We Are Headed North (2017) 7/9/17

Header image courtesy of Jill Sawatzki:  Huge crowds arrived on Mackinac for the 4th of July.  This pic is from the annual Stone Skipping Tournament at Windermere Pointe Beach, next to Hotel Iroquois.

Hi Friends!

Hopefully, a week from today we will be loading our baggage on a Shepler ferry and crossing the Straits of Mackinac to our favorite island!  It’s still up in the air whether we’re leaving on Monday or Tuesday – everything depends on how much we get done today. Ted is already fussing about the number of bags I need (because he has to somehow work out the logistics of loading them into the back of the truck), but I’m sure he will get it all packed in – just like he does every year!

We spent the 4th of July with great Sunset Inlet friends at a neighborhood cookout at Jen and Ernie’s. Then we all crossed the road to the beach to watch the fireworks.

Some of our neighbors brought sparklers, so we had “pre-fireworks” fireworks!

The “show”!

The rest of the week was spent tying up all those loose ends you have to take care of if you’re leaving home for a few months.  Too quickly it was time for Blake to fly back to Colorado.

Blake will be leaving to go overseas in mid-August, but we won’t see him again until next summer when he comes home for a few weeks.  Let me restate that.  We won’t see him until next summer UNLESS I decide to be brave and go visit him.  And yes, I’m thinking about it!

So hard to say goodbye on Friday, but I know he will be doing good work where he’s going.  And I know our Father will be taking care of him.

Enjoying our morning coffee surrounded by a lot of our deck furniture. Everything outside has to come inside when you leave the coast of Florida. You just never know when one of those pesky hurricanes will decide to show up uninvited.

Bodie and Maddie already know something is up.  As soon as we started pulling out suitcases they went on high alert.  This will be an interesting adventure with Bodie, as we have no idea how he’ll be on a long trip.  Bear NEVER enjoyed traveling and would stand between the two front seats the entire 1200 miles.  We’re praying Bodie will be a less anxious traveler.

We were worried about having to help Bodie into the truck until yesterday.  He jumps easily into my SUV, but the seats of Ted’s truck are much higher, and he refused to jump in.  Until . . . . . I used cheese as a lure.  Bam!  He was in that truck so fast he was a blur.  Good boy, Bodie!

We have a full week ahead.  We’re stopping on Wednesday to meet Ted’s sisters, Deb and Sher, in Hudsonville, MI.  After that we’ll be on our way to Spring Lake, MI and four nights with cousins Dave and Di.  On Saturday there’s a family reunion at cousins Marv and Ruthie’s place in Marne, MI.  It’s going to be quite a wonderful week, filled with new family we’ve been so blessed to have found.

Then on Sunday morning, July 16, we’ll be leaving for Mackinac . . . . .

Our home-away-from-home for the next three months. We have the bottom unit on the right corner – right next to Grand Hotel’s turn-out corral for their Hackney horses.  Can’t wait to see those beauties running up and down the fence again.  The landscaping is in, and the condos look absolutely gorgeous. We’re hoping to get there in time for a condo party late that afternoon. See y’all soon, neighbors!

As soon as we’re on the island and I get everything up and running, I’ll report in on the blog.  Until then, you can always follow us on Facebook. I’m sure I’ll be doing lots of posting as we make our way to Mackinac!

Please offer up a safe travel pray for our journey, and I’ll talk to y’all soon!

God bless.

Lilacs and Storms and Fun Galore! 6/15/17

So happy to be writing about Mackinac again!  I feel as though our two weeks in Alaska (and then two weeks spent writing about it) pulled me far away from the island, but our trip to Alaska is something I will remember and cherish forever. It was awesome, but now it’s time to switch back into my favorite gear and get caught up on what’s been happening up north!

The Mackinac Island Lilac Festival is in full swing!  As happens most years, the lilacs are blooming at exactly the right time, and thousands of visitors a day are walking off ferries into that enchanted “back in time”  land of lilacs, fudge, horses, beautiful homes and flower gardens.

This beautiful young lady is Amelia Balinski. I met her along with her mom (Theresa), dad, and brother Mike at Sadie’s Ice Cream Parlor several years ago. The whole family had been reading Bree’s Blog for years, and it was a real treat to meet this wonderful group face to face. Amelia is spending her second (I think it’s her second) summer on Mackinac as a Dock Greeter for Mackinac State Historic Parks, and she also is a Ticket Agent and Tour Guide for Haunts of Mackinac. I just wanted to introduce you because many of the photos you’ll be seeing today are Amelia’s, and maybe if you’re on the island and spot her, you can say hello!

A close up of lilacs in two different shades. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

I can just imagine what the air smells like along this white rail fence on Main Street near the Marina! (Photo: Sandi Steensma)

Along that same white fence  – lilacs bend in the breeze as a horse team pulls a shuttle toward Mission Point.  (Photo: Grace Reimer)

Lilacs, lighthouses, and lamp posts – beautifully framed by Katy Rise.

St. Anne’s – through the lilacs. (Photo: Dan Denardo)

Main Street is definitely playing a starring role in this year’s Lilac Festival! (Photo: Sandi Steensma)

Lilacs aren’t the only flowers blooming on Mackinac. These tulips are bright and happy at Mission Point Resort. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

On Sunday, June 11, a storm hit Mackinac during the afternoon.  Thank goodness the damage it did was much less than it could have been.  The ferocity of this storm’s appearance was really terrifying, but except for one tree down and limbs breaking here and there, the island fared well.

This photograph was shown on WZZM-TV as a shelf cloud built over the Mackinac Bridge. . . .

. . . and Sandi Steensma captured the cloud just before the storm broke over the island.

Before the bridge was closed for a short time, this trailer, being pulled behind a truck, was tossed on its side.


Beach flowers can find a way to bloom even through stone. This cheery yellow face appeared among the rocks on the island’s east side.  (Photo: Tom Chambers)

The Pearl Mist, a Great Lakes cruise ship, arrives on Wednesday morning. (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Runners pass through downtown during the Lilac Festival Race. (Photo: Katy Rise)

Grand Hotel continues to add wildflowers, lilacs and milkweed to their lawn in an effort to attract and sustain Monarch butterflies, whose numbers have decreased on the island in recent years. (Photo: Grand Hotel)

Jennifer Sorrentino spotted this baby owl on the island this week. How cute is that!

Friend Pam Day took this shot from the porch of her condo across from the Grand Golf Course one morning this week.   Ted and I will be in those same condos the middle of July, and I hope to join Pam for a cup of coffee!

A just for fun shot by Jill Sawatzki. Jill found a whole dolly full of Moomers Ice Cream containers sitting unattended near the Island Bookstore. Glad I wasn’t there, or we might have tempted each other into arranging for at least one of those containers to end up in the condo freezer!  FYI: All that goodness was on its way to the Good Day Café on Main Street!

Something hard to see and harder to get a close-up of on Mackinac – a baby bunny. (Photo: Amelia Balinski)

And the sun sets on another beautiful Mackinac day . . .

. . . both photos by Amelia Balinski.


Happy Father’s Day in Heaven to my daddy, Leonard Sumner. He loved my mama . . .

. . . and me with a love that was unconditional and never ending. He gave me, his only child, the kind of childhood every little girl should have. I love you, daddy, and Imiss you every day. Till then . . .

See you back here soon for more Mackinac news and what’s happening at the beach!

God bless.


We’re Home! 5/28/17

Hello, dear friends!

It’s been three weeks since I sat down at this laptop.  During those three weeks we’ve packed up, taken dogs to the pet sitter, traveled close to 10,000 miles (when you’re traveling at over 500 mph, that doesn’t take long at all), unpacked, picked up dogs, and done severak (SEVERAL) loads of laundry. 

Sharing our Alaska trip will be something I’ll do in daily photographs over the next couple of weeks, as I fill in the spaces with info about Mackinac Island, Sunset Inlet, and our family happenings.  Alaska is a big place (understatement of the year), and telling the story of our exciting visit there will take a while!  I know many of you followed along on Facebook, but for those of you who didn’t (and those who did), I hope I can come close to giving you a feel for the experiences we had while there.


Where else but in Alaska does a polar bear greet you at the airport?

We had two whole days at the beginning of our trip to explore Fairbanks. We’d take the shuttle into town each day and use the city map to find our way around.

The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center was one of our favorites (did you spot the wolf in this exhibit?).

Wonderful exhibits of everything from rustic Alaskan cabins . . .

. . . . to wildlife like grizzly bears!

Along the riverfront in Fairbanks we came across the Antler Arch, made up of over 100 moose and caribou antlers collected from all over interior Alaska.

We also loved Bouchard’s International Dog Mushing and Sled Museum, which gave a great look into the history of mushing in Alaska and the Iditarod races.

Interesting Note:  We found that everyone we talked to who lived in Alaska (whether for a year or their entire lives) thinks Alaska is the greatest place to live in the world.  They know it isn’t for everyone, but they love talking about their life there and were very friendly and helpful about sharing special places to visit.  It was the curator of the Dog Mushing Museum who told us about the Morris Thompson Center. She also shared with us that Alaskans don’t like most of he “reality” shows about their state that are showing now on different cable networks.  The only ones they view as “authentic” are Alaska State Troopers and Life Below Zero (which I’ve been binge-watching for weeks on Netflix),

In the Fairbanks Ice Museum we entered a room that is kept at 20 degrees year-round (the museum provided warm jackets)! There were photo ops among the ice sculptures . . . .

. . .  and Ted, of course, was the first person to volunteer to ride the sled down the ice hill!  The ice museum was in an old movie theatre, and the ice sled started at the top of the sloping side aisle and ended when you ran into the “stage” at the end of the aisle.  And I do not exaggerate when I say “ran into”.  It was an abrupt stop, and I’m so glad I was too chicken to try it!

I’ll be posting segments of Alaska daily, so tune in tomorrow for what was our official first day of the land portion of our tour – a riverboat cruise and gold mining expedition!


Friends Kem and Ed Green have been on Mackinac the last few days and shared the following photos!

In the “things you don’t see everyday” category, Kem and Ed finally found “the old car” in the woods of Mackinac. They’ve been searching and searching and were finally given some good directions by someone who had found it several years ago. I’ve heard several stories about how it came to be on the island, but I have no idea which one is true. And no, I’ve never found the car nor would I know where to look. It’s kind of a deep, dark island secret, and I think it’s fun to keep it that way!

The tulips are up at the Courthouse . . .

. . . and at Grand Hotel.

By the way, the last week or so has not felt much like springtime on the island. Kem and Ed came over in these conditions, and the fog didn’t break until basically the day they left. But, as Kem and I both say, “so what”? You’re on Mackinac!  Slip on some rain gear and get out there and enjoy! (Photo: Tom Chambers)

Another chilly, foggy day photo. (Photo: Jill Sawatzki)

Hoping this pic from Tom Chambers from yesterday shows the beginning of real Spring and warmer, clearer weather for Mackinac!

Kem and Ed and Pam and Mike Day – blogging friends who were on the island at the same time this week. Makes me so happy to see all of you getting together and enjoying the island!

I’ll have to file this one in the “never saw THAT before” file! I’d say this jazzy can go pretty much anywhere! Thanks, Jill, for snapping this one!


After two weeks away, we were so happy to land in Jacksonville a little after midnight last Thursday morning.  We drove to Beverly Beach, arrived home around 1:30 and were too wired to go to sleep until after 4 a.m.  Neither Ted nor I realized Alaska was four hours behind Florida.  Add that to about two hours of “darkness” and 22 hours of daylight for two weeks, and it’s taken a while to readjust. We sure enjoyed the much cooler temps of Alaska, but I think it’s making Florida seem just that much hotter.

Our four-legged babies survived just fine without us.  They both enjoyed the freedom of a huge fenced yard to play in, although Lilly (our pet sitter) said it’s been so hot they really didn’t get out that much.  For the first time Maddie forego sleeping in the bed with Lilly or her mother and stole the bed of one of Lilly’s dogs and slept in that pulled up next to Bodie’s crate.

Having daily pics from Lilly . . .

. . . helped us know these two were doing just fine.

We are ALL happy to be home.  One of my readers asked if Ted and I were going to be buying a place in Alaska now.  We both laughed and agreed that wasn’t happening.  Alaska is very, very beautiful, and the vastness of its wilderness just boggles the mind.  But no small voice spoke to me and said, “This is where you need to live.”  Only one place has done that, and it’s a tiny island in Lake Huron called Mackinac. 

See you back here tomorrow for more Alaska tales, and thank you so much for all the safe travel prayers you lifted up for us. 

Love and hugs.  God bless.

We are Heading North—-West! 5/7/17

Usually when I sit down to post about an uncoming trip North I’m talking about our annual sojourn to Mackinac.  But tonight the trip we’re preparing for is even further north – with a sharp turn to the west!  The time has finally arrived – we are heading for the great state of Alaska on Thursday!

A year-and-a-half ago I began planning a surprise 70th birthday trip for Ted (his birthday was Friday, May 5), but an email message to our travel agent – that I’d forgotten to hide in another folder – spilled the beans only a couple a months into the “surprise”.  But that’s ok – it’s all worked out just fine, and we are excited to start this new adventure!

Celebrating the big 7-0 with Julie, Matt, Jordan and Matthew at Flagler Fish Company!

I’m realizing that packing for Alaska is like packing for a spring or late fall trip to the island – gotta have all kinds of clothes and be ready for any kind of weather.  Looks like mostly highs in the upper 50’s and low 60’s and low’s into the 40’s for the two weeks we’ll be there, so we’re taking everything from shorts to fleece jackets!

For anyone interested, here’s our schedule:

Thursday, May 11:  Flight from Jacksonville to Atlanta to Seattle to Fairbanks, arriving just before midnight.

May 11-14:  Fairbanks

May 15-17: Denali National Park

May 17: Transfer to Anchorage (Whittier) and board Island Princess

May 18-19: Scenic cruising – Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay National Park

May 20:  Dock in Skagway

May 21: Dock in Juneau

May 22: Dock in Ketchikan

May 23: At sea

May 24: Transfer ship to airport in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Fly from Vancouver to Houston to Jacksonville.  Arrive in Jacksonville around 10:30 that night.

We have excursions planned at several of these places, and we’re hoping to spot everything from moose to whales before we return.


Believe it or not, I haven’t had my mind on Mackinac much this week, but I have to share this one photo from Jason St. Onge!

Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, crossing Main Street and headed for Doud’s Market and an early cup of coffee. Only on Mackinac!

Oh, and here’s one more VERY important pic, shared by Chuck Wagon on Mackinac:

Jill has arrived on Mackinac, and now the season can begin! As you can see, the Chuck Wagon was her first stop this morning for a breakfast sandwich! Love that place and owners Sharon and Donnie!

Ok – here’s the plan.  I’m not taking my laptop to Alaska, so there will be no blog posts for the next two weeks.  But – I’ll be posting on Facebook every day (well, IF I have coverage every day).  If you’re on Facebook and we’re not already Facebook friends (and you want to keep up with our trip), just send me a friend request, and we’ll be all set!  If you don’t do Facebook, I’ll post lots of pics on the blog when we get back!

We drop Maddie and Bodie off at the petsitter on Wednesday afternoon.  It’s definitely going to be hard leaving them for two weeks, but they will be in the best of hands with Lilly.  They’ll have a huge fenced-in yard to run around in, and Miss Maddie will probably once again be sharing Lilly’s mom’s bed.

I’ll end with this cute video I shot of Maddie letting Bodie know just what a Diva she is yesterday!

Please lift safe travel prayers for Ted and I and “happy vacation” prayers for the pooches.

Hoping to see you Thursday on Facebook with updates on our trip.

God bless.

This photo and header compliments of Princess Cruises.

Throw Back Thursday – Catch Up! 5/4/17

Personal Note:  SOOOO many faces in this one you’ll recognize if you’ve followed the blog for very long!

I’ll be back on Sunday with a pre-Alaska blog.  This time next Thursday we will be on the way to Fairbanks!


I’m getting a really late start writing tonight (because we had the most perfectly beautiful day you can possibly imagine on Mackinac, and Ted and I stayed outside and enjoyed it until hunger drove us in).  So, I’m going to just toss up some photos with captions and let that do for now.

We had some foggy days at the beginning of last week, and fog creates some strange illusions. Loved these "waves" of wisp

We had some foggy days at the beginning of last week, and fog creates some strange illusions. Loved these “waves” of wispy fog clouds between the break wall and the lighthouses.

We ate in the Chippewa one evening and watched the fog roll into the harbor . . .

Ted and I ate in the Chippewa one evening and watched the fog roll into the harbor.

When we stepped out onto Main Street to start home, the streetlights shining through the fog turned Main Street

When we stepped out of the hotel to start home, the streetlights shining through the fog gave downtown’s Main Street a rather haunting look . . .

. . . and the east end

. . . and the east end really looked eerie in front of Marquette Park.  Good night for the ghost tours!

Mike Forrester and his family rented kayaks from Great Turtle Kayak Tours and really enjoyed paddling around the marina. We need to go kayaking!

Mike Forrester and his family rented kayaks from Great Turtle Kayak Tours and really enjoyed paddling around the marina on their next-to-last-day on the Island.   Talk about a serene scene!  (Photo: Mike Forrester)

Ted and I met blog reader Jeff and his family - Camille, Lisa, Mia and Jake - at Sadie's Saturday for ice cream. Flavor #5 - Blueberry Cobbler (vanilla ice cream with blueberries AND pieces of cobbler crust)! Oh. My. Goodness. Another 10!

Ted and I met blog reader Jeff and his family – Camille, Lisa, Mia and Jake – at Sadie’s Saturday for ice cream. Flavor #5 – Blueberry Cobbler (vanilla ice cream with blueberries AND pieces of cobbler crust)! Oh. My. Goodness. Another 10!

On a walk the other day, we cut through the Trillium Heights neighborhood, which is about three hills further up Cadotte than we are. I really like this area though - lovely homes and nice folks living in them!

On a walk the other day we cut through the Trillium Heights neighborhood, which is about three hills further up Cadotte than we are. I really like this area – lovely homes and nice folks living in them!

Who, me? Uh-uh. Maddie did it.

“Who, me? Uh-uh. Maddie did it.”

Love this view from the East Bluff.

Have always loved this view from the East Bluff.

Jill - getting some puppy love!

Jill – getting some puppy love!

From a trip to Mac City - out-of-the-water sailboats at the marina.

From a trip to Mac City – out-of-the-water sailboats at the marina . . .


. . . and the little park adjacent to the Shepler dock.

Pansies! Don't you just love pansies!

Pansies! Don’t you just love pansies!

One day this week we walked into town and met up with Chris Ann and Burton's family at Marquette Park. Two of the grandchildren fell in love with the Bearster.

One day this week we walked into town and met up with Chris Ann and Burton’s family at Marquette Park. Two of the grandchildren fell in love with the Bearster.


We went over to visit our neighbor, Chief Duck Andress, this week and noticed a chipmunk running up and down the top of his fence. Duck went over and poured out some peanuts and told me to go stand right by the fence and not move. Sure enough, in just a minute or two, Mr. Chipmunk scurried right down to the treats. Chipmunk to himself: “Hmmmm . . . peanuts!”

"I think I'll try one . . .

“I think I’ll try one . . .

. . . or two, or seven, or twelve. Man, I wish I had bigger cheeks!"

. . . or two, or seven, or twelve. Man, I wish I had bigger cheeks!”

Mary Warner, a blog reader, and her entire family were staying at the Yacht Club this week. I biked down to meet her and husband Steve, their two sons and their wives and the three grandchildren. What a fun family!

Mary, a blog reader, and her entire family were staying at the Yacht Club this week. I biked down to meet her and husband Steve, their two sons and their wives, and the three grandchildren. What a fun family!  And guess what, Lowell – Mary and her parents used to eat at the Carriage Lantern in the 50’s, Mary worked one summer for the Benjamin Photography Store, and (drum roll please) Mary, as an 8-year-old, ALSO walked across Arch Rock!  There seems to have been quite a bit of that going on in the 50’s.


I loved these t-shirts they were all wearing. Each date is the year that someone new in the family first visited Mackinac Island.

I loved these t-shirts they were all wearing. Each date is the year that someone new in the family first visited Mackinac Island.

Me - hurrying to the library last Friday to hear authors PJ Parrish (really two sisters

Me – hurrying to the library last Friday to hear author P.J. Parrish. (Photo: Jill Sawatzki)

You'll remember that P.J. Parrish is actually two sisters, Kelly Nichols and Kristy Montee, and their latest book is Heart of Ice, set on Mackinac Island.

You’ll remember that P.J. Parrish is actually two sisters, Kelly Nichols and Kristy Montee, and their latest book is Heart of Ice, set on Mackinac Island.  These two sisters graciously mentioned Bree’s Blog in the Acknowledgement page as a source of some of their Mackinac Island information. 

The library was packed, and the sisters spoke for about an hour about their new book and what it's like to write together - one from Michigan and one from Florida. After the lecture there was a book signing, and the books were flying out of the library! It is SO good!

The library was packed, and the sisters spoke for about an hour about the new book and what it’s like to write together – one from Michigan and one from Florida. After the lecture there was a book signing.  Hope you’ve read Heart of Ice.   It is SO good!

We rode out to today and found a pony wash in progress.

We rode out today to the Mackinac Community Equestrian Center and found a pony wash in progress.

Friend Joan Barch was there with her grandson Jordan. Well, it seems there were no dirty ponies so sweet Blaze got to be "dirtied up" with finger paints . . .

Friend Joan Barch was there with her grandson Jordan. It seems there were no dirty ponies, so sweet Blaze volunteered to be “dirtied up” with finger paints . . .

. . . and Jordan had great fun leaving his fingerprints everywhere!

. . . and Jordan had great fun leaving his hand prints everywhere!

After they decorated Blaze in very patriotic red, white and blue paint, they, of course, washed it all off!

After they decorated Blaze in very patriotic red, white and blue paint, they then washed it all off!  That Blaze will put up with anything for these young horse lovers.

The article reporter Stephanie Fortino wrote on Lowell and Faye's visit to the Island appeared in this week's Town Crier!

The article that Stepanie Fortino wrote about Lowell and Faye’s visit to Mackinac was in this week’s Town Crier!

I have a funny story to tell you, and then I’m done for tonight.  The day that Lowell, Faye, Jill, reporter Stephanie, Ted and I had lunch at the Grand Hotel, we were all sitting and chatting, waiting for our food to arrive.  I totally forget what it was, but Ted said something sweet, and I reached out with my right hand – still chatting with someone down the table on my left – to give him a sweet pat and rub on his cheek.  As I patted and rubbed, I noticed everyone had stopped mid-sentence and they were all staring at me wide-eyed.  I heard Ted clear his throat and say, “Uh, Sweetie?”

That’s when I turned toward Ted and discovered that instead of patting and rubbing Ted’s cheek, I was patting and rubbing the arm of our server.

I put my head down on the table and about DIED! But the waiter thought it was funny (and so did everyone else), and he laughingly agreed to recreating the "scene" for this pic.

I put my head down on the table and about DIED! But the waiter thought it was funny (and so did everyone else), and he laughingly agreed to recreate the “scene” for this pic.  Oh, Lordy.

And that’s the last time I “pat and rub” without looking first!

We have another busy, busy week ahead, with lots of 4th of July activities, and on Tuesday we’re going sailing!  Really excited about that and will share that adventure later in the week, along with whatever other goodies pop up.  The weather is supposed to be stuck on PERFECT all week, so if there’s any way you can jump in a car or bus or train or plane and get up here, you won’t be disappointed!

Have a great week, and I’ll be back in a few days with more good stuff from Mackinac!  God bless.

Way Back Wednesday – A Day in the Life of a Carriage Tour Carriage Driver 5/3/17

Personal Note:  Another in “A Day in the Life of” series I wrote during our first summer as Mackinac Island summer residents.  A few days before I posted this Ted and I and friends from Georgia, Dawn & Stevie, were bike riding in the interior of the island.  On the road that runs in front of Skull Cave, Ted, Dawn & Stevie passed a 3-horse hitch carriage tour wagon by going around it off the road.  When I attempted it – clumsy person that I am – I hit a rut and fell over into the path of those three horses pulling the carriage.  One second I’m on the bike, and the next second I’m curled into a fetal position on the road, waiting for three very large horses to run over me.  It didn’t happen, thanks to the driving abilities of Justin, who I rode with to write this post.

