The bikes were loaded on the ferry and we sped off across the Straits to Mackinac Island to step back in time and experience not only great views but the smells and sounds of a time when there were no cars, just horses and buggies. If you blocked out all the modern sights, like people hunched over their cell phones and bikers with helmets and flip flops, you can be taken back in time with the smell of fresh horse manure, the sound of draft horse hooves clopping on the cobblestone streets, the creaking of harness leather and the occasional snort and whinny that horses make as the wagoneers speak commands to the horse team as he/she parks a buggy in the street. This is Mackinac Island, MI. Where else can you go to see a working community that doesn't use automobiles to transport things with? A huge part of the infrastructure here is devoted to maintaining the 300 horses and all the things necessary to do that. The skills and knowledge to do this are practiced here every day as a way of life. We saw horse drawn garbage wagons, hay wagons, restaurant supply wagons that mingled with the tourist wagons carrying loads of sightseers all over the Island. We took a self guided tour to the horse stables, up the hill behind the Grand Hotel, to see how this all worked. It really is like going back in time to life before automobiles.
We started our exploration by finding a place to park our bikes at the Visitor's Center, where we got maps and information to orient ourselves. Once we had a plan, we started by walking along the main street checking out all the shops and restaurants. I looked for a bank to exchange our Canadian dollars for US dollars. No one here wants to do that, so I still have those plastic bills in my pocket. We also got information on visiting the Grand Hotel so after checking out Main St. we headed uphill to the Hotel where we parked our bikes and walked in the front door.
We decided to splurge on the lunch buffet when we got to the Grand Hotel. Walking up the hill to where it was located, we saw shining horse carriages driven by men dressed in uniform and top hats, flowers growing in abundance and a front porch overlooking the lake and a beautiful fountain on the lower lawn. White rocking chairs, too numerous to count, lined the porch. When we went inside, we were greeted by the lovely smell of fresh flowers. There was a floral shop on the first floor that was out in the open so you could see all the buckets of fresh flowers and the 6 or 8 florists creating beautiful flower arrangements of all sizes.
As we strolled past shops, a hair salon and a tea room on our way to the 2nd floor, we saw photographs of presidents, movie stars and other famous people, who had visited the Grand Hotel, lining the walls.
Once we got upstairs and checked in with the hostess, we were led through the dining room which was filled with tables and people for as far as we could see. She finally found a table for us near the front porch window. It was elegantly set with white tablecloths and napkins, pretty china made in England, a sweet flower vase with a fresh daisy and 7 pieces of silverware to eat with!
The buffet included a salad table, a fresh fruit table, a cheese and meat table, a fresh seafood table with shrimp and raw oysters, the main course table, a bread table and dessert table. This dining room was so large and had so many people in it that George and I had a hard time finding our way back to our table each time we made a trip to the buffet! It really is a good thing we did the bike ride around the island after the lunch we ate!
As for the bike ride, we had planned to just ride the 8.5 miles around the island. However, once we got over to British Landing, we decided to ride 3 miles to see the Arch, a huge rock formation, that looked out over the eastern side of the Island. The view was worth the climb and the downhill return trip, another 3 miles, was just as exciting. We wound up making a 14.5 mile bike! Good thing we had that big lunch at the Hotel.
After returning from the Arch to British Landing, we continued on around the east side of Mackinac Island to a coffee shop where we cooled our heels before heading back into town!
That's the news and here's some views:
We are here
Main St. Mackinac Island, MI
Do they fry chicken here too?
The Grand Hotel
Follow me to your table please
The Front Yard
Food Coma Victim in Rocking Chair
I think I will sit out here and take a nap while you shop
Did you know Sasquatch saw Viridian in the U.P. but nobody believed him?
The horses get to take a rest break half way up this steep hill
Behind the scenes at the stables
Starting the 8.5 mile loop around Mackinac Island
Viridian Waters and Stony Beaches
We'll take the whole thing!