Now about Marquette

When we last surfaced in this blog, we barely had pulled into Marquette.   The largest town on the Yoop.  The “Queen City.”

What’s that?  Cincinnati is the “Queen City?”  So is Charlotte?  And Fargo?  Turns out there are some forty Queen Cities in these United States, including three in Alabama alone.*  But this post is about Marquette, because we’re in Marquette.

Before we left for another trip back to take care of some stuff in Arizona, we bopped around town for a couple of days.  The paths are green and cool and go through foliage that isn’t at all like Arizona.

We’re suckers for cool buildings, and despite being small for a “city,” Marquette has a mess of them.  Starting with the “World’s Largest Wooden Dome.”  We have no idea if the claim is true, but the Superior Dome—which is home to Northern Michigan University Wildcat football—is impressive.  We’d never heard of the Superior Dome before and as we approached Marquette in the haze we thought it probably was a huge sand pile, but we walked over to check it out.  We are able to confirm that indeed it’s a wooden dome.

NMU’s website says it’s fourteen stories high at its peak, covers over five acres, and required over a hundred linear miles of Douglas Fir decking.  Sadly the Superior Dome was closed, so we couldn’t go in and personally verify any of these measurements.

Marquette Harbor Light is another of those lighthouses that now is a supposedly-haunted museum.  It dates to 1866, when Marquette’s proximity to vast iron ore deposits created a boom in the shipping business.  Sadly the lighthouse was closed, so we couldn’t go in and verify that indeed there are ghosts flitting about.

Here’s St. Peter’s Cathedral.

St. Peter’s is impressive and has a bunch of history and all, but mostly we remain in awe of the Catholic tradition of fundraising.  Per the official Catechism, “The faithful . . . have the duty of providing for the material needs of the church.”  The non-faithful might quibble with using parishioners’ tithes to build an ornate cathedral that arguably isn’t a “material need,” but at least it’s pretty.  Sadly St. Peter’s was closed, so we couldn’t go in and donate.

After he was George Bailey and before he was Ranse Stoddard, Jimmy Stewart was a small-town lawyer who worked a minor miracle in Anatomy of a Murder, which was based on an actual criminal trial that unfolded at the stately Marquette County Courthouse where the movie later was filmed.  We do love a good movie site.

Next up, Old City Hall.  In the few minutes we were willing to spend on research we didn’t find anything interesting about it, but here it is.

This former customs house is one of the oldest surviving buildings on the Upper Peninsula.  A developer bought it and is turning it into a condo building.  If we were buying a condo we’d want a porch and more windows and better parking, but that’s just us.

Now, we know that not everyone is into old buildings.  Someone reasonably might say “The old buildings are okay, but what if I was short on time in Marquette and unexpectedly but urgently needed to buy a colorful ukulele?”  Yup, Marquette’s got you covered.  Sadly the store was closed, so we couldn’t go in and show off our harmonized rendition of “Tiny Bubbles.”

The park near the marina has a memorial dedicated to native son David H. McClintock, a naval officer whose submarine exploits “changed the course” of the Second World War.   Maybe that’s home-town hyperbole and maybe it isn’t, but the memorial is one of the coolest we’ve seen.

A couple of other boat-related things.  Ocean Navigator pulled in during our stay.  We last saw her alongside the wall in Sault Ste. Marie.  Ocean Navigator was interesting because (1) her itinerary doesn’t seem to include Marquette, and (2) although she never leaves the Great Lakes her stern shows Nassau as her home port.

We found the latter point rather disturbing, until we remembered that Tumbleweed’s home port is Scottsdale.

An unnamed Marinette 28 has been next to our spot at Cinder Pond, which wasn’t really all that interesting until we looked inside.  That’s a museum-quality display of spoon lures right there.

Finally, the nice couple on Blessings Flow pulled in while we were gone.  They’re just starting their Loop.  It wasn’t until we were chatting with Lance and Brenda that we realized we knew their Bayliner back when she was Baytripper.  Although we had some fun times playing cards and pickleball with Bruce and Bev, it’s not our fault we didn’t immediately recognize the boat because it no longer reeks of dead Asian carp.

