Monday, June 23, 2014

North Country: St Ignace

Jun 23 2013
The day started cold and, true to form, wet. 60 degrees and the air is filled with cold fog again. I screwed around for a while to let the day get a good start then headed the couple miles on into St. Ignace. As long as I'm here I'm going to hang out a bit before heading south.

Though it looks pretty weathered, therefore aged like it’s been there a while, I don’t remember there being a boardwalk in town before, but then again it's been a long time since I was here last. Of course, since it was there I had to walk it. Plenty of parking at the public marina and even the few parking spots one lot over designated specifically for the boardwalk were empty. Again, where are all the people??
I started out near the remains of the rail float dock that used to be the primary link between the lower and upper peninsulas. It's over near the lighthouse which anchors one end of the boardwalk. Then, following the weathered boards and reading the information plaques along the way, I snaked my way along the shore behind several businesses and through several Mackinac Island ferry service parking lots.

You can catch a ferry out to Mackinac Island from either here in St. Ignace or down in Mackinaw City. (Yep, both Mac's are spelled right.) Unless you can afford a private plane charter or are crazy intrepid enough to brave the some-times ice-bridge on a snow machine during the winter, that's the only way to get out to the auto-less island which, among other things like the historic fort and fudge shops, is where the Grand Hotel is. The building's 660 ft front porch is said to be the longest in the world. A cousin of mine spent quite a few winters (The off season.) on the island renovating the 1890's building and my retired Uncle would sometimes hire on to haul loads of building supplies up from the southern part of the state.

Mackinac Bridge from the south shore. This didn't exist until I was 2 years old
But back to the boardwalk. You have the choice of walking it out and back or just out then wander the sidewalks of the main drag back, window shopping along the way. To make it even more interesting they have displays scattered along the boardwalk talking about the history of the area.
Prior to that you had to take a car ferry across the straits.
OK, enough of that; time to cross the very long Mackinaw bridge and start moving south. Well – a little ways anyway. As soon as I was over land again I got back off the road and messed around for a while in the state park under the shadow of the south end of the bridge. It was still foggy and I think I got a couple ghostly images of the bridge disappearing into the distance.
Moving south in earnest now I was passing through what used to be a playground for us when I was a kid. I have no idea how many nights we spent in various places in northern Michigan but it was a lot. At first, passing through Indian River, Wolverine and Vanderbilt, it didn’t look like it had changed a lot, but then I got to Gaylord!

I’m not sure I have ever seen a billboard for Walmart before but at the moment there’s one out there as you come into Gaylord from the north. But, along with the Walmart and the Lowes and the Ruby’s and all the other new things causing some real traffic jams in what used to be a small village back in the day, the Call of the Wild museum is still there.
When I was a kid this was a slightly cheesy but exciting place full of worn and shedding taxidermy posed in fake natural habitats with fake natural sounds coming out of not very well hidden tinny sounding speakers all inside a low, grey building wrapped on the outside with fake rocks to look like a miniature mountain.
Back then, if you paid to go in it also meant you were going to get a Call of the Wild museum bumper sticker put on your car. (I imagine too many people complained if they stuck it on with glue like most bumper stickers but these were the days of real steel bumpers so wire was threaded through holes in the ends of the bumper sticker then bent around the bumper to hold them on.)

I can’t comment on what’s inside the place these days since I didn’t stop, but the building is either the same one from those days or a new one built just like the original right in the same place. Hard to believe that place has survived all these years.

Well I'm still 1500 miles from home but that’s going to about wrap things up for this trip. Tomorrow I arrive at family for family things followed by a mad dash straight through to Texas to get safely home before the 4th of July’ers get turned loose on the roads. (I made it home on the 2nd after a day and a half of nothing but windshield time.)

23 days
3679.4 miles
159.9 miles average per day
230.47 gallons of fuel
20.3 miles per gallon

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