"" Writer's Wanderings: October 2020

Friday, October 30, 2020

Mackinac Island-Oh The Fudge!!

 The entrance to Main Street Inn and Suites was in an alcove almost directly across from the Shepler's Ferry dock on the island. As we finished a few quick pictures, we crossed the street and checked in. In a little tiny lobby, we were greeted cheerfully by a lady behind the counter and the man who had collected our suitcase from the ferry. As soon as he knew our room number, he was off to put our suitcase in the room. 

We found our room on the third floor which smelled freshly cleaned which always eases your mind in a pandemic. The room was quaint and featured a loveseat and cushioned wicker chair. We didn't take a lot of time to settle in. The sun was shining and who knew how long that would continue.

Outside the temps were a little chilly but the sun warmed you a bit. We noticed most people were out on the sidewalks with masks on. I couldn't decide if it was because it kept your face warmer or just saved having to put them on again to go into stores or restaurants or the fudge shops. Oh the fudge shops!

As we walked down the street, even with masks on, you could smell the fudge. I wondered if the exhaust fans purposely vented out to the street kind of like how the smell of popcorn lures you into a movie theater or a popcorn stand at the fair.

 [Later we would be told there were 17 fudge shops and in examining the history of one of the fudge shops, yes, originally they did vent purposely to the outside.]

I wanted to get a good picture of the Mackinac Bridge and of the Grand Hotel so we walked along the boardwalk that led out of the main area of town and along the shore. I got a couple of shots of the bridge but the Grand Hotel was up higher and mostly hidden from our view by trees. 

Round Island Lighthouse

There were two lighthouses that sat outside the harbor of the island. We had passed them on the way in. Now we found a sign that told of the historic value of the one. The Round Island Lighthouse was built in 1895 by Frank Rounds and was first lit in 1896. William Marshall was the first keeper of the lighthouse and served there until 1906. The beacon was automated in 1924 and the Coast Guard took over in 1939 when the care of all lighthouses fell to them. In 1947 it was decommissioned and 
threatened with demolition. It was saved when it became a part of the Hiawatha National Forest. In the 1970s, when weather took a toll on it, preservationists rallied and saved it once again. In 1978, it was added to the National Register of Historical Places. With the help of the Boy Scouts the lighthouse is looking more like its original building. 

The second lighthouse, the Round Island Passage Light is also a historical landmark having been established  in 1948 as part of a project to better map the navigation of the Great Lakes. 

The clippity clop of two draft horses signaled the arrival of shipping packages to be delivered, among them several familiar Prime smile boxes. I'm not sure how fast Prime deliveries are on the Island. The horses take their time. Life seems a little slower here.

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Roadtrip! Ferry To Mackinac Island

Ferries to Mackinac Island are passenger only except for a freight ferry and one that carries construction equipment when needed. Mackinac Island does not allow any cars or trucks on the island. But more on that later. 

We arrived at Shepler's Ferry and were greeted by a cheerful fellow at the gate to the parking area. He greeted us and explained about unloading our luggage, where to buy our tickets if needed (we'd bought ours online) and where to pay for our parking. Parking is complimentary if you are doing a day trip. Overnight parking is $5/day.

As soon as we neared the loading zone next to the passenger area, another fellow cheerfully (do you see a theme here?) motioned us into a parking spot to unload our suitcase. He tagged it and promised it would be put on the ferry and picked up by our hotel on the island, then directed Bob to park in a huge lot that was maybe a quarter full. We had expected that being close to the end of the season and with COVID there would not be as many people as usual. 

The sun was still shining and making it a beautiful picture-taking day. We wandered a bit and then spent a few minutes out of the chill in a waiting area with half a dozen others--all wearing masks of course. When the ferry came in, we watched as someone entered the empty passenger area and sprayed something to sanitize it before allowing us to board.  

There were maybe a dozen of us so it was easy to distance. I imagine it is a little fuller in the morning when the day trippers start their visit. The ride was smooth and I tried to take a few pictures of the Mackinac Bridge but the angle of the sun and the spray from the ferry didn't make for nice pictures. 

Fifteen minutes and we were passing a couple of iconic lighthouses and pulling into the harbor. Once dockside, we were met at our suitcase by a fellow who took it straight to our hotel which was actually just across the street. It was in our room before we were but that could be because I stopped to take a couple of pictures. I wasn't taking a chance on the weather turning before I could capture the quaint views that the town offered.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Roadtrip! Crossing The Mackinac Bridge

 Needless to say, the Mackinac Bridge is impressive. The total length of the bridge is 26,372 feet. The suspension part is 8,614 feet. Now depending upon what you are measuring determines where it fits into the list of largest suspension bridges in the world. I don't care where it fits in the list, it is still amazing. 

