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!___________________________________________________________________

FIRST PUBLISHED AUGUST 27, 2009

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!”

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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”!

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 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!

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Just Perfect 7/11/2013

I love Mackinac Island.  It doesn’t matter to me if it’s warm or cold, clear or cloudy, dry or raining – I just love it.  Occasionally though, you get a day so perfect you feel as if God just decided to laugh out loud and declare, “Today on Mackinac Island, the weather will be P E R F E C T.”

And today it was.  No clouds in a sky so beautifully hued if it were a paint color, its name would have to be “Michigan Blue”.  Low 70’s.  A tad of a breeze.  Low, very low humidity.  As I said . . . perfect.

As if that wasn’t good enough, my Georgia cousins on my mom’s side, Angela and Larry, just happened to pick yesterday to arrive on the Island.  They flew from Atlanta to Flint, rented a car and drove up, arriving just in time to hurry into the Grand Hotel (Angela loves the whole Somewhere in Time magic of the Grand and has had it on her bucket list for quite a while), dress for dinner and enjoy a special evening of great food, strolls around the grounds, and rocking chair peacefulness on the Grand porch.

This morning, Angela and Larry awoke to our perfect island day.  They walked up to our condo, and from there we covered seeing quite a few of Mackinac’s treasures.

Our first official stop was Lookout Point overlooking Sugar Loaf.  We walked there after passing the three island cemeteries and turning right up Fort Holmes Road.  We promised them after we reached Fort Holmes, everything else would be downhill.

Our first official stop was Lookout Point overlooking Sugar Loaf. We walked there after passing the three island cemeteries and turning right up Fort Holmes Road. We promised them after we reached Fort Holmes, everything else would be downhill.

As with almost everyone who visits for the first time, they couldn't get over the blueness and clarity of the Lake Huron water.  "It looks like the Caribbean," they said several times.

As with almost everyone who visits for the first time, they couldn’t get over the blueness and clarity of the Lake Huron water. “It looks like the Caribbean,” they said several times.

A couple more hills . . .

A couple more hills . . .

. . . brought us to Fort Holmes, and Ted got to talk all about the history of what happened there.

. . . brought us to Fort Holmes, and Ted got to talk all about the history of this spot.

From the top of the Island we could barely make out the red of a parasail drifting over the Straits.

From the top of the Island we could barely make out the red of a parasail drifting over the Straits.

Since it was on the way, we stopped by Skull Cave . . .

Since it was on the way, we stopped by Skull Cave . . .

. . . then had lunch at Fort Mackinac's Tea Room.

. . . then had lunch at Fort Mackinac’s Tea Room.

We parted company after lunch, leaving Larry and Angela with a chance to explore on their own.  They plan to spend two more nights on the Island at the Chippewa downtown.  We hope you’re enjoying your island adventure as much as we’re enjoying you being here!

THE WEEK IN PHOTOGRAPHS

Loved seeing blog reader Joyce and her husband Al on Monday.  They stopped by the Stuart House to say hello!

Loved seeing blog reader Joyce and her husband Al on Monday. They stopped by the Stuart House to say hello!

While visiting the Fort Cemetery today, we noticed coins had been placed on nearly every stone marker.  Does  anyone know why?  It seems I read about this somewhere, but now I can't remember what I read.  Help!

While visiting the Fort Cemetery today, we noticed coins had been placed on nearly every stone marker. Does anyone know why? It seems I read about this somewhere, but now I can’t remember what I read. Help!

Today we ate up on the deck at the Tea Room that is above the level where the yellow umbrellas are.  Our first time to eat up there - we liked it!

Today we ate on the deck at the Tea Room that is above the level where the yellow umbrellas are. Our first time to eat up there – and we liked it a lot!  You can see we had a Great Lakes cruise ship in the harbor today.

A beautiful sunset shot of two Shepler boats by Shepler Captain Pat Springate.

A beautiful sunset shot of two Shepler boats by Shepler Captain Pat Springate.

The Cottage Inn's Joe Joe Cocker.

The Cottage Inn’s Joe Joe Cocker.

Flowers on the outside patio at Mary's Bistro.

Flowers on the outside patio at Mary’s Bistro.

Breathtaking Windermere Hotel gardens.  I could just stand and look at this all day.

Breathtaking Windermere Hotel gardens. I could just stand and look at this all day.

Did you notice that every balcony

Did you notice that every balcony in the two hotels behind the Grand Hotel omnibus has its own hanging basket?

More Hawkweed.  It's everywhere, it's everywhere!

