We began the day with breakfast at Rosco’s Restaurant in Roscommon, Michigan. We liked that the place had copies of the US Constitution and the Declaration of Independence on the wall. Roscommon looked as if it had seen better days. Interstate 75 used to pass through the town, Business 75 went through town, but the interstate now is a few miles away. There were some of the typical conversations about immigrants taking jobs, but nothing spectacular said, just the usual morning grumpiness. We were entertained by our waitress, who dealt with my inability to distinguish between the numbers 2 and 4, and Ed’s desire to hear of any local specialties on the menu.
We then drove through Gladwin Michigan, another town off the interstate – though the interstate had never passed through. We drove on to West Branch in Ogemaw county. Both of these cities looked in better shape than Roscommon. Keep in mind, we are often just driving into town and looking to see if the place looks prosperous or not. One of our goals on this trip was to get an impression be of how “obvious” it might be that economic hardships drove the 20% changes in voting from the Democratic candidate in 2012 to the Republican in 2016. We really didn’t see much evidence of that in our first three days. Mostly, we heard anti-Hillary sentiments. Our speculation is that Trump was not so wonderful, as Hillary was dreadful. The most common sentiment we heard was that she was not a desirable choice as Commander-In-Chief. Clearly, President Trump has his avid supporters – but I do not think his support is a long-term affiliation change like President Reagan’s victory was for turning some Democratic voters into Republican voters.
After driving through Roscommon, we speculated on the effects of an interstate route moving away from a town. The towns we visited in Wisconsin that were never on major highways, Crandon comes most to mind, seemed to be doing well. Granted, the towns that were doing well in Wisconsin were also in the middle of productive agricultural areas. That must provide a solid base for employment and income and taxes. Towns that appeared to rely more upon seasonal recreation for people from the bigger cities did not look as prosperous. And the one town that had experienced the move of an interstate had the greatest number of closed businesses we saw in the counties we visited.
We then hit the road, with the goal to get to DuBois, Pennsylvania. We drove over 700 miles today. I wish all states had 75 mph speed limits. We did notice that even with that higher speed limit, a lot of traffic passed us traveling 5-10 miles an hour faster. In a Camaro convertible with California license plates, we decided we were too much of a target for speeding citations to go much over the speed limit.
One of us has spent a lot of time in Pennsylvania, and DuBois was geographically a common central Pennsylvania town: settled in a valley. The town is off I-80, and the interstate never went through it. The town looked vital: the steakhouse we visited for dinner (the Fort Worth Restaurant and Saloon) was filled with patrons on a Friday night. As simple economic indicators go, that pointed to a town where business was pretty good. We did not see new construction to the extent that we did in Gaylord, so I do not think the town is growing.
After our dinner, we drove to Hazleton to get lodging. With the Little League World Series going on in nearby Williamsport (77 miles away) a lot of the hotel rooms in the area were already taken. We then found a bar to watch the Seahawks play the Vikings. There were no funny looks or comments when we ordered our drinks.