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Anecdote of the Upper Peninsula’s Geography

Last night I arrived in East Lansing where I’ll be giving a couple lectures this week at my alma mater, Michigan State. I crashed at my cousin Sara’s place (who is from Sutton’s Bay, north of Traverse city) for the night.

This morning, my cousin’s roommate’s boyfriend came and visited with me for a few minutes and this is how the conversation went.

Dude: So are you from the Sutton’s Bay area as well?

Me: No, I live in Marquette.

Dude: Oh, in Wisconsin.

Me: No, in the Upper Peninsula.

Dude: Where is it about?

Me: North Central Upper Peninsula.

Dude: Ok, so in the Petoskey area?

Me: No, north of the bridge.

Dude: Oh … uhhh, ok I think I know where you mean… (as conversation ends awkwardly)

Maybe I can give him the benefit of the doubt. Maybe he’s not from Michigan originally. Obviously he is confused if he was wearing at Michigan State University shirt and he goes to the University of Michigan. Perhaps his first thought was Marquette University, which is in Milwaukee.

It’s not the fact that I’m offended as a Yooper that bothers me. It’s the idea that this guy may have grown up in Michigan and does live here now. There is absolutely no reason he should not know where Marquette is, or what “North Central Upper Peninsula” means.

I’ve always been big on geography, especially Michigan geography and the Great Lakes region.

The irony is that tomorrow evening I’m giving a lecture to some undergrad students about hometowns and even hometown stereotypes. At least I have an anecdote to start the lecture with now.

Does anyone else have similar stories?

10 Wonderful Comments

  1. Rachel Putnam
    Oct 20, 2008


    HaHA!!! I love this story, poor kid! What can i say, you might want to offer him a yooper steez shirt, then he will really get the idea of where Marquette is :)


  2. Going to school at NMU, originally growing up in Illinois and Ohio, I found that when people would tell me they were from some tiny Michigan town in the LP, it’d be very helpful when they’d use the hand method.

    But then someone told me they were from some small UP town that I’d never heard of, and he showed me the upper peninsula with his left hand, by curling in his pinky and sticking his thumb upwards.

    Ever since then, I haven’t had trouble telling people where Marquette is, or another smaller UP town that I’ve been to, for that matter.

  3. When I lived in Washington state, I seldom met a native who had any idea where Michigan is located within the U.S. Most people thought it was on the East Coast.

    Geographical ignorance seems to be on the rise in our country. And it doesn’t help any that companies that are essential to the online generation are fanning the flames. I wrote this post on Google’s Michigan blob:

  4. I grew up in Gladstone and moved to Grand Rapids to attend GVSU. I was writing a check at a Best Buy down there and the lady at the register asked where the 906 area code on my check was from. I explained the UP and that 906 is the area code for the entire UP She looked confused and said “It can’t be for the whole UP, I was just up there a few weeks ago and the area code was 616.” Of course then I was confused (well, mostly amused) and asked where in the UP she had been. She told me Boyne Falls!!! Boyne Falls is in the LP near Charlevoix. Poor lady.

    Also, while at college I liked to introduce myself as being from the UP and I met lots of fellow Yoopers at GVSU. I also met one geographically challenged boy who told me he was also from the UP. When I asked where in the UP he told me Cadillac! Um, not even close dude. :)

  5. OH WOW!

    I have conversations that relate to that as well. Being from the Sault, its not as far away from the LP as Marquette is. Like the reaction i got this past weekend. The girl literally said “Woah, thats like foreever away! What, like 10 hours to get there?” I responded with “No, only 3 hours from here(Mt. Pleasant).” All she said then was “oh” and looked embaresed and walked away.

    It was priceless. I mean come on, from Mt. Pleasant is only 2 hours south of the bridge, LITERALLY!


  6. Dennis D Hawk , DC
    Mar 12, 2010

    Many times I have told people I went to school in Marquette, and people say , Oh, they have a good basketball team or, I know Marquette University. , then I say , no Northern Michigan University in Marquette, MI… They say , OH… and the conversation ends…I love the UP
    Dennis D. Hawk , DC, Atlanta, GA

  7. obviously the people who don’t know anything about the UP are TROLLS!!!!

  8. here’s more trivia: which is the ONLY state in the entire nation to have two state fairs?
    well, michigan of course! one in the LP (somewhere near detroit) and one in the UP (in escanaba)…

  9. Susan Biehl
    Mar 12, 2010

    When we first moved to E. Lansing from Houghton, we told our new friend that we just moved down here from Houghton. One of friends said..”Hey! We honeymooned there..then went over to Higgins!” People down here often refer to Houghton Lake as Houghton. That’s usually as far north as most venture. They had no idea that it was almost a 10 hr. trip for us to go “home”.

  10. Joyce Rathbone
    May 17, 2012

    I was born and raised and still live in Washington State. But seems I am not as geographically illiterate as some people apparently think we on the West Coast are. My observation is that Easterners are a lot less aware of our Western part of the country than we are of theirs. Having travelled to Michigan I know the history of the Upper Peninsula and how Michigan happened to acquire it. A lot of us Westerners have travelled enough around the country to know where each state is located and where the boundaries are. Maybe it was from our pioneer ancestors that had the spirit to move West that we inhereted the curiosity to learn about our country.

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