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Terry & Dave Taylor

Mackinac Island | The Grand Hotel

St. Ignace, Michigan - Some of you may be wondering - why have we driven 500 miles to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? From 1966-1970 (approximately), DT lived here! His Colonel Dad was stationed at Kincheloe Air Force Base in Kinross, Michigan. They lived on a big base, in base housing, and went to school in the near-by town of Rudyard. Well, the base has long-closed, but he wanted to see his old stompin' ground, so this morning, the "three of us" drove north, toward Sault Saint Marie on I-75.

Welcome to Rudyard, Michigan!Our first stop was in Rudyard, where DT found the school greatly changed! Right off, the playground monitors were actually monitoring. I have no idea the security risks around Rudyard, but a teacher came right over and wanted to know what we were doing filming and taking photos of the school and playing fields. When DT told her, she became his best friend and was a fountain of knowledge about the changes we would find in Rudyard and at the base in the past 30 years. She even allowed me to film her telling us about the four PRISONS now on the base, and said she now lives in one of the homes! Even I could see the original part of the school had been expanded and was now the Middle School and High school. When DT attended, it was K-12 in the one building. They now have a track - when hubby was here, an oval was mowed in the field if there was a track meet! (Personally, I think he should write a book!) Also, according to the sign in the parking lot, it is now a Drug-Free Zone.

Now, I must tell you all - I was busy all day video-taping every moment. I did not take many photos of the boyhood revisitation (new word, not in my spell-checker). I have a lot of video though, which I can't wait to show his Brothers, Mother and Lisa.

We continued north to what was the base and is now a myriad of razor wire. Four prisons are now on the base - some actually making use of barracks. Barracks + Razor wire = Prison! DT was unsure of his bearings at first - especially since many buildings were gone and other built in their place. Old and new, mixed in. The landing strip was now an "International" Airport (Canada is 15 miles north) and the Commissary is now an IGA Supermarket. We found the golf course, which is now 18 holes. (When DT lived here Kincheloe Golf Course had only 9-holes.) The course is $10.50 for 18 holes, winter rate! We found his old house. The little twig in the front garden was now a huge tree. The bus stop was gone, and a garage was in its place. He showed me where his parent's friends had lived - many are still close friends with his family.

Kinchloe Golf Course - The Oaks at Kinchloe
Kincheloe Golf Course... is now The Oaks at Kincheloe Golf Course

As we drove around, I could just imagine DT running from house to house, trick-or-treating, then running home to quickly change his costume to trick-or-treat the same route again! (DT finally ran-out of candy in 1972.) I was so happy to finally see Duke's Lake, where the boys had skied in the winter and played in the summer; the dock where the bus driver would pick up a student IF the fish were not biting, and where he would camp with his brothers. Actually, DT's storytelling skills are so spot-on, it looked just as I had imagined from his descriptions.

Duke's Lake in Kincheloe
Duke's Lake

So after the trip down Memory Lane, we continued up I-75 to the end of the road - Sault Saint Marie, Michigan. This was the closest "town" to the base and where his Mom would go for errands and to shop. They also went over the border here to Canada for more shopping! We toured the famous Soo Locks. The Soo Locks consist of two canals and four locks that allow vessels, from small boats to 1000-foot freighters, to safely traverse the 21-foot drop in elevation of the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lakes Michigan and Huron. The system has a Hydropower plant, which generates more than 150 million kilowatt hours each year to operate the locks. The Corp of Engineers administrates the locks now and there is no fee to cross the Soo Locks. More than 11,000 vessels pass through the system every year. In 1968, one of the locks was rebuilt to accommodate 1,000-foot-long vessels. A 1,000 foot vessel can carry the cargo of (you won't believe it) 2,308 semi trucks!

The Soo Locks
Soo Locks

After a healthy lunch of an ice cream cone, we drove back to the motorhome. I took Snickers on a long walk and we left him to snore while we took the Star Line Hydro-Jet Ferry to Mackinac Island. The island is 2 miles by 3 miles long, and sits a few miles off shore of St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. Both cities offer ferry service and it takes about 15 minutes to reach the island. Though the spelling is different, both the island and city are pronounced MACK-in-awe. (Mackinac is a rough pronunciation of the Native word for "Great Turtle Island".) Cars are not allowed on the island - everyone gets around on bicycles, foot, or horse-drawn carriages. The place absolutely reeks of horse "stuff”. The Grand Hotel sits on the west bluff of the island. Built in 1887, it is the world's largest summer hotel. It also has the world's longest porch, at 600 feet. The porch is lined with hundreds of white rocking chairs. The Grand Hotel is open for only 6 months during the year and is set to close on October 31. When Brother Bill was in high school, he had a summer job working in the dining room! We enjoyed a stroll through the hotel and enjoyed a cocktail (DT ordered a Red Strip from our friendly Jamaican waiter) while rocking away on the beautiful porch, looking out over the Straits of Mackinac.

The Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island, Michigan
The Grand Hotel, from the ferry

Grand Dining Room in the Grand Hotel - Mackinac Island, Michigan
The Grand Dining Room

Carriages line-up for tourists on Mackinac Island
Carriages line-up for tourists on Mackinac Island

Typical street on Mackinac Island
Typical street on Mackinac Island

Pretty porch on Mackinac Island
Pretty porch on Mackinac Island

We toured through the gardens of the hotel and also a bit through the town itself and went into a few shops. Every-other shop sells fudge. We figured fudge was the "thing" in Mackinac, but we left without fudge - but did get a lot of postcards! We caught a ferry back to the mainland before dark and rescued our dog. Another night with Derek Jeter... but not my husband. DT fell asleep on the sofa after dinner.

RV Park: KOA in St. Ignace, Michigan

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