Around every bend in the road

When we were up this way two years ago, we took the Big Taxi through the Tunnel of Trees.

Sheesh, we were brave.

It’s 20 miles long, over pavement so narrow they don’t even paint a center line, past trees that grow so close to the road and so tall that they meet over the road.

With constant twists and turns as it endeavors to follow the bluff along the coastline above Lake Michigan.

Ahhh, but this time we have the Lil Taxi.

We’ve driven it several times already, and even have done some exploring of side roads.

One dirt road goes for several miles below the bluff, seemingly almost in the surf!

As you come around a corner, this lovely little church bursts into view:
What a delightful discovery!

However, a quick look at the lake caused us to gather up everything and everyone and get moving again, because we had left some windows open in the coach:
Shucks, no need for alarm, around the next bend the downpour stopped almost as soon as it started…..and we were greeted by this sight:


Gerald “Jerry” Herdman, 1929 to 2004
history professor, bricklayer/mason, fly fisherman, husband, father to two sons….my Dad:
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Dad in Erie_a

Claude Fell
lover of nature, creative, wonderful dad to three children, husband, grandpa….love you Dad! Robyn:
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By Robyn for Jared, Ross, and Ryan:
Doug Herdman
the best driver for this journey, awesome photographer & storyteller, caring dad for our three boys:

A day away….far, far away

We spent yesterday on Mackinac Island, and it couldn’t have been more perfect!

The morning had fog so thick we drove with headlights on, and the ferry navigated by radar and feel….

But within minutes of landing on the island, the fog burned off and sun shined brightly the rest of the day! Very light breeze, 69 degrees.

We took Ross and Ryan’s push chairs, and so could cover more ground smoothly. Or maybe grandly.

The focal point of the island seems to be the Grand Hotel. It works hard to live up to its name.

It occupies the high ground. Its front porch is the longest in the world. The fanciest carriages in town say Grand Hotel on them. The place is exquisitely maintained.

It’s just grand.

We spent time on its porch, ate lunch in one of its restaurants, and shot photos of its views…it was all grand!

But there is a lot more to the island….how best to see some of it?

We found the best way….a buggy and driver for the four of us!

We were able to tour just where we wanted, stop any time for a photo, and find out all we wanted from our pleasant, young driver. He’s been doing this for 6 years and lives year-round on the island.

Despite the slow pace of life on this island with no cars or trucks, the day flew past….we saw more than we could recall and enjoyed more than we could fully appreciate!

We arrived back in Petoskey right at sunset….and even it was grand!

Old friends and new friends

Ed and Dora stopped by a couple days ago. They live in northern California and were doing a tour up this way, and arranged their schedule to include a quick grip-and-grin with us in Petoskey.

As a kid in elementary and high school, I lived across the street from Dora and 4 houses from Ed….we go way back! Robyn knew them both from school, too.

It was great to see them again, even briefly (they were headed to Mackinac Island for the day), but an added pleasure was to meet their twins!

I struggle to remember their names….oh that’s right, Doug and Dave (my brother is named Dave).
Ross and Ryan enjoyed all the company at the coach, but seemed to connect best with these new twin friends!

We went to bed that evening a little earlier than usual, because we were needing maximum energy the next day for an island tour ourselves.

All roads lead to Big Mac

DSC_2005_aWe were 14 miles from the bridge when we realized it was already in our view!

We continue to marvel at the trees that line so many roads, and the lush greenery everywhere we go.

It has rained a number of times since we arrived, but they have been fleeting. The constant breeze keeps the weather patterns moving.

Speaking of moving, how about that boat? It belongs to one of the three companies that ferry passengers back and forth to Mackinac Island. This company’s schtick is the big spray from the hydro-jet engine. Another company uses catamaran hulls, it says for speed and smooth ride.

We’ll probably go over to the island later this week…and have a million photos to share with you!

Water water everywhere

If you don’t like water, you won’t enjoy this part of the country.

On the other hand, if you’re like us and love water, you will be very happy no matter which way you turn!

Creeks and rivers feeding into lakes around every corner. Big lakes, little lakes.

And boats….everybody has a boat!

We made a short run down to Charlevoix, where Lake Charlevoix has a nice channel into Lake Michigan.

The channel crosses under US 31 and requires a drawbridge for sailboats and large power boats. So many need egress and ingress that the bridge raises on the hour and half-hour all day long.

In a very small section of town there are a number of houses whose architect was a local man with unusual ideas.

The house pictured below is considered to be one of his most beautiful, and is known as the mushroom house. The roof curves and undulates, and you can see how the walls get thicker from top to bottom in the left side window opening.

Back up in Petoskey, condos line a rocky bluff along the shoreline of Little Traverse Bay.

Sundown here is always glorious….

We’re well and truly north

Just a quick shot of the Mackinac Bridge, so you can be sure we arrived in the North:
This thing occupies views for miles. It is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the western hemisphere! (The anchorages are the nearest points outside the two huge towers.)

Big Mac.

DSC_1821_aWe made a dash trip up to Mackinaw City so we could get some good pasties for lunch, then took our time coming back….down along the western shoreline.

DSC_1825_aThat turned out well, because the sun eventually came out. We also renewed acquaintances with several fun and colorful places along the way.

One was this Beyond Bliss sign in the middle of nowhere. We had seen it on our previous trip along this path two years ago, but we were in the Big Taxi, and couldn’t stop soon enough for a picture! Turns out the sign is on the outskirts of Bliss Township, just north of the very small town of Cross Village, where the annual Blissfest is held.

Blissfest should not be taken lightly. Each July, 4000 to 6000 people pay over $125 each to camp for the weekend and listen to music on 3-6 stages!

Ahhh, but our memory of this area involved food….Legs Inn!

Thanks to Bruce Cameron’s timely suggestion on the blog two years ago, we steered the coach over some VERY small and twisty roads to swing past an iconic and eclectic restaurant.

Owned and operated by the Smolak family for the past 90 years, this restaurant with its distinctive d├ęcor serves up authentic Polish cuisine.

DSC_1833_aWe were treated like members of the family….Ross spent time stomping on the wooden floor in the bar area, and Ryan made friends with the art work!

Actually, Kathy Smolak spent quite a bit of time with us, and made sure we had an extra serving of dessert and some extra pierogis to take home! She remembered us from two years ago, because Robyn had taken the boys to the outside dining area where there was a bench swing….we almost didn’t leave!

This time we almost didn’t leave, because we enjoyed the food so much and enjoyed talking with Kathy so much and met several area residents who were dining there who offered us the use of their beach access….and Ross and Ryan were having so much fun!

Indeed, a good time was had by all. This is the way dinner should be….good and fun!

Our route on the way home brought us to Harbor Springs on a bluff above Little Traverse Bay. The view below shows Petoskey across the bay, past a peninsula that protects Harbor Springs from the full force of Lake Michigan storms.