The Mackinac Island Adventure

This is going to be one heck of a long post, but at least I don’t go on and on very often! It was a 2-day whirlwind adventure, although some of it was definitely not planned or needed! Four of us from Willow Tree–Wendy, Bonney, Midnite and I–decided to go to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island up at the top of the Michigan mitten and have a little horsey fun at the annual Festival of the Horse. We live at the bottom of the mitten, so this was about a 5-hour trip for us. We started out in a questionable vehicle, so you can guess that something nasty had to happen along the way. But I jump ahead.

We made it to the Mackinac Bridge and across to St. Ignace, from whence we took the ferry to the island. The bridge is a bit of a dizzying experience, especially since it’s really windy up there. Last July a semi blew over on its side, although it didn’t blow off the bridge. In 1989 a Yugo (remember the Yugo?) did indeed blow off the bridge, killing its occupant. Anyhow, here are some scenes of the bridge and the view from the ferry.

The Mackinac Bridge.

The Mackinac Bridge.

Lake Huron, headed to Mackinac Island on the left.

Lake Huron, headed to Mackinac Island on the left.

The Grand Hotel as viewed from the ferry. More on this in a minute.

The Grand Hotel as viewed from the ferry. More on this in a minute.

We had parked our transportation, a 1994 (?) or maybe ’98–don’t remember but it doesn’t matter–GMC Suburban in the ferry parking lot and had lunch before we went over. Got back to the vehicle to get some stuff and noticed the trailer hitch was missing. Wendy found a note wrapped around a $20 bill on the windshield which said that they needed our hitch to get a sick horse to the vet and hoped we would forgive them. We puzzled over it briefly then got on the ferry. We had gotten there too late on Friday to see the demo we wanted to see, which was Double Dan Horsemanship, so we went over to their tent to see if there would be another demo on Saturday. The lady there said that they would have a demo but Dan James (one of the “double” Dans) wouldn’t be able to do it because he had to rush his sick horse to the vet. We clicked with that instantly and told her about the hitch. She said it was quite possible because he couldn’t get his big rig off the island fast enough, and we guessed that whoever provided a trailer on the mainland side hadn’t left a hitch with it. We later found out it was indeed him! His horse, Apollo, had eaten some hay purchased in Michigan that had a toxic weed baled in it, and they rushed the horse to Michigan State’s vet clinic. Last we heard the horse was well on the mend.

Double Dan's banner in the parade.

Double Dan’s banner in the parade.

We stuck around and did the tourist thing until 7 PM when the parade of horses and carriages was scheduled to proceed down Main Street. I’ll stop chattering now and just let you watch the parade.

A flashy Friesian.

A flashy Friesian.

A flashy paint. Looked like a Saddlebred, but who knows?

A flashy paint. Looked like a Saddlebred, but who knows?

An even flashier Friesian.

An even flashier Friesian.

Here come the minis! Wonder how they felt about hauling that big guy on the right?

Here come the minis! Wonder how they felt about hauling that big guy on the right?

The only Indian in the parade.

The only Indian in the parade.

Dressagers show off their piaffe.

Dressagers show off their piaffe.

A little dressage bling, baroque style.

A little dressage bling, baroque style.

Odd looking "umbrella" tops this carriage.

Odd looking “umbrella” tops this carriage.

Upon returning to the mainland we were once again walking toward our Suburban when I noticed something (ominous music here) dripping. Turned out it was gasoline. At first we thought it was the line connecting to the fuel filter, because it had just been replaced a couple of days before. But the leak, which had been just a drip, quickly turned to a stream and we realized the gas tank had a hole in it. So we all got up early Saturday morning and started researching auto repair shops, looking for something that would be open on a weekend. Nothing except one 20 miles away that was booked up and said we could tow it in and they might or might not get to it. That wasn’t going to help. It just so happened that the motel we stayed at was also temporary abode to a contingent of Harley riders who threw the ashes of one of their friends off the Mackinac Bridge 20 years ago and reunite every year to do a commemorative ride honoring the event. One of them saw us gathered around the Suburban and offered to help. “Help” consisted of going to the hardware store and procuring some sort of putty that’s supposed to temporarily stop leaks at least long enough to get you where you’re going. I’m sure it works if the material you’re putting it on is dry, but in our case it didn’t work because gasoline was still leaking from the tank. But he did give it a really good go, and we were grateful that he cared enough to try.

Wendy checks on how our biker friend is doing under the Suburban.

Wendy checks on how our biker friend is doing under the Suburban.

We had to get back home sometime Saturday night, so we put Plan B into effect, which was expensive but unavoidable. We took a cab to the airport, 18 miles away, and rented a car. The airport was the only place you could rent a car, so we didn’t have a lot of choice in the matter. Then drove back to the ferry dock because we wanted to have one more crack at the island. There is one very grand attraction on Mackinac, and it is aptly named the Grand Hotel. If you want to wander around it and you aren’t a guest, you have to pay $10 to get in. You can’t even (if you’re a guy) go in the place if you’re not wearing a coat and tie, or (if you’re a gal) a dress or skirt and blouse or pantsuit. So we didn’t go in, but we did have some great ice cream at Sadie’s, which is attached to the outer wall of the hotel, thank goodness. Here are a few hints at its grandness…

The "grandness" of the Grand Hotel.

