From the beginning, I knew this trip was going to be different. Instead of the GPS, my Dad got out a creased map from the bottom of the glove box. No wild water rides, no Disney daze, no cheap thrills. We were preparing for a road trip to discover the wonders of the Great Lake State, Michigan. It was time for this family of four to discover our home state roots.
Our adventure began heading north on I75. It took most of the morning to reach our day’s destination, Mackinaw City. We checked into the Rivera Motel, a typical 1950’s design with a perfect view of one of the greatest engineering marvels of modern times, the Mackinaw Bridge. The longest suspension bridge between cable anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, “The Mighty Mac” was turning 50 years old in 2007. It looked magnificent against the blue sky. Completed in 1957, the 5-mile long bridge took 2,500 men three years to build. One of those men was my grandfather. For one full year he worked as a welder on the bridge. You could see the pride in my Dad’s eyes as we marveled at the size and strength of this structure.
Located next to the motel were Alexander Henry Park and the Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse that guided ships through Mackinaw Straights. Here we enjoyed an afternoon picnic and a piece of Murdock’s Chocolate Pecan Fudge. We then toured Colonial Michilimachinac and I could taste the history in the air.
Early the next morning we boarded Shepler’s Ferry for Mackinaw Island. Sitting up top in the open air we had a windy ride back in time to a simpler life without automobiles. It was the 58th Annual Mackinaw Island Lilac Festival. We stayed at the historic Island House Hotel located across from the boat marina where the lilacs where in full bloom. We rented tandem bikes in front of the hotel to explore the eight miles of natural sites around the island. Like family life, I learned riding a tandem bike requires cooperation! First stop was Fort Mackinac, an impressive fort constructed by the British during the American Revolution. Soldiers dressed in 1880 uniform carried out a cannon demonstration overlooking the Mackinaw Island harbor. I especially liked biking along the island shoreline. We looked for Michigan’s state stone and discovered the state protected lady slipper flower and small waterfalls. Carved out of the limestone bluff overlooking Lake Huron was famous Arch Rock. My mom and dad each had visited this same site in their youth. We posed for a picture in front of the exact spot they had stood years ago. Would I someday return with my family?
That evening, we took a horse drawn carriage ride to The Woods, a restaurant in the heart of the island occupying an old hunting lodge. The sound of the horse’s harnesses and solitude of the trees made for a perfect summer evening.
The next day we explored the island shops and slower pace. We bought Sarducci’s pizza, at the recommendation of the carriage driver the night before, and ate on the front lawn of the hotel in the white Adirondack chairs pictured so often in promotion photos. It was very quiet and a bit surreal without the constant background noise of trucks and cars. We ended the day with an evening walk on the boat docks. Yes, this wasn’t the energy charged vacation my brother and I were used to. Instead, we discovered something more meaningful, our roots and made wonderful Michigan memories.
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