The Great Northern Adventure 2012, Day Three.

ST. IGNACE, Mich. and MACKINAC ISLAND, Mich. – First of all, eager readers, we all know you’re dying to find out whether Laurel won last night’s sidewalk drawing contest. She received third place. She was very excited about it. Of course, it was supposed to be a children’s contest but cheaters are everywhere and apparently several adults took it upon themselves to compete.

“I was just thrilled to see her come out of the award notifications happy,” said Michelle. “I had sternly warned her to have a pokerface if she didn’t place.”

Promptly at 7:30 a.m., Michelle woke the entire family so they could catch the ferry to Mackinac Island at 9:05. “Trust me,” she said. “Waking them 1.5 hours early is not merely a good idea, it is a necessity. I have given birth to the slowest eaters and dressers on the planet. This is no lie. Laurel sat for fully 10 minutes working on getting her shoes Just Right, and I thought for sure Ethan had never seen a cherry before.”

By the way, this reporter failed you yesterday, readers, in neglecting to report that our family stopped at one of the ubiquitous stands advertising “WASHED SWEET CHERRIES.” After consulting The Wife regarding a fair price for the fruit, Greg bounded up to the stand and bought a heavenly $10 worth of local sweet cherries.

“Bounded? Really? Is that what you call that?” Greg asked.

Mea culpa. This reporter is simply trying to add some interest to this piece.

So back to this morning. The family arose after a few harsh words directed at the lazybutt kids, and managed to catch that long dreamt-of 9:05 ferry to Mackinac Island.


For those of you who may be curious, that was a guest report from the youngest member of our family, Ethan, who in recent days has lost all ability to moderate both the level and the constant presence of his voice.

“For reals,” Michelle said, “I love that kid like crazy but he Never. Stops. Talking.”

01 - bikes patiently awaiting the ferry02 - kids not so patient03 - hydrojet spray

Our adventurers had a Grand Plan which included ferrying their bikes to Mackinac Island and riding the entire perimeter, followed in short order by a visit to Fort Mackinac. And lo, the day turned out just as they had planned. First, the rode the perimeter of the island, 8 miles of almost entirely flat road all the way around. They do not allow cars on Mackinac (with a very few exceptions made for emergency vehicles and the like), so it is as safe as it can be for bikers.

“I for one, felt like a kickass mom,” boasted Michelle, “because other moms my age were complaining by mile 6.5 or so about having left their legs a few miles back, and I was just plugging along no problem in spite of my Feasting Winter. ha!”

The family stopped a few times to read interpretive signs, see the sites, view rock cairns, and skip rocks.

“So it turns out I’ve lost all ability to skip rocks,” Michelle sighed.

“Yeah. Not me, though,” Greg responded.

It’s true. Greg was without a doubt the Grade A Number One U.S. Choice Rock-Skipper that day.

“And we all knowthat of all the life skills in this world, rock-skipping is perhaps the most important,” quipped Michelle.

04 - arch rock05 - building cairns06 - posing with another creation07 - rock skippers

After giving the island a thorough inspection of the perimeter, our friends parked their bikes (“NOOOOO! GOD! WHY CAN’T WE RIDE OUR BIKES UP THERE I DON’T WANT TO PARK MY BIKE!” – guess who?) and walked up the long, long, very long ramp to historic Ft. Mackinac. Immediately upon their arrival they happened upon an entertaining ceremonial cannon firing.

han sat atop Greg’s shoulders, mostly with his fingers in his ears, but our photographer did manage to convince him the cannon wouldn’t be fired until the interpreter finished his speech.


08 - waiting for cannon firing09 - cannon view.

Next, 3/4 of the family went on a War of 1812 Tour. Laurel decided she was more interested in the family/children tour, so she went to play with toys instead. The War Tour was mildly interesting, though the interpreter seemed a little, shall we say, uncertain of his timeline and those involved. Even so, it was interesting enough to keep Michelle and Greg off Facebook for a short time.

10 - harbor view from Fort Mackinac

Fort Mackinac is much like Fort Laramie in Wyoming with the living history interpreters and the like, but Mackinac does have a “Kids Quarters” with displays more in keeping with a child’s interest. Naturally, our friends made heavy use of this.


Then it was back out to the parade ground, and a viewing of the musket firing…


…followed shortly thereafter by the parade drills, wherein members of the public were invited to join the soldiers. If you look closely, you’ll see Michelle and Laurel eagerly attending at the right.

“First of all,” observed Michelle, “we are the only members of our family willing to put ourselves out there and have fun. Second, this little event certainly separated the High School Marching Band Haves from the High School Marching Band Have-Nots.”

And it was true. Michelle already knew how to do all the faces, the marching, the halting, and whatevers. Laurel picked it up immediately because she’s just like that. The others, however, well…let’s be charitable and say that with some practice they too might have some hope.


After the parade drills, it was on to the bath house. Back in the early days of Fort Mackinac, the soldiers believed hot baths were terribly unhealthy. It wasn’t until the post surgeon convinced them to build and maintain a bathhouse and bathe every week that the illnesses in the barracks were greatly reduced. Honestly, our family was somewhat surprised at the innovations set into place at Mackinac that we still use today. Just take a look:


Another fascinating piece of history was the binder full of soldier records from the fort’s operation. Michelle and Laurel could have spent all afternoon reading these.

“I made sure to point out to Laurel how today’s stupidity can be recorded for all time,” assured Michelle. “This guy, for example. Drunk. Drunk. Drunk and disorderly. Neglect of Duty. Recorded right here for all time.”

Did it sink in?

“Doubtful,” said Michelle.


Ethan, for his part, was perplexed by the old school desks. “I CANNOT BELIEVE SOMEONE WOULD CARVE IN THIS HOW DARE THEY?!” he exclaimed.

“As if he wouldn’t be the first person to do that,” Greg responded.


The officers quarters were, naturally, much nicer than those belonging to the enlisted men, and the view was pretty sweet, too. You can just imagine them up there on the hill reveling in their status.


Not long after this, our family decided to visit a blacksmith’s shop and then go ahead and ride back to the other end of the island, cutting through a main road that divides the island in half.

“By this time we were all a little worn out and the beer Michelle and I had at lunch had worn off, and…well…let’s just say that Mackinac Island is short all around the sides and very, very tall in the middle. We spent a significant amount of time walking our bikes up a steep hill toward the top, and listening to the kids whine and moan about their plight.”

Nevertheless, our Very Determined Group made it to the top of Mackinac, then coasted down the other side, swiftly passing the airport, horses, pedestrians, and everyone else in a long steady descent to British Landing, whereupon they refreshed themselves with ten dollars worth of sodas.

“Island living,” Michelle laughed.

Then it was back to the main drag, the fudge shops, the ferry, and back to camp, where all decided there would be no cooking today, thankyouverymuch, and they went out to dinner at a local eatery.

“Amazing,” Greg said, “Even the little hole-in-the-wall places up here have Bell’s on tap. I’m in awe.”

Our family returned to camp with tentative plans to stay up Super Duper Late and check out the stars.

“There is an International Dark Sky Park just across the Mackinac Bridge,” Michelle said. “If I can manage it, we might take a short jaunt over tonight. On the other hand, it was a very full day of biking, the kids are completely unable to stop acting like crazy folk, and we have to go through Canadian customs tomorrow. So who knows?”

Guess you’ll all just have to wait and see.