Monday, August 6th.
Stayed in Marquette an extra day—I think I needed to recoup from Sunday. Glad I did. Until now, I'd only passed through Marquette. My hotel, the Econo Lodge on US 41, stands directly across Lake Superior. Never stayed in this chain but I liked that my room is meticulous and on the ground level, which means that Queenie is parked outside my door. I slept well, not once imagining thieves hauling her away. A couple of other bikes were in the lot but neither as cute as my gal-pal leaving me to believe that she’d be the first pilfered.
Marquette is a bustling port city of approximately 20,000 people, making it the largest city in the UP with a proud history that has contributed greatly to the railroad history and rail network across the nation. Called the Queen City of Northern Michigan, Marquette is a center for business, shopping, banking, medical services and recreation activities. It is home to Northern Michigan University, where the US Olympic Education Center stands as a place for promising olympic hopefuls to receive training on several sports. Given its proximity to Lake Superior, its diverse terrain, Marquette is a year-round sporting, outdoors, and recreational hotspot for recreational and serious athletes and families just wanting to get away and have some fun.
Marquette is a picturesque blend of the old and the new. Many of the region and nation’s big names in lumbering, iron ore (mining) and railroad development had residences here. Its historic district is well-preserved and the homes of some of the past developers remain. This place is a walker (and bicyclist’s) delight. If you visit the area, head for Arch & Ridge streets to see the stately homes, churches, and public buildings. According to Margaret Beattie Bogue, most of these structures were built in the “last three decades of the nineteenth century during the heyday of iron mining in the Marquette range.”
One of my favorite spot was the Marquette County Courthouse off Third Street near west Washington Street. This is a great old building still in use and open to the public. I hung around outside it. It is probably most famous as the setting for the Hollywood movie, starring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick, Anatomy of a Murder, based on the fictionalized account of a true incident that transpired in Big Bay, a town to the northwest of Marquette. The author of the novel was Robert Traver, who in real life was attorney and county prosecutor, John Voelker (now deceased).
Stopped by Book World Bookstore, formerly the Nordic Theater where the hand and footprints of Stewart and Remick could be seen. They’ve been removed to undergo repair after suffering water damage. Book World is a great bookstore and I managed to leave it with buying only one book, which doesn’t even count since it was on the region. This reminds me…does the GPS include bookstores?? Hmmm….The downtown area is a wonderful space that all the travel books proudly note has managed to resist over “malling” to preserve the unique history and charm of this area. In fact, some of these old structures have been transformed into unique grouping of stores where local artists display and sell their art.
I toured the Marquette Maritime Museum, where a retired volunteer with an IL connection (he used to live in Joliet) gave a passionate, detailed history of lighthouse, ships (and wrecks) and many suggestions on where to tour next. The lighthouse is now federal property, under the jurisdiction of the US Coast Guard and they let are unequivocal in letting you know it. Come on their property without permission and get ready for a serious strip searching and surrendering of your firstborn! They are not playing around. They now license the museum to give the tours and require participats to wear the blue badges handed out after you pay your fee—a new feature that our guide says he has to “remember” to collect at the end of each tour. You’ll be glad to know that if Elvis is out there in the water somewhere, the US Coast Guard is there, ready for the rescue.
Presque Isle Park is highly recommended. The park is perched on the northern edge of Marquette. The scenic drive out there follows the narrow Lakeshore Drive and is worth the slow speeds posted to get there. It is a public park that has everything: fabulous views, cliffs, hiking, biking, driving trails and pebble beaches. Bogue describes it as a “beautiful 323-acre forested peninsula.” In a word, it is breathtaking and highly endorsed by seemingly everyone around here.
I rode the narrow, winding path through the park and the only problem I have about such places is they often lack a decent shoulder for pulling off for a street motorcycle. This one definitely had places to park and many lookout points but these were often sandy and pebbly, making them a little challenging for my gal-pal—and we’ve got proof, which I don’t’ want to talk about! A keen eye on one of the pics might spot the proof, which is why I’ll always remember Presque Park for more than it beauty. I have no pics of the park itself, but when I pick up Marquette again at the end of my circle, I plan to hike or rent a bicycle to explore this area and give it its proper due. The cliffs looked inviting and to lunch near the Marquette Marine Harbor, while looking out on all the blue that is Lake Superior, would be a nice way to close the office start/end of the tour.
Yes, the extra day in Marquette was just the respite Queenie and I needed. We’re off to Canada today---but oh, so many stops before we get there.
Note to self: Beware the sand and wildlife!