About bree1972

My husband Ted and I are in transition. We are building a new home in Beverly Beach, FL and should be there full-time in June, 2014. We spend our time now at our lake cottage in south GA and will be spending two months each summer on beautiful Mackinac Island in Michigan. We have three children and two grandchildren and are also blessed with two dogs and two grand-dogs. We are so blessed.

Throw Back Thursday – A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Taxi Drive – Part II 3/23/17

Personal Note:  This is Part II of a blog about shadowing a Mackinac Island taxi driver one morning in July of 2009.  _________________________________________________________________

You know all the clothes I had put on for my morning with Jeanine?  Not one single piece came off during the morning.  I never put on the rain gear, but I wore the earmuffs the entire morning and still had them on when I climbed off the taxi at 12:30 back at the barn.  It amazes me (and even more so now) the conditions the drivers work in on the island.  When you take into consideration that their year begins in April and runs roughly through the end of October, you can bet that they will have experienced rain, sleet, freezing temperatures, freezing rain, winds blowing up to 40 mph (and more), and possibly some snow.  Carriage Tours provides their drivers with very nice uniforms including shirts, turtlenecks, vests, warm coats, and caps.  The drivers provide their own rain gear, khaki pants, shoes and gloves.  The taxis all carry blankets under the seats for passengers, but I have never seen a driver use one for himself.  They are much more concerned about how the weather conditions may be affecting their horses than how it is affecting them.

Jeanine and I left the horse barn and went the rest of the way down the hill into town.  The streets at 7 a.m. were quiet and IMG_0970empty.  Our first pick up was a taxi driver in a leg brace.  He can walk down the hill to the barn, and he can still handle his team.  What he can’t do is walk back up the hill.  We picked him up at the taxi stand, where he waited with a cup of coffee for Jeanine.  I jumped off and ran into Marc’s Double Oven for  caffeine for me and climbed back on. 

By the time we got back to the horse barn and dropped off our rider, we had a call at The Grand.  At  The Grand, we pulled up under the porch, and a porter came out and said the people had decided to walk down the hill.  He asked if we would take a cart full of luggage down to the ferry dock, and Jeanine said yes.  We pulled around to the side of The Grand, and a worker hooked the packed cart to the back of the taxi.

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IMG_0978We pulled the luggage cart down to the ferry dock where a porter was waiting to unhook it.  We left the docks and started down the street to park and wait on another call, but we never got to stop.  An employee of Wings of Mackinac (a butterfly house next door to our condo) needed a ride up the hill to work.  We turned around in front of Marquette Park and picked up the lady at the taxi stand.

Market Street was empty too at that time of morning.  Later on, after the first ferries arrived, the street would be teeming with visitors, but now it was quiet and peaceful. 

We dropped the worker off at Wings of Mackinac just as another call came in for the Annex.  Jeanine drove the taxi down the road in front of our condo, where Ted was out on the balcony with Maddie and Bear.  I had called him coming up the hill, and he had jokingly asked if I wanted him to meet us at the boardwalk with coffee, bacon and eggs.  Since I knew he was kidding, I declined even the coffee since I had already had a cup.

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teddeck

I loved the annex run.  We turned into the state park on the same road where we walk Maddie and Bear.  Driving annex runthrough the woods on a chilly morning is almost surreal.  It is so quiet you could hear your heart beating if it weren’t for the horses hoofbeats covering that sound in your chest.  Jeanine handles the reins like a professional, and Thunder and Andy respond to her every touch.  We talked for a moment about the things that can spook a horse.  Since they wear blinders, they can only see straight in front of them.  That’s why you always approach a horse in blinders from the front, or if you can’t do that, you start talking as you walk up beside them to let them know you are there.  On the island, like anywhere else, the horses get used to where everything is supposed to be.  If something changes, it startles them.  Jeanine said a plastic bag flying across the road is the granddaddy of  “horse spookers”. She said that is why you always see workers picking up any bags that have been thrown down as litter.  A spooked horse in a street full of walkers and bikers is a scary thing to behold.  It does happen – not often, but it does.  Basically though, Jeanine said, the horses on Mackinac Island are what she calls “bomb proof”.  They can handle most anything that comes their way.  That is the way they are trained.

annexluggageWe arrived at a rental house in the annex to find a family group that wasannexpeople heading home after a month’s stay.  They had their luggage out waiting.  The men in the group loaded everything up under the back luggage compartment and strapped it all down.  I knew that we had always loaded and unloaded our own luggage, but I didn’t know until today that the drivers are not allowed to leave their seats.  Can you imagine a spooked horse with no driver? 

Everyone got on the taxi, including Winston – a very cute dog, who his mom said was ready to go home.  I don’t think this family was though.  There were five brothers and one sister (who didn’t make it this trip) and their respective spouses, children and grandchildren.  They have been renting this same house for the last 11 years, spending precious time together, making memories that will live into the future, and just enjoying being family together once a year in this special place.

familywinston

moreannextfamily

One lady in this group (Susan)  followed us on her bicycle.  One of the women riding the taxi explained that the biker was preparing for a biathlon (1/2 mile swim and 5K run) in Delaware.  Susan has won gold, silver, and bronze medals in the Senior Olympics and has appeared in Sports Illustrated.  She was awesome, and you could tell the family was so proud of her.

annexbiker

I had explained to the family why I was riding along and asked permission to take pictures and write about them on the blog.  They were excited, and everyone wanted the blog address.  When we dropped them off at the ferry dock, one of the ladies told me she couldn’t wait to get home and read the story because she taught writing.  My face fell.  I was wondering how I could get back the address I had given them, because the thought of an English teacher reading this made me ’bout have the vapors.  But she explained she wasn’t an English teacher of writing.  She taught writing from the heart.  “Oh”, I said, “that’s what I do.”  She wrote the kindest comment to me today after reading the blog – I confess it made me cry.  I hope I get to see this family again next year when they are on the island.  Friendships could definitely grow there.

