45th parallel the state’s sweet spot

“If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you.” — Motto, State of Michigan

The question of whether the State of Michigan is a part of the Midwest has been raised, and not for the first time. Classified by the U.S. Census Bureau as part of the Midwest, the state is formed by two peninsulas, the lower from the south and upper from the west, bounded by the waters of the Great Lakes, and joined by a five-mile bridge. Geography is at the heart of Michigan, but the diversity of it makes defining the state’s character challenging.

To the south and east, Michigan is industrial, like eastern Pennsylvania and northwest Ohio. Agriculture is important to the state, but lacking large acreage of big shoulder crops of soybeans and corn, it is not an Iowa or Illinois. In the north, Michigan is like Minnesota, mining the paper and timber of Wisconsin, that it shares a border with. The people of the Upper Peninsula, an independent minded lot, were recently identified as being residents of Wisconsin in a promotion for the beverage Mountain Dew, titled ‘Dewnited Nation.’ The PepsiCo company took special care in being apologetic.

If one was to pinpoint a sweet spot in Michigan’s geography, it would be a band following the 45th parallel, that circumscribes the Earth and crosses Michigan from Leland to Alpena — in 1970 a geography club charted a driving route and dubbed it the Polar-Equator Trail. About the same time, vineyards began to appear where once there were cherry orchards. Located along the same latitude as the wine regions of the Willamette Valley in Oregon, Bordeaux in France, and the Piedmont in Italy, with similar growing conditions, meant quality in the wine produced — Latitude + Climate = Classy Grapes! The presence of wine gets people’s attention.

“We’re right smack in the middle of a perfect climate for hops,” — Rob Sirrine, MSU Extension Service

Michigan has 357 craft breweries, fourth in the nation. Hops farming has begun to develop along the 45th parallel, in support. The lure of beer and wine adds spice to being ‘Up North’ but the primary reason is the quality of life. Ernest Hemingway, who spent the summers of his youth in the Petoskey area, reminds us of that:

“It’s a great place to laze around, swim, and fish when you want to — the best place in the world to do nothing. It is beautiful country, and nobody knows about it but us.”

To celebrate living on the 45th parallel you can have your picture taken by the marker on the shores of Squaw Bay, or on Sept. 14, go to coordinates 45.062856 X -83.43991 and 45.073245 X -83.436181 to toast the good life on the Sunrise Side, with wine at Thunder Bay Winery and beer at Austin Brothers Brewery, celebrating their seventh and fourth anniversaries, respectively.

“We’re located on the luscious 45th parallel and we’re in the country’s second most diverse state for agriculture. When you combine that precedent with a spirit of creative entrepreneurship and pride for the place, you’re in, you’ll find a city oozing with regional flavor.” — Jenny Jennes, Traverse City Tourism