Travels with Bentley

Travels with Bentley
Bentley - our Heartland Bighorn

Friday, August 12, 2016

August 6-7, 2016 - Tiki RV Park - St. Ignace, MI

August 6-7, 2016 - Tiki RV Park - St. Ignace, MI

Saturday, August 6, 2016 - St. Ignace, MI - Checking out Mackinac Island

This morning we had a quick breakfast here at Bentley since we want to get to the Island early.  You never know how long it will take to get breakfast at a diner/cafe on a Saturday morning in a tourist area.  Yes, we are here on a Saturday morning and traveling to a huge tourist location - Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island.  It's not good to lose track of what day it is when you want to make plans to visit locations like this but it is what it is and we are making the best of it.  The good news is, it's a gorgeous day with absolutely perfect weather - never got out of the 70's, a wonderful breeze (actually very cool on the water) and the sun is shining.  What more could you ask for?

We decide to use Shepler's Ferry, only because it is located closest to our RV Park.  We arrived just as they were beginning to line folks up for the next boat and we were soon on our way.  There are a few routes each day that include a visit to the Mackinac Bridge and traveling underneath it.

Our boat maneuvers under Mackinaw Bridge.
The captain gave us a little history of the bridge:  The "Mighty Mac" was opened to traffic in November 1957.  It is five miles long, with the suspension spanning 8,614 feet, making it the third longest suspension bridge in the world.  The two main towers are 552' above the waterline and go 210' below the surface.  Prior to the bridge's construction the state ran a ferry service between the lower and upper peninsulas, beginning in the 1920's.   From Wikipedia:  The Straits of Mackinac is a narrow waterway in the U.S. state of Michigan, between Michigan's Lower and Upper Peninsulas. The Straits of Mackinac connect two of the Great Lakes, Lake Michigan and Lake Huron.  

It was pretty cool -- and I not only mean it's a cool thing to see but I also mean the temperature. Occasionally we would get a small amount of spray on us - not enough to really get us wet - just enough to take the cool breeze to what felt like cool freeze.  Here you can see the spray as it came up beside us on the boat due to the waves on the water.
I'm glad I was sitting on the inside seat.

For those of you who may not know, Mackinac Island does not permit any vehicles on the island.   You either walk, bicycle or take horse drawn carriages.  It is 8 miles around the island.  We have visited here before but it was a short spur of the moment trip when we happened upon it as part of a trip we made about 15 years ago.  One of the things I really wanted to do was bike around the island. I have asked several people since we've been here and everyone has assured me, we will not have a problem doing this.  So that is our goal today.  Of course, we'll also look around some of the shops, and eat some lunch before we head back.

Here is a picture as we near the Island of the Grand Hotel.  Some of you might remember the movie "Somewhere in Time" starring Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour in 1979.  It was filmed here at the Grand Hotel.
Close-up of the Grand Hotel

As we were entering the dock I snapped this picture.

Once we left the dock area and walked onto the sidewalks we looked around and wondered what were we thinking?  It was an absolute chaos of people, horse drawn carriages and bicycles.  That's when it really hit us - it was Saturday, and probably one of the last big weekends before schools start back up.  I wish I would have thought to take a picture of the street, but I was too busy trying to navigate through the traffic of people, bikes and horses (along with their deposits on the roads) in order to reach the bicycle shop.  You had to be on guard from every direction at once not to get hit, run over or pushed. Really, what were we thinking?  I'm glad I did not have any small children with me.  I would have feared for their safety.

We arrived at the bike shop and surprisingly we had our bicycles in about 20 minutes and were ready to get on the road.  The problem was we had to wait for a lag in the "traffic" to get going.  It's been awhile since either of us has ridden a bicycle before and it took just a bit to get our balance and get enough momentum to really get moving.  I have to admit we both did pretty well and were soon moving out of the crowded downtown area and into the residential area.  While it was still pretty busy, it did begin to thin out enough we had room to ride.  The further we moved along the road, the better it became and we were soon enjoying the nice breeze off of the water.  Here is the path we were on.

As we rode along the lake shore drive we saw numerous cairns that visitors have built along the water's edge.

Dean snapped a picture of me on my bike but wouldn't let me do the same for him!

We stopped at Arch Rock.  I really would have liked to have had a picture from above, however I did not climb the stairway to the top in order to take pictures for two reasons, 1) there were so many other people going up and down I was a bit apprehensive to try and navigate those steep, narrow stairs, and 2) we weren't sure if we would need the leg strength later, this early in the ride.

More cairns and the gorgeous Lake Huron shore line.  The water was really clear and there were lots of pebbles and smooth rocks on the sand floor.

Here's my best attempt of getting a close-up picture of Mackinac Bridge.

