Saturday, August 15, 2015

Chapter 42 - Mackinaw City to Frankenmuth, Michigan

Thursday, August 13th:
Today we started driving south on Interstate 75 and as Kathy quickly pointed out that if we stay on I-75 for a few very long days we would soon be home in Estero, Florida.  But as she also pointed out, there are to many places that we want to visit first and besides why be in a hurry to return to mid-90 degree temperatures.  The distance down to Frankenmuth is around 200 miles which should be easy considering that we will again be on the interstate highway system. Unfortunately what we had forgotten was that as we approach the larger Michigan cities, the traffic and particularly the 18-wheeler traffic increases, and so it did.  We were delighted to finally pull into the Frankenmuth Jellystone Park at 12:30 pm and almost immediately we were even more delighted with what we saw in downtown Frankenmuth as we briefly passed by its Main Street. The photo above shows Kathy getting into our new travel trailer. We downsized our old 2015 model for this newer more modern Shasta. Just kidding.  This antique travel trailer lacked air conditioning and was not wired for cable television.  Two necessities these days.

We were not surprised to learn based on the German sounding name of the city, that in 1845 fifteen German-Lutheran missionaries founded Frankenmuth with the express purpose of teaching Christianity to the local Chippewa Indians. The name Frankenmuth means roughly in German "Courage of the Franconians" as the missionaries came originally from the province of Franken, Germany. The original founding of the city by Germans would not have meant much today had it not been for some enterprising politicians who decided that the city should require that all new construction on their city's Main Street had to feature a German Bavarian architectural style.  Consequently a drive down the Main Street today reminds visitors of the heritage of its founders and driving down a Bavarian town.

On Thursday afternoon after getting ourselves settled into our new home in Jellystone, Kathy and I and Cabo decided to drive into Frankenmuth to see up close their downtown street.  We both agreed however, that what with traffic and parking issues it would be best if we delayed walking the main street until tomorrow morning.  This turned out to be a good decision as part of their Main Street was closed due to a traffic accident and we had to detour around about five or six blocks.  This photo of some folks on a carriage ride was taken during our detour confirming perhaps our decision to avoid the afternoon traffic. We suspect that a carriage ride down a residential side street was not what the customers had in mind when they signed up for the ride. We did however, in the process of the detour, locate a large grocery store which always comes in handy for us hungry travelers.

What makes this town so much different than a town like Mackinaw City where both towns seem to be wanting to look historical, is that Frankenmuth is totally unique and in fact the town never looked in the past like it does now, a somewhat silly but nevertheless cute copy of a Bavarian city in the German Alps.  Furthermore, as a real bonus, the main street in Frankenmuth is landscaped like no other city we have seen in the United States or elsewhere. Cabo very much agrees with our assessment as he lifts his right hind leg in approval. Understandably the plants prefer water as opposed to what Cabo had to offer.

 We returned to our travel trailer by mid-afternoon where we spent the remainder of the day relaxing as always. We are fortunate at least this day in that we do not have neighbors on either side of us as the spaces are quite narrow and with a travel trailer hooked up next to us on our right their sewer hookup would almost be under our out hanging awning. At least we are under a nice shade tree and the park itself is well landscaped and quite clean in appearance.

Friday, August 14th:
We needed to find a Walmart this morning as I needed to get a refill of one of my prescriptions at their drugstore.  Frankenmuth does not have a Walmart and they do not want one. When I was online trying to locate the closest Walmart, I read that a few years ago a local resident tried to sell his property to Walmart but the local politicians refused to issue a construction permit to build the store.  His deal with Walmart obviously fell through so the local resident sued the city for millions.  The city fought back on what grounds I have no idea, but they lost the lawsuit and ended up having to pay their local citizen $3.8 million dollars for his losses.  Apparently there are no Walmart stores in Bavaria.  After driving only 12 miles into the next town south to their Walmart Superstore, we returned to Frankenmuth for our planned walking tour of the city. 

As we soon discovered, this was a special day and we feel quickly fell in love with this charming city of Frankenmuth.  Perhaps they were right to reject Walmart.

The city is fortunate to have the Cass River flow through the downtown area.  This photo was taken of the Cass River with the Bavarian Belle Riverboat in the foreground and a wonderful covered bridge in the background.  Kathy and I walked over the Cass River twice, once on the covered bridge and once on a pedestrian walkway over the river. No one can deny that finding all of this in Frankenmuth, Michigan was a stroke of pure luck. We had no idea.

Also alongside the river on the other side of Main Street is the Lager Mill Museum which not only offers a tour of the old beer making mill, but they sell many different brands of German beer. I was tempted to purchase a six pack of some of their finest beers, and yes I weakened; I spent an ungodly sum of money for what I hope are the best beers that I have ever tasted.  When Kathy heard what I had done, she insisted that the beer will be shared with friends.

But Kathy soon got even with my wild expenditure as there were dozens and dozens of stores selling everything and anything a tourist might want to purchase.

One thing did stand out as kind of unusual in a city like Frankenmuth so intent on proclaiming their German Bavarian heritage.  Just off their Main Street right in the heart of the shopping district was this grain tower owned by the Star of the West Milling Company.  The company appears to be still an active company and their structure is an interesting diversion from the architecture of the rest of the street.  We kind of liked it.  The company unlike Walmart has probably been a part of the city for many years and they undoubtedly adamantly refused to change the look of their grain mill.  Do they have grain mills in Bavaria?

Carriage rides through the streets of Frankenmuth seem to be very popular and while we were told that Cabo would be welcome to ride with us in the carriage, we declined since we preferred the experience (code word for Kathy going in and out of stores) and the exercise of walking.  Furthermore Cabo while welcomed by the carriage driver's dog, seemed even less interested than we were in riding in comfort down the busy city streets.

There were many really quite beautiful buildings in this city including the building in this photo which was one of the largest of the many restaurants in Frankenmuth. All of the restaurants offered German food at the very least in their menus.  I wonder if that is a requirement.  Strangely the city has allowed a McDonald to build in their city (not on the Main Street).  I wonder if they offer a Mc-Weiner Schnitzel burger and Spaetzle fries.

This final photograph of the dozens that I took while walking down Main Street shows an exhausted Kathy sitting with Cabo in front of the Bavarian Inn.  We have walked at least two miles through this most unusual city and Kathy has investigated numerous stores.  It was a good day and a most unusual surprise considering that we had never heard of Frankenmuth before a few days ago. 

Kathy and I (and Cabo) enjoyed a quiet evening although as the darkness approached the wind picked up considerably.  Soon after the rain came pouring down and we quickly fell asleep.  Tomorrow we are headed south to Van Buren, Ohio, another city that we have not heard of.  Perhaps we will again be pleasantly surprised.

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