I walked the Mighty Mac – Again

I walked the Mighty Mac

Every Labor Day for my entire life (except for the year my youngest brother was born), I’ve walked the Mackinac Bridge (pronounced MACK-ih-naw).

For those who don’t know, the Mackinac Bridge is the suspension bridge that connects the lower peninsula of Michigan with the upper peninsula. It is the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world. Each year, tens of thousands of people gather for the annual Labor Day bridge walk, including Michigan’s governor.

I love the tradition. I love the feel of walking five miles high above the water, Lake Michigan on one side, Lake Huron on the other.

It’s a tradition that’s bigger than just my family. It is a tradition that connects generations. My dad did it. My grandparents did it. Years from now (if I ever get married and have kids) my kids will do it. Even if I don’t get married, I’ll keep walking the Mighty Mac each year until I no longer can walk.

There’s something special about walking in the footsteps of your grandparents. The bridge connects Michigan, but it also connects generations in Michigan. I remember walking across the bridge holding my grandma’s hand. My brothers spent several years walking across with our grandpa.

It’s a part of a culture. A culture that walks the bridge rain or shine, wind or sun. Fall isn’t allowed to start until that bridge is crossed. It’s a culture that’s tough enough to get up early in the morning to gather for a five mile walk.

It connects those who do it. When I meet someone who has walked the Mighty Mac for a number of years, we share stories. We both remember the year the wind was so strong that the whole bridge swayed, causing everyone to stagger. We remember the years it was so cold we walked in our winter coats and scarves. And we’ll remember this year, the year it was spitting a warm rain and all the early walkers got covered with a sheen of rain.

There’s a power in that. It isn’t a religious holiday or tradition. It’s a cultural one. Something that is specific to just a small number of people.

For someone who loves traditions as much as I do, it’s strange, when I think about it, how little I remember to add them to my fantasy worlds when I’m writing. But I should make more of an effort. Traditions hold a lot of value and power. They will shape our characters and hold our fantasy worlds and cultures together.

What about you? Do you have any traditions that your family has? If you’re a writer, do you have any traditions for your characters?

Road Trip Snippets

I’m on a road trip this week so this is a scheduled post. I’ll answer the comments when I return.

In honor of road trips, I’m going to share of few snippets about road trips, roads, and driving.


A few years ago, I went on a trip with my dad to Texas. To a Michigander, Texas roads are strange to look at. The bridges, off-ramps, and on-ramps are all these swooping, beautiful loops. Some are even decorated. Ever driven through Fort Worth? The highways are built in layers, stacked on top of each other.

2013-03-05_08-39-32_645In Michigan, we just don’t build roads like that. All the bridges are built as short and low as possible. There are a few swooping on-ramps, but they have huge ice warning signs and sometimes they drift shut with snow during storms.

On that same Texas trip, we were driving a stretch of high way south of San Antonio. The speed limit was 75. My dad was blowing by all the other cars on the road. Curious, I glanced at the GPS, which shows our speed. We were going 70.

In Michigan, most freeway speed limits are 70, and a large portion of the population drives at 75 to 80 or more. If the speed limit were 75, then Michiganders would probably go 90.

But in Texas, where it is legal to go 75, the drivers go 60. Strange, huh? Maybe it was just that stretch of Texas road. Any thoughts, all my Texas readers?

On our way home from that trip, my dad swerved to avoid a pothole. I swayed with the car. Swerving around potholes isn’t something unusual for Michiganders.

My dad glanced in the rearview mirror. “He’s not from Michigan.”

“Who’s not?” I asked.

“The driver in the car behind us. He hit the pothole.”

It is something many of us Michigan drivers learn. If the car in front of you swerves, odds are they are swerving for roadkill, a pothole, or shreds of a tire cut open on a pothole. It’s like a big game of Follow the Leader meets Obstacle Course. Add in a little bit of Memory because it never hurts to memorize the locations of the worst potholes so you know when to swerve without even thinking about it.


Several years ago, a few friends and I took a road trip through West Virginia. I quickly learned that very few roads in West Virginia are straight. They twist and turn all over the place through the mountains. At the end of each day, my upper arms hurt from turning the steering wheel and holding it through the twisty turns while going up, over, and down the mountains.

Speed limits are a little crazy on some of the back roads. In the valleys, the semi-straight parts of the roads, the speed limit drops to 45. When the road goes up and over a mountain, the speed limit goes up to 55 even though it is physically impossible to actually go 55.

I also quickly learned that in West Virginia, the speed listed on the yellow signs is the maximum speed you can go. In Michigan, we look at the yellow speed of 40 and continue to go 50. In West Virginia, I learned really quickly that going 30 when the sign says 20 might not be such a good idea. In fact, it dumps the cooler onto your friend’s lap and cause a lot of screaming.


What about you? Any fun road trip stories?