MARQUETTE - Fathers and sons find many ways to bond, but Randy and Kevin Kluck found an unusual, but fun, project to do together.
Ten months and nearly 47,000 miles later, they have something tangible to show for it, a guidebook to taverns and pubs in the Upper Peninsula with a most fitting name: "Yooper Bars: A Travel Guide to Michigan's Upper Peninsula Bars."
Randy, the father in this enterprise, is actually a native of downstate Saginaw.
Kevin, left, and Randy Kluck conduct some research for their new book “Yooper Bars,” a guide to dozens of Upper Peninsula pubs and taverns.
"I had the great fortune of having an uncle who owned a resort on Caribou Lake near De Tour Village," Randy Kluck said in an email interview. "I spent much time each summer in the great U.P.
"Then life gets in the way," he said. "College, 25 years as a marketing consultant, living in New York City, Detroit, Kalamazoo, etc. Oh - and seven kids who I started barnstorming with across the U.P each July. They fell in love with the U.P. and five of them ended up attending (Lake Superior State University) at the same time three years ago."
Kluck's wife, Juanita, wanted to move up to Sault Ste. Marie to be close to the kids, so they settled there. They found their social life to be different from when they were living in lower Michigan.
"The impetus for the book started a few years back when we noticed spending more time with our kids at a Yooper bar, something we would never do downstate. Why a bar? The great 'community center atmosphere' and great food," Kluck said.
"Kevin, our second oldest, graduated from LSSU with a biz degree in May 2010. He wanted to stay in the U.P. but faced a rather bleak job market," he said. "After a mundane summer of working at a country club, (he was) having a few toddies at local bar and a light came on. He announced, 'Hey, Dad, let's bar hop in 2011 and write a best-selling book about the bars.'
"He dragged me along and the result is 'Yooper Bars'."
The pair set out in March of 2011 on a quest that would take them from St. Ignace to Menominee to Copper Harbor to Iron River.
"We traveled 46,883 miles from late March through early December," Kluck said. "It's hard to believe, but no misadventures. We saw thousands of deer, a moose, several bears, wolves and coyotes but had no direct contact. Literary gods must have been smiling on us, eh?"
The result is a book that provides a thorough profile on more than 100 bars in the U.P., providing details like seating capacity, menu and whether live music is offered plus a plethora of fun photos.
Were there any surprises along the way?
"Surprises? This ended up being a lot of work," he said. "But we are still amazed at the great food available throughout the U.P. Menus at your Stucko's and Stan's Dry Dock in Marquette are right up there with the best.
"Also, the great entertainment we encountered was a surprise. You have a band called Nudge with a lead guitarist (Danzo McCracken) who could play in any arena in the country," Kluck said. "And some of the voices we heard during karaoke and skills we heard during 'open mic nights' are still memorable."
How about a sequel?
"Possibly in two years, maybe a 'Re-Fresh the Yooper Bar' book," Kluck said. "The business climate continues to change, including the bar business. Another major impetus for the book is we feel everyone in the country should spend a long weekend in the U.P., downstate snowmobilers, motorcyclists, etc., need to get up here - and we would like to offer a current guide.
"We sure do love the U.P.," he said. "You and I could spend more money in a day in New York City or Chicago than we could in a week in the U.P. and not have one-tenth the fun."
"Yooper Bars" is available at participating bars, at bookstores such as Book World in Marquette, or from the authors' website at www.yooperbars.com.
Renee Prusi can be contacted at 906-228-2500, ext. 253. Her email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.