05 August 2013

Michigan Reflections: Where, exactly, does Up North begin, anyway?

Opinion Article in Detroit Free Press
By: Peter Gavrilovich

Michigan Reflections: Where, exactly, does Up North begin, anyway?

You've got your robin (official state bird), white pine (tree), apple blossom (flower) and, of course, Up North (state redundancy).

But where, exactly, does Up North begin? And, yes, I know it can be the official state of mind. I suspect for some folks, Up North is any place to kick back away from the metropolis.

When I was a kid, Utica was Up North.

Over the years, I've done some sort of almost scientific research and have concluded that Up North is after you cross the Pentwater/Pinconning line.

This is an east/west marker that runs between Pentwater on Lake Michigan (a charming community) and Pinconning on Saginaw Bay (think cheese).

If you head Up North on I-75, the line is roughly at mile marker 181. In west Michigan, it's a handful of miles south of U.S. 10.

Observe (at least from the eastern Michigan perspective):
  • South of the line, the land is flat and farmy -- might as well be Ohio.
  • North of the line, things begin to change. Soon the fields fade and the land is festooned with conifers, maples and oak.
  • South of the line, the traffic seems more diverse -- that is, there are actually cars among the trucks pulling boats and off-road vehicles.
  • North of the line, fewer cars.
Feel free to toss in your own Up North beginning, and e-mail your thoughts to opinion@freepress.com. I know lots of you will say the Zilwaukee Bridge or Clare -- and you'd be correct, because the state redundancy doesn't have an official beginning.

Just don't try to sell me on Utica. I wasn't born yesterday.

Is there a place, a moment or an experience in your life that is quintessentially Michigan? Send your Michigan Reflection to opinion@freepress.com.

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