Happy Endings after Racing

Published on May 23rd, 2017

Traveling to distant regattas can take a lot of effort, and there is no promise the racing conditions will be any good. But all gets forgotten at rare venues like Key West (FL), Block Island (RI), Put-in-Bay (OH) or Huntington Lake (CA). Out of the ordinary is good.

Same goes for distance races. If your finish line is along the Mexican Riviera, Hawaiian Islands or in the Caribbean, memories of painful days get lost in the idyllic atmosphere. But you don’t need to aim south for happy endings as racers to Mackinac Island have long understood.

In this travel report by Vogue Magazine, the land of history, fudge, and horse-drawn carriages is well worth the ride in the Bayview Mackinac and Chicago Mackinac races.

Travelers are so quick to leave the country in search of remoteness and a sense of place, that it’s easy to forget the United States is home to a wealth of summer playgrounds that have these things in spades. Consider Mackinac Island (the second c is silent).

Nestled near the confluence of Lakes Huron and Michigan, this tiny, less-than-four-square-mile island has embodied the American experience since the 17th century, at successive times serving as sacred Native American land, an important military fort during the Revolutionary and 1812 wars, a fur trading post where the likes of John Jacob Astor built a fortune, and, eventually, a resort town for affluent families from Detroit and Chicago.

Some people might remember it as the backdrop to the 1980 film Somewhere in Time, starring Jane Seymour and Christopher Reeve, but most remember it as an idyllic all-American summer destination.

Stepping onto Mackinac is like stepping back in time. With only about 400 year-round residents and a summer population that swells into the thousands, the island is strikingly well-preserved, mostly because more than 80 percent of the land is a state park.

There are no cars on Mackinac, because the island folk are so aggressively intent on protecting its unique character—when the first “horseless carriage” arrived in 1898, it spooked all of the horses so badly that the town immediately passed an ordinance banning automobiles.

While there is an ambulance, fire truck, and police cars, in case of emergency, you shouldn’t be surprised when you call for a “taxi” and a carriage pulled by two Clydesdales pulls up. But getting around on foot, by bike, or by horse here is all part of the fun.

Mackinac boasts an adorable downtown filled with Victorian houses and plenty of shops to explore. And elsewhere on the island, there are enough secluded spots for you to take in all that the Great Lakes have to offer in perfect tranquility.

Its waters rival the Caribbean in terms of clarity (seriously, but maybe not in terms of warmth). And what Mackinac lacks in tropical weather, it makes up for in charm, beauty, and nostalgic all-American hospitality. You won’t even miss the cars.

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