January 2024 GLE

Page 1

January 2024


COUNTRY LINES Great Lakes Energy Cooperative

WINTER THUNDERLAND I-500 Snowmobile Race Welcomes Thrill-Seekers to the UP

Meet Your Director: Paul Byl

2024 Truestream Construction Plans

GLE Awards Classroom Grants


Geothermal gives you the freedom to focus on life WaterFurnace geothermal systems provide reliable operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year—rain or shine, day or night, windy or not. They use the stored solar energy in the ground to provide your family luxurious comfort and incredible savings. In fact, it’s the only HVAC system that’ll pay you back—and with the renewed 30% federal tax credit1, there’s never been a better time to switch to the Reliable Renewable. YOUR LOCAL WATERFURNACE DEALERS


Allendale Allendale Htg & Clg (800) 327-1937 allendaleheating.com

Indian River M&M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com

Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 waltonheating.com

Berrien Springs Waterfurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmichgeo thermal.com

Lansing Candor Mechanical (517) 920-0890 candormechanical.com

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com

Lowell Arctic Inc. Htg. & Clg. (616) 897-4213 heatingcoolingonline.com

Negaunee J-Goods Plmb. & Htg. (906) 869-2522 jgoodsplumbingand heating.com

Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Filion/Bad Axe Air-O-Dynamic Htg. & Clg. (989) 582-0137 Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating cooling.com

Manistique Hoholik Enterprises (906) 341-5065 hoholikenterprises.com Marinette, WI GPS Htg. & Clg (715)732-2111 gpsheatingcooling.com Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 airserv.com/southernmichigan/

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

Cloverland: up to $4,200 Great Lakes: up to $3,000 Homeworks/Tri-County: up to $3,000 Presque Isle: up to $2,700 Cherryland: up to $2,500 Thumb Electric: up to $2,000 Alger Delta: up to $2,000

Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 dwmechanical.com Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000 geofurnace.com

visit us at waterfurnace.com/mi

1. ENERGY STAR-rated units qualify for 30% through 2032, 26% through 2033 and 22% through 2034.

WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. ©2023

Contents countrylines.com


January 2024 Vol. 44, No. 1 /michigancountrylines

Calling All E-Bike Enthusiasts! Share Your Electric Adventures! Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


On the cover: The International 500 Snowmobile Race is the fastest and toughest race around. 2024 marks the 55th year of the race.

COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha


PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin Russman CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Tom Sobeck, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, chairman; Gabe Schneider, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Chris O’Neill, HomeWorks TriCounty Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Bird-watchers hoot with joy as snowy owls return to Michigan. Simple vegetarian recipes for eating healthy.


I-500 Snowmobile Race welcomes thrillseekers to the UP Jan. 28–Feb. 3, 2024.

18 GUEST COLUMN Rural Michigan Pickleball: This hot new game is not only for big cities and celebrities.

MI Co-op Community

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Stir Fries & Curries due Feb. 1; Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1.

Win a $100 bill credit!

Guest Column

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

Win $200 for stories published!

Mystery Photo

See details on page 18.

Win a $100 bill credit!

Are you an avid e-bike rider with a passion for electric-powered adventures? We want to interview you for our upcoming magazine issue dedicated to the e-bike community! Whether you're cruising through city streets, conquering mountain trails, or exploring scenic routes, we want to hear your stories, tips, and experiences with your electric bikes.

What We’re Looking For: Personal Stories: Share your most memorable e-bike journeys and the impact they've had on your lifestyle. Tips and Tricks: Enlighten our readers with your e-bike wisdom. What accessories do you swear by? Any maintenance hacks to keep your ride in top shape? Stunning Photos: Capture the essence of your e-bike adventures. Share your favorite snapshots and let the visuals tell your story.

How to Participate: 1. Email us at editor@countrylines.com with the subject line “E-Bike Feature." 2. Include a brief overview of your e-bike experiences and why you love riding. 3. Attach high-quality photos showcasing your e-bike escapades.

