My timing was a happy accident. It was just about 9 o’clock one recent evening as I pulled up to the Mackinac Bridge toll booth.
“Enjoy your four-dollar sunset,” the toll-taker said. “It’s a spectacular one tonight.”
The toll-taker was right. As the sun sank into the Upper Peninsula, the water sparkled, the bridge gleamed, the straits glowed like the embers of a bonfire.
Although this happened to be an exceptional spectacle, for my money, I believe you always get more for your Mackinac Bridge fare than the right to travel between Michigan’s two peninsulas. You get the panoramic view of that imaginary line where Lake Huron meets Lake Michigan. You get the sight of Mackinac Island in the distance, the sensation of hovering high above the water, the engineering marvel of the actual structure. You get a total experience. That’s why the bridge is a tourist attraction all by itself.
I’ve crossed the bridge dozens of times, morning and night, in all seasons, under all kinds of conditions. I always find it at least a little bit exhilarating, and suspect that I always will. The five-mile, 10-minute drive is never boring.
An interesting fact: When the bridge opened to traffic, on Nov. 1, 1957, the fare for a passenger car was $3.25 – 75 cents less than it is today. But, in fact, $3.25 in 1957 would be about 30 bucks in today’s dollars. Still, compared to waiting in line for up to 24 hours on busy weekends for a bumpy ferry ride across the straits, then spending an hour on the ferry on even the calmest days, the early bridge crossers considered it a bargain.
And, as always, the spectacular views came at no extra charge.
By the way, to see what’s going on at the bridge at this very moment, go to mackinacbridge.org/ bridge-cam-20/.
Read John Schneider’s daily blog at www. johnschneiderblog.com.