The “grandness” of the Grand Hotel.

Horse and carriage topiary in front of the Grand Hotel.

Horse and carriage topiary in front of the Grand Hotel.

Taxi in front of the Grand. We verified that the pink and blue browbands on the horses were on the mare and gelding respectively…

Horse taxi from the Grand Hotel. With flowers, of course.

Horse taxi from the Grand Hotel. With flowers, of course.

You may have noticed that there are a lot of flowers on this island. I theorized that there must be some kind of contract stating that you can’t own property here unless you promise to maintain fabulous flower beds and planters.

The island is overloaded with flowers in summer.

The island is overloaded with flowers in summer.

Bonney in the flowers.

Bonney in the flowers.

This looked to be a large residence with a guest house and stables.

This looked to be a large residence with a guest house and stables.

Our final act of horsiness was to rent a horse and carriage at the local stable. I forgot to mention that there are absolutely no motorized vehicles on the island. Everything that’s going anywhere gets there by horse or by bicycle. I can’t imagine what their insurance rates are, but they rent driving horses to anybody, even if you’ve never even touched a horse in your life. The only thing I can figure is that the horses have memorized the route, they’re unflappable, dodge a myriad of bicyclists, other horse-drawn vehicles and pedestrians, and they go where they’re supposed to no matter what their “driver” says, and then find their way back to the stable. In order to get your own horse and buggy, you have to fill out a lot of paperwork asking about your experience and the number of times you’ve been driving. Wendy filled out the paperwork, and under “experience” checked the “expert teamster” box and where they asked how many times you’ve driven wrote “thousands”. When the guy behind the counter saw that he started to ask Wendy all about what horses she had driven and of course she had a life story of horses to tell him. He pounced on the opportunity and said he had a horse that needed a little “work” and how would we like to take that one? Of course we would take that one. She turned out to be a Belgian mare with a bit of attitude. She reminded me of my own horse Billy in the sense that she didn’t want to leave her friends behind or let them get too far in front of her, and she insisted on calling out to the other horses who were of course much more well-mannered than she was. She didn’t like to stop because her best friend Jerry had gone out just ahead of us and he was getting too far away. She also discovered that if she swung her tail round and round clockwise she could catch the right rein in it and trap it against her butt.  Here are a few choice photos of our Queen-for-a-day.

What Queen should have looked like most of the time. Here passing the Grand Hotel.

What Queen should have looked like most of the time. Here passing the Grand Hotel.

Queen grabs the reins with her tail.

Queen grabs the reins with her tail.

Queen: Whaddya mean "whoa"???

Queen: Whaddya mean “whoa”???

Wendy is a pro and she didn’t let Queen get away with anything. In fact, we made her do everything she didn’t want to do. She truly got a training session from Wendy. The amusing thing about it was that we paid the stable to let us train their horse! But it would have been totally boring if we’d had a push-button horse, so we actually had a great time getting her head screwed on straight again.

As for the rest of it, the quick ending is we drove home then Wendy picked up a mechanically-oriented friend the next morning and drove all the way back to Mackinac to repair and return in the Suburban. I think the other three of us slept in late that morning…

About Alli Farkas

Equine and landscape artist specializing in rural Americana
This entry was posted in horses, horses and carts, Mackinac Island Festival of the Horse, Willow Tree and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to The Mackinac Island Adventure

  1. Wow, great post Alli, thanks for sharing it! That story about Dan and the hitch sure is a strange coincidence.

    I’ve always wanted to visit Mackinac; it’s still a dream to at least visit, even if I can’t spend a whole summer driving a horse taxi. 😀 Queen sounds awfully familiar, too… she looks just like a pair of Belgians I used to drive, and I know a Percheron/Morgan who does that same trick with his tail. 😀

    Like

    • Alli Farkas says:

      Glad you enjoyed the post! I spent at least 3-4 hours going through a few hundred photos and composing the text in a way that might keep people interested all the way to the end. Could probably borrow some of your writing skills…!

      Like

      • Nah, your writing skills are more than equal to the task. I feel you on the pictures, though… I always take hundreds and then get home and delete most of them, like “why did I think THAT would be a good shot?!” Thank god for the age of digital or I wouldn’t be able to afford to develop my film. 😀

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        • Alli Farkas says:

          This is the lament of professional photographers. People who steal their stuff or don’t want to pay full price for it never realize that most of what they are stealing or paying for (besides the investment in equipment) is the hours the photographer spends sifting and sorting and discarding in order to present only the best images.

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  2. ronald maxson says:

    what a great story! and what wonderful photos. it must have been a fantastic experience. i would certainly have liked being there!

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  3. munchow says:

    That was an amazing travel and experience. Looks like you had a lot of fun. It was fun just watching the photos.

    Like

  4. I Am Jasmine Kyle says:

    The GRAND Hotel! How beautiful! Thank you for taking us on your tour! So much fun!

    Like

  5. Pingback: Back to Mackinac | Alli Farkas Artist Adventures

  6. Pingback: East Lansing Adventures | Alli Farkas Artist Adventures

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