Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mackina(c/w) Bridge Run

If I really wanted to be mean to the very few people that read this, I would make this a two-part cliffhanger, but why bother right?  So I won't. but sometimes making it to races can be challenging.  This time, Thursday night at 8:15pm, I decide I better go out and put on that new serpentine belt for my car.  The belt was getting pretty warn, and it was starting to squeak a bit, so I decided it was something I better do before we make a 3 1/2 hour trip up north to Mackinac City (that's how I spell it, anyway).  So I go to the garage, get out my socket wrench, and put it in the spot and pull up.  I see a small cloud of dust and hear a couple of clinks on the garage floor and inside the engine.  As usual, I went all Q*Bert with the expletives and wondered what the hell just happened.  I crawl under the car and start pulling pieces out.  I find a bolt, a spring, a plate, two sides of a tensioner (one with the tensioner wheel itself), and a little plastic ring (see below except plate and bolt).
 I try to call my friend Ken to give me a lift to the parts store, and he was over a half hour away with family.  Jessi's at work, and I text her to tell her that our vacation is over because my car just broke.  In the midst of this, I realize I'm leaking coolant too, and I'm thinking somehow it knocked my water pump, but luckily that wasn't it.  I spotted a small drip coming off the hose coming from the coolant basin to my radiator.  I turned the hose over to realize it had a nice small leak in it.  So there was another problem, but an easy one.  I didn't know about the tensioner.  Since I've never done one before, I didn't know if all this junk was one piece or not, or if I'd be able to get it back on if it was.

Jessi asked her mom to come get me and take me to the parts store before they closed at 9 to see if I can get it fixed.  Her mom showed up very quickly (which almost never happens), and got me there and back.  The guy and gal at the store were less than helpful, and I had to get them to go back a few times as they kept selecting the exact opposite of what I was telling them the make and model of my car was.  Then I had to go to the back to select the hose I needed because they apparently couldn't match sizes well, even though I had the exact hose with me.  Whatever, though, I got a tensioner, and hose, and both looked exactly like what I needed.  I got the whole thing done, wrapped up, tools away, and coolant back in before Jessi got home.  Then I took it out for a test drive, and grabbed some frustration deep dish pizza from Little Caesar's (onion and green pepper is healthy right?).  I hadn't eaten all day.  Work was busy (so no lunch), after I had been packing, and then the car thing happened.  So judge me if you will, but I thought I deserved it. 

So I avoided having to take a day off work and fix a car, thanks to my future mother-in-law (who is having lunch on me sometime in the coming week), and even was able to drive there and give the car another small text spin before we headed up.  I had a pretty messy day, so I came home and changed.  Then we packed up the car, and drove up.  I'm happy to report that we made it safe and sound, and my temperature gauge stays further down on longer runs than it has in a while, and my gas mileage even seemed to be better.  I am sure that whole car thing was a blessing in disguise now.  That could have flew off on the drive up there, or the hose could have went full leaker on us.  Either way, I guess it was a lucky catch.

We got up to Mackinac City and I stopped in to register and get my packet the night before the actual race (for once).  Surprisingly, they gave us both the shirt and the medal beforehand.  That's kind of odd, because it takes a little of the motivation out, knowing you got a finisher medal coming to you.  For this they just throw it in there like "Oh it's fine, even if you don't finish.  This thing's worthless anyway."  It's kind of made me wonder about these participation medals, but hey, when am I actually ever going to place or win?  Still though, I am starting to feel like one of the crappy players on the little league team (again) that gets a prize no matter what.

We got to our campsite, and this was our view.
We realized we forgot our tent's topper, so we had to go get a tarp in town to save us from potential rain (which did start at 4am that night, only stopping for a little bit until I started the run).  We also needed some D batteries for the air mattress blower.  Decided to eat in town.  Jessi kept saying she wanted a burger, but when we went to a place that had them, we both ordered pancakes for dinner.  Only on vacation...

We built a small fire when we came back and marveled at the bridge and view from the campsite some more (while also wondering why they put the fire pit so close to an electrical hook-up...).

