After an absurdly unproductive stay in Mackinaw City that spanned several days because gale-force winds whipped up huge waves out on the open water, on Thursday we left the Mackinaw Bridge and Lake Huron in our wake. More huge waves were in the immediate future, so everyone who needed to travel by boat screamed out of every nook and cranny like Florida fans rushing to a jort sale.
What about Mackinaw City? We did some stuff last time we stayed in Mackinaw City, and posted about it, and this time the wind was so fierce that we didn’t go outside much anyway. Some new non-looping friends did turn us on to the local pickleball scene, however, so we played twice in a dimly-lit abandoned ice hockey rink. Better than nothing, and we did enjoy playing with Beck, Nancy, Cheryl, and John.
At the risk of putting fluff lipstick on this pig of a report, here’s a statue of Edgar Conklin, a rich dude from Cincinnati who decided that the northern tip of the Michigan mitt was destined for a population explosion so he bought a bunch of land that became Mackinaw City. The explosion never came, which might explain the sad and disappointed look in his carved eyes.
For a time, however, the train ferry and then the car ferries did a brisk business from terminals right about where we docked. This allowed for other turn-of-the-century pioneers to build thousands of fudge shops and t-shirt emporia, which are too numerous for plaques but remain in business to this day, attracting tourists who otherwise might be in Gatlinburg or lined up at a fried pork rind stand. “My parents got fudged in Michigan but all I got was this lousy shirt.”
Most importantly, Deb and Sam and Lea drove down from the U.P.—that’s the “Upper Peninsula” for those of us not in the know—on Wednesday. Awesome to see them. Awesome to have a boat dog aboard again.
How windy was it? The fancy new “luxury expedition ship” Le Dumont D’Urville—which basically is a small-ish fast-ish cruise ship but without the all-you-can-eat buffet and karaoke bar—couldn’t get wherever it had planned to go so just sat there all afternoon on the leeward side of Michigan.
When a break in the wind finally came, we took off. Right after the decent sunrise, of course.
Excellent decision. Smooth all the way to Harbor Springs. None of our guests got sick. Which is a good thing, because Thursday was Deb’s birthday and it would suck to battle huge waves on your birthday.
Now about Harbor Springs. We love Harbor Springs.
Thanks to invasive mussels that filter the water (and drive off all the fish) in these parts, you can see the bottom twenty feet below. It’s so clear that we all could see Deb’s debit card when it sank out of our net’s reach off the dock in Mackinaw City, and it’s even clearer in Harbor Springs.
We’ve commented before on how well folks do flowers when the flower season only lasts about five weeks. The Harbor Springs Garden Club does it as well as anybody.
The town is full of cute shops and restaurants and boats and women in Lilly Pulitzer dresses. And yes, we stand out, but not in a good way.
Now here’s a majestic boat, docked just down the street. No really, the boat is Majestic. Her name used to be secret. No really, her name used to be Secret. This 200-foot monster is owned by Bruce Sherman, who also owns the Miami Marlins. We figure he’s bummed that he was a month ahead of us through Lakes Ontario, Erie, and Huron, and then on up to here, because he didn’t have our blog updates to help him pick marinas.
Harbor Springs’ famous and favorite son is Ephraim Shay, who developed a revolutionary locomotive engine that provided power to all wheels and thus made it much easier for loggers to clear cut forests on steep grades. His home isn’t open as a museum but did get a plaque and a sign. Turns out this isn’t just your average house with hexagonal rooms. Shay built it entirely out of stamped steel, which literally means he could cover all the walls—inside and outside—with refrigerator magnets. He certainly could’ve picked up a few hundred thousand of ’em in Mackinaw City souvenir shops.
Shay also designed and built an odd-looking all steel boat named Aha, which Harbor Springs proudly displays in, wait for it, Shay Park.
According to the sign, in 1894 Aha pulled the stranded steamship Manitou—carrying “hundreds of passengers”—to the safety of Harbor Springs “through foggy darkness and uncertain Lake Michigan waters.” This is the sort of thing we like to research further. However, despite our efforts to scour the universe of historical information available through Google searches, the only reference to this heroic event we could find is on that little sign. In Shay Park. Hmmmm.
Sunday’s wind switched direction and started bouncing us around like some really bouncy thing, so we decided to head over to Petoskey, which is just across Little Traverse Bay. Most Loopers skip Harbor Springs and stay at Petoskey instead and we wanted to know why. No Ubers in this part of Michigan and the ferry wasn’t running, but Maggie’s mom heard us complaining and offered us her car. So we took it.
Just like Harbor Springs, Petoskey has cute shops and restaurants and boats.
Petoskey also has way more tourists like us who feel a bit out of place in both Mackinaw City and Harbor Springs. And, of course, Petoskey has Petoskey Stones.
This area is a hotbed of the fossilized coral that now is Michigan’s state rock. They’re pretty and all, but we didn’t buy any.
Dana, however, did patronize a shop run by booksellers who either are very brave or very foolish, because they either don’t know or don’t care that in some parts of the country they could face execution in a gas chamber.
Did we mention the wind? Yeah, it was windy. Ripped the dinghy cover off. Blew the flybridge hatch open. Did we mention the rain? One night it dumped an inch and a half on us. Between the wind and the rain, some poor slob’s moored sailboat flipped over about 75 yards from us. Hopefully he didn’t leave his computer and passport and all his gold bullion on board.
No worries though. TowBoatUS managed an efficient salvage operation and sort of had things under control well before sunset.
Anyway, Harbor Springs still is a top ten town for us. But we can’t move here. We wear socks with our shoes and don’t own white pants. Maybe we’ll fit in a bit better over on Beaver Island. Tomorrow looks like a decent travel day.