Tag Archives: Mackinac Island

Drunk Biking on Mackinac Island*


I hit the island like a tropical storm…wearing makeup and shorts and a sweater and a rain coat. (I’m prepared for anything.)

The confusion at the docks means either I gave my luggage to a porter…or someone just made off with my computer.**

Once I’m checked into the B&B where I’m staying, I dive for a bike to start my two-wheeled therapy.


In a giddy rush, I tackle the 8-mile circumference with stop-and-go glee.

Stop-and-go because everything is a picture.

And I mean, E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.!!!

I’m stopping at every cove, each turn reveals a new sparkling shore.

I even photograph the rocks!

Hand to Rock
“To skip, or not to skip?”


(I chuck it at the rolling surf, continuing my life-long experiment in how much I suck at skipping stones.)

Bike - Wood Mansion
This is new…which is unusual for a national park which limits development severely.




There are oddly shaped trees and new construction–I wonder what the islanders have to say about the double-decker mansion going up on the east side??

BIke - Tree
Make your own caption!


I meander my way past a makeshift driftwood chair and table hosting a solitary cairn.

I stop to chat about this and that before, I’m off again, weaving my way until I am fish-hooked by a marker signifying the filming of ‘Somewhere in Time.’ A rock with a plaque reads “At this site on June 27, 1912 Richard Collier found Elise McKenna” making fact of fiction.

Bike - Is It You
Even on the farthest shore, you cannot escape this movie.


Does stopping to take a picture mean I’m perpetuating the lie?

The omnipresent seagulls make me a little paranoid…I mean, they are following me everywhere.

I stop to write bad poetry about seagulls pinned to the sky by the wind.

BIke - Seagull4
Whenever I see a solitary seagull, I think, “Jonathan Livingston, I presume?”


I circle back to the noisy, tourist-engorged center of town…

Bike - Town
Taken without permission…but they did just stand there blocking my shot, so…


I clickety-click my way to “The Dock Shack” to ask a few questions about the island’s private harbor to make sure a scene in my book will actually work. I’m assured that the larger boats could dock at the privately owned pier at the far end where my heroine meets a watery fate. (Though, not fatal, as she’s only twelve.)

Narrow Escape Route
I took the weirdest tourist photos. I’m lucky I wasn’t reported for crawling around the library trying to get pictures of the interior of a locked building.


I have qualms about whether a golf cart could get through this narrow passage way…but then decide that fiction makes all things possible. (No matter how improbable.)

And then, thirsty, but elated, I belly up to the best scenery you can find–overlooking a miniature golf course. I dine with a view of happy families as far as the eye can see.

Water melon Elderflower Cooler
My innocent-looking Drinky-Winky.


I sip my watermelon/elderflower cocktail–fluffing my violet so it doesn’t get sucked up the straw.

And I listen…

To the “Good Game” family as they cheer each other on:

“Go, Team Justin!”

(If he’s no taller than his putter, that makes him four, right?)

“Go, Team Evan!”

(Stoically, Evan waits his turn as Justin putt-putts the ball to the cup in what had to be eleventy-hundred strokes.)

Everybody is a winner!

“Crack!” this is the sound their sister’s swing makes as she whacks the ball–hard–and it hits the flag sinking into the cup in a single move. I doubt professional golfers could duplicate her efforts.

She’s all poise and nonchalance as she retrieves her ball.

Everyone high-fives each other and they totter off the 18th hole.

As they leave, I can still hear their echoing ‘Good Games’ wafting behind them.

Then there was the artist earlier in the day. I’m perusing her exhibit and overhearing a NSFW conversation about a date that went nowhere.

“And then, I ask him…’Are you a good kisser?’ And he says, ‘I don’t know. You be the judge.'”

The conversation goes in and out like a static-y station on the radio as I move from room to room. I hear the last bit as I bring my purchase up.

“And then he offers me the couch…’Or,’ he says, ‘you can sleep with me, if you want,’…but that was too weird, so I didn’t go to bed with him.”

To me she says, ‘That’ll be six dollars.”

The waiters behind me are bantering, bringing me back to the here and now. Despite the chill of dusk, there is something warm in their words. They speak in drawling tones–a language born under a hot sun, where humidity slows the syllables and hard consonants are too much work.

Is it…French…? Or…Spanish? I can’t quite tell.

When the waiter returns, I start to ask…and then notice under his name, the tag actually says, “I am from Jamaica.”

