Wednesday, August 2, 2017

The New Up North

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel sparked some lively debate this summer when they asked "where does 'Up North' begin in Wisconsin.  An interactive on-line poll tried to use highways as "markers" for the start of the region.  There were suggestion that "Up North" starts at Highway 10. Other choices included Highway 8 and all the way up to Highway 2--which would be about two percent of the entire state.

Personally, I would say that "Up North" starts at Highway 64 in the east--so that Marinette isn't included--but lake towns like Crivitz and Wausaukee are and it includes everything north of Antigo--which is the last of the "big cities" on Highway 45.  Where 64 hits Highway 51, you head south to Wausau and then across the state on Highway 29.  Everything north of that is "Up North".

However, "Up North" isn't as "Northy" as it used to be.  When my family started going "Up North", we had one of those Winnebago-type trailers with the table that folded down to make the second bed.  There was no electrical hookup, so entertainment was listening to Brewers games on the AM radio or cassette tapes of our albums recorded with a mono tape recorder.  And while it may have had a bathroom, we used the outhouse.

From there we graduated to "The Shack", a one room structure that at least had electricity--so you could watch whatever was on the one channel you could get without an antenna on the black and white television.  And there was still no bathroom.  Now, because they live there in the summer, my folks are in a "Lake House" with three functioning toilets, satellite tv and wifi internet.  Not exactly "roughing it".

Plus the towns "Up North" aren't the same anymore.  I thinks it was about 20-years ago that the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine had a front page story "Eagle River: The New Door County".  And sure enough, the monied Illinoisians descended upon that area in droves--driving up property values and bringing with them the kind of over-priced lifestyle items that ruined the quaintness of Door County a generation before.

The only reason to go into Three Lakes back in the day was for the Water Ski show, or to eat at the Copper Kettle Restaurant--home of the World Pancake Hall of Fame.  Now, Three Lakes is best known for its winery.  Yes, Three Lakes has a winery.  Dining selections in Eagle River used to be the A&W, a couple of pizza places or a burger at a bar.  Now, there are upscale eateries that require reservations, that have giant. glasse-enclosed wine cellars where someone has to get on a ladder to pull out the bottle you want, and where Friday Fish Fry is some pecan-crusted sea bass.

The moccasin and fudge shops on the downtown main drag now sit next to art galleries and stores stocked with high-end designer "outdoor apparel" and "trekking gear".  And of course, everywhere you go there is "free wi-fi" to help you "stay connected". 

So while you may be "going Up North", it's not like you are really "getting away from it all" anymore.

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