random thoughts: U.P. edition

Last week we traveled to Ann Arbor to move our college junior into an apartment for the upcoming school year. We stopped in Petoskey to visit family and friends and then drove home to Madison through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It’s been decades since this troll* traveled north of the Mackinaw Bridge, but the U.P. hasn’t changed much. Fresh air and clean water. Forested land and undeveloped shorelines that go on for days. Everything about the U.P. harkens back to simpler times. Here are my other random observations.

  • The U.P. must have more signs for pasties and smoked fish than the entire rest of the county. These are true Up North delicacies. Smoked lake trout and whitefish fresh off the boat are flaky and delicious. Pasties are handmade with care and are just the right comfort food for surviving brutal winters. Houghton, for example, averages over 200” of snowfall a year!
  • The yoopers* should be given some kind of credit for inspiring the tiny house movement. We probably saw a hundred little rental cabins that looked to be no bigger than 100 square feet each. Fishermen, hunters, snowmobilers, and other outdoorsy folks choose these no-frills, economical options for a little dose of indoor comfort.
  • Highway 2 boasts an impressive array of throwback motels. For some reason, I love the big LOBBY signs above the entry doors. They remind me of the family vacations of my youth when filling up an ice bucket from the motel ice maker and raiding the vending machine for candy bars was a novelty.
  • In Manistique, the sign at the Big Boy restaurant caught my eye. Why, oh why, are they brutalizing quotation marks this way? It’s both “The” Fresh Choice and The “Fresh” Choice. I can’t decide if this is a worse crime than the egregious use of an apostrophe by Blaze Pizza
  • Unfortunately, the U.P. still seems to be struggling economically. There are plenty of empty storefronts, motels, and restaurants for sale, but I’m not sure what the prospects would be of ever turning a profit. The Culver’s in Escanaba was doing very well, however. Nothing like a Butterburger to fuel us for the rest of the drive home.

*Thanks to Michigan Radio: for this definition: While yooper refers to residents of the Upper Peninsula, those that live south of the Mackinac Bridge may be lightheartedly referred to as trolls since they are “under the bridge.”


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