Big Carbon (?) Footprints…

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My wife and I recently took a bus trip through Michigan to the upper peninsula.

Michigan has two parts; the lower portion, or the “glove” and the upper peninsula, where they’re called “Yoopers”.

One of my first observations is that the further north you go, the more the locals sound like Canadians.

The Canucks probably think the further south you go, the more they sound like Americans.


We went to Mackinac Island where motor vehicles are banned, unless you’re a former Indiana Governor.

The modes of transportation are either bicycles or horse-drawn wagons and carriages.

On a somewhat windy, wet and raw day, we took a wagon ride around the island, pulled by two big Percherons named Apollo and Mario.

The cool temperatures and light rain might have annoyed we humans but with steam rising off the horses, I’m sure it felt better for them.

Mario the elder statesman of the two (11) was slightly smaller than Apollo (9) and seemed to be a bit more motivated at providing the “horsepower” for our ride.

We sat just behind the driver so we had a real close-up look at the horses’ “exhaust systems” which were leaving a significant “carbon footprint” on the roadway.

Maybe “hoof print” is a more accurate description.

Our driver said the island collects the horse residue and it is composted and with several hundred horses on the island during the peak season (June and July), compost is king.

These Percherons are originally from France and they’re known for the intelligence and willingness to work.

Unless you’re Apollo.

Then you need some encouragement.

Percherons are referred to as “dilligence” horses.

Unless you’re Apollo.

The “clip-clop” of horses hoofs on the street is unique as is the aroma of rain and road apples.

You have to keep an eye out for horse residue when you cross the streets.

I did note a guy or two with wagons on the back of their bikes sporting scoop shovels.

Let’s just say these guys were a bit over-matched on the day we were there.

It would be steady work on Mackinac Island, though.

Guess you could say business was “picking up”.

Since  we were there in the off-season, the crowds weren’t huge so there was a lot of elbow room.

We got to Mackinac Island via a hydrofoil ferry which helps ease the ride in rough waters until you get close to your destination and your hydrofoil becomes a shallow-draft boat.

Now, to get from the Michigan “glove” to the upper peninsula, we took the Mackinac Bridge which spans the narrow passage between Lakes Michigan and Huron.

“Mighty Mac” or “Big Mac” (How did Mickey D lawyers dodge that one?) spans 26,372 feet, making it the longest suspension bridge in America.

The Mackinac Bridge an amazing structure that carries I-75 between Mackinaw City and St. Ignace.

By the way, why “Mackinac” and “Mackinaw”?

It’s a French and British thing.

It cost just under $100 million to build this behemoth in the 50’s which would be about $780 million in current day dollars.

I learned that the bridge’s road deck is shaped like an airfoil which provides lift during crosswinds while the center two lanes are an open grid allowing vertical (upward) air flow.

Engineers say the road is stable to withstand winds to 150 miles per hour.

The huge cables that support the bridge each contain 12,580 wires and it takes several years to paint the bridge. The most recent painting took extra long because they had to carefully remove  the lead-based paint first.

If driving across a bridge  makes you squeamish, you are gyphyrophobic.

But no problem.

The Mackinac Bridge Authority Drivers Assistance Program will drive your vehicle across the span for no charge.

Only two vehicles have gone off the Mackinac Bridge since it was built in the mid 50’s and there have been well over 150,000,000 vehicles that have crossed it.

There’s  also a  charitable “bridge walk” every Labor Day (since 1959) and the only other time the bridge is closed to vehicle traffic would be due to high winds.

Urban legend has it that one vehicle (a Yugo) was blown off the bridge by high winds in 1989.

However, the reports I read said that accident was due to excessive speed (by the driver, not Mother Nature.)

We also spent time in Frankenmuth, Michigan.

There’s a fudge shop on every corner…and then some.

We had a great meal at Zehnders with a family-style setting that included sauerkraut and two types of sausage.

Go figure.

Lots of German heritage in the area.

One afternoon for lunch, my wife and I grabbed a piece of cherry strudel and a couple of cups of coffee and it made a tasty and filling lunch.

We also shopped at Bronner’s, the worlds largest CHRISTmas store.

They only close New Year’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

It was the first place I’ve seen that had more Christmas items than our attic..

The business floor space covers 1 and 1/2 football fields and it’s appropriately situated  at 25 CHRISTmas Lane.

Bronner’s is one of those places you need to visit at least once in your life.

The legendary football coach at Ohio State, Woody Hayes, once supposedly said, “To get to that “school up north”, you go north till you smell it and east till you step in it.”

Maybe Apollo and Mario had something to do with that.



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