Monday, July 26, 2010

Aruba, Jamaica . . . Michigan!

So based on these pictures you might think we have suddenly been teleported to Jamaica.

Actually, we stopped in yesterday at Mackinac Island, Michigan. (Pronounce it Mack-i-NAW,  not Mack-i-NACK, or else they'll know you are from away.)

The limestone substrate and shallow waters combine to create this tropical effect, with turquoise water and white beaches.

Another cool thing: The island's been a tourist destination since just after the Civil War, and back when the automobile was a novelty, the town fathers decided to ban it. Cars are STILL banned, and residents and tourists get around on bikes or in horse-drawn carriages. (Pix on next page.)

Elegant carriages take visitors to hotels and restaurants. Note the fudge shop in the background--there's one in every block, it's the "salt water taffy" vacation souvenir of Mackinac.
I had read about Mackinac Island years ago and somehow came away with the impression that it was small and old-fashioned, just a few hundred residents and Victorian cottages--kind of like our family island in Massachusetts (where the cross-gabled board-and-batten summer house is virtually unchanged from its 1880s original appearance) but with neighbors. In my mind everything was sepia-toned and dusty.

In fact, Mackinac Island is more  like Walt Disney's VACATION ISLAND!  Where you Travel Back in TIME!  Everything is technicolor and either brand spanking new, OR old, but so spiffed and fancified as to look new.

No, we didn't actually go parasailing!
Don't get me wrong, it's still a cool place.  We had the most beautiful bike ride ever, eight miles around the perimeter of the island, on a road shaded by fragrant cypress trees, looking out at white cobblestone beaches.  One place where the newness was appropriate was a re-creation of an 1820s general store.  Usually you see this kind of tourist attraction stocked with supplies from an antique shop, with yellowing labels and rusty cans.  In this particular store, everything was in spanking new wooden boxes stenciled in sharp black, or in crackling fresh paper, neatly folded and tied with rough string: necessaries like bottles of ink, cones of sugar, and sewing needles.  Everything was fresh and new because after all, when people actually went to a store back in 1820, the packaging WAS new!

We had docked the Dragonfly across the bay in St. Igance, so we traveled to and from Mackinac Island in a high speed "hydro-jet" ferry that took just 10 minutes to cross the four miles of water. These ferries shoot back and forth to the island continuously, putting up rooster tails of spray like giant jet skis.

Cap is calculating "fossil fuel burned per person per mile traveled."  Solar boats beat hydro-jets in THIS dept.
It was startling to see boats go so fast--and startling to be ON a fast boat.  Earlier in the day, when the Dragonfly made the crossing, it took us an hour and a half traverse the same stretch of water.   (Top speed of hydro-jet v top speed of solar boat? Do the math!)

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