Sunday, September 21, 2008
First of all, the specifics about the trip:
Total lights seen (both lighthouses and range lights): 38
Total towers climbed: 6
Total miles driven: 1855.3
Total pounds gained: HA!! (no calories when on vacation, right??)
We’d like to start out by sharing a story we read about the origin of the Sleeping Bear Dunes (which we visited on Day 4). The dunes lie on the Michigan side of Lake Michigan, and over look two islands (South Manitou Island and North Manitou Island). It’s said that long ago, along the Wisconsin shoreline, a momma bear and her two cubs were driven into Lake Michigan by a raging forest fire. The bears swam for many hours, be eventually the cubs tired and lagged behind. Mother bear reached the shore and climbed to the top of a high bluff to watch and wait for her cubs. Too tired to continue, the cubs drowned within sight of the shore. The Great Spirit Manitou created two islands to mark the spot where the cubs disappeared and then created a solitary dune to represent the faithful mother bear. The dunes got its name because supposedly, from the air it used to look like a sleeping bear.
By the way, for those who are wondering, I DID GET MY T-SHIRT!!!! Here's a pic:
We visited small town after small town on the way to/from the lights. The drives were beautiful and even breathtaking at times. From the coastlines to tree-lined roads, we enjoyed just about every mile we drove. One minute you felt like you were in the mountains, and the next minute you were driving down the coastline of the ocean, err I mean lake. We ate delicious sandwiches, fudge, pizza, fresh fruit, and of course tasted wine!! Thanks again to Margo her sister Marcia for some local delicious suggestions within Traverse City.
Dannie’s favorite saying was “Can you imagine?!?!” She loved being “transformed” back to the time when the lighthouse keepers lived. She said it was very humbling to see the way they lived and to think of all the modern conveniences we have today but take for granted. Then we saw a couple old schoolhouses and we learned that ONE teacher would teach grades kindergarten through 8th…all in one room. The grades each took turns going to the front of the classroom to get their lesson while the others sat in the back near a wood burning stove to do their assignment until it was their turn to be taught. Today, we stress so much over education and which school is best for our kids…we are lucky to even have the choices that we do!!
Oh, and in case you wondered, here’s a picture of our condo:
I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these blogs as much as we’ve enjoyed writing them for you. We sure do miss our girls, and can’t wait to wrap our arms around them. Good night from Michigan!!!
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
Ending Tripometer Reading: 1553.9
Lighthouses Viewed: 8
Well, Day 6 wasn't as long or as bad as we thought it might have been. We did head east to the north-western coast of Lake Huron, and worked our way south. We saw 8 more lights (6 light houses, and 2 range lights), climbed two more towers, and continued to eat our way around Michigan!! We even ended up seeing two couples at the first lighthouse that we had seen on our lighthouse cruise yesterday. The picture below was taken 113 feet high on the catwalk of the New Presque Isle lighthouse. It happens to be the same height as one we climbed the second day (the one we hiked to in the wind and rain), but we couldn't go out onto the catwalk that day because of the windy conditions. And yes, I have my Red Sox hoodie on AGAIN ... it was the warmest thing I brought!!!
Here's another view from the top (DON'T LOOK WILLIE!!!!)
After visiting the above lighthouse, and the other three lights in the immediate area, we decided to grab another sandwich at a local hole-in-the-wall deli. I ordered my sub, and as the lady went to make it, we said "wait, she [Dannie] would like one too". She seemed surprised, and we didn't know why. However, when they brought the subs out, we understood why she had that look. We couldn't believe the size of these sandwiches!!!! Needless to say, they were delicious (at least the parts we ate of them).
1) Forty Mile Point:
2) New Presque Isle:
Ending Tripometer Reading: 1137.8
Lighthouses Viewed: 14
Although Day 5 was a VERY LONG DAY, it was one of the best days we've had so far. As you can see from above, we saw plenty of lighthouses today (although some were distant views). We started out heading up towards Mackinac Point lighthouse (pictured below) with every intention of crossing the bridge, and heading up into the Upper Peninsula ... the U.P. Along the way, we stopped off to see the Charlevoix lighthouse, and the Petosky light.
After touring, and climbing, the Mackinac Point light, we made a sudden decision to take a lighthouse ferry tour, instead of heading north into the U.P. It was the very last trip of the season for the ferry company, and it was leaving in just two hours. We thought it was fate that we were there on a Wednesday, since it only ran one day a week during the off-season. In order to kill those two hours, we headed down to Cheboygan to catch four more lights. Before we left, we grabbed some delicious sandwiches to go from a local pizza place, and ended up talking to the owners for almost 20 minutes!!! Man, I love small-town America. On the way to Cheybogan, we surpassed the 1,000 mile mark on our trip. The rental car company must love people like us!! We returned in plenty of time to catch the ferry, and were able to take some great pictures of off-shore lights, the Mackinac Bridge, and even a passing freighter.
