August 22, 2016

LAKE HURON COAST OF MICHIGAN

“I’m at the age where I’ve got to prove that I’m just as good as I never was.”  Rex Harrison

Carol writes:  At Cheboygan we had reached the northern most point in our travels this year.  As luck would have it, our dear friends from Colorado Springs, Bob and Corrie, were in Michigan for a family event.  They gave us a call and we arranged to meet up in Cheboygan.  Lots of fun catching up! 

Hats off to Corrie for meeting up with us on the road twice this summer!

HILLMAN, MICHIGAN

Al had discovered a nice little golf course campground in Hillman, Michigan, not far from the city of Alpena on the coast of Lake Huron where we had plans to explore some of the old shipwrecks that have been remarkably  preserved in the cold waters of Lake Huron. 


We took a glass-bottom boat tour out into the waters of Thunder Bay at NOAA’s Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary.  It was interesting to view shipwrecks, both from the top deck


and also through six glass-bottom portholes on the lower deck.


The Great Lakes became one of the world’s busiest waterways for the better part of the 20th century; an unfortunate result was a century of shipwrecks, each with a sad story to tell that became an important part of our marine heritage.

MONROE, MICHIGAN

Our next stop on the shore of Lake Huron was at Sterling State Park, just outside of Monroe, Michigan.  I had been looking forward to this visit for the better part of the past year because Monroe was where I would have two full weeks to visit with my brother and his wife in nearby Toledo.  We decide to make it a day together and see a bit of Detroit, Michigan’s largest city.
 

As the new millennium began, Detroit began to experience unprecedented job losses, mainly in the once-booming automotive industry.  As a terrible recession gripped much of our country, racial conflict and rapid demographic changes only added to Detroit’s misery.  In recent years, however, with the rescue of the automobile industry, the city has embarked on an ever-so-slow revitalization.  We found the river walk area along the Detroit River, dominated by the seven interconnected skyscrapers of the Renaissance Center, to be quite beautiful, 


and my brother an excellent tour guide.


The shot from inside the General Motors tower looking across the Detroit River into Windsor, Canada, was irresistible.

The four of us took turns getting arty shots beneath the soaring towers of the Renaissance Center, the world headquarters of General Motors.
 

From its point of dominance at the Renaissance Center, there is no doubt that Detroit remains America’s Motor City!

For more great views of downtown Detroit, we took the nearly 3-mile automated single-track Detroit People Mover.  We liked it so much we stayed on for two loops around the city. 



By then, we had worked out the framing for the humorous photo of the day.


As longtime Colorado Avalanche hockey fans, it was a little painful riding by the home of the Detroit Red Wings, although I have to admit Detroit has every reason to be proud of one of the greatest who ever played the game.


I think the city fathers made a wise decision when Greektown Casino was included as one of the stops along the People Mover.  I admit we all ended up making a small contribution to the local economy, but we sure had lots of fun encouraging each other at the penny slots.


There is probably no other minor league sports team that has endeared itself with the American public more than the Toledo Mud Hens, one of the most iconic of all the minor league teams, thanks to numerous references to this team by lovable Max Klinger on the TV series “MASH.”  Both Al and I have always wanted to go to a Mud Hens game, and now we had our chance with two of our favorite people.

The small-town ballpark atmosphere was cozy and comfortable, with the backdrop of a lovely Toledo skyline on this late summer evening in August.


Internet Photo
The Toledo Jeep Assembly Plant is king among Toledo industries.  Toledo is where Jeeps have been assembled since the 1940s.  Our tow vehicle is a Jeep Cherokee and so we felt right at home on the construction-crazy streets of Toledo.  When I say construction, I mean rampant street repair of every type—including major interstate traffic realignments everywhere—making the streets a driving nightmare!  We frequently found ourselves putting on our signal to be let in.  Surprisingly, we were often shown mercy by the locals… which we had noticed were not exactly conservative drivers.  Could it be that some of that mercy was shown to us because we were driving a Jeep?

In southeastern Michigan, one of the most highly recommended tourist destinations is “The Henry Ford Museum” in Dearborn.  We had been warned to allow a very long day to see everything in this world-class museum plus adjacent Greenfield Village.

The wow factor of the museum got into high gear right out of the starting gate with a fascinating display of presidential cars…







the Reagan car,










the car that President Kennedy was riding in when he was assassinated,







and the Eisenhower car.










There was a remarkable collection of some of the first cars ever invented,  


in addition to some rare and exotic models like the 1931 Duesenberg,


and some spectacular failures like the Edsel, named after Henry Ford’s only son.


This museum clearly illustrated that Henry Ford was a colossal collector.  There were two exhibits that especially caught my eye: 




the rocking chair that Abraham Lincoln was sitting in when he was assassinated









and the actual “Rosa Parks bus” where she refused to give up her seat.  The Rosa Parks exhibit actually gave me goosebumps when I went inside to reflect for a few minutes.




Some exhibits speak all by themselves, with no words needed…




The giant Henry Ford Museum had interesting exhibits at every turn, such as…




George Washington’s folding camp bed,





and the futuristic 1946 Dymaxion House that never caught on.