Lighthouse as you enter/leave the Mackinac Harbor on the Island.

I took the above picture near the end of our ride.  We were pretty proud of ourselves that we had made the 8 mile ride in 1.5 hours with a few stops along the way.  The road was entirely paved, wide enough for two horse carriages to pass and almost all of it was right along the shore line.  Even when we rode through forested areas it was nice and cool due to the wonderful shade the trees provided.  At the 4 mile mark there were restrooms and a concession stand.  We actually took our backpack with water and our water shoes.  If it had not been so crowded we probably would have taken a walk in the water at some point.  Neither of us are really fond of crowds so we passed on that this time.  If we are ever back here again, we will definitely think this through a little better.  There were beautiful homes all around the island and the flowers were amazing.

After we returned our bikes, we were pretty hungry and just needed a cool place to sit and rest for a bit.  We walked into a few shops as we were looking for a place to eat, so I asked one of the ladies working there what was the best place to eat and close that she would recommend for lunch.  She asked if we wanted something quick, or somewhere we could sit down and if so did we want air conditioning. We both simultaneously said air conditioning.  She suggested Horn's Bar and Grille just down the street. It was BUSY!  Fortunately they had a few seats at the bar and we could order form there so that's where we headed.  We both had burgers that were quite good and just enjoyed the ambiance and coolness of the place, along with seats that didn't hurt like those bicycle seats did.  Our bums were just a little sore.  Lol!

As we were waiting at Shepler's dock for our return ferry to St. Ignace, I took this picture of the neighboring dock and some of the shops/restaurants beyond it.

To the east of our dock, you can see a few of the shops where you can rent bicycles, and kayaks.  I'm not sure I would have wanted to take off in a kayak this close to the dock.  I watched our captain try to maneuver around a couple of them as he was backing away from the dock.  I might have been a bit concerned watching that huge boat come backing toward me while I was in a itty bitty kayak!  There was at least five bike shops that we saw and they were all as full of bikes as this one.  I've never seen so many bicycles in one place!  That doesn't count the ones already being used!

Here is where we entered off the dock from our ferry.  I took this picture while we were waiting to leave.

It felt really nice coming back across the water to St. Ignace, but as soon as we were off the boat you could feel the warm air.  It was still really nice but after those wonderful breezes from the water it felt pretty warm back here.  We headed back to Bentley.  We were both tired so it was nice to just rest for awhile. While I was lazing around and trying to figure out what we should have for dinner, I was looking at restaurants in the area and Clyde's came up in my search on Trip Advisor.

Recently while reading one of the RV blogs I follow I read about Clyde's but I had forgotten about it until it popped up on Trip Advisor.  I mentioned it to Dean and like me, he's always ready to try a good burger too, so off we went.  Clyde's is an old-fashioned drive-in with carhops.  Since our truck is so big we chose to park off to the side.  We went inside and ate at the counter where we watched first hand as they made the burgers and and added all the fixings.  They put out a lot of burgers while we were there.  We shared a Big C - or the Colossal, 3 patties with cheese in between.  It was really good and greasy - the way a real burger should be.  We also shared an order of fries.  We were stuffed when we left.  These burgers reminded me of the mo-burger back at Cooper's in Chetopa many, many years ago, except Cooper's was just one large patty on a bigger bun but the fixings were the same.

We watched some TV before we finally gave it up for the evening.  We have another big day planned for tomorrow.

Sunday, August 7, 2016 - Tiki RV Park - Heading north to Tahquamenon Falls and Whitefish Point

Dean was having withdrawals from not eating breakfast out for awhile so we decided to try out a local cafe here that caught our eye as we made our drive through town the first day we arrived, Bentley's.  Yes, we knew we had to stop here before we left St. Ignace.

Bentley's was originally a historic soda fountain and ice cream parlor and has remained a favorite eatery for local residents.  Beulah Bentley purchased the diner in 1940.  She moved the building from across the street by pulling it over logs with a team of horses.  This diner was once a large source of employment in the area and was open 24 hours a day, all year long.  During construction of Mackinac Bridge, the upstairs of the diner was converted into a boarding house for steel workers.  The diner retains its original counter and stools.  Today it still serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I chose an omelet with ham, cheese and breakfast potatoes and Dean chose the breakfast pasty that came covered in gravy.  My omelet was quite good but I was expecting chunks of potato rather than large thick slices just laid on stop of the inside. Dean said the pasty was not bad, but he probably would not order it again.  All in all it was an okay meal, but more than anything we loved the ambiance of the local diner, with local folks and original local breakfast fare.

With breakfast over with we headed north to Tahquamenon Falls (Tahquamenon rhymes with phenomenon).  What a gorgeous place this was.  I may have gotten carried away with taking pictures, but I promise to select only the best to include in this post.

