Return to da U.P: Rum Slushies, Rocket League & a Trip to the Gay Bar
Friday, 5:59 AM — The Sig Pi house is alive with the sound of
frat boys screaming about getting drunk on rum slushies. Loud music has been playing all night in the next room. Blanket over my face, I contemplate how I did not see this coming.
9:53 AM — Strong beams of daylight filter in through the uncovered windows. The noise level in the house has hardly diminished. I finally give up on the idea of sleep.
As the preceding sentences might indicate, our second day in the U.P. got off to a less-than-auspicious start. I figured spending the weekend at a frat house might be a little chaotic, but wow, I was not prepared for this kind of crazy — these guys were on another level.
After going ham all night long, as the kids might say, the residents of the Sig Pi house prepared for their 8 AM broomball match by consuming copious amounts of finely crushed ice doused with rum. Rum slushie invitations were also extended to me, my brother and the friend who had made the trek to the U.P. with us, but at 6 AM we were much more interested in our (useless) attempts to get more shuteye.
As it turned out, shuteye would not be on tap until the afternoon, sometime after most of the frat's occupants had either passed out in a glorious haze or vacated the premises for some off-site activity or another. Before we'd get those much-needed naps in, however, we headed for...
12:02 PM — Brunch at Armando's Restaurant in downtown Houghton. The place is oddly empty for the Friday lunch hour. Perhaps the rum slushie epidemic has spread further than we realized.
Armando's Super Steak & Eggs option (two eggs, 10-oz. sirloin, and toast) sounded mighty tempting, but it's $17.50 price tag was more than enough to steer me away. I settled instead on some cheaper fare — eggs, bacon, sausage and a couple pancakes — and took in the old-fashioned aura of the restaurant.
The building it's housed in was originally a hotel — the Douglass House Hotel, that is, which opened its doors in 1859. Today, the location on Shelden Avenue, Houghton's main drag, is home to Armando's, the Douglass House Saloon, and some apartments up above. If their website is to be believed, the building managed to find its way onto the National Register of Historic Places at some point in time.
Instead of witnessing the giant slalom-style event on Mont Ripley, taking in the snow soccer match near the Student Development Complex, or going for a dog sled ride on the lawn of the Walker Arts and Humanities Center, we went all in for a much more exciting opportunity after lunch: napping during some rare peace and quiet at the Sig Pi house.
5:36 PM — With napping and numerous rounds of Rocket League out of the way, we pile into the car for a mini road trip. Outside, it is still colder than H-E-double-hockey-sticks. The sun hangs low over the peninsula as we head north.
6:11 PM — We arrive at the Gay Bar and head straight inside (pun intended). A gaggle of snowmobilers occupies most of the establishment. T-shirts for sale hang on display inside a case against the wall. One shows a man eating a large hot dog: "I had 12 inches at the Gay Bar."
The Gay Bar seems to be about the only business that exists in Gay, Michigan — this tiny and eccentrically-named community of about 60 people on the eastern cost of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The place is named after Joseph E. Gay, one of the founders of the Mohawk and Wolverine Mining Companies, both of which were shut down by 1933. Today, the only traces of them are an old smokestack and some rubble.
Other than the novelty T-shirts for sale — another of which depicted an upside-down bar stool proclaiming "seating for four" — the Gay Bar doesn't really get too gay. The most eccentric aspect of the place, other than its name, is the little alarm above the bar that goes off when someone tries to look through the fake peep hole in the bathroom. In case you were wondering, it did happen to go off while we were there, too.
If you ever make it up that way, I would suggest the Gay Bar's fried cod. I know you can get a fish fry just about anywhere these days, but theirs is certainly excellent. After stuffing your face, you can head into the next room and either rack up a game of pool or blow some money on one of the three slot machines against the wall.
We didn't spend any time in Gay other than to grab dinner at the bar, but I bet there are a few little nooks and crannies in the area worth exploring. On a semi-unrelated note, the Wikipedias tell me that the community is well known for its Fourth of July parade. Want to take a stab at what they call it? Why, the Gay Parade, of course!
Saturday, 12:37 PM — A time warp opens up and transports us to the next day. We find ourselves sitting in Suomi, a restaurant and bakery on Huron Street in Houghton. The Finnish French toast calls to me; I swipe left and order a Western omelette.
I think, overall, we failed as explorers and true travelers on this trip — and I will be the first to admit that. Some of it may have had to do with the fact that sleep was scarce and, because of that, energy levels were low. But even then, one of my mottos while on a trip is that I can sleep when I'm dead. I guess this U.P. excursion really tested the limits of that outlook.
Given proper doses of sleep, perhaps we would have done some hiking or made another trek up to Copper Harbor to take in its icy marvels. Maybe we would have even shelled out the doe necessary to strap on some skis and race down Mont Ripley.
Unfortunately, it was not meant to be. But here's a nice sunset photo taken along highway M-2: