I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!










To the Island




The original plan was to stay in Mackinac City and go over to the island for the day.  But so many friends, whose knowledge and opinions we respect, said “you’ve got to stay at the Grand Hotel!”  So plans were changed, my Hero had a small moment working it all out and another one this morning, putting it all into practice.

It wasn’t easy.  I’ll explain more in my next post, but for now, just believe me.




When we saw the weather this morning, we were glad to be doing something.  On a dreary day, there’s nothing worse than just mooching about, is there?




We aimed for the 9.30am ferry, negotiating the arrangements for our overnight bags (which they take straight to the hotel) and for the car, which had to remain here overnight.  The heavy rain made all this more difficult than usual, for running about from one place to another, avoiding puddles and trying not to get completely soaked to the skin wasn’t easy.  But we did it.




In true Hero-style, we did it all so efficiently that we caught the 9.00am departure Winking smile

It reminded me a lot of my days on the Isle of Wight, when catching the hydrofoil across the Solent was all part of the fun.




Shhhhh!   We had two stowaways in our bag as well!




These small, fast ferries are like big jetskis!




I was glad I’d taken pictures of the bridge yesterday afternoon, though, because it wasn’t such a great view today.




And though I know it’s there, you’ll probably struggle to see the Grand Hotel, which is that white splodge in the dark strip of land over there.




Oh well.  At least the weather meant there weren’t too many visitors, and my photo of the lighthouse at the entrance to the harbour looks rather atmospheric!




We had been warned that any luggage might take a couple of hours to reach the hotel, but as the trolley only appeared to have our three small carryons, I guess it went straight there.  We made our way straight to the town centre, to take a look around and get our bearings.




With just one main street, it didn’t take long.  There are no powered vehicles on the island, so except for bicycles, everything is horse-drawn (which is why we couldn’t bring the car over).




We took a look in a few cute shops and admired the local colour before warming up in Starbucks with hot drinks.




Next, we planned a round-island tour in a horse-drawn carriage.




Kylie was our driver, Rolls and Royce the two dapple grey horses. 




We climbed on board and settled in for the ride.  Kylie gave a great commentary, filled with puns and interesting information.  We soon learned that there are 400 horses working for the carriage company, plus another 200 horses in use by private companies running taxis and delivery buggies.  So, I’ll leave you to imagine the aroma in town on a wet Monday morning!




First building we passed?  Moomers ice cream!  The queue for hot drinks was longer than the ice cream queue this morning, though.




The island is pretty and the residential streets were really attractive with flower-filled gardens.  Lilac grows well here and the colour palette seems to work well with that.




The Governor of Michigan’s Summer Residence was pointed out to us.  Lucky chap.




But of course, we didn’t need this building to be identified.  Hopefully our bags were already there; we’d be joining them later.




With 600 horses on the island, someone’s got to sweep up, don’t they?




We were assured of the horses’ welfare – the island has three permanent vets on duty (and only one medical doctor, so Kylie’s recommendation was to whinny if we fell ill).  The horses wear special shoes made of some composite material which cushions their tread.  “Equine Nike Airs” she said.




We changed carriages along the way, moving to a larger vehicle to ride through the State Park.  This one was pulled by three horses, Jenny and the Jets!




It was a pretty drive, though there were few landmarks.  Just this one – the Rifle Range – and the Archway, where we had ten minutes to look around and take photos.




This was where the horses had a break too. 




I’m glad someone found it funny!




The rain had eased off as we’d been riding, but returned with a vengeance around this point.  Some folks had got off to visit the Fort, leaving just a few of us on board.




We had to switch to a final, smaller carriage again for the last section from the upper station to the hotel.  Woe betide reckless riders, eh?




And so, though we were a bit wet, rather windswept and somewhat chilly we arrived at the hotel in style, in our horse-drawn carriage. 

The rest of the story is worthy of a post of its own!


To Mackinaw City




We said our goodbyes and hope to see you soon this morning and reluctantly, left Torch Lake to head on further north towards Mackinaw City, by the “scenic route”.




This was via Charlevoix, where a community group plants flowers along every roadside and maintains them through the summer.  How pretty!




It was also where there was a sudden obstruction on our route in the form of the lifting bridge over the waterway in between the small lake and Lake Michigan.  A small pleasure cruiser was coming through and we were happy to wait and take in the view!




Our first stop was Petoskey, famed for the fossilised stones which bear the name.




Here was a cute little shopping street; quiet because it’s Sunday morning, but livening up in the hour or so we were there.




Needless to say, we couldn’t resist the invitation to drop by this little shop!




The bookshop a few doors down was pretty nice too and we enjoyed browsing some different reading suggestions.




I spotted a book about the storm we’d learned about whilst driving through the Sleeping Bear Dunes, where fallen trees still remained, some years later.




Someone spotted a book which he liked the look of and with a birthday coming up, a purchase was made. 




So all in all, a pleasant Sunday morning in Petoskey.  Where next?




We set off, noting the small lighthouse, and followed the road around the coast.




