Lake shore’s blue quiet,
Spreading to sand, grass, and sky,
Today marks a full month of traveling! Congratulations to us for not dying.
Our ride out of Eagle River took us through yet more National Forest land. It’s… full of trees. Seriously, the forest all looks pretty much the same to me at this point (since we’re not moving North and everything here is pretty geologically similar, the plants, animals, rocks, etc., are not very much changed since a few days ago). It’s great that there are roads for people to access these areas of the country, especially since part of the mission of the Forest Service is to make sure that they remain productive, but I guess we are both ready to be done with seeing National Forests for now.
We crossed into our last state today, though! Hello, Michigan!
We’re in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, a.k.a. the UP. People who live around here are self-styled Yoopers, and there’s a bit of a funny relationship to the lower part of the state. We’ve seen a bunch of postcards describing this place as the 51st state, and basically any business that has a sign includes an image of the UP alone rather than the whole state of Michigan. The UP gets regularly left off whole-US maps, so perhaps this is just their revenge.
For lunch, we had course one of a Yooper seven course meal: pasties.
The other six courses of this traditional meal come in the form of a six pack, at least according to the postcards.
We eventually reached Escanaba, after riding through some more forest. Lo and behold, Escanaba is a BEACH TOWN. Woo! Unfortunately, this comes with the caveat that stuff is only really open during beach season. The museum and tourist information center were both closed, but we managed to find some Wi-Fi in the library to get locations of a couple campgrounds and also the location of our secondary goal for the day: the Upper Hand Brewing Company.
The Upper Hand is owned by Bell’s, and was never meant to be a taproom. The bartender gave us the whole scoop, that basically the building (which is located in a rather odd and remote place out next to the airport on a dead-end road) was built as a brewery and distribution center, since due to Michigan’s laws Bell’s’s license would only allow them to operate one taproom (their main taproom in Kalamazoo, MI). This law evidently changed, and when it did the owner of Bell’s phoned up the Upper Hand and told them they had a month to open a taproom. The concrete for the patio was poured two days before their opening. It sounds like it was a crazy time.
The bartender, a badass lady whose name I can’t remember, gave us a lot of her time sharing stories about the brewery and also about living in the UP in general. Apparently the Upper Hand’s plan is to never distribute beer in lower Michigan; she says that if those ingrates want to try their beer “they can damn well come up here and get it”. Instead, they’ve expanded into Wisconsin and Minnesota. She also shared some stories about Wisconsinites, and how some of them “wish the UP was part of our state”. She was definitely not a fan of this idea, suggesting to those folks that they “shouldn’t say that, somebody’s going to hit them. Gross.” It was delightful to hang out with her. (And the beers were good, too.)
After puttering around to sober up a bit, we drove to Gladstone to get a campsite. This gave us a chance to touch Lake Michigan, the first of the Great Lakes!
We have accepted the Mini Quest of touching each of the Great Lakes. It makes our path look a little silly, but what’s a Savage trip without a few odd detours?
Our campsite tonight is in a municipally-run campground, right on Lake Michigan, which even has free bicycle rentals and a lakeside boardwalk coming off of it. The tent sites are awesome, and only $15 a night!
We took a stroll around town, which is all of two blocks, and got some ingredients for dinner. We also picked up a pair of cones of soft serve, since the sign outside the creamery indicated that today is the last day of their season. Plus, they were selling it all off at a great price: $1 off any cone, bringing the total for both of our ice creams to $1 even.
After enjoying Evan’s fish stew, we’re gazing at the sunset. This is a nice, relaxed place to spend a night, and the weather for tonight and tomorrow both look clear. A perfect way to spend our last night in the US. Tomorrow, Canada!