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Happy Wednesday World! How’s the middle of the week treating us all? I’m taking a break from this blog’s usual business to share my adventures in the Straits of Mackinac this past Saturday. Be sure to click on all the links for a more fun, interactive reading experience. If you’re a fan of my short, Bridge of Dreams you know I have a great fondness for the Straits area, the Mackinac Bridge and, of course, Michigan Pasties.

That’s where this post truly began. With our stomachs. I hate to say it, but nothing compares to a Northern Michigan Pastie. I know the bakery down the street tries – really, really, hard – but they just don’t succeed. Finally, at the request of the household I’ve stopped buying inferior product in hopes they’ll improve. So Saturday we woke up and decided it was time to make a pastie run. No biggie. It’s only a three-hour drive, one way. It had been a few years since our last trip and stay on the island proper, and with the fall fishing season approaching if I wanted to go then go we must.

The drive itself is always a pleasure. Travel mug of coffee in hand, there’s little traffic at seven am on a Saturday morning. Just us, the corn, some cows, and the vast array of Michigan wildflowers that line the freeway.

While some varieties including Queen Anne’s Lace, thistles, chicory, and paintbrushes are easily recognizable from the road I find it helpful to visit this site here with photographs by Charles Peirce to look up any strangers. We had a fine misting of rain for most of the journey, which at times turned into sheeting downpours. That’s just part of the fun. I could go on and on about the familiar sites and tourist attractions we passed (Call of the Wild, or Sea Shell City anyone?) but then this post would never be finished.

We usual prefer to do our travel and touristy things during the off-season. October through March are my favorite times of the year as I don’t really care for crowds. I had even hoped that the cool, wet weather would keep the ranks down. But, wow! Was I in for a surprise. Mackinaw City’s main shopping drag, Central Avenue was jammed full. It’s a little hard to describe, but in addition to the angled parking in front of the stores on each side of the street, there are also two layers of parking in a central boulevard down the middle of the street. There were so many cars I couldn’t see across Central Avenue, and the foot traffic was very, very heavy.

We were so happy to see the Mama Mia’s Pizza has re-opened after the devastating fire in 2005 that destroyed it, and the Mackinac Bridgemen’s Museum. For pictures of the blaze taken from under the bridge, click here. And that the Museum is back in business. It’s heartbreaking to remember all that was lost, but they’ve come back strong with a new, separate theater for constant viewing of the making-of movie we all know and love, a new, expanded gift shop, and a continual stream of donated items relating to the building of the bridge to take the place of what was destroyed.

Lucky for me, I’m not a big-time shopper but a store wanderer. We’ve been here so many times before that taking a miss on the shops due to the crowds wasn’t a hardship. Instead, we took advantage of opportunity to visit some of the new to us sights and attractions that had opened since our last visit.

Big props to the creators of the Mackinaw City Historical Pathways. This is a three-mile loop complete with historical markers and kiosks set against the backdrop of the Straits of Mackinac and the Mackinac Bridge itself. You can hear about additional historical and natural features using the free cell phone tour. Photos, maps and a download of the audio content can be found here and at http://MyOnCell.mobi/12314860003.

Also new since our last visit, the interior of the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse is now open for tours. The opening of the lighthouse tower and keeper’s dwelling are a restoration in progress and fully accessible to most visitors, with the admission revenue used to help fund the rest of the work. The grounds have been re-landscaped as well and we were able to walk down to the water’s edge and relax in the benches and parklands along the shoreline.

We always walk past the old State Ferry Dock, and to my surprise a new, state-of-the-art marina has opened in its place. The 134–slip Straits State Harbor features eight wind generators at the end of the breakwall helping the marina be more self-sufficient with plans for many other green initiatives.

A short, two mile drive away from downtown we visited the McGulpin Point Lighthouse Museum, recently featured on the CMU/TV series Destination Michigan.

And just a quick, 50-yard walk down the gravel road we once again came to the big lake and a magnificent view of the bridge. All totally tourist free. We waded out to our waists, swam, lazed atop the large rocks on the shoreline and looked for fossils amid the rocky beach.

By this time we were hungry, so back to the closest pastie shop this side of the Upper Peninsula. The Mackinaw Pastie Company . Where, I’m pleased to say, we discovered we can now have pasties shipped to our door November through March. Yay!!!!! We purchased a dozen of the frozen treats for the freezer at home.

The only thing left was a quick trip across the bridge itself, (check out the bridge cam here ), time spent at the bridge viewing areas there (note to the State - you may consider putting the "do not feed the seagull" signs at the entrance, not the exit), and a brief nap under gentle breezes and a slight rain, before we started the drive back home.

But, we weren’t done yet. No matter what your religious preference, a trip to the Straits isn’t complete without a quick stop at Indian River, Michigan and a quick stop at the Cross in the Woods National Shrine. I’m a total fan of Marshall M. Fredericks, the sculptor who created the 7 ton bronze Christ that was added to the cross in 1959, and we’ve made many a trip to the sculpture museum that bears his name.

Bellies full, legs tired, butts numb from the three-hour drive home, we had a wonderful day trip. Now we just have to decide whether we want to return for the 40th Annual 8 Mile Road Race around Mackinac Island in September. We completed this event many years ago, and it's an experience well worth repeating.

P.S. - Nope, we didn't buy any fudge. That's a whole 'nother post

photos courtesy of MightyMac.org, McGulpin Point, State of Michigan, Charles Peirce and others as noted


( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 4th, 2010 09:32 pm (UTC)
Sounds like a wonderful day. We have a similar 3-hour drive to visit our Leavenworth tourist trap, so I relate to the butt-numbing drive. One of the travel destinations I have on my agenda for sometime in 2011 is Michigan. Along with Hawaii, Vegas, and the Grand Canyon.
Aug. 5th, 2010 08:26 pm (UTC)
2011 sounds like it will be a great year!
Aug. 5th, 2010 11:04 pm (UTC)
I sure hope so. I am looking forward to my retirement from housekeeping, either with or without getting another job. But I am confident I can get my online business going well enough to support me so I don't have to work anymore. Then I can come see you, and you can show me around your awesome state. I'll be going to Ada anyway to visit my affiliate partner's corporate headquarters.
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:07 pm (UTC)
We drove by there on one of our trips - it's pretty impressive looking. they have a flag row out front with flags from each country they are in.
Aug. 9th, 2010 03:23 pm (UTC)
I've seen pictures, but I'm looking forward to getting the tour.
Aug. 5th, 2010 09:20 am (UTC)
Wow, this was a gorgeous travelogue, I may have to come and visit this part of the country :).
Aug. 5th, 2010 08:27 pm (UTC)
LOL - well, I keep writing about life around the big lakes. It's hard to resist.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )