Our memories of Mackinac Island are dominated by fudge and flowers. The island is justifiably famous for its fudge, with at least a half dozen shops along the main street and more varieties of fudge than we could count. Of course we indulged ourselves, and it was delicious, but no tastier than Dahlonega's own Fudge Factory. The fudge doesn't stop on Mackinac Island, either; every town along the western shore had at least one fudge shop, plus ice cream.
One backyard garden on the island is truly a masterpiece, and it's all the work of one man. Stand beside it, inhale the sweet smells, and feel the gentle breeze caress your face.
Next stop: Leland, a small but charming village, known for Fish Town, formerly the docks and fish processing buildings when commercial fishing was the main industry and now the home of quirky shops and restaurants. Although the town is small, its municipal marina is excellent - with helpful, caring dockhands, a friendly harbormaster, and terrific showers. Transient boaters receive a welcome package with coupons and information on the town. We visited its small museum to learn more of the local history and enjoyed the company of Ken and Pauline plus Carolyn and Harry on Pour-House, former residents of Atlanta and owners of a couple of Thai restaurants there. Carolyn is the consummate shopper, and since they travel faster than we do in their Ranger tug, she had already checked out all the shops along the main block. We were thrilled to find Morning Glory muffins at the local bakery, and left with a four-day supply.
The western coast of Michigan's "mitten" (lower peninsula) is known for its truly huge dunes. These were visible from our dock at the Leland Municipal Marina.
Leland is full of charming shops and galleries with cool art like this horse and the faces below. Maybe the artist is a fan of CBS Sunday Morning.
Midas likes exploring shops - mainly because many of them have treats. When he's allowed to go in, his first stop is always at the counter or cash register to find any goodies that might be waiting. Although the owners told us he was welcome in this shop, it had quite a few breakable items, so he had to wait outside and look irresistible.
The clerks took turns going out to make friends with him
Below left, one of the shops of "Fishtown," formerly the center of commercial fishing activity and now the home of shops and an excellent restaurant. Below right, a view of the marina's breakwater and beautiful Lake Michigan beyond it. Our boat was docked to the right of those seen in the picture.
The dunes at sunrise early on the morning we left Leland and continued south toward our next destination - Manistee.
Visits to towns often include a Loopers favorite activity: provisioning. Some marinas (not many) have a courtesy car, but there's often a grocery store in the small towns along the western coast. Manistee is no exception, and after laundry, our next ashore chore was a walk to the grocery, pulling our folding red wagon. Our friends Ken and Pauline made the
same trip, and took this photo of the three of us. Midas and Mike waited at the Family Dollar store, our first stop, while Marian cruised the grocery store. When we crossed the bridge back to the marina, where the docks line the waterfront, Mike and Midas turned left to find a hardware store and Marian returned to the boat. Rechargeable batteries and charger in hand, Mike and Midas left the hardware store. Sniffing out possible treats, Midas dragged Mike into the Happy Hippy next door, and there our real adventure began. Robin, who reminds us of Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh on speed, began asking questions: where are you from? How long did it take you to get here? Is this your first trip to Michigan? One of the shops was a shoe store where the world's tallest man, memorialized in an actual size statue in the corner, purchased his made to order shoes.
a talented artist, painted the murals which grace the two sides of the lobby. Note the sheer garments worn by the "Greek" goddesses; their faces are portraits of the town's prominent ladies, the women who had voiced their opposition to the theater.
Above left, from Wikipedia: The famed theatrical artist Walter Burridge, scenic artist who painted sets for The Wizard of Oz, painted the front drop curtain entitled A Grove Near Athens that is still being used today.
Above, Mike's photos show the beautifully restored auditorium, somehow reminiscent of Atlanta's Fox Theater on a much smaller scale.
Below, pretend you're standing on the 34 foot deep by 60 foot wide stage and looking straight up. Since Mike has performed in four plays at the Holly and knows firsthand how cramped our stage is, especially when a show has a large cast (like My Fair Lady, Big River, or Hello, Dolly!), he was drooling at the space the Ramsdell performers have.
We've now traveled on from Manistee through Pentwater, Grand Haven (more wait for good weather days) and St. Joseph's in Michigan, then on to Indiana: Michigan City and Hammond. We spent five days in Hammond, once again waiting for fair skies and gentle breezes instead of unseasonably cold temperatures, rain, and very strong winds. Finally, we continued west on September 14th, hoping to see Chicago from the water, but work on one of the bridges - closed for repairs - meant we had to turn around, travel about 10 miles back the way we had come, and continue down the Calumet River/Cal-Sag Canal. This is primarily an industrial area, not at all scenic, sometimes smelly, and dominated by very large "tows," which consist of a tug boat pushing up to six or more long barges, some of them "double-wides." Our trusty Waterway Guide warns that as we go further south and enter the Mississippi and Illinois Rivers, the tows will get even larger. They have the right of way, and pleasure craft skippers know not to defy them; we won't win. We caught up with fellow Loopers who left Hammond about the same time we did at the Lockport Lock, where some had been waiting for two or three hours for several northbound tows to get through. These locks are much larger (100 feet wide by 600 feet long) than those on the Erie Canal and the Trent-Severn Waterway, both now used almost exclusively by recreational boaters, and it takes much longer to fill the lock for northbound/upbound traffic and to drain it for southbound/downward bound boats. We had a 40' drop at Lockport, and it took 30 minutes to descend. Nine cruising boats and one tow filled the lock, and the cruisers (most of us Loopers) traveled together to Joliet, where we all tied up overnight at the free dock adjacent to Bicentennial Park. This wall also has free power - and we'll probably stay a few days while we wait for flooding downstream to subside.
One almost final note for regular readers of the blog, who already know that our Golden Retriever Midas is an integral part of our crew and an endless source of entertainment and joy. During our time in Georgian Bay and the North Channel, we anchored out more than we stayed in marinas, and Midas had to go ashore at least twice daily to "get busy." He needs a little assistance to get down the almost vertical ladder from the aft deck to the dinghy, but he's mastered getting back up all by himself. We're proud of our terrific therapy dog, and we can tell he's also proud of his accomplishment.http://youtu.be/g8Za8xSnlcw
Who knows what our next adventure will be? We do know that we'll find good friends along the way and that each day will bring new experiences to enjoy, new challenges to overcome, and memories to last a lifetime.