The Reinhard Chronicles: Life Lessons from the UP

The doors were frozen. Actually frozen shut. Who knew that -14 weather could freeze all your car doors in place? We certainly didn’t. Welcome to the Upper Peninsula.

Now, let me be clear: Just because I’m from Georgia and went to college in South Carolina does not make me a southerner. And contrary to popular belief, I will not sulk my way through a northern winter because it “too cold outside to function.” BUT. I do think that when your doors freeze close, and your nose hairs freeze together the second you step outside, that maybe it’s time to move south.

Life lessons from the

Here are a 20 things we’ve learned since moving to the UP:

1. Layering is life. Without layers, you die.

It’s normal to wake up to -11 degree weather. If you plan on going outside for any extended period of time, layer, layer layer. You’ll thank me later.


2. Pre-warm everything. Whether it’s your bed or your car.

You think if you start up your car ten minutes before you leave for work you’ll be fine? Think again. You’ll need a solid 30 minutes of pre-heat time if you want ANY sort of warmth for your trek to work.IMG_4892

3. There’s a difference between a Yooper and a Troll. You better be on the right side.

If you live in the UP, you’re a Yooper. If you live in the mitten, you’re a Troll. Trolls only come up to the UP during tourist season.

4. Everyone travels by snowmobile. If you don’t have one of those, then you have sled dogs.

What’s that weird sound in the distance? A siren? A helicopter? Nope. Just a wild herd of snowmobiles.

5. Hockey is everything. Shame on you and your house if you don’t know how to play.

I don’t do sports. The fact that I don’t care about hockey instantly makes me unlikable. Lucky me.

6. Everyone knows everyone.

Especially if you live in a small town. There is no escaping. There are no secrets. Everyone knows everyone’s business, knows every aspect of your life, and will call you out on it too.

7. The deer are like rats. They’re everywhere and dumb as they come.

We call them dombies because they’re like deer-zombies. I’ve started rolling down my window, leaning my head out and making mooing/honking/coughing/deer-noises at them. This usually gets them out of the road right quick. Chesh says I’m odd. I say it’s effective.IMG_5518

8. Watch your step.

The ice in the UP will take you out faster than a tripwire.


9. Lake effect is a whole different ball game up here.

A hurricane to you is just “lake effect” to us.

10. Pasties. All day, ‘er day.

Pronounced “past-eez”. Not “pahst-eez”. Not “paste-eez”. Get it right.

11. Nothing is more beautiful than a great lake frozen over.

Think of an ocean of diamonds, with cute otters scurrying from one shoreline to the other. It’s thick enough to drive out on, which sometimes you do. On your handy-dandy snowmobile.IMG_4981

12. Winter lasts for six months.

And then some. There is no spring, summer, or fall. There is only Winter, followed by the seasons known as “mud”, “high of 80”, and “pre-winter”.

13. Border patrol is more common than regular cops.

Right now the tally is 7-4. Border patrol is winning.

14. All old men have mustaches. They just do.

Makes them look like retired lumberjacks, which they probably are.

15. Vernors is the reigning champion of all soda pop.

Never call it soda. Get it right, you southerner!

16. When popping into the Family Dollar, gas station, or literally anywhere, leave your car running. It’s not worth the trouble of letting your car cool down even a little bit.

It’s not like someone is going to steal it…Like I said, everyone knows everyone, and you don’t want the Sherrif knocking on your mama’s door telling her what kind of mess you’ve been up to.

17. Blizzards and White-Outs are real. And they are scary as heck.

I always thought blizzards were only things that happened in Little House on the Prairie books. I was mistaken.

18. Canada is just a hop, skip, and a jump away.

From us, it’s a mere 35 minute drive away. Canada has the movie theater and the mall. Just flash your passport, and in you go.

19. Waterproof “Winter” gloves won’t help you up here.

You’re going to need more. So much more.

20. The UP is not Michigan. The UP is its own state.

People don’t say they’re from Michigan. They say they’re from the Upper Peninsula.


In the end, the Upper Peninsula is one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever visit. Just maybe visit in the summer…


8 thoughts on “The Reinhard Chronicles: Life Lessons from the UP

  1. Having lived 4 years in the UP, I could write a paragraph or more on each of your points. But let me add one more: In the UP, places are a long ways apart. And you don’t mind.

    I attended university about 300 miles west and north from your location. 300 miles . . . . and it’s still in Michigan. In fact, from school it was an additional 100 miles or so to the state border with Wisconsin. In those days I drove (not often) between school and my parent’s home in suburban Detroit. Now, I drive from St Louis, Missouri, to Detroit, and it’s about the same distance. Except the route from ST Louis to Detroit puts me in five different states!

    So driving 100 miles to a concert is just part of an evening out. 50 miles to the auto parts dealer is why you make sure to get everything you need on the first trip. 150 miles to a park for a day outing? Well, unless it’s Tahquamenon, you probably pass two dozen parks that are just as good along the way. When you spend so much time in travel you suppress the materialism by asking, “Do I really need to get this thing?”.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “20. The UP is not Michigan. The UP is its own state.”

    In the 1970’s there was a movement – not entirely tongue-in-cheek – to establish the “State of Superior”. Probably the closest it came to reality was the summer of 1972, when the UP counties defied the state legislature over the issue of Daylight Saving Time. If you poke around the dusty corners of some motel gift shops you may still uncover a bumper sticker showing the outline of the UP, and the slogan “Superior is a State of Mind”.

    “17. Blizzards and White-Outs are real. And they are scary as heck.”

    Definitely not anything to be taken lightly. Someday I’ll tell you the story of “Dale and the Blizzard”. I still have the snowshoe (by Iverson, of course – and Bob Maki bindings) with the cracked frame.


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