Changes . . . they are acoming 10/19/2011

Did you know that at 5:45 a.m. the sun is not up?  It’s not up at 6 a.m. either . . . or even 7:30! 

I didn’t know this because I’m usually just opening an eye around 8 or 8:30.  Horrible, I know.  “Sleeping my life away” (as my mom used to say when I was a teenager and stumbled into the kitchen for breakfast around 11 on a Saturday morning).  But after years and years and years of working – the last 13 of which involved a 45-minute commute – meaning I got up at 5:30 in order to leave home at 7:00 and arrive on time at 8:00 (well, maybe I wasn’t always on time – ok, I was never on time) . . . anyway! . . . I no longer consider it an obligation or a virtue to put my feet on the floor before the sun pushes itself up over the horizon.

But today I did.

I needed to be at the Shepler dock in Mackinaw City at 9 a.m., and the only ferry leaving before that was at 8.  Thinking it would be pouring rain, I had reserved a taxi, and in order to have another rider with me and not have to pay a double fare, the taxi picked me up at 7:15, after picking up a Grand Hotel worker in the Village.  Long story short, that got me to town 30 minutes before the ferry was leaving, so I asked to be dropped off at Martha’s Sweet Shop.  Loretta Spata and her husband Tony (I wrote about him in the EMT story) own Martha’s, and this morning she was already there making coffee and filling the display cases with warm baked goods.  After choosing a pumpkin walnut muffin and coffee, Loretta and I sat down together and visited for 15 minutes, interrupted occasionally by another early riser coming in for a favorite treat.  Tony joined us for a few minutes also.  What a great way to start a day – maybe I should get up earlier more often!  Or maybe not.

It had rained a little while I was at Martha's, and the dock was wet when I arrived to board. The sun had just peeped over the horizon.

As calm as the water seemed in the harbor, I wasn't expecting a bumpy ride. We got a little "wave action" on the trip across, but nothing like people had been experiencing the last two or three days.

I only worked until 11:30 today, and in that 2 1/2 hours Cindy and I welcomed around 1,000 ladies to Shepler’s, before they parked and boarded the ferries that were running every 30 minutes today due to the Win-some Women Conference at the Grand.  I never fail to be amazed at the coordination of the Shepler cast members and how they can efficiently make order out of chaos . . . but they do it – day after day – and with mile-wide smiles on their faces.

One group of Win-some Women board the ferry to Mackinac Island.

Jill and I both had hair appointments (already written in blood before I was asked to work), so I begged off to keep the appointment, promising to work Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. – 1 p.m.  Jill picked me up, and we drove across the Mackinac Bridge into St. Ignace.  Pam at Leroy’s slapped some color on my gray roots, and while I was “processing” (makes me sound like a can of tomatoes, doesn’t it), Pam cut and styled Jill’s hair.  After Pam finished up with me, Jill and I ate lunch at a Chinese/Thai restaurant, then caught the 3:30 ferry back to Mackinac.

Our immediate reaction when we hit the island was, “What in the world is that smell!”  Now you know Jill and I weren’t talking about horse poop.  We are waaaayyyy beyond noticing the smell of horse poop.  This was a totally different, totally new smell.  We went in the bookstore (Jill was off today) and the post office, and then I hailed a cab.  It was the cab driver who said, “Can you believe we can smell the tar they’re pouring at the airport all the way into town?”  Well, mystery solved.

Which brings me – long story longer – to what I promised to talk about today – the changes for next year on the Island. These are just the ones that I know about – I’m sure there will be more as the winter progresses.

1)  The airport.  As reported earlier, the runway pavement has been removed, the “hump” leveled out, sinkholes filled in, and the new runway is being paved.  Contractors and State Park employees have discovered artifacts under the runway that date back to the early 1900’s.  It’s plain to see that one area was used as a landfill, and as organic material decomposed, the runway dipped.  The sinkhole areas have been excavated down 27′ to the bedrock, then stablized with two layers of stone and cloth.  When all the work is complete, pilots will have a clear view from one end of the runway to the other (no hump in the middle).  The new runway has been moved 65′ east of where it was originally, to be within FAA regulations which require 300′ of clear space beyond the runway.  (I will try to get out to the airport before we leave for another photo of the progress – but I can’t promise.)

2)  Dennis Cawthorne, who built the Village Inn Restaurant on Hoban Street in 1981, has entered into an agreement that allows the Grand Hotel to take over management of the restaurant Nov. 1.  The restaurant will be named Cawthorne’s Village Inn – a Grand Hotel Restaurant.  It’s my understanding that the very popular eatery (planked whitefish is the specialty-yum), managed beautifully by Ron and Mary Dufina for many, many years, will be closed from Nov. 1-Dec. 1 for renovations, then will reopen for the winter season.

