Vice President Mike Pence give a crowd a thumbs-up right before climbing into his motorcade at the Savannah St. Patrick’s Day parade.
Photo: AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton

Mike Pence showed up to Mackinac Island, Michigan in a convoy of eight cars. That’s eight more cars than Mackinac Island sees most days, since the island banned cars over a century ago.

It’s not the first time a member of the executive branch has visited the island, but it is the island’s first motorcade. As The Detroit Free Press points out, Gerald Ford visited the island in 1975, he and first lady Betty Ford arrived in a horse-drawn carriage.

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Not one to be upstaged, Pence arrived at the Mackinac Republican Leadership Conference with a Ram 1500, two Dodge Caravans, three Suburbans, a Chevy Express and a GMC Yukon XL. Some Michiganders were vocally upset by the Vice President foregoing tradition, claiming that it disrespected the island’s culture.

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Others came to Pence’s defense. Per The Detroit News:

“It’s the nature of the security these days,” said state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, whose district includes Mackinac Island and who said he stood by the road to wait for the motorcade mostly because a vehicle on the island is such a rare site.

“Any time we can get a high-ranking official, of any political stripe, up here, I welcome him,” Schmidt said.

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Security concerns almost definitely played a role in the decision, as executive security has become much more strict in the 44 years since President Ford visited. Even still, the VP’s office didn’t offer much public explanation for ignoring the norms.

That being said, it’s clear that the motorcade is more compact and composed of different vehicles than a typical motorcade in D.C. or elsewhere. There’s no limo, just a few Suburbans and a couple of vans for press and satellite staff.

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You’d usually also see two limos and a Hazard Materials Mitigation Unit F-550, used for detecting biological and nuclear threats. Depending on the situation, the Vice President’s motorcade sometimes includes counter-assault teams and electronic jamming vehicles. None of those were present on Mackinac.

Local police cars usually escort the motorcade, but clearly the Mackinac police are sticking to tradition by rolling through on bicycles.