I had a dream – or perhaps it was a nightmare – about bridges the other day. I don’t know why they were on my mind, other than I recently heard a friend tell me of her experience crossing the Mackinac Bridge on a recent vacation.
“Oh, I hated crossing that bridge,” I said, still getting shivers up my spine when I recalled crossing that massive span for the very first time in my pretty little neon blue Chevy Beretta. It was about 15 years ago when a former co-worker and I decided to take a road trip to meet the “Yoopers” (those are Upper Peninsula of Michigan residents, in case you didn’t know) with our cameras, several rolls of film and a map of all of the lighthouses along the way.
Neither one of us had heard about the Mighty Mac – the Mackinac Bridge – until we pulled up to a toll booth on our way to Michigan’s lower peninsula. Ahead of me, all I could see was bridge and water – a very tall, scary looking bridge!
It was either cross the bridge to see the Mackinaw City Lighthouse or turn around and go back home, and Beth and I both decided we’d come too far to turn away because of a bridge. As my tires hit the steel grates and the signs warned of strong crosswinds, my fingers tightly grasped the steering wheel.
“Just look straight ahead,” I kept telling myself. “Don’t look down – you can see the water. Don’t look to the right, you might drive the car over the edge. Just look straight ahead.”
From shoreline to shoreline, the bridge spans five miles. The part of the bridge that extends over the Straits of Mackinac (Lake Michigan and Lake Huron) is only 3,800 feet, but I use the word “only” lightly. In case you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m not a fan of the long and high, steel grated bottom bridges.
The Mighty Mac is the third-longest suspension span in the U.S., and the 12th largest worldwide. When we had to cross the bridge to return home, I made Beth take my keys and drive across it. I’m pretty sure she agreed with my assessment – it was the scariest bridge ever!
On any future trips to Michigan’s lower peninsula, I will not hesitate to drive the southern route through Chicago if it means avoiding the Mackinac Bridge at the northern end. Of course, the solution to this would be to find a travel partner who would kindly blindfold me and put me in the back seat before crossing the Mighty Mac or any other monstrous bridge, for that matter.
The talk of bridges reminded me of one of our travel days on our recent journey to the Outer Banks. It was on our second night that we stayed in Beckley, W.V., and as Dad fumbled with the TV remote, I looked through the book of things to see and do around Beckley.
I was flipping through the pages when, all of a sudden, my eyes fixed on this very high suspension bridge. Immediately, I feared it was on our travel path and, needless to say, I didn’t sleep well at all that night.
The New River Gorge Bridge may have looked beautiful with the flowing river and the fall color-changing leaves in the photograph, but if I had to drive over that thing it would not be pretty!
The bridge spans 3,030 feet in length – a bit shorter than the Mighty Mac – but also 876 feet above the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, W.V., in the Appalachian Mountains.
According to what I read online, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest steel single-span arch bridge for many years, but it now stands in third. It is the fifth highest bridge for vehicles in the world, and the third highest in North and South America.
And, here’s a bit of trivia I learned when I researched the New River Gorge Bridge – it can be found on the back of your West Virginia State Quarter.
After my very restless night of sleep thinking about having to cross that awful bridge, I received wonderful news from the hotel’s desk clerk the next morning. Our travel plans took us in a different direction.
“You made my day,” I told him. “No, you made my week. You made my vacation!”