Back in town we got a call to pick up a lady at the Lakeview Hotel going to the Governor’s Summer Residence.  Now if you ride a taxi alone, you are charged for two people so it was going to cost this lady $9.50 for that ride.  Right after we picked her up though there was another call for the Governor’s house from a lady at the Cloghaun Bed & Breakfast.  The fare was instantly cut to $4.75 for each lady. The Governor’s Summer Residence is a popular spot for tourists on Wednesdays during the summer.  They open the house to the public in the morning hours, and guided tours are conducted through the first floor of the mansion.  And it’s free!  Ted and I have done the tour, and the house is absolutely beautiful.  I will blog on it one day soon.

With permission granted to photograph them and with blog address given out, I learned that one of the ladies was from Michigan and the other was from Maryland.  The Baltimore lady had stayed on the island an extra day just to see this house, and when we arrived there was a long waiting line. 

govmansionladies

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We went back to town by the East Bluff mansions and down a VERY steep hill – so steep that carriages without brakes are not allowed.  We had brakes, but Jeanine assured me that Andy and Thunder could stop the carriage even if the brakes failed.  Good to know.  We stopped to water the horses, letting them drink their fill.

waterhorses

I had the cutest comment this week from another taxi driver’s (Alyssa) grandmother.  She told me all about Alyssa driving taxis, and that she thought Alyssa and Jeanine knew each other.  She was right – they were roommates at one time.  While we were parked waiting on a call, Jeanine saw her coming up the street.  Alyssa parked right across from us, and I jumped off to run over and take her picture.  Her grandmother had already been in touch with her, and Alyssa knew she was going to be so excited to see the picture on the blog.  So this one’s for you, proud Grandmom!

ally

After about a 10 minute wait for our next call (during which I dashed into The Pancake House and got Jeanine and I a MacMuffin with sausage and onions), we were sent to pick up a couple at a hotel on Main Street who wanted to be driven out to British Landing and dropped off.  When we arrived, Jeanine explained that British Landing was the farthest point on the island that a taxi goes, and the cost would be $29.00.  That was fine with them.  They wanted the experience of walking half-way around the island, but because of the weather didn’t want to chance being gone long enough to do the entire 8.2 miles.  We started out on M-185, the highway around the island, and I did my “blog talk” to this nice couple from Kentucky.

kentuckycouple

They were so cute, all snuggled up together in the back seat.  I told them the story of how we ended up on Mackinac, and they told me a little about themselves.  They asked Jeanine what had brought her to the island, and Jeanine said, “the ferry”.  We all cracked up.  Jeanine said she doesn’t use that one a lot, but it does get a laugh every time.  Then she told them the real reason she was here – her love of horses.  As we covered the four miles out to British landing, the clouds over the bridge looked threatening, but the rain never came.

threatheningweather

westbluffWe passed the West Bluff with its “cottages” and went around a drive-it-yourself buggy.  The Kentucky couple asked if the companies used the oldest horses for those carriages.  Jeanine said yes – a lot of people who rent the buggies have no experience at all in driving horses, so they try to put a safe, calm horse with them.  That led to a discussion on the ages of the horses on the island.  Jeanine explained that most horses come to the island at about 5 years of age and will usually work until they are 15 or 20, depending on the horse.  Andy and Thunder are eight or nine years old, so they are just getting started.  The majority of the horses are bought from the Amish who have already trained them to pull loads.   The horses are switched between taxis, livery, tours, and drays each year.

driveit

We let the couple off at Cannonball, the half-way point and a great place to get something to drink and their famous fried pickles.  The lady who runs Cannonball was out the door like a shot when we pulled up – she knows the drivers can’t get off, and she knows they are on a tight schedule.  Those pickles were ready in a flash. 

cannonball

As the last pickle was going down, we got a call to pick up at Pinewood, behind Stonecliffe.  We took the road going up through the center of the island (one of my favorites), and were rewarded by woods filled with blooming wildflowers.

flowers

We waited for nearly 10 minutes for the riders at Pinewood, only to find out that they had decided to take the hotel shuttle downtown.  By then it was 12:15, so Jeanine headed for the barn to switch out her team.  Andy and Thunder would not work again until the next afternoon, have the whole next day off, then begin the cycle again the next morning.  Aiden and Donny were waiting to unhitch the tired horses, and they were led into their stalls, where Jeanine checked to make sure they were ok and had started eating.    The new team, Anna and Newt, were ready and waiting for Jeanine.  When it’s time to switch horses, it doesn’t matter if the taxi has riders or is empty.  The horses are switched on time.  Because of that, the driver cannot get her second team ready, so that is done by the barn workers. 

workdone

 IMG_1085

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After Jeanine leaves, Andy and Thunder will be unharnessed, curried, brushed and given another bath.  Jeanine climbs aboard for the second half of her shift and starts back downtown.  When she returns to the barn at 7 p.m., she will unharness Anna and Newt and repeat the process the barn workers did for the first team.  She won’t go home until she has done everything she needs to do to make sure her horses are comfortable, fed, and settled in for the night. When that is accomplished, Jeanine’s shift will be over.

I gained a tremendous amount of respect during my ride for these men and women who handle the big horses.  They have to have strength, control, and a calm spirit to accomplish what they do with the horses.  They also must be honest, kind, and patient to deal with the riders they transport.  It’s not an easy job, and on Mackinac Island it is a very important one.  Thanks to Dr. Bill Chambers for allowing me to ride along on a taxi.  And a big, special thanks to Jeanine for allowing me to tag along and ask dozens of questions, and for not making too much fun of me when I couldn’t lift the two tons of harness off my head.  I loved every minute.  See you on the streets!