3)  The Grand Stable.  The Grand Hotel’s “fleet” of Percherons and Hackneys are “moving on up” next spring – up the hill past the big horse barns to the area at the horse corral below our condo.  Even though we knew it was coming, it was a huge surprise last week when I was walking home and found bulldozers, workers, and a huge mountain of dirt where before there was only grass and trees.


A small portion of the existing Carriage Tour horse corral will be incorporated into the new stable.

Unfortunately, as with most construction, there was some tree cutting involved, but they did their best to only take out what was necessary. It will be interesting to come back next spring and see a building here. Can't wait to see the new stable. No word yet on what the plan is for the historic old stable behind the Grand Hotel.

The next day we were amazed to see this excavation machine in our front yard, digging holes along the carriage drive.

Then we realized they were moving the lilac bushes that had been dug up to make room for the new stable. More beautiful lilacs to look at! But wow - the carriage tour horses are going to have a lot of new things to get used to in the spring!

Our next surprise was when they cut down a few trees along the fence in front of our condo, opening up a view into the corral. We learned that the new corral gate was going there. I will be honest - I wasn't real happy with this change, until I realized . . . . .

. . . the removal of two trees had magically given us an even better view of Lake Huron!

4)  The Jockey Club.  More work being done by the Grand!

As I was approaching the Jockey Club a couple of days ago, I was met with the sound of jackhammers and earth moving equipment. Grand Hotel gardeners had just pulled up the annuals around the outdoor sitting area of the Jockey Club . . . .

. . . and all the cement area had been broken up and stacked for removal by the drays. It's my understanding that the old cement, which was cracked and uneven in some areas, will be replaced by either tile or brick.

Staying as long as we do into the fall, we get to see the beginnings of what will be new and beautiful in the Spring.  As soon as Labor Day passes, planned construction begins. There’s a very short window of time to get renovations and new construction done between the end of the tourist season and the first snows of winter, and it is amazing to see how fast things get done up here in the fall!

There you have it – the changes that are coming that I know about now.  It’s going to be exciting next Spring to arrive and see the airport, the Grand stable, and this new seating area for the Jockey Club – all shining and new.  Even more to look forward to!

I’ll take Thursday off, but I’ll be back on Friday with more photos and more news.  Thank you for your continuing comments and emails (more on that to come before we leave).  Love and hugs to you all.


21 thoughts on “Changes . . . they are acoming 10/19/2011

  1. I remember a very small shack with two benches, a pay phone, and a wood fire stove in the center (maybe 10 feet across?)as the ‘airport’ when I was on Mackinac. Boy, have things changed! I’ll see if I can find any photos. I remember that the pilots had to be able to see the end of the runway in order to take off – no fog, that is!

    The colors that you see from your porch are gorgeous! And I am soooo glad that the water is not so rough for you and all those ladies. It can be pretty scary!

  2. I have to get up at 5:30 to leave at 7 to be at work at 8. I really hoped I would only have 25 or 30 more years to do it. Do you mean to tell me I’ll still have to do so after that? OTOH, I’ve never thought of the ton of work that has to happen at the ferry docks.

    • Oh yeah! A lot of the dock workers are on the job BY 5:30 a.m. Imagine what time they have to get up! Yikes! And no, I don’t make it a habit of being up that early. You have a lot to look forward to when you retire, Lauri!

  3. Brenda, if you are in town this week I would love to see some shots of the downtown area before you leave! Also if you have anything to mention about McNally I’d love to hear it.

  4. Yes, I did notice that you make no mention of the biggest change of all! Of course, no pictures available until it happens. But what a shame to lose the McNally Cottage!

  5. Thoroughly enjoying the scenes from life on Mackinac Island that we would never get to “experience” if it weren’t for you! You should partner with Mike Rowe – he could continue to do the “Dirty Jobs” profiles and you could focus on the “not so dirty jobs”. I have an on-line friend (isn’t it nice how we’ve all acquired new friends via this medium?) who is with the Win-Some group; she’s been on the island for a couple days now. Have a great day, my two virtual friends! Today’s supposed to be another wild one, weather-wise – hold on tight!

  6. Brenda,

    Thank you for this blog. It’s really interesting to me to learn about some of the new construction going on. I have a thought about a blog for next Spring when you return. Save these specific pictures and take new pictures of the same locations, so we can see the before and after of what has been wrought by those wonder working construction workers. That seems like an extremely awkward sentence to me, but I think you’ll get my idea.

