In the outskirts of Memominee, Mich., on the side of the main road through town, there was a hand-painted sign that said JESUS IS LORD OF MEMOMINEE COUNTY. I couldn’t help thinking that that represents quite a demotion for the Lord Almighty, besides being theologically dodgy. But I guess the painter didn’t have room on the sign for AND THE REST OF CREATION.
In Gladstone, Mich., there is – was – a place called the Bombay Motel, which was probably truth in hostelry naming, but not helpful otherwise, since the property was closed and for sale. Along Michigan 28 near Shingleton, the Generic Motel beckons passersby with its white square buildings with black trim. It too looked closed. Just another couple of motel concepts that didn’t fly.
The rest stop on M-28 in the heart of Lake Superior State Forest consists of a nearly new structure made of logs, handsome in its way, that contains restrooms. A closer look at the side of the building revealed dozens of large gray moths idling there. The thought of the larvae they once were is the stuff of nightmares.
Why is Newberry, Mich., so large? It is, perhaps, the largest town between Munising and Sault Ste. Marie. I figured it had once been a major lumber transshipment point, since there’s a rail line through town and a train station, along with a lumber museum. But lumber isn’t what it used to be in the UP, and tourism didn’t seem the answer, since why would tourists stop in Newberry when they can go on to the shores of either Lake Michigan or Superior, or go to the woods considerably east or west of town? But there were a number of motels, more than in most UP towns.
Then we drove by the prison. The Newberry Correctional Facility, the state calls it, and it must house some bad hombres, since the place sports enough barbed wire to fence in the King Ranch, enormous loops of it all silvery and menacing. Incongruously, the buildings inside were tidy brick structures that reminded me of an Eastern prep school. Whatever it looks like, it must be an economic engine for the town, offering an assortment of state jobs, plus a steady flow of visitors to see the cons, mostly from the Lower Peninsula, I figure.
Speaking of crime, I saw a poster at a UP gas station that warned hunters, fishermen and other outdoor visitors to the area to watch out for telltale signs of meth production in the woods, empty vials and the like, up to and including people in the woods making meth (which would be a sure sign of meth production, all right). The poster advised citizens to back away quickly from meth “cookers,” and it took me a minute to realize it meant people making meth. Good advice, no doubt.
And speaking of Newberry, a billboard in town says that it’s the Moose Capital of Michigan. Later I learned that the town has a mascot too, Moe the Mighty Moose, though pictures of him seem to show a man in a moose suit rather than an actual animal. In fact, I didn’t see any moose at all in Newberry, but I was only there a short time. If it is indeed a moose capital, they would do well to also put up some warning signs, such as “Mynd you, møøse bites kan be pretty nastï.”
Not finished with Newberry quite yet. Not far outside of town was Teaspoon Creek, a name I liked immediately. It’s pretty small, all right, but probably holds a lot of teaspoons of water.
Just south of Peshtigo, Wis., a sign tells drivers that a Geographic Marker is next to the road, and en route home I couldn’t resist stopping a moment to look. Off the road is a metal plaque fixed to a boulder, erected in 1938, that tells you that you’re halfway between the North Pole and the Equator. Amazingly, there’s a web site that discusses this plaque and others, and of course the story isn’t quite as simple as being halfway, exactly. I haven’t seen the other sites discussed on the web, but I know someone who grew up near the meeting of 45° N and 90° W, which is central Wisconsin and also marked. I wouldn’t mind seeing that marker someday.
Finally, Wisconsin takes its recycling seriously. Or at least its I-43 rest stops do. Or at least the one south of Green Bay does. All in a row, right next to the parking area, are friendly blue cans, one each for plastic, newspaper, green glass, brown glass, clear glass and tin. Plus one lonely brown can for mere trash.