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Dear Travelers to Michigan: Please Don’t Come Here Until You Understand These 8 Things

by Cathy Brown Jul 22, 2016

Temperature, snow, and ice is anything but straightforward.

We have this fun little thing called the Lake Effect.  As cold Arctic winds whip over the Great Lakes (which we’re surrounded by)  they suck up moisture, and voila – we get dumped on in a ‘snowfall-on-steroids’ sort of way. The quantity of snow that we can get in one storm gets ridiculous.

And ice is bad enough. But we have black ice. It’s not really black, but basically invisible. It’s like ice with superpowers, and it’s mission is to mess with you. You can’t see it until your car is already skidding out and doughnut-ing (and not doughnut-ing in a fun way).

Welcome to Michigan.

The level of Michiganders’ open-mindedness and tolerance is all over the place.

Case in point:  I lived in a cute mid-sized city on Lake Michigan called Holland for a brief two years and, although it was tricky, I worked hard to find a pretty open-minded community of friends. Holland happens to have been called on more than one occasion the “Belt Buckle of the Bible Belt”. In my opinion, there are all too many ‘Christians’  there who have forgotten “What Would Jesus Do?”, unless they really are convinced that Jesus would hate on gays, Muslims, and anyone not rich, Republican and white (unless they clean your house or pick your fruit, of course, and you can pay them slave wages).  The city is also known because Erik Prince, the founder of scary-as-hell private military company Blackwater is from there.  You get the picture.  I taught yoga there years ago and it took me a while to find a place that would let me rent a space. I mean, I was ‘doing the Devil’s work’ and all. I wish I was joking. I’m not joking.

Yet just ten minutes from Holland is Saugatuck, where it’s not uncommon to see two lesbians walking hand in hand, or frocking boat parties filled to the brim with scantily-clad flamboyant gay men living it up.  And the local community is downright proud to provide an oasis of tolerance in Michigan.

We automatically think you’re a complete jackass if we see you throw away an aluminum can that could be recycled.

You think we want your litter ending up on the sides of the road?  Or worse, in our precious lakes and rivers? No.  Hell no.

You pay an extra 10 cents per can when you buy your drinks. But then you take your beer and pop (yes, we call it pop) cans to pretty much any grocery store, general store, liquor store, Walmart, Meijer, wherever, and get 10 cents per can. Consider it a forced savings plan.

It may not seem like much, but talk to any Michigander and they’ll tell you how many times a few bags of pop cans gathered in the garage saved their butt when they needed some quick cash.

Do not underestimate the power of the Great Lakes unless you want to get your butt kicked by them (or die, because that’s definitely an option).

They are breathtaking. Take one look at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Park and tell me we aren’t blessed by Mother Nature herself. We love nothing more than to bodyboard in them in the summer, to watch 4th of July Fireworks shows from our favorite beach or to admire the frozen formations and icebergs in the winter that make us feel like we are in Antarctica.

But we acknowledge their power and you should, too. Your best bet is to not think of them as lakes. Maybe think of them as oceans and respect them as such. There’s waves big enough to surf on at certain times of the year. There’s waves that will sweep away unsuspecting passersby walking on the piers. There’s waves that crash over TOP of our lighthouses. There’s riptides. There’s a ton of sunken ships throughout all of the Great Lakes.

Please enjoy our lakes, but do so with humility.

Driving 70 mph in a white out storm, while maybe not being responsible, is common.

Say you can’t see more than 8 feet in front of your car.  All you see is a sheet of white and gale-force winds are practically blowing your car sideways. Honestly, you don’t know if you’re on the road still, the shoulder, or off in some field. Your windshields are totally fogged up at best, or covered with 2 inches of ice with a quarter-sized hole scraped out for you to somewhat see through at worst. Man up. You still maintain top speed on the highways.

The U.P will rock your world and shouldn’t be overlooked.

Upper Peninsula and the Lower Peninsula may as well be two different states. These two parts of Michigan are connected by the Mackinac Bridge. Those who live above the bridge are called Yoopers (U.P.-ers).  Those below the bridge are Trolls.  We’re witty like that.

Yoopers are in general pretty badass and deserve full respect. They endure some of the harshest winter weather that Michigan gets hit with, and that’s saying something.  The population is…well, let’s just say there may be more bears up there than people.  The people somehow thrive and most wouldn’t want to live anywhere else.  I think it’s because they are genius enough to make pasties a staple of their diet.

The U.P. has gorgeous waterfalls that you can even ice climb in the winter, the Porcupine Mountains, Lake Superior, and seemingly endless forests that provide some of the craziest fall colors you would ever hope to see.  I have no idea why it doesn’t get filled to the brim with tourists,.

When you plan a trip to Michigan, don’t count out the U.P.  (You can maybe count it out November through April unless you are really hardcore. I won’t judge.)

Don’t go meandering in the woods around November 15 unless you are in bright orange.

I would love to say that most hunters are responsible. But I’ve personally known too many who don’t think twice about mixing alcohol and guns and itchy trigger-fingers at any sign of movement.  You don’t want to be that movement.

On the plus side, opening day of deer hunting season is a completely reasonable excuse to not show up for school or work here.

We still believe in Detroit and won’t take any crap from those who don’t.

You know how many great Eminem songs the world would be without if Detroit were any less…Detroity?

Yeah, it’s seen better days economically. But it still has spirit and is being revamped in some pretty cool ways. Abandoned houses are being torn down to make room for community gardens. Prices are still super affordable so neighborhoods are being filled with low-income artists. Detroit is proud to have way more diversity than is typical in Michigan.

And it’s got the Red Wings. Say one bad thing about the Red Wings in Michigan and you’ll wish you never came here.

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