Tag Archives: Michigan

Daily Quickie: Camp Axe

During my first summer back to the U.P. in eight years (2014), I acquired some driftwood from Lake Superior. There were several pieces ranging from a twig to a log. I have slowly been using it for wood projects here and there. I had this one piece that felt good in my hand, figured it would make a decent handle for an axe (or something). I had heard of a veteran owned business called Black Guard Customs out of Texas. After an exchange of emails, I sent the piece of driftwood south, so they could look at it. Once he had looked at the piece, I received a call from the owner himself. His name is Liam and he is a former Marine. We talked about my vision for an axe, something to represent the millionaire and to pass on to future generations. Since it was a custom piece, I wasn’t expecting it any time soon. A couple months later, it arrived in the mail. I was blown away by the detail and craftsmanship, and could not wait to put it to use. I took it I to the backyard, found some scrap wood and let her rip. A few moments later, I had two pieces of scrap wood. I have since had a local leather worker wrap the handle, and I will use another piece of driftwood to display it on. Who knows when I’ll get around to that.

The original.

Family, meet the U.P. U.P. meet the Family Part 2: The Camp Experience

Life has been crazy the past couple of months. I finished up school at Great Lakes in Chicago, flew home to Virginia, then hit the road to visit family in Texas (I’ll expand on that at a later date). There are a lot of unknowns surrounding my family and me lately. While it hasn’t been easy to deal with, we have been pressing on and focusing on the future. I imagine when everything is wrapped up and settled, I’ll put pen to paper to reflect and laugh at much of it. I know I’ve left you with a cliffhanger and some vague information, so, now, a continuation of our family trip to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

We had arrived. We unloaded the kiddos and took a quick tour, from the Millionaire to Conway Lake. Then we headed over to the “Tupa” to check out our quarters for the next week. Tupa is Finnish for “little cabin”. It is the size of an efficiency apartment. Inside were the bunk beds my brother and I shared as kids, an air mattress and a small kitchenette. It was a blank canvas ready to be worked on. Krissi and I unloaded the truck and got settled in.

We went over to the Millionaire for dinner. It was a keto diet special, burgers without buns. My Aunt Ruth had prepared them for everyone. After dinner the kids took a dip in the lake. There is nothing like getting all washed up and clean with a lake bath. It gets you close to nature. By the end of “getting cleaned up” nature’s way, the matresses were calling our names…Ben, Krissi, Kash, Lincoln! Exhaustion was upon us and it was time to get some good, solid rest. Now, it doesn’t get dark until around 10 p.m. in the U.P. during mid-summer. Of course, we had to explain to Kash why it was time to go to sleep while the sun was still visible. And, after convincing the Sandwich maker that a bear wasn’t going to bust through the door and eat us, we finally zonked out.

Camp is a calming, yet amazing experience. There is no cell service and plenty of forest to run around in. You have to hall in your drinking and cooking water. There is a pump from the lake to fill the trash cans used for flushing toilets and washing dishes. Did I mention that you have to use a bucket to flush the toilet? There is an abundance of fish to catch with a few rowboats and canoes for lake cruising. The mosquitoes are as big as a small horse and will leave a welt on you the size of Georgia with a single bite. They can also be as thick as Black Friday shoppers at Wal-Mart at midnight.

I remember as a child always running through the woods, playing in the lake and attempting to catch fish (it has never been a strong suit of mine). My Nanny helped me catch a small garder snake, named him Conway. We took him back to Texas as a pet. We would hike to Lake Superior and climb Breakfast Roll. My cousins and I would build forts and explore the area around camp (we did most of this without parental supervision) for hours and hours on end. The sauna would be fired up throughout the day for our use. If you ever get the chance to use a wood burning stove sauna, do it. A lot of saunas now-a-days are electric. I enjoy pouring water on the hot rocks and choking on the rush of steam (it really opens up the lungs, ha). This trip, I took the time to learn what makes camp tick. I am at the age where I want to invest in learning the responsibilities that my parents had when I was a young’un. I started with the sauna. It wasn’t difficult, just simply starting a fire in a cast iron stove and keeping it fed. This meant keeping the wood pile stacked and the stove clear of ashes. We used it to relax and bathe. Both the kids enjoyed a sauna bath. We would stick them in dish washing bins. Hot Rod found enjoyment in splashing water everywhere, while Kash was all about using the ladle to bathe herself with.

We had the pleasure of Alexis and Ali (two of my cousin’s daughters) join us for a couple of days. They took Kash under their wings and showed her the ropes of being a kid out there. They took her to the fort in the woods, out of sight. There was some hesitation from Krissi (because of bears), but it was calmed by the “screams” of fun and laughter. They had a blast! We took a canoe ride later that day. It was a bit windy, which made for a fight on the way back to shore. Come to find out, it was both Krissi’s and Kash’s first time in a canoe. As dinner approached, we made our way over to Chris and Dave’s (GramB’s cousins) for a meal. They were the next camp down and live there full time during summer. Rachael and her dog Dude met us out there. Dinner was full of great food, good drinks, and superb conversation. Dave took the girls for a tour of his wood shop and Hot Rod crashed from all the excitement he experienced. We had some ice cream for desert and then headed back to “our place”. After we got back to camp and put the kiddos to sleep, Rachael, Krissi and I relaxed on the porch of the Tupa. We swapped stories and enjoyed some more adult beverages.

