Saturday, August 17, 2013

YOOPERS!!

The "Mighty Mac" sounds like one of the hamburgers we've been eating in Michigan, but to most Michiganders it's the Mackinac Bridge, a 5-mile-long bridge which links the Lower and Upper Peninsulas, and is the third-longest suspension bridge in the country.  In 1957, the Mackinac Bridge finally united both parts of Michigan after 120 years of being divided by the Straits of Mackinac.  The first permanent settlement in Michigan was not Detroit but Sault Ste. Marie, and that is where we begin this chapter.
The Mackinac Bridge - connecting Lower and Upper Peninsulas
Entering Upper Peninsula
Sault Ste. Marie is synonymous with the Soo Locks, the world's largest and busiest locking system, a crucial link for freighters passing between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  This week we are staying at Aune Osborn Park, located on the St. Mary's River, and on an average day about 30 freighters pass right in front of us.  The highlight of the day for many is when one of those 1000 foot freighters pass by, because they sit out in chairs for hours waiting for the next freighter. We enjoyed a 2 hour Soo Locks Boat Tour which took us through the American lock, and then returned through the Canadian lock.   Actually, it is quite interesting to see a huge freighter raised or lowered almost 21 feet by gravity.
Ship on St. Mary's River; Sault St. Marie, MI

Freighter seen from shore of Aune Osborn Campground

Entering Lock #1 - Soo Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, MI


Canadian Lock - view of International Bridge


Historic Canadian Locks
Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada
Our friends from Florida Grande, Dick and Lynn Callaghan, were also visiting Sault Ste. Marie at the same time as us, and we were able to enjoy several travel adventures together.  They are staying less than a mile from us at the Soo Locks Campground.  People up and down the St. Mary's River never get tired of waiting for the next ship to pass.  

Almost every road in the U.P. is "off the beaten path", so one very cool Michigan Saturday morning we took a scenic road trip to the intriguing Les Cheneaux Islands 36th Annual Wooden Boat Show in Hessel, MI.
  






This was definitely a day filled with jaw-dropping surprises as far as wooden boat shows go. The photos don't do justice to the beauty of the boats.  Guess which name we liked the most if we were to ever get a boat?!

Another afternoon the four of us took a very interesting drive to the desolate Whitefish Point Lighthouse (the oldest active lighthouse on Lake Superior since 1849), which is located on a remote peninsula that juts out into Lake Superior.  We loved the sandy beach (no sharks, no salt), the small dunes, and the unbelievable beautiful rocks which are all over the beach.  This area marks the eastern end of an 80-mile stretch that sailors knew as the Graveyard of the Great Lakes.  There have been over 300 recorded shipwrecks in which 320 seamen have died in this area.  
Whitefish Point Lighthouse -- MI
Whitefish Point Beach - MI
Lake Superior
 Back to the rocks:  RV will confirm that we are officially The Long, Long Trailer, and are worth our weight in beautiful Lake Superior rocks (which have been pushed down for years from glaciers in Canada).  No kidding - while Lynn and I were collecting our rocks a man next to us found a brown diamond!   The scenic and winding road to Whitefish Point is very beautiful, but remote.  Although we were told the biggest population of moose and bear were in this area, we think they may have been away at a wildlife rally somewhere else.   The only one we saw was at Timber Charley's Restaurant in Newberry, MI!
Timber Charley's Restaurant
Newberry, MI
Mailbox in Michigan
 Sault St. Marie is a city where the downtown is lined with tourist and gift shops selling rubber tomahawks and "I-Am-A-Yooper" refrigerator magnets.  So Soo seems to be flourishing at this time because of the traffic coming over from Ontario, Canada to shop.
Upper Peninsula Flag - Michigan
The 2-mile long toll International Bridge rises to 124 feet above the St. Mary's River and brings Canadians over to shop, buy fuel (because it averages about $6.00/gallon in Ontario), and receive more value for their money.  To enter Canada or the United States by automobile you would need to drive about 500 miles to the west or about 300 miles to the east, so this bridge is very important.  We traveled into Ontario one day during our visit and had quite the unbelievable adventure of our RV-ing lifetime we will tell you about in our next chapter!   You betcha!
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