From the Braver Institute
Local readers are well aware of the uniqueness of Mackinac Island but for the benefit of the readers spread far and wide who access my column online, I feel a little explanation is in order.
Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw) Island is located in Lake Huron near the eastern end of the Upper Peninsula and north of the Lower Peninsula of Michigan. It is a place some people claim is like stepping back in time. They make that claim because vehicles are not permitted on the island and the only mode of transportation is walking, riding a bicycle, or by horse.
It is the horse part that makes people think of being lost in time. For some reason they choose to ignore everything else that is very modern on the island. Mackinac Island has electricity, running water, internet and cable tv. The people who live there wear modern clothing and those who cycle have very modern bicycles. I have never seen anyone riding a penny farthing during any of my visits (although I am sure some have).
The island is serviced by very modern boats and it has an airport large enough for small jets. I am sure sailing ships have entered the harbor in recent years and I would bet that an old biplane has landed on the airfield, but for the most part the craft that access these places are modern by every measure.
Even the majority of the horsedrawn implements that move people and goods all over the island have wheels with rubber tires very much like those on an automobile.
In the summer Mackinac Island is full of tourists. People arrive by the thousands daily to experience this step back in time, seemingly oblivious to everything that has kept pace with the rest of the world. These tourists jam the streets of the small “downtown” area buying fudge and t-shirts from the countless tourist trap shops located there. A block out of the downtown area things are pretty quiet, but there are times when downtown looks like Bourbon Street during Mardi Gras.
This place is nothing like stepping back in time.
Wayne had never been to the island and he was completely enthralled with the place. It wasn’t the quaintness that enthralled him, it was the fact that there were no vehicles. He hates having a vehicle and within seconds of setting foot on the street he declared that he needed to get a job here and spend the rest of his days living on the island. He was serious. I told him that he should really come here once during the busy season before he makes the decision to move here. He said that he didn’t care how many tourists came to the island, he was moving there. This surprised me since Wayne is more antisocial than I am.
It was the quantity of tourists that kept my father off of the island for most of his life. It wasn’t until a decade or so ago when our entire family rented a vacation home in St. Ignace and we dragged him, kicking and screaming to Mackinac Island for his one and only visit. I took a photo of him on the island so I would have proof that he actually went there. He liked the place well enough except for the tourists, (which at that moment he was contributing to the populace of.) or (of which populace he was contributing.)
I had asked him if he had traveled around town at all and he said that he had. I asked if had been to the bad side of town. With a shocked look he declared that there was no bad side of town on Mackinac Island. I said that there sure was: decrepit, run down old houses with boarded up windows and carts and wagons sitting up on blocks in the front yard. I was joking of course, but I told him that he would never know unless we went back to the island again. There was no way that was going to happen. The tourists were too much for him.
Don’t get me wrong, Mackinac Island is an incredibly beautiful place. It is, in some areas, actually stunning. It really is a sight to behold, but for me there are too many people during the busy months, and I reiterated that fact time and again to Wayne, but it went in one ear and out the other.
At the end of the day as he was taking his golf clubs out of my car and loading them into his truck, he turned and thanked me for changing his life and he shook my hand. I don’t think I’ve shaken his hand since we first met. I think he is seriously moving to Mackinac Island.
The more I think about it maybe living on the island wouldn’t be so bad especially during the off season when the population drops significantly. Once my daughters are out of school maybe I should move there too.
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