Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Sudbury Ontario to Grayling Michigan - Mackinac Island

Today was my birthday. I never did like the idea of being 60, so I guess I might as well be 61. Today was also departure day for the VROC Reunion in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. We had to wait until the recycle people came so we could bring the blue and green boxes back inside, which gave us just enough time to finish packing and loading the riding gear, trailer stuff and clothes. The boxes were picked up at 7:45 and we headed out ten minutes later under grey and drizzling skies.

Trailer loaded to go

After a quick stop at Tim's and another on the bypass to check the tie downs (they were all loose as usual) we hit the road in a developing fog.

About 35 miles out, we stopped for a bathroom break and one more check of the tie downs. They were OK this time. I find I can just manage to maneuver around in the trailer to get at all four straps without having to lower the  rear ramps. Bonus. I also called our friend Leo who was unexpectedly taken to hospital last Thursday experiencing severe vertigo. They still haven't found the cause but he was in an upbeat mood and they have more tests scheduled.

Sandy at the Spanish River

Some of the leaves are starting to change colour, especially the maples. This is just a hint of what things will look like in a month. The fog started to lift and all was going well until we reached Iron Bridge, about 110 miles west of Sudbury.
Some early trees changing colour

Tinges on the maples

Mennonites in Iron Bridge

Just before the actual iron bridge, we were following a tour bus when we came to a police road block. The constable told us we would have to detour and  that we should follow the bus. He hoped the bus wouldn't get lost. Forget lost.  I had trouble keeping up with him on the narrow secondary road. There was no explanation about why the road was closed but there was also a detective's car there and I wondered about a gun call or something. Or maybe a bad wreck.

We proceeded north on Highway 546 and then west on 554 until it connected with Highway 129, which we followed south back to Highway 17 in Thessalon. As we got closer to Thessalon, we started to see large amounts of water standing in the fields and, in some places, over the side roads. It looked like there had been some serious flooding.

The bus at the road block

A new waterfall

Running the back roads

Highway 129

Water in the fields

Highway 17 road block in Thessalon

The road we should have taken (18 miles)

The road we actually took (37 miles)

Driving along 17, we saw more evidence of flooding. We stopped at the picnic area west of Bruce Mines where we saw a small RV from Alaska and a bigger unusual one sporting Dutch licence plates. There was also a couple from Alberta complaining about gas prices. A local minnow trapper said that the water table had already been high when they got torrential rains last night and that flooding was rampant.

Dutch RV

The signs of flooding continued all the way to the Soo. Near Echo Bay on the four lane, there was debris on the road indicating probable water overrun.

Rivers were full

Fields were wet

And wetter

And wetter still

In the Soo, I took McNabb Street to avoid Wellington and the traffic problems it has. McNabb has centre turning lanes while Wellington does not. Before we arrived at the bridge, I stopped to switch cell phones and put an extended absence greeting on my Canadian one.

On the bridge, we encountered a Soo cop, bridge security and a Canadian Border Services Agent. There was nothing else to indicate what was going on. What we did not encounter for once was a long line waiting to clear US customs. We drove to the end of a line of four vehicles and, once we answered the usual questions, we were clear in about ten minutes. That included wait time.

Something going on on the International Bridge

We'd usually be hitting the line just ahead

This lack of line was unheard of

Once in the USA, we stopped at the McDonald's in the Soo to get some food to keep us going. Then we continued south and crossed the Mackinac Bridge to Mackinaw City. Don't ask me why there are different spellings for the same word.

The usual construction on Big Mac

There are three outfits running ferries to Mackinac Island. Based on checking the schedules, we picked Shepler's, whose dock is right at the end of Main Street in Mackinaw City. They have a parking lot right there but there wasn't room for the truck and trailer. We were directed back across I-75 to a large lot and, as soon as we were out of the truck, a shuttle bus showed up. At the dock, we bought return tickets and settled in to wait for the 3:30 ferry.

Sandy at the Shepler's ticket center and gift shop

At about 3:20, the ferry boarded and we left right on time at 3:30. Once we reached the island, the boat made a stop at one dock to let off a Baptist church group and then took us to the regular dock.

The Big Mac from a different perspective

Looking across the Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel

Waiting for the ferry

Sandy had her choice of seats

Me feeling nautical

The famous Grand Hotel

The village

Once we debarked, we walked down the main street to the boardwalk and followed it for a ways along the shore line. The buildings were old and quaint and, with the exception of a couple of emergency vehicles, transportation was by horse or bicycle.

Shuttle to the Grand Hotel

I wondered about the name....

....until I saw this guy out front

There were some nice kites flying

Lighthouse from the boardwalk

Another lighthouse and keeper's residence

Typical home

Nice glass work

The Big Mac in the distance

On the boardwalk

Someone built a cairn

Once we realized we could not get to the Grand Hotel from the boardwalk (except we found out later that you could), we walked back a bit and took a side street up to the next level. Imagine a drive yourself buggy in this day and age. How many people know how to do this any more?

Buggy rentals

We walked up the main road leading to the Grand Hotel. It was like stepping back in time as both buggies and work wagons were drawn by teams of horses. The teams were matched lookalikes. Quite an impressive feat. There was a golf course with a green lying dangerously close to the sidewalk. There was a London phone box. There was a charge to get into the hotel if one wasn't a guest. So we settled for a dish of butter pecan ice cream. I say WE because Sandy forced me to eat some of it.

The best things in life aren't free

The Grand Hotel

Looking back down the Cadotte Avenue

This green is too close for comfort

London calling....

A Van Gogh copy

Hot, humid and time for ice cream

She made me get the second spoon. Really!

From the hotel, we walked back through town a different way. Eventually, we wound up back at the dock.

This is the garbage wagon

A train of sorts heading for a hotel

A good kind of crazy? Does Wompus know?

We'll take the right lane

At the dock, a few people were lined up waiting. Two ladies, one from Tennessee and the other from Kentucky, were on a trip together. Tomorrow, they had been supposed to take the Agawa Canyon train but were notified that it was cancelled due to flooding. They were looking for alternatives so I told them about the drive to Wawa or possible exploring Manitoulin Island.

Hay for the horses arriving on the island

Fort Mackinac

Star Line Hydro-Jet arriving

I guess if you missed the last ferry.....

The 6:00 boats arrived on time. We boarded and then looked at the huge line that had built up behind us. With all aboard, the St. Ignace boat departed first and we left right after. The crossing back was uneventful.

The St. Ignace ferry

Clouds building over the island

Last look at the bridge

A barge towed by a tug

Some decrepit old guy celebrating another year


I liked this boat

Back at the dock, we boarded the shuttle. While it had just been us coming over, the bus was loaded for the return trip. It took everyone to their hotels first and then took us, the remaining two, to the far lot. The lady driver was very friendly. She likes Michigan. She will be wintering in Florida.....

Mackinaw City trolley

The first order of business was to call the Days Inn in Grayling and make a reservation. We refueled the truck here and then headed 90 miles south. It was dark when we arrived. The supper stop was at the Big Boy Restaurant where we each had the soup and salad bar. I'm trying to eat right. Then it was on the the hotel where we got parked and checked in right away.

The clouds are still building

I worked on posting bills and sorting things for the blog. I am now four days behind and I need to get caught up in short order. But nothing got posted tonight. I did check out birthday wishes from very many friends. Thanks to everyone for thinking of me.

Seen in Grayling Michigan
"Badger Don't Care..."


Northern Ontario flooding

Grand Hotel Room Rates

Today's Route (367 Avalanche/trailer miles):

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