    I usually get up between 5:30 and 7:00 AM. It seems that the older I get, the easier it is to get up early. And you’re right. Dawn is such a wonderful time of day. Of course, if I stayed in bed until 8:00 o’clock or after, my hips and legs probably wouldn’t work for the rest of the day.

    Looking forward to Friday’s blog.

  7. I’m also an early riser during the week although I hate to get up when it’s dark. It just seems that if it’s dark we should be sleeping…right? I do like to sleep in a little later on the weekends. Now Summer time when the sun comes up at 5 I love to be up super early! Thanks for the pictures of all the changes that are happening. I didn’t think the Grand stables were going to be quite so close to you. I’m surprised. I was thinking a little further down, but I guess that would make more sense. Anyway, can’t wait to see all the changes in person and just in case I can’t, I have my best friend in the whole world to show me the new things next Spring…YOU! 🙂

  8. Early riser here too-up at 4:30 or 5 to be at work by 6:30 during the week and then up between 4-6am on weekends for running… But, I’m a morning person by nature. Just don’t ask me to stay up past 10 unless I can have a Redbull!
    Glad that the silver lining to losing the trees was a nicer view of the lake. Plus you got new lilacs! That’s awesome!

  9. I’m an early riser by choice. No one really seems to understand. 😉 I love the mornings but I’m useless by about 8pm! Thoroughly enjoyed the winter news … it seems you will be able to see this new Grand Stable from your place? That will be fun! Have a great day!

    • Don’t know for sure if we’ll be able to see it or not. We still have a lot of trees that buffer us from that particular hill.

  10. The other day I walked into church with a lady in her 80’s and I assumed she got up “before the chickens” as we say here in Iowa but she explained to me that she worked many years which required her to get up early so since retiring she sleeps in until 8:30 every day! You go girl!

  11. Retirement allows us to sleep as long as we want, especially when we can’t sleep at night!! Always glad to hear what construction is going on there. The only time island people see and hear motor vehicles except in emergencies. Fall is so beautiful. Love the header shot!

  12. I loved hearing the update about the VI, as we called the old original Village Inn back in the 60’s when we all worked up there as college kids (including Dennis Cawthorne :). It had the greatest deep fried shrimp served in baskets which went nicely with the Bud on tap. When it closed for the night, we’d go to LIttle Bob’s for English muffins. That was pretty unfancy then too, and now gone all together, I guess. I’m sure the updated Village Inn will be super and I look forward to eating there on my next trip, but I have fond memories of the old version when everyone called me by my nickname, Kale 🙂 Fun times.

    I agree about rising whenever in retirement. That’s what it’s all about.

  13. It’s back to reality for me today….back to work and catching up on your posts I missed the last few days while I was up north. I saw the stacks of cement by the Jockey Club & wondered what they were doing. That was some interesting news about the Village Inn. That is one of our favorite restaurants (as was the French Outpost), not so much now with the changes since the Grand took it over. I hope the same doesn’t happen with the Village Inn. I guess that’s progress.

  14. Bree – In response to your request for feedback, please keep doing what you’re doing! I’m so delighted to have met you briefly a few weeks ago across from the Shepler’s Dock with our golden puppy, Abbey. My personal reason for enjoying your blog is that it helps me feel closer to my son while he’s working up there at the Grand. But aside from that, I just love the place and love being “beamed up” to the island when my day gets blah down here in Ann Arbor. You are a wonderful writer, the pictures are terrific, and it’s true that I’ve learned more interesting stuff about the island from YOU than from any other source (including my son!) Maybe you should try your hand at fiction…maybe a romance set in the past…a writer and an actress…Oh, I guess that’s been done.

    And, I always told myself every time I was there that I’d get up early and watch the sunrise. Never happened. Sleep is good.

    Have a great trip to Georgia, and I look forward to reading your blog as long as you write it!

  15. Bree, your blog means the world to me to keep in touch with the island I love. I’m a lifetime yooper and have a passion for the island that will never cease. NO matter what the pictures are anything I can see that keeps me in touch with that beautiful place helps me get through the summer until I can visit and the long winter dreaming of the next time I can go. Don’t ever stop, your talent in pictures and writing is the best and very much appreciated!

  16. Can not tell you what this blog mean to me! I had to go South over the Bridge this summer and miss the Island – pure torture! Every soul I know got a foggy picture of the Island – even those who didn’t know what on earth it was! THANKS! (we just came back from Savannah: enjoy the warmer winter. Peg, in PA

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