Monday, October 08, 2012

[Travel] Back to the Island

Back to the Island: My third straight year hitting Mackinac Island for the 8 Miler. It's a run around the circumference of the island, a very flat paved road with no traffic (except the occasional horse and buggy) and stunning views. In fact, it's hard for me to imagine a nicer run experience.

Very little ever changes on the Island. Oh the names of the storefronts change, but it's not like you get any new construction going on. You walk down the main street by the docks and, if you have been at visiting for fifteen years or so like I have, you could easily forget which year it is. Oh this fudge shop may have turned into that restaurant, but the buildings are the same, and the lake and boats are the same, and the horse-led carriages are trolling back and forth like they have since time immemorial, and the fort's guns are fired at the same time, and the rock and trees and pathways are all exactly as you left them.

The run is on Saturday, so you head up to the island on Friday, take the ferry over and get settled into your hotel. In this case we found ourselves at Island House. Like most of the island's hotels, it is an older building with, oh, let's call it "vintage" room decor and the thin walls of a more reticent age, but it's postcard-lovely, as evidenced by the multiple weddings they had going on the property.

Friday evening you can carb load and relax. There are plenty of restaurants although you'll find just about everything is standard American fare. Goodfellows, though it looks like a sports bar from the outside, is a one of the better spots -- well prepared dishes towards the Italian side of things (did I mention carb loading?). You'll find a bit more creative fare at Mary's Bistro. In both cases sit on the porch if it's nice.

The next day you're up and running. It's a late start,10 am, so no need drag yourself out of bed before dawn to get to the start. It is usually perfect running weather (although this year there was a tiny spot of rain); just the slightest hint of fall in the air, but not cool enough you need an extra layer. Great views of the lakeshore and Mackinac Bridge. You have finished the race, picked up your finishers medal, ate a banana, showered and are ready for fun by lunchtime.

Late lunch and beers -- feel free to indulge: you're staying another night, couldn't be driving even if you wanted two, and are never more than a half mile walk from your bed. Not only that, even if you dropped unconscious in the street at 3AM you'd probably wake up with your wallet intact when you got prodded awake by a horse dung shoveler in the morning.

We didn't get into that situation, but we did while away the afternoon on the proch at the Pink Pony -- watching the Michigan game and jabber-jawing with other patrons, the bartenders, etc. It turns out the Pink Pony has a resident mink (I called it a ferret before I was corrected) that pokes it's head out now and then in search discarded delicacies. How a mink got on the island is a matter of some speculation. We stayed through dinner and then closed the evening in the bar back at Island House.

Next morning it was get up, pack, and buy some fudge for the poor unfortunates who could not join us. Did I mention how beautiful it was? Can't wait to get back there again next year. It's a perfect birthday gift to myself. If you've never been to Mackinac and northern Michigan, you really owe it to yourself. I can think of a better summer destination.