More Hawkweed. It’s everywhere, it’s everywhere!

In a few days, the Mackinac Island Marina will be alive with sails in rainbow colors.  The

In a few days, the Mackinac Island Marina will be alive with Crayola Crayon-colored sails. The Chicago to Mackinac Yacht Race begins Friday, July 12 for the Cruising Division boats, and the remaining divisions start toward the Island on Saturday, July 13.  By Monday this harbor will be teeming with activity, and the Island hotels, restaurants and bars will be wall-to-wall people.  Let the races begin!

The Trinity Episcopal Church steeple cross, as seen from Fort Mackinac.

The Trinity Episcopal Church steeple cross, as seen from Fort Mackinac.

This crow had a bird's eye view of everything today after he found a perch on the end of the flagpole at the Tea Room.

After he found a perch on the end of the flag pole at the Tea Room, this crow had a bird’s eye view of everything!

Buzz and Patty's sweet Bailey.

Buzz and Patty’s sweet Bailey.

A huge freighter slips past the lighthouses . . .

A huge freighter slips past the lighthouses . . .

. . . and continues west toward the Mackinac Bridge.

. . . and continues west toward the Mackinac Bridge.

Sweet friend Bonnie has been on the Island for a few days, and today we spotted her on a front porch on the boardwalk.  It was good to visit with her for a while!

Sweet friend Bonnie has been on the Island for a few days, and today we spotted her relaxing on a front porch on the boardwalk. It was good to visit with her for a while!

A seagull comes in for a landing on his own shadow.

A seagull comes in for a landing on his own shadow.

On the way home this afternoon, we walked through the Grand Hotel Rose Garden for the first time this summer.  Always beautiful!

On the way home this afternoon, we walked through the Grand Hotel Rose Garden for the first time this summer. Always beautiful!

Just one more thing.  Friends Steve and Orietta Humphrey, who are in Washington DC going through orientation before leaving for their year-long medical mission trip to Tanzania with the Peace Corps, will be blogging about their experiences there.  If any of you would like to subscribe to their blog, you can click the link below and then click on the “follow” button.  They’re posted once already.  I know this is going to be an exciting and very busy year for them, and I look forward to hearing about the work they will be doing:   www.daktari2013.wordpress.com

Steve and Orietta - from a previous trip to Africa

Steve and Orietta – from a previous trip to Africa

A Week of Flowers and Good Company 6/16/2011

WE HAVE A WINNER for the “Mystery Spot” contest at the end of this post. The winner is Maggie, and she’s from Brighton, MI.  Her correct response was “the old French Outpost, which is now the Gatehouse Restaurant”.   She answered at 11:59 p.m. on Thursday evening.  Scroll to the bottom for the full photo of the Mystery Spot.

Our company left on the taxi this morning to catch the 8 a.m. Shepler’s Ferry.  As we watched the taxi horses take them down the hill, I felt the lump in my throat I always get as I watch friends depart. 

On our lake in Georgia, our good neighbors are a senior couple two houses down from ours – Joe and Kay.  They are the ages my parents would be if they were alive (that’s why I can call them “senior”), and I feel a special bond with them because they remind me so much of my mom and dad.  In Ted’s absence, it was Joe who I called screaming the day a snake dropped out of some bushes in our yard – right on my feet. 

“Joe! Come with your gun – there’s a snake!”  He was down the street in a flash, and the snake was dispatched a few seconds later.

It was also Joe I called when Shotzie – the little dashchund we had before Maddie – was dying, and Ted was out of town.  Joe rushed to our house in his truck, picked up Shotzie and I, and talked me through the longest 10-mile ride ever to the vet in Cordele.  Then he stayed, strong and silent, in the waiting room as Shotzie went peacefully to the Rainbow Bridge, cuddled in my arms.  Afterward, he drove us home and listened silently to me sobbing, occasionally reaching over to pat my hand.  I just love Joe and Kay.

It was one of their daughters and her husband (Donna and Brad), and Joe and Kay’s 13-year-old great-grandson (Cain) who spent two nights with us this week.  Brad’s family has owned a summer “camp” in Canada for over 70 years, and they were on the way to spend two months there.  We heard that news from Joe and Kay during the winter, and after talking to Donna and Brad, we found out that they stayed close to us on one of their nights on the road.  We immediately invited them to stay with us, and they arrived on the 4:30 ferry on Tuesday afternoon.

After dinner, Cain loved the idea of a walk downtown for an ice cream cone.  After two days of riding in a car, Donna and Brad needed to do some leg stretching also.

