In the Upper Peninsula, bars with awesome wood accents await on dark roads lit only by the northern lights. I attended a play at Jeffers High School in Painesdale, Michigan, and I have always sought an hour of afterglow after theater. I had noticed a town named Toivola beyond Painesdale on M-26, and because the truth is out there, I drove out there. As I drove through the dark on a road with tall trees left and right, I wondered if Toivola had one open business to make it worth my visit. I actually drove through Toivola, one building that looked commercial, a garage without a sign advertising repairs.
Beyond the city limits, I saw the neon word, "INN", and pulled in, ready for a slice of life. The kitchen had closed, so the bartender offered to fix me up a hamburger. Then the kitchen threw out the soups. For the record, I thought of mooching and stifled my begging impulse. Then again, the house threw out bean with ham? How could bean with ham fail to sell on a night with a temperature hovering above freezing? I had spotted the dumpster on the walk inside and I thought better of it.
It's a bar lit well enough to see and not well enough to focus too much on companions at the bar. We have men in camouflage hats and the women who love them. Most of the bar staff, the owner and the regulars have a jaunt to a tropical island planned, swimming with tortoises an eagerly anticipated event. Can't be too much more dangerous than swimming with the pikes, muskies and sturgeons.
Most of the folks went out on their ATVs today and buried them up to the headlights in mud. I'm all about striking up conversation, and a woman in a blue hoodie sat down beside me, these words on her back: "Keep Calm and Sidecar On". So I asked, and thus I met the owner. With fifteen minutes of arriving and the Mosquito Bar isn't officially an Irish bar. She loves the three men who run the Steep Hardwood Guide Service, all of them construction workers in the summer who know their way around the snowy hills of this endless forest. On a snowmobile, that's sidehilling.
The coffee houses in Houghton stay open later, one selling eggs, grass-fed beef and honey. The second has a cyber cafe theme, always full of college students studying together. Man doesn't live by coffee alone and I always want to have one random conversation nightly that surprises me about the world. And around the Copper Country, that has happened consistently in bars on the edge of the wilderness.
Last night at The Irish Times of Laurium, a man wandered in the front door, and he looked quite a bit like Emmett Lathrop "Doc" Brown, Ph.D. Just recently we celebrated Back to the Future Day, remember? He chided me for banging on my laptop and I closed the lid and talked to him. Born in 1925, the ninety year old man knocked back a few beers as he told stories about Calumet during the Depression. When he was twelve, the mines opened again, first purging the millions and millions of gallons of water that had accumulated in the underground. The year 1937 reawakened Calumet, the allies needing copper ready because Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini were consolidating power. He claimed that everyone in Laurium was approaching the century mark, so if I liked to talk to old timers, the Irish Times was the place.
Little chance of being bitten by a mosquito tonight. Better chance of seeing an aurora borealis.