Day 16: We Made it! Last Day in Michigan

Hopefully, all the bloodshed and breakdowns are behind us now for good.  Sparkle turned in another trouble-free day.  I’m ashamed to admit it but I got another ticket today in the forest of the U.P.  72 in a 55.  It’s so hard to keep it slow on those straight lines with no other cars around.  Feels like you’re crawling at 55.  And it gets really tedious with absolutely nothing to shoot or look at other than trees for more than an hour.  Again, I had to fork over $50 cash as a “deposit” towards the ticket since I’m from out-of-state.  The cop said if I didn’t have cash, he’d have to “take my license”.  Whatever that means I’m not sure!  But luckily I had just been to a cash machine and had $100.  Well, hopefully those tickets are half paid for now (have to call tomorrow to see what the prices are).  And maybe I’ll cool it a little in Wisconsin.  Poised at the border in Ironwood tonight and itching to move on.

The weather was so miserable this morning — grey & sprinkley — that I forced myself to take a little hour-long nap to wait it out.  But by then (10am) still crappy & had to get going.  Stayed pretty much grey until around 4pm when I was really driving and not shooting much.  Thems the breaks.  So much for these August roadtrips being the best chance for sunny shooting.  I guess in five or six years, I’ll be back in the U.P. to try this again.

This photo reflects the conditions.  I guess there’s a photoshop program to add pretty skies — but that would be cheating.  From Escanaba:


A couple of bars in Escanaba.  This one with red vitrolite and wooden signs which must have replaced something nicer:


I don’t know why they’ve covered up the neon sign with tarping.   Here’s a shot from a few years ago showing what’s underneath:


Things get awfully quiet on the long stretches — as long as there’s not lakes nearby — which is practically never in this part of the country.  Happiness is a sandy van.  Nik got thrashed around by giant waves in Lake Superior and loved every minute of it.


Mr. Pasty made me stop:

If you’re unfamiliar with pasties, this bag explains the whole deal:

I was limited to the veggie selection — but it was delicious and filling.  Buttery thick crust.  Spicy interior.  Reminded me of all those Swanson pot pies I grew up on — but better.


Neat storefront in Ishpeming:


Off to Marquette where I’d never been before.  I don’t think there are any really big cities in the continental U.S. that I haven’t been to.  So a new medium sized city is a thrill.  Here’s a neat building with castle details:


Doncker’s has been here since 1914.

That’s green vitrolite:



Candy counters:

Soda fountain:

Their specialties are fudge and caramels.  Since I still have fudge, and pie, I went with the caramels.  Dark, milk, and dark with sea salt.

Never had sea salt & chocolate together — the sweet & salty is a great contrasty though.  Like salted nuts on ice cream.  Salt and sugar should really be used together more.  The interior was smooth and melty and to die for.  I was expecting that icky elastic super chew.  But this was like butta.


Still in Marquette.  I was eager to finally get to see the Bunny Bread sign.  There were a few of these made in the 1950s.   The only other one known to still exist was located in Anna, IL until 2010:
That one is now at the Bundy Museum of Baking Arts in Urbana, OH.  It is being restored so the ears will move again.

The one in Marquette was saved by the Children’s Museum.  I’ll be lazy and grab this excerpt from my website:

“The only other large sign was built around 1955 for the plant in Marquette, MI. That bunny head is about 15 feet tall while the sign from Anna is about 10 feet tall. The Marquette sign was removed in 1991 and placed in storage. In 1996, it was installed at the Upper Peninsula Children’s Musueum in town. The entrance lobby, partly designed by children, was built high enough to include the bunny’s ears. The sign is visible from outside the building. The bunny head is still the original colors but the neon was removed. It is now lit with blue Christmas lights. “

You can see him in the window on the left:




I have to say I was disappointed though.  There is no way to get a good shot of the bunny.  Blocked by the grid in the windows, the glare of the sun.  And then walls inside the museum:

The best shot I could get of him:

But at least the sign was saved and maybe it’ll get a more respectful display in the future.

Beef-A-Roo — not to be confused with the Beefaroo chain in Illinois — has two locations.  I don’t know if there were others.  This photo is of the sign in Negaunee, the other one, just like it, is in Marquette:


Moving on to Houghton.  I suspect the oval on top might have been neon with another name originally:


This one next door is obviously a retexted sign — maybe the same owners at the motel:


In Hancock — a real indicator of the times we’re living in.  Mom & pop stores shutting down hundred-year-old businesses all across America.  Sucky economy, retiring age owners with no kids interested in carrying on barely profitable businesses.  And that vinyl sign on the lightpost bragging about 15 new high-tech businesses in town is a real kick in the ass:


In Calumet.  No sign of life at this place.


Last photo for the night — from Mass City — another sign that was probably all originally neon, then updated later with some plastic:


So, it’s been swell Michigan.  Despite all the challenges, lots of great memories and thousands of photos to add to the website this winter.  We’re not quite halfway through this trip though — so stay tuned.

13 thoughts on “Day 16: We Made it! Last Day in Michigan

    • Yes, I’ll have to find some reason to return to Marquette to try their fudge next time. Mail order would be cheating and not as exciting as live in-person.

  1. DJ,
    Two words: CRUISE CONTROL.

    Sparkle makes another cameo appearance!

    Like the 2 bars: vitrolite, glass blocks,stone. Look like they could be in Chicago.

    Love Jackson’s.That font is great.

    Doncker’s: My kind of place.

    Maybe the Blue Skies are waiting for you Tuesday! Hope so.
    Continued safe travels.

    • Sparkle is hard to conceal — she’s always parked very nearby since I’m trying to maximize shots per hour. Never a deliberate thing to include her. My brain don’t work that way. I’ve never been a Flat Stanley type. I’ve never liked cruise control — too jerky — and worried I’ll zone out and either fall asleep or start organizing the van and forget to steer. Too bad Fixie’s feet won’t reach the pedals as she’d make an excellent driver and always obey the speed limit.

  2. Nice classic neon signs!!!Sounds like a fun road trip despite the ticket. Yea cruise control is the trick ,i use mine on short trips too!!!!

    • Make that TWO tickets — two days in a row — ugh. I’ve never liked cruise control because it just seems to jerk the engine and all around unnecessarily. Just feels wrong. And makes me sleepy. Worried I’ll space out too much. You might also enjoy the simultaneous Flickr stream — with the more “choice” neon signs & such — if you’re not following along there as well:

      Giant Waving Rabbit
  3. Dear Lead Foot,

    I look at it as “Where’s Sparkle”. A new game.

    I would hate to think you should be concerned if she shows up in any composition.

    Please explain this statement: ” I’ve never been a Flat Stanley type.”

    Does not compute.

    • You’re giving me homework on my trip?!? I barely have time to brush my teeth. Certainly no time for reading but I glanced at the photos. Too Gothic for me really — but the murals and carvings are nice.

  4. Ha! I knew you’d say that ! My aim was you enjoying the murals & carvings anyway so I WIN!

    I AM sorry that you don’t appreciate a good clock tower when you see it. I do like them.


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