Sunday, January 22, 2012

I Think I Would Rather Be Shot Across The Straits From A Cannon

than cross the Mighty Mack in the conditions pictured above. That photo comes from the bridge authorities traffic cam. If you click on the highlighted link, you can view the current conditions on the bridge. They also have some interesting history about the Mighty Mack. Early last year, Red proposed a bike trip to Canada so he could add getting his "Canada Card" to his list of endeavors. He invited Unk and myself to Join him, but through a series of circumstances, his wife broke her ankle, I wound up being needed on an emergency project at work, the trip never happened.. Luckily, Unk and Surly did wind up going on a adventure of their own so all was not lost. The four of us have had a Internet kinship going for quite some time, and I would like nothing better than meeting these folks face to face and going on a ride.

While we were in the planning stages I pointed out we would have to cross a couple of bridges some find pretty intimidating. First being the Mackinac bridge, it is five miles long and spans the straits of Mackinac. Riding the bridge can be somewhat of a challenge, it seems to always be pretty windy up there. Second, the bridge authority paints the bridge from one end to the other May until October. The painting itself is no big deal in a car, but if you are on a bike and crossing the bridge between nine am, and five pm. Monday through Friday, the outside lanes are closed to traffic and you have to ride the grate. What is the grate you ask, it is a metal grate that spans 3,800 hundred feet and is 199 feet above the water. It was put there by design to allow wind to pass through the bridge so it remains stable instead of acting like a sail and leading to it’s failure like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge that collapsed in spectacular fashion on November seventh 1940 due to high winds. The wind had no way of passing through the bridge and it began an irreversible gyration and came apart.

Imagine being the guy rescuing the dog from the car and walking off the bridge, that must have been awesome. I digress, the whole point of this post is about “riding the grate” and crossing the bridge in less than ideal conditions. On a motorcycle, it can be about as much fun as pulling your own teeth with a pair of pliers. Your bike starts to gyrate like Gypsy Rose Lee and makes you want to clamp on the handle bars with a death grip. This only makes it worse. You have to have kinda have a light touch on the bars to lessen the effect and still maintain control. Then you have the added pleasure of having a front row view to the straits that lie two hundred feet below. Combine the two and you have a pretty hair raising experience on your hands. Maybe this year, if all the planets align, we can do the trip or at least something close to it. I guess we’ll have to see what kinda cards we are dealt. Here is a riders perspective of riding the grate, I sniped the photo from Pako's page, there is some good shots as well as their views about the experience.


Grumpyunk said...

That first picture w/ all the snow? Yep, not sure where that camera is but that looks like it's about as close as I'd want to get no matter what I was driving!
The first time I went over that thing on a bike it was dark and raining and I was shitfaced drunk. Got in the lane with the mesh and was afraid to change lanes. Rode that all the way across.
Did not plan on that happening, but the cop pointed to the bridge and told us not to come back that way. Not much of a choice. Ah, youth and stupidity!

Gymi said...

Man getting stuck on the grate, in the dark, raining and drunk to boot. Not a good introduction to the bridge no matter how you slice it. That would be as much fun as crossing in the conditions pictured above. I would have chose a different route home no matter what the cop's "advice" was.

red said...

Things are looking up for this year. The Mrs got a new job and I have PTO saved up from last year. I still need to figure out this damn coil issue but I haven't laid hands upon my bike since last summer.

If not Canada, let's at least meet up and do some riding.

Gymi said...

Sounds good Red, I have a ride in mind for the west Coast of Michigan. It is the ride Unk, Surly and I were to take before I had to work. We will get it done this year, we just need to shoot for a time frame all of us can meet and just do it. We have somewhat fixed the personnel problem we had at my place of employment. We went from having five people down to two. We are now up to four (three with me being out with a broken foot, but I get to go back to work Monday at a desk job whoopeee). So I won't have the same issue this year and should be able to go as long as I have a long enough lead time. So let's count on it.

red said...

Sounds good! Once the weather gets a bit better, I'll be out in the garage exorcising the gremlins for my electrical system. Besides the coil curse, my bike is ready to go.

I hope I remember how to ride, it's been a long time!

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