P.S.  Yes, I forgot to do a “Throw Back Tuesday” – hence, you get a Way Back Wednesday!___________________________________________________________________


Riding with a Carriage Tour driver was something I have wanted to do all summer, and today was the day.  I had asked if I could ride with Justin Diemert, the young man who was driving the 3-horse hitch carriage the day I took a nose dive off my bike in front of him.  I got my wish!  Who better to showcase than Justin, who, as far as I’m concerned, saved me from serious injury, and possibly saved my life.

A little about how the Carriage Tours work.  Downtown on Main Street there is a booth where tourists can purchase tickets for Carriage Tours.  That is where you are loaded onto a 20-passenger carriage.  Group tours also start their sightseeing trip from there.  Once you are underway, the driver gives a narrated tour through the downtown area of Mackinac Island – covering the main attractions on Main and Market Streets.  From Market, they turn up Cadotte, go past Grand Hotel and the horse barns, and at the bottom of the hill that our condo sits atop, they take a slight right and go up to the Surrey Hill Carriage Museum.  There passengers unload and spend 15-20 minutes in the museum – looking at the carriages, going through the shops, or having ice cream, or fudge, or a sandwich (if you get there around 9:30 in the morning, you may be lucky enough to get piping hot donuts that are to die for).

After you finish your visit to the museum, you move to the back of the building and exit onto the backporch. There you wait to be loaded onto a 3-horse hitch carriage, which holds 35 passengers.  Now if I went into the logistics of how all this works from downtown to the top of our hill, I would be here into next week trying to explain it.  Surfice it to say their method works smoothly, and the passengers get where they need to be 10 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire season.

Denise is usually loading and unloading folks at the front of the building, and Kim is usually on the backporch doing the same.  But today Kim was off, and Denise and Judy were working the back.

Denise and Judy

Denise and Judy

Justin pulled up about 15 minutes after I arrived, and Denise explained I would be job shadowing him today.  I reminded him about what he had done to save me from his horses, and he smiled and said, “Oh yeah, you’re that crazy woman who tried to scare my horses to death.”  HE DIDN’T SAY THAT!  What he actually said was, “Oh, I thought you looked familiar!”



Let me tell you a little about Justin.  This is his third summer on the island, his second summer driving for Carriage Tours.  He visited a friend on the island one summer, and the friend was driving carriage horses.  He came back the next year, after applying for a job as a driver, and learned his skills on the “school bus”, as they call the “learning carriage”.  Justin was born in Detroit, lived most of his life in the small town of Roscommon, MI, and is now a senior at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo.  He has a double major – Film and English – with plans to be a screenwriter and director.  He has already written several screenplays, his most recent “Mortuary Angels”.  Justin hopes to be able to take a film project from beginning to end, preferring to direct his own screenplays, rather than have someone else do it.  That way he will have complete control of the finished product. He has no plans to move to New York or LA – at least not now.  He says Michigan has a booming film industry, and he feels he will be able to stay here to follow his dream.

I rode with Justin through three tours – about 45 minutes each – and when the passengers were loaded, Denise told them why I was on board, and that I would be taking pictures for this blog.  No one objected at all.  In fact, I think they thought it was pretty cool – although I did have a couple of gentlemen ask me, “What’s a blog?”

We loaded the first group, and we were on our way, with me riding shotgun beside Justin.


When Justin is driving and talking to the passengers, he is constantly turning around and making eye contact with them.  I really think that is why his passengers connect with him so easily and feel comfortable asking him questions.  He uses a headset mike, so even the people in the very last row can easily hear him.


On the second leg of the Carriage Tour (the first being downtown), you see the three cemeteries, Rifle Range, Skull Cave, Arch Rock, the Avenue of the Trees, and Fort Mackinac.  I’m not going to give Justin’s narrative word for word, or share with you all the jokes he told.  But just in case you are ever on his tour, I am going to help you out with answers to three questions he might ask.  If you remember these, you will make Justin think you are really, really smart!

We passed the three island cemeteries just a few minutes into the tour – St. Anne’s Catholic Cemetery, the Protestant Cemetery, and the Post Cemetery.  First question I am going to help you out on:  What are the three criteria you must fulfill to be buried in one of the Mackinac Island cemeteries?  One is that you have to have lived on the island for at least 15 years; the second is that you must own property and pay taxes here.  What is the third?  (tick tock, tick tock)  – you must be dead!

From the cemeteries, you pass Skull Cave, where Justin told the scary story of the cave’s history.  Something I learned was that the cave originally was much bigger, but the limestone from the cave was quarried to build the walls of the fort – I had never heard that!

We passed Rifle Range, where the soldiers from the fort used to practice firing their muskets for accuracy and distance.  I learned that the phrase “Get the lead out!” was first used right here on Mackinac Island on the Rifle Range.  Seriously, this is a true story – but to hear the whole thing, you will have to take the tour!


