Ahh, the Northwoods. Where you can walk into places like Nina’s Diner and Jimmy’s Pizza and have your order taken by Nina or Jimmy themselves. Where it’s impossible not to eavesdrop on loud diner conversations, and you quickly realize you are the only stranger for miles. Where every townie bar (which is pretty much every other building on Main Street, and yes, there is always a Main Street) operates the same: locals belly up to the bar and get drunk on cheap beer and cheaper whiskey on any given evening, shooting the shit with the bartender in that thick northern accent that is hard not to love (personal opinion). Where even the classiest of ladies hop out of huge diesel-run trucks with snowplows in the front, because cars up there are ridiculous toys for the city folk. Where snowmobiles pull up to gas stations and strangers across pumps get into deep conversations about machines and trail conditions. Where Stormy Kromer, Red Wings and Mukluks were born and worn out of necessity, not to be ironic or cool.
The great thing about joblessness, when your dad asks if you want to go snowmobiling in Upper Michigan during the middle of the week, you get to say yes. I technically grew up in north central Wisconsin, but snow-seekers know the real white stuff lives in the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the UP. So off we went on a midweek adventure to zoom along the trails of the Keweenaw Peninsula.
And it was lovely.
I’m in love with Winter, and my favorite way to spend time with her is preferably with a snowboard, cross-country skis, or snowshoes attached to my feet. And I will say, I felt incredibly guilty for ruining the peacefulness of the one skier we encountered with the smelly fuel and loud roar of our machines. But I must also admit snowmobiling is an amazing way to race merrily through 70 miles of snow-drenched trees, along ridges overlooking Lake Superior, through tiny northern towns.
The Midwest tends to get picked on in general by inhabitants of other parts of the country. And even Midwesterners themselves like to poke fun at the northern most parts of the region. There is a lot to be said about the Northwoods and the lifestyle of the folks who live there, and there are a lot of people who like to say it. And it’s not all nice stuff. And it’s not all false. Everyone has an opinion. Mine happens to be: if you don’t like it, don’t go there. And shut ‘yer yapper. It’s a different way of life up over yonder, and it takes a special kind of person to make it work, and I have a ton of respect for those who do. It can’t be easy. And I challenge you to find nicer folks than Bill and Bonnie of the Tamarack Inn in Copper Harbor Michigan, or Nina at her diner.
I like to pretend I could, but I am not sure if I’m cut from the cloth that would allow me to thrive there forever without losing a piece of myself. But I do enjoy the escape back in time, where things are a little more simple, a lot less fancy and way more relaxed.
And I certainly always appreciate the warm welcome and hospitality of da Yoopers. Thanks for allowing me to play in your snow.