Monday, February 4, 2008

That Place Up North

I had to make a business trip today to southeast Michigan -- mainly, a town called Monroe. It is a little place north of Toledo that boasts having the largest coal-fired power plant in the world (or at least it was as recently as a decade ago, when we could still laugh at our eventual masters in Red China).

Before today, Monroe had just been a place to pass through on the way to Detroit which, in turn, is the place where Satan sends you if you fart too much in Hell. I actually have gone there for other reasons. Detroit, that is -- not Hell.

Other than an Indians-game road trip back when the Jake was always sold out and a number of other business trips, I've not had much use for That State Up North. It's not that I foster hatred for the Wolverine State -- this isn't going to be one of those Woody Hayes-inspired rants. Its western shore on Lake Michigan has it all over the Lake Erie coastline. Ann Arbor has a nice little early-spring crit series that has a beginners' program, which is where I did my first bike race. And Michigan has several dozen women with little or no facial hair. (Do not confuse the Michigan women with the Detroit Red Wings; the hockey players are the ones with the longer mullets and better teeth.)

All in all, Michigan is a fine place, not a place to blindly disparage, like some hardcore Buckeye fans do.

Anyway, aside from the power plant thing, I knew nothing about Monroe until today except that we have a friend named Julie who is from there and who used to drive home every week when her husband was out of town. So it was news when I learned today was that Toledo used to be in Monroe County, Mich., until a border skirmish called the 1835 Toledo War. Michigan and Ohio fought over 500 square miles of territory. When the smoke cleared, Toledo was in Ohio. I guess Michigan won.

As an aside: I've always called Toledo "Little Detroit" because I can't really tell them apart. I eventually figured out that Toledo is the one with the better art museum and the better baseball team, and Detroit is the one with a few more dead bodies.

As for Monroe, it's just a pass-through. Here is a photo that is pretty representative of the area:

My work took me to several bars in between Monroe and Toledo. It became apparent from the license plates in the parking lots that a good percentage of Greater Toledoans wish the war would've turned out differently: Michigan still allows smoking in its bars. Or maybe it requires smoking in its bars, I'm not sure. Either way, Ohioans flock there to burn their butts. In one place, I thought it was so packed that I had to push my way through the crowd, but in fact, I was only pushing through the cigarette smoke -- there were half a dozen people in the place. Every one had three cigarettes and four Keno games going at once.

It struck me on the ride back (I didn't have to drive) that, for better or worse, that whole area is even closer than I remembered. The point: That 4-week race series in Ann Arbor is coming up -- starting Sunday, March 30. It's going into its 24th year, so it's pretty well organized. The route is through an industrial park by Ann Arbor's airport, with a somewhat steep hill for a 1K crit circuit. There's A and B races, and a C race with a decent little pre-race clinic and in-race observers for newbies; I might drag a junior or two to it. And it's only 3+ hours away -- as close as some Team Columbus races, and better run.

I'm not promisin', but thinkin' just maybe ...


1 comment:

Ray Huang said...

Back in the day (80's for me) we raced in michigan more than Ohio and we were based in Columbus. The competition was intense (Cat.4 and cat.3 races were huge) and they had week long crit series that went from deserted town to more deserted town. But the crit courses were always awesome and the racing was really hard. The Michigan Wolverine team was tough and won most of the time.