The clouds were coming in and it didn’t look too promising, but we know now how quickly the weather can change and didn’t worry too much about it.




Our next stop was Harbor Springs, another delightful small town with a collection of lively shops and cafes.  We browsed in and out of them and, finding a pretty cardigan/jacket in one, I thought I was about to spend my “Sunday Dollars”.  But thankfully I noticed a small hole in the collar just in time – a shame they didn’t have another.  They did have a very sweet Michigan cushion though, which might just inspire a road trip souvenir when we are home!




A flowery table in the sunshine and the promise of ice cream seemed a great idea, so we put our feet up and watched the world go by for a while before jumping back in the car for the next thing on our list.




Seeing this barn with a quilt on it reminded me what I had intended to look out for on the way to Charlevoix this morning!  We’d driven that road when out to dinner last night and spotted a barn quilt just before the “Welcome to Charlevoix” sign.  This morning, as we passed that sign, I knew there was something I was supposed to spot, but could I remember what?!   Never mind.




Anyhow, the next attraction was the “tunnel of trees”.  Very beautiful it was too, reminding us of home…




The Legs Inn is a landmark, recommended by our friends and judging from the car park, was a popular spot for lunch.  There was an interesting menu outside, complete with the Polish specialities the Inn is known for.




We’d imagined this as a great place to stop for lunch except, standing here right now, we couldn’t imagine how we might manage it.  It was a daft decision to eat ice cream, wasn’t it?




See the “legs” on the roof?  (The table legs, of course – I don’t know the significance of the silhouette)




So, with a change of plan we might regret later, we continued to dawdle our way to Mackinaw City, following Gill Road at one point.




It was quite clear when we were almost there!




We couldn’t resist stopping to take a look at the beautiful lake from this little beach.




Though this isn’t Lake Michigan any more.




The Mackinaw bridge crosses the strait between Lakes Michigan and Huron and is the dividing line.




So I put my feet into the (cold) Lake Huron and ticked that one off.




From here, with the aid of my zoom lens, I could see where we’ll stay tomorrow night.




But for now, we’ll enjoy the sunshine here in…




No, I have no idea how to pronounce it either.  I’ll stick with Mackinaw City.


Sleeping Bear

We were headed for the Sleeping Bear Dunes this morning.  It’s a National Park on the Eastern coast of Lake Michigan and on a sunny morning, it was a lovely drive.




We drove through hopfields, past iris farms and hundreds and hundreds of cherry trees to reach the small town of Empire, from where we followed the trail to the coast.




We’d reached number three on the pathway before realising that there were numbers on the wooden posts.




But from there, we began to read.




We didn’t need to read for long however, for the views were spectacular.  The bluff we could see in the distance was the huge sand dune known as the Sleeping Bear and the Little Glen Lake was there to the side.




Looking the other way along the shore of Lake Michigan there was an equally stunning view.




It was a glorious day to be here!




From there, we drove to the National Park entrance, where we stopped to take pictures at the covered bridge.




Here too were spectacular views of both Big and Small Glen Lakes and the narrow strip of land in between them, known as the alligator.  See its head and snout ?




Shortly afterwards, we were into the dunes proper.




We had no intention of sliding on the sand and every intention of staying on the trail!




But we soon realised that others were not quite of similar mind.




For here was the huge dune, where people just couldn’t resist slip-sliding down to the bottom, regardless of the notices and warnings.




And it was steep.  Very steep.  In fact, we thought it looked pretty similar to Coopers Hill in Gloucestershire, where the Cheese Rolling takes place each year.




But these people weren’t racing down.  Most were enjoying the slide and the splash when they reached the bottom.  Incidentally, the green bluff in the background is where we’d begun our day and from where the first photographs of Sleeping Bear had been taken.




Some folks were making the tough climb back to where they had begun and I zoomed in on the chap in the bright blue shorts, who took a few steps and then stopped to rest.




At 10.35am he still had a long way to go and seemed to be finding it hard going.




We stood on the viewing platform, enjoying both the views and the entertainment.




10.43am and he’s there, third from the bottom, still crawling up on all fours.  Rather him than me.




10.48am and the next time I looked, he was doing ok but slowing down.  It wasn’t too hot this morning at least, though I imagine he’d built up a bit of a sweat in the last half hour!




By now we were ready to move on, but as we did, I looked out for the bright blue shorts.  Sure enough, as we walked along the top of the dune, there he was.  !0.51am and he’d made it. The sad thing was, there was no-one to cheer or give him a pat on the back.  I was tempted to give him a round of applause but the moment passed and we were moving along.




Past the a beautiful white barn on the DH Day farm




and into Glen Arbor, where a spot of lunch was on the cards.




A pretty little town, not only were there these amazing planters with a fantastic assortment of plants in them;




a matching pair, complete with bright blue flowers to complete the “wow” factor,




there was also the familiar sight of a Cherry Republic sign.  Love their sense of humour!




Yes, of course we went in.




Yes, of course we did.




