Tuesday, September 4, 2007

A Stroll Over The Bridge ... Episode 1

Somewhere along the way, we picked up a newspaper that mentioned the 50th Annual Mackinaw Bridge Labor Day Walk was scheduled for 7:00am on Monday, September 3. We hadn't really expected to be in this area on Labor Day so hadn't paid much attention to that. But, as things go, here it is Labor Day and here we are just steps from the starting point of the Bridge Walk - the Golden Anniversary Bridge Walk, no less.

The Marina was offering a shuttle to the starting point. So we got up early. (This might be a good time to mention that St. Ignace Marina is unlike any marina we've experienced so far. There is a lot of early morning activity. People are puttering around on their boats, reading, having coffee, chatting, walking, stretching after working out -- all before 7:00am. They are quiet about it but this is the most active marina we've been at. We feel like lazy bums when we get up at 6:30.) This particular morning, we saw an otter scampering around the dock, were asked if we were part of the media boat, and were asked by a frantic man what type of oil he should get for a boat he's on, in addition to greeting the regular morning marina putterers, walkers, and chatters.

The shuttle to the Bridge was uneventful. We met a group of fellow walkers who were from other parts of Michigan, one of whom has wanted to walk the bridge since he was a child and was doing it for the first time. The Bridge is beautiful at night. It is all lit up and twinkly but in a majestic way.

We had thought the Bridge Walk would be something similar to Chicago's "Bike the Drive" except free. You know, something that's neat to do since you can only do it once a year. It's really not. Michiganders really love this Bridge. They wear shirts and jackets that proudly display all the patches from every year they've walked. People come from all over just to do this: all ages, all races, in wheelchairs, in strollers. We saw a family that was all wearing shirts that proclaimed "My uncle/dad/husband/granddad built the bridge" hanging around the guy with the shirt that said "I built the bridge".

So we started the walk at about 7:20. We probably actually started at 7:10 but the first few minutes it is walk a few steps, stop, walk a few steps, stop. But we soon started moving along. They close two lanes for walkers and use the other two for cars and buses that are bringing people to the starting point (on St. Ignace) from Mackinaw City.

A lot of people walk the bridge. But a small group of people, selected by lottery, run at the front with the Governor. Another group - this year about 50 - swim the straits to raise money for charity.

For part of the walk, you can walk along the grated portion of the bridge. Here is an exciting action shot of our feet. The water is so clear that you can even see the underwater portion of the pylons that the bridge is built on. Other times, it's a cool design.

By about 8:30, we could see Mackinaw City in the distance. At about 9:00, we were crossing the finish line. We got our "I walked the Bridge" certificates and went over to the park next to the Bridge to watch the swimmers come in.

We went back to the Finish Line area, got our certificates stamped by the post office, had cinnamon rolls and coffee and went off in search of the buses to take us back to St. Ignace.

Tune in later for the next episode of "A Stroll Over the Bridge" where Bernie and Phil and, oh, about 100,000 other people, try to return to St. Ignace.

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