"Two notches to port, Paige," said Captain Brett, tapping the spokes in her hands to demonstrate a slight turn to the left. With eyes always on the water, he'd shout another command as he occasionally roamed the deck greeting other passengers. Paige was a quick learner keeping the helm steady on the two hour cruise in West Grand Traverse Bay. This was the third day of our grandma-granddaughter adventure...and this sailing opportunity was perfect for a curious eleven-year-old.
We boarded the Tall Ship Manitou on a late afternoon in Traverse City, Michigan. An authentic replica of an 1800's cargo schooner, we were excited for the 5:30 cruise, a bit nervous about sleeping overnight on this floating bed and breakfast. I wanted something unique for my youngest granddaughter, something her brothers and cousins hadn't experienced. We definitely found it here with Captain Brett.
|Folding the flag with Captain Brett|
Our vacation began when Paige flew alone from Georgia to grandma's house in southwest Michigan. After a day of relaxing and packing the car, we headed north for a four hour drive. Road trips equal snacks, scenery and surprises and we were off to a great start seeing the mysterious shoe tree just north of Kalkaska on Hwy 131. A local legend over the years, no one really knows when and why it came to be...it's just there.
With easy directions and little traffic, we arrived mid-afternoon to a warm welcome from Jaime, owner of the Applesauce Bed and Breakfast Inn in Bellaire. Close to lakes, farms and small towns, I wanted an intimate, cozy, feel-like-family vibe for Paige. What's more inviting than a wrap-around-porch filled with antiques and whimsical creations. We had the beautiful Sonora Room on the first floor. Besides the super comfortable bed, the large bathroom offered a choice of bath soaps....Paige loved soaking in lavender bubbles.
|The Girls' hangout|
Paige found a fairy garden beneath a large tree near the entrance, a backyard hammock, cool signs and rock collections on the porch and intriguing book titles that held lamps and filled baskets wherever we sat. Dinner was in downtown Bellaire each night, evening desert awaited us back at the Inn and breakfasts were a work of art by Jaime and her beautiful presentations. Six miles on M-88 from Mancelona, the Inn is more than a place to stay...it's recapturing the good ol' days of farm fresh food, outdoor living and community pride.
|Steps to Barnes Beach|
Thank goodness for my years of bike riding and yoga, not only did my legs handle the dune, but they quickly adapted to sea-leg mode as we sailed away that evening. The ladder leading below deck was sturdier than the one I used to the treehouse loft last year with Paige's twin brother.Wider steps and handrail accessibility matter if you're traveling with grandparents or little ones.
|Sitting up top, front row on the ferry|
How delightful to be there for lilac season...varying shades of purple bushes and trees bloomed everywhere. We walked both sides of Main Street, bought fudge and ate dinner before settling into our room. We had an awesome view as daylight dimmed and harbor lights beckoned the last incoming boats.
After days of sunshine, cool temps and drizzly rain couldn't dampen our eagerness to go and do the next day. Rain gear on, we toured Fort Mackinac in the morning and rode horseback in the afternoon. Just as Captain Brett went out of his way to make Paige's experience memorable, the maitre d of the ancient Mackinac Fort Tea Room opened the back room and seated us in front of the fireplace. Warm soup and mac and cheese were just right as we discussed the low ceilings and exposed beams of the building and the firing of the cannon.
A quick walk back to our hotel for warmer clothes and we were off to Cindy's Riding Stables on Market Street. A short form to complete for height, weight and ability and we met Feather and Eagle, brother and sister horses best suited for occasional riders like us. I asked for a guide to accompany us through the Mackinac State Park forest. Mariah was awesome! Raised on the island, she told us where the school and residents' neighborhoods were and pointed out her aunt's home as we trotted by. Her love and knowledge of the area was evident. Thanks for taking our picture, Mariah...thanks for making it special for Paige and I.
You learn to trust the words 'sure-footed' while riding a horse. They walked through narrow lanes, stepped over fallen limbs and sloshed through muddy puddles. Thrilled and elated, we forgot we were cold and hungry until we turned the corner and saw the historic
Mustang Lounge. The perfect place for burgers and brews, we said "Cheers" to the woodsy adventure with our wine and Sprite!
Day six began with us riding bikes for an hour and a half. It's about eight miles around the island...we did four. Seeing Arch Rock and sticking our toes in Lake Huron were the highlights.
While planning this trip, I'd discovered this wonderful book for Paige. Its an old story, published in 1989 about a young Ottawa boy born and raised on Mackinac who decides to catch the thief who's been stealing rental bikes. We read a chapter each night, taking turns reading aloud and discussing what we'd seen. "Well," Hunter said, "the Indians didn't call it Arch Rock, but the Pierced Rock. The legend is that when the Great Spirit made his home on the Island of the Turtle, he pierced the rock to make an entrance." His pal Rusty wrinkled his eyebrows. "Island of the Turtle?" he queried.
"Mackinac means turtle in Indian. You see the island is oval and it humps up in the middle."
Complete with maps and descriptions of other island attractions, it has the boys riding along Main and Market streets, up the hills to the Fort and Grand Hotel. Imagine the delight Paige felt as we walked or rode their paths during our visit!
Saving the best for last, we transferred to the Grand Hotel for our last night on the island. The Hotel Carriage delivered us to the front entrance and viola...luxury at it's best in this iconic summer resort known as America's Summer Place. I loved the grandeur and sophistication as we climbed majestic staircases to the spacious
lilac-themed room waiting for us.
After time in the pool, Paige was delighted with the penny candy store on the lobby level....and to my surprise, an arcade! Ever changing, the Grand keeps up with current times and staying family friendly. After this happy, noisy place, we welcomed the quiet serenity of the Parlor during afternoon tea. This was especially touching to me, recalling my 1987 stay with my mother during Esther Williams visit to promote the pool. We enjoyed wine it looks like as mom waited to get Esther's autograph.
Attention to detail is evident everywhere in the hotel, but dinner in the Main Dining Room was quite extraordinary. Friendly servers stood nearby, the food was delicious...my five course meal included an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and desert. I had Michigan White Fish with mashed potatoes and Paige chose macaroni and cheese from the Young Ladies menu. We listened to the harpist in the Parlor after dinner, walked the front porch for photo-ops and gathered with other guests in the cupola to end the evening.
As we boarded the Grand Hotel Carriage for the docks the next morning, the bellhop asked Paige if she'd like to ride up front with the driver! What a sweet parting gift...she learned that the horses were half-brothers named Rock and Roll as she chatted with the driver. These moments in time are what she will remember; the unexpected pleasures, the kindness of people each day. I couldn't have asked for a better ending for our adventure!