The towers rise 554 feet above the water. The height of the 54' wide roadway is 200 feet above the water at mid-span, high enough I assume for any freighters that transit the Great Lakes. 

The bridge crosses the Straits of Mackinac which is the waterway between Lake Huron and Lake Michigan. The idea of a bridge was envisioned as early as 1884. In 1920, they considered a floating tunnel. A ferry route soon grew heavy with traffic and the legislature began considering more seriously the possibility of a bridge. 

In 1934, the Mackinac Bridge Authority was established to study the feasibility of building a bridge. It took a long time to find a way to finance the bridge but finally in 1953 with bond sales it appeared the bridge would finally be built. In May of 1954, construction was begun.

The bridge opened to traffic in 1957. The last of the building bonds were retired in 1986 and the bridge is maintained with the collection of tolls--$4 for a passenger car.

There are four lanes of traffic--two in each direction. The outer lanes are solid pavement but the inner, center lanes, are a steel mesh. Trucks stay in the outer lanes and are relegated to 20 MPH. Some appeared to have escorts. 

The toll booth is at the north end so we didn't have to pay the $4 until it was time to exit the bridge. Through the toll booth, we made a right turn and headed for St. Ignace and the ferry. We were about a half hour before a scheduled departure. Perfect timing. There would not be a long wait.

I hoped there would be more chances to get a good picture of the stately Mackinac Bridge that was now behind us. To learn more about the bridge, go to the Mackinac Bridge website.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Roadtrip! Heading For The Tip Of Michigan

 The largest portion of the state of Michigan is shaped like a mitten. Our destination, Mackinac Island, was at the tip of the fingers in the mitten. We started out from our overnight stay just outside of Toledo and headed north. The whole week we had watched the weather reports fluctuate between rain, cold, a wintry mix, and sunshine. Even as we headed out after our breakfast at the Hampton Inn (served cafeteria style by a lovely lady behind the tables set up to keep us from helping ourselves) we weren't sure what to expect. 

Not far up the road, the sun came out and we were entranced. The fall colors were amazing! Once we were past Ann Arbor and the Detroit exits, the traffic calmed a bit and the landscape became open country with vista after vista of colorful foliage. 

As we passed the Frankenmuth exit, I made a mental note that, should we ever return, we needed to plan a stop in the town where it's Christmas all year long

Lost in the wonder of the fall colors, I'm not sure where exactly we stopped for lunch. It was at a McDonald's and thankfully the restrooms were open as well. We ordered happy meals since we really weren't that hungry and it was a little early for a big lunch. "Are these guaranteed to make us happy?" I asked the young man. He pointed to the box and said, "The smile's right there." I couldn't tell if he was smiling behind his mask.

As I said in yesterday's post, Bob had planned to take the ferry to Mackinac from St. Ignace so that we could cross the Mackinac Bridge. Just after one, we began to see the signs for the bridge and soon we crested a hill and before us in the distance we could see the towers of the bridge. I have to admit, it was kind of exciting. It is the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world according to their website but other lists have it at 24 or 3 depending upon what you are measuring.

Still, 3, 5 or 24, it was going to be fun.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Soothing The COVID Crazys With A Road Trip

 We have some really nice "four walls" to look at. I'm not complaining--too much, but for two travel addicts staying in one place for more than six months was driving us a little crazy. Over and over our Michigan card buddies in Florida have challenged us to visit Mackinac Island. It's a six hour drive for us, about as much as one day heading south to Florida. Only in late October it wasn't going to get warmer the farther we went.

Bob checked out the Grand Hotel and grabbed his chest. I knew we were in trouble. The prices averaged $350/night. Once he caught his breath, he searched on and found lots of other options for hotels that were very nice--not grand but exceptional.

We settled on the Main Street Inn and Suites which was right in the middle of Main Street and across from the ferry docks. The price was much more acceptable and he booked three nights. 

The ferry options were the next step. You can take a ferry from Makinaw City or St. Ignace which is across the Mackinac Bridge. Being a fan of crossing bridges (he loves going across the Cuyahoga Valley bridges), Bob chose to take a ferry from St. Ignace. Two passenger ferry lines serve the island, Shepler's and Star Line. Both leave from either place but I think he chose Shepler's for their convenient (and cheaper) parking. 

All the reservations made, it was just time to sit and wait for two weeks and watch the weather forecast. It changed from bad to good and back again several times and at one point included the possibility of a mix of snow and rain making it hard to decide on what to pack. I settled on layers--lots and lots of layers.