Submission Deadline: Jan. 30



Celebrating Truestream Milestones gtlakes.com /greatlakesenergy /jointruestream BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Howard Bowersox, Chairman, District 8 219-670-0977 hbowersox@glenergy.com Mark Carson, Vice Chairman, District 2 231-675-0561 mcarson@glenergy.com Paul Byl, Secretary, District 7 231-861-5911 pbyl@glenergy.com

Dale Farrier, Treasurer, District 5 231-564-0853 dfarrier@glenergy.com

Janet Andersen, Director, District 6 231-690-4622 jandersen@glenergy.com David Coveyou, Director, District 1 231-347-4056 dcoveyou@glenergy.com Richard Evans, Director, District 3 231-883-3146 revans@glenergy.com John LaForge, Director, District 9 269-623-2284 jlaforge@glenergy.com

VACANT, Director, District 4 See February issue for updated information PRESIDENT/CEO: Shaun Lamp 888-485-2537 COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Brett Streby 231-487-1389 • bstreby@glenergy.com BOYNE CITY HEADQUARTERS 1323 Boyne Ave. Boyne City, MI 49712

Call center hours:: 7 a.m.–5:30 p.m. M–F Phone: 888-485-2537 Email: glenergy@glenergy.com TO REPORT AN OUTAGE: Call 888-485-2537 or login to your account at gtlakes.com. Change of Address: 888-485-2537, ext. 8924

Great Lakes Energy is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

4 JANUARY 2024

Shaun Lamp, Great Lakes Energy President/CEO

he arrival of a new year is often a time when many of us reflect on the accomplishments of the past year and set our sights on new goals for the future.


That’s exactly what we’re doing at Great Lakes Energy (GLE), especially with our Truestream fiber internet service. We recently celebrated two major Truestream milestones. In October, we marked the five-year anniversary of connecting our first Truestreamer. More recently, our total number of Truestreamers eclipsed the 20,000 mark. In the past year alone, we installed more than 850 miles of fiber optic lines and connected more than 4,500 members to the Truestream network. The fiber optic lines we installed during the past year include many miles of trunkline that will connect electric substations in the Waters Service District. These trunklines are not only critical to our ongoing implementation of smart electric grid technology, but they also serve as a vital first step for much of our 2024 Truestream construction plan. This year, the construction of our Truestream network is slated to reach just over 10,000 homes and businesses who will then be eligible for fiber internet and voice services in rural parts of Crawford, Montmorency, Oscoda, and Otsego counties served by GLE. These areas generally include a region mostly east of I-75 from Gaylord to Grayling. Some areas west of I-75 are also included in the 2024 construction plan. (See the related story on page 13 for more details on the 2024 plan.) We are also very excited to have recently been awarded more than $46 million in Realizing Opportunity with Broadband Infrastructure Networks (ROBIN) grants. The grants will support our continued expansion of the Truestream fiber network, providing

high-speed internet access to thousands of members in rural portions of Antrim, Crawford, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Lake, Manistee, Mason, Montmorency, Oceana, and Otsego counties during the next three years. One of the best parts of my job is seeing how GLE makes a difference in the lives of our members. Truestream is a great example of this. Much like electric cooperatives had a major impact on the lives of their rural members by bringing electric service to unserved rural areas starting in the 1930s, GLE’s Truestream service is having a similar, life-changing impact for our members by bringing fast, reliable internet service to areas that previously had little to no access. Amid all the excitement about our accomplishments and our plans for the coming year, I know there are also many members who are still eagerly waiting for Truestream service. I want to offer my thanks to our members for their patience as we work on a project that requires significant time and resources as we build out the massive infrastructure for the Truestream network. We look forward to connecting you to Truestream service and I want to reassure you that we are working hard to make that happen as quickly as we can.

Get Connected With GLE Next I

n 2023, Great Lakes Energy initiated a new program aimed at fostering relationships with community leaders in the areas the cooperative serves. The program, known as GLE Next, seeks to help these leaders have a better understanding of how GLE functions during a day-long visit to the cooperative’s offices. During the first GLE Next event in early 2023, seven people from area businesses and chambers of commerce visited GLE’s Boyne City headquarters for a day full of informative sessions. Building on the success of the first event, GLE will be expanding the program to two sessions in 2024.

