What do they call the rest of the state of Michigan? The Lower Peninsula? Which would be odd since it is not very peninsula-like.
I am having a hard time believing that we have really made it this far. When we look at the state maps we have I don't really get a sense of distance since we are looking at only a small slice of our entire route. Back in Minnesota we stayed at a motel that had a map of the US in the foyer showing locations of motels in the chain across the US. I showed Sonia where we were. We both kind of stood there in shock for a moment. Last week in the UP we saw a similar map. I was again amazed.
I thought back to when we were planning the trip. I can remember looking at maps for the route, studying the town names, looking for clues to what we might see. When planning, every day is 70 degrees, the wind is at your back, and the cars give you a wide berth on the road. And the town names can sound romantic and mysterious. At times while planning, I will admit, I was somewhat apprehensive about what we might encounter and how we would handle adversity. What if we had a mechanical issue we couldn't solve and were far from a bike shop? What if one of the kids got hurt or sick (although that one we should have covered with a pediatrician in the group!). What if we just hated every minute of it and wanted to go home? Those fears seem to fade once I was on the bike. So far we have managed to deal with issues as they have come up. We have been flexible enough to change plans when necessary. We have taken the time to wade in Lake Michigan at an empty beach even though we had miles to make that day. We have made sure to take the time to try the local restaurants, staying away from most chains when possible. And we have made sure to sample as much ice cream as possible. I keep thinking of something I read once: the worst day on the bike is better than the best day at work. I count myself very lucky to have a job I love and still be able to have an adventure like this.
Two days ago we rode to Epoufette, Michigan and stayed in a small "motor court". These motels seem to have come about as part of the car culture in the United States in the 1950s. These small, one story motels are iconic: neon signs, vibrant colors (often pink),room doors facing the parking lot, chairs sitting under an overhang so people can sit outside and visit after a day of travel. The motor courts are mostly gone in cities (although you can sometimes find a few hanging on in between mega-hotels). They can still be found on the back highways of America, however. We have stayed in several. I find them charming. It hearkens to a time when people traveled not on super-highways (since there were none) that cut the most direct line between big cities by passing all the small towns along the way, but on the interstates of the time: two-lane black top that snaked from small town to small town, luring weary drivers with bright neon and catchy names. The interstates all but killed these motor courts. But some are still out there if you get off the main roads and look around.
Our motor court, the Wonderland Motel, had a great view of Lake Michigan. We fell asleep to the glow of the pink neon shining through the curtains. What more could a tired traveler ask for?
Yesterday we rode from Epoufette to Mackinaw City via Mackinac Island. We were all looking forward to visiting the island. We had read that it had a quaint charm to it: no cars were allowed. Bikes and horse drawn carriages ruled the road. But when we got off the ferry and rolled our bikes out to the main street we found ourselves in the middle of tourist trap hell! I'm sure that Mackinac Island has its charms, but at that moment we were in a swarm of people, all going from one store to the next, trying to fill voids in their lives by purchasing cheap t-shirts and over-priced fudge. We stood there for a few minutes and watched as the boats disgorged their tourist loads and like zombies, they made their way to the street, themselves overwhelmed with all the shops and restaurants trying to draw them in. You could almost see a hypnotic trance come over them as they went from one store to the next.
Needless to say, we did not stay long. In fact, only long enough to get the bikes from the main street back to the dock for the ferry to Mackinaw City. I'm not against tourism (we are, after all, tourists ourselves). I'm also not opposed to entrepreneurs taking cash from people who have more money then they know what to do with. What does bother me is the taking of a place and reinventing it for the sake of drawing in visitors. I don't think you can have an "authentic' experience of a place if the place is portrayed and marketed in a way that draws in tens of thousands of visitors each year. To be honest, I would rather visit the "Mystery Spot" that we passed up before getting to Mackinac Island than a Potemkin Village like Mackinac Island (unfortunately we did not stop at the Mystery Spot -- something I regret as I write this!).
After escaping Mackinac Island with our bikes, lives, and wallets intact, we found a motel in Mackinaw City and watched the day come to an end over Lake Huron from our balcony.