The Mighty Mac! I have driven across countless times, I have been underneath a couple of times, and I was even fortunate enough to go to the top, but one thing I have never done is walk across the bridge for the annual Mackinac Bridge Walk on Labor Day. That’s all I need for the a spur of the moment road trip.
That is the earliest I have set my alarm in my recent memories. From Marquette to St. Ignace it’s a nearly three hour drive, and I wanted to be to the bridge as early as possible. And I don’t see nearly as many sunrises as I do sunsets, so why not see one while crossing the Mackinac Bridge? I picked up the rest of the crew, Liz, Sara, and Matt at 4:30 a.m. With a thermos of coffee and a couple pounds of animal crackers were headed east and arrived on the bridge in time to get a good glimpse of the sunrise.
Between 30 and 40 thousand people walked across the bridge this year, all ages from all over the place. A few had patches or shirts advertising how many bridge walks they have participated in, some people had costumes, and everyone stopped to look down the metal grating. They advertise a five mile walk across the bridge, which is accurate. But add on the walk to and from the bridge and you’ll hit seven miles of walking easily, if not more.
The walk begins
Liz does the mandatory Yooper Steez jumping photo, wearing the Tree Rings tee.
Yours truly doing the mandatory Yooper Steez jumping photo, wearing the hewer shirt.
It’s surprising how little is below you when crossing the bridge, 150 feet above the straits.
We were about 15-30 minutes late to be right above a freight as it passed by. Who can name which freighter this is? I know there are some boat nerds out there!
The 2014 Labor Day Bridge Walk, 57th year!
The crew! Ryan, Andrew, Kathy, Liz, Pat, Sara, Matt, and yours truly. Photo courtesy of Pat!
The Banana Car
My excitement and amusement peaked at the moment we spotted the Banana Car. You see, I have been following the Banana Car for years. In 2010 I launched a campaign to have a beer with Richard Branson, which came true in 2014. When I first launched the campaign I had a great phone conversation with Steve Braithwaite, who built the Banana Car. Steve had contacted me because in the 1980s he actually delivered pizza to Richard Branson. It’s amazing how the Mackinac Bridge, a giant Banana, and a beer with Richard Branson can all be connected.
Meghan on Instagram had a much better photo than me.
In our group was Ryan. Turns out Ryan has an uncle who is a world renown live statue, so good in fact, that he represented the United States in the 2009 World Championships in Germany. Ryan, however, had never seen his uncle perform in person. And there he was, in Mackinaw City. Check out livestatue.com.
Liz rocking the Tree Rings tee with the bronze man.
10:30 a.m. – Lunch time
I’m pretty confident in saying that I have never had a burger and fries before 11:00 a.m until now. We headed to the Key Hole in Mackinaw City. I was out of my jurisdiction.
Cut River Bridge
It was a bridge walking kind of day, and since my road tripping buddies had never visited the Cut River we took a little stop there as well. With a few sprinkles as we got out of the car, we were all prepared with rain jackets. Though 10 minutes later we might as well have jumped in the lake with our clothes on. Rain, thunder, and lightening came our way. It was no light rain, but we embraced it. A long time road tripping rule of mine has always been to embrace the elements, whatever mother nature may throw at you. My new road tripping buddies all passed.
Got a little wet.
Sara, Matt, and Liz, before I had to put the electronics away.
We were no twelve hours into our day and the Bridge Walk now felt like a very long time ago. We took a quick break at the lighthouse in Manistique to add another mile of walking onto our journey. The weather had done a complete 180. It was now sunny and warm, and we spent just enough time to fully dry out from the rain… except for my water logged shoes (574s of course). Everyone else was smart enough to bring a pair of sandals along.
The Manistique lighthouse.
This was my second time to Kitch-iti-kipi this summer, and the first for all of my passengers. It’s a place I’ll never pass up taking another trip to. If you haven’t been, you must go! You can read more about it here. We enjoyed the raft to ourselves and I had to keep Sara from jumping in. Oddly, this is the second Sara I visited “The Big Spring” with this summer, each spelling it without the ‘h’. Sorry for the tangent, but this is a guy who is easily amused by small coincidences.
The largest natural spring in Michigan!
This must drive fisherman crazy who visit Kitch-iti-kipi. Every fish is a monster!
One option on the way back was to stop at the Oswald Bear Ranch in Newberry, but thanks to some timely research we learned it was closed before heading that way. Kitch-iti-kipi was the next plan, and a good one at that. As we were driving north on M-94 we watched a mama bear and her three cubs cross the road. Though we spooked them a little too soon to get a photo. But bears are cool! Any day you see bear cubs is a good day.
We were finally rolling back to the neighborhood in Marquette. We had walked well over a dozen miles on the day, and having been up since 4:00 a.m. I was ready to relax a bit. But the Upper Peninsula being the Upper Peninsula, we of course ran into some friends and finished the day by eating some ice cream with Miss Upper Peninsula. I went with the Heath Cyclone, walked back home, and called it a great Labor Day.
Stay tuned for the next road trip we have planned in a couple of weeks.