So that’s Marquette.  If all goes as planned, ten hours underway tomorrow will get us to Hancock.


*For obvious reasons, the Alabama tidbit brings to mind Sammy Kershaw’s classic song “Queen of My Double Wide Trailer,” which includes one of the great lines in country music: “She said he rebuilds engines and his name is Earl, he’s the Charlie Daniels of the torque-wrench.”  Poetry.  Pure poetry.

Ha. We found some unused lyrics after all

Before anyone is frightened off by the length of this lengthy post, don’t worry.  It’s mostly photos.  Just don’t apply that formula equating each picture to a thousand words and it’ll be fine.

Back to Sault Ste. Marie.  We didn’t leave as planned.  Experience informs us that doing locks in rain is unpleasant, and it’s not hard to extrapolate that it’d be even less pleasant if the rain is coming down when it’s 46°.  That’s what we faced when we awoke Tuesday morning.  Yuck.

Plus, a Small Craft Advisory was in effect in the zone on the other side of Grand Marais and it seemed possible—if not likely—that at least some of that danger might slop over into the zone we’d spend hours crossing to get there.   Eleven hours of crap seemed like a poor way to celebrate Dana’s birthday, so we stayed put.

Unfortunately, as we’ve also learned, cold and rain don’t mix well with exploration or outside boat chores.  But we did mange a bit of both.  From Tumbleweed’s deck we could see Valley Camp, a former steam-propelled laker turned museum.

As the big freighters go she’s smaller than most, but the museum part was fabulous.  Long-time followers will recall the photo of the bullet-ridden Maersk Alabama lifeboat that Captain Phillips—the real Captain Phillips not Forrest Gump—was in when Navy SEALS sniped the woefully ignorant Somali pirates.  That was a cool lifeboat.  This one is just as cool.  It’s from Edmund Fitzgerald, and washed ashore the day after the sinking.

Lots of other stuff, and basically every corner of the ship was open for inspection.  Very worthwhile.  From Valley Camp’s wet bridge deck we could see Tumbleweed.

Dana found some shops, and Doug fashioned a decidedly inelegant but more stable support for the Starlink dishy.  Maybe not the best birthday, but a lot better than meeting a storm.

Wednesday looked to be a decent day to travel, although the sun that peeked out as we left the marina at 6:15 disappeared quickly.  The lock dudes took us straight into the lock.  Easy peasy.

Although they sent us through the smaller MacArthur Lock, the adjacent lock demands mention.  Poe Reef and Poe Lighthouse are one thing, but Poe Lock?  Who named it “Poe Lock?”  Archie Bunker?*

Twelve miles of comforting St. Marys River shoreline later, we dumped out into Whitefish Bay.  Lake Superior.  The largest lake in the world by surface area.**  Superior holds 10% of the earth’s fresh water, along with what we guess probably is the world’s largest supply of delicious whitefish.  Last December, the lake dropped two inches — which equaled 1.1 trillion gallons.  To put that into Arizona perspective, a foot of Lake Superior water poured into Lake Powell would dang near put it over the top of Glen Canyon Dam.  Damn.

We know, we know.  Lake Superior looks just like Lake Huron, and Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario.  Which makes sense, of course, since the water up here is on its way down the St. Lawrence Seaway, past where we fought biting flies with Second Wave after finally leaving Oswego, past where we met No Drama in Quebec City, past where we watched Laughter sink in Sainte-Madeleine-de-la-Rivière-Madeleine, and out to the Atlantic Ocean.  But yet we still take the pictures.

Months ago we dropped a chart pin directly above the Fitzgerald wreckage, thinking maybe we’d pop over for a photo shoot.  Um, not a chance.  We rounded Whitefish Point and made a beeline for Grand Marais.

But the Mighty Fitz is fifteen miles straight out there, under 530 feet of frigid water and a blanket of light fog.

