Sunday, August 21, 2005

Back From Vacation! (This Time For Real)

Yeah, we're back. All of us. Kristi and I resisted the urge to leave Emma somewhere and run away, but it was tempting at times.

We got our usual late start -- gotta have the house in top shape for the catsitter, you know, and Emma tends to slow everything down. So when we got to Duluth/Superior, it was time for a break. Checking the map and tourbook, we settled on Billings Park, which was quite lovely. Emma had some fun at a playground.

Then we walked down around one of the lagoons adjoining Lake Superior. Very restful.

We spent our first night in Ashland, Wisconsin, at a little motel on the shore of Lake Superior. The Bayview -- very unimpressive looking, sitting across the road from Wal-Mart -- has a private beach on the lake, real knotty pine tongue-and-groove panelling in the rooms, and a small but very, very beautiful patch of milkweed by the office that was smothered in monarch butterflies.

Tuesday we drove across onto the U.P. At one point (and I can't tell you where, exactly), we took a break at a rest stop that had a lovely little creek running through it. There was a paved path with a sign promising a view of a waterfall.

Emma, however, didn't want to take the path; she wanted to wade or climb rocks all the way upstream to the falls.

So she tried. After several hundred yards, we talked her into coming back. Then we took the path all the way to the end, which was, apparently, the waterfall. Very impressive. I suppose that's why it's a rest stop, and not a state park.

We camped that night outside of Munising, again right on the shore of the lake. Here's are some pictures at our campspot.

The next day, we took a cruise to view Pictured Rocks. It was lovely. Not much to comment on, though.

Then we drove on toward St. Ignace. We switched to the south shore of the U.P., which gave us a chance to visit our second Great Lake, Lake Michigan.

The next morning, in light rain, we boarded a ferry and cruised across Great Lake #3 (Huron) to Mackinac Island.

Mackinac is lovely, if you don't object to the fact that the entire economy is based on tourism. Apparently everyone on the island makes money off of a very limited range of ventures:

  • Ferrying suckers tourists to and from the island (at inflated prices)
  • Housing tourists (at inflated prices)
  • Feeding tourists (at inflated prices)
  • Renting bicycles to tourists (at inflated prices)
  • Renting horses and/or horsecarts to tourists, or giving tours in same (at inflated -- oh, never mind)
  • Making/selling fudge for tourists
  • Selling "Mackinac Island" t-shirts to tourists
  • Selling "Somewhere In Time" memorabilia to tourists
Still, it's charming not to hear or see cars everywhere. When we arrived, it was raining quite hard; most of the bikes were parked, but the horses were braving it.

We spent the day eating, taking a carriage tour of the southern part of the island, and losing our only umbrella.

We stayed that night at the Island House, one of the oldest hotels on the island. It's truly charming. Emma really enjoyed the indoor pool, and we ate two of our meals at two of the on-site restaurants.

The next morning the weather was much, much better. We rented bicycles and took a ride around the perimeter of the island. Here's Emma with the bikes.

Here's Arch Rock, named after Archie Manning. Apparently he threw a football through it. I had no idea.

Here we are frolicking on the beach. Frolick, frolick.

Finally, paydirt: we ride to the Grand Hotel. This is why everyone's here -- or maybe it's second to the fudge. I don't know. We toured the grounds and public spaces, including sitting for a spell on the veranda and looking out over the water.

I don't have any pictures of me at the Grand Hotel, but Kristi assures me I looked something like this:

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The next day, we decided that the weather had turned badly enough that we'd rather be home. So we drove straight through -- interrupted by an unscheduled stop in Wausau for new front pads and rotors. (We had the car serviced and inspected before we left, and were told the brakes were fine. In fact, by the time we reached Wausau they were metal to metal. Never, ever go to Azteca Motors in St. Paul -- either they don't know a damned thing about cars, or, um, something worse.)