We got to sleep fairly early (about 11:00pm) because I had to be up at 5:00am to get up, ready, and to the pick-up point at 6:15 for the bus.  I kept waking up periodically anyway.  I guess I was nervous about oversleeping and missing the whole thing.  The only alarm we had was Jessi's phone, and I wasn't sure if that was going to be enough to wake us up.  Anyway, I woke up about 4:52, and was getting my clothes together for the race.  I heard the phone go off shortly after, and Jessi say "nooo" and shut it off.  She swears she knew I was awake and if I hadn't been, she would have woken me up when it went off, but I guess we'll never know for sure. 

Either way, I got up and ready, and got her up after I was ready to go.  I told her I'd be about an hour (figuring in transportation across and the run), and left to spot where they had school buses lined up to take us across the bridge to St. Ignace.  It has been a long time since I've been on the bus, and I had to sit in back like the bad kid that I never was.
I started talking to the guy next to me with just the usual "where you from" sorta stuff.  He was from Charlevoix and had done this race a few times.  When we stopped, he told me I might as well go ahead of him, since I'd probably be going faster than him.  I kinda scoffed at that, since he looked a little more run-worthy than I.  Then I told him "I plan on taking this one slow and enjoying it, anyway."  We got off the bus, and I took a few quick pictures, and then ran through the start gate timers.

I gingerly made my way up the slope of the bridge through a little drizzly rain.  When I got about halfway across the bridge, I looked behind me to see if I had a clearing.  I couldn't resist hocking a big loogie over the railing at the high point of the bridge and watching it float down out of sight.  Just a stupid childish pleasure that came upon me like a reflex, and was pretty rewarding in its own stupid way.  After the halfway point, the rain really started coming down.  I was drenched, and the camera was getting soaked too.  So I put it away shortly after, but I did get some decent action shots.

On the way down the bridge, the guy from the bus passed me, and I told him he was wrong about his prediction (of me being quicker).  He just responded with "there's still plenty of race left," but I had no desire to chase him.  Like I said, I was just taking my time on this one.  After finishing the bridge, my feet were soaked, and we still had a mile to go to the finish.  I wasn't really tired at all, just sick of being rained on at this point, and sick of sloshing through all the ankle-deep puddles the rain was leaving in my way.  There wasn't any scenery left for me to take in, so it was time to get this puppy over with, get a drink, and hit the restroom. 

I finished, hit the other two objectives, and found Jessi who was waiting to see me finish.  Apparently, I over-estimated how long it would take me (again) and she just missed me.  My fault, I guess, but I really thought the trip across would take longer.  The buses sped horribly going across (48 mph at some points).  Honestly, I don't really like being on bridges, and the run, even the part where you could look down through the little steel teeth and see the water, was less freaky than the bus ride.  So that didn't take as long as I expected.  Oh well, there will be others for me to tell her the wrong time to look for me.  From there we went inside the rec center to eat the provided breakfast, and get some coffee to warm up.
After doing a little touring of Mackinac City and getting Jessi some fudge, we made an executive decision not to spend another night in the tent if it was going to rain all night.  Camping is great, but camping in the rain, just isn't that appealing.  So we packed up all the stuff, and took a couple more bridge photos from our campsite.  Then we went to the park by the bridge to sorta mimic the picture from two years ago (as I promised I'd try to).  I know it's not exact, but I think I look a little thinner.  
Had the sun came out, we would have went back to the site and unpacked and stayed, but it just kept getting worse.  So we left after taking this photo, and we headed back home.  We stopped in Gaylord for lunch at Big Buck Brewery.  I wasn't expecting much, since their website only listed 3 brews, but they had quite a bit more than that (at least 14).  I tried the oatmeal stout and the IPA and both were fairly good.  The food was pretty decent too.  The only thing I wasn't really into was the over-the-top hunter lodge motif that the place had going on, but I enjoyed the rest anyway.  Besides, they were actually good with their service, and even let me buy a growler of a beer that I wanted (unlike New Holland...sorry, I'm still mad at you!).  It even had "special" in the name, New Holland (well it was abbreviated in the S of "ESB," but whatever).

That's my Mackinac Bridge story.  In a way, it wasn't as overwhelming as I was expecting, but that could have just been the rain.  I may have to try it again some day, and maybe do the Labor Day one instead where there's more people.  We'll see what happens.  Time to move on to whatever's next.  I'll keep you posted.

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