A quick trip to the yoop.

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This weekend, we took a quick jaunt to the UP; the motivating factor was that the newly-Dr. Cohn is about to leave town for a post-doc, and had never been across the bridge in his 6 years in Michigan. (We then found out that Miss Margaret was also a blushing virgin of a troll, despite a Michigan childhood, and made her come along too.)

Some scattered thoughts on the trip:

Lakes Michigan and Huron are 14 inches below their historical averages - and I can see why lakefront property owners are unhappy with the DNR for not letting them "groom" the beaches. It was most prominent at Wilderness State Park, where the lovely white sand beach is separated from the water by a 50-foot-wide expanse of weedy, marshy, smelly muck. We found a nice former sandbar to call a "beach".

My parents don't like Straits State Park - right at the north end of the bridge - because of the road noise from the bridge. I find it to be comforting white noise - too much city living. I recommend the no-electric-hookup sites on the lakefront.

I hadn't before realized that there's a trail between the upper and lower falls at Tahquamenon. It's 4 miles, pleasant, and generally lightly trafficked. Bring bug spray. And snacks. Because high mosquito levels + low blood sugar levels are the leading cause of intra-hiking party homicide. Upper Taco Falls is a lot more built-up than I remember it - I think I was last there about four years ago, while up for my brother's graduation from Lake State. Also, they've now got a shuttle service running between the upper and lower falls, if you decide that 4 miles with no snacks is enough for you, and don't feel like doing it in reverse to get back to the car.

We believe we discovered the best restaurants in the bridge towns. In St. Ignace, Bentley's BNL Cafe provided us with pasties, homemade english muffins, and sundry other tastinesses. In Mackinac City, we cruised the awful tourist strip in order to see what it was we were avoiding, then went to the Bridgeview Diner, which has no view of the bridge, unless you count the I-75 underpass next to it. The place is a pink and teal former tiny little motel turned greasy spoon with a '50s theme and a proprietor named Chief, who harasses the regulars while pulling out chairs for the guests and calling them "ma'am" and "sir." Drinks are served in mason jars - Michael asked for, "Water with no ice, please". Chief said, "Good, we don't have any," and, indeed, there's a sign reading, "No ice, lemon, decaf, or wheat toast."

The sign out front of the Bridgeview stating, "Best whitefish in town," is Absolutely No Joke. It may be in fact be among the best whitefish in the State, showing what one can do with good ingredients and minimal fussing. Cara had the grilled whitefish sandwich, with chili cheese fries. Margaret and I had the fish and chips, which we got several minutes after Cara's sandwich. After delivering the sandwich, Chief had to pull a few more whitefish out of the bucket and clean them before he could make our food, complete with commentary on their energeticness. It's definitely worth making a stop for on any trip over the bridge.

I wanted to take Margaret and Michael to Mackinac Island, to get the full, "I'm a five-year-old child on vacation in Michigan," experience. (Because, really, who doesn't love re-enactors with cannon?) Then we noted the ferry prices. $25 each? Yeah, same to you, Mackinac Island.

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Timely recommendations

We are headed to Mackinac Island next week so I'm thinking a stop at the Bridgeview in Mackinaw City is definitely in order! (And yes, strangely Mackinac Island is spelled with a c at the end and Mackinaw City has a w. ;)

Personally, I love re-enactors with cannon and since I never went to Mackinac Island as a child, to me it is a grown-up vacation spot where I can do everything I want on foot/bicycle. Unfortunately, living downtown has kind of ruined us for vacation spots where all you end up doing is driving from one place to another. We always spend one evening on Mackinac eating dinner at the Fort Tea Room, which literally has one of the best views anywhere (and the food is good enough that it doesn't detract from the view). There is nothing quite like it and I've never seen it even close to full. Definitely a wow place to take visitors.

c/w

The fact that Mackinaw City is spelled as such is one of the things that makes me look at it as a tourist town - that they had to dumb down the spelling to appeal to "the fudgies". St. Ignace has always seemed like a much more Real Place to me.

Tough Customer

Geez, you are a tough sell. I mean, it is a town of 854 people who have managed to make themselves the number 1 tourist destination in Michigan. You gotta love their initiative. Seriously though, it is hard to make a living up there and they are doing what they can. One of the things I love about that area is that there is such a long history of tourism. So it isn't like plopping a Cabelas down on an unsuspecting town--in Mackinaw City they have worked for it and earned it. It isn't like they just changed their name ten years ago. Their business is tourism and they do it well. I'm not sure their town planning has always been the best, but they have managed to keep their historic sites, they are putting in LED lights, they have wind generators, and jobs. So they are keeping it going in a tough economy.

Speaking of which, my mom was talking to someone at the Bridge Authority yesterday and they have about 30,000 fewer cars going across the Bridge per month than usual. Yikes! Too bad they took away the train up north. I would totally have taken that!

yeah, I know

Must be something YCUA puts in the water around here...

Mackinac/w Island/City (and the Michigan DNR) deserve a lot of credit for what they've got - they're the Michiganders doing not only "heritage tourism", with the historic sites, but also to some extent "eco-tourism", with the leave-your-car-rent-a-bike arrangement. It just makes me a little sad to see the bustling commercial strip in Mackinaw City filled with Anyplace establishments - that the people who go up there from around the State are presented with something that should be a Main Street, but has an aesthetic halfway to strip mall.

In fairness, we just cruised through by car - we were hungry, and were just checking to see if there were any appealing options on the strip (no) before turning around to go back to Bridgeview. A somewhat more intensive look might have uncovered a little more charm. But, still, I stand by my preference for the St. Ignace end of the bridge. They've got a lot of the same upsides as Mackinaw City, but seem to have maintained a more distinctly local feel. And, sure, maybe they don't benefit as much from the general tourism trade, and they'd be economically better off if they looked more like the Mackinaw City strip, but I'd be sad. (Or, would probably just go to the Soo instead...)

Not home

This explains why you were not home when we stopped by on Sunday killing time between moving out of our house and boarding our flight to Philly. And in doing so, almost didn't get to go to Philly, because I had misremembered the time of our flight, so we showed up at the airport 5 minutes after it departed, not 2 hours early as I thought we were. Oops.

The next flight was 6 people oversold, then we were 10th and 11th on the standby list....we got on, as did the 4 people at the gate who were *after* us on the list. Thank god for delayed flights.....(when they happen to someone else)

Sorry - we were chilling in

Sorry - we were chilling in northern Michigan and letting our phone batteries run dry. And it was fantastic. Made me remember past resolutions to spend more time in northern Michigan.

Glad you made your a flight.