I could go on and on about camp. This just covered the first couple of days. There is still Lake Superior, adventures in Marquette and shenanigans at Pike Lake I want to share. I’ll save those for another day. My time up there has always been limited, leaving me to cram as many activities as I can into a short time. Camp is a real vacation from society. It forces you to put down the electronics and get your hands dirty. You can see an endless number of stars at night and hike through nature at it’s core. Kids make the forest their playground and adults can enjoy the calm of nature. It is truly a one-of-a-kind experience.

Do work, be rad

Mustache

Family, meet the U.P. U.P. meet the Family. Part 1: Road Trip!

It was a Tuesday. The Sandwich maker, Hot Rod and I loaded up in the truck to pick up our girl from her dad’s house. I was re-enlisting later that morning and wanted the whole family to be there. While I could ceremony and certificate, I knew the wife and kids would get a kick out of being there. The ceremony was quick and to the point. The kids were recognized for putting up with me, and ended up stealing the show with their personalities. It is a great feeling to know you are supported by the ones you love.

We got back to the house and loaded up for our great adventure. Prior to getting on the road, a good hearty meal is the number one “to-do” for me. The wife and kids had never driven more than 4 hours anywhere before. This drive was going to be at least 18 hours. We decided to stop in at the small cafe where Maw-maw works to grab a bite to eat before hitting the road. It was 3 p.m. when we wrapped up our pre-trip meal and we were finally on the road. Our original route had us driving through the D.C. area. Siri recommended that we take a different route, saving us from the traffic and about 10 min. of drive time (Siri didn’t know we had kids with us – go figure). We decided, why not, and took the detour “she” recommended. It just so happened the new route took us right next to Krissi’s dad’s house. Maybe “she” knows more than we thought! We stopped in for an hour or so, said hi, let the kid’s run-a-muck, then we were back on the road. Krissi took over as pilot and made it to the beginning of the Pennsylvania turnpike. We decided to drive through the night, switching out as needed.

It was a great idea. We made the most distance driving at night while the kids slept. I made it about halfway into Ohio and Krissi got us about a third of the way into Michigan. We arrived at the Mackinac Bridge around 9 a.m. As we crossed the bridge, the air began to freshen and the foliage became lush and rich in color. The sky had a brighter color of blue than usual. Well, not exactly. It was cloudy and raining off and on. But Lake Michigan was a deep, rich blue. Krissi and the kiddos were amazed by the beauty of the U.P. and it was just the tip of what was in store.

After crossing the great Mackinac Bridge, Krissi noticed the plethora of smoked fish and pasty signs along the highway. What is a pasty?

Note: A pasty is a “meat pie” or “pot pie without the pot”. There is a history about it, but in the U.P., the miners used to take them to work for lunch. The U.P. has a Cornish and Finnish background, where the pasty originated.

We stopped at the White Tail Café/Resort on US Highway 2 to grab a couple of pasties, 1 beef and 1 bison. As we pulled back onto the highway, Krissi began to dispense the food to the three of us. Both Sweet Pea and the Sandwich maker were fans. A couple of hours later, we arrived at the Ore Dock in Marquette, MI. It felt great to be back. We hopped out of the truck and looked for GramB and Grump’s, but they were nowhere to be found. Then, from a distance, I spotted my father’s dome piece (he’s tall). They were on the other side of the parking lot making their way toward us. While Krissi was putting Kash together, Lincoln and I made our way to them. Linx was pumped, Kash was pumped, GramB was pumped, everyone was pumped! We took some photos at the Ore Dock, made a couple stops in Marquette, and then headed out to Big Bay.

The Millionaire, or Camp, is about a 20 min drive from Big Bay on a dirt road (black top to dirt, to two rut with many pot holes). After a stop at Cram’s in Big Bay for some ice, we arrived at the Huron Mountain Club gate. The drive was green and you could still smell the rain on all the bushes and trees (literal forest) that lined the road. The weather was cool and cloudy. Everyone was antsy to get to our destination. It seemed the longest part of our drive. We were ready to be done with wheels turning over the miles. After a few more twists and turns, we pulled into camp, the Millionaire, Conway Lake. We had arrived.

Do work, bed rad

Mustache

https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/pasty

https://www.hu.mtu.edu/vup/pasty/history.htm

Daily Quickie: Ring game on steroids.

So there I was, hammered. It was the summer of 2014, and I was drinking beer at the Blackrocks Brewery in Marquette, Michigan. I was with my (little) sister and cousin. The sun was on a downward trajectory and there was a slight breeze. The ring game at this local establishment had three different sizes to hook. Large, medium, and wedding ring. It took me a couple tries to get the big one. Once I had made it, I immediately went to the medium size. A few more tries and it was on. Two rings down, one to go. I placed my feet, squared up, took a swig and let go of the ring. Ding, ding (think about a dramatic scene in a movie about basketball where the ball teeters around the rim before go no in), hooked! I don’t know if it was destiny or the booze, but one shot is all it took. The small crowd that had gathered went bananas, and a small news crew popped up to interview me. After hooking the ring, I abruptly retired and rode off into the sunset towards the next barroom game.

Going to start something new. Just a little blurb about anything. Could be about current events, happenings in life or about boobs. It will only last as long as a quickie. Enjoy.

My wife and I were bee-bopping around Marquette, MI this past summer and stopped in at a thrift store. We were looking for a lamp to put in the Tupa at camp. As I was standing in line to pay, she brought up a corduroy, lime green trucker hat. It was the most glorious hat I had ever gazed upon. I threw it on the counter and paid for it. I wore it the rest of the time the family and I were in the U.P. When we left, I decided to leave it there so I would always have a hat to wear at camp. Until next time camp hat.