Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Mighty Mac

Wednesday, October 10th, 2007
St Ignace, Michigan

Today is 40 degrees colder, both anticipated high and low, than Monday. As in 41 degrees at 8 am with an expected high of 44 degrees, with 100% chance of rain – and it’s raining now. And it’s still dark!

OK, a little education today.

I survived the Mackinac Bridge!
This very handsome bridge connects Mackinaw City to St. Ignace, about 5 miles across the Straits of Mackinac (pronounced Mack-i-naw).
(needless to say, I did not climb to the top of the bridge to take this picture - I captured it off a website!)

1. The Straits of Mackinac connect Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. (I always thought they were two separate lakes.)

2. A quick history – “Since 1864, when building a bridge across the straits was first proposed, until November 1, 1957, “Mighty Mac” was known as the “bridge that couldn’t be built.” On that dreadful day, the Upper Peninsula and lower Michigan were permanently tied together. There were more obstacles overcome, and problems solved in designing and building the Mackinac Bridge than any comparable project. Yet it is one of the most beautiful structures ever built. 33 foundations resting on bedrock support the 5 mile long uninterrupted steel superstructure. The 2 huge tower foundations descend more than 200 feet below the water and were built out on the water, using boats, barges and ships, handling the men, machinery and materials.” (from a tourism brochure)

3. Construction cost $99,800,000 – in 1957 dollars!!

4. “The road deck is shaped as an airfoil to provide lift in a cross wind, while the center two lanes are open grid to allow vertical (upward) air flow, which fairly precisely cancels the lift, making the roadway stable in up to the design 150 MPH wind loading.” (This quote is taken from a wikipedia article ) Personally, I found that ‘open grid’ a bit unnerving, as it made an already shaky ride wobble even more! In the picture above, the white line down the middle of the bridge is a two foot wide raised separation between the lanes of traffic. The dark lanes are the 'open grid'.

5. I can’t find any information about actual wind speeds, but one article mentions that one car went off the bridge due to high winds, estimated at about 60 MPH, but the driver was using “excessive speed”. The maximum speed limit is 45 MPH and heavily loaded trucks are restricted to 20 MPH.

Some of my readers may recall early this summer, when a bracket on one of my slide toppers snapped. A mobile mechanic told me it wouldn’t be a problem, unless I was driving in a high wind, in which case the topper would blow loose and possible tear. When the thing was repaired in Connecticut awhile back, the bracket was not replaced. I know that now because when crossing the bridge in scary high winds yesterday, that damned topper was flapping like crazy! Makes a hell of a racket, and sure raised my blood pressure! Thankfully, it didn’t tear, and opened up just fine when I arrived at my destination a few miles up the road!

6. The toll taker at the far end of the bridge asked, when I commented on the experience, if there had been a ‘guide’ bringing us across. "No." “Oh, then it wasn’t bad today at all!” Wonderful. Turns out the Mackinac Bridge Authority has a "Drivers Assistance Program" too, which provides drivers for those uncomfortable driving across the bridge. Those interested can arrange, either by phone ahead of time or with the toll collector, to have their cars driven to the other end. This is a free service.

7. A Detroit news article giving a very interesting and extensive history of the bridge:

Next, I must extend my sincere apologies to any I might have offended. It seems the folks who claim this upper chunk of Michigan as home consider it THE Peninsula, as opposed to that little appendage I called a peninsula down state a bit a couple days ago. I meant no harm – I’m just an uneducated “troll”. And for the record, most call it the Upper Peninsula. Anyway, residents of THE Peninsula, “Yoopers”, often refer to Lower Peninsula residents and others as “trolls” simply because they live “below The Bridge.”

Speaking of wind!

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007
Tawas City to St. Ignace, Michigan

180.2 miles

Rain drops last night,
but clear and cool this a.m.

What a wonderful, peaceful, beautiful drive this last few days have provided! No traffic to speak of (except in Detroit!!), very good roads for the most part, glimpses of the lake almost the entire route! And the trees, of my, the trees! Since this little detour was undertaken because of a news report saying the colors were great this year on the coastline of Michigan, I’ve taken lots and lots of pictures of trees! Possibly more than my readers might want to see…I hope not!

This particular stretch has many miles of single homes on the lakeshore! And rather than just addresses, the majority have a unique sign to identify the owner. They go by too fast to get pictures, but many bring a smile! From very simple – like a carving of a sunrise painted gaily, or a fish. Crossed oars. “Final answer!” A big tooth (gee, do you think he was a dentist?) a silly green grinning dinosaur. “Miranda’s Decision!” “Uncle Walter’s Haven” a big sparkling crown. No question, this area would make a great escape!

