Click for larger imageWhatever I may feel about yesterday's journey across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, today made the trek worthwhile.

Leigh, Sister Betty's seamstress and the first straight woman I've ever taught how to rim (no, I didn't provide skin-to-skin instruction) sent me this note when she learned I planned to visit Mackinac Island:

"SB, I am soooo excited you are gonna be in Michigan soon! 

"We used to go to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island in the summers for vacation, from our cottage in the 'Upper Lower' (that's the upper Lower Peninsula). You will be hangin' with the "Yoopers" up 'der, eh! (U.P-ers, i.e, Upper Pennisula dwellers--basically Canadians who can vote in the States). 

Click for larger image" MUST buy some penuche fudge. YOU MUST!!!! It is phenomenal, but you have to buy it from a place where you can see the zitty teenagers making it on a big marble slab."

The sky was overcast and hinted of rain when I arose.  I headed out after liberally applying mosquito repellant and suntan lotion (one can never be too careful about premature aging of the skin).  There are only two ways to reach Mackinac Island:  boat or airplane.  As the Invisible Jet has been in the shop for some months, the landing strip on Mackinac is a bit short for turbo engine aircraft and I'm conserving fuel as a war protest, I chose one of the three competing ferry lines and climbed aboard. (One must always remember to wear underwear while in an invisible jet - especially in these more conservative states.  On a muggy day, going commando is just so much more comfortable.)

Click for larger imageMackinac Island is Michigan's summer resort (and summer home to their governor as well).  Settled by Catholic priests in the late 1600's, it became a military outpost occupied first by the British, then the Americans, then the British and then the Americans.  After the Civil War, the island attracted tourists and changed from military base to resort destination.  The Army continued a presence on the island until the 1900's.  The Army left and the state turned the fort into a historic park. 

With the exception of aircraft and a single ambulance, motor vehicles are prohibited on the island.  Horse drawn carriages carry everything including tourists, police, food, garbage and big-screen televisions.  I witnessed the UPS horse cart, complete with brown-uniformed driver, delivering on the island today. 

Click for larger imageI headed to the stables and rented a horse and buggy for a trip around the island.  My assigned horse, Mike, has been worked the island for the better part of two decades.  As we set out, Mike made it clear who was in charge.  From time to time, he threw his head back and yelled at no one in particular.  Then he sniffled.  Or, I thought he sniffled.  I later realized he was farting at rather regular intervals.  When I snapped the reigns a bit to encourage Mike to break out of his more-than-leisurely pace, he turned his head, rolled his eyes, looked over one shoulder at me and continued to move at the same slow speed.  Mike was in no hurry and if I wanted to go faster, I could get out and walk.  Dominance established, Mike and I took nearly two hours to complete our one hour journey.

Click for larger imageBy the time I returned Mike to his stable the clouds were gone and the day was sunny.  I decided to climb up the hill and visit Fort Mackinac.

I was never big on scouting.  In fact, I was asked to leave Cub Scouts as a child - for reasons that had nothing to do with me and a story I will tell another time.  Whatever I may have missed the Navy taught me later:  survival, how to tie a knot and that even ugly people can look good in uniform.

Bear in mind that Fort Mackinac was abandoned by the Army over a hundred years ago, Canada is a relatively peaceful neighbor and that the British haven't sent warships to the Great Lakes in recent memory.  Even so, some bright adult got the idea the Boy Scouts should guard this decaying old fort against...something.  Every door, every corner, every turret was manned by a Boy Scout standing at parade rest.  Clearly miserable, these children were forced to stand in two-hour shifts in the hot sun largely ignoring, and ignored by, the tourists.  In reply to my question about the purpose of their mission, a boy scout replied:  "I dunno, we do this every year."  Well, hooray for Homeland Security! 

Click for larger image(An bit of inside gay humor:  One of the scouts was standing guard next to a door marked "Tea Room".)

My exploration of Fort Mackinac complete, I wandered into the town.  I quickly observed two things:  First, Mackinac Island may be the whitest place I've ever been in my life.  There was nary a black or Hispanic person to be seen walking the streets - except in maid or butler livery from the expensive hotel on the hill.  Second, the cutest guys on the island were the trash collectors and horse-manure sweepers who drive horse-drawn garbage trucks and wear sweaty shirts.

Click for larger imageMackinac Island is also famous for its fudge.  The main street houses a half-dozen competing fudge producers.  Michigan is a good place for an island which serves primarily fudge, ice cream, fudge, hot dogs, fudge and soda.  This may also explain why most of the carts are pulled by teams of horses.  Not wanting to violate local custom, I bought and consumed the requisite quarter pound.  Later, to be certain I'd done my share, I bought another quarter pound for the ride home (and two, three-pound boxes to mail home).

In retrospect, today sounds like a bad gay porno movie:  Sweaty garbage man pulls up to the fort and asks the Scout: "How's that fudge?"  (No nasty email please, you aren't paying for this humor.)

Click for larger imageAfter a healthy steak dinner and two glasses of wine, I wandered back to the ferry as the sun set in the west.

The moon has risen full, yellow and heavy from the lake.  Ducks and geese waddle down the beach highlighted by the moon's reflection on the tiny waves.  A half-consumed piece of fudge calls quietly from the nightstand.  Tomorrow - Canada!

[PS - This is a "Red Nun Buoy".  See, nuns provide assistance to sailors, too.]

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Road Trip 2003 Statistics
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Mackinaw Island
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