Michigan – The Hummer

Each week, the Sip Advisor will alphabetically travel the United States, discovering the best each state has to offer in a variety of subjects. Although nicknamed the Wolverine State, there are no longer wolverines in Michigan. However, there’s plenty else to see and do in the land that looks like a mitted palm, so let’s get right to it:

Motto: “If you seek a pleasant peninsula, look about you” – What constitutes a “pleasant” peninsula?

Food: Coney Dogs – hot dogs topped with chili/meat sauce, yellow mustard, white onions and sometimes cheese – are a Michigan fixture. Two neighbouring Detroit restaurants are said to be the best places to try the meal. Opened by feuding brothers, Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island are at the center of a long debate over which offers the better dog.

Drink: Created in 1866, Vernors Ginger Ale was one of the first sodas ever produced in the U.S. and is the oldest surviving. It was accidentally made by pharmacist James Vernor, as he attempted to create a medicinal tonic. The concoction was stored in an oak barrel for four years, while Vernor fought in the Civil War. When he returned, he had stumbled upon the drink.

Coney Dog

Site to See: Mackinac Island is among Michigan’s top tourist destinations, with the entire island being listed as a National Historic Landmark. Points of interest include Fort Mackinac, Mission Church and the Round Island Lighthouse. The adjacent Mackinac Bridge (aka Mighty Mac) is world’s longest suspension bridge, connecting Upper and Lower Michigan.

Street: Woodward Avenue (aka M-1) is known as Detroit’s Main Street. Built along what was the Saginaw Trail, it was the first paved road in the U.S. and also where the first three-colour traffic light was installed. The route is used for the annual Woodward Dream Cruise classic car event and America’s Thanksgiving Parade, as well as for sports championship celebrations, with each pro team’s stadium/arena located on or near the highway.

TV Show: Home Improvement was set in Detroit, running for eight season and 204 episodes. Centered around local DIY TV host Tim Taylor and his family, the series may be best known for launching the careers of star Tim Allen, Jonathan Taylor Thomas and Pamela Anderson. I was also a fan of 8 Simple Rules, which sadly may be best remembered for John Ritter’s death.

Movie: The American Pie franchise of films (the main ones, not the direct-to-DVD spinoffs) were set in Michigan. The series has followed the group from high school graduation all the way to their 13th high school reunion. Along the way, there were lost virginities, breakups, weddings, and the birth of children. Perhaps later installments will take them right up to senior citizenship.

American Pie

Book/Author: While The Virgin Suicides by Michigander, Jeffrey Eugenides, is set in Grosse Point, I’ll go with some lighter fare in The Polar Express. This Christmas tale begins and ends in Grand Rapids (the hometown of writer and illustrator, Chris Van Allsburg). The book was adapted into the 2004 film of the same name, starring Tom Hanks as a whole host of characters.

Fictional Character: For his efforts in cleaning up the mean streets of Detroit, the nod here has to go to RoboCop. The cyborg police officer kicks ass and takes names, since they’re recorded in his computer system. I’ll admit, I’ve never watched any of the RoboCop films, but I’ve seen enough parodies of the character to get the gist of it.

Fictional City: Brookfield Heights was the setting of American Horror Story: Cult, the seventh season of the anthology horror series. The season’s storyline saw the suburb being terrorized by an upstart cult, which was taking advantage of the upheaval sparked by the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump.

Actor/Actress: Two of the greatest mustaches of all-time belonged to Michigan-born actors, Burt Reynolds and Tom Selleck. Reynolds, born in Lansing, is best-known for starring in films such as Smokey and the Bandit and The Longest Yard. Selleck, born in Detroit, played the iconic character Thomas Magnum, for eight seasons on Magnum P.I. Both share associations with famous vehicles, thanks to their roles.

RoboCop

Song: Detroit Rock City by Kiss is an upbeat hard rock tune, which has become one of the band’s most notable tracks, despite originally performing poorly as a single, aside from in Detroit. The song title was later used for a 1999 teen comedy movie, which sees a group of four friends, who perform in a Kiss tribute band, try to see the band live in concert, during their prime.

Band/Musician: Michigan had the airwaves cornered in the late 90’s and early 2000’s, with Detroit artists such as Eminem and Kid Rock being two of the most popular performers of the era. Prior to that, legends of the industry, such as Motown musicians Diana Ross and Stevie Wonder, as well as rockers Bob Seger, Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, and Iggy Pop, each enjoyed success. Lastly, the ‘Queen of Pop,’ Madonna, was born in Bay City.

People: Henry Ford was born in Greenfield Township and is synonymous with the auto industry, having revolutionized the production/assembly line for his Model T vehicles, so they could be completely built in 93 minutes. To keep his employees happy, Ford paid them double the minimum wage that was common at the time, resulting in more people being able to buy the vehicles he produced.

