July 25, 2014 at 1:00 am

Tom Greenwood

International Bridge trip kindles memories

On Oct. 31, 1964, then 12-year-old Barb Reiter made a special trip north to Sault Ste. Marie with her father, Carl. (MDOT)

The Michigan Department of Transportation doesn’t always work with steel, asphalt and concrete: Sometimes they build using comforting memories and wistful sentiment.

Just ask Barb and Arvid Reiter, who recently rode an 18-wheel time machine back to Oct. 31, 1964.

It was Halloween and then 12-year-old Barb missed out on trick-or-treating to take a special trip north to Sault Ste. Marie with Carl, her truck driving dad.

She often rode shotgun with her dad, but this particular trip turned out to be pretty memorable. They picked up a load of lumber in Canada (to be used in a furniture factory in Muskegon) and then headed back to “The Soo.”

But instead of waiting hours to take the ferry across the St. Marys River, they traveled across the brand new International Bridge connecting Canada and the Upper Peninsula.

In fact, they were the very first commercial vehicle to cross the bridge.

An MDOT photo shows Barb and her grinning dad paying the toll as they headed across the bridge. Barb, now 64, remembers the crowd that greeted her and her dad after the ceremonial crossing.

“There were just miles of traffic,” she said. “Everybody out of their cars tooting and waving, it was one of the best memories I ever had in my life.”

Fast forward to July 11, 2014, when MDOT invited Barb, who lives in Mesick, and her brother Arvid, who runs his own trucking company out of Rock Hill, S.C., to re-create the photo in honor of the closing and removal of the old toll booths at the bridge.

According to MDOT, the old booths were removed as part of a two-year, $9 million International Bridge Toll Plaza construction that removed the structures for seven new lanes and a new toll collection system.

Arvid, who put nearly 1,100 miles on one of his trucks for the trip, wished his dad could have been there for this photo. Carl Reiter died nine years ago.

“He was a hard worker, my dad,” Arvid said of his father, who made four trips a week from Cadillac into Canada. “He raised five kids with that one truck he had. We had a lot of fun out there on the highway.”

Barb Reiter couldn’t agree more.

“It just meant so much to me, I just can’t even express how much,” Barb said of her recent visit. “This being in memory of my dad — and reliving what my dad did — it’s totally awesome.”

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Barb and Arvid Reiter rode an 18-wheeler to the Soo to re-create a 1964 ... (MDOT photos)