We know how far she’s out because “the searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay if they’d put fifteen more miles behind her.”  Plus we could measure it on our charts.  It bears noting, however, that if Captain McSorley had patiently waited for smooth water like we did, things might’ve turned out differently for those 29 souls who never surfaced.***

Then the fog got foggier and mostly stuck with us for the five hours into Grand Marais, lifting only briefly to reveal the Crisp Point Light.  Now it’s just an historical site, completely worthless to us.  And not even very pretty.

There’s nothing wrong with fog at night while we’re sleeping between flannel sheets under mounds of blankets, of course, but any other time cold, clammy, can’t-see-a-damn-thing fog is a pain.  Yet there it was again in West Bay on Thursday, although not nearly as thick.

Thursday also brought another Small Craft Advisory.  Five hours to Munising in this crap?  Fog-et about it.  We’ll ride it out with shore power, Starlink, and the heaters blasting.

Fortunately the drizzle and fog faded just in time for a four-mile hike to see Sable Falls and Sable Dunes.  The only sad part was that by the time we got back to the trailhead the bear in the parking lot was gone, so no pictures of him or her.

Friday morning the sun sort of was out, but then more unpredicted fog descended, but then the sun came back out for good.  Hey now!  Things are looking up.

Here’s the thing.  When the sun is out, Grand Marais is dang appealing.  The former logging and shipping center now is a summer vacation destination for Yoopers.

The neatest of the historical buildings is The Pickle Barrel House, built by a syndicated Chicago Tribune cartoonist whose Teenie Weenies apparently lived in a much smaller one.

The best thing about being fog-stuck for a couple of extra days in Grand Marias, however, was that we unexpectedly caught the annual Seaplane Pilots Association “Splash-In.”  Now that was awesome.

In addition to catching seaplanes, Dana got an action shot of some dudes who don’t mind 44° water and think the whole “electrical current in marinas can kill you” thing is a myth.  Those crazy Yoopers.  Go figure.  We don’t know if they survived, because we left.

Gorgeous trip to Munising, in large part because we swerved over to follow along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

Lots of spectacular stuff along there.  Sort of like the Cabot Trail on Cape Breton, but with fewer references to Family Affair’s Mr. French.

Our friend Deb warned us about the “Fata Morgana,” an optical illusion caused by visible light bending through air layers of different temperatures.  There’s a school of thought that Titanic and her potential rescuers were fooled by this phenomenon.  We don’t know if we saw one, but what we did see was pretty odd.  The upper dark band is an island.  The lower dark band that looks like a wall isn’t real.  But we didn’t hit anything.

In addition to the bit about lifeboats, long-time followers also know of our affinity for lighthouses.  We’ve photographed a mess of ’em.  The East Channel Light (RIP) easily is top-five.  Built out of sticks in 1868 by people who obviously didn’t know the story of the Three Little Pigs, it served mariners traversing Munising Bay—sort of—until 1908.  In 1908 someone realized that the lamp was so weak that ships were smashing into rocks anyway, which explains all the glass-bottom boats running shipwreck tours around Munising.  Who cares though?   It’s super cool.

Now about Munising.  Fine little town, we guess.

They even have an art district, although technically it’s just an alley.

The municipal marina mostly serves the tour boat population.  Those boats are indestructible tanks, but they put us out with them on the industrial wall even though Tumbleweed isn’t.  This undoubtedly colored our opinion of Munising, and not in a good way.

That long dock was built for commercial shipping back in 1938, which means that the steel with uneven edges that we had to step over when unsafely getting on or off the boat has been rusting nicely for 85 years.  It wasn’t quite as dangerous as when we tied up to a barge at Logsdon Tug Service on the Illinois River, but close.  We later inflated and deployed the huge fenders we normally save for the scary locks we encounter from time to time.

Unless they fix the floating transient docks by the time we come back through, we ain’t stopping at Munising again.  To add insult, Tennessee lost to LSU in the College World Series.  Grrrr.

This morning was a warm-ish, sunny-ish, smooth-ish, easy-ish run to Marquette.  First thoughts?  Of the zillion things we’ve seen that somehow are related to the good Father Marquette, Marquette is at the top.  The marina is awesome, the staff is great, and everything we tried at our first restaurant was crazy delicious.

On the way in to Cinder Pond Marina, we passed a giant something sticking out into the water.

