Throw Back Thursday – Rideable Art 2/16/17

Personal Note:  I loved doing this story!  It involved an afternoon of Jill and I traipsing around the downtown area looking for different bikes, different bike baskets, different bike seats, etc.  Jill is an expert bike analyst, and we had so much fun that day!

Header: A photo from the Rideable Art blog.


First published in August, 2010

Sometimes I get so hung up on posting pretty pictures that I forget to talk about subjects that are of vital importance to those of us who live on the island – and those of you who are planning to visit.  It wasn’t until a reader recently suggested I write a blog on Mackinac Island bicycles that I even thought about everything I hadn’t written about bikes in almost two summers of blogging.  So consider this “Bikes 101” – or “What Everyone Should Know about Two-Wheelers Before Coming to the Island.”  In the time it takes to complete this little seminar,  you’ll also get to see some pretty snazzy bikes – “rideable art” as Grant Petersen has called them.

After I got off work at the Stuart House Museum this afternoon, Jill and I set out to tour downtown looking at different kinds of bikes.  That hadn’t been my original intent, but as usual, anything I plan to do during the day gets changed 10 times before 9 o’clock each morning.  Jill had an hour-and-a-half before she had to be at work, and if there is anyone on this island who knows everything about bikes on Mackinac, it’s Jill.  After all, she’s been coming to the Island every year since the 70’s – that’s a lot of bike knowledge!  She had popped into the Stuart House a little while before I got off and had on the cutest shirt – it was covered in bikes.  Thus, my inspiration to go ahead and write the bike story today instead of what I had originally planned.

Jillski in her biking shirt.

Most of the bikes you’ll be seeing are personal bikes of folks who live here during the summer, although a few may be rentals. 

If you are going to be on the island for more than a week, you need to bring your own bike.  Even having to pay to bring it across on the ferry ($8.00, I think) will be way cheaper than renting one for a week.  Of course, if you just like to hike around, no bike is necessary – or you can rent one for a day or two.  That’s what Ted and I did when we came on vacation for two weeks every summer.  We’d only rent bikes once – the day we biked around the island each year.  Once we bought the condo, we bought bikes to keep here. 

This is the bike I ride now – it’s a Biria, which Ted bought used at the end of last summer.  The Biria was introduced into the U.S. market in 2002 and was designed in Germany.  The “step-through” mounting is why I love this bike.  No lifting the old leg over a bar.  These bikes are unisex.  Except for the easy-mount feature, this is a really plain bike – I haven’t even put a basket on it yet.  But it does have a spring-operated device behind the seat that allows me to put my purse and other stuff there.  It also has both hand and foot operated brakes, which is pretty cool.  I do need a basket though.  Please also notice the really chic shower cap I use as a rain protector for the seat.  I learned the hard way to buy the shower caps that are $2.00 each – not the 3 for $.97 shower caps.

When Jill and I started cruising the bike stands around town, we focused on unique colors, basket design, and any other feature that stood out and shouted, “This bike belongs to somebody who has a mind of his or her own!”  When you live on the island all summer (or all year), and your bike is your only form of wheeled transportation, you want it to be special – just like on the mainland you want the coolest car on the street. 


Shiny pink!


Baby blue. This could be a rental because I don’t see a bike permit sticker anywhere (but I could have missed it). If you ride your own bike on the island, you go to the police station, pay $3.50 for a permit, and stick it on the crossbar – just like buying the annual sticker for your car tag – only way cheaper!

A spiffy black & white design.  Definitely a girls’s bike.  Wow – look at that – flowers on the fenders too!

A blue-patterned bike.  Again this could be a rental.  The bike shops will add a basket to any bike you rent at no charge.  Always ask for a basket!  You will be surprised how much will end up in there – your purse, your camera, your jacket, your water bottle, PLUS your husband’s sweatshirt he wants to take off halfway around the island.

Deep coral. Very pretty.  See all the stickers on the cross bar – definitely an islander’s bike.

Three bikes – three shades of green!

