Friday, August 24, 2007

The Big Scary Bridge and Beyond

The Mackinaw City Bridge (aka Mackinac Bridge) is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Uppper and Lower peninsulas of Michigan. Interestingly, the Mackinac Bridge is one of only two segments of Interstate 75 that is tolled. The other segment is Alligator Alley, nary 30 miles south of where we live. Yet another Florida-Michigan connection, but I digress...apparently crossing the Mackinac Bridge is really scary...or, so we had been warned. Upon seeing the bridge, I really didn't get what all the fuss is about. I mean, I live in Florida, surrounded on all sides by water and I regularly travel across long, tall bridges that span deep water. And crossing the Mackinac bridge, even on the back of a motorbike, proved to be no big deal (sorry, Mom LeB!)
The picture at left shows our perspective as was traveled south from St. Ignace into Mackinaw City. See? Nothing scary about. Well, there was one sort-of scary thing about the bridge: the inside lane is constructed of grate. It's not so much fun to ride on a motorcycle in a roadway lane made of grate...especially when you can look straight through the grate to the 55-degree lake below the bridge, and the driver of the motorcycle has removed one hand from the handlebars to snap (yet another) photograph. We arrived in Mackinaw City safe and sound (and we have great photos to prove it...)

I love Mackinaw City, not only because the people are especially friendly and accommodating or because it's the world headquarters for homemade fudge; but because I learned a new definition of the word "pasty." Since leaving Wisconsin earlier that day, we kept seeing roadside signs advertising "homemade pasties." Finally, in Mackinaw City, we enjoyed a delicious chicken pasty - basically a homemade chicken pot pie in a dough pocket. Yum!!

Mackinaw City was also the gateway to our "Trip Through the History of Peegie." He was born at Cheboygan Memorial Hospital and lived the first 3 years of his life in a charming duplex on a quiet side street in this quiet little town along the shore of Lake Michigan. Peegie's Pop, "Boot", was stationed aboard the USCG Icebreaker "Mackinaw."
While in service, the Mighty Mack ensured the safety of vessels crossing the Great Lakes in the winter time. Apparently it gets pretty cold there (says the girl from Florida...) and the lakes freeze, making passages difficult and dangerous. During the non-winter months, the USCG Icebreaker Mackinaw served as the PR ship for the Coast Guard. They did all kinds of cool stuff like delivering Christmas trees to needy families across the lake in Chicagoland, earning the name "The Christmas Ship"; and raising the bell from the Edmund Fitzgerald. As macabre as it may sound, I have always been fascinated by the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. (I think it's because it happened during my lifetime and because Gordon Lightfoot's haunting ditty really scared me when I was a child. I was always terrified that the ocean might become too rough for my mother to feed us during our weekend boat trips.) The Mighty Mack was decommissioned in 2005. She is now a permanent floating museum. Touring the Mackinaw was super cool, especially for Peegie. Not only is he all about all things boats and nautical, he was really struck by the fact that he was actually re-tracing the steps of his father on that boat. Particularly cool was calling Boot from the bridge of the boat and hearing him narrate the bridge to us in exacting detail while we actually looked and touched each instrument he described. We were really giddy when we left the Mackinaw - in the same way a child might be giddy after their birthday party, but without all the sugar!

Mackinaw City is ALSO the jumping off point for visiting Mackinaw Island. Wow! Mackinaw Island is known, of course, for the graceful and lovely Grand Hotel - although I'm not convinced "grand" is a "grand" enough term to describe this gorgeous corner of the world. Unlike the experience at many "grand" hotels, the Grand lured us with her beauty and and welcomed us to stay as long as we wanted, to sit on the expansive porch and enjoy the general loveliness of the day. Given that it was nearly lunchtime, we also enjoyed a Grand lunch buffet (for a GRAND price of $90, sparkling water extra...) I'm a sucker for dining in beautiful old dining rooms, especially when my dining partner is Peegie, the service is gracious and friendly, and the food is widely varied and simply delicious. We ate our fill and practically waddled out of the hotel en route to the ferry and the new adventures awaiting us along the M22 Corridor.

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