Saturday, July 17, 2010

Scooting Across The Mackinac Bridge!

Mackinac Bridge, a.k.a. "Mighty Mac"
Image taken from

I'd only gone a few miles from The Gables in Cheboygan, Michigan when I looked down at my dash and noticed that my trunk light was on, meaning my trunk was open. This was a pretty big bummer, because I was pretty overheated having already spent half an hour at a Shell station, getting the tire pressure corrected and managing a problem with the helmet camera, and now I would have to unwire the camera and take off my pack and get all disconnected from the monitor just to close the trunk. Regardless, I had to pull over; but when I did -- the trunk would not close. Now, this trunk has always been temperamental and has required a good slam to get it to shut properly, but this time the latch just wouldn’t engage.

I once again called the Vespa dealer in Grand Rapids, looking for a dealer close to me, but this time they told me what I had expected to hear a couple days earlier when I was in Gaylord, Michigan: “There isn’t one in over 100 miles. You could go to Detroit.” Well, Detroit was not on my way to Sault Ste. Marie, so I sent up a tweet asking if anyone could point me toward someone who might be able to fix it between here and there.

In the meantime I talked to Michael, my husband, who chastised me for not taking the duct tape. I explained that the roll had been too big, but it gave me the idea that I might be able to get a piece of duct tape between where I was and the bridge (The Mackinac Bridge). I was having visions of the wind tossing my critical possessions into the lake as I scooted across.

Before too long I came to a small town, Indian River, where I stopped in an oil change place. Again I had to go through all the gyrations of getting unhitched from the helmet cam, and just as I finished I looked up to see a rather tall smiling man looking down and me. “I have to ask, why do you have a camera on your helmet?” he said. I answered, “Well, I’m delighted you did ask, because then I can tell you that I’m riding 3,400 miles on this scooter to raise awareness about Hidden Disabilities." I pause for the puzzled look on his face, then explain, “This could be any disability that you can’t tell by looking at a person, such as a person who's deaf, or autistic, or has MS.” He whipped out his wallet and said,”Let me give you five dollars.” I was taken aback! People have donated on the website but no one had ever just opened their wallet in front of me and handed me cash. “My name is Ara, and who are you Sir?” “I’m, Pat, Pat Allor.” He must have detected my surprise, because he said, “You are trying to raise money aren’t you?” “Well, yes... usually it's through the website... but this is great, THANK YOU!" I then
explained that I was there hoping to find some duct tape. “Now what would you need a piece of duct tape for on a rig like that?”

I explained about the problem with the trunk so he took me inside to get some duct tape, but it turns out he didn’t work there, he was just stopping in there on his lunch break. He took a look at my broken latch and figured he might be able to fix it at his shop which was just down the road a couple miles. I figured I had nothing to lose so I headed over to Tri Rivers Collision and Pat and his colleague, Dave Cooksey, took it apart and messed with it until they got it working again. They aren’t quite sure why it stopped working and they don’t think their fix is permanent, but it is working for now. Pat helped me get all suited up again, as well as tightening the strap on my helmet, and I was off.

Now here is when things started getting weird. The nav had me traveling south, but I knew the bridge was north of me. I have the settings to take all back roads, so I thought it was possible I needed to go south for a bit to meet up with some other road that would take me north, but it was carrying on for just way too long. I stopped a couple different times and expanded the map and it was in fact taking me up to Sault Ste. Marie, so I tried to chill and just go with it, but again, I was heading farther and farther south and it was getting later and later in the day.

Finally, I was getting too exhausted to carry on much more, and if I had to I was just going to get on the real highway and get going north. So, I called my buddy Jim Picard and asked if he could figure out why the nav was taking me the way it was. It didn’t make any sense to him, and the bridge was now about fifty miles behind me. I asked him to give me an address at the base of the bridge and I would put that in the nav and start over. This managed to get me heading north and moving toward the bridge.

Mackinac Bridge, a.k.a. "The Big Mac"
Image taken from prklevans.wordpress.

Once the bridge was in sight, or the tips of the top of it, I pulled over and turned the camera on because I didn’t know what the traffic would be like once I got closer. Now for months everyone I asked told me no matter what I do, don’t drive on the grates on the bridge and I would be just fine. Well I ended up at a peculiar on-ramp, and I couldn’t figure out if it actually went onto the bridge or not, so I just jump on it and suddenly I'M ON THE BRIDGE!!!!

Mackinac Bridge (pronounced "MACK-in-aw")
Image taken from

There I was, it was actually happening. I didn’t see the grate that everyone was talking about so I was kind of puzzled, but being on the bridge was glorious and beautiful and fun. I was rolling along in the left lane enjoying the view when suddenly just ahead, about forty feet in front of me, was the grating I'd been hearing so much about, and to the right -- was a truck going about 15 miles an hour. Fifteen miles an hour, especially in the wind, is not a good speed for me, so I had to pass him -- but I had never passed anyone before and I had to pass him before the grate, aaeeeiieieieieieie!!! I just made it.

So, I’m cruisin' along the beautiful bridge and it is like I am flying over this huge expanse of water. It was exhilerating. "Absolutely brilliant!" as Ewan and Charlie would say (Long Way Round). I screamed and hollered with delight the whole way over and then.... there was construction and they funneled me over to the grates!!!!!!

I shouted, “I’m glad I didn’t know in advance this was gonna happen to me. I’m just gonna have to pray that my Piaggio MP3 is gonna keep me safe.” It did in fact pull and lurch one way and then the other with no predictability, but I relaxed into it and I was okay. I just treated it like I treat the rough winds. I think I rode the grates for about a mile or so and then I was back on the pavement for another mile and then it was over.

Once on the other side, I attempted to put the final destination back in the nav but it gave me the same confusing error it had given me that morning, saying the route was too long to calculate. Well it turns out there are two Days Inns, both in Sault Ste. Marie, one in Michigan and one in CANADA! So the nav had been trying to take me on some crazy roundabout route to Canada earlier in the day - ack! Well... I won’t fall for that one again.

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