GLE Next 2024 dates • Feb. 22 at the Newaygo office • March 7 at the Boyne City headquarters Through the GLE Next program, participants will become well-versed in the language and inner workings of an

GLE Board Approves Rate Changes ising power supply costs and inflation are affecting our costs to provide service. In order to balance affordability with sustainable and reliable service, the Great Lakes Energy Board of Directors recently approved rate changes that will result in a net increase across all


Approved Adjustments For Residential And Seasonal Members

electric cooperative and learn about topics including: • • • • • • • • • •

The structure of GLE Electric distribution and production Metering and reliability New technology—solar, wind, fuel cells Electric vehicles Truestream Board of director’s roles and responsibilities Impact on the community Inner workings of a cooperative The people behind the process If you are an established or aspiring local community or business leader interested in learning more about what makes GLE tick and becoming an important part of the cooperative’s community outreach and engagement efforts, please contact: Julie Bailey at (231) 487-1328 or via email at jbailey@glenergy.com for more information.

rate classes. The board approved the changes at an open member meeting that took place on Nov. 21. Under the new rates, the kWh rate for residential and seasonal members will increase by $0.02202 per kWh, and the fixed monthly charge will increase by $5.00. The power supply cost recovery factor will decrease by $0.01687 per kWh, resulting in a net kWh rate increase of $0.00514. For the average residential member using 800 kWh per month,

Notice to Members of Great Lakes Energy Cooperative Rates and Tariffs Changes Effective on or After Feb. 1, 2024 The Great Lakes Energy Electric Cooperative Board of Directors, at its regular monthly meeting on Nov. 3, 2023, took the following action: • Adoption of a Large Renewable Energy Program Tariff. At a special meeting on Nov. 21, 2023, the board took the following action: • Revised the cooperative’s rates effective on bills rendered in February 2024. For specific details on changes to Great Lakes Energy’s rates and tariffs, please call us at 1-888-485-2537 or visit our website at gtlakes.com.

these changes equate to a $9.48 monthly increase. The increase, although small, will raise revenues to provide sufficient funding levels for maintaining reliable electric service, providing adequate margins, and ensuring members receive the service they need to power their homes and businesses. The new rates will take effect on bills rendered in February 2024.

Net kWh rate change:




Bird-Watchers Hoot With Joy As


very winter, “snowbirds” who live in the colder northern parts of North America leave their three-season residences behind in a bid to escape the frigidness and snow. While they head to warm locales like Arizona, Florida, and Texas, there are actual snowbirds out there that seek out refuges a little less tropical. This is the reason elusive snowy owls can oftentimes be seen in Michigan—their own unique version of Florida.


Snowy owls live most of the year in the Arctic, and the majority of them stay there year-round. But from late October to December, in a phenomenon known as irruption, some birds will leave the tundra. Most will go to Canada and the northern United States, as well as parts of Asia and Europe. Every year is different—some years will see high numbers of the owls while, in others, you may be lucky to

6 JANUARY 2024

see one or two. “It waxes and wanes,” said Straits Area Audubon Society member Steve Baker. Baker says that owls that migrate the soonest to Michigan tend to first congregate around the Great Lakes, where it is still warm enough for them to hunt for ducks and other waterfowl. “You’ll see them on the shorelines and on piers and other structures around the lakes,” he said. But once the water freezes, they’ve got to find a new hunting ground. “They’ll head for places with fields and other flat, open grounds,” Baker said. “There aren’t any trees in the Arctic, so they’re heading to places that look like home.” He said they’ll often perch on barns, hay bales, utility poles, and fenceposts, where they keep constant watch for prey, mostly meadow voles, which are similar to the lemmings they eat the rest of the year.

The highest concentrations of snowy owls in Michigan are found in Rudyard, Pickford, and Sault townships.