What’s that thing in the water?  It’s an old iron ore dock, that’s what.  We know this, because the restaurant folks fielded the question enough to put the answer on their shirts.  Dang clever, that.

Here for a week or so, then up to meet Tom and Deb and Lea on the Keweenaw Peninsula.  We’ll scout out more Marquette treasures and report them next post.  This one already pushes the page limit of decency.  Although mostly it’s photos.


*“Meathead.  Dead from the neck up.”

**The largest lake by volume is in Russia, but Russia doesn’t count any more.  Russia sucks.

***“Superior, they said, never gives up her dead.”  There’s a reason for that.  The deep water is too cold for the bacteria that normally eat bodies until they create enough buoyant gas for said body to float.  True fact.  Somebody should tell the mob.  No need for concrete shoes on Lake Superior.

We need another song, and quickly

Saturday brought a chance of afternoon thunderstorms and “hazardous weather,” and an even greater chance of hazardous ferry and cargo ship traffic.  We figured it best to take it all head-on so we left early.  It was hard to tell how early, of course, because the sun never really came up.  Just cold and cloudy all day.

Yup, ferries lugging tourists to and from Mackinac Island.  Absolutely none of them cared about the huge wakes they toss off.

The cargo ships like John G. Munson—who caused us to pull over to let her pass—also didn’t much care if they bothered us.

That lighthouse, by the way, is the Round Island Light.  Except it’s on the tippy-end of a point on an island that really should be called Genie Lamp Island or something, because it ain’t close to round.

Once the traffic cleared, we settled in to a nice smooth cold ride under weirdly-colored clouds.  Intermittent sprinkles and not a smidge of sun.  It’s worth a photo though, because it put us back on Lake Huron.

Then on in to DeTour Village, which Father James Marquette named in disgust when road construction forced him to deviate from the path he was taking down to the heathens he needed to convert in St. Ignace.  We assume the good Father and his band of Jesuit priests didn’t stay long, because the village has two marijuana shops but not much else.

Back on Tumbleweed, we watched a few episodes of Good Karma Hospital after the rain stopped.  Will Dr. Varma stick with Ruby?  Or will he run off with that skeezy plastic surgeon from Mumbai?

Adding to her expanding portfolio of wildlife photos, Dana bagged her first mink.  She didn’t have her big camera with her but he’s still cute.

After the medical shenanigans in Barco, but before lights out, Ocean Voyager passed by.  We assume none of the passengers needed weed since it didn’t stop.  Neither Ocean Voyager nor her sister ship Ocean Navigator leave the Great Lakes—raising obvious questions for whatever fraudster suggested the “Ocean” part—but it was cool to watch them on their way to Mackinac Island nonetheless.

Up early yesterday, with the wind pinning us to the dock.  The next couple of days looked decidedly rotten, however, so we peeled away and took off.  Turned out to be a good call.  50° all day, but the wind died and the St. Marys River was acceptably calm.

Hey wait!  It’s the Round Island Light again.

This one, at least, makes sense.

Halfway to Sault Ste. Marie, we started seeing Muskoka chairs instead of Adirondack chairs, reminding us that the shoreline off the starboard side is Canada.

Yup, there’s the Maple Leaf and smiling cottagers.  It’s Canada all right.

The St. Marys River is a frigid 54°, which means nobody needs to waste money on a wall to keep out the illegals.  A big and beautiful wall that blocks all the Canadian smoke, however, would be quite useful right about now.

The Canadians who own this impressive home probably don’t need to sneak across the border, because, as Dana shrewdly noted, “If they’re rich enough to afford that house, they’re rich enough to leave in the winter.”

One last cool thing from the trip up.  This is a scenic enough chapel, but it’s also the Sailors Encampment Channel East Range Front Beacon.  The marketing company that came up with that range light name must’ve been paid by the letter.

