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