It was a pleasant 65-degrees this morning for my 3.1 mile run on Mackinac Island. After days shortened by long drives, time changes, poor health, and places to be early, I finally got some time to myself. I explored the entire downtown area, actually moving faster than those poor horses that took us by carriage to the ferry terminal after we checked out of the Grand Hotel. I was confused when my wife sent our luggage to St. Ignace when I thought we came through Mackinaw City. This explains why we unnecessarily crossed the Mackinac Bridge. Shepler’s has two departure sites and my GPS sent me to the wrong location. It was costly time-wise but paid off with a pleasant, unexpected encounter.
My wife and I are standing in a drizzle, as I’m finally understand why we’re waiting in the St. Ignace departure line when a young woman comes up and asks me, “are you Mike Johnston?” It was Annie, my ex-wife’s half-sister, who was younger than her three kids when we last talked. I was stunned to see her, but honestly was half-expecting to run into someone from my past on this excursion. It was a very short conversation as the line started moving, but I can hopefully follow up with a text or e-mail.
Traffic has been horrible, as Michiganders head home on Sunday afternoon with schools opening as soon as tomorrow. We stopped at the Bay City Cracker Barrel for lunch to let the cars thin out a bit as we Rock n’ Roll into Cleveland.
We arrived at the expansive Mackinac Bridge and surprisingly crossed it according to the driving directions to Shepler’s Ferry. There was a massive 45-minute long traffic jam to pay the toll once we crossed into the U.P. Before the backup started, the metal grates, designed to limit ice build-up, sang to us through the tires. There was no hassle once we got to the ferry terminal. They routed our luggage to the Grand Hotel and we conveniently parked the car for the night. With the windy conditions on the inlet, we selected an enclosed seat rather than on the open upper level.
The boat ride over was smooth and we were soon docked and in the downtown gift shops for another magnet. It was then a 20-minute uphill walk to the impressive porch with views of Lake Michigan. The registration desk was not busy, so we quickly got our room keys and instructions. I guess they call it the Grand Hotel because of the pricy nightly room rate, but it’s been known as that since it was built in 1887 when the cost was much lower. The five-course dinner for two was $256.52 excluding alcohol. Tipping is not required but we did anyways because the cost of living for employees is certainly exorbitant, let alone the commute time. While it may be an honor to work there, it’s probably a job unto itself to get there on time.
There are 14 bars/restaurant and the main dining room seats hundreds on striped green chairs in front of coordinated English china. We started our afternoon in the Cupola Bar while waiting for our luggage to finally arrive in the room. The panoramic views of Lake Michigan are spectacular but at $22 for a Bloody Mary we had to find other things to do while the slow-moving, horse-drawn carriages take at least 3-hours to move bags from the ferries to the lobby to the room. My required suit and tie barely made the dress code deadline of 6:00p, despite arriving at noon.
We had to wait for my wife’s swimsuit to arrive before making our way to the Ester Williams Pool, where she made several movies, in the late afternoon sun. Once again, Lake Michigan provided a stunning backdrop for pool users. Those with sunburns must have packed a separate bag. My wife has been struggling with a spreading, itchy rash from the Virginia Creeper vines she pulled in our Florida backyard before we left on this journey. The cool water soothed her skin but the sunlight can aggravate the annoying red bumps that cover her body. She’s been utilizing Cortisone since we left Florida, while I’ve been popping Tylenol Severe Cold tablets. What a way to start a vacation or in our case, a change in routine.
After returning to the room, I was about to don a suit for the first time this year, and most of last. I was anxious to send my friend in Indy a picture of the new hand-painted, wooden bow tie he had gifted me. However, it had to be a shot from the waist up because the suit pants had apparently fallen off while hanging in the car. They were well across the Mackinac Bridge when I needed them most, and therefore had to settle for a pair of blue jeans. There was nothing in the rules about pants, so even half-naked might have been acceptable!
We had juggled our travel schedule a bit to get to Ludington earlier in the day to accommodate a visit with our friends who live there. Unfortunately, they both came down with Covid so the best we could do was wave to them on their balcony. I was a bit under the weather myself, only managing a two-mile morning run. We did tour their reception venue near where the Lake Michigan ferry docks to and from Wisconsin. This change in plans allowed is to get into Petoskey mid-afternoon and spend some time in the charming downtown area. I did a lot of bench sitting while she browsed and shopped.
I bought our ferry tickets for tomorrow’s excursion to Mackinac Island and the Grand Hotel, the northernmost point of what is now looking like a 4,000-mile drive. We’ve already covered half of that distance and cars are not allowed on the island. We’ll park and take our luggage on the boat for transport to the hotel. We walked from food stop to food stop – Kilwin’s Ice Cream to Mighty Fine Pizza. Getting settled in the hotel room early will be the most welcome treat as Day 10 comes to an end with another full stomach.
as prices are escalating as we get further north. Today I filled up for 4.229, the highest we’ve paid on this adventure. I met a friend for breakfast at the Friendly, followed by lunch at the Lock, Stock, and Barrel (LSB), a once local favorite, just two hours later. Our friends that hosted us for the night are major contributors to Milliken University, specifically their arts programs. My wife got to tour their new dance facilities, but lunch was disappointing. They used to offer great soups but the fact that there were only a few customers was a sign that their business is now suffering.
