In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;
in the morning I lay my requests before you
and wait expectantly.
Psalm 5:3 NIV
The Intuition Diaries
(A Wednesday series about our summer adventures on Lake Michigan.)
On every adventure, trip or vacation expectations run high. In preparation for our summer boat trip, we did some advance research and planning. We sought the advice and experience of friends and family; veteran travelers all. The most lauded and anticipated port of interest by far had to be the non-negotiable, have to go, without a doubt, everyone loves it: Mackinac Island.
It was the only place on our itinerary, where we had advance reservations at the marina. We chose to stay at their marina, rather than take a ferry over. Before our arrival, we were pleased with our decision to dock there, because then we would be able to enjoy the island at our leisure, rather than having our time dictated by the ferry schedule.
On the afternoon, we left St. Ignace, after two days of repose; we were ready for the zenith of our adventure. We raced the ferries across the bay and found our way into the marina. Our first hint that things might not go as expected, was when we pulled up to the fixed dock, which loomed five feet above the side of our boat. Thankfully, a marina staff person helped us dock and tie up the boat. Most of the other marinas had floating docks at eye level, which absorbed the rocking of the boat. On a fixed dock our boat swung like a hammock in the wind all day and all night. All that motion was overwhelming, and not conducive to reading or relaxing.
We arrived late afternoon, so we showered and got ready for a special date night. We were celebrating a belated 25th anniversary gift to ourselves. Les called a carriage to carry us to our destination. We dressed up for the first time on our vacation, ready to enjoy an evening together at the Woods restaurant, highly recommended. As we waited under the shadow of the impressive Fort Mackinac, a horse pulled surrey pulled up to take my beloved and I to our fancy meal. My fantasy of a carriage built for two, was replaced with a cart of upholstered seats to accommodate about 16 people. I thought, that’s okay, I’m sure that the island charm will overtake my disappointment. We climbed aboard, and proceeded to ride through Main Street.
We were overwhelmed by tourists. Tourists standing in line for dinner. Tourists piling off the ferries. Rows and rows of rental bike shops. Bikes parked along the street, which the horse carriages were weaving around and past to get to their stops. Crowded streets lined with t-shirt shops intermingled with fudge shops. My expectations were shocked into a realization that we were in the midst of a scene that reminded us more of a busy day at a theme park, rather than a quaint island retreat.
It was like we entered this famed tourist location from backstage. Once my expectations were slightly adjusted, we enjoyed the conversation with our fellow passengers, on our way to the Woods restaurant, located deeper into the island, away from the commercialism of Main Street. The family we rode with was visiting their niece, a culinary school graduate, who was working in the Grand Hotel kitchen dipping thousands of strawberries in chocolate for the esteemed guests. She seemed genuinely pleased with her summer experience.
Upon arriving at The Woods, we were ushered into an idyllic setting that was part European hunting lodge and part 1950s supper club. Our wait staff seated us near a huge stone fireplace, which wasn’t lit because Michigan was having a hot summer like the rest of the Midwest. No sweaters needed or fires. The white linen table clothes were covered in white butcher paper, so children could color with the crayons provided, while waiting for dinner to arrive. A man played quiet music at a baby grand, while we looked over our menus. We were served a basket of crackers and fresh rolls with a side of the best orange marmalade infused whipped butter, while our food was being prepared. For a starter, I tried the whitefish and corn chowder. Amazingly cheesy! We both order sumptuous steaks. And for dessert we went overboard, Les had ice cream rolled in pecans and chocolate sauce. I devoured one of the best ever crème brulee, garnished with a white chocolate-dipped ginger cookie, alongside a flayed strawberry and mint leaf.
On the way back down to town, we had the horse-drawn taxi to ourselves. Our driver had been spending his summers working this job for 27 years. He answered our questions about the island. He took us down a steep drive, where huge mansions on Wonder View Lane look out on the Mackinac Bridge. We passed the Grand Hotel porch, where after 6pm, gentleman must sport a tie and ladies, no trousers, please. Finally, a glimpse at the island all my friends had raved about, I was beginning to see why they loved their time here so much. We definitely absorbed the beautiful gardens and spectacular views.
The driver admitted that the life behind the scenes was challenging. Security of personal items was a problem. He had to use a permanent marker to label his portable A/C with his name, because it sometimes would wander off into another employee’s room. He found labeling it with his name, made it easier for him to reclaim it. He dropped us off at the marina, and we meandered down the lane to see a little more of the island before going to bed. The lane was dotted with period buildings and condos that blended well with the scenery and more views of the Mackinaw strait. A golf course and a lodge and bikes parked in a circle. One woman looked perplexed. She kept looking at the bike in her hands and the ones in the rack. They all looked the same, so we guessed she was uncertain about whether she picked out the correct bike.
We were rocked to sleep on the boat. We woke early in the morning to ride our own bikes around the island. It was a bit overcast, breezy and yet a pleasant ride. We found a place to pose our bikes for a picture, admired a natural rock arch and marveled that we were cycling right next to the crashing waves of Lake Huron. For breakfast, we chose a place in town. It was called the Huron St. Pub and Grill, I noticed the night before that it advertised breakfast, lunch and dinner. We had the restaurant to ourselves. Everyone else was at the Pancake House or Starbucks. I had the best ever pancakes with cinnamon sugar butter and cheesy scrambled eggs. Les had their Western omelet. If you ever get to the island, we recommend both the Woods for an excellent dinner and this pub for breakfast. After breakfast, we did stroll through some of the shops. The bookstore attracted us, where we browsed the books on local lore. Then we hunted down some postcards and a T-shirt or two.
We pulled out of the marina before lunch to make our way down to the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. More to anticipate, more to explore and more expectations to weigh.