Mackinac Island Adventure

Like most pilots, my spouse does not share my obsession with flying.  (Imagine that!)  She does, however, enjoy going places.  Belonging to the club has afforded us a middle ground that works well.  I get to fly and she gets to go places we wouldn’t normally go.

Mackinac Island
Mackinac Island is one of those places.  Just off the southern tip of Michigan’s northern peninsula, it is not accessible by car.  In fact, they don’t allow cars on the island at all.  For us, there are 2 ways to get there…  We could drive to Mackinaw City or St. Ignace and take the ferry, or fly.  By car and ferry, the trip would take 7-8 hours, each way, assuming we hit the dock when the ferry was ready to leave.  By plane, we can take off from Bluffton (5G7) and be there in just over 2.5 hours in the club’s Archer.

Mackinac Bridge

Overflying the historic Mackinac Bridge, we arrived at the Mackinac Island airport (KMCD) on Saturday morning, paid our ramp pass, unloaded the bikes, and headed out for a few miles of biking.  (I do recommend bikes with the snap-on/snap-off wheels!)

2434M at KMCD

Grand Hotel
The Grand Hotel is a great stopping place for lunch.  At about $40 per person, you can tour the Grand Hotel and grounds and dine at the buffet (easily the longest buffet I have ever seen).  The service is top notch, and the food is even better.  This not your typical buffet.  Keep in mind, the hotel was built for the truly wealthy and the amenities are all suited to those with elegant tastes.

Grand Hotel Balcony

Grand Hotel Grounds
After lunch at the Grand Hotel, we watched a baseball game on the parade grounds overlooking the shoreline.  The players and officials played using period dress and equipment.  After watching for awhile, you start to imagine yourself in the 1800’s.

Play Ball
From there we headed up to Fort Mackinac.  While the fort never actually saw a battle, it still has an interesting history and is worth a few hours to witness military life in the 1800’s and witness the cannon and old fashioned rifle firing demonstrations (bring earplugs if you want to get pictures!).

Plug your ears

Keep them pluggedFrom there, we headed to downtown.  The DOWN part is no joke.  There are signs warning that you must walk your bike.  Unless you are a die-hard fitness buff (of which I am not), you will most likely find yourself thinking about the inevitable trip back up.  While in town, it is mandatory to visit at least one of the world class Mackinac fudge shops for which the island is so well know.  Beside, a few thousand calories couldn’t hurt when you start back up the hill.  There is only way back to the airport, and that is up.  And up.  And up a little more.  Once to the top, it is pretty much a nice level ride back to the airport.

While you can stay on the island, we chose to use some hotel points and stayed in St. Ignace.  This is where we have another reason to really love general aviation!  After the 4 minute flight to Mackinac County aiport in St. Ignace (83D), the airport manager gave us our choice of cars for the evening in exchange for filling up the airplane at the fuel pumps!  No charge!  To top off the weekend, there was a classic car show in town, and we were able to watch a parade of amazing restored and customized rods spanning the last 75 years.  It was an unexpected, yet very pleasant, surprise.

On Sunday morning, we took the courtesy car across the bridge to Mackinac City and visited the lighthouse (lighthouses are to my wife what airplanes are to me).  Prior to heading back to the airport, we witnessed a natural aviator strutting his stuff on the shores of the lake, as if to rub it in that he had wings and we have to belong to a club to get them.

Natural Aviator

With the day drawing to a close, we headed back to the St. Ignace airport to drop off the car and the 2.5 hour ride home (she slept like a baby, and I grinned like a fool).  Without general aviation, we could never have made this trip in a weekend.  Without belonging to the club, we probably could not have afforded it either.

For more information on the island, you can visit the Official Mackinac Island website.  For more information on joining the club, click around and get to know us.