The drive was about an hour away and very pretty.  I don't think I have mentioned this anywhere in my posts about Michigan, but overall their roads have been some of the better ones we have traveled.

When we pulled into the parking lot of the Lower Tahquamenon Falls we were taken back with the number of people already here.  We found a place to park that required walking a bit but after the meals we've had the past few days we need those extra steps, so it was not a problem.  The walk to the falls was nicely shaded on wide trails, and lead to very nice wooden boardwalks.
Our first view of the falls.

Nice wide trails leading to the viewing area for the falls.

These boardwalks were at both the Lower and Upper falls and were very nice.
I thought this prayer was worth including, "Prayer of the Woods".  I loved it.

More pictures of the Lower Falls:

Notice the amber color of the water to the left of the falls.  It is not rust or muddiness in the water but is caused by tannin leached from the cedar, spruce and hemlock in the swamps drained by the river.

Area below the falls.

Another part of the lower falls across the river from the previous pictures.
These two guys were taking each others pictures right in front of the falls.

upstream from the falls

The water is so clear.  Notice the cairns in the upper part of the photo.

You can hike from the Lower to the Upper Falls, which is about 4 miles.  We discussed doing that, but my back was bothering me today and I didn't want to get half way there and be miserable, so we walked back to the truck and drove up.  If we thought the parking lot at the Lower Falls was busy you should have seen the Upper Falls lot.  We finally found a spot to park and walked quite a ways to reach the trail to the Upper Falls.  Oh my goodness these falls were breathtaking, and the copper colors in the water were amazing.  The beautiful tree shaded paths were wonderful.  I loved the markers along the path identifying many of the larger trees. Very nice touch.

After walking around, taking the stairs down to a closer viewing area and then walking back up, then moving further upstream for some final looks, we decided to move on.  If there were not so many people and if we had a chair to sit in an out of the way area we could have enjoyed watching the falls for quite sometime.

Our first view of the upper falls from the boardwalk above.

Going down the steps for a better view.  94 steps down, 94 steps up!


Down river from the upper falls.  

Up river from the upper falls.

One last view of the upper falls.

Our next stop was Whitefish Point on Superior Lake where the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum is located.  Many of you may remember the great shipwreck in November 1975 when the Edmund Fitzgerald sank in Lake Superior not too far from Whitefish Point.  If you don't actually remember the shipwreck itself you've probably at least heard the song "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" by Gordon Lightfoot, which he wrote and released in 1976.  I've always been interested in this wreck because of the haunting story of this song, so it was really interesting to see and read more about it.

The highlight of Whitefish Point for me was of course seeing another lighthouse, the overlook at the point overlooking Lake Superior and the beach that was strewn with large pieces of driftwood.  I wish we had brought our water shoes so we could have walked down on the beach.  We didn't want to go down since we had our good tennis shoes on.

Coast to the east from the overlook.

Whitefish Point Light Station

Coast to the west from the overlook.
The other highlight was seeing the bell that was taken from the sunken Edmund Fitzgerald and brought to the Whitefish Museum for display.  I graduated form high school in 1974 and I remember hearing about the sinking of the ship when it happened but there is no doubt Gordon Lightfoot kept in alive in my mind all of these years.

We toured the lighthouse keepers quarters which were even nicer than Eagle Harbor's, and included four bedrooms.  I cannot even imagine being right on the coast of this far northern point of Michigan during winter weather, and then having to assist a boat in distress using a surfboat as noted below.

The first Lake Superior Lighthouse was at Whitefish Point.
Very interesting story.  Enlarge to read.

This figurine of the lighthouse keeper working at his desk was very real looking.

This was a great stop and one I am glad we took the time to do while in the area.
One last picture of the Whitefish Point Light House, and the Lighthouse Keeper's Quarters (red roof).

As we neared St. Ignace I remembered Castle Rock.  Since we had free tickets to climb to the top I told Dean we should go ahead and stop now.  I knew if we made it back to Bentley there was no way we would get out again this evening.  We stopped and made the climb of 172 steps to the top of the summit that rises nearly 200 feet above lake level, where we could enjoy the view of Lake Huron, Mackinac Island and the towers of the Mackinac Bridge in the distance.  Our legs were burning by the time we reached the top.

American Flag at the top of the summit!

Views from the summit.

Towers of the Mackinac Bridge

And here is a picture of Paul Bunyan and Babe, his great blue ox who sits below Castle Rock.

That was it, we headed back to Bentley to have some dinner, rest and think about the next leg of our journey.
Our site.

Campsites across the street from us.

Campsites uphill from us.

Campsites behind us.

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