We even saw the real thing up close, having passed by so many as we’ve driven around here in the last few days.




The T shirt on the display seemed a fitting way to end today’s blog.  Had it been available in a larger size than a “2 Toddler” I could have been tempted.  As it was, it was time to head back to Torch Lake after another extraordinary day in Northern Michigan.

We love it here!


At the lake




We are so enjoying the lakeside life with our sweet friends.




Torch Lake is simply lovely, too.




This morning, we took a short drive up the lake to Alden, a cute little town.




First stop was the Mill House, set in lush gardens




Next stop, the knitting shop next door, where Sue kindly wound yarn for the next pair of socks for me.  I haven’t finished the current pair yet, but it pays to be prepared!




After a bite to eat in the Muffin Tin cafe, we found a few cute souvenirs before heading back.




Whilst we were out, the weather had cleared and the sun was shining.  Time to take the boat out?




Leia the dog was perfectly happy on board as we spent a fun hour or so sailing around the upper part of the lake.  There are some gorgeous properties around here and on a sunny afternoon, the lake was beautiful.

We were back in time to welcome another couple of friends to celebrate a birthday with a super relaxed dinner followed by a scrumptious cake complete with candles.




As the sun was going down, we jumped into the boat again, for a sunset cruise.








A wee bit chilly too, but who cares when there’s a sky like that?




So, we’ll say Goodnight from Torch Lake at the end of a beautiful day spent in delightful company.  We are blessed indeed.


A Road Trip kind of day




Perhaps it was good that the weather turned on the day we had the greatest distance to travel?  But you know, driving through that weather isn’t so good.  We were pleased when it eased off.




We were travelling in a westerly direction, heading for Torch Lake, but hoping to have time to take a look around Traverse City on the way.  We drove past acres of Christmas trees and through miles of lush green landscape.




As always, we stayed on the smaller, regional roads and didn’t use the Interstate at all.  As a result, the view through the windscreen was the classic road trip view.




I made some progress on the socks!




And before too long, we reached the lake.  Lake Michigan, that is.




Traverse City lies at the southern tip of a finger of the lake and is a popular holiday spot.




As soon as we stepped out on to the street, it was clear we were amongst the holiday crew.




We dropped into a cute little shop and immediately noticed the strong  “Michigan” identity.  In particular, the “mitten state” is very much in evidence.  Love it!




I don’t think my Hero was tempted by the Traverse City look in the shop next door, however.




It was fun to walk through the town and do a little window shopping.




With a wealth of smart, independent shops, browsing was fun.  I was admiring the style of this lovely bath and body product company store, taking pictures of well-designed window arrangements and great colour schemes.




Right next door was a great independent bookshop too.  Road trip conversations tend to include reminiscences of previous trips and this morning, we were trying to recall the name of the actor we’d seen in the Coyote Cafe, Santa Fe, some years ago.  Was it Matthew McConaughey?  It wasn’t, but neither could we remember who it was.  So, walking into the bookshop, one of us might have uttered a suggestion in the form of a name of some actor or other, which unsurprisingly,  piqued the interest of Sharon, one of the booksellers.




Of course, we had to explain what on earth we were on about.  Poor Sharon hadn’t really anticipated an encounter with the three of us, who finish one another’s sentences and have weird points of reference.  But she too had been in Santa Fe at the same time as we were there, knew the Coyote Cafe and was keen to help us remember just which actor it was who’d been there at the next table that night. 

I was sure his name began with M, so when we eventually worked out that it was Dermot Mulroney, I wasn’t totally wrong Winking smile     We agreed that at some point in the future, we’ll probably encounter Sharon again and when we do, we’ll whisper Dermot Mulroney in her ear!




We ‘recovered’  a few doors down in the Cherry Republic.  Well seeing the motif on the sign, with the magic word ‘pie’ in there too, how could we go wrong?




Yes.  Everything is cherry in here.  Cherry good.




The Cherry Bears are in here too and the decor reflects that.




Right up my street!




Having sampled our way around the chocolate covered cherries, the cherry salsas, the cherry maltesers, the cherry sausages (yes, really), we decided to stop for a drink.




Cherry Ginger Bear for me, Cherry Root Bear for him!








Michigan is a “pop” state.   Geddit?




Fortified by cherries and more cherries, we wandered further up the street, finding another great bookshop at the other end of town.  How civilised is that?




This bookshop had a balcony level and around the balcony was the greatest collection of quilts including this pretty one made from fussy cutting a floral fabric.




But the weather was coming in over the lake and my Hero was keeping an eye on the forecast.  He’d chatted to a chap called Dave whilst I tried clothes on in Chico’s and he too was aiming to leave before the storm.




There was just one more “must do” before we headed off.  We needed to eat ice cream at Moomers.  (Thank you for the recommendation, Joanne!)




At last, we made it to Torch Lake, where we’ll spend a few days with friends in the most gorgeous lakeside setting.




Thankfully, the storm didn’t arrive.  Fingers crossed for sunshine tomorrow!

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