Friday, July 31, 2020

The Mighty Mac

The little I know about the Mackinac Bridge comes from sailing magazines which reported a bizarre Great Lakes sailboat race from Chigao to the bridge and back, a distance so vast it took more than one day and weather conditions can be so treacherous on the lakes people can die in those cold waters. And here I was driving across it at 30 miles per hour in perfect comfort and safety. Only two people have managed to drive off the bridge in its history which started the year I was born 1957. One of the drivers is thought to have been murdered by being forced off the bridge! Drama! None of that for us. A four dollar  five mile drive and we were off the You Pee.
Our last day on the Upper Peninsula started back on M-28 (Michigan Highway 28 in normal English). I opened both eyes and realized we had had a narrow escape. Apparently the wild woods are home to bloodsuckers galore. 
Nothing deterred, Rusty and I got up in the cool damp early morning and went for a walk in the woods. There is so much land around here they don't even bother to fence it at rest areas apparently. We just wandered off into the forest. What had loomed so threatening the night before was lovely in the weak morning sunlight.
I guess they have to forbid overnight parking in case it gets out of hand but overnight parking seems to me to be the point of rest areas: so you can rest. We washed up and got on the road, glad we had done our chores in the dark of night when we were alone. Carrying a porta-potty under public gaze is something I have yet to get used to.  I don't mind dealing with it but other people get a bit freaked by the sight of one carrying a container of human waste. Fussy aren’t they?
I am always slightly amazed by how clean the van looks in photos.  None of the grubby road dirt and dead bugs show up but believe me they are there. We washed the van in Door County at a tall do-it-yourself car wash but the dead bugs have all since been replaced. You'll see them in some of the pictures we took on the fly, specks on the windshield  as we drove.
The blue dot marks the spot. Travelers in the Upper Peninsula should know about the very convenient rest area. Nice toilets too with proper flushing action and everything inside a lovely log cabin of all structures! 
Normal Michigan started to show through as we got closer to the connection between the Upper and Lower bits. Classic farming country looked lovely in the sunshine. High temperatures reached the mid 80s but the air was generally fresh and slightly cool so it was perfect.

Our original stop was a rest area that got rave reviews. Great beach access they promised. It looked like not much when we got there mid morning.
Off we went to see what was really what. Later while I slept Layne did her workout on the platform on this boardwalk kindly provided by the great state of Michigan. 
The reviews did not lie. The beach access was stunning, and there, spread out beyond a thin strip of perfect yellow sand lay the Caribbean Sea. Well, no it was Lake Michigan but it was quite beautiful.
Rusty sniffed around and I took pictures. Holiday snaps. I couldn't believe this wasn't an official park. 
The other weird thing was that we were completely alone. Drivers stopped and used the toilets for sure and just a few of them stepped onto the sand for thirty seconds. Then they high tailed it. We had this lovely beach to ourselves.
The world needs more rest areas like this.

Rusty approves of Michigan.

Left to his own devices the little tyke wore himself out.
Back at van life headquarters Mrs B was busy refueling the crew with pancakes and bacon and tea for me. I really like so much about traveling by van but being able to have my own tea (Yorkshire Gold) in my own mug whenever I feel like it is an extra perk.
Should you be traveling eastbound near Naubinway the blue dot marks the spot on the south side of the highway. It's less than an hour west of the bridge.
Highway 2 took our breath away as we closed in on the bridge. There is no ocean swell on the Great Lakes obviously but the wind waves are short and sharp and the colors of the waters are really quite intense and surprisingly bright. We both felt we had been rather dismissive of the sights in this part of the world but the scales have finally fallen from our eyes and we are ready to come back for more and for longer.
I spoke to one Michigan native and she confessed she feels holy terror every time she has to cross the Mighty Mac, a bridge which has been out built since it went into service in 1957 but it still has the longest suspension span in this hemisphere and five miles of over the water driving is no small thing. Winds can be powerful here and wind advisories are a common hazard. There was one in effect for us but we went twenty miles an hour because the truck in front of us was slow and we were enjoying the extraordinary views.
The fee to cross is four bucks for cars and six bucks if you’re towing a trailer. They don't use any known pass system, and we have Sunpass and EZ Pass on the van, but they apparently try offer discount books for frequent travelers. Indeed in many respects the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced Mackinaw and I don't know why) is rather delightfully old fashioned even as it is functional.
The views are delightful and from the high seat in the Promaster we had no obstructions to look through.
If you look at the construction the bridge is slightly weird. There is only a tiny cat walk on the side for bridge workers only and in normal times there is some sort of bus service for pedestrians and cyclists wanting to cross according to the bridge webpage. The middle lanes are weird steel grates which make motorcyclists crazy...and traffic is separated by the merest hint of a raised curb. 
Plus they had painting going on which reduced traffic to one lane each direction. Like every other traffic situation in Michigan everyone is slow and considered and polite in their driving so there was no drama.

The Great Lakes have access eventually to the sea of course and thus are home to serious ocean going freighters.
Still driving...
Land ho!
And as easily as that we were on the mainland of Michigan, home to tourism and small towns and short distances and superb coastlines. Lake shores I think they call them. Plus I found a supermarket with an aisle devoted to S'mores. And superb cinnamon rolls. 
And lots of Harvet Hosts which I shall talk about next time. Another way to spend the night ostensibly for free but really by spending money to buy great products from excellent small businesses and to get in return a quiet place to sleep. Ah! Van life!