We chat for a bit and he tells me he’s been coming here for five seasons now. Flying in from Detroit or Chicago and driving up together.

It’s then that I notice his name, and I’m startled into asking:

“Fitz? Isn’t that a German name?”

He looks at me with his soulful dark eyes–a rich brown to match his skin–apparently unperturbed by my rudeness. “Oh yes, there are lots of Germans and Irish in Jamaica.”

I don’t question it at the time…but now I am wondering if he was pulling my inebriated leg?

I borrow a menu from my neighbors–a father and daughter who’ve been sharing the view of the perfectly manicured lawns.

We exchange “Where are you froms?”

Turns out–we live about ten miles away from each other.

I learn that I’ve been sitting next to a member of the cast of Annie–a production run by Hope College.  Ellie tells me that she’s playing “Molly” and that she has a few lines of dialogue as well as singing. She speaks like she’s been in theater for years. She’s ten!

I ask in a conspiratorial whisper, “Do you have a real red head to play the lead?”

She shakes her head. “No, they dyed her hair!”

“Would you have dyed your hair for the part?” I ask.

She considers this. “Well, if it was for a big theater. Yes. Not for just a local production.”

My head is spinning, and not just at the savoir faire of the pint-sized talent beside me.

I eyeball my drinky-winky…

Hey, where’d it go?

I pay my bill, trying not to wince at the total.***

“How much alcohol was in that drink?” I ask Fitz.

“Only a shot and a half of vodka, plus the elderflower liquor.” He seems surprised by my lack of backbone…or knees. “Should I call you a ride?”

I hold up my helmet. “No…’v got my bike. The B&B ‘s not far.”

I pour myself out of the restaurant, slurring my way back to the bike rack. I miss every single horse plop on the way back to the B&B.

Surrounded by families biking, building cairns, playing golf, and being chauffeured by a proud parent from stage to island and back again…I’m tipsy enough to be missing my son.  And hoping he’s having as much fun as I am.

There is no high like the freedom from parenting…but a little elderflower liquor certainly doesn’t hurt.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

*Also drunk blogging…

**Hint…I’m typing on it right now.

***Welcome to the island, all major credit cards can be maxed out here.

Rock-N-Roll Enlightenment

Cairns are found all over the world. People agree–stacking rocks is cool!

Some days all you need to clear your head is to drop a really heavy rock on your foot.     Or several.

  * * *

Summer only half-way over, I sorely needed rejuvenation. I signed my son up for a week of overnight camp. (Cue the Hallelujah Chorus.) I looked forward to this vacation with all the desperation of a convict ticking off the days to parole.  The minute he was abandoned left at camp, I took off to Mackinac Island for two days of renewal.  It was glorious, even with the influx of international sailors celebrating their arrival following a weekend racing from Chicago-to-Mackinac Island. (And by ‘celebrating’ I mean consuming enough rum to float their boats back home.)  Later, I would have my own celebration on the rocks—just not the kind floating in alcohol.

In search of serenity, I biked up hills, some so steep I found myself getting off and walking rather than popping a lung attempting to peddle.  I navigated the 8.3 mile circumference of the island, stopping to take pictures for families and ordering people to ‘smile like you mean it’.  I was caught in a downpour and laughed while my glasses became kaleidoscopes of raindrops I couldn’t wipe off because nothing left was dry.  Biking the island was so freeing; it felt like finally breathing deep after a lifetime hyperventilating.  And everywhere I went, I saw cairns, piles of stones that could have been there for centuries or be gone in seconds, monuments to timeless impermanence.

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Cairns encircle the island like unwieldy beads on an invisible string—representative of the human impulse to leave a sign saying: ‘Killroy was here’.  Some people went for a minimalistic approach: three rocks tiered like granite layer cakes.  Others incorporated driftwood or multiple towers, improbably balanced.  They made tempting targets.  Children delighted in hurling smaller rocks at the delicate structures and shrieked with glee whenever one toppled.  I watched a father and son build their perfect stone fortress and, when asked ‘what was his inspiration’, the man joked he had been IMG_0652thinking of a sandwich he dreamed about.  Apparently all that hard work builds an appetite.   After contemplating the universe in piles of stone, I decided that I needed to construct one of my own.*