After returning to shore, we did a little more shopping, had dinner, and the started the return trip to the condo. Along the way, we were luckily enough to catch up with some family friends that have known my parents for many, many years. They live up in Michigan for 4.5 months, and then return to FLA for the rest of the year.
The lighthouse of the Day would have to be the White Shoal Light. This light is located 20 miles west of the Mackinac Bridge in the middle of the Mackinac Straights. The 121-foot light marks a hazardous area in this part of Lake Michigan. The light was built in 1910 to replace Lightship No. 56 that had marked the shoal since 1891. Lightship No. 56 was one of the first three lightship stations in Great Lakes. The nearby Waugoshance Shoal Light (which we also saw) was abandoned in 1912 after White Shoal Light became operational.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Ending Tripometer Reading: 873.0
Lighthouses Viewed: 3
Day 4 was another truly BEAUTIFUL day with simply GORGEOUS weather!! We started out heading north on the Leelanau Peninsula towards the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Since this was the only lighthouse we truly visited today, it easily won the Lighthouse of the Day title for Day 4. We actually "saw" three different lighthouses today, but two of them were very distant views. We did get a couple of descent zoomed-in pictures, but not good enough to share.
On our way back from the light, we saw another winery, and just couldn't pass it up. So, we took a few minutes and tried a few wines from the Gill's Pier Winery. My favorite was the Apple Wine (probably understandable to most of you since I prefer apple ciders)!! We then made our way to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, but only walked up about half way. We were told it was about a 1.5 mile hike, uphill and through the sand in order to see Lake Michigan. We decided it wasn't worth it, and we're glad we did. As we were leaving, we saw a sign for The Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive. This was a 7.4 mile self-guided auto tour that provided insight to the history of the area, a sampling of the vegetative communities found within the park and, best of all, spectacular overlooks of the Glen Lakes, the Sleeping Bear Dunes and Lake Michigan. Here are a couple of pictures from one place we found overlooking Lake Michigan (450 feet above the lake).
We then came back to the condo, enjoyed a glass (or two) of local wine, and the watched the sunset. We then made the decision to grab a bite to eat, and decided upon the local burger joint called Don's Drive In. We had a delicious hamburger, and chased it down with an amazing chocolate milkshake. And yes, the diet starts again on Monday ... HA!!
Okay, now for the moment you are all waiting for ... the lighthouse of the day. Again, we technically saw three lighthouses, but the two Manitou lights were so far away, that the winner had to be the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. Here's a picture of it:
LEGO bricks (I know GrantBob will enjoy this). Below is a real picture of the picturesque lighthouse. The present Grand Traverse Lighthouse was built in 1858, replacing a deteriorating tower that had stood only since 1852. A fog signal building was added to the station in 1899.
Deactivated in 1972, the lighthouse was replaced by a light atop a metal tower. The light is located at the northern tip of the Leelanau Peninsula, marking the entrance to Grand Traverse Bay from Lake Michigan
Ending Tripometer Reading: 726.1
Lighthouses Viewed: 3
Day 3 was a GREAT DAY all around. The weather was almost perfect (sunny, breezy, but slightly on the cold side - at least according to Dannie). The day started out at the Old Mission Lighthouse (pictured below). This particular lighthouse was not only pretty, but sits on the 45th Parallel. The 45th parallel is exactly halfway between the North Pole and the equator. Bet you didn't know that!!
Turtle Creek Casino. It is a brand new casino that opened just three months ago and is only 7 miles from our condo. After stuffing ourselves on their buffet, we decided to try our luck on the $5.00 blackjack tables. Dannie tried her hand at craps as well. Together we walked out of there winners of about $125!! Woo Hoo ... that's plenty of money for souvenirs!!!
The lighthouse of the day would have to be the Point Betsie Lighthouse down in Frankfort, Michigan. The cylindrical tower with attached dwelling was built on the point in 1858. In 1891, the fog signal building was added, making necessary an additional keeper at the station. The dwelling was thus enlarged to accommodate two keepers. This was also the last manned lighthouse on mainland Michigan.
Tomorrow is probably going to be another "easy" day for us since we were up late trying to gamble our kid's college fund away!! I think we are planning on visiting only one lighthouse, as well as the Sleeping Bear Dunes. That's a cool name - I just might have to get a T-shirt from there!!!
Sunday, September 14, 2008
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Ending Tripometer Reading: 279.3
Lighthouses Viewed: 4
Today was a GREAT DAY to start our week-long vacation. The only problem was the rain ... and there was a LOT OF IT!! This first picture is perfect proof of that (I promise there is a lighthouse out there behind that blanket of rain)!!
Tonight we're in Muskegon, and tomorrow we continue heading north to Traverse City stopping at numerous lights along the way. When I get back, be sure to ask me about the Tornado Warning, and the work-from-home meteorologist and his dogs (a blog just can't do the story justice)!!!