IMG_1102Taxi Tidbits: 

1)  The morning shift is generally easier on the horses.  In the morning, the majority of the people are going toward town, so the heavy load is going downhill.  In the afternoon, the majority of people are going home, so the heavy load has to be pulled up the hill.

2)  The horses get new shoes every 4-6 weeks – unless they throw one in between.  The front shoes are rubber because the majority of the weight is taken on the front legs, and the rubber gives more bounce.  The back shoes are steel, which contain a gritty substance to give the horse more traction.

3)  What a taxi driver never leaves home without on Mackinac Island?  Raingear, a jacket, and sunglasses.

4)  The island is divided into taxi zones. 

5)  Silly tourist questions:  Does the water go all the way around the island?  When do they swing the Mackinac Bridge over to the island? 

___________________________________________________________________

Another Personal Note:  Spending as many summers as we do on Mackinac Island and writing about our adventures there tends to link us to folks who love the island as much as we do.  Reading back over this story, I realized I’ve been Facebook friends with several of the people in this blog since 2008 and earlier.

First – Jeanine, the taxi driver.  Jeanine left the island and moved to Savannah where she drove carriage tours in that city for several years.  Ted and I looked her up and took one of her tours in that city when we were there for a class reunion at Paula Deen’s house (Ted graduated with Paula from high school).  I connected with Jeanine again when she drove to Sylvester GA (my hometown), to adopt one of the shelter dogs I’d written about at Best Friends Humane Society.

Jeanine now lives and does taxes in upstate New York. This photo is from her Savannah days with one of her all-time favorite horses,Charlie.

Second – Sue from the family we picked up at the house in the Annex (not the Sue on the bike, but the Sue who taught “writing from the heart”).

As recently as a few weeks ago I received this beautiful SoulCollage card Susan had created in memory of Bear.

A few years ago I interviewed Susan’s granddaughter Devon for a blog story.  The then 15-year old had written and published a youth novel (“Get Over It”) about a boy and girl who meet on the island.  She used her memories of spending a month each summer on Mackinac to give authenticity to the story. 

Third – Alyssa, the other taxi driver in the blog above.  Alyssa lives on the island as a year-round resident now and drives for Carriage Tours.  We see her every summer!

Fourth – Alyssa’s grandmother Alice.  Alice contacted me after she read Part I of the taxi driver story and told me she had a granddaughter who also drove taxis – and she thought she was friends with Jeanine.   It became a regular thing for me to snap a photo of Alyssa each time I’d see her and send it to Alice.

I feel so continually blessed to have met each of these precious folks – and hundreds like them – who share my love of Mackinac.

God bless.

Throw Back Tuesday – A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Taxi Driver 3/21/17

Personal Note:  During the summer of 2009, I wrote several blogs about folks who work on Mackinac Island as summer employees.  This is Part I of the piece I wrote about Jeanine Noel, a taxi driver on Mackinac Island.  Part II is coming on Thursday!____________________________________________________________________

FIRST PUBLISHED ON JULY 2, 2009

I HAD  SO MUCH FUN in the 6 hours I spent with Jeanine today that it is going to take me 2 days to tell you about it all.  There is just no way I can pack it into one blog – I must have taken 100 pictures, and now I am  trying to go through them and find the best ones to tell the story.  Part I will be the actual preparation that goes into getting the horses and carriages ready to begin their 5-hour (approximate) day,  and Part II will cover the 5 hours I spent on the taxi with Jeanine for the first part of her 12-hour shift.

First, a little about Jeanine.  She is from Rochester, N.Y., and this is her 3rd year driving for Carriage Tours.  With an Associate Degree in Animal Science with concentration in Equine Management, and an almost completed Bachelor’s Degree, she is taking some time off from academics to decide what she wants to concentrate on as a career.  Vet Tech school is one option she is considering, which would probably mean completing her bachelor’s in Biology.

Jeanine began riding lessons when she was 10 years old and had the typical little girl’s love and fascination with horses.  She has shown hunters and jumpers, and in college showed Belgians in several hitch configurations.  It was while in college she heard of Mackinac Island and saw a chance to use her talents on a daily basis.

When drivers apply and are hired by Carriage Tours, they come to the island in April and spend a week or more learning the ropes – literally.  They ride on what they call “the school bus”, a carriage that will hold several “students”, riding with an experienced driver.  They ride the “tour” over and over again, listening to the narrative, learning the routes, and getting hands-on experience handling the horses.  They also spend time in the barn learning to take care of their horses (each taxi driver usually handles the same 4 horses each season) which includes all the preparation for a day’s work (more on this later).  Then they go do their “homework”, taking  home detailed histories of the island and its people so they are prepared for the myriad of questions they are asked each day.

The first assignment as a driver is on a tour carriage, two-horse and three-horse carriages that take hundreds and hundreds of tourists each day around the island, chronicling island history and transporting visitors to famous landmarks.  All of this is on a set route, with a pretty-much set script. Since I will be riding with a tour driver sometime in the future, I will save more details on that for later.  From the most experienced tour drivers, the taxi drivers are chosen.  Carriage Tours operates 11 taxis, two wheelchair taxis, two hotel shuttles, two Mission Point shuttles, and two Stonecliffe shuttles.  They also operate 20 two-horse tour carriages and 16 three-horse tour carriages.  It is a huge operation with unbelievable logistics.

I set the clock for a 5 a.m. wake up (Ted grumbled, turned over and went back to sleep).  I didn’t spend a whole lot of time getting “dolled up” for this assignment – but I sure put on several layers of clothes.  It was 56 degrees, and I knew I would be riding at the front of the taxi.  I layered on my long-john top, a long-sleeve t-shirt, then my fleece jacket.  Blue jeans completed the outfit.  I tied my hooded rain jacket around my waist and put my earmuffs in my pocket.  Hey – I’ve learned how to dress up here for anything!