When we pulled out of DeTour yesterday, our AIS showed the cargo ship Hon. James L. Oberstar steaming up about fifteen miles behind us.  James Oberstar was a longtime congressman from Minnesota who undoubtedly appreciated the honor when they renamed the ship in 2010.  But what about the other guy?  We found no online information about how the family of one Charles M. Beeghly felt when his name was painted over.  Oberstar desperately tried to catch us in one of the several passages that would’ve been too narrow for comfort—and steadily closed the gap—but the section of river with a speed limit foiled the plan and we were able to tie off on the George Kemp Downtown Marina fuel dock just as she got close.  Ha.  So long, suckers.

So obviously we made it to Sault Ste. Marie, which we referenced briefly that time we smuggled our two dogs both ways across the border:  Sault Sioux Sue Soo.  Except that was Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, not Michigan.  In a shocking twist that nobody could have seen coming, both Sault Ste. Maries were named by—wait for it—Father Marquette!   The name is French for “Rapids of Saint Mary,” with the local Chippewa tribe later incorporating the “Sault” part.  Some treaty along the way gave those same Chippewas permanent fishing rights in the rapids, which is why—according to the menu—they supplied the delicious whitefish that the restaurant prepared Cajun style for Dana and lemon peppered for Doug.

Anyway, Sault Ste. Marie turns out to be a charming place with lots of interesting stuff to see and a cutesy tourist section downtown.

This is the John Johnston House, built in 1796, making it “The second oldest building in the northwest,” according to the plaque.

Wait just a second here!  Does it really say “Northwest?”  WTF?  We get that in 1796 not even the Dutton family had ventured much past the Mississippi River, such that the cartography of the day put Sault Ste. Marie in the upper left corner of the civilized world.  But that plaque is dated 1941.  By 1870 there was a railroad connecting the east coast to San Francisco.  In 1941, we had a massive naval fleet in Hawaii, at least up until December.  Washington and Oregon had been states for over seventy years.  The point is that Michigan is in neither the “northwest” nor the “west,” no matter what the plaque or the University of Michigan’s dumb fight song says.

Between 1822 and 1893, Fort Brady sat along the river to protect the Yoop from invading British and Canadian forces hellbent on putting Queen Elizabeth on our currency.  All that’s left of the fort now is a reconstructed portion of the palisade and a sign warning the soldiers not to bring either guns or pets.

It’s easy to picture this section of fence in a Mel Brooks movie—with all of the combatants climbing over it rather than going around the sides—although he used a similar gag in the Blazing Saddles tollbooth scene: “Somebody’s gotta go back and get a shitload of dimes.”

This is the “Tower of History.”  With a nod to Soviet-era brutalist architecture, Sault Ste. Marie built it as an observation platform so that tourists can observe Tumbleweed transit one of the famed Soo locks tomorrow morning.

That’s right.  Tomorrow we pop out into Whitefish Bay.  Which brings us equal parts nervous excitement and profound sadness.  Excitement because it’ll be our first time on Lake Superior and will put us that much closer to seeing Tom and Deb on the Keweenaw Peninsula.  Sadness because in the time since we started all of this in 2017, we’ve carelessly wasted just about every interesting tidbit and useable line from The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  Grrrrr.

Rain has prevented any further exploration, but we did meet our neighbors Doug and Beth on Boomerang, a pretty blue Nordic Tug that seemingly escaped The Great Lake Michigan Midge Plague of ’23.  They’re Lake Superior veterans, so the plan is to follow them on a marathon voyage all the way to Grand Marais, skipping the dangerously shoaled Whitefish Point.  An unfamiliar commercial lock followed by eleven hours on big water isn’t at all appealing but it’s better than the alternative.

The post we sent out to subscribers without remembering it lacked a title

We begin this abbreviated episode with a pleasingly alliterative slightly smoky sunrise over St. Ignace, and a Public Service Announcement for the benefit of anyone needing to build a secure mounting solution for their super-cool wicked-fast Starlink dishy: If you forget to bring your nice Dewalt drill when you drive across the country to the boat and then you go back to Phoenix for some unrelated matters but figure you’ll just throw the drill in your carry-on bag and bring it back to the boat, don’t.  Apparently handheld power tools are right up there with five-ounce bottles of sunscreen in terms of terrorist threats.  The nice drill bits you’ll want to use with the drill?  Also not allowed.*  Who knew?

