Despite the time shift Saturday with the jump to the Eastern time zone, dawn is dawn and my watch may have indicated 6:15 but it still felt like 5:15 to me. A defused muddy light bled through the tent fabric as I lay there contemplating more sleep. An hour later I was dragging myself from my dry confines only to see I was behind the curve: Milo already had his tent down and his bike was packed. He wisely checked weather and had gotten that chore out of the way before the rain. As if on cue, the first drops fell as I started to break my site and by the time I was loaded a steady drizzle was upon us. We set off north and had breakfast in the town of Marion at Ronnie’s Lunch Box, your typical small-town café where everyone knows each other. We were seated at a table overlooking a passing stream, our waiter informing us he’s pulled more than one fine trout from its waters. Nice.
After breakfast we continued north under a wet sky and decided on Interstate 75 to minimize our soak time. Fifty miles south of the Mackinac Bridge, the rains stopped but it was still cold… about 45 degrees and windy. The trees were falling behind in their foliage display and most were still bare, reluctant to tempt a late season snowfall. Just south of the bridge we stopped for fuel and all were in agreement that camping tonight would be unpleasant at best. We crossed the bridge and paid a $4 toll on the north side, the lead bike paying for all four to expedite the process. Turning east on Mi-134 cheery green pines outnumber the stark deciduous skeletons of the forest. Once in the town of Hessel, we stopped at the Islander Bar to formulate lodging plans for the evening. With their banner promising Food, Drink and Entertainment, we received all three as soon as we sat down. Our entertainment took the form of the interesting decor with a tasteful mass of antiques and bric-a-brac covering the walls, shelves and ceiling. The friendly locals provided helpful information as to where to stay and things to do while in the area. One suggestion was the Lakeview Motel and Cottages just a hundred yards west of the bar. I wandered over to seek the proprietor, Paula, but only found a handyman working near the pier. The Lakeview lives up to its name with the cottages and motel rooms facing south for expansive vistas of Lake Huron. Off-season timing and miserable weather produced an empty parking lot devoid of guests. Later, we found Paula and negotiated a decent rate for two nights landing in a three bedroom cottage with kitchen. The living room had a sleeper sofa so everyone had their own warm, dry space for only 20 bucks each night. A small corner grocery sold us eggs, bacon and vegetables to supplement our provisions. A bunch of beers were our guests that evening as we cooked dinner and watched the waning light die under a monotone grey sheet of cloud over the harbor.
Today we took a suggestion received last night and rode four miles east to Cedarville for a free tour of the Great Lakes Boat Building School . The school was established in 2006 and has 15 full time students honing their skills and knowledge during the two year program. Tuition is $12,000 per year not including room or board. I had no idea such craftsmanship still existed in the United States! Hand built wooden boats meticulously carved, sanded and sealed are functional works of art. Boat lovers take note: there is also a maritime museum in town and each year, Hessel hosts a Antique Wooden Boat Show in early August.