It’s a 5-minute walk to the horse barn, and I met Jeanine coming across the street to the barn from where she lives.  Most of the taxi drivers and barn employees live in (appropriately named) Barn View.  She shares a suite with 3 other Carriage Tour employees and works the 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. shift six days a week.

I had no idea the responsibilities of a driver.  I just thought they arrived at the barn, climbed on a carriage where two already hitched horses stood waiting, and off they went.  Nope – that’s not the way it’s done.

First comes wiping down the carriage with a clean cloth.  The carriage sits out during the night, so it may have rained, or dew may have fallen, or it might just be dusty from use the day before. Today, the flaps surrounding the body of the cabin were left down because there was a chance of rain.

seatwipedown

We went into the barn and found Andy (left) and Thunder (right) standing in their stalls.  Andy and Thunder are bay cross-breeds.  Their bloodlines most likely carry a mix of Belgian and Percheron.

AndyThunder

A curry comb is used on each horse to start the clean up process from a night in a stall or a night outside in the horse corral.  Thunder had obviously had a little more fun the night before than Andy as he was coated in a layer of mud.  Horses love to roll around on the ground to scratch their backs, or just for the fun of it.  The dust coming off Thunder was so thick in the air it clouded my camera lens.

thundercurrydust

After the dirt is loosened by the curry comb, a brush is used to finish the process of removing any dirt from the horse’s coat.

thunderbrush

Jeanine then harnessed Thunder, using all kinds of strange words like martingale, crupper, and neck, breast and quarter straps.,

jeanineharnessthunderNext to Andy’s stall, a horse was lying down, apparently sound asleep.  I said to Jeanine that I thought horses slept standing up.  Jeanine said, “Horses are prey animals.  They sleep lightly while they stand so they can be ready to run if they are attacked.  But 2-3 hours a night, they will lie down and sleep soundly – get their REM sleep.” 

horselyingdownJeanine thought it would be great fun for me to put the horse collar on Andy.  I eased into the stall, sliding carefully up next to him and tried to lift the collar over his head.  Couldn’t do it.  That horse was tall, and that collar was heavy!  Trying to help me out, Andy bent his head down almost to the floor, and I finally got it over his ears.  Then Andy lifted his head and bammed it into the stall ’cause I was in his way.  Poor Andy.  He turned his head back to Jeanine with a look that said, “OK – enough with the weak, dumb blogger.  Please come finish this and get her out of my stall.”mecollar

Since I couldn’t lift the collar, Jeanine knew better than to try me with the harness.  She did take this picture of me after she had taken it all down off the wall and put it over my head.  If she hadn’t then taken it all off of me, I would have had to pull the carriage today because I would have never gotten it off by myself! meharness

Jeanine harnessed Andy and then took both horses outside for a bath – cool water if the weather is warm, warm water if it’s cold. 

baththunder

After changing into her uniform, Jeanine went back outside to use Pledge on her carriage.  The painted areas on the outside are polished each morning.

pledgeBy the time she had finished, Donny and Aiden had led Thunder and Andy outside, where Jeanine joined them to do the final harnessing – adding the neck yoke that turns two separate horses into a team.

finalhitchbeforecarriage

With everything done except actually hitching them to the carriage, Andy and Thunder are led out to No. 6, Jeanine’s assigned taxi, where they are backed in, with the runner separating them.  The runner is attached to the neck yoke, and they are officially ready to go.  

hitchtocarriageThis entire process with Andy and Thunder only took a little over 30 minutes.  At 6: 55 a.m. Jeanine was on board, and I took one final picture before she put on her work cap.  Then I climbed up behind her, she called the dispatcher to check in as ready for customers, and we headed downtown.

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The story of my day with Jeanine continues on Thursday as I ride with her on the morning leg of her 12-hour shift.  We took lots of calls, covered lots of ground, and I talked with a lot of passengers who were very excited to be photographed for my blog.  Hope to see you then!

All in the Family 3/19/17

Well.  I have no idea what happened on Thursday with my blog program, but it seems two “Throw Back Thursday” blogs were published, although on my side of things I was being told nothing new was posting.  So – some of you may have gotten nothing at all, and some of you may have gotten three posts (I reposted one twice and then posted another to see if it would go through).  Hopefully, I have better luck with this one tonight!

This entire week has been all about spending time with family – Ted’s newly found birth family and our own blended family!

On Monday we dropped the pups off at Lily’s (our petsitter) and drove to Kissimmee FL to meet Ted’s Aunt Marsha and Uncle Dan (Aunt Marsha is Ted’s birth mother’s youngest sister).  Also meeting us there were Kel, Gwen, Lindie and Mike (cousins we’d already met this summer on the island).  So happy these folks all spend some time in Florida during the winter months!

Clockwise from left: Uncle Dan, Kel, Mike, Gwen, Lindie, me, Ted, and Aunt Marsha.

 

Three cousins and an aunt – Lindie, Ted, Aunt Marsha, and Kel.

Sweet Uncle Dan presented Ted and I with a beautiful wooden cross he had created by a technique called chip carving, and he also made a smaller one for me to wear as a pendant. The workmanship is so delicate I can’t even imagine how much time this took.  The larger cross is made of cherry, and the smaller one is from butternut. Such a special gift from special folks.

Throughout this whole search Ted and I both have been blown away by the warmth, welcome, and love this beautiful family has offered us.  When we thought about how many ways this all could have gone, we were certainly hoping for a good outcome, but what we’ve received has been an all-out open-arms welcome from every family member we’ve met or spoken with by phone.  For Ted, and for me also to a lesser degree, it’s a bit overwhelming at times – but only in the best and happiest possible sense.  Since Ted and I both were “only children” (we thought), we’ve gone from a very small family group (Ted has one daughter, and I have two sons) to having well over 20 cousins on one side of his birth family – plus three siblings, two uncles, and one aunt.