Despite airport shenanigans, after a few days doing stuff in Arizona we made it back to Tumbleweed.  Our dude Dustin and his helper had her creamed and buffed with a fine chamois to a standard even Judge Elihu Smails would appreciate.**  Most of the bugs have died, so we have that going for us.  Which is nice.***

We’re happy to report that we found a few new things to do while in Mackinaw City after all.  Colonial Michilimackinac, for one, was fabulous.  The area around here once was occupied by Native Americans, but then the Jesuits presumptuously decided to convert them all to Catholicism because otherwise the traditions and beliefs passed down by generations of ancestors doomed them to spend a hellish eternity with Satan and Alabama fans.   Then the French built a fort, then the British took the fort, then the Indians took the fort, then the British took it back.

In 1780, so the story goes, the British abandoned the fort and moved the entire community to Mackinac Island, either because the mainland location was proving hard to defend or because they heard there were better fudge shops over there.  We’re a bit skeptical that the British actually left, however, because when we were exploring Fort Michilimackinac this afternoon we personally witnessed Redcoats marching around and a peasant girl mechanically pretending to split wood.

We also found that another good thing to do when in Mackinaw City is to leave Mackinaw City and drive across the bridge to St. Ignace.  If you think the Village of St. Ignace was named for Saint Ignace, you’d be mistaken.  Because there was no Saint Ignace.  Father James Marquette—yes, the same Father James Marquette we’ve referenced several times in the past—decided that the Indians on the Yoop needed saving as well, so he founded a mission and named it for Ignatius of Loyola, choosing the hip nickname “Ignace” over the less-hip given name “Ignatius.”  In fairness to Pere Marquette, there’s not a name much less hip than “Ignatius.”****  Anyway, we visited Marquette’s grave on St. Ignace, and plan to visit his city in a week or two.

While in St. Ignace we had a delicious dinner at Bouy’s and also popped by the Wawatum Lighthouse.  This is one of the last lighthouses built in the United States, but when completed in 1998 it was a non-functioning roadside attraction welcoming I-75 motorists to Michigan rather than an aid to navigation.  When MDOT decided to tear it down, the current Fathers of St. Ignace had it moved to the coastline and put a light in it.  The light mostly serves as a beacon for snowmobilers who are screwing around at night after the Straits of Mackinac freeze over, but still.

We also discovered the veggie dogs at Weinerlicious.

Demonstrating our surprisingly good judgment, we’ll avoid the temptation to insert sophomoric double entendres.

There’s a big motorcycle rally scheduled here for this weekend so our departure tomorrow is quite timely.  We did stop by though.  This photo also tempts comments that would offend several groups of people, but again with the good judgment thing.

Tomorrow, a new stop for us in DeTour Village.  Back to the Upper Peninsula for a while.


*We’ve seen enough prison movies to know that resourceful convicts can whittle a lethal shive out of a toothbrush or a spoon, among other things, so allowing toiletries and utensils but not drill bits on an airplane seems more than a tad arbitrary.  Also, a satchel of Harry Potter hardbacks would make a better weapon than would a small drill that lacks the electricity it needs to operate.  The civil servants with TSA badges, however, don’t care to debate the issue.

**“Porterhouse!  . . . Chop, chop!”

***This will be the last Caddyshack reference you’ll find in the second paragraph of today’s post.

****It’s unclear whether to honor Saint Ignatius even further, Father Marquette also gave James Osterberg—the “Godfather of Punk” who was born in nearby Muskegon, Michigan—the stage name Iggy Pop.  “Iggy Pop” is way more hip than even “Ignace.”

We like Lake Michigan, but enough is enough, plus it’s lonely around here

Up and out of Escanaba after delicious Swedish pancakes and some boat chores.  Among other glorious successes, we identified and resolved the small leak that caused the fresh water pump to cycle on periodically throughout the night.  That left only two Bays de Noc—Little and Big—between us and our Sunday destination.

