WOW!!! This was the kind of week with the family you dream about. While it is always good to see the family, to be in a position to bring the entire family together in a great location, such as Mackinac Island, is simply GREAT! It is especially great when everyone in the family truly enjoys each other’s company. I personally did not see a single disagreement all week, which either means there was perfect harmony or they hid it well from me. The addition of 1-year old Liam to the family gathering was a constant source of amusement for everyone, especially Kal and Jenny. The family came from all directions, with Jenny flying in from Florida, William and Kristin driving from Maryland, and Nikki and Chris driving south from Canada after spending a few days camping there. As I mentioned in the previous blog, we picked up Jenny at the Sault St Marie airport on Sunday, which meant we had an entire day with her before William’s family showed up Monday afternoon. Nikki and Chris drove in on Thursday giving us a great weekend. We only had a 1 hour trip from Bay Mills to St Ignace, so we arrived just after lunch and pulled into a nice pull-through site right next to the office. While we could not see Lake Huron from our campsite, we did have a sewer hookups which was essential to handle all the showers all week. Even though the sites are close to each other there is a nice screen of trees providing some privacy. Since the road next to our site was the main exit from the campground and also the way to the dump station, there was a good bit of traffic all week. However, this turned out to be a plus as it provided Liam with something to watch when he was outside. The location was also very easy to get the RV in and out of. I would not want to attempt to back the RV into most of the back-in sites in the campground. In summary, it was a very nice campground and absolutely perfect for the family. William, Kristin, and Liam arrived late in the afternoon and we got them set up in our tent in the area of the campground for tents. This was a bit of a walk from our campsite, but they had a view of Lake Huron from their site and drove the car up each day to bring Liam. Since they only used the site to sleep, it worked out well. I should mention that having five adults was perfect, since this always left at least one adult to watch and play with Liam, but also left 4 adults to play spades whenever we had some free time. Even meals were relatively easy as there were plenty of hands to pitch in. For the most part meals were kept simple so the time spent cooking was kept to a minimum.
Especially after two days spent on the road for William, they were perfectly happy to relax in the campground on Tuesday, although we did discuss preliminary plans for the week. Jenny and Kal were very happy playing with Liam, which gave William and Kristin as much of a break as they could get. Especially since Kal and I visited the area last summer, we were also perfectly happy to just spend the time with our family. We had already seen everything in the area we were interested in. Thus Tuesday was spent relaxing, playing spades, playing with Liam, making meals, and drinking beer. It was GREAT!!
Wednesday started out much the same in the morning with a communal breakfast. The main plan for the day was for William and Kristin to head over to Mackinac Island to celebrate their 9th wedding anniversary with a nice dinner and carriage ride on the island. This meant they were going to leave Liam with the three of us for about 4-5 hours as this was the maximum Kristin could go without breast feeding him. This is a good point to talk a bit about our grandson, Liam. He is all but one year old with his birthday later this month and is just about ready to walk. He has got crawling down to a science employing three different techniques on his knees, toes, and a combination. He is also learning to climb and come down stairs and the three steps we have in the RV was perfect for him. While inside the RV he had the run of the living room and bedroom if someone was with him. He is not yet strong enough to open any of the cabinets so just keeping things out of reach was sufficient to “baby proof” the RV this year. Future visits will be more of a challenge. When outside he was confined to someone’s lap or to our collapsible wagon, which worked great for this purpose. We don’t own a rug to go on the ground since it is so hard on the grass and the ground around our RV was dirt and rocks. Not easy to get around on your knees. Liam is a very happy baby, laughing at all the funny sounds and faces of his aunts, uncles, and grandparents. He is perfectly happy playing by himself on the floor or sitting in someone’s lap. He and I had an enjoyable time playing with small rocks, of which there was an abundant supply outside. I could keep a constant supply of rocks in the cupholders of our chairs for him to pull out and examine before dropping them. I even filled up his pockets with small rocks for his mother to discover when she returned from Mackinac Island. That made for a good laugh although we were still picking up rocks inside the RV for the next couple of days. We had a great time playing with Liam all evening and he made it just fine for nearly 7 hours since they missed their ferry from the Island and did not get back until after 9. Let me just say that Liam has the personality and smile to just light up a room. Although I am just a little bit biased.
Thursday morning was again spent relaxing around the RV which means playing with Liam and playing spades. If you are getting the idea that this family plays a lot of spades, you are correct. There is usually a game going on with people replacing each other as needed. Even Kristin and Chris have become very good spade players and are always ready to play. Bryna (Nikki) and Chris pulled in early in the afternoon from their vacation in Canada. After getting them set up in their brand new conversion van, we had to take a look and find out about their trip so far. Nikki certainly has caught the “camping bug” and Chris seemed excited about the experience as well. I hope they find many opportunities in the future to get out for at least a weekend every now and then. Once again their site was a short distance from the RV as they wanted to have a view of Lake Huron and it was a great view with the beach right outside their camper. Once again they were perfectly happy to relax at the RV for the rest of the day, playing cards and drinking beer. We had bought a case of beer in Wisconsin to try and had a half case of the Hi-Wire brown ale. Chris had brought a cooler full of Canadian, Pennsyvania and Vermont beer he had purchased along the way. So we had plenty of new beers to try and we sampled them all. We now had two more adults for spades which meant everyone had a chance to play or not as they desired. I wonder how long it will be before Liam joins us to make two games possible? After dinner we had our now “traditional” toast with tequila shots and then celebrated Liam’s first birthday. Kristin had bought a chocolate cream pie for the occasion and after some encouragement he proceeded to smear chocolate cream pie all over his face. Once he understood that we wanted him to make a mess, he really got into it!! A lot of pictures and videos were taken.