There are already plans being made for us to stop by and visit some of these folks on our way to Mackinac this summer.  And we’re hoping to see more of them on the island.  It just doesn’t get much better than this!

On Wednesday Jason, Jen, and Alex arrived for a 4-night stay (Alex’s Spring Break).  We were a little worried they would be bored – the weather was really cool and windy, so beach time was going to be at a minimal.  We shouldn’t have worried!

On Thursday they spent the day at the Kennedy Space Center!

They got to experience a lot of the same things that the astronauts do to prepare for a mission.

Inside the space capsule with all the instrumentation.

Ready for blast-off!

On Friday they traveled north a few miles to tour St. Augustine. Lunch outside on a patio in Old Town.

Visiting the St. Augustine Alligator Farm (there’s a wall of glass between Alex and Jen and that albino gator)!

In between all that, there was time for bonding with Bodie (don’t know what it is about Bodie’s crate that attracts kids, but they spend more time in it than he does) . . .

. . . . checking out the neighborhood on his scooter…

. . . . and even a little beach time!

There was also time for Jason and Jen to stay connected to work – because unfortunately adults don’t get Spring Breaks!

We were sad to see them leave this afternoon . . . the house is always too quiet after the busyness and excitement of visitors.  Hoping they can visit again before we head north in July (and hoping they can be persuaded to come to Mackinac again this summer)!

AND SPEAKING OF MACKINAC . . .

Warm temps melted a lot of snow this week, but here are a few pics from before that happened – and some from the little snowfall they had over the weekend.  You never know when you’re going to bike to the ferry, take it across, and return hours later to enough snow that you can’t bike home!(Photo: Greg Main)

A snowplow clears the sidewalk for foot traffic several days ago. (Photo: Greg Main)

Another from Greg – Main Street in the snow – minus all the shops’ awnings.

A week or so ago. Beautiful ice and snow along the shore. (Photo: Greg Main)

A few days later, and another side of the island.  (Photo: Greg Main)

Just after that last BIG snowfall. Island friend Meredith shot this off the back porch  of the Cedar Hill Condos. Have always loved red against snow!

This one is from Meredith also. She and her golden doodle Mason out for a stroll in the woods.

I think that covers us from here.  Wishing everyone a wonderful week, and I’ll meet you back here for a Throw Back Tuesday.  Now . . . . . let’s see if I can get this thing to publish!

God bless.

Closing the Windows 3/16/17

Personal Note:  Loved reading back over this post, although some of it is bittersweet.  When this post was first written, Cadotte was lined with those old, beautiful, 65′ trees, all of which were lost to disease.  But Grand Hotel replanted and the new trees are growing fast and are already so beautiful in the fall.  I know Ted and I won’t be around when these reach 65′, but others will.  Life goes on, trees are lost, replanted, and grow tall once more.  ______________________________________________________________________

First Published 9/30/09

Almost 11 a.m. Tuesday morningThe wind is surging through the trees and whistling around the corners of the condo.  We have all the windows closed for the first time since we arrived in May, but all the shades are up as far as they will go, because I love watching changing weather.

I’m even a big fan of storms – the “thunder booming, lightning flashing, strong winds, heavy rains” kind of storms.  If it was storming when I was a little girl, my mom used to sit curled up on the couch praying for it to end as soon as possible.  I would be standing at the window watching it all with sparkling eyes (I had to go to my bedroom to do this – mom wouldn’t have let me near a window in the room where she was).  To me, storms have always been a real-life, technicolor, block-buster extravaganza of nature – much better than watching movies or TV – no matter how great a surround sound system you have.

From the deck this morning, the dark clouds hung low and brooding over Lake Huron, and the temperature was hoovering in the low 40’s.    I noticed for the first time that the bushes in front of the horse corral at the end of our yard have shed enough leaves to lay bare the fence.  Soon we will be able to see the horses once again when they are turned out each night.

clouds fromthe deck

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I do admit to having no desire to actually be outside in all that wind.  While Ted took Maddie and Bear out this morning, I snuggled in under the down comforter I had added to the bed this weekend.  I knew, sooner or later, my turn would come to go out with them, so I didn’t feel the least bit guilty.  More later.

6:36 p.m. late Tuesday afternoonThe wind has died down, but the temperature has started down also.  It’s 47 right now, with the low Wednesday morning forecast for 30.  So instead of a very windy trip to Cheboygan with Bear today, I’ve opted to take him tomorrow on the coldest morning we’ve had.  The trip down the hill at 8:30 a.m. to catch the 9 a.m. ferry is not going to be fun, but at least there won’t be wind, and the sun will be shining!

I had not planned to go to town at all today – just too windy.  But I was already two weeks late getting Blake his birthday present mailed to China, and I finally got everything in the mail yesterday that I wanted to send him.

I spent half the morning getting all the forms filled out that must accompany a box halfway around the world.  The post office was busy, and everyone was talking about the weather.  The few people I spoke with who had taken the boat over this morning said it was a very bumpy ride.  I stopped by for cookies at Marc’s Double Oven, saw Jill at the bookstore and bought a book she suggested (The Master Butchers Singing Club), and started for home.

I followed several ladies up Grand Hill, whose clothes and actions made a perfect picture of what the weather was like.

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As I crossed the street before getting to the Grand, I noticed our neighbor Duck taking pictures of something on the side of the road.  It was only then that I saw that one of the old, old trees along Grand Hill was missing.  I stopped to ask Duck what had happened, and he told me the wind in the storm last night had split the tree down the middle.  This morning it had been determined that the whole tree was compromised, so it had to be cut down.