But winter is obviously approaching – no matter that it’s still in the 80s. Most of the marinas are almost empty. They do something here I’ve not seen before – they ‘shrink wrap’ the boats for the winter protection. I was a little concerned about a total seal, but when looking into it, I see they can include the ability to breathe.

More trees – just so you know, I’m not doctoring these photos. I don’t need to. The colors are so fantastic, they don’t need ‘help’! Many are slightly out of focus. I’m using an incredible little Canon PowerShot, but even it can’t perform all the miracles I ask of it. So I do fix a few things – remember that I’m taking about 98% of my pictures thru the windshield as I bounce down the road at 55-60 MPH – so I straighten some of them a little, and I crop some of them to get rid of distractions like a garbage truck.

I flew by a sign proclaiming I had just crossed the 45th Parallel – half way between the equator and the North Pole. A little lesson on the planet can be found at

We stopped at one of the many little roadside parks on the shoreline to grab a bite. Sadly, some nasty little no-see-ums took several bites out of me too, and Penny too from the looks of it, so we didn’t stay long. But it was pretty!

Passed thru Rogers City, which calls itself “The Nautical City”, and also “The Limestone City.” In addition to the tourism brought by its peaceful setting on Lake Huron, Rogers City contains the largest limestone quarry in the world, which has resulted in the development of the world’s largest limestone processing plant, making it a very busy port city as well.

About this time, the winds started blowing pretty hard, and the clouds are moving in fast – dark forbidding clouds. I was beginning to fear I wouldn’t make it to my destination before the skies open up.

And then I arrived at ”The Mighty Mac” described above, and the wind was howling! This crossing was more scary than the tiny barge I had to use in Dawson City last summer!

But I made it, and drove thru the cute, touristy St. Ignace to the Tiki RV Campground where I hooked up and hunkered down for a couple days of threatened rain. I moved my suitcases into the coach this morning in the sunshine, and figure to move summer wear into the suitcases and get winter clothes out while I’m here.

Tiki RV Park & Campground
200 S Airport Road
St. Ignace, MI 49781
Mackinac County

Lake Huron drive

Monday, October 8th, 2007
Lakeport to Tawas City, Michigan

227.7 miles
Mostly sunny, muggy and hot

Halloween decorations are serious business here! I’m thinking that I’ve never understood the fun of it. I mean, I wore costumes as a kid, I guess, like everyone. (And when I went out partying in my 20s!) And I’ve carved my share of pumpkins. But there are shops here that specialize in Halloween! Houses are covered with decorations, like I’m used to seeing at Christmas! All the little towns decorate the street signs and street lights! It’s everywhere!

Must have something to do with the change of seasons. I’ve been lucky to travel a lot and live a lot of places, but I’ve never really lived where there is a dramatic change of seasons. Maybe if I had, I’d be more into Halloween. Even the RVs that are just out for the weekend are covered with lights and decorations! Fun to look at!

Pretty drive again today! Lots of very lovely homes edging Lake Huron as I headed north. Glimpses of the lake between trees and homes, and several pull-outs on the lake side of the road – what a treat!

In Lexington, saw the “Downtown Donut Shop, with the best beer and pastries!” Neither one sounds appealing put that way, does it?

Then there was “Joey’s Diner – Beckfast, Lunch and Dinner”. And it was a professionally made sign! Hope 'beckfast' is his last name and it's the specialty of the house!??

This lovely area reminded me of something I saw on TV yesterday – about managing space in small apartments in New York City. One of the featured units was a 427 sq.ft. studio, selling for $645,000. (That’s more than $1500 a foot!) And it had only one very small closet, in the bathroom. They were trying to make the space livable. 427 sq.ft. and $645K and it’s not livable? Why would anyone even consider it?

Back to more pleasant thoughts – like the glorious colors here!

A bank clock in Port Hope said 89 degrees at 11:10 – gonna be nasty today! But Port Hope is a really pretty little town – it shows its pride – clean, manicured, well maintained, flowers, flags.

The winds were picking up, and clouds starting to appear – there is rain threatened for tonight. Hmmm, crime scene tape all around a house in Port Austin. I guess you can’t get away from crime, even in pretty towns far from the hub-bub of big cities!

The farms are bigger here, and crops are still green! Actually, maybe it's winter wheat that is just coming up? No color in the trees on the west side of the peninsula. And there’s a different feel along this stretch – smaller homes and cottages, more bars, more down to earth. And signs advertising “need financing, stinky credit – go to!”
There a quite a number of gorgeous BIG old homes on the main drag thru Bay City – as classy looking as some of those in old Cape Cod. How sad that they must deal with heavy traffic! How times change!

By 2 p.m. the clouds were really rolling in – and a clock at a local gravel pit said 91 degrees and climbing!

Good thing it was such a pretty ride!

East Branch River RV Park
4793 M-55
Tawas City, MI 48763

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