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Back to the good ole USA this summer

By Gary Richards • Sep 8, 2018 at 12:00 PM

Well folks, once I got back from my visit to Germany, Austria, Cyprus and Turkey in late June, I decided it was time to see some beautiful and interesting places right here in the good ole USA this summer.

And the perfect place to do so, especially during the hot summer months of July and August, was to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. You see, I have a good friend from Turkey, Selman Yilmaz, who is currently working at the Baymont Resort in beautiful St. Ignace right on Lake Huron overlooking spectacular Mackinac Island as part of the work and travel program that I have been involved with since the summer of 2015. So, at his invitation and encouragement, I drove up to St. Ignace on July 30 and spent the next couple of days exploring northern Michigan with him.

It took me about eight hours to drive from Norwalk to St. Ignace, but once I crossed the spectacular Mackinac Bridge, the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere which connects Michigan's two large landmasses, I arrived at Selman's dormitory just in time for dinner. It was the first time we had seen each other since June 2017, when we were first introduced to one another by our mutual good friend Ali Tufekci in Bursa, Turkey. That evening, Yilmaz and I ate dinner at an amazing Mexican restaurant overlooking beautiful Lake Huron with a fine view of Mackinac Island. Our food was “muy delicioso” (very delicious).

The very next day we caught the morning ferry to Mackinac Island and spent the entire day walking around and exploring this very beautiful and historic island located in Lake Huron. I hadn't been to Mackinac Island since 2000 when I visited the island with my parents so it was nice to be back on the island again. What makes the island so special is that cars aren’t permitted on the island, so you must either walk, ride a bicycle or take one of the many horse-drawn carriages to get around the island.

Despite the fact it was hotter than jalapeno peppers outside, we climbed the steep walkway up to historic Fort Mackinac, which is perched high above the village below it. The view of the island, the village and Lake Huron from the fort is simply amazing. Fort Mackinac was built and occupied by the British from 1781 until the Americans took control of it in 1796. During the War of 1812, the British recaptured the fort and in remained in their control until it was finally given to the United States for good at the war's conclusion in 1815.

No visit to Mackinac Island is complete without a visit to the five-star Grand Hotel with its very famous and impressive longest front porch in the world. The 1980 movie “Somewhere In Time” starring the late Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour was filmed at the hotel and it was fun watching the film again just a few days after I had just visited it with Selman.

The Grand Hotel has become a tourist attraction in and of itself, with people paying $10 for the opportunity to go inside or to simply sit on its famous porch. While Yilmaz and I did neither of those things, we did do some people-watching in the hotel garden and in front of the main entrance to the hotel where the horse-drawn carriages drop off guests or pick them up.

The next day we drove north toward the Canadian border and spent several hours hiking beautiful Tahquamenon Falls State Park with its magnificent lower and upper falls. We both enjoyed the cool crisp air as well as the sight and sounds of the two impressive waterfalls that are located in the middle of this wilderness.

Once it started to rain, we jumped into my car and drove to the interesting city of Sault St. Marie, which is located on the USA-Canada border and is famous for its locks, which enable ships and watercraft to cross from Lake Superior to Lake Huron and vice versa. It was so interesting to watch a ship pass through the locks right in front of us as we stood on an elevated platform above the channel. That evening, we drove back to St. Ignace very pleased that we got to see Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, Lake Superior and Canada (from a distance of course) all in one day.

After having breakfast with and saying goodbye the next morning, I got in my car and crossed the beautiful Mackinac Bridge once again and then drove eight hours back to Norwalk.

Honestly, I had truly forgotten just how beautiful northern Michigan is in the summertime. But once I was back home safe and sound, I quickly reminded myself that once fall comes, the weather cools down rapidly and college football takes center stage again, Michigan will look mighty cold and bitter to me once again.

Gary Richards is a teacher and Norwalk resident who enjoys writing about his travels.

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