Thursday, June 23, 2016

There Somewhere in Time

Mckinac Island is the famed film site of the movie, Somewhere In Time, starred by Christopher Reeves and Jane Seymour in 1980. Mayette was clever for bringing it up and selling it, hence, becoming our primary destination in this Michigan trip. Eight hours and more on the road yesterday was long. Thanks to a good night's rest, all four of us felt rejuvenated and ready to sail into the day's adventure.

We arrived a little late at the ferry terminal, so we settled to wait for the next boat trip to the island. It was already late March but the cold still bit in St. Ignace and an hour is too long to be doing nothing. I took my tripod and dared the chill to take pictures around the port area. My time flew as I watched birds fly over the ocean and into in the sky. The egrets are everywhere in US and I have not seen the lack of them, whether near the lake, in the suburbs, or even in downtown Chicago. I am amazed at how well traveled these birds are and I am oftentimes captivated just watching the graceful flapping of their wings and how unafraid they are from people. It is a comforting discomfort when they come too close. Moments later, I joined my friends back in the waiting area.

A few minutes passed then we boarded. The ride was making me remember of the island trips I had back in the Philippines. I realized that sea water in US is still dark blue, the same for their sky. The boat only bigger. I -- a lot shorter around six foot locals, my skin -- brown, theirs -- white, and some black. On board, too, was a Filipino couple who were tourists like us.

The boat had a decent dock and we were offloaded on a wooden platform. We stopped for the restroom. Across the door, a line of lockers were available for tourists who will pay for valuable/baggage safekeeping.

The island is small. Four hours on a bicycle, they say, is enough to circumnavigate it. Cars were not the popular means of transportation. Call for a taxi and a horse carriage will stop in front of you.

Tours in a carriage was popular in the island but sadly, we arrived a week too early for the season. Bicycles would have been an option but we have arrived too early for the day. The rental shops were closed yet. We were running out of options. The only thing I had left under my sleeves that day were hope and the audacity to start a conversation with locals. The horses have just been brought in from Mckinac City across the island and there were only a number of taxis in sight. We approached the driver of the carriage and asked if he could give us a tour for the price similar with the seasonal ones. He said No as the one he was on was really for taxi purposes. I looked around and there were not too many tourists. Eventually, I got myself on the phone talking with their taxi supervisor to try to persuade her to consent for a quick tour at $15 dollars each for an hour.

I and Mayette took the front seat to get a better view around and preferably good vantage point for photo opportunities. It didn't take us long to silently regret the decision as there was no denying the foul smell of horse poop. We did have the best view --- of the horses' behind, nonetheless! Good gracious!

While the horses trotted, we chatted with the driver. He was accommodating every question while he snorted from his colds which is likely due to the cold weather. Occasionally, I asked to be stopped at certain places for picture-taking. The horses paced by The Grand Hotel, the island's cemetery, the Governors house, some residential houses owned by rich people in Illinois, through forest roads and then back to the Grand Hotel. We tipped the driver for his gracious tour since it had already been over an hour.

Everyone else were feeling contented but I was looking for more. Days before, I have done my research of the sites to see in the island and I knew there was the Arch Rock. We earlier passed by signs pointing to its remote location but my friends said they are not up for a mile walk and would rather just go to the docking area where the restaurants are for lunch. Like a sheep gone astray, I have removed myself from the herd and headed to the Arch Rock myself. GPS and instinct are really not the best of friends but this time they made the best of guides. Like a consolation, internet data was up and so I Skyped with my baby and showed her the beauty of the Arch from the top where the sea waves crash to the barriers that held the well-paved highway around the island. I climbed down a long stairway to the bottom to see the arch somewhat becoming a viewfinder to the big blue sky behind it. Suddenly the long distance felt near. I held the phone like I clasped her hands. I showed her the egrets, the lighthouse, the yacht club, the mini Statue of Liberty, until the phone's battery ran out.

Somewhere in time,
You and I -- one.
Somewhere in time,
The distance, gone.

With barely enough power in my phone, I tried to locate the restaurant where my friends were and got reunited. For now, an enormous meal. Then, the lighthouse at Ludington.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Shoes, Elbow, Tunnel

My pace was twice the usual as I walked to the train station to catch the 8am train to Fullerton where all four of us were to meet for our Michigan trip that Friday morning. I was already running late and I had one more errand to accomplish - buy bread at a Chinese bakery and a cup of fresh soybean curd. I gave my debit card to the cashier but she refused saying they only accept cash. I have become accustomed to card payments in the US that I forgot there are still stores like theirs that refuse to put the card system in place. I ran across the street to withdraw money from an ATM for my payment.

I arrived at the station almost a quarter late with the ordered food. While in transit, I snacked on a custard bun. It was still hot, the bread smelled good and the dough was soft. It was going to be at least almost 8 hours travel to reach the Tunnel of Trees before we cross the bridge to St. Ignace of Mckinac ("mckinaw") Island. I have already booked our hotels the night before so we didn't have to worry about it.

Time flew slowly when there was dead silence but when there were lots of conversations and music, it ticked unnoticed. The seat next to the driver is always assumed to take the responsibility of keeping the driver awake, fed, and quenched. Friends at the back seat rest any time they like but they make good support and fillers when the alarm guy runs out of tricks and perky distractions. I put on the alarm guy suit quite fast and once the music tuned up, I started the painstaking entertainment. It's fun traveling and I didn't mind taking ownership of responsibilities others would refuse doing.

We probably just stopped twice before finally making it to the tunnel of trees. The first, at the shoe tree in Salem, Michigan. We had to do a U just so we could stop and take pictures of the tree that had so many hanging shoes. Several pairs of shoes were tied by the lace and hang on the tree branches. They have gotten too many that it looked like the tree was in season for shoe flowers. It turned out according to history that one man threw a pair which other random strangers took notice and followed suit. The whole madness has been going on for several years now that legends have been made up. No wonder I felt creepy when I stood and stared. One legend say those were originally shoes of a murderer's victims.  Nahhh!! ---- The second time we stopped was to fill our gas tank.

Finally, the tunnel of trees. As soon as we found a a spot that had beautiful tree lines on both sides of the road, we sat our tripod and readied our cameras for a quick, risky, mid-road photoshoot. People reason that picture taking isn't necessary when traveling. They are absolutely right. I had a similar frame of mind when I started but call me a liar if it does not make traveling far better than without it. You see, pictures are the ones that make you remember when you start forgetting. And they tell the stories even when we have long departed.

As soon as the snapshots were taken, we moved kilometers further to reach what they call Devil's Elbow. It has been told that if you walked into the forest you would hear chimes and whispers of the spirits that are keeping watch of the place. Story has it that Indians once inhabited the place and that a water spirit is the site's keeper. The mysticism of the experience was quite exciting as we were teasing each other for unnecessary chills and anxiety.

It was growing dark and we had to make it to Mckinac Bridge to reach our hotel in St Ignace. The grandeur of the bridge's architecture was an effective distraction to our slightly hurting stomachs. We have not had a decent meal since we left that morning and we were determined to make it up with an enormous dinner. A small Chinese restaurant near St. Ignace bay would have been nice but it has been closed for a couple of years already. We ended up in a nearby pizza shop that served chicken wings. As soon as it was dished out, we dug in unable to speak until we had our fill.

"Tonight we rest. Tomorrow --- the Mckinac Island.

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