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Sunday, 14 March 2004
Pix Of The Day: Walking The Strait On Labor Day
CREDIT: © Thomas Campbell/personal pages.
WHERE: Mackinac Bridge, Michigan, USA. WHAT: annual Labor Day bridge walk.
MAP: Straits of Mackinac. Thumbnail click pops-up larger image. If you have problems because of the size of this image, please use the source web page.
Before leaving the Great Lakes region, we felt obligated perforce to take a look at the 'Big Mac' as the Mackinac Bridge is known. Readers who visited us yesterday, and saw the Keweenaw feature [bonus pictures in the item below], will remember that the Big Mac connects the peninsulae of Upper and Lower Michigan across the Straits of Mackinac. The correct pronunciation of this name is 'Mackinaw' to match Keweenaw, which comes as no surprise because the nearby town is both written and pronounced that way, though all other local features containing the name are 'C' pronounced 'W'. Apparently this has everything to do with turtles, and almost nothing to do with those warm blankets used to tailor shirts and jackets!
When it was opened, on 01 November 1957, the Big Mac was the longest suspension bridge in the world. The official bridge web site has details, with photo galleries that include an album about the ferries that were superseded by the bridge.
[NB: the thumbnails on the Mackinac Bridge web site do not lead to the features, at least not using our system, but simply pop-up a medium size enlargement of the thumbnail - for the feature sections, click the section title text!]
Every year on Labor Day, the first Monday in September, half the traffic lanes on the bridge are closed to vehicles to allow a celebration walk to cross the straits. You may read about the event on the Michigan.gov web site with plenty of pictures from walks in recent years. The official bridge site just posts an empty page in the off season. Local newspaper the 'Holland Sentinel' ran excellent coverage, with what we thought was the second best picture we were able to find. The best is today's feature picture by Thomas Campbell, who can also take a straight reportage shot, but we think his picture entitled '…And Still They Come' is the most evocative.
Generally we abhor the cult of personality and ego that seems to creep into everything these days. We make an exception for today's photographer Thomas Campbell, for whom the 2003 Mackinac Bridge Walk was his first, and a celebration of his retirement from teaching chemistry for thirty three years at Penn State [which we thought was a prison, and may have felt like one to Thomas; indeed a life sentence for murder would have probably got him out sooner] University.
We so enjoyed Thomas' retirement celebration picture, a self portrait that he made while relaxing on the north shore of Lake Michigan on what would have been the first day of classes in the Fall 2003 Semester, that it now features here with our best wishes for his retirement. The most successful worker we know of spent all his working life on the railway, but drew more in retirement allowance than he drew in pay during his employment! We wish Thomas every success in his attempt.
Behind-The-Scenes Look At The Making Of This Web Site
A reader has asked if we find the image first, then write the feature; or decide on the feature, then find the image. It is slightly more complicated than that: usually we do start with a picture, but often the image that finally appears in the feature is not the first one we saw. Yesterday's Keweenaw feature was a good example: we had several pictures in and around the Houghton-Hancock area, and specifically pictures of the Portage Canal Lift Bridge, rail transport, and 'laker' ships.
Our final choice was made because we thought that James W. Herbert's series at ContinuousWave.com, 'Trailer Boat Tales 1998, Northern Michigan and Wisconsin, Eleven days on the roads and waters of the upper Great Lakes', was a feature length link that our readers might enjoy. James' picture was taken from a boat on the waterway, which we thought also gave it an edge over the others on our virtual light table. This does not mean that the unused pictures were in any way below standard: judge for yourself with three  pictures from three different MTU web sites  [Michigan Technological University] in Houghton, MI.
The same reader asked about edits and updates: yes sometimes we do these to correct mistakes, or to try and improve our moribund prose. Generally, read it once and you are done. If there is anything of substance to be added we will include it in a later feature, or do an update item.
Yesterday was a small exception. We realized just after publication that we had not provided a link for John Hancock (1737-1793), and in the interests of balance for the twin towns of Houghton-Hancock a link was added. The dash between Hancock's dates also acts as an almost invisible link to a John Singleton Copley painting of Hancock. There are a few 'silent' links scattered through the features, but these are usually to something we have enjoyed, but felt would be distractive for visitors.
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Jules Laforgue (1860-1887)
"Ah! que la vie est quotidienne."
Oh, what a day-to-day business life is.
'Complainte sur certains ennuis' (1885)