Day 74 Crystal Falls to Norway, Michigan: A Tale of Two Towns - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

July 13, 2011

Day 74 Crystal Falls to Norway, Michigan: A Tale of Two Towns


Out of Crystal Falls we stuck with good old highway 2 and were rewarded with a mostly level road much of which was being repaved. The new blacktop was smooth as silk. What a joy! Also for a lot of distance the shoulder was 'closed' by the placement of big red barrel markers (what all Dr. Who fans would recognize as daleks) down the middle. Since they were not exactly centred, a decision was needed on each one as to whether to pass on the left or the right of it. Just the ticket to keep one awake behind the handlebars.

We liked this house in Crystal Falls
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Barriers keep traffic off our backs
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Roadside treat
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We were the first ones allowed on this new silky smooth blacktop
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Near the end of the construction zone we found the actual work crews. Signs indicate that if you injure or kill one, the cost is $7500 plus some years behind bars. We assume this is the maximum price, and injure must be cheaper than kill.

The workers had a one lane arrangement set up, with flag people sending traffic first one way and then the other. We asked how long the one lane was and were told ½ mile. When we commented that it could take us a while to clear through that, the snarky flag lady said 'well then you'll just have to turn around and go back'. We just gave her the incredulous blank stare she deserved and cycled on past. It was a compromise between complementing her on the snazzy high viz suit and investing the up to $7500 in a worker kill/injure!

One of our favourite travel writers is Bill Bryson. One of his titles is 'The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America'. I think it was in this one that he searched for the ideal town, but I forget what his criteria were. It is fun to make up your own, and ours would include at least: no franchise food outlets, lots of greenery but not a feeling of wilderness or isolation, a lake nearby, neither dying nor bustling, shopkeepers know your name and vice versa, etc. etc. Finally, as a general summary, Jimmy Stewart could walk down Main St. and feel and look at home.

I also can not remember if Bill Bryson actually found the town - I think he needed to amalgamate a few - but maybe we did find it: Florence, Wisconsin. Not only was there all the elements already mentioned, but Florence had a reasonable bakery, white picket fences, a fairly historic downtown, and not too much traffic (except on the East side). We looked for Jimmy Stewart but probably would have to be in town longer to actually spot him!

The lady in the bakery gave us some water in bottles labelled 'Florence, WI - The Best Kept Secret in the Northwoods'. Now the secret is out - published in this mass circulation blog! Oops.

Florence, Wisconsin could be the best U.S. small town
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Washroom at the bakery
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Free Florence branded water
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A beautiful house in Florence
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Pretty architecture in Florence
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More pretty Florence buildings
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Last Florence house to look at
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County map on the front carrier shows Florence to Spread Eagle. These local maps are fun because you can track your progress across each side road and you actually seem to be getting somewhere
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Down the road from Florence (and through the interestingly named hamlet of Spread Eagle) is Iron Mountain. Here we have not an elegant but a working town, whose name (like Iron River and Iron County) derives from the iron mines nearby. We checked out one of two museums in town, which housed a monstrous (like three story tall) water pump that had been used for keeping mines dry. The photo really does not convey how hugely huge this thing is! The displays also featured many mining equipment artefacts. These succeeed in illustrating how brutal the extraction of the resource from the earth is. Plus everything is rust red, covered in a rust or a dust that would be impossible to remove.
While Florence has elegant fine dining, Iron Mountain features Pasty shops. As mentioned before, the pasty was food for miners and is an import that came with Cornish workers to this region. Other imported workers came from Italy, and we passed by many businesses today with Italian names.

Gina Marie, Sabrina's sister, seems to be running a business down here!
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This turned out to be pretty good (the pasties not the McDonalds!)
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About 1/2 of houses display at least one flag here, and as you see in this photo the"freedom" culture is strong. While it is true that you can not generally be picked up by the secret police here, and are free to move or leave the country, etc. Americans seem far more afraid of the consequences of stepping out of line than Canadians.
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The mine pump museum
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The local culture includes Italians (you see Italian names and businesses) as well as Scandinavians
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Books in the museum gift shop
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The giant pump
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Hard to portray how hugely huge this is
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Indiana Jones type rail car
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Downtown Iron Mountain
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A Yooper chocolate bar. We came to see how pervasive "Yooper" lore is
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More pastys
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Steve must not be just a bike mechanic. Here he is helping a lady with a bad transmission
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Steve begged for this cute scissors in Cornucopia general store, to cut up maps. Here its first use is to cut the top off a bottle of transmission additive.
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100% of log trucks carry the pieces crosswise as opposed to lengthwise in BC. No doubt these bits go only to paper mills. Art, can you comment any further on this difference?
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The next town up for us this day was 'Norway'. Scandinavian immigrants also played a major role here, and this town must be proud of that heritage. We would not really know, though, because we bypassed the museum. Our looking at museums policy does not encompass looking at every museum.

Finally we came to Vulcan, where we were looking for the 'Big Bear' campground. We found the bear, but the campground only comprised 'sure, you can throw your tent anywhere back there, for free'. Hooray! We love those conditions: a quiet place to put the tent and no fear of getting the boot after everything has been set up.

The Big Bear shares the spot with Uncle Bob's 'Pigs R Us`` BBQ stand. Today Bob is out of town and Jackie is holding the fort. Her pulled pork sandwiches were pretty good!

Across the street is what looks like a tourist trap: ``Iron Mountain Iron Mine``, with a 40 foot tall ``Big John`` miner, tour, and gift shop. Would Steve and Dodie bother with such a thing? You betcha! Only thing, it closed at 5:00 and we arrived at 5:15. So no problem, we will crawl into our tent and wait 'till it opens again, at 9:00 a.m.

Meanwhile Dodie has submitted her entry in the 'Name the Bear' contest. She says call him Spock (of Vulcan). If she wins, the prize is a full rack of ribs (a $17.50 value!).

At the entrances to the town of Norway
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While Florence has elegant fine dining, Iron Mountain features Pasty shops. As mentioned before, the pasty was food for miners and is an import that came with Cornish workers to this region. Other imported workers came from Italy, and we passed by many businesses today with Italian names.

The next town up for us this day was 'Norway'. Scandinavian immigrants also played a major role here, and this town must be proud of that heritage. We would not really know, though, because we byassed the museum. Our looking at museums policy does not encompass looking at every museum.

Finally we came to Vulcan, where we were looking for the 'Big Bear' campground. We found the bear, but the campground only comprised 'sure, you can throw your tent anywhere back there, for free'. Hooray! We love those conditions: a quiet place to put the tent and no fear of getting the boot after everything has been set up.

The Big Bear shares the spot with Uncle Bob's 'Pigs R Us`` BBQ stand. Today Bob is out of town and Jackie is holding the fort. Her pulled pork sandwiches were pretty good!

Across the street is what looks like a tourist trap: ``Iron Mountain Iron Mine``, with a 40 foot tall ``Big John`` miner, tour, and gift shop. Would Steve and Dodie bother with such a thing? You betcha! Only thing, it closed at 5:00 and we arrived at 5:15. So no problem, we will crawl into our tent and wait 'till it opens again, at 9:00 a.m.

Meanwhile Dodie has submitted her entry in the 'Name the Bear' contest. She says call him Spock (of Vulcan). If she wins, the prize is a full rack of ribs (a $17.50 value!).

Today's ride: 65 km (40 miles)
Total: 4,382 km (2,721 miles)

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