Building a cairn takes a lot of patience, perseverance and, apparently, steel-toed shoes.  First, I carefully selected my ‘perfect rocks’.  I came up with the rule that I wouldn’t destroy someone else’s tower for materials.  It would be like peeling the gold leaf off Madonna’s** halo—just not done.   I also decided to build it at the edge of the water—symbolic of nothing more than the fact I didn’t want it in easy reach of kids with projectile weapons. Heaving rocks from their various loci, I waddled over and chucked them down to the growing pile near the water’s edge below.  I loved the cracking sound the rocks made as they hit the giant boulders left behind the last ice age.  I should have thought about how much force one of those heavy rocks had to make the gunshot cracking sound when only tossed from about five feet. But I was never good at physics. Materials compiled, I set out to create an outer structure that encapsulated the inner peace my trip had brought me.  Cue the irony.IMG_0792

My first attempt involved the brilliant decision to build a bridge between two large boulders abutting the water.  They were far enough apart to make this a challenge.  Stack, nudge, stack….splash. Repeat.  No matter how I stacked them, the rocks did not want to obey.  I frowned.  “Hmm, maybe I need a bigger rock?”  This is one of those thoughts that should be accompanied by scary music.  Duh Duh DUH!

For my second attempt, I climbed back up and scoured the area until I found a nice, long, I-could-barely-lift-it specimen.  I can still feel the gritty edges as I tentatively pulled it up. (Tentative due to the overabundance of spiders on the island.)  Once I huffed and puffed my way back, I tossed it down to the pile.  It made an ominous ‘THWACK’ as it hit the rocky shore.  The stones beneath squealed in protest…or warning.

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I bet you can see where this is headed…

I merrily scurried back to building my fortress of solitude and reflection.  I got one, two, three rocks in place.  I precariously balanced my new-found ledge on top just like a toddler might place a heavy book on tiny blocks.  It wobbled a bit, but then settled.  I grabbed my next two questionably-stackable objects and attempted the second story walls.  And this is when the drum roll you can all hear but I am oblivious to crescendos.  I place one rock.  (Audience holds breath.)  I place the second rock.  (Still holding.)  The tower threatens but does not fall.  I consider grabbing my camera, but I decide to place just one…more…rock.  Lifting the almost-perfectly-flat slab, I gently place it like a leaf floating on water…and CRASH.  You’ve never seen such a rock slide. I scrambled to get out of its way.  I almost made it.

Before you imagine fountains of gushing blood, chill.  It missed me.  Most of me anyway.  My fortress of serenity did try to smash my left foot.  The big toe trembled in shock, counted its tinier neighbors to make sure everyone was all right, then declared itself fit for duty.  My toes are awesome that way.  It was about now that my tranquility was sorely tested.  I gritted my teeth, promising: “I will build my tribute to serenity if it kills me.”

After several disastrous attempts—a few requiring water rescues—I started to question how necessary this was to my mental health.  Staring at the uncooperative materials, I was struck by how easy it is to fold in the face of failure.  (Cue sappy, introspective music.  Probably something by Yanni***.) I give up too easily.  It is rare that I look at an obstacle-laden path and say, “Yep.  This is the road for me.”  I recently watched a young woman tackle an impossible course on a program called American Ninja.  If you haven’t seen this, you really should, Kacy Katanzaro’s performance is sheer poetry of motion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XfZFuw7a13E.  Faced with my own challenge, I admitted that, while I will never conquer mountains, perhaps I shouldn’t give up on building my molehills before I give it my very best effort.

Ta Dah!

Arms trembling and toes quivering, I constructed my Zen Temple to reflect inner peace.  True to the nature of the subject, it was finely balanced, fragile and not expected to last.  I managed a few photos, all the while wondering if a stiff breeze would tumble my edifice, burying me under a concrete-hard layer of hubris. But no, I climbed back up the hill, pausing for one glance back, appreciating the calm I managed to achieve despite the setbacks.  It was a good moment.  I walked away, knowing such moments are not meant to last.  Someone or something would come along and destroy my symbolic peace, but, for once, I was okay with that.  That which is torn down can always be rebuilt.

Asterisk Bedazzled Footnote:

* Because who doesn’t want to climb around on hairy, slimy rocks lugging very heavy stones?
**By the way, this is a biblical reference—not a ‘like a virgin’ one.
***No offense meant.  I actually like Yanni.  But he does have a spectacularly silly first name.


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Serenity achieved! All right…now to go buy some fudge!