We went on to Arch Rock, the Avenue of the Trees, and then stopped at the fort to let out anyone who wanted to go in and explore or eat lunch.  Those remaining on board had the option of getting off at the Governor’s Summer Residence and walking down Fort Hill to town, or returning back to the Carriage Museum.  From there they could get back on a 2-horse hitch carriage and go to Grand Hotel or back to town.

We pulled up for our second group, and while they loaded, Judy sprayed the horses with bug spray to keep the biting flies at bay.  On the front row of the second group was the cutest little baby (remember that statement a few blogs ago about 6-month old babies always making you smile?).  This one had to be about that age, and she was a doll!




At Arch Rock, the carriage stops for “7 minutes” – according to Justin.  Everyone gets off the carriage and walks over to take pictures from the lookout point, which overlooks the beautiful blue waters of Lake Huron.  While pictures are being taken, the horses get buckets of water to drink.  From left to right, that’s Grub, Megan, and P.K..  All three are Belgian draft horses.



When the tour stops at Fort Mackinac, there is an interpreter waiting to tell the group a brief history of the fort and what is available inside to see.  The interpreters are always dressed in period costume and address you as if it is still the 1800’s.


OK – here’s another question/answer that will make you seem very smart on this tour – and this one is serious.  At the post cemetery, you will notice that the flag is flying at halfstaff.  It is always like that at the Mackinac Island Post Cemetery, where there are many graves of unknown soldiers.  Here’s the question.  Where else on U.S. soil is the flag always flown at halfstaff?  Have you thought about it?  They are:  Arlington, Gettysburg, Pearl Harbor, and Normandy.  Yes, Normandy.  France gave the United States land to bury our soldiers, and that cemetery is considered to be on U.S. soil.

We headed back to pick up another load of passengers (the third trip of the day) at around 12:30.    I asked Justin when he “does lunch”.  He doesn’t.  Not in the traditional sense anyway.  Like the taxi drivers, carriage drivers eat on the fly.  When we returned to the Carriage Museum, we were three back in the lineup.  So Denise came and sat in Justin’s seat and held the lines while he ran inside to grab something to eat (he was back in 3 minutes with ice cream).  Also like the taxi drivers, the carriage tour drivers cannot leave their horses unattended.

Our third group loaded.  At several points along the tour, Justin stops his narration and gives his passengers time to ask questions.  This group liked to ask questions, and listened attentively to everything Justin said.  I think he could have given a quiz after the tour, and they would have all made an “A”!




 At the Avenue of the Trees, which is a bike riding and walking path that does not allow horses (hence, no horse poop on this one), there is at least one of every tree that grows on Mackinac Island.  They were not planted, but grew there naturally.

At some point in each of the three tours, Justin allowed me to stand up and tell the story of my bike wreck.  I emphasized how crazy we all were to be passing a carriage on such a narrow road, how crazy we were to not be wearing bike helmets, and how fortunate I was that the horses I fell in front of were being driven by Justin.  Every group gave “my hero” a big round of applause.

Ok, here is your last tip for the tour if you take it one day.  Question:  Which U.S. President lived in the Boy Scout barracks on the island and worked there for a week in the summer when he was a Boy Scout?  If you know your Presidents’ home states, you know this one.  It was Gerald Ford.

The third trip of the day was over around 2 p.m.  Justin would be on the job until around 7:30, then he would go back to the barn and wash and stable his horses before heading home around 9 p.m.  His day began at the barn at 7:30 a.m.  I asked if he had a day off.  He said all the drivers have one day off a week, but he usually doesn’t elect to take his.  He prefers to work.  And if he does take a day, he will usually sleep late, then end up either at the barn or up at the Carriage Museum.  This young man truly loves his job.

I had a great time riding with Justin, and my admiration for the job that all these drivers do grew even stronger today.  They have to be aware of everything going on at all times – their passengers, people around them, bikers, horseback riders, dogs, and other carriages.  They are sitting behind 3,000 lbs. of powerful, intelligent creatures who trust that young man or woman on that high seat to guide them safely through town and through the woods.  And, once in a great while, a driver is alert enough to pull those great animals back  by the lines and prevent them from stepping on some clutzy blogger who fell off her bike in front of them.  Thank you, Justin!



Counting Down to Alaska and Marking an Anniversary 4/30/17

When I pull up our upcoming land/sea tour of Alaska on the Princess Cruises website it tells me we are 11 days away from our adventure!  I’ve been doing some “special items” shopping this week – things like those wonderful three ounce containers of shampoo, toothpaste, and hairspray – and a trip to the shoe store for a comfortable pair of walking shoes,.  The first few days of our trip will be spent in Fairbanks and then on to Denali National Park.  The Weather Channel says we can look for highs in the upper 60’s there.  But, when we reach our sea cruise port (Whittier), and I look at weather around the cities where we’ll be stopping, the Weather Channel is saying highs in the 40’s and 50’s!  It looks like we’ll be taking a few more layering items than we thought at first, but hey – I’m going to be a happy camper to have a couple of weeks of cooler weather.  It’s been HOT and muggy here for the last few days – you know, that sauna type of heat!

