Racing the Sun 1/6/16

When Jill, Sue, and I arrived on Mackinac Island for Christmas Bazaar weekend, I had no idea where we’d be staying.  I was on the island to write for Original Murdick’s Fudge at the invitation of the Benser family, the owners of that business.  When I’d occasionally talk to Bobby Benser in the weeks leading up to the Bazaar, and ask where we (Jill and Sue were coming as my “wing-men” – little did I know how apropos that would become) should check in, he’d say, “Oh, I’ll figure it out before you get here.”

I wasn’t really worried about it, although I did know there were only a couple of lodging options open that weekend, and I also knew they would both fill up fast.  Ted and I stayed once for a few days in a house Bobby owns in the Mission, so in the back of my mind I was thinking, “Ok, that’s probably where he’ll put us, if there are no rooms available anywhere else.” We only needed one room because we three girls were going to make do with cots or sleeping bags.  We were EASY!

Imagine our VERY happy surprise when we  got off the ferry, tracked Bobby down, and he said, “You’re going to be staying at Bonnie Doon.”

Bonnie Doon has been the Benser family home on Mackinac since the 1970’s when Mr. B. (Bobby’s dad) and his wife bought the house soon after arriving on the island to open their first business.  The Victorian cottage was built in 1885, and except for a kitchen renovation and an addition downstairs, it remains as it was built.  Opening the front door is truly like stepping back in time. The house is downtown and sits right on the water near the marina.  To say we thought we’d hit the jackpot for accommodations would be a definite understatement!

We got settled in and spent the next few days pinching ourselves every time we would go in and out that beautiful old front door.  The cold weather kept us from enjoying the deck on the back, but from the kitchen we could look past the French doors and deck directly out onto the Straits and the lighthouses.  Like I said, we pinched ourselves a lot!

We stayed busy all day Friday and Saturday,  I would do some writing and photography for Original Murdick’s Fudge, then join Jill and Sue to look for Christmas Bazaar goodies, trek all over the island, and just generally enjoy being on Mackinac.

On Saturday night we arrived back at Bonnie Doon about an hour before dark.  We grabbed a snack – thinking we’d head down to Cawthorne’s Village Inn a little later for dinner.  We all gathered in the kitchen, where I’d set up my laptop on the first night.  I started writing, and Jill and Sue sat chatting around the kitchen table.

About half-way through writing that night’s post, I ran into a bit of information I needed to finish.  I called Bobby on his cell.  He answered right away, gave me the info I needed, and explained he had left on the last ferry that afternoon and would be off the island for a few days.

And – just as I was about to disconnect – he said, “Oh!  By the way!  A couple of my college buddies may land a seaplane there in a few minutes and dock it at the house.”

Excuse me?

I relayed this tidbit of info to Jill and Sue, and we all just rolled with laughter.  Oh sure!  We looked out to see the sun just about to disappear into Lake Huron, lighting up the sky with dazzling oranges and reds.  No way would anyone be landing a plane out there right now!

I went back to my keyboard, and a few minutes ticked by.  Jill got up to get something out of the refrigerator just behind me, and as she turned back toward the window, she said – very calmly – “Uh, I see plane lights.”

We FLEW to the back door and out onto the deck just in time to watch the plane safely land and start taxiing across the water out near the lighthouses.  Back into the cottage we ran, where Sue and Jill grabbed maglites and scurried down to the dock, while I stayed in the house and flipped the kitchen lights off and on.


The pilots, Tim and Cran, later told us Bobby had said to tie up at his dad’s dock, but they had no idea WHERE THAT WAS!  They said if we hadn’t turned on the maglites and flashed the house lights, they would never have found it.

We could hear Tim and Cran laughing across the water.  They were so excited they’d landed safely.  The whole trip started with them telling their friends they were going to land in the Straits on December 5 – something they didn’t think had ever been done before because there is usually ice out there by that date.  Adding to that scenario –  making a landing so close to dark is extremely dangerous, and those two had almost missed that last minute opening at dusk.

The two quickly figured out there was no way to tie up a plane at the dock, so they yelled across the water to us they were going to try to “beach it” at the Chippewa Hotel.


So off they went toward the Chippewa!

Sue jumped on her bike and raced down to the Chip. Jill followed on foot, with me lagging way behind (I don’t move nearly as fast as those two).  Before I even got to the marina, Sue was on her way back on the bike.

“They can’t beach there – nothing to tie up to!” she shouted as she sped by.

After another 10-15 minutes of taxiing up and down in back of the cottage, with Sue and Jill signaling from land, Cran and Tim finally pulled up onto a tiny beach next door to Bonnie Doon.


I’m pretty sure these guys were glad to be back on solid ground at last. On top of everything else, it was in the 30’s that night!

Much hilarity ensued as the pilots tied up the plane and tromped into Bonnie Doon’s kitchen to warm up and tell us all about their trip.  The beautiful seaplane (built in 1949 and one of only around 250 of this type) belongs to Cran (red jacket in pic above), who just began flying a year ago.  Tim, on the other hand, is a professional pilot, licensed for jets, and has been flying for years.