In the mid-nineteenth century, this part of upper Michigan was a hotbed of iron smelting*, with the resulting product supporting much of the Union war machine.  Post-war, a Johnson Iron Company bigwig named Fayette Brown ordered a huge smelting operation and a supporting town to be built around Snail Shell Harbor on Michigan’s Garden Peninsula.  He named the town Fayette.  Fayette Brown was not a humble man.**

The entrance to the harbor is lined with huge dolomite cliffs.  Very cool.

Cedar trees along the cliffs have adapted to the crappy conditions by slowing their growth rate, which also allows them to live a long time.   One is over 1,414 years old, rendering our series of posts about the wondrous old trees along the Atlantic coast even more embarrassing.

At its peak, Fayette boasted five hundred hardy residents.  Most of them lived in what looks like poverty.  This “middle-class” house, for example, is smaller than Miss Lily.

The pig iron market kept the town booming for about twenty-five years, during which Johnson Iron produced 225,000 tons of the stuff. This would be a great place for a reference to the Marty Robbins classic song about the Arizona Ranger with the pig iron on his ship, but sadly we used it in a Mississippi River post several years ago.  Oh well.

Because we stayed for two days and had time to kill, Doug dropped the drone down into the roofless remains of the company store to get an artsy shot of Tumbleweed in the fading light.

The sign outside says that customers referred to the operation as a “pluck me,” which was a “term commonly used to emphasize exploitative company stores.”  We find “pluck me” to be a pleasingly apt description of price gouging.  “Pluck me” also is a close cousin to what one of us yells every time he carelessly gashes his head when retrieving something from the lazarette.

The big white house behind the little white house on the hill behind Tumbleweed in the photo was “the finest home in the harbor.”  Not surprisingly, the top company executive lived there.  Somewhat surprisingly, however, the superintendent lived about thirty yards from the little white house—this house—where the folks restoring it found a secret compartment with vials containing nine thousand doses of morphine.  We have no idea about the daily intake of morphine junkies, but nine thousand doses sounds like a lot.

The visitor center has an awesome diorama showing the town and harbor as it appeared in the late 1800s.

We assume a dad helped design and construct the project, because if the kid did it on her own it would’ve just been a shoebox with cotton balls and glitter, a few Lego houses, and glue everywhere.***

The last house we’ll include belonged to Dr. Bellows, the town doctor.

We note this only because years after he lived in this house, Dr. Bellows became a NASA psychiatrist who was dutifully skeptical every time Major Tony Nelson reported seeing paranormal activity around his house.  Unless that was a different Dr. Bellows.

Folks who follow us know that when we visit a new stop, we look for local places to eat.  In a ghost town like Fayette that’s not too easy.  A hike out to the road and then down it a fair piece, however, led us to the only restaurant to be found within a distance we’d walk without sniveling: Sherry’s Port Bar, “serving fresh whitefish (when it’s available.)”  Fun and quirky little place.  We hope it survives.

Anyway, Fayette was an awesome place to stay for a couple of days.

Not much going on between Fayette and Manistique.  Since we’re done with Lake Michigan, however, here’s a photo of an unremarkable stretch of desolate shoreline we passed as we rounded the southern tip of Summer Island.

There’s also not much going on in Manistique, and what little we might muster for the blog we already used last fall.  The Manistique East Breakwater Light, however, is still right where it’s been since 1916.  In 2013, a dude from Ohio named Bill Collins bought it for $15,000.  Apparently he now has a collection of at least four lighthouses for his kids to sell the moment he dies.

Once again, Tumbleweed was about the only boat around.  Even the dredges were gone from the middle of the narrow river channel, which helpfully dropped the degree of docking difficulty to zero.

A solitary swan did drift by, carrying a big guy who sometime earlier proclaimed that his back hurt too much pedal and a cheerful woman who was voted “Most Likely to Drown in the Event of Capsize” by her swanmates, who called dibs on the only two life available jackets.

Otherwise, not much to Manistique.  Manistique feels like a town that once was thriving so they built stuff and then people left and now there’s a St. Vincent De Paul service center on the main downtown street.

But Dana enjoyed running on the boardwalk, and we did find a quite solid breakfast joint.  Perfectly acceptable as an overnight pit stop on our way to Lake Superior.

