Monday, August 11, 2014

Bad postcard of the week: Moose, pasties and other adventures in Michigan's Upper Peninsula

Not exactly what you think of when you think fine arts.
Fine arts folks are, by nature, a creative bunch.

They don’t just color outside the lines. They create the lines. They like things bold and different

So I can’t imagine the fine arts faculty and students at Northern Michigan University in Marquette were excited to see this week’s bad postcard.

The Russell Thomas Fine Arts Building is depicted in our ghost town genre of bad postcards, where we find somewhat undistinguished government buildings with nary a soul around. This particular postcard gains bonus points for showing us the main building in the unflattering shade.

Well, there’s a chance I might get to see how this building looks today, as I’m headed for my first-ever adventure in the wilds of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

OK, technically I’ve been to the U.P. Like many people here in The Mitten, I’ve driven over the iconic Mackinac Bridge, touching down in St. Ignace. We've stopped at Castle Rock, a touristy place not far from the bridge, bought postcards, checked out the fiber glass Paul Bunyon and Babe, climbed to the top of the rock then scurried back over the bridge.

This is like people who cross from Jersey into Staten Island then declare that they've seen New York.
So this week I’m heading all over the U.P. to see some neat things and meet some nice people. There are a number of things I want to check off the personal U.P. bucket list before heading back.

Upper Peninsula bucket list

1) Cross the Mackinac Bridge

OK, this is an easy one. Unless slipping in from Canada or Wisconsin or arriving by boat, the Mighty Mac is the only way to get there. But it’s a good starting point. And the toll booths are the stars of many bad postcards.

2) Eat a pasty.

A U.P. treat! I hear a pasty is meat and veggies wrapped in dough. So, it sounds like a calzone but without the cheese. Legend has it that pasties were brought over from England when the copper and iron mines were first opened in the 1850s. Miners could take them to work for lunch. 

Pasties seem like they'd be good with gravy, but a co-workers says they're better with ketchup. I think she might be setting me up to be outed as a troll -- someone from below the bridge -- and be laughed out of town. I'll carefully peek at what other diners are doing before making any bold condiment requests.

The top one is a pasty, the bottom is a calzone.

3) Touch Lake Superior.

This will complete my collection of Great Lakes. Note that we’re planning to touch Lake Superior and not swim in Lake Superior. Lake Superior is cold. Really, really cold. There might still be ice on the lake.

4) Find something with “Say ya to da U.P.” on it.

This is the Yooper play on the famous “Say Yes To Michigan” tourism campaign. That campaign has long since been replaced. We’re now “Pure Michigan” and proud of it. But the “Say ya” thing remains in the U.P. as a point of pride.

5) Cross into Wisconsin!

Michigan directly borders on three states, and I’ve already crossed into Ohio and Indiana. Now the goal is to see if Yoopers really do affiliate more closely with the Brewers and Packers.

6) See a moose.

OK, New Yorkers are not acquainted with the ways of the moose.

Our vivid imaginations come up with wild stories of moose packs charging unsuspecting cars, smashing glass with their mighty antlers, sucking people out through the windows and dragging them back to their moose dens, littered with the bones of tourists and tattered North Face fleece.

Co-workers claim that none of this is true, and that moose are actually vegetarians.

We’ll see. The Department of Natural Resources publishes a Moose Country guide for moose viewing and I want to see one. I've dubbed this MooseQuest 14.

And take note: The DNR warns that “Caution must be taken when watching moose. Moose should not be approached. They can be unpredictable and aggressive.”

So, moose have something in common with New Yorkers.

7) Get my National Parks passport stamped at the Pictured Rocks Visitors Center.

The National Parks system years ago published passports that encourage travelers to pull into a park visitors’ center and stamp a page with something that looks like a post office cancellation.

This idea has spread to presidential libraries and, more recently, baseball stadiums.

To no one’s surprise, we've driven miles out of our way on several occasions to get our parks passport stamped. We don’t even have to walk around the part, just the visitor’s center. It’s not like there are rules.
In fact, in Washington D.C., there are some places where you can get whole bunches of stamps in one stop.
Michigan does not have many national parks. But there’s one in the U.P. and I won’t be all that far. Must get the stamp!

OK, Yoopers. What am I missing? Let me know and I’ll try to get there or experience it this week!

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