MARQUETTE, Mich. (WZMQ) – The UP200 – Powered by NMU kicks off on Friday February 17th with a large celebration in downtown Marquette. But not many people know that Grand Marais also has a celebration for the race on Saturday, and the Mush Bus gives riders the opportunity to experience it first-hand.
The Mush Bus has been giving riders a tour of the Upper Peninsula on the way to the Grand Marais festivities for over a decade, and the entire trip is a fun way to celebrate the UP200.
“It has been a lot of fun for most people,” said Patricia Torreano, the coordinator for the Mush Bus. “We’ve had many repeat people on the bus.”
Along with a fun ride to and from Grand Marais, riders will get to have a different learning experience as they go.
“My job along the way is to provide historical information about what we see along the way,” said Daniel Truckey, the Director of the Beaumier Upper Peninsula Heritage Center, and the tour guide for the Mush Bus. “I tell different stories about the communities that we pass through.”
The Mush Bus picks riders up at the Marquette Holiday Inn, or the Falling Rock Cafe in Munising. It then takes them to Grand Marais, where riders will get approximately 4 hours to experience the halfway point of the UP200. Along with it being the mid-race check point, there’s plenty going on in the community to celebrate the event.
“There’s a big celebration going on there in Grand Marais, the community does a lot of activities to celebrate the arrival of the sled dogs,” said Truckey.
“They have an incredible group of people up there who love this race,” said Torreano. “The people are just so gracious. When we first decided to go up to Grand Marais, we had so many people join in and say, ‘This is something for us, for the winter.’ And they’ve been like that ever since. Everybody who can walk I think participates.”
Along with having many food options for people who go to the celebration, there also are several activities including a silent auction, and it provides a good time for spectators to see the dog teams in a new way.
“It’s also a cool place because they bed the dogs down for a while, they feed them and they rest there before they head back to Marquette,” Truckey said. “So it’s a good opportunity to see the dogs and the handlers and see what that experience is really like.”
The checkpoint in Grand Marais is not like the other checkpoints, Torreano says, and that is due to the hard work of the people in that town.
“The great folks in Grand Marais designed an incredible set of places for the dogs to rest,” she said. “They have slots that go into the snowbanks, and the wind blows over the top of that so the dogs are very well protected.”
When leaving Grand Marais, the Mush Bus takes a different route back to Marquette. Heading west on M-94, the bus goes through different towns so riders can experience something new on the return trip. But this wasn’t always the plan.
“Last year, our original intent was just to go on M-28 both ways, but then there was a blizzard and they had to close M-28 that morning,” Truckey said. “We were forced to go down through Skandia and across M-94. And I said ‘next year we should do this,’ because it gave us an opportunity to talk about different things going both ways.”
Now, the Mush Bus route has been forever changed, and it gives riders a chance to have fun while learning about areas they may not get to on a regular basis.
“There’s a lot of history in those communities too, you know,” said Truckey. “When we drive through them now, sometimes they are just a crossroads more often than not. But we forget what developed those communities and what they were like 100 years ago, which was very different.”
The Mush Bus costs $40 per person, and leaves from the Marquette Holiday Inn at 11 am on Saturday. If you want to get a ticket to ride the bus, you can call Pat Torreano at 906-458-9997, or click here.