I’m going to call this peach, although I don’t think that’s right.  Maybe my readers can help me here.  Cool bike with it’s own cup holder and a big, black wire basket.  Has a bell on the handlebars too.

Two-tone.  This one is pink and white . . .

. . . this one – green and white.

Bright, bright yellow – and my personal favorite of the colors I photographed today.  Notice the custom handlebars.


Picture this.  It’s a rainy day on Mackinac Island – or a few hours AFTER the rain.  Someone is riding around town with no idea whatsoever that from the back neck of whatever shirt/coat/sweater they are wearing, all the way down to where their bottom is planted on the bike seat, there is a wide, very distinct stripe of mud and horsepoop.  That stripe is there because the bike has no fender.  If you’re going to ride a bike on the island, you need fenders.  Trust me on that.


For the discriminating shopper – dual baskets, one on each side of the back tire. Great for a trip to Douds.  Plastic bag seat cover.  Not as good as a shower cap – but readily available at any store downtown (or stuff one in your pocket before you leave home).

What to do with leftover carpet pieces? Make a custom bottom for your bike basket. If you’re carrying something breakable – this helps.  Look at the extra shock absorbers under the bike seat.  I bet this is one is an extra-comfy ride!

A line of standard wire baskets.

Our best guess was this must belong to the guy who delivers pizza for Island Slice.

A wood-bottomed basket. Doesn’t cushion as well as carpet, but won’t stay wet as long either – if it happens to rain.  Again, the all-important bungee cord.

The ultimate in padding.  This biker is taking old bike inner tubes and cutting them into strips.  The strips are then woven through the wire, creating a padded basket.  No breakage!

Hmmmm – this one has led a long and out-in-the-elements life.  Still going strong though and attached to what looks like a brand new bike.  It’s kinda like buying a new car and telling the dealership to put your old car’s hood ornament on the new car.  Some things you just can’t part with.


We see a lot of these bikes come off boats anchored in the marina. They’re light, and they fold up into a compact, easy-to-store means of transportation.

I loved these two bikes and wish I could have met their owners. The guy bike looks military, even had a star on the crossbar. The girl’s bike is feminine and distinct.  Even the way they’re locked together looks cute.

I can’t tell you how many times we saw “his and hers” Schwinns locked together this afternoon . . .

. . . here are two more – although these might be “his and his”.  It’s hard to tell sometimes because they are making a lot of bikes now with a crossbar that is unisex.


We know this couple, and the husband bought his wife this bike for her birthday. She added the cute sign.  It has bells, cute matching black/white trim on red, a great big basket, and a cup holder.  She said she added the tassles just to prove she was still a little girl at heart.

No doubt about it – this guy is a Packers fan!

Haven’t figured out exactly how to interpret this ornament – but it’s sure cute!

Obviously a Great Turtle Toys employee.

This guy tells his whole story on his bike basket – he loves Michigan, Mackinac Island, Superman, and America.  What more could you possibly need to know?


Seats are as unique now as clothing. Zebra . . . flowers . . . and a shower cap to keep it dry.

Jill’s bike seat. Geez Louise – she’s going to kill me for putting this on here.

Under-the-seat storage.

Spider-Man seat – in fact, it was a Spider-Man bike! Cute, cute, cute!

Just when I think I know all the tricks, I learn a new one. See the hankie stuffed under the seat? That’s there in case it rains, and you didn’t bring a seat cover. Just whip it out, dry off the seat, stuff it back under the seat, and hop on.


There is an area on the island where all recovered bikes go to wait out the winter. These bikes have usually been stolen (although in most cases, “borrowed and not returned” is a better phrase to use. Someone doesn’t want to have to walk somewhere, spots an unlocked bike, hops on and rides off on it. When they get to where they needed to go, they push the bike into a nearby crowded bike rack and walk off. This happens a lot on the island. Usually all an owner has to do is go downtown and look around for a while, and he will find his bike. We’ve had bikes stolen out of our yard (they were unlocked), and they’ve always been found downtown the next morning – twice they were found in the police department bike parking lot!