What was amazing was what they found inside the tree!  At some point in the tree’s life, it had obviously been split before.  When the chain saw got to a certain point this morning, it struck something solid that the saw couldn’t penetrate.   What they have determined is that cement had been poured into the split when it occurred, and the tree had continued to grow around it.  And there it was – a solid, hard as stone, concrete post.  The tree, like all those on Grand Hill was around 65 feet tall, and Duck estimated around 125 years old.  It made me wonder how many others on either side of that hill have been patched up over the decades.  They are all so healthy looking and so beautiful.  This one is a great loss.

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Continuing on up the hill, I met a dray coming down.  Don’t know if this recliner was being delivered to someone’s home, or was being taken off the island.  Either way, it was being enjoyed!

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I took my turn out in the cold with Maddie and Bear before dinner.  How trees can change so much over two days is amazing, but this one in the yard of the Carriage Museum had turned two shades more golden since Sunday.  Bear, standing in the leaves, looks so pretty – smelly, but pretty.  Can’t wait for him to get his bath tomorrow!

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The number of horses in the corral below our condo has roughly been cut in half.  Most of them now have shaved manes, which mean they soon will be heading for Pickford and a winter of rest and play in wide open fields.

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It seems everyone I talked to downtown today asked if we were staying over the winter.  We’ve had offers of snowmobiles, snowshoes, and cross county skis.  We’ve had offers to pick us up at the airport in Pellston, or at the airport here on the island.  I have to shake my head “no” to every question and every offer of help.  Maybe Ted is right, and I would find it too cold and too desolate and too brutal.  Maybe struggling with the dogs in wet snow would be a great big pain.  Maybe being isolated on an island until the ice bridge freezes over would be too confining.  But, maybe it wouldn’t.

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Throw Back Thursday – Thoughts on a Ferry 3/16/17

Personal Note:  It’s funny, as I’ve been going back and pulling old blog posts, how each one places me directly back in time, remembering the day I wrote the words and how I was feeling that day.  I remember snapping each of the photos in this one and planning what I would say in the captions – before I ever left the ferry that day.  Such special memories.

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First Published 8/26/12

Riding ferries back and forth to Mackinac Island has become such an engrained part of our lives that we consider it just as normal as main-landers opening their car doors each day and setting off to whatever event/store they have in mind.

Because 99% of my ferry rides take me to Mackinaw City to pick up the truck, I boarded the Mac City ferry Friday morning –  chatting to Jill a hundred miles an hour (and vice versa) – waved “bye” to her through the window, and took my seat about three rows up from the back (if you want to blend in with islanders and not appear to be a “fudgie”, ride in the back of the ferry).  I opened my book (Unsaid by Neil Abramson) and settled back to spend 15 minutes of bliss – reading with no interruptions.

About half-way across, I glanced up and noticed something strange.  The Mackinac Bridge wasn’t where it should be at that point in the ride.  Instead of being on my left, it was on my right.  And that’s when I realized I was on the wrong ferry.  I’d been heading to St. Ignace for a hair appointment, but in my usual “zone”, I’d marched onto the Mac City ferry, and the bad thing was Jill had LET me do it – knowing full well I was going to St. Iggy!  I immediately called her and said, “You have GOT to start taking better care of me!”

Pat, who works for Shepler, sat down with me just as I was disconnecting with Jill, and I told him “what an idiot” I am.  He got a good laugh out of it and said, “Just get off in Mac City, get back on the next ferry to the Island, then get on the right ferry to St. Ignace.”  Just like a man.  Didn’t he know that hair appointments were at a premium and I’d waited two weeks just to get on Pam’s appointment book!?

“No, no – that won’t work!”  I said.  I asked Pat to call and get the truck brought to the dock for me, which he did.

I was a little nervous because I’d never driven across the Mackinac Bridge before – but all went well, and I arrived for my hair appointment only 15 minutes late – with a good story to tell the salon ladies.

Two hours later – less gray and with 1/2″ of splint ends trimmed off – I crossed the bridge again, just in time to catch Shepler’s 3 p.m. ferry back to the Island.  Once again I chose the rear of the boat and opened my book.

Since earlier choosing the wrong ferry, my whole day had seemed a little off-kilter, and as the boat pulled away from the dock . . .

. . . I closed the book and decided to people-watch instead..

As I looked around, I began to remember the excitement I felt boarding the ferry in our earlier years.

I didn’t care one whit then if I looked like a tourist – camera hanging from my neck, sitting at the front of the boat, oohing and ahhing over freighters and lighthouses and the bridge.

I remembered the joy of the trip – riding with the front hatch open – the wind and crispness of the pure Michigan air promising us an awesome time on Mackinac . . .

. . . and I remembered shaking my head in dismay when the door was closed because someone complained about a little “spray” coming in.

I remembered making up stories about the other folks on the ferry. Maybe this couple was on their honeymoon – or maybe it was their first vacation since the children came along, and now the kids were old enough to spend a few days at Grandma’s and Granddaddy’s house.  Or . . . . maybe he was taking her to the Island to propose!

I remembered especially loving to watch the older folks. Could this couple be celebrating a 50th wedding anniversary at the Grand? Had they stayed on the Island on their honeymoon? Or . . . were they arriving for a grandchild’s wedding on the Island?

And I remember thinking back then, as we’d curve around the Passage Light – so closely it seemed we could touch it –  “Don’t let our days here go by too fast!”

While the ferry docked, I gathered my book, my bag of hair products, and my backpack.  As I eased out into the aisle and joined the happy fudgies setting foot on the Island for the first time, I looked around and tried to see the fort on the hill, the horses, and the busy downtown area as I did when we arrived that first time in July, 2000.  I remembered exactly how I’d felt.

