Thursday, July 22, 2010

Day 7, The Bucket List Shortens

Last night, while still in Gaylord, Michigan, we attended another outdoor concert. This time it was a "community orchestra" concert, where we sat on our beach chairs, and heard both young and old musicians from the city and surrounding areas play lovely music, very professionally.  Marches seemed to be the favored type of music, but we were impressed with the talent in that little town! 

This followed a dinner at the local favorite restaurant,  The Sugar Bowl.  (Randy gagged at the name of the place, but we were assured by our motel clerk that it was THE place to eat.)  The food was good, and my favorite thing was a new discovery:  It was a Greek soup, and apparently is a "traditional" Greek soup.  Its ethnic name is "Avgolomono," but its American name is Greek Lemon Rice Chicken Soup, which pretty much defines it.

I confess that after tasting it, as though it were a fine wine, and analyzing it, I googled its American name, and got a variety of recipes.  The gist of them all seems to be vegetable or chicken broth, rice, garlic, fresh lemon juice, and an egg that is mixed into the hot soup very slowly along with that lemon juice.  I will make it when I get home, just because it is pretty and hot.

This morning we were up very early, ate the hotel breakfast under the direction of the "Motel Breakfast Nazi," and were on our way north on I75.  We were going to Mackinac Island, a place on my mental Bucket List of places that have to be seen in this lifetime.

I need to identify the recommenders (is there such a word?) of the book Innocent as Jeff and Linda Albert.  We listened to the audio book some more on the one hour drive north, and now we think we know "whodunnit."  More on this if we are right.

They, along with Len and Toby Liberman, also told me to read The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which is currently keeping me awake at night, and weighing down my purse, since I never go anywhere without a book.  Add that to my 'travel gear' and that purse is heavy!

We had actually called ahead and made a motel reservation at a Quality Inn at Saint Ignace, Michigan, for tonight.

 I know, I know.  That's not our style, but we decided to avoid the regular routine in favor of a quick check-in this morning, and no worry about where we'd be tonight. The day itself was to be full.  Sometimes we just have to do things like regular people.

We had to cross the Mackinac Bridge in order to get to St. Ignace. This bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the entire Western Hemisphere.  It is technically 5 miles long, and is beautiful to see stretching across the point where Lake Michigan on the west meets Lake Huron on the east.  The Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse was on the southern end of the bridge. The Upper Peninsula is on the northern side of the bridge.

Thelma decided to give us her version of a misguided tour of the Northern Woods once we got off the bridge. We had told her the motel's address. I am sure it is because we would not let her "speak" for the entire morning's ride.  She took us onto a gravel road on the banks of Lake Michigan, letting us drive slowly behind a woodsman in a pick-up truck who was out to exercise his hunting dogs. The dogs ran along next to the truck as the man ate pork rinds and drove the truck.  This went on for a mile or so, and I know I heard Thelma chuckle evilly.......  Not as bad as when she tried to kill us on a mountain in Virginia, but that is another story.

Once at the motel, things really were wonderful.  The desk clerk called for our complimentary shuttle bus which took us to the ferry, which took us quickly out to Mackinac Island.

We had a lovely day !  Mackinac Island is the only city in the entire country that has no automobiles allowed on its streets.  If you don't walk, you bike or take a horse-drawn buggy.  Even the suitcases of the people who stay in the hotels and inns are delivered either by horse-drawn vehicles or by bicycle. (We saw one man who could not even see over the pile of luggage in his bike basket, and he had other bags strapped to his person.)

Every thing that is needed for restaurants, (except for fish) building, repair, furnishings and such has to be delivered to the island by way of cargo boats, then delivered by bicycle or horse cart.  We saw a floral delivery that was done on foot, up a hill!

The streets are filled with horses and carts and people and bicycles, therefore.  The acrid odor of horse urine and road apples fill the air. (One little child was screaming that the place "smells like a zoo!")  But this is part of the charm, I suppose.

One long street, right off the boat ramp, Historic Market Street, is busy with shops.  Every other shop is selling home-made fudge. We found that they gave free samples, and that kept us from buying a hunk to wear home on our hips.  The gift shops, jewelry stores, tee shirt shops, restaurants, and fudge shops were bustling with many many tourists.

We walked up the road and saw two very old churches, some lovely inns and b+b's,  and Fort Mackinac.  We knew that we did not have the stamina today to climb the hill up to that fort and go through it, with all the other things that seemed to be there to see. (Trust me, we did a fair share of walking without the fort tour.)

It took us awhile to climb up to the Grand Hotel. That's the one you see in all the promos for this place.  And it IS grand.  The garden in the front was in itself awesome.  Unfortunately, the hotel has chosen to eliminate visitors from the hotel unless they are registered guests.  For a ten dollar fee each, we could have wandered through the lobbies of the hotel.  We chose not to do this, so just wandered around in the street and garden a bit before going back down the hill to eat lunch.  There is a restaurant at the Grand Hotel by the gate, where many chose to eat, but we had our eye on a place downtown.

Our choice was called The Pink Pony, and it had a pink toy pony hanging over the front door of this hotel.  No fee to enter here!  We had a lovely lunch on the back patio, under yellow umbrellas.  Randy had a fabulous tomato bisque soup, and I had a Gorgonzola salad with balsamic dressing. We enjoyed a glass of wine, and then took off on foot back down Market Street. 

We continued our walk, taking photos of lovely gardens and inns.  We came to the Mackinac Public Library.  Most people continued to walk right on by this little building, but we decided to go inside.  You can tell a lot about a town by its library, we have found.

The Mackinac Island Public Library is the best well-kept little secret in the entire city, we think.  The lovely large room, which is painted a robin's egg blue with white trim, has a back wall of wide open doors that look out over the  Round Island Lighthouse and the bay.  Six white chairs, Adirondacks and rockers combined, sit on the back deck, inviting the reader to, "Sit. Enjoy. Listen. Read."  And we did.  The waves lapping on the shore and the gulls calling to each other were the only sounds we heard as we sat there enjoying the summer sun, the quiet, the book from my purse,  a little nap for Randy, and the contentment that comes with finding a small piece of Heaven.

We told NO ONE about the Mackinac Public Library.  If we had, it would not be the secret that I am now sharing with you!

We found, by pedometer reading, that we had walked nearly six miles by this time. We dragged ourselves back down Market Street to the only place labelled "BAR" that we could find, and cooled off with a tall Miller Light at the Horn's Gaslight Bar (established in 1933) at the bar.

Thus fortified, we returned to the ferry place, waited for the next one, and returned to land and  St. Ignace and our pre-registered room.

Dinner was at a place recommended by our shuttle driver, called The Galley.  We had fried fish and chips;  nothing extraordinary, but very fresh.

We are now resting, feet up, and have a "sort of plan" for tomorrow morning at least.

I remember when I was a little girl, in about the third grade, and some other little girl came back from a trip to Mackinac Island. I was enormously jealous.  She went on and on and on about the one thing that had impressed her the most: She had eaten a very large amount of fudge there.

It's too bad she didn't know about the library!