I don’t know why, but I love bridges. I love studying them, tracing the lines of their structural supports, driving and walking across them, and taking one snapshot after another. The time and effort man has put into creating and maintaining them is quite astounding and miraculous. Still they stand, stoical and resilient, connecting worlds, communities, to one another.
It was no surprise that the Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw by the locals) Bridge was the first item on my To Do List when we rolled into Mackinaw City for our 2016 summer work camping gig. The Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge in the country, fifth in the world. It stretches five miles, joining Michigan’s upper and lower peninsulas at St. Ignace and Mackinaw City. Before its completion in 1957, vehicles were transported across the Straits of Mackinac (where Lake Michigan and Lake Huron meet) via ferry. Nowadays, there is an average annual recording of 4 million vehicles crossing the bridge dubbed the “Mighty Mac.”
In efforts to maintain this massive structure and pay existing debt, patrons must pay a fee to cross. A fee is applied both ways, traffic flowing north and south bound. Your typical automobile is–at the time of our stay–$4 (each way). Vehicles like RVs or buses pay $5 an axle. Payments can be made via cash or credit card; however, if the latter is the option, motorists must pay at the administration building located to the east of the toll in St. Ignace. For motorists frequenting the bridge, discounted, prepaid cards and debit accounts are available.
A view of the Mighty Mac from Old Mackinac Point Lighthouse which sits southeast of the bridge.
During our summer stent in Michigan, we had the opportunity to view the Mackinac Bridge from many vantage points. We drove across it a number of times, sailed underneath it on the Star Line Ferry after visiting Mackinac Island, and we walked across on Labor Day for the Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk. To view the bridge on top of the towers would be breathtaking. Unfortunately, individuals seeking this option can only obtain tickets via auction or raffle.
There are a number of events throughout the year that incorporate this massive structure. More popular are the parades featuring classic and custom-made cars, antique tractors, and semi-trucks. Of course, the Annual Mackinac Bridge Walk is perhaps the most sought after event in Mackinaw City. An estimated 50,000 walkers gather to walk the length of the bridge from St. Ignace to Mackinaw City before noon on Labor Day.
I dragged Levi out of bed around 5 AM to catch a shuttle (from our campground) into Mackinaw City and then hitched another bus to St. Ignace to get to the starting line. Each transport was $5 a person. If we opted to drive into Mackinaw City to catch a bus, parking would have been $5 and space was very limited by 7 AM. We could have driven across the bridge to St. Ignace, paid the toll to get across and then walked the length of the bridge. However, we would still have the bus fee to get back to our car in St. Ignace and then pay an additional toll to cross over to Mackinaw City. Either way you slice it, the actual event is free, but the getting to and coming back cost.
Regardless, the walk was very memorable in two separate ways for Levi and me.
My experience: I was absolutely bewitched by the images before me. The skyscraper towers looming overhead and the cables flanking the edges of the road appeared to be a passageway to some regal sanctuary. The ever rising sun glistening against Lake Huron’s waves silhouetted walkers, seekers of this celebration. The walk was long but invigorating and the cool breeze was a relief on my warm skin. I continued on in pursuit of the final destination. As I stepped over the finish line, I relished in the belief that this was the best way to experience Labor Day, admiring and viewing, up close, the fruits of man’s hard work.
Levi’s experience: After deciding that he did not need to use the porta potties, Levi proceeded past the starting line. His back and legs began to ache and his shoes, he felt, were in need of replacing. It was a little over a mile that the pain took a backseat because he started feeling the urge to use the bathroom. As the urge grew, he began formulating ways to relief himself without others knowing or without getting arrested. He started walking faster, then running, and then stopped because he was tired and realized he still had another three miles to go. Half conscious, he made it to the end of the bridge and darted for the porta potties, his true finish line.
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