Donna and Brad could not have picked a more perfect time to visit. You don't have to get this close to smell the lilacs, but like everyone else in town, Donna couldn't resist getting an up-close whiff of these beautiful flowers.

 
 

We stopped at Joann's and got Cain his ice cream cone and some fudge, then did some window shopping before we grownups bought our icre creams. Would you believe these are CANDY shoes - completely edible and available at Sanders. I honestly don't think I could bear to mess up these beauties by eating them, although I guess I could eat the stilettos and still have a pair of flats.

 
 

We walked out the boardwalk on the west side of Main Street, just as dusk was falling, bathing everything in a pink glow.

 
 

Ted and I are seldom downtown at this particular time of day and didn't realize how many people walk down the boardwalk to watch the sun go down . . .

 
 
. . . but now I know why.
 
We cut through the school yard and came out below the Grand Hotel.  At the Jockey Club, we stopped and looked back down Cadotte just as the street lamps came on . . . .
 
 

. . . forming miniature versions of the almost-full moon hanging over the trees.

 
 

Ten minutes later we were at home, and the moon was hanging over our peaceful front yard. I went back and looked to see what time I took this photo - it was 9:49 p.m. Still plenty of light.

 
Over breakfast Wednesday morning, we planned a full day of activities.  Cain’s two wishes were to see the fort and ride around the island.  He got them both.
 

Both Brad and Cain are big history buffs, and Ted was so excited to have two interested guys to talk with about historical facts.

 
 

A beautiful old crabapple tree stands just outside the back entrance to the fort.

 
 

Inside the fort, we toured all the historical buildings and watched the fort interpreters draw the crowds into reliving how things were done in the early 1800's. Here, one of the lady interpreters is leading a group of children into a quiet corner of the parade ground to play Victorian-era games.

 
 

I never can get enough of the views from the fort - whether from the hills within the walls . . . .

 
 
 

. . . the gun ports that frame a different picture with each location . . .

 
 

. . . or looking down from a table at the Tea Room, where we had lunch (a great chicken salad sandwich).

 
By this time, Cain was really ready to ride bikes, but we forced him to wander through Sutler’s Store before we left the fort.  He found a magnet he liked (he collects them), and Donna and I both bought matching rings with horses on them.
 

With our Mackinac Associate membership discount, I spent an outrageous $2.70 + tax on this beauty. Love it!

 
We headed home via Anne’s Tablet and a quick look at the East Bluff.
 

Added to the peace and tranquility of the hidden location of Anne's Tablet, the view makes it a perfect spot to just sit down and breathe deeply. After doing that for five minutes, pamper yourself and do it for another five. You will feel so much better.

 
 

A beautiful East Bluff cottage.

 
From the East Bluff, we walked to the cemeteries.
 

Brad, Cain, and Donna - leaning against the old cannon in the Post Cemetery.

 
 

As we were leaving, I spotted our newest horse additions to the island. They are two huge draft horses with "paint" markings (the two outside horses). They are helping to pull one of the three-horse hitch Carriage Tour wagons, and they are magnificent!

 
 

A quick stop at Skull Cave for Cain to tie his shoe.

 
We have three bikes, so after a little rest, our company too off to make sure Cain got his second wish.  I confess openly that Ted and I took a nap while they were gone.  We finished off the day with dinner downtown and a walk home up Fort Street, wandering through the wood trails and arriving at the condo late . . . but before dark once again.
 
 
The graceful lilacs of Market Street – looking toward Marquette Park.
 
And now Ted and I and our four-legged children are alone once more.  Ted worked today, and I stayed home and did some laundry and starting writing this post.  It’s so hard to put down in words how much we love visitors – showing them Mackinac Island and its well-known landmarks, as well as some of its lesser-known special nooks.  Even going strong for a day-and-a-half, we probably covered only about 1/4 of all there is to see and do. 
 
This will be the last weekend of the Lilac Festival – culminating with the Lilac Parade on Sunday afternoon at 4 p.m.  If you’re nearby and can come up, it looks like another dazzling few days are in the forecast, and a lot of hotels are offering last-minutes specials.  Check ’em out!
 
MYSTERY SPOT CONTEST
 
Time for the Mystery Spot Contest for this week!  The object is to be the first to identify where the object is located. When you think you have the answer, email me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com. I’ll check my email several times a day, and as soon as we have a winner, I’ll post the winner’s name at the top of this blog so you can stop guessing, AND I’ll post the full photo of the mystery spot at the bottom of the blog with the answer. Is there a prize for the winner – yes there is; but the prize is secret, and the only ones who will know what it is are the winners. To be fair, I’m asking residents of Mackinac Island to please NOT guess. This is just for readers who don’t live here . . . but would like to! And the Mystery Spot is . . . .
 

