Posted December 20, 2021 – Narrated by Carmen
“In da beginning dere was nuttin.
On da first day
God created da Upper Peninsula.
On da second day
He created da partridge, da deer, da bear, da fish, & da ducks.
On da third day
He said, “Let dere be Yoopers to roam da U.P.”
On da fourth day
He created da udder world below.
On da fifth day
He said, “Let dere be trolls to live in da world down below.”
On da sixth day
He created da bridge so da trolls would have a way to get to heaven.
God said it was good and…
On da seventh day He went huntin.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is commonly called The U.P., or The Yoop, and those who live there, Yoopers. Any Michigander who lives below The Mackinac Bridge is a Troll or a Flatlander. All other tourists are Fudgies. Try not to be offended. Yooperland is a unique culture with its own deities, a place where terms of enchantment if not endearment are toll for the Big Mac.
Last December, at Gulf Shores State Park, Jim gave me The Yoop for Christmas. He presented it in a mapped route – our 2021 adventure – from Alabama to Christmas, a small town on Lake Superior.
Since childhood, Longfellow’s Song of Hiawatha has captured my imagination. For decades, I have longed to see The Shores of Gitchee Gumee, and I would remain patient. Like all of Jim’s gifts, the Upper Peninsula would take a while to unpack.
Every gift – the strand of pearls; the certificate for a new paint job for my ’66 Ford Fairlane; and the keys to Beauty, our Airstream – came in a succession of beautifully wrapped cardboard boxes.
A master of the slow reveal, Jim understands that anticipation is a gift – the best part of the ride – because there’s no place to go but U. P.
2021 was a 4-3-2 travel-turducken of surprises – Jekyll Island, Charleston and Cape Fear, Ocracoke, Assateague, South Jersey, Shenandoah National Park, Ohiopyle and Bay City – all led to the penultimate prize: The U.P.
The friendly camper’s ice-breaker, “Where ya heading?” was no slam dunk in 2021. Until we reached Bay City, our answer, “The Yoop,” or, “Christmas,” left the neighbors stumped. Only when we crossed the Michigan border did the response change from, “Say what?” to, “Lucky you!”
No one stumbles upon or passes through The Upper Peninsula. There’s no cheering squad stationed on the north end of the bridge. Tourism there is a complicated necessity. The locals – who need the business – would rather keep Yooperland under the radar. It’s a brilliant conundrum. It’s what keeps the “Pure” in “Pure Michigan.”
With few amenities for tourism and travel services, the RV is the best tool to experience the natural wonders of The Northland. Other than a spirit of adventure and plenty of time, all you need is thoughtful outfitting, plenty of provisions and dry-camping capabilities. In other words, you need Beauty & The Beast.
Pulling out of Bay City we drove past barn …
after barn …
until we reached …
Like good Fudgies we settled down on the south side of the Mackinac Bridge on Lake Huron for two weeks of discovery before crossing into The U.P.
Other than The Grand Hotel, we knew little about the famed Lake Huron resort.
The link between The Hotel Del Coronado and The Grand Hotel is the stuff of Hollywood legend and a quirky Beaubeaux family secret.
Jim – renaissance man, magician and Star Trek enthusiast extraordinare – is also a time-travel enthusiast. Bid Time Return by Richard Matheson is his favorite book.
The story begins with a traveler, a guest of the Hotel del Coronado, in our old hometown.
There, the traveler becomes captivated with a framed image in the lobby – a photograph of a beautiful actress from a previous era – and the romantic time-travel adventure begins.
Long story short: The film Somewhere in Time (based on the book) was released in 1980 and Jim was first in line. The Hotel Del Coronado was not available, so the production was filmed on Mackinac Island at The Grand Hotel.
When Jim saw the film, he suffered some kind of inter-dimensional episode and has been in love with Jane Seymour ever since. He only snaps out of it when I remind him that back in the mid-80’s Christopher Reeves and I had a nice chat in our front yard. I was watering the geraniums. He was jogging by.
Aware of what I would be up against that day, we joined our fellow Fudgies …
and ferried under bridge …
to Mackinac Island, where we indulged in mansion envy …
garden envy …
cottage envy …
cabin envy …
and, Seymour envy.
After visiting the hotel, Mackinac Island is a delightful place to hang out …
and break the law.
The no-motorized vehicle law allows electric bikes with doctor’s permission, but the details are kind of sketchy.
Fortunately, our quiet, low-profile Dolphin eBikes attracted no attention as we thoroughly toured the heights of the island without suffering the expense and embarrassment of a fine.
Or, maybe we’re so old they just assumed we had a permit.
In any case, there were no awkward moments with the law or the horses.
This island is gorgeous, no denying that, but it was just as fun to ride the North Central State Rail Trail to the friendly and picturesque town of Cheboygan for coffee, or something stronger.
For a tourism centered town, Mackinaw City has much more to offer than ferry, fudge, fried whitefish and t-shirts.
Kayaking under the bridge and through the straights, hiking and cycling the headlands kept us busy for most of two weeks.
Worth more than the price of entrance was the thoroughly entertaining Jack Pine Lumberjack Show …
and charming Heritage Village.
After two weeks of intoxicating summer weather, we finally crossed the bridge …
and followed a troll to …
Paradise, about seventy-miles north of the bridge, greeted us with promises of waterfalls, blueberries and shipwrecks.
We pulled into Rivermouth Campground, our home for seven nights.
We were in it deep now.
Not much to say about Tahquamenon except this is where the gitchee-gumee gets real.
Paddling from our campsite to Lake Michigan was better than church.
To leave that gorgeous river, it had to be good … so we headed to The Shipwreck Museum
On “Christmas eve,” 😉 we pulled out of Paradise. The town of Christmas would be our final Michigan destination. We needed a place for the night and fortunately, a Harvest Host, right off the highway, accepted us.
Bee Wise Farms
We spent the remainder of the day and night at charming Bee Wise Farms where we stocked up on honey and superb Michigander hospitality …
Pictured Rocks National Seashore
It is true that Christmas only comes once a year, but it’s really cool that you can go to Christmas any time at all.
Christmas has everything.
A great place to stay, Bay Furnace Campground.
A lake …
a casino …
and many fabulous pink-sand beaches.
Munising is only a couple of miles away.
There, we dabbled in pasty culture, the pride of Michigander cuisine.
Some neighborly Airstreamers in Mackinaw recommended a pontoon to view the lake …
Great suggestion! What a splash!
As the light changed, we began to see the colors in the rock formations…
which explained why the pebbles looked like jewels. Some even glow in the dark.
Most days the lake was a bit too rough to risk paddling close to the rocks, but we watched and prayed.
Then, on our last full day, conditions were perfect. We inflated a kayak and took it out to Miners Beach.
While one of us sunbathed with Pico …
the other took a turn paddling out for close-up views of the lake shore.
Paddling through the Sistine Chapel couldn’t feel more glorious. Never have I seen anything – natural or man-made – like Pictured Rocks.
Did the ancient mystics arrive to this place and mistake it for Heaven?
Imagine how it looked before the white man’s foothold.
And to think that we almost missed these views.
We’re not purists. We travel fast when it can’t be helped, but the long, slow journey is the gold standard.
It takes time to get comfortable in a new place …
feel the pulse …
meet the locals …
sign up for Medicare …
and carve out time for interruptions …
because you never know when Heaven might drop in …
to say, Hello.
And, isn’t that what Christmas is all about?
If you want to see our exact route, click here.
*photos in this post (unless otherwise noted) were taken and copyrighted by Living In Beauty.