I had taken a Covid test that morning with symptoms of a cold and fortunately the results were negative. Our friends who are ten and twenty years older had just returned from Seattle also tested negative. It was raining when I first got up not feeling particularly well, so I shortened my run to 1.5 miles. We left Decatur at 2p and made our way into Michigan. It would be the first and only night that we needed to pay for a room, thanks to Marriott Rewards. We didn’t arrive in Muskegon until 9:30p., seeing very little of the city itself.
After a full week on the road, my wife and I went our separate ways for Day 8. She went to a pool party while I joined two buddies at Rackz BBQ. As it turned out, several of the servers were once at G.T. South’s, our favorite before it closed down a few years ago. I went with pulled pork, but didn’t eat it all, knowing there would be a second lunch in less than two hours. I then ran some errands and got gas at 3.84/gallon. Lunch number two was at another tenderloin joint, my third since arriving in Indianapolis. This was with two DNA cousins that I had initially met two years ago.
We had originally planned for a dinner, but decided to hit the road to Decatur, IL, our home a decade ago. This was a relatively last minute detour from our initial route. Storms were headed our way, but despite the rain we arrived at a friend’s home at 9pm with the time change and a quick stop at the Covington Beef House. A late-night cocktail and conversation allowed us to catch-up on where our lives have taken us after at least five years apart. They had come to see us in Portland but then Covid and other health issues prevented contact. It was another fun reunion that extended into the next day. Stay tuned.
I’m finally having some success with updating this blog in a timely that has been delayed with internet and computer problems with my Go Daddy site. I’ve been able to catch up this morning without any glitches in the system. An electrician is coming to work on the Ring wiring, so that hassle is also out of my hands.
My running times were consistent this morning, all three miles in the fourteen-minute-per-mile range. It’s still a maddingly slow pace but better than I’ve seen in some time, certainly due to the cooler temperatures in Indiana relative to Florida. I don’t have much to do today, anticipating a late afternoon get together with friends at the Mousetrap. With only a limited time in Indy, we thought that a no-host get together would give us a chance to see everyone in a single setting. I hope we get a good turnout, but for me it will be as exhausting as any reunion. I will strain my faltering voice to try to keep up and struggle with hearing, so the event will likely take everything out of me.
As it turned out, about 30 people, including the two of us, showed up for the no-host reception at the Mousetrap, far exceeding expectations. Most were media people that we’ve worked with through the years:
Mike & Denise (FL)
Peter & Beth (FL
Russ & Judy (FL)
Terri & Arch
Brian & Marsha
Tom & Kathy (FL)
Jim & Cynthia
Carol & Anthony
Nine of this group has gotten together in Florida this past year, while another 8 we’ll see down there in the next year. To reunite with everyone else in the Indy area, It was an efficient way to catch up on gossip in a single sitting, since we’re headed to Illinois next and short on time.
We then met my wife’s sister and friends for Tenderloins and ice cream at Murphy’s at Flynns and had a nightcap before ending Day 7 of the Summer Tour.
I ran the familiar route over the Geist Reservoir bridge to start the day. It’s where I started “The Streak” nearly fourteen years ago. I did it in a wine fog, after my brother-in-law plied me with Cabernet the night before. I was in a drinking mood after nearly a week on the road, but had been so good these past few months. We went to dinner at Eddy’s, near their home, where my wife and I had our first “date” years ago. Each anniversary of this occasion we celebrate what we call a Eddiversary, in honor of this restaurant. (See Post #1504).
After my run, I started to install a Ring doorbell that my wife’s sister had recently purchased. They usually try to give me a small project to do when we stay at their house. I was familiar with the device since I had already put in three of them at my homes these past few years. However, for some reason, I was experiencing some hassles with this one because a lighting strike had disabled their previous doorbell. I decided to take a break and regroup while we did some other errands.
Our plan for the day called for a boat ride with my good friend that rescued my wife’s jewelry in Nashville. After a brief downpour and a trip to a Carmel consignment store to drop off some clothes for resale, we arrived at his condo on Morse Reservoir, another popular Indy area boating hot spot. We then rode in his woman friend’s pontoon to Wolfie’s Restaurant for lunch. My wife was just thrilled to finally get her jewelry back, so lunch was gladly on us.
My brother-in-law grilled chicken for dinner and we got together with my wife’s two nieces and the eldest one’s two boys. I’m known as GUM – Great Uncle Mike. The younger niece brought her soon-to-be fiancé that we had yet to officially meet. While dinner prep and conversation was going on, I was still struggling with the doorbell. It was working on a charged battery but we still couldn’t find a power source. It was more electronic hassles that I’ve also been experiencing on this trip with my computer. It too has been a pain in the butt!
I got back on track in Bowling Green with my new running shorts and completed a 3.1 mile course after two days of time restricted shorter jaunts. The Streak lives on at 4,960 consecutive days. I’ll be on a familiar Indianapolis course tomorrow where it started nearly fourteen years ago.
We’ve covered most of my wife’s favorite restaurants including Texas Roadhouse, Cracker Barrel, and Uncle Bud’s, however we’ve yet to get to a Freddy’s on this journey. The biggest trauma for her so far was discovering that she left all her jewelry locked in the JW Marriott safe back in Nashville. Fortunately, security rescued the goods and my Nashville friend will deliver them to her in Indy. I, of course, had just cancelled the personal articles insurance, so this might be my doing. Thank goodness they aren’t lost!
My wife has certainly endured more than her share of dealing with my biological family on this trip. Three straight days of meetings including three half sisters, plus their two kids. My bio-dad’s wife joined us for lunch, along with a son-in-law on the way to my brother-in-law’s house in Indy, our home for the next few days. “Back Home Again in Indiana.”