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Fugitives in Michigan

This past weekend, Gregor decided that we should pretend to be fugitives running from the law – you know, to keep things interesting. He is clearly having another “van fever” attack – a mere two weeks away from completing our epic summer journey (we return to Calgary on Sept 1!). Given our fugitive status, Gregor insisted that we pay for everything in cash, wear sunglasses as much as possible, and take on fake identities. My alias is Sandy Beech. Gregor’s is Justin Thyme (I managed to talk him out of using “Saddam Gudlukin” to avoid attention from the US authorities).

We spent the last five days in Michigan trying to blend in with the locals. Our first job was to master the Michigan accent. If you ever seen a Michael Moore documentary (he is from Flint, Michigan), you will know this accent. The vowels have a rather “nasal” tone.

For example:

  • The word “Canada” is pronounced as “Kyanada” (like “Keanu Reeves”) and “camping” is pronounced as “kyamping”.
  • The phrase “My God!” sounds like “My Gad!” (like “Egad!”) and “dollars” sounds like “daah-lers”.
  • The long “i” in words like “hi” or “five” is a strongly nasal “aye” (like the “AYE, AYE, AYE” in the beginning of Ozzy Osborne’s Crazy Train).

Anyway, we spent five days in the northern part of Michigan. Before this trip, I didn’t know that Michigan was made up of two land masses. The northern part (the Upper Peninsula) looks like a rabbit running towards the west coast, and the southern part looks like a mitten reaching for Canada. The southern and northern parts are separated by the Straits of Mackinac. The locals in the north are called “Yoopers”, which is derived from “U.P.” the abbreviation for “Upper Peninsula”.

Our first contact with the Yoopers was in the tiny town of Grand Marais, on Lake Superior. When we rolled into town, we managed to get the last available site in the town campground. It turned out that Grand Marais was holding its annual music festival that weekend so the place was packed with RV’s. Our bright red van looked very conspicuous among the white trailers and motor homes, which really didn’t help us hide our fugitive status. So we decided to attend the music festival on Saturday to help us blend in a bit better.

The bands weren’t exactly Winnipeg Folk-Fest calibre and the surrounding kiosks were pretty basic (there were only two food tents and your choices were deep fried food or hot dogs and sloppy joes). That said, we still had a great time listening to live rock, jazz, blues, and bluegrass (Michigan can rock the harmonica!). And the people-watching opportunities were endless – all ages, shapes, and styles. A few drunken rowdies at the campground, but friendly people otherwise.

We spent the remainder of our time in the Upper Peninsula touring the southern shore of Lake Superior, which is really pretty. If we weren’t such mountain people (and if I wasn’t such a terrible swimmer), we could probably be lake people. We absolutely loved our ocean experiences on this trip, but hanging out on the lake seem more peaceful than hanging out on either of the coasts.

We’re now in Iron River, Wisconsin, and we have a lovely campsite by a lake at Top o’ the Moon Campground. A perfect place for fugitives like us.


10 thoughts on “Fugitives in Michigan

  1. Chris

    Janice & Gregor! I was reading a thread on growing plants while driving and I came across one of your comments. It says that you two are, or have, driven from Calgary to San Francisco to NFLD. That’s just amazing as my girlfriend, my dog, and myself are from Calgary and we plan to take a year to do the same trip! Do you have an email or facebook account that I can contact you? I’m sure you have lots of great advice and tips. Please email me at