But – sometimes no one looks for the bike, or the bike is abandoned in the woods, and no one finds it for a month when someone happens upon it while walking a trail, or season workers have bought a used bike at the beginning of the summer and just leave it on the dock when they leave for the winter. Any recovered bike is brought to this storage area. In the Spring, the bikes are auctioned off to the highest bidder. A great time to get a good bike for very little money!

Finally, I wanted to show you a true, true, true island bike.

We counted 15 years of bike permits on this bike.  It has your standard fenders, a large wire basket with bungee cords, another Super Soft bike seat, and – very important – a mounted bike light for night biking.  This biker is prepared for anything, anytime, anywhere.


  • If you use plastic bags as seat covers, ALWAYS throw them into a trash can.  Nothing, and I mean nothing, spooks the horses of the Island like a plastic bag flying across the road.  It is a hazard everyone who lives here deals with everyday, and that’s why – when you are here – you will probably see at least one islander chasing a bag down the road.  Please throw them away – or stick them way down in your pocket so you can use them again.
  • The road is for horses and bikes.  The sidewalk is for walking.  No bikes on the sidewalk, no walking in the street.
  • Horses always have the right of way.  It’s so much easier for you to stop and wait than it is for a driver to stop two 2,200 lb. horses.
  • Always, always, always lock your bike.
  • Always, always, always wear a helmet.

Without Jill’s vast knowledge of all things “bike”, I couldn’t have written this one!  Thanks, Jillski!



I’ll Have Champagne With My Horses, Please 7/12/2012

It’s Official!  The Grand Hotel/Carriage Tour Stable and Carriage Museum held its Open House this afternoon, and I can’t think of too many places in this world where a horse stable could have been more lavishly welcomed.

The event was announced as 5-7 p.m., and the public was invited to “come as you are”.  By 4:45 taxis and carriages and bicycles and walkers began to arrive, and as I write this at 7:35, I can look out our bedroom French doors and still see people strolling down the road from the stable.  It was THE place to be on this Thursday afternoon!

Dozens and dozens of bikes filled in the spaces between the trees across from the stable . .

. . . . and Carriage Tour wagons brought folks up from town.

There were tables filled with delicious goodies . . . .

. . . and your choice of soda, wine, or champagne.

We hadn’t been in the stable for a couple of weeks, and it was amazing how different it looked from when we’d visited when Julie and the grandchildren were here.  The antique carriages from the Grand Hotel and Carriage Tours are beautifully displayed now for the public to enjoy.

Even the actual stable where the horses were looked different – the finishing touches had been placed on everything.

Someone asked a question about the Hackney gait, and one was brought out to “show off” that high-stepping prance.

“Well, hay! Where’s MY champagne and hor’dourves?”

Hundreds of people attended, and around 6 p.m. the official dedication was given. Dr. Vince Carroll from Little Stone Church pronounced the blessing of the stable, and Dan Musser III, President of the Grand Hotel, gave remarks . . . .

. . . as did Dr. Bill Chambers, CEO of Carriage Tours.  That’s Jeannette Doud seated on the left.

Carleton Varney, interior decorator for the Grand Hotel, chose the colors for the museum part of the stable, using the same green, white, and red that he used in several suites at the hotel. That chandelier was one of two given to the Grand by Varney and once hung in the New York Metropolitan Museum.  Folks, this is not your “typical” stable and carriage museum!

Every space is filled with memorabilia from the Island’s horse culture.

We walked out past the Grand Hotel jazz trio, which played for the event.

What an opening!  I’m going to walk back over tomorrow when I can look at everything again without all the people.  But, please, when you visit the Island on your next trip, this is a MUST SEE.  You have to climb an extra hill past the Grand, but it is so worth it – and it isFREE to the public.

A Few Random Pics From This Week

My friend Chris Ann crossed back to Mackinaw City from the Island at sundown this week, after taking a watercolor class from Mary Lou Peters, one of my favorite artists. She captured this beautiful sunset from a Shepler ferry.

Misty Martincheck from Shepler’s took this gorgeous photo of the Mackinac Bridge while on the first of Shepler’s Moon Cruises.