Luckily, some folks had left the Cottage Inn that afternoon, so these two took those rooms for the night.  We later saw them at Cawthorne’s Village Inn, and they insisted they were going to take us all up flying the next morning.  After a night to think it over, and when we woke the next morning to look out at the very choppy and windy Straits, “the girls” decided it was a “no go” for us.

When Tim and Cran arrived back at the cottage the next morning, we welcomed them with hot coffee and listened to more of their flying exploits.  Then they went out to see if they themselves were going to make it off the island that morning!

Sunrise over a cold, cloudy and windy morning on Mackinac.

Sunrise over a cold, cloudy and windy morning on Mackinac.

Cran took the plane up first, and I got some good shots of the plane and the lighthouses.

Cran took the plane up first, and I got some good shots of the plane and the lighthouses.

Taking off in those conditions meant a very bumpy ride until the wheels lifted . . .

Taking off in those conditions meant a very bumpy ride until the plane lifted off the water . . .

. . . and landing was even bumpier!

. . . and landing was even bumpier!

Individually, Tim and Cran did take up a couple of island residents (who were much braver than we were).

Soaring above the island.

Soaring above the island.

By the middle of the morning, Tim and Cran were anxious to fly on to their next destination.  Weather reports were dicey again, and they were itching to get there and land safely before really inclement weather moved in.

Jill snapped this shot just before Tim and Cran flew off the island for their next destination.

Jill snapped this shot just before the guys flew off the island for their next destination.

A couple of hours later I received this pic of a freighter in the Straits they flew over . . .

A couple of hours later I received this pic of a freighter they flew over in the Straits . . .

. . . and this selfie, with the attached note: It was so nice to meet you and the "girls"! Cran and I can't stop laughing about meeting you three and that blinking light! We're headed south now, racing the sun... Again! Ya'll are the best! Say hi to everyone and pass along those pictures you took! We're going to frame a couple!

. . . and this selfie, with the attached note:    “It was so nice to meet you and the “girls”!
Cran and I can’t stop laughing about meeting you three and that blinking light!
We’re headed south now, racing the sun… Again!
Ya’ll are the best! Say hi to everyone and pass along those pictures you took! We’re going to frame a couple!”

I wrote back:  “Keep racing the sun, boys!  It’s folks like you that keep the rest of us young!”

I’ve since sent both pilots a file full of photos.  I hope they did frame one or two as a way to remember a few fun hours on Mackinac Island.  I know Sue, Jill, and I certainly won’t ever forget it!

Don’t you just love that phrase . . . racing the sun!



38 thoughts on “Racing the Sun 1/6/16

  1. Wow…Bree! I was wondering where you stayed since you never mentioned it. You were three lucky girls! The rest of us can only dream of that experience. And believe me I do dream that! I enjoyed all your blogs from that trip. Thank you for taking us along. I’m so glad you are going to continue the Mackinac Island blog. I appreciate all the work that you put into that blog. And your photo contributors are great. Thank you!

  2. Good heavens, girl! Did you ever dream that you would have such adventures? What fun…………isn’t life grand?

  3. What a great story. It really is a small world. I used to work with Cran years ago. As I was reading your post I was thinking this has to be him, not a very popular name. Glad to see he is still “flying high”. I really enjoy your blog. It has been years since I have been to the island and it is now on my bucket list. Thank you for sharing. Happy New Year!

    • Hi Mary Beth! It was a joy to spend a few hours with those two. Thanks for commenting, and you need to plan an island trip soon!

  4. Love love love this post! I’ve always wanted to get a seaplane rating added on to my private pilot license. I’ve been waiting for this story since you hinted it a few weeks ago!

      • I sit here with tears in my eyes because I love thinking of the times we have spent on the island. We may not ever get back, and we both cried as we left last June on our 50th anniversary.

      • 50 years! Oh Karen, that is such a wonderful legacy to each other and your family. Congratulations!
        I know there will come a time when Ted and I won’t return to Mackinac, but we will sure have built some wonderful memories to live over and over again in our hearts. You and your husband have done the same. I believe we’re all richer for having known that special place. God bless.


  5. How fun! What a great story to add to your weekend. Definitely shares the hospitality of the Island and those who visit.

  6. Wow! This was quite an adventure! One never knows what will happen to you when you are there. Glad your trip was memorable.

  7. So surprised to read your column this morning Brenda. Such an amazing story . . . and I did not hear word one from Jill about your fun adventure. (Guess she wanted to surprise me when I read your blog.) How smart of you to realize the pilots would need some directional lighting to find their way to the cottage.

  8. Brenda,

    I know I commented on this post because my comment showed as the first one. What happened?

    Anyway, I just wanted you to know that if those guys had asked me to go up in the plane, I would have gone in a heartbeat.

    • I saw it, Lowell. Isn’t it still there?
      You might get your chance. They’re supposed to be back sometime during the summer!!


  9. Thank you so much for sharing. I love the picture of the plane between the light houses. Racing the sun is a great phrase. I’ll have to find a way to use it.

  10. This adventure was so good, I had to read it twice. Got caught up in the great pictures.
    Only on Fantasy Island, does this kind of thing happen to you and the girls. Racing the Sun, sounds like the title of a novel. Take care!

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