I’m living the thug life now, here in the former 313. Not life as a criminal. I’ll leave that to my outlaw inlaws. But as Tupac once said, thug life is a life with a determined and resilient attitude to succeed, in spite of other’s nativism and injustice. I’ve busted out of Chippy county and I’m headed home to my homies. No more Michi-gangsta life for me. No more Trumpster fires on every corner. No more Confederate flags flying within earshot of Canada. No more SUVs riding my ass on the interstate, when we are the only two vehicles in sight. I’d much rather deal with grandpa tooling along in the left-hand lane, with his left turn signal on for twenty miles. I can deal with that. That feels like home. Tomorrow, I’ll flee the former 313 and move on to the 314. It’s over. I’m out.
There is a Confederate flag flying on Davitt Street in the Soo. I have not seen it, but Anne saw it yesterday. I can think of only one reason why someone would do such a thing, racism. I think that we are too far north up here to entertain any so-called southern traditions. It is a cowardly act, because in the five weeks that I’ve in the UP this summer, I have only seen one African American and he was a musician, performing at Pickles, so it is unlikely that he lives here and is gone.
There are two minority communities in the area, the Ojibwa and the Amish. The Bay Mills tribe are indigenous and have been living here since before the white man arrived. Their reservation serves as a focal point for their community, but intermarriage has allowed tribal members to spread out from there. When I first began coming up here “the Res” as it was referred to, was stereotypical of the “poor Indian”, with three derelict cars in every front yard. That was then. With the advent of their casinos and other commercial enterprises, they are now a prosperous community. Bicycling through it yesterday, I was amazed at the extent of the tribal services that are now available to members.
Where as the first peoples have always been here a relatively new addition to the Soo are the Amish. They are another prosperous community. In the past, they were known as the Pennsylvania Dutch, but hard work, combined with large families has led to their westward expansion. They have a thriving community in Missouri. Chippewa County is another new frontier. They’ve been here for more than a few years now, but as their numbers swell, so does their impact on the Soo. I mainly see their members driving their horse buggies down the roads leading to town, But I have also seen them in both Meijer’s and Walmart. They always seem to me to be a bit out of place in these stores, but I understand why they shop there too. We’ve counted three new Amish dwelling being erected this year, including one in town. Normally, they opt for a farm outside of town.
So, we have one racist reactionary, but there is also plenty of hope for the future. If this coward had tried his flag waving, an you know that it has got to be a he, in Saint Louis, losing his flag would be the least of his worries. It is high time to tamp down this kind of racist behavior and lock it up in the closet again.
When the going gets tough, the tough get going. So, while the girls were out clubbing, Carl and I went to town, baching it, sort of speak. I parked for free on Magazine, with the intension of eating at Karl’s, but all of their upstairs seating had been taken. Instead, we walked the length of Portage’s tourist row and ate at Superior Café. I had one of their varieties of avocado toast, while Carl had their Rueben. He drank a dark beer and I had a cider. It was good.
After lunch, we went around the corner and visited the Soo Historical Society. I was underwhelmed at first. Their display consisted of the usual collection of hand-me-down heirlooms / junk. Then we met Rowan. Thirteen years old and already well over six feet tall, personable, knowledgeable and generally quite pleasant. He was volunteering at the historical society. He showed off some of the displays, but generally we just talked.
I asked if he was named after the member of the comedy team of Rowan & Martin, but that was way before his time and he didn’t know what I was talking about. He said that he was named after the type of tree. At this time his mother stuck her head in, checking out what too strange men were doing for so long with her boy. She said that his father wanted to call him Alder, but she put her foot down and picked Rowan, because of Rowan & Martin. After about an hour, we bade farewell. His mother wished us well with, “Have fun baching it.”
We walked back down tourist row, past Karl’s to the putt-putt golf course. Shot a relatively quick round and we both finished up with a hole-in-one. Meijer’s was next and then back to the cabin, beating the girls back. We did the Cozy Inn. It was slammed, supposedly because of a fishing derby. We ended up with way more whitefish than we needed, so, I see fish tacos in our not too distant future. Anne, Jay and Carl finished their redwoods puzzle last night.
As a much needed getaway from elder care, we drove west to Soo Junction and indulged ourselves in a totally touristy train and riverboat tour to Tahquamenon Falls, courtesy of Tahquamenon Falls Riverboat Tours. I’ve been vacationing up here for decades and have done all of the usual tourist stuff around here and Anne has been coming even longer, but somehow this attraction has eluded us. Yesterday, after a forty minute drive, we arrived at the parking lot. Before we got there though, we stopped first at Sugar Daddy, the new Brimley bakery, for a little something and at a popup roadside craft stand, at the corner of M-28 and M-123 that was selling birch-bark baskets. Anne bought a nice one for me.
The total tour runs 6 ½ hours and travels through the wilderness swamps and forests around Tahquamenon. It begins with a 35 minute narrow gauge train ride, along the “longest 24″ gauge railroad in the country” (5 ½ miles). Called the Toonerville Trolley, this train was first built for logging in 1910. In 1927 in converted from hauling logs in the winter to hauling tourists in the summer. We sat in the third car, the “party car” that was comprised almost exclusively of people from Ann Arbor. It was sunny, warm, bug free and an enjoyable ride.
The train ride is followed by a 2 hour, 21 mile, riverboat cruise. The Hiawatha offers two decks, with enclosed and open seating, food service and restrooms. If you save some room until the last hour of the return trip, hotdogs are a dollar. This boat is the latest in a sequence of tour boats that have been plying the river. In the dead of winter, water trucks sprayed water for a month, making an ice road 18″ thick. The boat was hauled to the river in five sections by truck and welded together on the frozen river. When spring came, it launched itself.
During the cruise, the captain provided excellent narration on the area’s logging history, Native American history and Michigan’s plant and animal life. After reaching the rapids above the falls, he docked the riverboat for a little over an hour, allowing for a 1¼ mile roundtrip nature hike to a private viewing area for the upper falls. The normal view from across the river is better, but this one was different and different is usually good just for being so. After the stopover, the riverboat and train retraced their routes back to Soo Junction.
It rained on the return boat trip and after a couple of nearby lighting strikes and the captain’s admonition, the outside decks were cleared. It turned cool and we were missing our raincoats that we had left in the car, so we snuggled, just to keep warm, don’t you know. It was still a pleasant ride. The return train trip was not so nice. We both got massacred by mosquitoes. On the way out, we were heading northwest into a northwest wind, giving us a combined air speed of between 10-20 MPH. So, no bugs, but on the way back, we were heading the opposite direction and what with the wind still out of the northwest, the motion of the train was effectively cancelled by the wind. We used Off!, but almost every spot that we had missed with it got bitten.
Still, the expedition was a lot of fun. We saw Sandhill cranes, a Golden and Bald eagle and “Harry” the woodchuck, but no wolves, bear or moose. Maybe next time? We dined at Pickles, which on a Saturday night was slammed. For having spent almost all day sitting, we were both very tired and Bubs had to go to bed early, because no one else was still going to be up much longer.