Day 75 Norway to Escanaba, Michigan - Grampies on the Go - CycleBlaze

July 14, 2011

Day 75 Norway to Escanaba, Michigan


We broke camp at the Big Bear and sat at Uncle Bob's picnic table, waiting for the Iron Mine to open. Not only are we suckers for a tourist attraction but apparently we will go out of our way to drop our money at one.

At the appointed hour (9 o'clock) we reported to the mine and found that its main building was a surprisingly large and well appointed gift shop. Items for sale included a lot of minerals both local and not, videos about trains from around the country, and one category of particular interest that I will call Yooper Ware. The first reference to 'Yoopers' that I saw was yesterday in the pasty shop. I didn't mention it here because I suspected it was an affectation of that shop. Now I see that Yooper stuff is everywhere. Yooper of course is derived from the U.P. or Upper Peninsula of Michigan, which is where we are. The Yooper mystique is almost identical to that of Newfies or Hill Billies, except that it includes lots of references to mosquitoes and snowmobiles, pastys, the U.P., and Yoopers: all stuff we knew nothing of before this cycle trip. Kind of makes it all worthwhile, eh?

Speaking of worthwhile, the mine tour blew us away! This was no plasticized tourist ripoff. This was a real chance to go down into the real thing. While the guide, Leo, had never actually worked in a mine, he has being doing this tour for 17 years and had a wealth of information about iron mining and this mine. The tour began an explanation and brief demo of some of the mining equipment and then with riding a shaft train 2600 feet through a narrow, wet, cold tunnel. From there it was walking to two stopes, which are chambers from which ore was extracted. The second, larger stope, was a huge chamber partially filled now to a depth of 1200 feet with water. Leo explained much about where the ore was and was not, about air quality, about miners' diseases and hazards, wage rates for various job descriptions, etc. Needless to say we learned a lot. We were also amazed that regulators had not ruined this with a lot of controls like safety gates on the train, better barriers at the stopes, less slippy floors, etc. As it was, it felt authentic. They also had free coffee and cookies!!

Yooper ware
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Yooper ware II
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Yooper ware III
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Big John ware
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Steve Dodie Jean and Mike
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Leo, our guide
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Finding the ore body
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Leo explains
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Equipment on display
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Set to enter the mine
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This is the real thing
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Leo on dust free drilling
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The big stope
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We headed off towards Escanaba, which would be the first town on our route on Lake Michigan. Soon enough we got hungry and began looking for a place for lunch. We found a few places as we passed though the towns of Loretto, Waucedah, Hermansville, Spalding, Wilson, and Harris but they were either scuzzy or shut down or were actually bars. Finally we turned in to Bark River, determined to find something, since at now 4 p.m. it had been crackers and an apple (plus cookies at the mine) for breakfast, and then ½ bag of chips at lunch. The restaurant in Bark River was long ago out of business. However everyone said we should go to the 'deli' which turned out to be a counter in the C&C Grocery. The deli featured little and when Dodie saw that the deli worker went to the washroom and did not wash his hands, we beat a retreat.

About that deli - since North America is generally so rich and since we are generally proud of it, it's hard when we encounter a town that is impoverished, by having no good fresh food, no apparent cultural points of interest, dying businesses, etc. Bark River fit that description, just like other spots in the other states and provinces we have visited.

We got tired of casinos, but should have stopped here. There was no edible food for miles after this.
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Hooray, this wasn't a target that we had fixed in our minds, but it's gotta be a good sign anyway.
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Our take on "poverty" in the U.P.
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We have seen much better food choices in rural Mexico. Jaz, this is actually diet food 'cause we wouldn't touch it.
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Traffic picked up as we near Escanaba, making us less disposed to like the place. As we got nearer, the nondescript roadside resolved into miscellaneous nondescript businesses. Finally, the 'downtown' did the same, only with a little more density.

The outskirts of Escanaba - not too appealing.
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Escanaba - not too appealing
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Downtown Escanaba - not too appealing
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We pedalled 12 blocks off route to find the Swedish Pantry, a restaurant that had proclaimed itself the best in town on several billboards. The place occupies a colourfully decorated building and inside the decorations are over the top. The main elements seem to be clocks and dolls. It's a frilly environment whose Swedish authenticity we are not qualified to judge. The food too seemed Swedish, in an Ikea sort of way. We had the roast pork and the pot roast of beef. Though drowned in gravy it was quite edible.

With our high viz getups we were again drawn into conversation, with everyone in the room. It's a bit like we are being showoffs, but then again we don't approach anyone with tales of our daring exploits, they always approach us.

As we were leaving, a quiet young man sitting alone at a table asked me if we had a place to stay. I was afraid he was about to offer us a place, since we were already talked out. Not in the least. This turned out to be Tim, a long distance cyclist doing the circle of Lake Michigan, and whose bike was parked outside.

I went out to have a look at it and was surprised to find what looked like almost no gear on it. There was a tent to be sure, but otherwise what I saw was mainly two yellow plastic bags, like shopping bags, piled on the rear carrier. Tim says he saw no reason to waste money on unnecessary items, like panniers! He is clearly a different class of traveller from us. I think that class is called 'young and not needing a bunch of crutches - like panniers'.

The Swedish Pantry building
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The Swedish Pantry interior - interesting, but weird.
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Part of the Swedish Pantry menu. Lillian - comments?
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Tim
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Tim's minimalist equipment approach.
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We left the restaurant and went down to see the Lake.

Lake Michigan!
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More Lake Michigan
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Then we headed North a few km to the Pioneer Park and Campground.

Leaving Escanaba!
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We hoped to find Tim here, but no luck. What we did find was mosquitoes, in enough numbers to make sitting at our picnic table untenable. Fortunately we found a small laundry room, and that is where I am hiding right now, trying to write the blog while standing in front of a washing machine.

Soon, and to our delight, in walked Tim - checking out the facilities. We immediately got him to set up on our site, thereby evading the $15 charge. It is dark now and so no time for any chats. Tomorrow a.m. perhaps we will see more of his gear and philosophy of what to take and not. We did learn that he is a plant bioquality (or somesuch) student at Purdue. This involves bioengineering in some way. It would be fun to learn more about this too. For now, though, it's finish the laundry, see if this text will upload on 2G, and go hide in the tent from the mosquitoes.

Today's ride: 80 km (50 miles)
Total: 4,462 km (2,771 miles)

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