Adventures with mail boxes

It seems many of the year-round residents hereabouts are retired school teachers. And many are very active with woodworking.

Perhaps that explains the creative nature of their actions with mail boxes:
DSC_4346_aDSC_5677_aThere also is the very real problem of the repeated blasts of snow from plows in the lengthy winter time:
DSC_4508_aThen there was this family’s solution to winter snows:

Wooden ships

You’re acquainted with the song “Wooden Ships” by Crosby, Stills & Nash:
Wooden ships on the water very free and easy
Easy, you know the way it’s supposed to be.

DSC_5579_aThere were well over a hundred wooden boats at the marina in Hessel, Michigan this past Saturday, to participate in the world’s largest annual show for antique wooden boats. A few, like this birch bark canoe, were not technically antique, but every one was handcrafted from wood. (click on any photo to enlarge for detail!)

In a day or so, I will add about 20 more photos, and these, to a new section called “Wooden boats” under the tab “Photos along the way”.
DSC_5234_aChris-Craft, Hacker-Craft, and Gar Wood boats, preserved, restored, cherished, and polished to a sheen so smooth and bright I could not actually photograph some of the wood decks…only the reflection of the sky and clouds!
DSC_5275_aThere were over 7500 people to admire and study the boats.
DSC_5410_aDSC_5530_aSome types were hugely popular, with multiple variations of the same size and shape…not just in color, but structural differences from one year to the next, and from customization by an owner.
DSC_5221_aA couple very large boats participated.
DSC_5338_aMany are “daily drivers”. The one above is a 1940 Chris-Craft, and the owner says he uses it all summer long. He has only one special rule for the grandkids: they must throw their life jackets in ahead, then crawl aboard (so the jacket hardware doesn’t scratch).

This boat is interesting in that the vertical lever at the back controls the rudder, so it can be steered by the wheel up front or from the back. It is unique in that the round control on the right side at the back also contains a duplicate throttle & horn. This was designed as a utility boat to haul cargo, so had the flexibility to be piloted from either end!
DSC_5279_aNot all boats were fancy schmancy, but they were all beautiful!
DSC_5449_aThis boat was originally constructed in 1895! The small brass wheel on the right side at the back controlled the rudder by lines that run across the deck. The rear lantern was its own work of art….
DSC_5545_aSpeaking of works of art….
DSC_5288_aThe owner of this boat, talking here to spectators, is the son of the original owner. It was bought in 1930 from the boat dealer here at the marina where this show occurred! The father sold it in 1947, but the son tracked it down in 1972 to the boatyard in Connecticut where it had been abandoned, sitting out for 12 years with the engine cover open! He had it restored in Cedarville by the company owned by the salesman who delivered it to the father when new!
DSC_5515_aThis 1936 Gar Wood was restored bit by bit and piece by piece over 25 years by its present owner, who had bought it from the original owner! The original owner had given it to his son, who proceeded to apply a nice green *paint* job….the father promptly reclaimed the boat! The present owner learned boat woodcrafting and applied the knowledge to this project. He eventually had the Hessel boatyard complete the exquisite decking work.
The final boat in today’s post reminded me of the boat I imagine Cleopatra used. Notice that its fenders are woven rope, and they are connected at the bottoms to a line that can be pulled in one place so that they all move aside for travel or drop for mooring. Ahhhhh, all controls at the ready for activation by finger-tip….

Along the shore

This area of country is about as un-commercialized as any you’ll ever see.

The reason, I think, is the few people who live here year-round don’t need much….they’ve come here for the simple life….and most visitors are relatives of those who live here OR whose families have vacationed here for generations….and they’ve come here for the simple life!

The village where we’re parked can’t support two gas stations….there’s an empty Shell station. The BP station sells t-shirts & hunting licenses and rents videos.

The single grocery store serves two villages, and is closed on Sundays. The single hardware store is a small-town gem, with one of everything under the sun and two of a couple things!

The roads mostly go straight. This picture was shot on a rare hazy day, but see the line of low hills at the horizon? Sault Ste Marie….on the Canadian side…..about 28 miles….up the road that was laid out by a rifle!
DSC_4354_a“What,” I hear you ask, “does this have to do with the shore?”


Know how you go to St Augustine but can barely see the water, and then usually from the moving car window? Tall hotels line the shore….

Know how you can stop along Highway 1 in a dozen places near Bodega Bay? Oops, no room to park because they’re all jammed with people….

The shoreline here is unspoiled and available.

The main road runs along the shore for 35 miles from Interstate 75 (yes, the same one we drove in Dayton every day for 36 years!) east to the end of land at De Tour Village.

The second picture below shows the multiple shorelines that occur with the multiple Les Cheneaux Islands.

The final picture below is the marina at De Tour Village. I’m told most of the large ships going to and from Lake Superior and the Soo Locks travel the channel between De Tour Village and Drummond Island….which is just on the other side of this marina. Maybe we’ll get some shots for you before we leave the area….

In the evening

Every day here begins quietly….no breeze, no boats creaking against the dock, no seagulls calling, calling….it’s very still.

As the shore comes alive, so does the water, and so does the breeze. Little waves begin to cause little creaks from little boats moored near our coach, little motors purr on small utility boats, the seagulls squawk and cry, the wind rustles the leaves, voices carry across the water.

Clouds alternate with sun all day long. Rain on the roof every three nights or so.

We’ve heard a siren once in 14 days.

No one’s in a hurry, not the vacationers whose presence has tripled since we arrived, and certainly not the locals.

Businesses close at 5pm (the bakery at 2p!), but restaurants stay open late…to 8p on weekdays.

