Tag Archives: Michigan

Walking across the Mighty Mac – aka The Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge is an engineering marvel.  It is a suspension bridge spanning across the Straits of Mackinac connecting the two peninsulas that make up the state of Michigan.  According to Wikipedia the Bridge it “is the world’s third-longest in total suspension and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western hemisphere.  What makes it an engineering marvel is that the design had to take into account the strong unstable winds in the area and the harsh winter conditions.  Lessons learned from the Tacoma Narrows Bridge influenced the way that the Mackinac Bridge was designed and built.  Shoreline to shoreline, the bridge is 5 miles though the length of the main span is 3,800 feet.  The bridge is very high to allow freighters who are carrying ore in the great lakes and other loads to travel under the bridge.

Every Labor Day there is a bridge walk over the two north bound lanes of the bridge.  Leading the bridge walk is the governor of Michigan.  There are many, many school buses taking walkers across the bridge from Mackinaw City to the starting point in St. Ignace, the southernmost city on the Upper Peninsula.

Blogger Hubby has walked the bridge several times but never me.  I’m afraid of heights, afraid of this bridge because a woman in a Yugo car in 1989 was blown off the bridge.  I’m the type of driver that has someone drive me across the bridge while I get in the back seat.

I decided to tackle my fear, sort of, by walking across the bridge with Blogger Hubby and a couple of our friends.  We had a driver take us across the bridge to St. Ignace (the start) at 7:00 AM.  Since the temp was in the low 50’s and their were winds about 19 miles an hour, we dressed appropriately.  I had a turtleneck, button down shirt and a zip up sweatshirt.  In my CamelPak (which you know I just love) I had water to help me when I got thirsty, homemade chocolate chip cookies, camera, phone and sunglasses.  I also wore another favorite product of mine – Smart Wool socks.

what it looked like over the Straits of Mackinac
what it looked like over the Straits of Mackinac

40,000 thousand people were expected to walk today and if there was any indication from our almost two-hour walk, there were many, many people on the bridge.  The Michigan National Guard lined the edges by the rails so no one would be tempted to jump off.  The scariest part for me was walking over the steel grating.  I much prefer the hard top surface.

throngs of people were walking across
throngs of people were walking across

I was so touched to see a woman pushing her elderly aunt in a wheelchair across the bridge.  Also a disabled young man pushing his walker; many parents pushing strollers with their children in them.  I also saw elderly husbands and wives walk across the bridge hand in hand.  What a marvelous morning and so inspiring.

stopping to document that I actually did walk across the bridge
stopping to document my bridge walk

At the end we received a certificate to commemorate our walk.  There was even a finish sign at the end.  We then had to walk about 4 more blocks to meet our friends and get the ride back to the lake where we seemed to immediately fall asleep in our chairs as soon as we sat down.

my certificate
my certificate that I walked the Bridge

I tried to google to see how many bridge walks there are that are four miles or longer and it seems that it is just this one and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (which is even scarier) though that one has been inconsistent in the past few years.

Have you done a bridge walk?  Which bridge did you walk over and how long was it?  I’d love to hear your experiences.

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The Wanigan Race – Craziest Race EVER!!!!

Here  in a small community in Northern Michigan, a crazy and somewhat random race takes place every year.  It’s the Wanigan Race.  What, you never heard of a wanigan?  How could that be?  There are several definitions for a wanigan but the Free Dictionary states that it is “A boat or small chest equipped with supplies for a lumber camp.”  Um, not exactly what I have learned that a wanigan is but it is close is for the purpose of this race.

The Cheboygan Chamber of Commerce describes it as: “Back in the great days wanigan-logo-nodate-288x300when Cheboygan was the logging capital of the north in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, or so the story goes, lumbermen would strap logs together and make a cooking raft to gather on and eat their hot meals. This Cheboygan Jaycees sponsored race keeps the tradition alive as teams of up to six from all over compete with their versions of a “Wanigan.”

Per the Jaycees the rules are: You need a minimum of 3 people and a maximum of 6 people. The raft needs to be made out of logs though the decking can be made out of boards.  You need to make a structure on it that is at least 4 feet high and no more than 6 feet high and has three sides as well as a roof fully fit inside.  The cook needs to be able to fully fit inside and sit erect.  The stove must be wood burning. No charcoal, coal, propane, kerosene, gas, etc. may be used. All stoves must be homemade and not factory made. No modified camp stoves. A lined fire pit may be used instead of a stove. The fire cannot be started until your race has begun.