Spotted in the parking space for Cindy’s Riding Stable. Too cute!

Blog fans Marie and David were at the stable opening tonight. So enjoyed meeting you both, and geez, I hope I remembered your names correctly!  Such a sweet couple!

That about wraps it up for the week. Next week I’ll have a story about a chance encounter on-line with a blogger in Georgia that turned into a very special story for both of us.  AND – we’re headed to Canada on a three-day trip!  More on that next week also.

Have a great weekend, and God bless.


Personal Note:  Received a call from Charlie (Frog) and Cathie this morning that brought smiles all around.  At his doctor’s appointment today, he was told his lung tumor had been completely removed with wide, unaffected margins.  The other great news is that they now believe what they thought was lymph node involvement in his chest might just be evidence of his continuing COPD, and not connected at all with cancer.  That would truly be spectacular news!  He won’t know for two more weeks what the course of other treatment will be – or if other treatment is needed.  All in all, wonderful news!  Charlie and Cathie both are so thankful for your prayers.  Don’t stop!

Geez – I love my readers!  Don’t think I’ve said that lately.

Fun, Flags, Food, Fireworks . . . and a Fall 7/6/09

From our family to yours, we hope your 4th of July weekend was wonderful, safe, and fun!  We had all of that – well except for the safe part!

Saturday, the 4th, dawned truly beautiful.  After a couple of weeks of damp, really cool weather, we were happy as clams to see blue sky, sunshine, and temps that promised to go into the 70’s.  Now that’s what Mackinac Island summers are all about!  Ted and I had planned to go downtown for breakfast, before he went to volunteer at the Welcome Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.  We were going to ride our bikes, then Ted would go on to work, and I would go exploring. 

We left the condo a little after 9:00 and started down the first hill.  I always ride behind Ted  because he goes faster than me.  So he was out in front on the first steep downgrade, and all of sudden he just lost it!  I saw his handlebars dip to the left and downward, and my next sight was him going over those handlebars into the cement.  I swerved left to avoid hitting him and braked fast over to the side of the road.  I know my heart was going 200 beats a minute as I laid my bike down and turned around.  Ted was on his hands and knees in the middle of the street, slowing getting to his feet.  His bike was in a heap.  Well, I tell you, I was very happy to see him standing up with no arms and legs poking in strange directions, and no head wounds.  Then he said, “Baby, get my cellphone.”  It seems his cellphone had rung, he saw it was his daughter on Caller ID, and knowing much, much, better than to answer it on his bike – he did it anyway.  That is a major no no going down a hill at 30 mph and having to use handbrakes to slow down.  I followed his eyes to where the cellphone lay at the bottom of the hill and rushed down to pick it up.  On the other end Julie was loudly yelling, “Dad! Dad!  Did you fall? Dad!”  I told her he had fallen, he was ok, and we would call her back.  And he was ok, thank you Lord.  Shaken up, a badly bruised knee, a strawberry the size of the palm of your hand on one elbow, and various other bruises here and there – but ok.  We walked back home so he could change pants (landing in the middle of a Mackinac Island street tends to get your pants dirty), and then he rode his bike to work (it turned out only the basket was bent-everything else checked out ok). 

harborflagI stayed home about an hour and then rode my bike over to the Governor’s Summer Residence where you can park your bike in this wooded area across the street and walk downtown.  That way, once you come up Fort Street or Turkey Hill, you can ride the rest of the way home.  I went by the Welcome Center to check on Ted, and he was fine.  Then I continued on with my original plan for the morning – to watch the International Stone Skipping and Gerplunking Contest on the beach at Windemere Point, an event that has made its home here for over 40 years.  In fact, last year the event was featured on The Today Show.

From 10 a.m. – 12 noon the contest is open to the public, and it’s great fun for the kids and the grown-ups, as they try their hand at seeing how many times they can skip a stone across the water.  There are professional stone-skipping counters on hand to make everything official.  At noon, the professional stone skippers get their turn. 

This stone skipping contest is a BIG DEAL!  For a couple of weeks before the 4th, you will see people searching on the shore and in rock piles for the perfect skipping stone.  A lot of the regulars even have secret places where they swear they can find the best stones.  It is a BIG DEAL! 


