And a restaurant find in Mancelona
By Ken DeLaat
Heights have never bothered me.
I imagine this comes from a childhood spent in a neighborhood where tree climbing was close to a religion among the younger denizens of our turf. Frequent dares involved scaling the tallest close enough to the top to make the possibility of a snap off very real. These efforts generally ended with one of our Moms spotting us and yelling out a window or door in that tone of voice we all recognized as rife with consequences should it go unheeded.
But I digress.
Lifetime Spousal Companion Lil and I had heard about the recent opening of Boyne’s SkyBridge billed as the ‘World’s Longest Timber Towered Suspension Bridge.” a 1200 foot long and 118 feet high span between the peaks of McLouth and Disciples Ridge. A window of opportunity arose so we embraced a little Carpe Diem and set off North.
With the season heading into the late October days the drive up produced some crimson and yellow brilliance intermixed with some post dazzling spreads of rust and brown. It was a little on the gray side that day with an occasional appearance by the sun. As with any road trip the quest to find a heretofore undiscovered eatery presented itself and we took a shot at Shirley’s Cafe in Mancelona.
A most fortunate find for a pair of breakfast loving folks prepping to engage in a little bridgewalking. We arrived around 10ish and were directed to the lone open table of the ten or so scattered about. As in any small town cafe it contained the mandatory table of somewhat seasoned men discussing recent local events while referencing past ones and occasionally arguing a point of contention.
The breakfast menu was one page but substantial enough to provide for a variety of preferences. Without expounding on details I would go out of my way to revisit Shirley’s for breakfast. And while not likely to go the 130 miles out of my way when I’m home, I would put Shirley’s in the 30-40 mile radius of going out of my way.
Lil, who is more than a bit discriminating when it comes to her omelets said simply, “The kitchen here knows what they’re doing”
And all the bread is homemade. With 6 selections.
But back to Boyne. It had been awhile since my last visit.. A conference or two back in the day and a couple of golf weekends with a group of guys somewhere in the previous century. Never to ski which is of course their primary endeavor. We drove past the airstrip and parked at the designated area. A short hike led us to the ticket window where about 10 people were in line waiting to get tickets for the lift that would transport us to the bridge.
Side note: Among the advantages found in the aging process are the bargains one can access via ‘senior discounts’.Some places offer them up beginning at age 50 which seems a reach. Most are centered around 60 though a few spots bump it up to Medicare age. At SkyBridge the age is 70. Being a member of the septuagenarian society I qualified to get a 5 buck discount from the $25 fee. Ready with hand on driver’s license to prove my point, the teller never asked. She just looked me over and said ‘That’ll be 20 dollars.’
Gotta admit it stung a little.
We proceeded to the chair lift and took a leisurely ride up the hill passing folks on their way down who were mostly smiling and even dispensing advice such as “It’s one way so take your photos early.” Once at the top we were directed toward the new span.
So yes, finally, the bridge.
Ok it’s cool. Very cool. Suspension bridges have always fascinated me since my first trip across the Mighty Mac circa late 1950’s and this one fit the bill for a fun walking experience. It’s not a major hike by any means but it overlooks the landscape of the Boyne area in an impressive way. Chatting with one of the people assigned to watch over the bridgewalkers we found out that the glass section can be a bit dicey for some folks and in such cases the one way requirement is compassionately waived.
It can be a bit disconcerting to have people along the underside of the bridge tightening this or that but neither looked particularly worried about what they were doing. Their colleague on the bridge saw my interest and assured us they were performing routine maintenance which I chose to believe.
The scenery is outstanding and difficult to capture with my limited photographic ability but safe to say if you enjoy majestic scenes this fits the bill.
The see-through section was a nice treat mid bridge though a couple of people near us balked One bridge walker was already knee deep into being coaxed by her partner with little chance of changing her mind since she spent the whole time staring down through the section at the 100+ foot drop and shaking her head silently.
We got to the end, circled around on the top of the slopes and grabbed a chair lift down. All in all it was fun, albeit short. When we alighted from our chairs the line had increased substantially with perhaps a couple dozen or more in line and others milling about waiting for tickets.
On the road back home we concurred that it was worth the trip but both hedged when we discussed doing it again. Like many such endeavors we have tried, once was enough. Although, as we spoke of similar one time activities on our joint resume, Lil referenced our trip to the Grand Canyon last year.
“I’d hike down into the canyon again if we get the chance. You’d want to do that again, right?”
I remained silent while recalling the arduous trek back up the canyon when I had to keep reminding myself how much I love this woman who is always in much better shape than yours truly. How she convinced me to follow her down for ‘just a bit’ as the hike,for me, turned into a scene reminiscent of Frodo’s scaling of Mt. Doom.
“Sure. But this time I get to decide how far we go ok?”
I glanced over and she had her head turned to the window, something she does when stifling a bit of a laugh.
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