Much of my career has been driving back and forth from Wisconsin to Michigan. Running from Green Bay to Detroit means driving through Chicago as many as 6 times a week. The idea of not driving through Chicago is attractive. Especially when there is an alternative as impressive as the Mackinac Bridge.

The bridge itself is impressive. It is the longest suspension bridge in the US. It spans the Mackinac Straights for about 5 miles. On the east side is Lake Huron. Lake Michigan is on the west side. No matter which way you are going the views are incredible. When you are heading north you can see Mackinac Island. It is important to remember – as if you won't notice just how high up you are. The bridge is designed to sway at the top in heavy winds. Light or empty trucks may have to wait out a significant wind storm before crossing.

Trip planning is important. Measure the mileage. Don't forget the timing. When you go through Chicago matters. Recently, I spoke with a driver who was driving from Detroit to Green Bay. He planned to go over the top. He told me that it would be faster and the mileage would be about the same. I asked him if he measured it. He said that it looked about the same on the map. Really? I told him that it was about 300 miles to the bridge and the total distance would be about 75 miles longer “over the top”.

When I got home, I looked it up. The distance from Detroit to Green Bay is 483 miles. The distance from Detroit to the bridge to Green Bay is 556 miles. It is tempting, but not worth it. These days it is easy to trip plan. You can simply punch in addresses and the distances and estimated times will be calculated for you. It beats the old days, when you added and subtracted mile markers. You could also look up in the back of your atlas the distance from Livonia, MI to St. Ignace and then add the distance from St. Ignace to Green Bay. It was never rocket science.

The break even point is somewhere around Flint. Use your electronic tools. Calculate the distance from where you're at to where you are going. Look at the travel times as well as the mileage. Add a stop in St. Ignace. It may be a lot shorter to go through Chicago. Are you a tourist? Go over the top. Are you a professional driver? Weigh the options.

If it is close, I go over the top. There is a $25 bridge toll. Taking the Tri State tollway around Chicago is $24.50 but you have a choice there. The trip north from Detroit to the bridge is about 300 miles. Once you clear Flint, it is beautiful. That does not match the trip from St, Ignace towards Green Bay. You will be hugging the shoreline of Lake Michigan for close to 200 miles. When you branch onto MI 35 south of Escanaba to Menominee the bay of Green Bay will keep appearing. The trip is awesome. If taking the Mackinac is feasible, do it. Enjoy the drive.

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Jeff Clark

Jeff Clark of Kewaunee, WI has been driving a truck for 24 years. He has been an owner operator for 11 years.

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