Friday, June 19, 2009

Runnin' Wild, Day 3 (Part 1)

The Mystery Spot – We had a case of the Mondays. It rained all damn day and, as it turns out, Michigan’s upper peninsula is probably the lamest stretch of land in the continental United States. But does that stop four idiots from making the best of it? Come on, you know us better than that…

Just down the road from our Super 8 lay our first two attractions of the day, but the Mystery Spot came first. Advertisements at the hotel and billboards along the road really didn’t give us much of an indication as to what, exactly, a mystery spot is, but we assumed that this was sort of the point. Secretly, I worried that it would be as lame or lamer than the “Top Secret” attraction my wife and I visited in Wisconsin Dells a few years ago. Outside, it’s the White House upside down, and they don’t tell you anything about what’s inside. Turns out that inside is also the White House upside down. We paid $12 and were in and out in like seven minutes.

Well, the Mystery Spot wasn’t quite so disappointing. An affable young man gave us the tour of what ended up being some sort of freak of physics in the middle of the Michigan woods. Apparently, iron ore in the ground screws with gravity somehow, so the combination of that and a small shanty built at a 45-degree angle creates all sorts of interesting photo opportunities.

Personally, I don’t buy into the whole iron-ore-defies-gravity thing. I think the goofiness of the crooked building is what makes the spot so cool, but whatever the case I was genuinely dizzy and nauseous once inside the little tilted shack. The photos and video we got were, sadly, one of the highlights of the day.

It was a reasonable start to the day, but as the rain continued to pour and the U.P. continued to suck, it was a bit difficult to keep our spirits high. Eventually, things would get so horrible there’d be nothing to do but laugh.

Weird Michigan Wax Museum – Before the storm, though, there was just a drizzle as we entered the Weird Michigan Wax Museum just across the street from the Mystery Spot. Our previous experience with a wax museum was in 2005, when Kyle, Ed, and I made a visit to the Bible Wax Museum in central Ohio, and that easily would’ve been the most boring thing in road trip history were it not for us scaring the urine out of Ed in the dark display room, and the creepy churchy tour guide with the dangly cross earring who hung out in the men’s bathroom afterwards and asked us if we enjoyed the attraction.

Knowing that we turned nothing into something the last time around, we felt this particular wax museum would provide us with similar fun stories for the road.

It did not. At least, not things that happened to us personally. What it did provide was a couple of stories from Michigan’s weird history (as advertised) that we’d take with us. Most notably, there was a display of a one-legged man bludgeoning his wife to death with his false leg. That was rather quaint, we felt.

The last of the room’s wax displays told the story of Melonheads, which were some sort of freak human retards with giant heads that escaped an asylum around the turn of the century and now roam the woods of the area. Despite the fact that the mannequins looked more like a cheap display at a Halloween megastore than something legitimately frightening, the story itself struck a cord. What a fantastic scary movie that would make! Uninspired horror film writers could very easily put together a decent film if they’d just do a little research.

Was it worth $7? Probably not. But one thing we’ve learned about road trips is that it’s not about how fun each individual attraction is, but how they all form together like the Power Rangers’ robot dinosaurs to make a huge robot dinosaur. As a whole, would “Runnin’ Wild” be complete without a really horrible wax museum? Again—probably not.

Muldoon’s Pasties – First things first: the word “pasties” is pronounced “past-ee’s,” not “paste-ee’s” like you’d imagine. Apparently yoopers aren’t particularly fond of phonics. In any event, these little pot-less pot pies were supposed to be very tasty (tass-tee?), so we located what was supposed to be the best pasty place in the U.P. and gave them a try.

Driving the most of the morning along Route 2, which skirts the northern end of Lake Michigan for miles and miles, you’d be lucky to drive 10 minutes without passing some sort of pasties dive. Without exception, every single one of these places looks like a little shack with a hand-painted sign on the side advertising the food within. These are tiny places that seat maybe somewhere between six and twenty people, but the owners make everything from scratch, so it only makes sense that a homemade meal be eaten a home-like atmosphere.

Muldoon’s in Munising was voted the best pasties in the upper peninsula (by whom, we never really did get a straight answer—we assumed by the Muldoon’s Pasties Organization or something similarly ridiculous), so that’s where we ate. The food was, by all measurable standards, both delicious and hearty, though not really the sort of meal you’ll have sex dreams about. That’s reserved for huevos rancheros.

By definition, a pasty is a mixture of either beef or chicken, then potatoes, carrots, onions, and rutabagas folded into a pie crust and baked. Once on the plate they look rather imposing but hit the spot nicely. Gravy is the favorite topping of such delicacies, but ketchup, hot sauce, or ranch dressing are apparently other options as toppings as well.

At the end of lunchtime we left full and happy, and the woman behind the counter serving us was really friendly and had perhaps the strongest north woods Canadien-esque accent we experienced the whole trip. We left to her saying, “Thanks for stopping oot, yah? Come back whenever you want, eh?”

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