Friday was our day to explore Mackinac Island, so we had made arrangements with Sheplers Ferry to pick us up at the campground at 9:00. We had a quick breakfast mostly fixed the night before and caught the shuttle with time to spare. However, William and Kristin drove their own car the 5 miles to the ferry since it was easier transporting Liam that way. The shuttle also carried our four bikes for the kids to ride on the island. We caught one of the special ferrys that traveled under the Mackinac Bridge which was a treat for everyone, especially since it was not raining as it did last year when we did the same thing. Just like last year, we bought the combination ticket for everyone which included the carriage ride through town and the state park which makes up 80% of the island and entrance into Fort Mackinac. As I mentioned this was exactly what Kal and I did last summer, which was great, since now we could both concentrate on watching everyone else enjoy the experience. We saw the same sites and even heard many of the same stories from the carriage drivers and it was all brand new seen through the eyes of our family!! Just like last year, the timing was perfect at the Fort since everyone was hungry and we caught lunch at the Tea Room in the Fort. Unlike last year, the weather was beautiful and we enjoyed eating on the veranda overlooking the town and harbor. After lunch we spent an hour looking at the Fort and then descended down to the grassy park in front of the Fort. If you are interested in the the sights of either the carriage ride or the fort I refer you to the blog and pages from last year, as everything is the same except for the weather. While Kal, Jenny, Liam, and I played and relaxed in the park, the two couples retrieved their bikes and rode the 8.2 miles around the island. Surprisingly, this took them only an hour and everyone was ready for some shopping and dinner. We leisurely shopped along the main street of town until we came to a nice restaurant for dinner. We ate a long meal beginning with multiple appetizers and ending with some very good entrees, although Kal and I just split a meat and cheese plate as we were already full from the appetizers. We also sampled some Michigan craft beers they had on tap. Except for some mix ups with their taps that led to some interesting reactions when the beer was not what we expected, it was a very enjoyable meal. From there we found some great ice cream for dessert and caught the ferry back to St Ignace.
After breakfast on Saturday morning we discussed what everyone wanted to do for the day which included Fort Michilimackinac across the bridge in Mackinac City. If we had not explored it last summer, I probably would have pushed to go. However, nobody was all the interested and were more interested in just relaxing in the campground. Following lunch we decided to pack up the beer and chairs and head down to Nikki and Chris’s campsite for an afternoon on the beach. Chris had brought along two collapsible kayaks which I had never seen the like. Each was a flimsy plastic shell that would fold up completely for storage inside the van. Once put together with straps it was a serviceable kayak, although not made for anything but flat water. William and Chris took the kayak across the small bay on Lake Huron which was absolutely calm that day. Even then they said it was a challenge to keep from tipping the kayak over. Kal and Chris then took them out to explore the marshes close to shore. After this it was time to introduce Liam to Lake Huron. The water was very shallow a long ways out from the beach and everyone but me went wading. While not sure at first, Liam quickly got the hang of sitting and crawling in the water although splashing was only fun until he splashed himself. Along with some beer and spades, it was a VERY enjoyable afternoon on Lake Huron. In the evening we finally pulled out the firewood I had purchased earlier in the week and had a fire to melt some marshmallows for smores.
Sunday was a somewhat sad since we had to say goodbye to Jenny who had to catch her flight back to Florida in the middle of the afternoon. To brighten everyone’s spirits William talked us into going to the Garlyn Zoo, about an hour away along the coast of Lake Michigan. It is a small family owned zoo, with a surprising number of animals from around the world. Many of the animals could be fed using the food you could purchase and Kristin and Liam had a great time doing just that. They even had some animals I never seen before such as reindeer and asian bear. There were free ranging chickens, ducks, and peacocks running around everywhere which led to some fun as they snatched food from unsuspecting children. After spending about an hour and a half at the zoo, it was time for Kal and I to take Jenny to the airport. After saying goodbye we left and the rest of them went in search of a restaurant in St. Ignace for lunch. Although the party was coming to an end, we still found plenty of time for more spades and beer in the evening. Since Jenny was no longer in with us, William and his family packed up our tent and moved into the RV for the night in order to get an early start in the morning.
Monday was time for everyone to pack up to head home, starting with William, Kristen, and Liam who got an early start right after breakfast. They had the farthest to go and wanted to make at least Cleveland before stopping. After they left we took our time getting packed up and it was nice that Nikki and Chris hung around until we were ready at about 11:00. There was quite a lot to do to get packed up as we had pulled nearly everything out of the RV for the week. With their assistance, the loading with smoothly and easily and we pulled out at the same time. Nikki and Chris heading to Holland, Michigan for the night and we headed west along Lake Michigan to our next stop in the Upper Peninsula.