It’s 8 now….and the breeze is almost gone, so is the sun, and so are the boats on the bay.

It’s evening.

Hold the onions, please

In this meat-and-potatoes part of our great country, it seems particularly fitting that the most visible feature should be called Big Mac.

We’ve already had fun with you about the Mackinac Bridge, but we keep coming back to it and thought you might enjoy it again, too!
DSC_4861_aMore than an imposing sight, this bridge is a wonder. Consider its size, per the Mackinac Bridge Authority:

The Mackinac Bridge is currently the third longest suspension bridge in the world….[and] the longest suspension bridge in the western hemisphere. The total length of the Mackinac Bridge is 26,372 feet. The length of the suspension bridge (including anchorages) is 8,614 feet. The length from cable bent pier to cable bent pier is 7,400 feet. Length of main span (between towers) is 3,800 feet.

That center section of roadway between the two towers is almost 3/4 of a mile long! The whole bridge is just 28 feet short of 5 miles long.

DSC_4850_aThis November 1 will mark the bridge’s 56th year of operation. Approximately 4 million vehicles cross it every year. It is open all year, even when the Straits of Mackinac freeze solid beneath it. The bridge authority says the pavement in the center span is designed to move from one side to the other as much as 35 feet with enough wind! They point out it would not sway, but would gradually move that far until the wind subsided, when it would gradually return to center. A Yugo was blown off the bridge in strong winds some years ago, when its driver stopped on the inside lane that has a metal grate and a stronger gust blew up from below!

Mostly the Mighty Mac is a large but graceful figure, observed and admired from many angles and from many distances, both day and night.

In the Soo Locks

We’re parked for a month just 33 miles from the US version of Sault Ste Marie, which is across the St Marys River from the Canadian version.

Because the river drops 21 feet at that location, and because rapids caused by such a drop are a total nightmare for large super tankers (and for almost all other boats!), five locks have been built across the river between the two cities.

Canada operates the smallest one, used primarily by pleasure craft.

Of the other four…all operated by the US Army Corps of Engineers…one is officially out of service in preparation to replace it with a much larger version. A second next to it is out of service because of the construction work.

The other two are busy. In just 9 months of the year without ice, they pass about 10,000 ships!
DSC_4585_aThe name might officially be Sault Locks, but even the Corps of Engineers website spells it Soo Locks. This ship was just pulling into the lock as we arrived. It was built in 1942, and is one of the oldest ships working on the Great Lakes; it hauls cement products among the five lakes.
DSC_4591_aNotice the boil of water to the left of its bow. It kept making little adjustments to its direction by briefly powering a front engine for its bow thruster (in the upper right, you can see some of the puff of smoke from the engine’s effort).
DSC_4612_aAfter the ship has crawled into the lock at a slow walk speed, it is tied up front and back. Notice the height of the water ahead of it. And notice the Soo Locks Tour boat and small red tug boat beyond it….going upriver in the next lock.
DSC_4622_aNow notice the rear gate of the lock is closing while a bar drops down that looks like a railroad crossing gate. It contains a cable that would snag a ship if it broke free of its moorings in the lock and moved toward the rear gate.
DSC_4639_aIn a matter of 10 minutes or so, 21 feet of water has poured in through the bottom of the lock and lifted the ship. Here, the upper river level has been reached and the front gate has begun to open. Once the way is clear, the ship’s mooring cables will be released.

The ship has barely left the lock, and already the safety cable bar is dropping and the lock gate is closing….ready for the next ship.


Everything around here exists for the water.

For the couple months of summer, it’s Lake Huron and all the bays and channels and coastline.

For the rest of the year, it’s the precip….five months of ice & snow and 5 months of rain!

I’m only half-serious. The rain is not a season of monsoons, because no weather pattern lasts very long around here…the wind is constant and brings change within minutes!
DSC_4440_aMy point is that everyone has a boat and a snowmobile, and much of the employment involves boats, marinas, and the repair of boats and snowmobiles.

As I wrote the preceding line, an island barge came into view….with a fuel truck!
DSC_4575_aIt was headed for one or more island destinations. Because most of the islands do not have roads, I expect this delivery would involve stopping at multiple docks to fill homeowner tanks with gas for boats and personal watercraft, and maybe heating fuel (it was in the 40s a couple nights ago!).

Yesterday, the same barge came past our dock with a massive load of timbers and rocks to build bases for a new dock somewhere. Notice the wind was blowing so strongly in the direction of his travel, that the barge flags flew ahead! That’s not smoke out back, it’s heat from the engine exhaust in the chilly morning air.
DSC_4454_aThe first photo above shows a homeowner dock and boat house. You can see the substantial bases they build for the docks…to withstand years of use & abuse from waves, boats, and ice! The boat house is similarly substantial, and designed to suit the owner’s taste.

Ha! Again, as I was writing, here came another barge past our dock, this time hauling a completed cage for the base of a dock. Notice his Jolly Roger flag: “Fish or Cut Bait” it says!
DSC_4581_aMoving on, here’s a summer cottage that was really “built in the woods”!
DSC_4431_aIndians have quite a noticeable presence in the UP, mostly in the form of casinos! There is at least some sensitivity about them among the whites in this area, because at some point in recent years, the Indians were granted exclusive rights to fish commercially around here…which put some whites out of work, and forced restaurants to buy from essentially one supplier. Indians are treated separately in many ways, apparently mostly by choice. Here’s their cemetery near our park.
Lastly, we leave you with a scene across the channel. The house is built on top of the boat garage, there is room for multiple boats to dock, there is no lawn or yard to care for, and there is no driveway or nearby road. Ahhhhhhhhhh!