Along with prep for the trip we’ve stayed busy with some fun activities in the neighborhood.

Our next door neighbor’s precious granddaughter Mila celebrated her one year birthday with a Mermaid party!

A grand time was had by all, but especially little Mila, who knew exactly what to do with her smash cake!

Another celebration in Sunset Inlet was for neighbors’ daughter Ashley, who graduated from the University of Florida yesterday. Her parents hosted a wonderful party as a send-off for her tour of Europe with two college friends. The elevator in their home was decorated as a photo booth – sooo cute!

We spent some of today clearing out our dining room and moving the chairs, table and huge china cabinet down to the garage (with the help of neighbor Mark). AmVets will pick it up on Monday, and on Tuesday our new dining room furniture arrives. That set was 36 years old, and we just thought it was time since it looked like it was from another era in history – and it was!

Another awesome drone photo from neighbor Bob of Sunset Inlet at night!


More and more horses are arriving, and when the horse numbers increase, so do the bales of hay to feed them. The hay comes over on the ferry, is loaded onto a dray and driven up to the horse barns. There it is moved to a conveyer belt which lifts it into the upper level of the barn. (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

Horses aren’t the only means of transportation arriving on Mackinac! The Grand Hotel golf carts that are used on the Jewel Golf Course came over on the freight boat this week and got a police escort through town and up Cadotte to the Golf Pro Shop across from the Grand. (Photo: Kellie Lawrence)

Wildflowers are peeking up above ground in the woods! (Photo: Clark Bloswick)

An awesome photo by Tom Chambers of a dray coming up Mission Hill.  The sign says it all!

Grand Hotel held its soft opening this weekend. The second half of the 660-foot porch was renovated during the winter. . . .

and the already splendid venue for rocking and viewing the Straits of Mackinac is even more beautiful as she stands now.


On Monday, May 1, we mark the first anniversary of the passing of our beautiful Bear.  I remember that day in still vivid flashbacks – a day of retching heartbreak and tears I felt would never end.  All I still have to do is think about my sweet boy, and I will instantly tear up and usually have myself a good cry.

So, six months ago . . . I set out to find another Bear.

It’s taken me quite a while to admit that.  Oh, I said I just loved the breed and wanted another golden retriever.  But what I really wanted was another Bear – quiet, sweet, eager to please, obedient, and calm.  That’s what I wanted.

But what I got was Bodie – a dog determined NOT to be Bear.  He was (and to some extent still is) an excited-to-be-alive, chewing, gobbling-up-anything-in-sight, bouncing, zooming-through-the-house-at-full-run, can’t-wait-to-jump-in-the-car-and-go-somewhere dynamo.  He tries my patience nearly every day, loves to sneak in the closet and see what I’ve left on the floor for him to steal, and his favorite game is to take a tennis ball and roll it UNDER any piece of furniture where it will fit.  Why? Because he knows I will have to get up and rescue it for him – which might mean I can be coerced into a game of fetch.  If that doesn’t work, and I go sit back down, he will just paw the ball back under another low table or couch.  Eventually I get the message.

I know for the first few months Bodie thought his name WAS Bear.  That is what Ted and I both called him.  That’s just what came out of our mouths.  It was always “Bear! I mean Bodie!”, followed by “No, Stop, Don’t, Quit, Get Down, Get OFF!”  You get my drift.

Slowly though, this dog-determined-not-to-be-Bear barreled his way into our hearts.  It was almost as though he knew if he acted like Bear we would always think of him as Bear – and he was determined to be loved on his own terms.  In the last couple of months he has turned a corner, and we are beginning to see the adult dog he will become.  He loves exuberantly, plays flat out, and thinks sticking his entire snout into his water bowl and blowing bubbles all over the floor is a real hoot.  But he also comes when he’s called, sits, stays, lies down, backs up, waits before digging into his food, and heels by my side off-leash from our front door all the way out to the end of the intracoastal dock and back home.  He jumps into the car whenever the door is opened and loves to ride anywhere.  He’s still a little nuts when he meets people or other dogs, but hey nobody’s perfect.

I say all that to say this.  I will forever in my heart love Bear – he was beautiful, noble, kind, and an old soul even at an early age.  He was the dog I needed at the time I had him.

But if Bodie had been another Bear, I would be sitting on the couch reading or binge watching Netflix, and eating bon-bons every day.  Bodie  gets me outside for long walks, he keeps me hopping physically and mentally (trying to stay one step ahead of him), and his goof-ball antics make me laugh out loud at least 10 times a day.  His sunny outlook on life helps me have one too.

Bodie is the dog I needed now.  I love him differently than I loved Bear, but I absolutely love him no less.  He hasn’t taken Bear’s place in my heart, but he owns a piece of my heart I didn’t even know was there.  It is Bodie’s place, and he will hang out there for as long as God allows us to be together.

I hope that’s a long, long time.

My sweet Bear

My Bodie boy