People in the crowd who want to participate can purchase stones at check-in or bring their own.  Of course the serious skippers bring the stones that they have found in those secret places.


A "counter" gets ready to count skips.

To me, and Ted and I have attended this event nearly every year that we have been on the island, the most fun to be had is watching the people.  We usually try to get an outside table for lunch at the Carriage House Restaurant at the Iroquois, but since Ted was working I just walked down to the beach and hung out.







Don't have a clue what this was about.

Don't have a clue what this was about.

I didn’t stay around for the professional event at noon, but I did get a famous man’s picture.  I was walking through the crowd, and I heard this daddy saying, “It’s him! It’s him! Boys, you have to have your picture made with Mr. Byars”.  So he asks this big, good looking guy if he will pose with his two sons, and big good looking guy says of course.  I edge up next to excited daddy and say, “Who is that?”  The daddy looks at me like I must have just dropped in from Mars and says, “It’s Russ “Rock Bottom” Byars – you know from the Discovery Channel.”  I say, “Oh, of course!  I just didn’t recognize Rock Bottom in person!”  It turns out he was listed in the Guiness World Book of Records in 2007 when he skipped a stone 51 times – that’s one stone, folks, in one throw! 


 On Mackinac Island, there are always kites flying.  There are two stores here that sell kites, and I think someone from those stores stays down at the beach flying kites all day so people can see what all the different kinds look like.  They are beautiful – and huge! 




I walked back through town to check on Ted again and stopped as this week’s group of Girl Scouts came off the ferry and crossed the street.  Downtown was CROWDED – it was wonderful to see so many people on the island, and I know the merchants appreciated the business!




Ted was fine, and very busy.  The Welcome Center was teeming with people, and each one had a question to ask.  Ted has studied all the material that was given him on island history, but he still has a lot to learn.  I figure by the end of the season, he will be able to answer most any question I can ask him about the island – how great to have that source in the family! 

I walked down to the marina to see what was up there.  Nearly every slip was filled, and many were decorated for the 4th.  Even a boater’s dog was in the spirit!






From the marina docks, you could see just how much The Island House and Fort Mackinac were decorated for the holiday.  Is there anything that stirs your patriotism more than the red, white, and blue of our flag!




As I headed back up the hill to pick up my bike, I passed a couple who had dressed their beagle and their basset for the holiday.  Going up Fort Hill by Marquette Park, I spotted a guy who was using his day for a little rest and relaxation.






Picking up my bike, I turned onto Custer Road to take the back way to the condo.  Right now it seems every wooded path is decked with acres and acres of hawkweed.  Some say this is a wildflower, some say a weed – but what I see in my imagination is God, with a big smile on His face, dipping his paintbrush into Heaven’s paintcan and saying, “I think I’ll paint the woods yellow today.”






We had been invited to a Mackinac Associates wine and cheese tasting outside the fort late Saturday afternoon.  We attended that (on bikes again), and met a lot of the people on the island who support the state park and work every day to make sure the island remains special to the visitors who come here year after year.  Then we walked downtown and ate supper at the Yankee Rebel.  We picked up our bikes again at the top of the hill and rode home – tired, but very happy to have spent the holiday in this special place.

What better way to watch the fireworks than from the deck of our condo!  With night not falling until so late here, it was almost 10:30 when the night began to light up with the spectacular show that is launched from a barge off Windemere Point.  We sat on our balcony and oohed and aahed like always.  There were a  number of islanders who watched from the big lawn in front of the condos, and people pulled their bikes onto the road in front of us to sit and watch.  The fireworks were gorgeous.






Except for Ted’s accident, the day had been perfect.  We thank God every day for the pleasure we both get from being here to watch the slow progression of the seasons on Mackinac Island.  We have already made new friends and met so many more people that we hope will become friends in the future.  But we also long for friends and family in Georgia – we miss you guys – a lot!

Once more, we hope your day, wherever you were, was filled with family and friends and fun.  God Bless America!