What is Mackinac Island?
I've been working on Mackinac Island, Michigan for the last few months, and I'm the first person amongst my close friends to ever come here, or even know what it is.
Contrary to what Michiganders think, the whole world does not know about Mackinac, so I'm here to let you in on a little secret.
Mackinac is a Horse Lover's Paradise
There are no personal motorized vehicles allowed on the island.
That's right! No cars, trucks, or any traffic of that kind. Instead, the Islanders rely on bicycles, horse drawn vehicles, and feet to get around.
It all started in the late 1890s. When cars were first becoming popular, some few wealthy souls brought those fancy new contraptions onto the island. The horses were terrified, and since the Islanders were convinced that it was simply a fad that would never catch on, they banned all motorized vehicles.
Quite a few places around the US did the same, including San Francisco. The main difference is those places ended up rescinding that law and allowing cars.
Mackinac Island didn't.
If you stand on main street and just watch the traffic, most of what you'll see on the road is cyclists zooming past. They'll swerve around the occasional, much slower, horse drawn cart or carriage.
Pedestrians fresh onto the island stand in the middle of the street, gawking at everything around them. Then they get mad when drivers yell at them to get out of the road. Many visitors assume that, because there are no cars, they can just stand in the middle of the bloody road.
The also think pedestrians have the right of way.
Horses always have right of way.
I have to admit, I've gotten a lot more comfortable shouting at complete strangers on the street.
My favorite would still have to be: "Please don't play Chicken with my horses! You. Will. Lose."
And how these people can't seem to see 2 2200 pound horses charging up the hill at them, hauling a big red and yellow carriage, I'll never understand. You should know one thing: If you're standing in my way as I'm going uphill, I will run you down rather than stop my horses.
Stopping at the wrong point (a steep portion of the hill) and having to start again is extremely difficult for horses. A huge strain that I'm not going to put them through.
So get out of my way.
The Sights are Beautiful
As a tiny little island (8.2 miles in circumference), Mackinac has a surprising number of incredible views. From both the East and West Bluffs you're treated to completely different sights. One covers the Mackinaw Bridge and the mainland, the other covers Round Island and downtown.
A good portion of Mackinac has bluffs, and yes, there are trails that follow those bluffs. No, I haven't explored them all yet, because we've got 80 freaking miles of trails on this minute little island.
It's basically a thin layer of topsoil over a bunch of limestone so the island has been weathered and shaped by time, and it's quite visible. You could live here your whole life and never see all of it.
It's a Step Back in Time
Sure, we've got all the modern conveniences like a fully stocked grocery store, internet, flushing toilets, showers, etc, but it also gives people a good look at travel and life back in the day.
You walk, bike, or wait for a horse-drawn conveyance.
You slow down a lot, too. I've often seen people sitting in lounge chairs set in front of inns, just chilling with a book, wine, or chatting with their friends. There's less hustle and bustle for the island's visitors. They get a chance to learn how to relax for a bit.
There are some people who can't seem to manage that, and they're the ones who have a hard time here.
The Islanders tend to be very pragmatic, and some would consider them harsh, but I figure that comes from having little to no time in the summer. This is the season when they make all their money, and they have to get enough to last through the winter. They live by the seasons, and few people outside of farmers really know what that's like anymore.
Learn Some Patience, People
It's pretty damn funny, how many folks are pissed off because horses take longer than cars, or require more care.
And it's fucking annoying when they treat horses so casually. Like, I SAID don't touch my horse, so keep your damn hands off! He doesn't like being touched by strangers, and you're making him uncomfortable. The number of times I've wished my horses would go and bite/kick some asshole...
People assume that these horses are completely and 100% safe, when no animal is ever bomb-proof.
So these folks have to get used to walking or cycling everywhere, waiting extra for taxis, and being told No.
I had a group of people try to convince me to take them to the airport when I was heading back to the barn at the end of a long day of giving tours. They promised to tip me really well.
I'm just like NO. My horses are exhausted, we are finally done, and going to the airport would add about another hour. We had to stop twice on that last hill, and the carriage was empty. Not a snowball's chance in hell I'm 'giving you a ride' to the airport. Not even for $100.
That would have been a betrayal of trust between me and my horses.
The number of times I've had people either give me looks of annoyance, or just outright get rude with me, because I've told them to get off the road, or No, I'm not giving you a lift is amazing, and my stories are pretty mild. Other drivers have had to deal with a lot worse.
On the whole, I've enjoyed my time here, and I think that I've grown into myself a little bit more. Mostly because I really enjoy being able to yell at people.
It's a lot of fun.
And you know what?
I haven't even scratched the surface of what Mackinac is. I just can't think anymore, so I'm gonna leave this with you. Have fun!
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