The Mackinac Bridge: A Back-to-School Adventure

Much of the country has been “back to school” for a few weeks now. In Michigan, however, today is the official First Day of School. My family decided to beat the back-to-school blues that creep in over Labor Day weekend and went on a very special Michigan adventure!

We walked across the magnificent, five-mile long, Mackinac Bridge! (Pronounced “mack-i-naw.”) It’s a Michigan tradition to open the bridge to foot traffic on Labor Day. We were joined by 35,000 other people who were all eager to enjoy this special scene, too.

The Mackinac Bridge is a stunning form of architecture connecting Michigan’s two peninsulas. It was an engineering marvel as the longest suspension bridge of its time, and is still incredibly impressive today. It is built to withstand 70 mph winds and 30-foot ice floes that come pounding across the Straits of Mackinac, where the Great Lakes of Michigan and Huron meet.

Many who are from Michigan, or have visited, know there is a breath-taking moment as you drive north on I-75, when the stately towers suddenly come into view. The view from atop the bridge, 200 feet above the Straits, is nothing short of majestic! 360-degree views of glorious aqua and blue fresh-water seas sprawl as far as the eye can see, interspersed with two massive peninsulas and seven islands.

When my daughter was 15 months-old, we got stuck in a freeway closure on a road trip, adding several hours to our drive. My daughter was fit to be tied… screaming, screeching, and playing “Houdini” as she kept squirming out of her car seat.

But, as we reached the bridge and gradually angled up, high above that magnificent land and water-scape, she became entranced… Her body was still. Her tears stopped. She leaned forward and stared. At her tender young age, she understood the magnificence of what was beneath her. “Wooooow! Oooooh!” she squealed in total wonderment. And, that’s the moment I knew that the Mackinac Bridge does not just have magical powers over me…it’s simply magical!

Our trek today was about eight miles, by the time we walked from our car on one end of the bridge to the shuttle stop on the other end. I won’t lie; we are tired, hot, and weary as we begin our six-hour drive home.

But, we savored every moment and received our certificates for crossing the “World’s Greatest Bridge!” We are satisfied from our adventure; my husband and I are happy to have done something we’ve always wanted to do, and something our children instinctively know is special.

Meanwhile, our back-to-school preparations were done just before the weekend. The supplies, clothes, and shoes have all been inventoried and purchased. The backpacks are by the back door. Lunches are packed and waiting in the fridge.

I’m looking forward to a fresh start this year. Last year was a bit of a challenge. On one hand, it was a positive year because of many positive things: my son was healthier, my daughter was a year older and getting a bit “easier,” and my husband was on leave from his teaching job to provide much-needed assistance with SOAR® and the children.

But, every single one of us was in a transition. The kids were each in a new school. Brian was in a completely new role as the “family manager.” I was in a new role as the primary bread-winner…and having to relinquish my tight-gripped control of our day-to-day routines. (That’s not easy for my type-A self.)

These transitions meant that we had some disastrous times with school and homework! Let me tell you, it is no fun being a “homework and study skills expert” and having to explain to your child’s teachers that you dropped the ball. Yes, my children need to take responsibility for their work, but we were ALL having trouble keeping track of things.

It wasn’t always graceful. But, we figured it all out. Ironically, it required a perspective much like that from the Mackinac Bridge…to pull myself above the day-to-day reality in which I was immersed. Sometimes, the frustrations got the best of me. But anytime I paused to ask myself, “What do I teach others to do that I am not doing, myself?” I always had an answer.

I even pulled out my own “Scorecard” a couple of times; I’m very pleased to say that the Scorecard led me to my own solutions. (Thank God! I couldn’t live with myself if I was a hypocrite. My mother subscribes to these newsletters, too; she wouldn’t *let* me live as a hypocrite.)

As this new school year begins, I’ve done my best to look at things from a “200-foot view” so that we can get off to a solid start. I have also reminded myself that the next “homework frustration” must be a signal to step back and reevaluate. We can always fix problems…if we are aware they are there to be fixed.

Our walk over the magnificent Mackinac Bridge was not just an adventure to celebrate the closing of summer; it was a metaphor for the perspective that will help us have a successful school year! The architect of the Mackinac Bridge, David B. Steinman, was also a poet. He wrote a poem about his beloved bridge; I think the last two lines capture the feeling I get when I am on that bridge…

There, it spans the miles of water,

Speeding millions on their way-

Bridge of vision, hope, and courage,

Portal to a brighter day.

The Mackinac Bridge stands for optimism and all that is possible! On this back-to-school eve, I feel very optimistic for this school year and for the future we are working to build for our children. I wish you and your family a wonderful school year, too!

The Scorecard I referenced earlier comes with the SOAR® School Success Kit and ADHD School Success Kit for individual families. For educators, the Scorecard is an integral part of the SOAR® Study Skills Curriculum.

My Family on the Mackinac Bridge

My Son, Mark, as We Begin Our Walk Over the Magnificent Mackinac Bridge

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Overlooking Three Islands, Including Mackinac Island

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Michigan’s Lower Peninsula…the Photos Don’t Do the Scenery Justice! You Can’t See the Multiple Variations of Aqua-Blue in the Water, the Diamond-Sparkles Off the Water, the 360-Surroundings, or the Space Above and Below Yourself…It’s Truly All Encompassing!

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-Susan Kruger


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