The Worst Mainland Trip of My Life: A Timeline

11:00 am  – I leave my house with an empty duffle bag intending to catch an 11:30 Star Line ferry to Mackinaw City, and from there to the Wal-Mart in Cheboygan to stock up on groceries.  There’s not a lot of options on the island so most residents make these trips occasionally.

11:16 am – I arrive on the dock and join a conglomeration of lines along with a bazillion other people.  It’s pouring rain so even though it only took me a few minutes to walk through town, my duffle and I are both soaked.

11:28 am – We’re supposed to leave in two minutes and the boat hasn’t even arrived from the mainland yet.

11:40 am – The 11:30 part 1 boat departs.  Since there’s 800 gajillion people trying to take this boat and nobody wants to sit on the exposed top decks because of the weather they’ve actually sent a second boat, but it’s not here yet so I’m still standing in the rain.

11:48 am – I finally board the ferry that was supposed to leave eighteen minutes ago.

11:55 am – The 11:30 part 2 boat casts off.

12:00 pm – Some guy starts clapping & singing, trying to get everyone else to join in.  I find myself desperately missing the boats that only have a handful of locals on them, where everyone is basically asleep.

12:33 – I debate briefly how best to reach my car.  Star Line has a shuttle service, but there’s a lot of people who also want to take it so it might be faster just to walk.  In the end the rain & cold win out and I board the van, telling the driver where I’m going.

12:45 – The shuttle driver has dropped off everyone else, I think I must be next but he appears to be driving in circles.  He’s going through all of Star Line’s outlying lots, so I figure he’s looking for other people to pick up as he makes his way to my destination.

12:50 – The driver stops to pick up someone, as he gets back on from bringing in her luggage he turns to me & says “I’m sorry, was I supposed to drop you off somewhere?”

12:55 pm – I reach my car, fully two hours after I first left the house.

2:30 pm – Having finished my shopping, I park my car and call for the shuttle to bring me back to the dock.  I had debated with myself here as well, but I wanted to make the 3:00 boat and it was still raining, so I decided again not to walk.

2:50 pm – I call the shuttle again, as nobody ever came the first time.

2:55 pm – The shuttle finally arrives.  It only takes a couple of minutes to get back through town and since the last boat left so late I figure I’ll probably still make it.  The shuttle stops to pick up someone else; when I ask if we’ll make the 3:00, the driver says we will.

3:02 pm – The shuttle pulls up to the dock right at the moment the boat is pulling away from it.  I watch it disappear into the fog, wondering why they this departure had to be the only one to ever leave on time and if my frozen food will still be frozen by the time I get it home.

3:15 pm – I rescue my cookies from my duffle bag so they won’t be obliterated by having a bunch of other people’s stuff thrown on top of them.

3:45 pm – I board the returning ferry and take a seat next to a window, the sill of which contains a puddle of rainwater and approximately 1,387 dead bugs.  Water keeps dripping on me but at that point I couldn’t get any wetter so I keep my seat.

4:04 pm – After an hour sitting around listening to Star Line employees gossip about Tinder and wondering if my glass jars of spaghetti sauce will still be intact after being manhandled by the luggage crew, I am finally heading back across the Straits.

4:25 pm – Having reached the island I find my bag buried under two others.  It’s not raining anymore but it’s still cold, and rather than park the luggage carts in the shelter they’ve left them out on the wet dock in the wind.  Aside from the couple of hotel porters milling around snagging the handful of pieces going to their respective properties, nobody is doing anything to take the luggage off or see that people get their bags.  I end up chucking the top bags off myself to get my stuff and get out of there.  By some miracle my food is still intact and relatively frozen.

This Week (OK More Like This Month) in Awkwardness

I completed my application to become a student at the University of South Florida in the winter.  o_O   I still have to send them some test scores & transcripts but Phase 1 is out of the way.

Mostly I’ve spent these last couple weeks getting back into the swing of island life.  Recently I’ve realized that crazy weather is one of my favorite things about this place.  Arizona got dull because it was the same every day; blue skies and sunshine get old after a while.  Here, you can wake up in sunshine and walk to work in fog, a wild storm will come out of nowhere followed by an incredible rainbow, it might snow in the morning and then be blazing hot by afternoon.  This time of year is especially rocky.  Every once in a while it decides to be spring for a day, but mostly it’s still winter.  The early trees are just barely budding, and it occasionally bursts out raining with almost no warning.  30 miles south of here it’s summer.  But I love it, and for some reason the tourists keep coming through the wind and fog to spend their money on sweatpants and winter coats once they get here so I guess it’s all good.

A rainbow in a harbor with storm clouds in the background. Mackinac Island, MI, USA. Shutterstock(R): 166408127 R iStock: 31374616 4 Sales

Prints of this photo can now be purchased here.


Book (Re)Finished:

Warriors Don’t Cry, by Melba Patillo Beals.

Melba Patillo was fifteen when she was chosen as one of nine African-American students to be the first to integrate Little Rock Central High School.  I read it a few years ago and picked it up again after I visited Central.  Her first-person account of that year is stunning.  For me, growing up 40 years later in the north, the extreme reaction she describes white citizens having to the very idea of school integration is almost unfathomable.  Racism is alive and well in Michigan, but to think that a whole city could care SO MUCH about someone’s skin color that they would hold riots and call out the National Guard to keep a few teenagers out of school is just bizarre.  Anyway it’s a good book and you should read it.


Added to the Travel Map:

Jiayuguan Fortress, Jiayuguan, China – Guards the western end of the Great Wall.

Reykjadalur, Hveragerði, Iceland – beautiful river valley with steaming geothermal pools.

Rutland State Park, Rutland, Massachusetts – contains the ruins of an abandoned prison.

Appuldurcombe House, Isle of Wight, England – abandoned manor house said to be the most haunted site on the island.

Deutsche Demokratische Republik Museum, Berlin, Germany – dedicated to the communist East German police state.

The Totalitarian Art Gallery, Amsterdam, Netherlands – covers the art & design styles of communist states.

Montemor-o-Novo Castle, Montemor-o-Novo, Portugal – abandoned ruin.

Wistman’s Wood National Nature Reserve, Devon, England – a beautiful wild forest.

Museum of KGB Cells, Tartu, Estonia – original holding rooms in the basement of what was once a KGB headquarters.

Bay of Nouadhibou, Nouadhibou, Mauritania – people just abandon ships here for some reason, so there’s wrecks laying around all over the place.

If you haven’t noticed by now, today’s list should make really obvious my bizarre fascination with all things Communist.  Not that I AM a Communist (although I don’t think it would matter if I was), I just get caught up in things that are so completely different from anything I’m familiar with.  North Korea is my ultimate goal of state-controlled weirdness, although I doubt I’ll ever be brave enough to actually go there.  In lieu of a country where they take your phone on arrival and don’t let you go anywhere without a chaperone, I keep finding European museums centered on the Soviet Union and East Germany, or Cold War sites right here at home.