Animal: Despite there being no live wolverines in the state, the University of Michigan adopted the animal as the nickname for its sports teams. Therefore, at one point, its football program had live wolverines as mascots. Biff and Bennie first appeared for the dedication of Michigan Stadium, in 1927, and were with the team for at least a season. They were later relocated to the Detroit Zoo.

Henry Ford

Invention: One of Michigan’s greatest inventions is a part of countless folk’s daily morning routine. Flaked cereal was accidentally created by W.K. Kellogg and his brother, Dr. John Kellogg, in 1894. Kellogg’s still remains headquartered in Battle Creek, with their most recognizable brands being Frosted Flakes, Rice Krispies, Froot Loops, Corn Flakes and Raisin Bran.

Crime: There is so much intrigue surrounding the disappearance of former teamster union leader, Jimmy Hoffa, the case has remained in the public conscience for decades. Hoffa was last seen on July 30, 1975, in Bloomfield Township. It is generally accepted, Hoffa met his fate at the hands of the mafia, but theories on the whereabouts of his body and who exactly killed him range widely.

Law: It is illegal to buy or sell cars on Sundays. It’s not like people have anything better to do on Sunday, particularly with regards to watching the state’s pro football team (more on that below).

Sports Team: Detroit has one team apiece in each of the Big 4 sports leagues, including the Red Wings (NHL), Tigers (MLB), Pistons (NBA), and Lions (NFL). While the first three teams have won championships in this millennium, the Lions have been one of the most futile franchises in all of sports, having never appeared in a championship game during the 54 years of the NFL’s Super Bowl era, highlighted by a winless 0-16 campaign in 2008.

Jimmy Hoffa

Athlete: Serena Williams was born in Saginaw. She is regarded as one of the greatest tennis players of all-time, regardless of gender. Williams has enjoyed a dominant career, winning 23 singles grand slam events and 16 others in doubles competition. Williams also has four Olympic gold medals, three of which were won with her sister Venus as partner.

Famous Home: Hitsville U.S.A. (now the Motown Museum) was purchased by Motown record label founder Berry Gordy Jr., in 1959. He converted the home into the office and studio that would produce so many great songs. The estate was expanded to other neighbouring homes, before Gordy moved his operations to the Motown Mansion, in 1967.

Urban Legend: The Michigan Triangle, located in Lake Michigan, is said to be the site of many supernatural occurrences, beginning with the vanishing of the Le Griffon sailing ship, all the way back in 1679. Since then, other vessels have met mysterious fates, as well as the disappearance of Northwest Orient Airlines Flight 2501. The American Stonehenge can also be found in the area, but it is submerged by water.

Museum: The Henry Ford, in Dearborn, is a massive complex that houses so many pieces of Americana. Among them, are Thomas Edison’s lab, the Wright Brothers’ bicycle shop, Abraham Lincoln’s Ford Theatre chair, John F. Kennedy’s presidential limousine, the bus Rosa Parks made her stand on, and others. Founded by Henry Ford, it is the largest indoor-outdoor museum in the country.

Motown

Firsts: Michigan was the first state to abolish the death penalty, except for treason, when they did so in 1846. Two executions swayed the state to go this route, including a Detroit man hanged for killing his wife in a non-premeditated manner and a Windsor, Ontario man executed for the rape and murder of a woman, although the crime had been committed by someone else.

Company: The ‘Big Three’ of U.S. automobile manufactures – Ford Motor Company, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler – are each headquartered in the Detroit area. At one time, the trio comprised the three largest vehicle builders in the world. While the industry, as a whole, has seen its fair share of ups and downs, each company remains a force within the country.

Events: During World War II, Detroit was called the ‘Arsenal of Democracy’ by President Franklin Roosevelt, thanks to the city’s production efforts, using facilities typically deployed to manufacture vehicles. This caused an influx of 350,000 people to come to Michigan for the available work.

Miscellaneous: Detroit has its own currency, called Detroit Community Scrip or Detroit Cheers. First issued in 2009, the currency is interchangeable with U.S. dollars and are available in $3 denominations. There is $4,500 worth of the currency in circulation, with an image of The Spirit of Detroit statue looking over the Detroit skyline on the bills.

The Hummer

The Hummer

  • 1.5 oz Rum
  • 1.5 oz Kahlua
  • 2 Scoops of Vanilla Ice Cream
  • Garnish with a Maraschino Cherry

This is the quintessential Michigan cocktail, according to a number of sources. The drink was created by bartender, Jerome Adams, at the Bayview Yacht Club, in Detroit, in 1968. When asked the beverage’s name by a customer who was enjoying them, Adams said it had yet to be named. The customer said it makes you want to hum and the libation had a new moniker. Abroad, it is known as a Detroit Hummer, in the U.K., and as a Sir Jerome, in Germany.

Flavour Revolution – Lemon

When Life Gives You Lemons

I find stories of people turning their lives around to be quite fascinating and inspiring. Going through challenges makes for better people on the other end and some of the greatest things we know today were created by those who took risks, defied protocols, and pushed through adversity. Here are some fine examples of folks turning lemons into lemonade!

Walt Disney

Had Walt Disney been one to easily give up, we wouldn’t have an archive of wonderful characters, shows, movies, theme parks, and experiences. Countless times, it was speculated that Disney would destroy his own company with new ventures. This included the making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – dubbed Disney’s Folly by the media – and the construction of Disneyland, which many believed had no chance of success. Disney had so much trouble raising funds for the theme park that he made a deal with the ABC TV network, exchanging programming for help in financing his dream. Everything worked out in the end, thanks to Disney’s risks.

Walt Disney Legacy

Henry Ford

The man who eventually brought the world the automobile went through a number of struggles before finally reaching success. Ford came from a farming family and was expected to take over the homestead, although he hated the work and lifestyle. Ford wanted a better life for himself, but simply leaving the farm didn’t guarantee anything. In fact, Ford was forced to file for bankruptcy twice, but he learned from his mistakes and gained a net worth of $188 billion. Ford was also one to look after his employees, offering them an unheard of $5 per day wage, allowing them to buy the vehicles they were making.

JK Rowling

The Harry Potter author, now raking in cash from her books, movie deals, theme park lands, etc. was once living off welfare and trying to complete her novel by travelling to various coffee houses, while caring for her infant child. Even when interest began swelling for her manuscript, she was advised to seek a day job, as it was unlikely she would make enough money solely on writing children’s books. While speaking for a graduating Harvard class in 2008, Rowling said: “It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Steve Jobs

Before he became the technological icon that we know him as today – creating devices such as the iMac, iPod, iPad, and iPhone – Jobs went through many hardships. Among them, he was an adopted child, struggled in school, dropped out of college course he could barely afford in the first place, and struggled to find his niche in the working world. Even running his own company would not provide smooth sailing. In fact, at one time, he was forced out of Apple, the company he created and would later bring back to prominence. Even in declining health due to cancer, Jobs never gave up hope or his dreams and kept working hard through it all.

Jobs Taking Over

Terry Fox

Fox was only 18 years old when he was forced to have his leg amputated due to cancer. The young man didn’t let that stop him, though, as he not only won national wheelchair basketball championships, but also embarked on a trip across Canada, running to raise money for cancer research. Fox’s Marathon of Hope lasted 143 days and 5,373 km, garnering $1.7 million in donations. Sadly, the journey had to be halted in Thunder Bay, Ontario, when Fox was too sick to continue, cancer returning to the athlete’s body. In honour of his campaign, the Terry Fox Run is done annually around the world and has raised over $650 million.

Rick Hansen

Sticking with Canadian content, the wheelchair-bound Hansen gave the opening address at one of my college convocations and his message really hit home with Mrs. Sip and myself. The crux of it was: “Failure is not having the courage to try.” Hansen is best known for his Man in Motion World Tour, an attempt to raise funds for spinal cord injury research by circumventing the globe in his wheelchair. Hansen had been crippled in an auto wreck at the age of 15, but that didn’t stop the man from raising $26 million over his 26 month journey. The song St. Elmo’s Fire was written for Hansen and his courageous expedition.

Oprah Winfrey

With a media empire that includes its own magazine, television network, and devoted fan base, one could certainly say that Oprah Winfrey did well for herself. When you learn of the broadcasting mogul’s humble and difficult beginnings, her success is all the more impressive. She had a strained relationship with her teenage mother, who was in and out of her life and was the victim of sexual abuse from family members. After running away from home, Winfrey herself became pregnant at age 14, although the baby died after premature birth. Once Winfrey entered the media world, it was a slow rise to the heights she currently enjoys.

Flavour Revolution: Floradora

Floradora Cocktail

  • 1.5 oz Gilbey’s Lemon Gin
  • 0.5 oz Chambord
  • Top with Ginger Ale/Beer
  • Splash of Lime Juice
  • Garnish with a Lemon Wedge

The phrase “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” has been credited to two sources. First, Elbert Hubbard, a Christian anarchist writer, used it for the obituary of Marshall P. Wilder, a dwarf actor, who Hubbard wrote of: “He cashed in on his disabilities. He picked up the lemons that Fate had sent him and started a lemonade-stand.” Fellow writer Dale Carnegie has also been said to have invented the term, writing in his book ‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’: “If You Have a Lemon, Make a Lemonade.”

Sip Advisor Bar Notes (3.5 Sips out of 5):
This is an interesting drink. I used my Dark Ginger Ale, but kind of wished I’d used some Ginger Beer, perhaps Crabbie’s orange or raspberry flavour. There’s a lot of different tastes going on here, but the end result works. And if it hadn’t, I would have made lemonade from the lemon experience!