Tuesday, June 7, 2022

When in Michigan, You Must Bicycle around Mackinac Island

After leaving the Presque Isle Lighthouses, the kids and I continued up the coast to Mackinaw City. On the way, Syd introduced us to her current favorite podcast:

You apparently have to choose your episodes of this somewhat carefully if you want to be able to continue looking your mother in the face afterwards ("They're filthier when they've got a guest," Syd explained), but I have thought about one bit in the "Would You Rather" episode, the bit in which the guys are trying to figure out if they'd rather be lizards or women and one guy goes off on an absolute rant about how the lizard he used to have lived like a freaking king and maybe thought he was God, probably once an hour since Syd streamed it for me, and every time laughed exactly as hard as I did the first time I heard it. I even tried pulling it up for Matt, but his lack of appreciation makes me feel like it might be one of those inside jokes/group hallucinogenic experiences that you can only fully get if you're on a homeschool road trip.

Speaking of experiences that bring you closer together through nothing but the shared misery of living through it...

You guys, have you ever seen a midge? Because OMG. Back at Presque Isle, we'd noticed a couple of these weird, oddly large insects that buzzed us like mosquitos. They didn't bite, but they did leave a horrifyingly large, fatty stain wherever you swatted them, and we soon figured out to brush them off our clothes if we didn't want to live our lives liberally splashed with midge guts. 

Maybe the spiders were saving us from midges, because when we got to our motel, right on the water and with this beautiful view of the Mackinac Bridge--

--absolute swarms of midges greeted us. We quick-walked with our stuff, mouths firmly closed, to the door of our room, took turns brushing each other off, then opened the door and bolted inside and shut the door behind us. Midges battered themselves against the closed door and windows, and whenever we stepped back outside, they rose up from the white walkway and steps and flew in our faces. \

The motel management left a little box of Hershey's Kisses on the motel bed, next to a typed letter asking us not to smash midges against the walls and ceiling.

The kids had had enough of the day's double hell of constant family time plus midges (not to mention spiders), so they retreated into their screens and flatly refused to come walk on the beach and look at the beautiful views of the Mackinac Bridge with me. 

Their loss, because there were hardly any midges on the beach!

AND there was another lighthouse!

Later, though, Will had successfully put the midges out of her mind enough to agree to come with me to check out the Headlands International Dark Sky Park. Astronomy is one of my favorite hobbies, and I am forever trying to visit a real Dark Sky Park, forever seeking out the skyscape of a childhood spent lying out in the front yard, marveling at the Milky Way and Orion and every satellite and shooting star. 

In the past few years, I actually have visited a few Dark Sky Parks, but the thing is that whenever I go, IT IS ALWAYS CLOUDY! 

Sooo... welcome to sunset at Headlands:


Sunset over the Mackinac Bridge is super pretty, though!

The next morning, we ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for breakfast and packed peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch, and strolled over to the ferry dock, where we arrived in time to catch one of the special ferries that detours UNDER the Mackinac Bridge!

Another lighthouse! Here's the Round Island Passage Light:

Look how fun my Life360 report from that trip is!

My big plans for Mackinac Island were renting bicycles and eating fudge. The end. 

Step One: Bicycles was a go!

We were 100% the only bicyclists on the island wearing helmets. I do NOT care, though--last winter, Will's pediatrician advised her to wear a helmet while SLEDDING, that's how dangerous head injuries are to those precious, growing brains!

Bicycles turned out to also be the best way to get away from the crowds, the one Mackinac Island tradition that both kids were immediately over the second we stepped off the ferry.

So instead of walking nose-to-butt up and down the main street with all the other tourists, we got to spend a couple of remarkably peaceful hours riding around a remarkably beautiful wonderland:

Will said that she could have happily ridden around the island a second time, it was that fun. 

Step two of the plan: fudge!

I would be very curious to know how fudge became such a quintessential experience, because for the rest of the trip the kids and I played a game entitled Count the Fudge Shops, but nevertheless we took the challenge of Mackinac Island Fudge very seriously, visiting exactly every fudge shop on the island before coming back to the winner, Joann's Fudge. There, Will settled in to ask the assistant for sample after sample, and Syd occupied herself dithering over saltwater taffy varieties:

So, here's a completely embarrassing thing that absolutely haunted us for our entire trip: when Will settled on the college she'll be attending, I obviously had everyone pick out some swag. Because you gotta rep your school, right?!?

The hoodies and zippered sweatshirts that we picked out happened to arrive right before we left for Michigan, so when each person looked at my packing list and saw that I said to pack a sweatshirt or hoodie, each person obviously reached for the nearest sweatshirt or hoodie at hand and packed that one. 

And then it was constantly chilly on the water, so we all put them on. And realized at that moment that we all matched.

Syd's isn't so bad, because you have to really look at her sweatshirt before you see the school seal on it. Will and I, though? Our hoodies both have the name of her college SUPER big on them--ugh, they're so dorky, but I was really excited when I picked mine out, okay? And wearing basically matching billboards meant that so many people came up and spoke to us, and it. Was. Awful.

But when Will bought her fudge and Syd's toffee, she told the cashier that they were a school group--see? Matching school swag!--and she got a 10% discount.

Moral of the story: yes, I probably would gladly suffer that embarrassment again just to save a buck-fifty on tourist candy.

We took our tourist candy back to the shore and settled in for a comfy while (I am LOVING this book series!):

She knocked them down when she was done, because rock stacking does not follow Leave No Trace principles

Eventually, though, we temporarily shelved our sugar and headed back to the mainland:

In this photo, Syd is glaring jealously at the OTHER ferry line's ferry, which she thinks looks a lot cooler than our ferry.

No detour under the bridge on the way back, but we did get a nice view of the island:

That evening, after peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner, I was finally able to tempt both kids into a walk out and about with me. We explored the touristy street of downtown Mackinaw City (so much fudge!), then took one last walk on the less-midgey beach at sunset:

Now they've both seen five lighthouses and are well on their way to earning that Lighthouses of Michigan badge!

We made it back to our room with hardly any midge corpse stains on our clothes, that's how good we were getting at midge-dodging!

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