From our family to yours, we hope your 4th of July weekend was wonderful, safe, and fun! We had all of that – well except for the safe part!
Saturday, the 4th, dawned truly beautiful. After a couple of weeks of damp, really cool weather, we were happy as clams to see blue sky, sunshine, and temps that promised to go into the 70’s. Now that’s what Mackinac Island summers are all about! Ted and I had planned to go downtown for breakfast, before he went to volunteer at the Welcome Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. We were going to ride our bikes, then Ted would go on to work, and I would go exploring.
We left the condo a little after 9:00 and started down the first hill. I always ride behind Ted because he goes faster than me. So he was out in front on the first steep downgrade, and all of sudden he just lost it! I saw his handlebars dip to the left and downward, and my next sight was him going over those handlebars into the cement. I swerved left to avoid hitting him and braked fast over to the side of the road. I know my heart was going 200 beats a minute as I laid my bike down and turned around. Ted was on his hands and knees in the middle of the street, slowing getting to his feet. His bike was in a heap. Well, I tell you, I was very happy to see him standing up with no arms and legs poking in strange directions, and no head wounds. Then he said, “Baby, get my cellphone.” It seems his cellphone had rung, he saw it was his daughter on Caller ID, and knowing much, much, better than to answer it on his bike – he did it anyway. That is a major no no going down a hill at 30 mph and having to use handbrakes to slow down. I followed his eyes to where the cellphone lay at the bottom of the hill and rushed down to pick it up. On the other end Julie was loudly yelling, “Dad! Dad! Did you fall? Dad!” I told her he had fallen, he was ok, and we would call her back. And he was ok, thank you Lord. Shaken up, a badly bruised knee, a strawberry the size of the palm of your hand on one elbow, and various other bruises here and there – but ok. We walked back home so he could change pants (landing in the middle of a Mackinac Island street tends to get your pants dirty), and then he rode his bike to work (it turned out only the basket was bent-everything else checked out ok).
I stayed home about an hour and then rode my bike over to the Governor’s Summer Residence where you can park your bike in this wooded area across the street and walk downtown. That way, once you come up Fort Street or Turkey Hill, you can ride the rest of the way home. I went by the Welcome Center to check on Ted, and he was fine. Then I continued on with my original plan for the morning – to watch the International Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Contest on the beach at Windemere Point, an event that has made its home here for over 40 years. In fact, last year the event was featured on The Today Show.
From 10 a.m. – 12 noon the contest is open to the public, and it’s great fun for the kids and the grown-ups, as they try their hand at seeing how many times they can skip a stone across the water. There are professional stone-skipping counters on hand to make everything official. At noon, the professional stone skippers get their turn.
This stone skipping contest is a BIG DEAL! For a couple of weeks before the 4th, you will see people searching on the shore and in rock piles for the perfect skipping stone. A lot of the regulars even have secret places where they swear they can find the best stones. It is a BIG DEAL!
People in the crowd who want to participate can purchase stones at check-in or bring their own. Of course the serious skippers bring the stones that they have found in those secret places.
To me, and Ted and I have attended this event nearly every year that we have been on the island, the most fun to be had is watching the people. We usually try to get an outside table for lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at the Iroquois, but since Ted was working I just walked down to the beach and hung out.
I didn’t stay around for the professional event at noon, but I did get a famous man’s picture. I was walking through the crowd, and I heard this daddy saying, “It’s him! It’s him! Boys, you have to have your picture made with Mr. Byars”. So he asks this big, good looking guy if he will pose with his two sons, and big good looking guy says of course. I edge up next to excited daddy and say, “Who is that?” The daddy looks at me like I must have just dropped in from Mars and says, “It’s Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars – you know from the Discovery Channel.” I say, “Oh, of course! I just didn’t recognize Rock Bottom in person!” It turns out he was listed in the Guiness World Book of Records in 2007 when he skipped a stone 51 times – that’s one stone, folks, in one throw!
On Mackinac Island, there are always kites flying. There are two stores here that sell kites, and I think someone from those stores stays down at the beach flying kites all day so people can see what all the different kinds look like. They are beautiful – and huge!
I walked back through town to check on Ted again and stopped as this week’s group of Girl Scouts came off the ferry and crossed the street. Downtown was CROWDED – it was wonderful to see so many people on the island, and I know the merchants appreciated the business!
Ted was fine, and very busy. The Welcome Center was teeming with people, and each one had a question to ask. Ted has studied all the material that was given him on island history, but he still has a lot to learn. I figure by the end of the season, he will be able to answer most any question I can ask him about the island – how great to have that source in the family!
I walked down to the marina to see what was up there. Nearly every slip was filled, and many were decorated for the 4th. Even a boater’s dog was in the spirit!
From the marina docks, you could see just how much The Island House and Fort Mackinac were decorated for the holiday. Is there anything that stirs your patriotism more than the red, white, and blue of our flag!
As I headed back up the hill to pick up my bike, I passed a couple who had dressed their beagle and their basset for the holiday. Going up Fort Hill by Marquette Park, I spotted a guy who was using his day for a little rest and relaxation.
Picking up my bike, I turned onto Custer Road to take the back way to the condo. Right now it seems every wooded path is decked with acres and acres of hawkweed. Some say this is a wildflower, some say a weed – but what I see in my imagination is God, with a big smile on His face, dipping his paintbrush into Heaven’s paintcan and saying, “I think I’ll paint the woods yellow today.”
We had been invited to a Mackinac Associates wine and cheese tasting outside the fort late Saturday afternoon. We attended that (on bikes again), and met a lot of the people on the island who support the state park and work every day to make sure the island remains special to the visitors who come here year after year. Then we walked downtown and ate supper at the Yankee Rebel. We picked up our bikes again at the top of the hill and rode home – tired, but very happy to have spent the holiday in this special place.
What better way to watch the fireworks than from the deck of our condo! With night not falling until so late here, it was almost 10:30 when the night began to light up with the spectacular show that is launched from a barge off Windemere Point. We sat on our balcony and oohed and aahed like always. There were a number of islanders who watched from the big lawn in front of the condos, and people pulled their bikes onto the road in front of us to sit and watch. The fireworks were gorgeous.
Except for Ted’s accident, the day had been perfect. We thank God every day for the pleasure we both get from being here to watch the slow progression of the seasons on Mackinac Island. We have already made new friends and met so many more people that we hope will become friends in the future. But we also long for friends and family in Georgia – we miss you guys – a lot!
Once more, we hope your day, wherever you were, was filled with family and friends and fun. God Bless America!