Where is it?

 

Again, please email your answers to me at brendasumnerhorton@hotmail.com. PLEASE DO NOT ANSWER IN THE “COMMENTS” SECTION OF THE BLOG.
 
See you on Monday with all the weekend happenings.  Have a wonderful weekend, and if you get to spend Sunday with your dad, give him a big hug, and tell him how much you love him.  If your daddy is in Heaven, tell him how much you love him anyway.  That’s what I plan to do . . . and I know he’ll be listening, and I know he will smile.  God bless.
 
MYSTERY SPOT ANSWER
 

The turtles sit atop a post at the old French Outpost, now the Gatehouse Restaurant.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

The Places I’ve Been 8/10/2010

It’s very seldom I have something to attend at night in the middle of the week, but I did have a commitment on Tuesday evening that was going to put me pretty late getting home.  So, I’ve posted some pics from random places I’ve been this week, and all I’ll have to do when I got home Tuesday night is hit “publish”.  Technology is a wonderful thing!

A view of the Chippewa Hotel from the freight dock. It's Mackinac Island, and bikes are everywhere!

  

The masts of The Bounty, a tall ship docked on the Island yesterday. This Bounty was built in 1960 for the movie "Mutiny on the Bounty", the famous story about the British crew who overthrew Captain Bligh while in the Pacific. It starred Marlon Brando. The Bounty has also starred in "Treasure Island" and Disney's "Pirates of the Caribbean".

The original Bounty was built in 1784.

The figure at the front of the ship is Bethia, and Bethia was the name of the original Bounty. The Bethia was a common coastal trader that carried coal. Since there were thousands of ships sailing at the time, and many of them looked the same, it was important for illiterate sailors to have a recognizable figurehead. It was believed that a figurehead brought luck to the ship if she was a beautiful woman "to please Neptune". Bligh describes her in his journal as a "handsome woman in a riding habit, well curved".

The Unicorn was another tall ship at the dock this week. The Unicorn has an all-female crew and sponsors a leadership development program on board called "Sisters Under Sail". The girls in the program are 13-22 years old. Its mission is to build confidence, enhance self esteem, develop social consciousness, and teach the value of sisters working together toward a common goal. The young sailors work alongside the Unicorn's all-female professional crew natigating a course, standing watch, setting sails, steering the ship, and learning the skills it takes to operate and maintain a 118', 100-ton sailing vessel. How awesome is that!

The beautiful West Bluff.

Beautiful West Bluff hollyhocks frame the Mackinac Bridge. This one's for you, Julie S.!

No words needed.

The height of the season at The Grand Hotel. Hundreds of red geraniums and thousands of annuals are blooming so vividly you'd swear someone comes by every night and spray paints the colors on.

These young ladies are dead-heading flowers in the gardens at The Grand Hotel - an almost everyday activity.

Haldimand Bay - compliments of the Mackinac Island Historic State Parks Facebook account.

As we were heading for St. Ignace this morning, there was another tall ship in the harbor - The Europa. Beautiful in the fog!

 

 

Bear - resting in the shade after a climb to Fort Holmes.

A white birch. I still can't get over just coming across one of these lovely trees in the middle of a meadow or field.

Gulls and Cormorants on the breakwater.

A kayaker - not for the faint-hearted when you have to dodge ferries and freighters.

Yes - we have gas-driven mowers!

Yes - we do have gas-driven mowers.

 

Skull Cave - where British fur trader Alexander Henry hid out during the Indian uprising of 1763. And, as the Carriage Tour drivers tell the story "the next morning he found that, instead of sleeping on sticks and stones, he had been sleeping on skulls and bones."

The back of a Shepler's Ferry - from the pilot house.

It's hard to believe in a little over a month, these green, green trees will be yellow, orange and gold.

By the way, Lowell’s trip down memory lane yesterday had over 1,000 readers.  I think Lowell should start his own blog for folks that worked on Mackinac Island “back in the day”.  What fun!

A Day in the Life of a Mackinac Island Carriage Tour Driver 8/27/09

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 The 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 they 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 that 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!”

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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. 

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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.

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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!

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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 The Grand Hotel or back to town.

We pulled up for our second group, and while they were 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!

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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.

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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. 

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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”!

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 At the Avenue of the Trees, which is a 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!

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NOTE:  Tomorrow, some reflections on your reflections about my blog.