And as I entered Main Street and turned toward home, I thought, “Don’t ever let me forget the magic of this place.”

I smiled all the way up the hill.

The Island, the Beach, and a Touch of Alaska 3/12/17

Hi Friends!

Most of this afternoon has been spent on-line, working out details for our May trip to Alaska.  I had no idea there’d be so many decisions to make!  Most of the hard ones involve choosing from dozens and dozens of excursions that can be added to an already packed schedule.  Do we want to visit a sled dog camp?  Do we want to actually ride aboard a sled pulled by sled dogs?  Do we want to take a small boat out from one of our ports of call to see whales and other marine life?  Do we want to hop a small plane for a bird’s eye view of wildlife and glaciers – or a helicopter that will actually land ON the glacier, where we can get out and walk around!  Of course if we’d won a recent lottery, all this would be so much easier to figure out.  But – no lottery money arriving here, so we’re trying to work out what’s going to fit into our budget.  More to come in the weeks ahead on that!

Hmmmm . . . wonder if that ice in the water will be melted by May?

Sticking with that “cold-weather” theme, Mackinac Island had their fair share of winter weather this week.

Friend Sue Conlon and husband Terry had to cross the Mackinac Bridge this weekend, and conditions were rough! That sign says, “High Winds, Escort in Progress”.  That means someone did not think they could cross without assistance, so a Bridge Authority person drove their car across for them.  I think I read the bridge was closed for a short time that day because of the high winds, but I could be mistaken on that.

A snowy scene from the island last week, just proving that work continues there, regardless of the weather. (Photo: Josh Carley)

A panoramic view across the icy Straits of Mackinac.  (Photo: Greg Main)

The Mighty Huron had a tough time plowing through the ice in the Straits on Saturday, but she made it.   (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

A beautiful shot of the full moon from beneath The Mustang Lounge sign. (Photo: Josh Carley)

Probably the biggest news from Mackinac last week was the mysterious disappearance of the wildly popular Mackinac Island News & Views Facebook page.  Clicking on the site brought a puzzling message saying simply, “This site has been archived.”  The site is the “go-to” place for information on the island, and the beautiful photographs placed there on a daily basis keep Mackinac fans entertained year-round.  There were hundreds of comments and pleadings for the return of the site.  Then, just as mysteriously as it disappeared, it opened again for business this weekend.  All 23,000 of its fans – including this one – rejoiced and celebrated!

Wanted to share a couple of stories tonight that are both really interesting and very informative reads!

This first one covers last week’s visit to Grand Hotel by hotel President Dan Musser III and several full-time employees, “2017 Winter Visit to Grand Hotel and Mackinac Island:  http://www.grandhotel.com/2017-winter-visit-grand-hotel-mackinac-island/

This second story was featured on-line at MyNorth and will make you want to book a stay at Grand Hotel just to eat there!  It’s titled “Dinner at the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island: 130 Years of Caviar and Aristocracy”.  Click here: http://mynorth.com/2017/03/dinner-at-the-grand-hotel-on-mackinac-island/

FLORIDA NEWS

Ted and I will be dropping off Maddie and Bodie at Lily’s (our wonderful petsitter) and traveling to Kissimmee FL on Monday to meet for lunch one of Ted’s by-birth aunts and her husband (Aunt Marsha and Uncle Dan), along with Lindie, Mike, Kel and Gwen (we met all four of these cousins on Mackinac this summer, and Kel and Gwen were just here a couple of weeks ago).  So glad several of these new relatives like to come to Florida for the winter!  Aunt Marsha is Ted’s birth mother’s youngest sister.  Pictures to come next Sunday!

Bodie joined me Friday night on the deck to wait for the sunset.

It didn’t disappoint!

It’s still amazing that we get to enjoy views like this on an almost daily basis. We’ve learned that a scattering of clouds always produces the best shows!

It was a great night!

See you back here on Tuesday with a “throw-back”!

God bless.

 

Throw Back Thursday – Bear Learns Some Life Lessons 3/9/17

Personal Note:  As promised, a second blog from the paw of sweet Bear.

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First Published August, 2009

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Hi!  Bear here.

Sometimes I just get too comfortable with my life.  I think I know what each day will bring – I get up every morning when dad wakes up and watch him make the coffee, then I sit around with him for a while.  Then when I think I just can’t wait another minute longer to go outside, I go jump in the bed with mom and wake her and Maddie up.  Once Maddie’s awake, I know we’re going outside pretty fast, because that little girl can’t wait like I can.  When she wakes up, she’s gotta go, gotta go, gotta go right now!

When we come back in, dad gives Maddie and me a bacon strip out of a bag (he thinks I don’t know it’s not real bacon, but I’ve had real bacon before, and believe me – that bag stuff is not real)  But, I never refuse food, so I eat it.  Then mom feeds us, and she and dad sit around and drink coffee, or go out on the deck and watch the people go by.  At some point, mom gets her yogurt out of the big box with doors, and Maddie and I wait while she eats it.  We know when she is finished because she always scraps around in that yogurt carton with her spoon.  When we can hear the spoon hitting the sides of the carton, we know that’s all she’s gonna get out of there.  Then she takes the spoon out and sits it down.  That means she’s done, and we can move in close and clean out that little bit of blueberry or strawberry yogurt that she has left – I call it breakfast dessert.

Then we settle down for a morning of rest – inside on the couch, out on the deck, or my personal favorite – right in front of that whirly thing that sits on the floor in the bedroom.  If I lift your head up a little, that wind can go right through all the fur on my neck and really cool me off.  The whirly thing is GREAT!

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Sometimes I have to get up when I hear dad come back from town on his bike.  I love that I can look out the back bedroom window to where he parks his bike!