Meanwhile we learned of a softball tournament involving our granddaughter happening that weekend before we were to leave and it was on our route to Mackinac. We booked another hotel for Sunday night and planned to get up early Sunday morning to make the first game which was two hours away. On the up side, we would have had to get up early to start the drive to Mackinac on Monday and this actually cut two hours off our travel time--and we would get to see our granddaughter and her parents. Win/win. Well, except. . .

The tale of our adventure begins tomorrow. Come back and see how it all worked out.

Thursday, October 08, 2020

My COVID Book Corner--Be Patient

 There have been some very good things that I have found in the midst of this pandemic. One of them was the opportunity to begin reading through the chronological Bible--a Bible organized a little closer to the timeline of historical events. I got to Job and read through the book and then wondered what I had read. I've been through Job before but I don't think I ever took the time to try to understand it. I needed help.

Help came through a book by Warren Wiersbe called Be Patient.  Wiersbe takes all the flowery poetic phrases and makes them a little easier to understand. In a short period of time, Job lost his wealth and his children and his position in the community. We find him sitting on an ash pile and scraping boils with broken pottery.

Ah, but three friends spin a lot of rhetoric telling Job what is wrong with him and his relationship with God. Job continues to trust God through it all even though at times he questions why he has come to such ruin. Once Wiersbe puts it in language a little easier to understand, I realized how these know-it-all friends really didn't help Job much nor did they know it all.

While Job is a righteous man and trusts in God, he still questions why he has been put through all of this. He challenges God to show him where he has gone wrong. How often we question God when things go wrong.

In the end God triumphs over Satan in that Job remains faithful and He chastises Job's friends. Job intercedes for them and forgives them. In the end, Job's faithfulness is rewarded with a blessing of double what he had before he lost it all. 

While I've always heard the phrase "the patience of Job," in the end I think it was more the patience of God that prevailed. Oh, and I have to smile when Job's wife lost her patience and just told him to curse God and die. Hmmm. There must be a lesson there somewhere as well. Lots more to learn. Wiersbe's book is a good start.

Monday, October 05, 2020

The Falls of Cuyahoga Falls

 It all started with a quest to find The Gourmet Popper. It is a chain that makes the best caramel popcorn. There was one located in downtown Cleveland and before any Indians game we would buy a bag, request the bag be left open (they would fill it to the top then) and eat it down to where we could seal it before going into the game. Rarely did any make it home.

When COVID closed down the location, we went online and looked for any others we could find. In Cuyahoga Falls, we found one that was about to reopen in a new location and we eagerly awaited the news on their Facebook page that they were open. It came. We went. Our pantry is stocked up with the delicious treat. In telling of our trip to a fellow Pickleball player, he excitedly told us of a little restaurant/tavern that had the best Lake Erie perch dinners he'd ever found. We were hooked.

We searched the location and found the Boulevard Tavern. But our friend had mentioned walking to the falls. Hmmm. Were there really falls in Cuyahoga Falls.? It made sense. If Chagrin Falls had a waterfall, then it seemed reasonable the Cuyahoga Falls would too.

A little more research and we learned that there were two falls, one big and one small. The Big Falls had been covered by the dam that formed the reservoir there but the Little Falls was still there. The only problem was that it sits between the freeway and the back of the Sheraton Suites which has a fence all around it and doesn't seem to allow access. Down the road just a bit though was the perfect place to see it.

We found High Bridge Glens Park and parked. It was a chilly and windy but sunny late afternoon. There were a couple of walkways. One led to a pedestrian bridge from which you could see the Little Falls. It was a nice view even from a distance. Another walkway led to a ramp that weaved back and forth to a lookout point almost at the base of the gorge the Cuyahoga river had created over the many years it had wandered through the area.

Historical markers always catch our attention and we learned some interesting facts about the park. In 1879, a resort was built that spanned both sides of the river and included a dance and dining pavilion, lots of trails, overlooks, waterfalls and a suspension footbridge. They also think it had one of the earliest roller coasters in the area and one of its visitors was soon to be president, William McKinley. 

Eventually the resort gave way to industrial growth and the river was harnessed to supply power. In 2009, the park was rededicated and attention has once again been drawn to the importance of the Cuyahoga River which is one of fourteen National Heritage Rivers. The Cuyahoga is a unique river that flows both north and south because of the way it winds through the valley. Its name means Crooked River.

During our wonderful perch dinner, we noticed a picture above our booth that looked a lot like a cave from Hocking Hills in southern Ohio. Upon closer inspection we saw the notation that the photographer had actually taken the picture in Cuyahoga Falls. We googled the Mary Campbell Cave and found that the Summit Metroparks was nearby. After our dinner, there was still a little daylight left so we found the park and walked the trail we thought led to the cave but didn't find it before we decided we were losing too much daylight.

It was a great afternoon/evening. We felt like we'd had a travel adventure and didn't have to go farther than a half hour from home. 