Wednesday took us to Naubinway.  Before reaching Naubinway, however, we made a detour to retrieve balloons that some jackass somewhere released without a second thought, prompting the earliest of our annual rants.  Stop with the helium balloons!  Just because they’re pretty and go up and out of sight doesn’t mean it’s not littering!  Grrrrr.  Mylar and latex balloons break down into micro particles that harm plant and animal life. Foil balloons are not biodegradable at all.  What the hell is wrong with people?

Seul Choix (confusingly pronounced Sis-shwa) Point Light is the last of the fabulous Lake Michigan lighthouses we’ll document in this blog.  “Many people” believe it’s haunted by the ghosts of keepers past, but we think it at least equally likely that the museum people make up the stories to attract tourist dollars.  Back in the day the Seul Choix Point Light was dang useful though, because there’s a hidden boat-sinking limestone reef that reaches out beneath the surface almost as far out as we were.

Naubinway is famous as the northernmost point on Lake Michigan, although technically the actual northernmost point is one cove to the east.

Naubinway even more importantly is sort of near a cabin owned by our friend Erin’s father.  In fact, we’d never heard of Naubinway until Erin mentioned it.  Now, “Naubinway” is one of our favorite words to say.****

When Dana called the dockmaster at the tiny marina a few days ago, his wife answered their home phone.  Earlier in the day her husband had been restocking the toilet paper at the marina bathroom because the cabin folk used it instead of buying their own, she said, while adding that he had left his phone when doing so, which she attributed to the fact that “after he retired he turned into a putz.”   Dockmaster Brent later called to confirm the water depth, and when we met him at the dock he seemed pretty normal to us.

But once again, we were all alone.

Well, alone except for the billions of newly-hatched midges that joined us.  Those seat covers aren’t supposed to be fuzzy.  This may explain why we’re the only people boating on Lake Michigan right now.

The must-stop stop in Naubinway, of course, is the Top of The Lake Snowmobile Museum.  This place ranks right up there with the Navy Seal Museum as the coolest we’ve visited.

The term “snowmobile” was coined by a New Hampshire dude who modified early Fords for wintry weather.  Here’s a 1926 Model T wearing the gear.

Lots of vintage machines, clothing, and associated whatnots to be found in this incredible place.  Here’s one that Mario Andretti commissioned and raced.

Dana even found one specially made for girls.  Seriously.  It’s the pink one, because, you know, girls back then were too girly to ride non-pink snowmobiles.

Lots of snowmobiles.

Speaking of midges, thanks to Starlink we spent the evening sheltered aboard, watching the final episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.  We doubled up on final episodes by also watching the end of Ted Lasso.  Now those are shows we’re gonna miss.

After Dana did her best to rid Tumbleweed of midges and midge carcasses with the help of the leaf blower that Dockmaster Brent (the putz) loaned us, we crossed down to Mackinaw City.  Back under Mighty Mac for the third time, but the first from west to east.  Looks just about the same.

In prior posts we’ve wrung everything possible out of t-shirt and fudge shops and the history of Mackinaw City, so we won’t even try.  Off for a few days tending to some unfun non-boating stuff—so no blog post for a week or so—but back soon enough, excited to see what Lake Superior is all about.


*In an etymological twist, smelts also are small fish found in these latitudes.  The British Columbians call the smelts on Canada’s western shore “Ooligans.”  Go figure.

**On a smaller scale but in the same name-stuff-after-oneself vein that seems to run through the Brown family tree, Richardson’s is an iconic restaurant in Phoenix with an unsavory history but delicious food.  Richardson Brown also is not a humble man.

***Every dad worth a damn intuitively understands that his child absolutely cannot submit the lamest diorama in the class, even if it means a trip to Home Depot for more power tools and lumber and even if all the moms of the loser kids with their shoeboxes think it’s cheating.

****We really wanted to eat at Moofinfries in Naubinway, mostly because “Moofinfries in Naubinway” is double fun to say.  Unfortunately Moofinfries in Naubinway was closed on Wednesday.  So we ate at Shirley’s Cove Bar, which—particularly inside—is eerily similar to Sherry’s Port Bar.