We are slowly but surely making our way down Lower Michigan. The Upper Peninsula sent us off with another gully washer of a storm, but taking the day off on Mackinac Island helped restore the soggy day. Bikes are not allowed across the Mackinac Bridge (the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere), so we had to take the ferry to Mackinac Island to get to Lower Michigan.
There are no cars on the island and all transport is done by horse or bike. The curbside recycling was being collected on a horse-drawn wagon, and FedEx packages were being delivered similarly.
We rode the eight-mile bike trail around the island and were surprised to see so many people still gape and point at our triples despite touring a motor-less island.
We toured the British fort (to include a demonstration of cannon fire!) and sampled the infamous fudge, all while the kids tried to convince us that a bike and horse-populated island is where we should aspire to land post-tour. On the ferry to Lower Michigan we sat by two brothers who inquired about our bike tour to find out that we had stayed with the same beloved Warm Showers host in Montana, Farmer Fred and Lucinda, almost exactly a year apart from one another. Small world!
We were without any Warm Showers hosts for our ride through the Upper Peninsula, but down in the mitten we have already stayed with two. After riding through Michigan’s Tunnel of Trees all day, we arrived at our first Lower Michigan’s hosts’ house, where they included us in their potluck with friends, let the kids help in their garden, offered Otter some tips and inspiration for his whittling, and taught Old Man and me how to play euchre.
The second couple welcomed us on a work night, fed us well, let us do laundry (which had reached critical mass!) and recommended nearby lake shore exploration to entertain the kids as we cycled through showers. The willingness of childless households to allow our noisy invasion continues to surprise us and warm our hearts.
All along the way, the kids have had various opportunities to play along Lake Michigan. They cannot get enough of it! Swimming, digging, and exploring for hours a day.
Tango really wants to move somewhere along a beach. Who wouldn’t? Old Man and I have watched the sun set on the lake twice and continue to marvel at the lake’s enormity.
The biting insects have toned down significantly since crossing the Straits of Mackinac, and the steady breeze off the lake has offset the otherwise crushing humidity. However, the rodent and raccoon populations have upped their games at our expense. We unwittingly transported a field mouse in one of our trailers in western Montana and quickly learned that our trailers are penetrable and rodents are carb addicts (maybe they are not plagued by wheat bellies?), so we started keeping any opened packages of carbohydrates in our tent with us overnight. Most campsites do not have bear boxes, we do not have a car in which to securely store our food, and stringing it up in a tree seems more like a dumb waiter service for the delinquently inclined, tree-climbing pests. The further east we get, the bolder the rodent population gets. Recently, something chewed open our bag of cashews.
Okay, so all open packages of carbs and nuts are at risk. Got it. The next day I came back from the beach to make dinner to find the unopened bag of trail mix chewed open (at the bottom), and the picky bugger distributed all the dried fruit throughout the trailer in pursuit of the nuts exclusively.
Since the bag was unopened we assumed there was no scent to betray its contents and tempt the thieves. Apparently, we were wrong. Old Man uttered a crude name for the criminal-at-large (I see no need to repeat it, even though Tango has already repeated it loudly enough for the entire campground to hear many, many times), Ziploc bagged the compromised bags and stashed them with the open carbs in our tent. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. to hear the rustling of a plastic bag. I woke up Old Man and told him I thought that raccoons were in the trailer. I have no sense of direction when inside the tent (it doesn’t help that our site layout changes everyday), but he does, and he pointed out that the trailer was in fact in a different direction away from the noise. The rustling continued, so Old Man flashed his head lamp outside and the nefarious critters immediately scattered. We went back to sleep. Old Man was up first in the morning and I asked him if the raccoons had in fact gotten into the trailer. Nope. Instead, they pursued a much more daring maneuver: they tore open our tent and grabbed the food that was sitting right next to me as we slept.
Our bodily presence proved undeterring. Our loaf of bread for that day’s lunch was destroyed and abandoned on the road, where the noise of rustling plastic had been heard. Really?! This breaking news quickly spread across the kids as they each emerged from their tent, their leprechaun-hunting detective skills immediately and joyfully re-awakened, and Old Man’s crude name for the thieves was swiftly reinstated. Today, as we ate our lunch at a park, we looked up to see a squirrel carting off our flat bread. The boys gave chase and the beastly squirrel capably drug it up a tree a good 30 feet, and tauntingly ate it, safely out of our reach, as we watched in defeat.
Otter’s desire for coonhounds, inspired by Where the Red Fern Grows, is quickly gaining parental support.
We have about 260 miles to go to our respite stop at the southern end of Lake Michigan, and boy are we ready for a week off! We’ve been at this for four months and to have a break from near-daily camp set up and break down, a few days off that are not consumed with errands and civilization-based catch-up chores, and secure food storage that includes refrigeration will feel decadent. In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy the beautiful views and tasty fruits of Michigan as our route bounces back and forth between the lake shore and orchards.