M & M…the cities, not the candies September 25 – 28 (Days 24 – 27) Michigan/Wisconsin

Going home, Part 2

people in the Upper Peninsula are proud Yoopers (U.P.)

People in the Upper Peninsula are proud Yoopers (U.P.)

Menominee Michigan and Marinette Wisconsin are effectively one city, separated only by the Menominee River and the country’s oldest interstate football rivalry between two public high schools (the Marinette Marines and Menominee Maroons, good-naturedly battling since 1894). Menominee even belongs to the Central timezone, in solidarity with Marinette, rather than Eastern with the rest of Michigan. We borrowed “Yellow Bikes” and toured the two towns, crossing over the Menekaunee Bridge near the lake and the giant Interstate Bridge several miles upstream.

We visited Nancy’s dad, now 89 and 5/12. He still walks a daily 0.7-mile loop outside—rain or shine or snow—to see the ducks, more than 100 of them.

I had a hard time keeping up.

I had a hard time keeping up with my dad.

One of the residents has fed them corn for years, but the DNR has now disallowed that. It will be a difficult change for the ducks and the elderly nursing home residents.

Who wouldn't want all these ducks in the neighborhood?

Who wouldn’t want all these ducks in the neighborhood?

My dad got a kick out of the Strava map of his walk.  It was a 34-minute-mile pace with several stops for ducks and photos. I hope we’re doing that well when we’re 89 5/12.


Grandpa is KOM (king of the mountain) on this route.

Here’s lunch: a pasty, the meat pie. Not to be confused with pasties, worn by exotic dancers. Can you find a pasty anyplace other than the UP? It was the meal of choice for copper and iron miners, convenient and inexpensive, with meat, potatoes, and rutabaga.  A poor man’s Beef Wellington. Yum! Michael thinks it must be an acquired taste.

Pasty (short a), not pasties (long a)

Pasty (short a), not pasties (long a)

Menominee has a beautiful marina. Some of these sail the great Chicago to Mackinac race, 333 miles, the oldest annual freshwater distance race in the world.

By winter this will be a skating rink.

In winter this will be a skating rink – almost.

The boats here will be removed before winter since Lake Michigan freezes solid, at least in this spot. Great for ice fishing and ice sailing. These waters are actually on the northern edge of Green Bay the bay, located about 50 miles north of Green Bay the city. (Go PACK!)

Here’s the Menominee lighthouse, not as tall or old as some of the North Carolina and New England ones we’ve seen, but it’s a pretty sight from the marina.

Can you tell Michael's bike seat has slipped down 6 inches?

Can you tell Michael’s bike seat has slipped down 6 inches?

Michael enjoyed surprising the gulls on the pier.

Michael enjoyed surprising the gulls on the pier.

the yellow bike can take you anywhere in Menominee

The yellow bike can take you anywhere in Menominee – or Marinette.

A local group plans to develop Green Island, about seven miles into the lake between Marinette and the Door Peninsula, into the next Martha’s Vineyard. You heard it here first.

The next hot island getaway?

The next hot island getaway?

Along the river, Marinette Marine Corporation makes huge ships; one of these is the Detroit, a 389-foot, 7.5 million-pound littoral combat ship (LCS) equipped with stealth equipment. There’s another  one  behind that I’m guessing is a commercial vessel specially equipped to avoid Somalian pirates. Lowering these boats into the water happens as a side launch, an interesting activity with a very big splash; the date of launch is publicized and over 1,000 people line the river to watch.

the CLS Detroit almost ready for launch

the LCS Detroit almost ready for launch

We pedaled past Ansul, now Tyco, manufacturers of fire protection systems. When you’re in a diner anyplace in the world, look above the grill and you’re likely to see a red Ansul box guarding the facility. Gail worked there for a year or so in the “Glass Palace,” this artsy administrative building.


the Glass Palace

Nancy worked in the bowels of manufacturing for a couple summers. Our dad assembled fire extinguishers for many years, working full days at the factory and milking 30 or so cows on the farm every day before and after work. Out of sight of this building is a giant concrete box, built in the ‘70s to store the salt by-product from the manufacture of herbicides. Prior to that, the arsenical salts generally made their way into the river and lake. Yes, arsenic.

We’re in the Upper Peninsula or UP (you pee), the rabbit-shaped peninsula home to Yoopers.

Nancy lived on the rabbits front foot and went to school on its ear.

Nancy grew up on the rabbits front foot and went to school on its ear.

Michael tried to imitate the Yooper ladies we overheard at lunch saying “Oh, yah.” They stopped short of “Yah sure, you betcha” that you might have heard on “Fargo,” but the accent is something we’ve never heard in Charlotte. It’s almost like the multiple tones we heard in China.  He couldn’t quite get it right. I still can, at least I think I can. For an interesting experiment, try the New York Times dialect quiz which asks questions like “Do you say soda or pop?” and then tells what region you grew up in. It was very accurate for our extended family from New Jersey, New York, California, Michigan, and North Carolina. Hey dere, youse guys, try it. You’ll like it, doncha know. (Yooperspeak, an extreme exaggeration, of course.)

Finally we stayed with Gail and Dale Gusick on our way out of Wisconsin. Dale has a magnetic personality, which makes him a human lightning rod. He has been struck by lightning three times: in a cabin on a lake, on a tractor, and in a boat trying to outride a storm. We don’t go near him outside in the rain!

The Gusicks at a gala boat function in Hamburg

The Gusicks at a gala boat function in Hamburg

This summer Gail and Dale were in Hamburg, Germany. Last month Dale was in Rio. Today he’s trying to get to Asunción, Paraguay (but the Chicago airport shutdown for an air traffic control fire is messing up plans). All of this is for marketing, sales, and support of boat heat exchangers, known as grid coolers, manufactured by R. W. Fernstrum & Co., a family-owned Menominee business, in operation since 1949. Dale is the international sales manager. Gail, who has worked at Fernstrum for over 44 years, frequently represents the company at trade shows in Europe, Asia, and South America. Pretty extensive travels from a small town in the “best part of Michigan.”

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