unfortunately the last day of our Alaska adventure.  We stopped off at a gas station for fuel and some snacks for breakfast and then got back onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike.  At around noon we arrived at Stacie’s parents home in northern Virginia.  Clio was not terribly upset at Stacie for being gone so long and Stacie’s parents were glad to see that Dave and Stacie were in fact still talking to each other.  As we unloaded Stacie’s things her mom raved about the pictures that she’d been seeing on the website and asked if there were more.  Stacie admitted that she’d taken over 3,000 pictures on the trip.  We spent the rest of the day in front of the computer showing ALL the pictures (it took six hours).

            August 30 – The adventure was over.  Dave left Stacie with her parents and he headed back for Richmond, VA where he was relieved to see that his house was still standing and the plants were still alive.  Stacie spent the day with her parents and returned to Richmond the following day.