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The purpose:   As the Wanigan was historically the “Chuck Wagon” of the River; each raft must make 5 quarts of chili during the race. The ending temperature of the chili must be 160 degrees. The meat may be pre- browned and the other ingredients may be cut or diced beforehand. Chili must be assembled on the raft during the race (NO PRE MIXED INGREDIENTS), per the instructions from the Jaycees.

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All these rafts are paddling down the Cheboygan River, some take it very seriously; others have their coolers of beer on the raft and are enjoying the day.  Some don’t look like they are going to make it at all.  The course is about 4 miles long.
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Once you reach the end of the race, a sample is taken of your chili and a thermometer is inserted to see if it has reached the desired temperature.

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If you happen to find yourself in northern Michigan during the second weekend in July, head on over to Cheboygan to watch this crazy race.

Mackinac Island, Michigan

Looking for someplace to go that is a little romantic, a little old fashioned and still get some exercise? Have you ever seen “Somewhere in Time”, the movie with Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour? Well, that location really does exist and it is called Mackinac Island.  It is located in the Straits of Mackinac which is the body of water that connects Lake Michigan with Lake Huron. There are no motor vehicles on the island other than emergency vehicles.  You are either going to be walking to get around, riding a bicycle or having a horse drawn taxi or carriage ride.  Sounds pretty good to me.

To get to this unique island you could fly Delta to Pellston, Michigan which is the closest airport but in my opinion the most expensive. Another alternative is to fly into Chippewa Airport located in Sault Ste. Marie, MI.  From there you could rent a car or take a bus the 33 minutes to the docks in St. Ignace, MI.   If you do decide to fly into Pellston, there are two shuttles that are located in the main terminal of the airport that can transport you to the ferries which are about 15 minutes away in Mackinaw City.  Finally , you could fly into Detroit and rent a car for the almost 5 hour drive north.

Pellston is a very unique regional airport that is only serviced by Delta Airlines.  Sault Ste. Marie does not have the decor that Pellston does.

Waiting at this airport is very pleasant.
Waiting at Pellston Airport is very pleasant.

There are several ferry lines that go over to the island as well as hydrofoils. The ride is fairly short, about 20 minutes when using Shepler’s Ferry service but if you choose to use Arnold, they use a real ferry and it takes about 40 minutes.  A couple of times a day, Shepler’s has what they call their Mighty Mac ride which is the same price.  This special 5 minute longer trip goes under the Mackinac Bridge with a short narrative.  My special travel tip is to go to the Shepler website because they are often a few dollars less expensive and they do have online specials.  We got one yesterday that was 3 adults for $62.  There is free day parking at Shepler’s as well

When we travel we usually take our bicycles  with us or you can rent them on the island. As of yesterday, the price to bring a bike onto the ferry was about $9.  You can rent bicycles, tandem bicycles, chariots to hitch to your bike to have your child ride in behind you. If you ride around the lake shore road, which is M- 185, it is about 8 miles long, flat and has no cars.  The only highway that has no automobiles!

Bring your own bicycle or rent one of the island
Bring your own bicycle or rent one on the Island.
Horse drawn carriage is a favorite mode of transportation on the Island
A relaxing way to get around the Island

Fort Mackinac, a fort the British built for the Revolutionary War, is on the island.  It was used by the Americans during the War of 1812 to protect the Great Lakes.  Two important battles were fought there.  You can tour the buildings. on the fort, watch the canon being fired on the hour as well as rifle shooting demonstration.    The Governor of Michigan has its summer residence on the island near the fort.

Fort Mackinac
Fort Mackinac

We like to walk along the wooded paved path to the side of the island to view the Natural Arch. Looking through the Arch you can see more of the Straits of Mackinac.  We then walk to the right and down the 204 stairs to the lake road and walk back to the downtown along this plesant road.  We pass what I think is the most beautiful hotel on the island – Mission Point Resort.  It really is a throwback to the older times with Adirondack chairs on the lawn overlooking the water, a putting and shipping green, beautiful hours and just a drop dead gorgeous location.

Natural Arch
Natural Arch

On Mackinac Island is the Grand Hotel which holds the distinction of having the longest porch in the world – that’s right, the WORLD. Unless you are staying at the hotel you have to pay $10 to gain admission to the porch. This hotel has a style of elegance that is not found in many places and there is a strict dress code..   This is a relaxing way to spend the day.

the longest porch in the world at 660 feet
The longest porch in the world at 660 feet

There are many things to do on the Island and is perfect for the entire family.  I hope you get to visit this jewel sometime soon and when you go there, get some fudge.  They are known for great fudge!  My favorite is Joanne’s Fudge but Ryba’s is very good also.

To see more of the island, watch “Somewhere in Time”