It took me an hour to cross the border Monday morning. It doesn’t usually take that long and usually there is no stack up in the Nexus line, that express lane that makes my Barnabas Monday mornings so easy in my 2.5 hour commute after camp.
I grabbed my Tim’s in St. Thomas like normal. I entered the 401 like normal. I decided around Chatham to check in with WWJ-950AM in Detroit to see how the weather would be. Not only did I learn it was to be a gorgeous summer day, low humidity and “mild” temps in the low 80s, I learned that three men were being detained because they were transporting a lot of prepaid cell phones, and held photographs of the Mackinac Bridge, suspected of terrorist activity.
I’m sentimental about that bridge. It’s a five mile expanse across the straits of Mackinac (pronounced “mackinaw”), linking the lower and upper peninsulas of our state. It’s a sight to see when you’re on the west side of Mackinac Island (another soft spot in my heart) and God decides to paint you a beautiful sunset just behind it. It’s a sight to see when the Star, Arnold or Shepler ferries bring people in to the island from St. Ignace against the backdrop of the bridge - some spurting out power-wasting jets that the tourists just love - it’s so cool!
That bridge would help me get to the Soo - Sault Ste. Marie - I’m talking Ontario here. It would help me get to Searchmont. I’ve travelled it during journeys to see my grandparents there. I’ve travelled it in the heat of summer, the dazzle of autumn, the freeze of winter, and the splash of spring. I’ve been behind the governor’s Labor Day walk across the bridge, parked on I-75, talking to everyone else parked around me. We can wait. You got any snacks?
So, on Monday, August 14, 2006 I sat on the skirt of the Ambassador Bridge, a few hundred miles south of that other great bridge and I waited to get across, even in the express Nexus lane. Trunks were even being popped for a quick look in that express lane. And I looked at all the Ontario licence plates and the patrollers in bullet-proof jackets and I remembered that we live in much different times today. This bridge that people built to connect two friendly countries, reduced to a place where suspicion cowers under trunk lids and semi-trailer undercarriages. This is not my grandparents’ world anymore.
The funny part? The Nexus computer decided that this was my day for a random check - something we card holders know could happen any day… but today? “Pull over please,” says the usually silent Nexus lane patrol officer. “Yes, sir. God bless, and have a safe day,” as I pull over. “Thank you!” he says.
Out of this funk I float as I drive to work today, Wednesday. Large diamonds are painted in lanes on Woodward Avenue proudly proclaiming “M 1″ - Michigan Highway One. Woodward holds Henry Ford’s first assembly line factory in Highland Park, and in that same area, the first strip of roadway to ever be paved.
Bright yellow posters attached to every light post down the Royal Oak expanse of Woodward proclaim “WOMC The Official Radio Station of the Woodward Dream Cruise.” The Shrine has three big tents set up in the school parking lot. (The Shrine of the Little Flower Roman Catholic Church perches on the enviable corner of 12 Mile and Woodward.)
I follow a white MG, top down, down the road and he turns into one of our “Michigan turn” lanes. Last night I passed a grand old Chevy all decked out in its red paint job and chrome. There’ll be more the closer the weekend approaches. Channel 7 reports from the shopping center parking lot just up the street at 13 Mile and Woodward. There’s an air of festivity as enthusiasts show off cars or ogle others’ cars.
In the early days of the cruise, I actually got to see an old Maxwell. I witnessed the driver - in his period goggles, driving cap and slicker - crank the car into popping and snorting life. That was down at Woodward and Warren Avenues, back in 1996.
It is summer drawing to a close in the Detroit suburbs with a gentle reminder that in our past there was a more innocent time.
Y’know, we talk about the good ol’ days, but sometimes we forget their realities. I hope someday that this pall that hangs like the dust clouds that seemed so alive in the New York streets in September of 2001 will move on - not that we forget, but that we remember to be thankful for all that God has given us! That we remember who we are in Him and the important things in this short life.