Friday, October 02, 2020

September 2016 We Were In Search of the Northern Lights

 One of the most exciting aspects of visiting Iceland was the possibility of seeing the Northern Lights. Up until about the midpoint of our trip the conditions had not been good--well, except for the first night when we were so tired we didn't get up to check out the skies. We were at the northern side of Iceland and after checking the conditions at the website we'd found, it looked good. We anxiously awaited nightfall and found a spot away from town. You'll never guess what happened. Take a look: The lights were on! 

No matter what the brochures show you of any place in the world, they never picture the bad weather. On our eighth day of travel we found ourselves in the middle of nowhere and in the middle of a heavy rain, howling wind and roads that turned from paved to gravel. Whew! This is quite a story: Somewhere In The Middle of Nowhere

The sun came out the next day giving us bright new vistas to explore. The day was full of surprises including an orca, several swans and an unexpected historical place. WIFI was free and did not have a password in most places but in our hotel that day they did require one. You'll never guess what it was: Surprises 

While we enjoy the places we see, the most memorable experiences are always the people we meet. On one particular day when we made a stop at a restaurant more to be able to use the restroom than because we needed anything to eat, we met the most delightful lady who was kind enough to introduce us to an Icelandic specialty. Rainy Gravel Roads 

Several questions arose on one day while exploring the western side of Iceland. First of all who has the right away? Automobiles or sheep? Second, where are those elusive puffins? And I braved a trip to a small hot spring for a dip. Exploring the West

While we may have had a couple of rainy days that made it a bit difficult to enjoy the landscape as much, the people we met more than made up for it. A proprietor that went out of his way to feed us and an interesting newly engaged couple that was traveling the world with everything they owned in the trunk of their car. Here's the link to these stories: Another Rainy Day

The Icelandic horses were special and we finally got to see them up close one day. This post tells a lot of the background of how they got to Iceland and what they were used for. And there was the black church. Here's the link: The Horses! 

An afternoon of spelunking in an old lava tube and and the troll canyon. It was all followed by one of the most spectacular sunsets I've ever seen. You have to look at the picture! Spelunking and Trolls

One more glorious night of viewing the Aurora Borealis. It was spectacular. Lots of pictures in this post. Link: The Northern Lights Take 2

All good trips have to end at some time. Our last day had us returning to Reykavik and seeing how Iceland has used their hot springs and geysers for power. Link: Homeward Bound 

Thursday, October 01, 2020

Where Were We September, 2016? Iceland!

You might notice, if you follow my posts, that I skipped reminiscing the year of 2017. Although we traveled that year, we didn't go anywhere in the fall However we did go to Iceland the year before in September.

 One of the places we have been to that we would like to visit again was Iceland. We flew to Reykjavik and spent fourteen days driving the Ring Road that pretty much goes all around the perimeter of Iceland. We had driven to Toronto to fly from there to Reykjavik as it was a cheaper flight and straight through--about five and a half hours, arriving early in the morning.

Upon arrival, we rented a car and began our adventure with a few stops on the way to our first guesthouse. An historic lighthouse, a bridge that spans two continents and our first hot spring are all recorded in my first post: The Iceland Adventure Begins

Our second day was spent driving the Golden Circle. Several amazing waterfalls, a fish ladder and a secret lagoon were among the stops we made. Link to the post: The Golden Circle 

The drive on the third day was only an hour and a half with no stops but we managed to turn it into a full day's excursion with stops at several waterfalls, a long walk to see the wreck of a DC3, a glacier and a beach with black sand. And you'll never guess where we slept! Link: The Southern Coast

Mossy lava rock, some berry-picking ladies, and a beautiful glacier lagoon were some of the sights along our drive the next day. Hot springs and glaciers don't seem like they would go together but the large glacier we visited actually takes up 14% of Iceland, Oh, and did I mention there are also volcanoes? Here's link to that day's adventure: The Glaciers

Day five was a bit misty and rainy but it gave the landscape a mystique that was beautiful. A fish farm, reindeer and the tallest waterfall in Iceland were a few highlights. Link; The East Coast

This next post was of a day filled with all sorts of adventure. We saw a powerful waterfall and the power of a hot spring erupting (both are videos). Then can you believe we actually had dinner while we watched cows get milked? We finished off the evening with a dip in a hot spring. Check it out here: Ever changing landscape

Each day we checked the online prediction of seeing the northern lights. The next place we were to stay was looking promising for viewing because of the area plus the conditions that were predicted but first we were going to have to do some laundry. Now that was a real challenge as great as the challenge of a tunnel with a cross street. Yes. Take a look at my post: The Akureyri

But would we see the northern lights? Tune in tomorrow.

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