By now we had spent half a day in the museum, and we needed to speed it up for the rest of the afternoon so that we would have enough time for a walk through Greenfield Village, the outdoor part of the museum where you can visit actual historic structures and buildings that were acquired by Henry Ford and moved to their present location.  There was

Henry Ford’s boyhood home and






most fascinating of all, Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory with Edison’s chair sitting hauntingly in the aisle where he last sat in it.

It required 5 miles of walking and took us till closing to experience the best that The Henry Ford Museum had to offer.  Even so, I could return for another full day’s visit and be fascinated all over again by all that I had missed.


We were well into our 2-week stay in Monroe when we fully realized the importance of a very historic battlefield within biking distance from our campground.

We found an exquisite colony of American lotus flowers along the River Raisin Heritage Trail in the shallow waters bordering the Detroit Edison Power Plant.




River Raisin National Battlefield Park 
preserves and commemorates two pivotal battles in the War of 1812.  In short, based on the outcome of the battles at this Frenchtown site, the states of Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have remained a part of our country and did not become part of Canada.

Whew!  This completes the fifth blog about our busy summer in Michigan.  I could think of no better finale than spending quality time with family, but now it was time to head on down to my childhood home in Mt. Healthy, Ohio, where I looked forward to reconnecting with dear friends at my 50th high school reunion.





“Words are easy, like the wind; faithful friends are hard to find.”  William Shakespeare

August 5, 2016

NOSTALGIA ON MACKINAC ISLAND

“If time travel is possible, where are the tourists from the future?”  Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time

Carol writes:  It was only a few years ago that Al and I stumbled upon a cable movie channel that was showing the 1980 cult classic movie titled “Somewhere in Time,” starring Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour.






We were awestruck by the beauty of the majestic hotel where much of the film was shot.  When 'special thanks' to the 'Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island' rolled by on the credits, a new bucket list item was born.

The choice of our campground in Cheboygan, Michigan, at the northern tip of the Lower Peninsula, was made so that we could be as close as possible to the Straits of Mackinac for an easy day trip to Mackinac Island.

Since no cars are allowed on the island (with the exception of emergency vehicles and snowmobiles in winter), Mackinac Island was the perfect location for a movie about time travel to the past.  In addition to walking, bicycles and horse-drawn carriages are the only modes of travel.
 

… and that includes community services such as trash collection.


The architectural style of many of the homes and businesses dates back to the latter half of the 1800s, decades before the invention of the automobile.





Tourists who want to spend time on Mackinac Island must arrive by boat.  We brought our own bikes and elected to use Shepler’s Ferry service.

















We picked a ‘Mighty Mac’ time slot because that trip included a brief detour under the majestic Mackinac Bridge, high above the Straits of Mackinac, the dividing line between Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  

The stately Mackinac suspension bridge is the connection point between Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsula.



Our ferry delivered us into the crowded center of the tourist shop area—and it really was congested on this perfect Michigan day.





Our island bucket list included a bike ride along the 8-mile paved trail that circles the island.  Riding a bike on streets without cars was delightful, as long as you remembered that horses always have the right-of-way… and were careful to dodge occasional piles of horse manure.


It was quickly apparent to us that this bike ride was one that we would want to savor, so when we spotted an uncrowded coffee shop looking out on a magnificent view of the water, a second round of morning coffee summoned both of us.





As the bike trail left the tiny city behind, the incredible natural beauty of the forested island was all around us…







a giant natural stone arch










miles of rocky beaches with crystal clear waters of Lake Huron.


One of the most pleasurable 8 miles of bike riding we have ever done…


After our bike ride, we headed uphill for lunch on the grounds of the Grand Hotel.  We had a great viewpoint for watching horse-drawn carriages and bicyclists ascend the pathway to the Grand Hotel.


It felt like we were experiencing events from a time long ago as we watched guests of the Grand Hotel arrive by a shiny wooden horse-drawn carriage.



Now for a peek at that elegant hotel that had opened in 1887 and had brought us to Mackinac Island…


The colonial porch of the Grand Hotel was a whopping 660 feet long, making it the world’s longest porch.  I couldn’t resist a few minutes in one of those timeless white rockers.


The view of the Mackinac Straits and that iconic bridge between the columns of that grand porch was amazing!


Inside, the d├ęcor was comfortable, colorful, and cozy.




There was a small display on the making of the movie “Somewhere in Time,” one of the most rented films of all time.  Without a doubt, this film's brilliant selection of locale on Mackinac Island was in a big way responsible for creating the mood that was so essential to the story.  Every October fans of this cult film, along with returning cast members, return to Mackinac for a weekend of celebration.



I am not certain when, or if, the human race will ever overcome the obstacles of the physics associated with time travel.  However, at the Grand Hotel at this point in time, we certainly were dazzled by the ambience of gracious living from bygone days.  The intriguing offer of a trip back in time on magical Mackinac Island created for us a day like no other.

“The bottom line is that time travel is allowed by the laws of physics.”  Brian Greene