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And so the day goes.  The only real change from the routine comes when I go get a shampoo and grooming.  I can tell those mornings because when mom says, “Let’s go”, she gets my shampoo and conditioner out of the closet and puts them in a bag.  Then I know I get to go for a ferry ride and a truck ride, and then I get pampered all day by the nice people at Bark, Bath, and Beyond.

So this morning mom’s reading her email, and suddenly she says, “Oh my gosh Bear, we’re going to be late!”  She jumps up, throws on her backpack, and says, “Let’s go”, but she doesn’t stop at the closet for my shampoo.  Instead we run downstairs, she puts on my collar, attaches my leash, and off we go down the hill.  I think to myself, “No worries, whatever it is, I’m sure it will be fun!”

As usual, when we walk down the hill we pass lots of people who say how handsome I am and want to pet me.  Mom is really in a hurry, but she stops long enough for a little girl to say hello.  She knows how much I like little kids and how much they like me ’cause I’m so soft and cuddly – just like a teddy bear (which is kinda how I got my name).

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Before we get to the end of the street, mom says, “Here we are.”  Here?  Where’s here?  We go inside this fence and go toward an open door in this building that’s like a big barn, and then I suddenly “get it”.  Mom brought me here last fall when I was sick.  This is where Doc Al takes care of the sick dogs on the island (he might take care of cats too, but I don’t want to think about that).

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Doc Al is a vet, and I know that he mainly looks after all the horses on the island.  But, if one of us smaller animals gets a tummy ache or something even worse, Doc Al is who everyone on the island calls.  If he’s nearby on his bike, maybe at one of the stables or barns, and someone calls him with a sick pet, he will just get on his bike and make a house call!  He will do the same thing if an animal is too sick to get to his office.  You see it’s different here.  Mom and dad can’t just put us in the car and rush us to the vet when there is an emergency.  And carrying a 90 lb. golden retriever down the hill to Doc Al’s office would be a little hard , even for my big, strong dad.  So, when he needs to, Doc Al comes to your house on his bike.  How cool is that!

When we get to the open door, Doc Al is on the phone, but we go on in.  I’m still wondering what’s going on because I’m not sick!  I feel great, in fact.  I know I have to take 2 pills a day because something in me called a thigh-roid gland doesn’t work right.  If I don’t take the pills, I get sloppy fat – would you believe I weighed 103 lbs. last year!  But it was this gland thing I had going on that was making me gain weight – it certainly wasn’t because they give me too much to eat!  Good grief, you’d think I was a Yorkshire Terrier by the amount of food they put in my bowl.

Anyway, Doc Al gets off the phone and gets down on the floor with me.  He’s telling me how nice I am and how good I look, then all of a sudden I notice he has this HUGE NEEDLE in his hand.  What the heck is that for?  He asks mom to take off my collar and hold my head because he’s going to draw blood OUT OF MY NECK!  Are you kidding me!  My animal doctor at home in Georgia has done this before when she was testing my thigh-roid gland, but she always stuck me in the leg.  My NECK?  Mom is holding my head, and Doc Al is trying to find my skin under all my fur, and I’m thinking, “Geez I wish I was back home in front of my whirly thing!”

Doc Al finds what he is looking for and sticks me.  I hold very still because mom and Doc Al are telling me over and over again how good I’m being.  That’s because I’m so scared I can’t move. If someone was sticking a needle in your neck, you’d be scared too!

He’s finally done, and I’m still breathing.  He stands up and puts all my blood down on the table (I’m pretty sure he took at least a quart!), so I figure I’m safe again.  Then he writes a bunch of stuff down and tells mom that he should have the results back tomorrow.  I guess then we will know if I have to change the number of pills I take for my thigh-roid condition.  I still like Doc Al though, even though he did kind of surprise me with that needle.  It really didn’t hurt a bit – I’m a pretty tough guy.

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We’d started back up the hill for home when mom takes out her camera again (can you believe I belong to someone who takes a camera to the vet’s office?).  She says it’s been too long since she took any good pictures of me, so today’s the day.  I’m happy about that – I love to pose for pictures!  When we get to the big yard in back of the island school, there are a bunch of geese there.  I LOVE to chase geese!  But what does mom do?  Gets me up as close to them as she can, then tells me to sit and stay!  Stay?  It’s GEESE, for pete’s sake!  So there I was, a few yards from about nine million geese, and I have to stay!  Why did I learn that command anyway?

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After that, we just walked around the grounds at Grand Hotel, and mom took lots of pictures of me in front of lots of big flowers.  Things were going pretty well until she told me to down/stay in front of this HUGE bed of flowers out in the road at the Grand.  As soon as I started to lay down, I smelled something in the grass that I really liked.  I smelled it some more, then I just HAD to roll in it.  Mom didn’t get mad though ’cause she knew it couldn’t be anything bad smelling at the Grand – they wouldn’t allow that.  Man, that was some sweet-smelling grass!

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She took one more picture over in front of the Grand’s Flower Shop, then we went across the street to the Pro Shop and took a breather before going home.

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So it’s been a pretty eventful day for me. Mom asked me to write about my experiences on her blog, so after I went for a long walk with mom and dad and Maddie this afternoon, we had supper, and I sat down to think about all that had happened.  I came up with three lessons I learned that you should write down and maybe put on your refrigerator – ’cause they are pretty important.

1)  You should always leave the house looking your best, because you never know when you might have to pose for pictures in front of nine million geese, even when you just want to be chasing them into Lake Huron.

2) If you are going to roll in something that smells good to you, always make sure it is on the grass at the Grand Hotel – seriously, I didn’t even get in trouble.

3) You should always be ready for anything and always be alert, because when you least expect it, someone might stick a needle in your neck.

Well, the whirly thing is calling my name – talk to you again soon!