Before leaving Sault Ste. Marie, we toured the Museum Ship Valley Camp. The Museum Ship Valley Camp was built in 1917 and retired in 1966. After 1966, the 550 foot long freighter was permanently docked on historic Water Street and transformed into a museum. The Valley Camp offers more than just a tour of her deck. Visitors can explore the wheelhouse, sleeping quarters, and her cargo hold which now houses over a hundred exhibits. I enjoyed seeing first-hand how a freighter works and of the living conditions aboard. Lots of cargo holding space, and this ship is only 550 feet long. I can't imagine the space in the newer 1000 foot long freighters!
From Sault Ste. Marie, we headed an hour south to St. Ignace. We stayed at the Kewadin Casino - St. Ignace. It was a nice stay, with electric and water hook-ups for $15 a night. We also got to use their pool and hot-tub. While here, our main goal was to visit Mackinac Island on Lake Huron. It was a short ferry ride to the island. The island has it's own charm. Automobiles on the island were outlawed in 1898. Today, walking, bicycles, and horse and buggy are about the only way to get around the island (except emergency vehicles). But this isn't a problem. There's a ton of bicycle rental places, horse and carriage "taxi's", and the road around the perimeter of the island is only 8.2 miles long.
Bob and Joyce decided to walk around, while Connie and I elected to take a carriage tour. "Downtown" is quaint, full of souvenir shops and especially fudge shops. This small town has 17 fudge shops (it's a thing here). The island's history is mainly centered around the Great Lakes fur trade from the 17th and 18th century, with many of the buildings used by the John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company. Following the Civil War, the island became a popular tourist destination for residents of cities on the Great Lakes. Much of the federal land on Mackinac Island was designated as the second national park, Mackinac National Park, in 1875, just three years after Yellowstone National Park was named as the first national park. Just 20 years later, the property was turned over to the state, so most of the island is now a Michigan State Park.
Our 2-horse carriage tour's first stop was near the Grand Hotel's Livery Stable. The Grand Hotel is a Victorian style hotel built in 1887. You have to have deep pockets to eat and stay here. We passed on the buffet lunch for $50. They even charge $10 just to walk in and look around. But it was interesting to see the wide variety of carriages. One of the fancy carriages on display (and still used) has had 5 different U.S. Presidents ride in it. We then boarded a larger carriage pulled by a 3-horse team. We strolled along the woods of the island getting a narrated tour. The next stop was at the historic Fort Mackinac. We had arranged to meet Bob and Joyce here for lunch.
Fort Mackinac has been completely restored and features regularly scheduled demonstrations of cannon firing and musket firing. Costumed interpreters highlight different aspects of the forts history. Fort Mackinac was built by the British, and turned over to the USA in 1796, despite loosing the Revolutionary War and the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. However, the British regained control of the fort in 1812. It was the first shot fired on land in the War of 1812. One cannon shot was fired by the British, and the Americans surrendered the fort. There were only 60 soldiers in the fort who didn't know that war was declared, and they were going to be attacked by over 500 British soldiers and Indians. Probably a smart decision to surrender, especially since they were just told to leave the island.
We spent a couple hours touring Fort Mackinac then hopped back onto a carriage. After another brief stop to change back to a 2-horse carriage (smaller for getting around town), we headed to the Grand Hotel. Connie and I departed the carriage tour here to walk around this large hotel's outside grounds. We elected not to pay $10 to look inside. It was a short walk back into town where we met Bob and Joyce for the return ferry ride to the mainland.
From St. Ignace, we drove across the Mackinac Bridge. The Mackinac Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan. Tthe 26,372-foot-long bridge is the world's 22nd-longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere. Our destination was only 60 miles away to the Camp Grayling RV Park operated by the Michigan National Guard. This was a short, 1-night stop. A nice RV Park for $20 a night, but it's normally full of campers who live here for the season. Upon arrival, we had a nice surprise. There was an Historic Artillery competition being held nearby. We watched approximately twenty Civil War and Spanish American War field guns being fired in competition. They were firing real (inert) cannon balls at targets up to 1200 yards away. We've seen cannons fired in demonstrations before, but it was interesting to hear and see the cannon balls flying through the air. On many of the shots, we could see them land and bounce along.
After leaving Camp Grayling, we drove 90 miles to the Bay County Fairgrounds in Bay City. For $15 a night, we got quiet sites with electricity. Our goal in coming to this area is mainly to visit the nearby town of Frankenmuth. Connie wanted to visit the world's largest Christmas store -Bronners Christmas Wonderland. This is a very large Christmas store, with over 2 acres of store, employing up to 700 employees. The did seem to have anything you could want for Christmas!
The next stop in town was the Bavarian Inn for a good German lunch. While it was good, I've had better. Connie and I lived in Germany for 3 years (1983 - 1986) and miss the good German food. We haven't found many places in the USA that is the same. Then it was on to the oldest "craft" brewery in Michigan - the 150-year old Frankenmuth Brewery. Bob enjoys visiting the various breweries and trying the local beer. This brewery had a special meaning for him and his dad. While in the area, we also visited another Cheese store and other shops in town. Overall, everyone had a nice day in Frankenmuth, MI.