Dictionary, adventuress-style: Yooper – a resident of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
Here’s what happened when five of us set out to ditch this popsicle stand in Northern Michigan for just a few days for the sunny Caribbean.
Todd and I, along with my brother- and sister-in-law and nephew, busted across the Canadian border, hopped on a plane from Soo Canada, and spent a week in Grand Cayman.
Fellow Yoopers, I know you can relate. Each and every one of us probably brags to our warm-weather friends how “you gotta be tough to live in the UP,” and that “winters up here serve to weed out the weak.”
But by the time February rolls around, what we’d really like to do is take that millionth shovelful of snow and shove it where the sun does shine, because we’re so damned sick of it we pray for an early thaw, especially when the ice fishing is lousy.
While our friends south of the Mason-Dixon line are dreaming about the last frost date and planting gardens, Yoopers dream about walking around in t-shirts and shorts once the temps reach the sweltering 50s.
And if we’re really fortunate, we can ditch this popsicle stand for just a few days and dazzle residents of the Caribbean with our albino-like appearance, whilst getting a much needed Vitamin D fix.
For those of you who have a little sociologist in you, here are the top things that happen when you release five Yoopers into the wilds of Grand Cayman. National Geographic and Marlin Perkins of Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom legend couldn’t have been prouder.
Here’s how Marlin would have described it:
“First and foremost, our Yooper subjects will gravitate to the nearest liquor store, even after facing such daunting challenges in the wild including braving a Caribbean rental car office, driving on the left side of the road with roundabouts, and getting lost to and from the condo while getting directions from multiple backseat drivers. However, their efforts will be rewarded with Caybrew, a delightful Caribbean version of Busch Lite.
Next, one of the males of the species will initiate drinking said Caybrew down by their condo’s pool and hot tub, while the females will take pictures of sunsets and twilight, while asking random strangers, “Where ya from, eh?” – much to the horror and embarrassment of the males.
After finally settling in at their new habitat for the week, which involves exploring the outer edges of their condo territory with snorkels and bare feet, our Yoopers will set out to investigate this wondrous new habit where natives worship a strange object in the sky called “the sun.”
Along their drive around the island, they will encounter a unique geologic feature called a “blowhole,” which is Mother Nature’s version of the coin in the bottle gag.
to experience more native culture that didn’t end with an unintentional soaking
and a girl scream, our Yoopers will make their way to Rum Point, where they can
partake in a local drink called a “mudslide” and learn that on this island they
are known as “pirates.”
The pirates will then make their way down to Starfish Point, where they are dazzled by a beautiful beach, more good snorkeling, and, well, starfish.
Intrigued by all this new underwater life that does not resemble a zebra mussel or a lamprey, they will listen to a story from a native about a legendary “city” in the ocean where a boat takes people to a sandbar, and creatures that look like gray, velvety-smooth swimming carpets will glide up to them and eat fish out of their hands, while gently allowing people to cuddle and kiss and pet them, unless you’re Steve Irwin.
Upon their arrival, our Yoopers do indeed interact with these mythical creatures to prove that the legend is real.
One Yooper even goes so far as to accidentally step on one’s spiny tail without injury to herself or the stingray, only later to get mobbed for the piece of fish she is holding by a frisky group of the creatures. And yes, they discover that when one kisses a stingray it’s like kissing a piece of sushi
Towards the end of the week, our subjects realize that they are in Hell.
Literally. Not only because the Cayman Turtle Farm was hell to find, but also because they realize that these limestone rock formations located in the direct sun in breeze-less, blistering heat were sucking away precious pool and beach time.
Even the gift shop owner’s friendly greeting of “How the Hell are ya?” couldn’t hide the fact that this was the biggest tourist trap on the island.
When they finally arrive at the Cayman Turtle Farm, they are rewarded with not only interaction with turtles, but also with birds in the aviary and a viewing of shark feedings.
As the week winds down, we notice our Yoopers
performing the traditional tourist ritual of shopping for trinkets in the
cruise ship port city of Georgetown.
As if they were homing pigeons, they seek out a place called Margaritaville, where they are served buckets of beer, and the young Yooper partakes in throwing himself multiple times down the water slide located there. Our young Yooper attracts quite a crowd while performing his acrobatics.
All filled up with Caybrew, jerk chicken, and Vitamin D, our Yoopers head back to their home territory with native trinkets, amazing stories, and wonderful memories. Even the little sliver of the moon over their temporary habitat seemed to be smiling with approval on the eve of their departure.”
And that, my friends, is what happens when Yoopers leave the 906 during our Spring Break exodus. I hope you have learned (or confirmed) a little bit of our culture up here in God’s Country, and that you make observations of your own in your continuing travels.
Be happy, be well.
--Story & photos by Kristin Goymerac
Goymerac, better known as “Kritter” to her family and close friends, is a
mostly lifelong resident of the Upper Peninsula (UP/"Yoopers") of
Michigan and a self-proclaimed Yooper Ambassador. She enjoys sharing
stories of her home peninsula with folks all over the world and also stories of
her international foibles with folks back home, on her blog Life in the
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