While snowy owls have been found throughout the state, the most populous areas for the birds are the eastern Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula. But if you want the absolute best shot at observing these raptors, you’ll need to head to a small UP community about 30 miles north of St. Ignace—Rudyard Township. Baker, who as a member of the Audubon Society contributes to the society’s annual Christmas bird count, said the count finds that Rudyard almost always has the highest number of owls. Snowy owls like hay fields, and Baker says Rudyard residents will be happy to tell you that they have the best hay crop in the world. “Their hay is actually shipped down to Florida for racehorses,” Baker said. He says because Rudyard has clay soil that doesn’t drain well, regular crops are tough to grow, hence the focus on hay. In January 2019, Rudyard proclaimed itself the Snowy Owl Capital of Michigan.

and dusk. Look in structures that are low to the ground and also scan flat, snowy areas for irregularities. A dirty patch or lump just might be an owl facing away from you. With their sleek white plumage, bright yellow eyes, and wingspans of up to four feet long, these feathered friends are certainly captivating. “They are beautiful and they’re just great fun to look at,” Baker said. “Whether you’re an avid birder or not, snowy owls are just one of those birds that people get excited about.”

For more information, visit: straitsareaaudubon.com /StraitsAreaAudubonSociety

THE LEMMING/SNOW OWL CONNECTION In the Arctic, snowy owls feed on lemmings, which look like chubby hamsters. And they can eat a bunch—up to 1,600 a year! Because they’re so reliant on lemmings as a food source, their population cycles are linked. If lemmings are low, owls may wait to hatch young. Scarce lemming years translate into owl couples only having one or two offspring, and sometimes none at all. But lots of lemmings means Mom and Dad can provide for lots of babies, so they’ll lay more eggs. These baby booms typically result in irruption years, with the younger owls leaving in winter to avoid competing with adults for food. In peak lemming/owl reproduction years, young “snowie” sightings have been reported as far south as Texas and Florida.

Baker, who lives in Indian River, Michigan, travels to Rudyard several times a week to glimpse these beauties for himself and take pictures (he is a contributing photographer to many websites/publications). Most people in search of the owls will look from their vehicles as they drive down the road. “You’ll sometimes just see a caravan of cars,” Baker said. The town obviously welcomes visitors who want to see this rare bird for themselves, but it is expected that observers will adhere to a few guidelines. “These are beautiful, photogenic birds,” Baker said, “but it’s very important that people don’t do anything to harass them.” In general, he says spectators should be respectful, keep their distance, and be as quiet as possible. He says people who spot the owls while driving can get out of their cars, but they should not wander onto adjacent private land. If you want to witness this spectacle, plan your trip to Rudyard before late March—that is when the owls typically leave for their Arctic home. Whether you’re in Rudyard or anywhere else where the birds have been spotted, there are a few things you can do to increase your luck of seeing one. The best times to see them are at dawn



GLE Awards More Than $29,000 In Classroom Grants


n November, Great Lakes Energy awarded $29,986.88 in grants to support 18 classroom programs in schools that educate children of the cooperative’s members. The grants are intended to help implement innovative projects and target projects that typically fall beyond the scope of school budgets. Grants are awarded up to a maximum of $2,000 per school district. A total of 47 applications was submitted for the 2023–24 grant cycle. The applications were evaluated according to published standards by a panel of volunteer employee judges from various departments at GLE. School names and districts were hidden during the evaluation process to allow for judging based on project merit and the quality of the application submitted. With the 2023-24 school year grants, the classroom grant program has awarded more than $302,700 to 204 school projects since GLE launched the program in 2012. One high school teacher whose project was selected for a grant in a previous year said, “I have been doing my best to stay afloat this year in terms of managing fundraising for my classroom, and at times, the pressure has weighed on me. I am so thankful for organizations like yours that can help make the dreams I have for my classroom come true.”

Online applications for the 2024–25 school year will open in September 2024. To learn more about GLE’s Classroom Grant Program, visit gtlakes.com/youth-programs/. 8 JANUARY 2024

These schools received classroom grants for the 2023–24 school year: • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

Tri County Middle School, Howard City, $2,000 for VR devices. Central Elementary, Petoskey, $1,854 for Sphero littleBits. Patricia St. Clair Elementary, Hesperia, $1,200 for a 3D printer. Grant Elementary and Grant Primary, Grant, $500 for a light table. Shelby Middle School, Shelby, $1,677.82 for 3D printing course supplementation. Ludington Elementary, Ludington, $1,517.76 for PowerUp electric paper airplanes. Otsego Christian School, Gaylord, $2,000 for iPads. Grayling High School, Grayling, $1,992.16 for robotics materials. Ludington Elementary, Ludington, $474 for wind-powered cars. White Cloud Elementary School, White Cloud, $1,854.88 for STEM materials and a mobile STEM station. Harbor Light Christian School, Harbor Springs, $1,914 for an interactive projector. Big Rapids Middle School, Big Rapids, $1,500 for robotics materials. Boyne City Public Schools, Boyne City, $2,000 for a 3D printer. Reed City High School, Reed City, $1,806.90 for Limelight vision cameras and material. Pine River Middle School, Pine River, $1,916 for Finch robots. Pellston Public School, Pellston, $1,802.67 for Osmo learning kits. Boyne Falls Public School, Boyne Falls, $1,976.69 for Sphero littleBits. McBain Middle School, McBain, $2,000 for Ozobots kit.


Great Outdoors


4 Enter to win a $200 energy bill credit!

Submit Your “Pets” photos By Jan. 20

Each month, members can submit photos on our website for our photo contest. The photo with the most votes is published here, along with other selections. Our January theme is Pets. Photos can be submitted by Jan. 20 to be featured in the March issue.

How To Enter

Enter the contest at gtlakes.com/photocontest/. Make sure to vote and encourage others to vote for you, too. The photo receiving the most votes will be printed in an issue of Michigan Country Lines along with other favorites. All photos printed in the magazine in 2024 will be entered into a drawing to win a $200 bill credit in December 2024.





1. Our chicken whisperer! Kathy Townes, Pellston 2. Letting things go, Peggy Muzzall, Harbor Springs 3. Nights on fire, Danielle Collick, Petoskey 4. Autumn trail, Chris Willour, Johannesburg 5. A relaxing float down the Tahquamenon, Jill Trullinger, Reed City 6. Hunting buddies, Jamie Keiser, Levering



MI CO-OP Recipes


Simple vegetarian recipes for eating healthy


2 cups dried brown rice 3 cups water 3 green onions, sliced 1–2 stalks celery, sliced ½ pound purple cabbage, thinly sliced or grated ½ cup almonds, toasted 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted 1 red bell pepper, finely diced 1 yellow bell pepper, finely diced 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, sliced, discard juice 1 cup broccolini, diced, discard thick stems 1 bunch cilantro, finely chopped or minced Dressing*: ¼ cup avocado oil 1½ tablespoons sesame oil 1 clove garlic, crushed & minced ½ teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon brown sugar 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar 1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, juice included

Recipe Contest Win a $100 energy bill credit! Stir Fries & Curries due Feb. 1; Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1. Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com. 10 JANUARY 2024

Cook rice until chewy and tender, using a pressure cooker, rice cooker, or stovetop. Meanwhile, prepare the ingredients. If needed, toast the almonds and sesame seeds by adding each to a dry skillet and stirring over medium heat, until lightly toasted. In a small bowl, add all dressing ingredients and combine. Once the rice is ready, in a large bowl, add the cooked rice, all remaining ingredients, and the dressing. Stir until combined. Serve warm or chilled. Makes about 10 cups of salad. * Note: If preparing ahead of time, keep sauce separate and combine before serving. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/recipe_ type/videos/

GARDEN ENCHILADAS Nancy Hascall, Cherryland

2 tablespoons olive oil 1 sweet potato, peeled & diced 1 large onion, peeled & diced 1 zucchini, diced 2 garlic cloves, minced 1 (15-ounce) can corn, drained 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, rinsed & drained 1 teaspoon cumin 1 (30-ounce) can enchilada sauce, divided 2 cups grated cheese (cheddar or chihuahua, etc.), divided ½ cup jalapeño cream cheese, divided 8 large flour tortilla shells 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced Garnish: • guacamole • sour cream • diced tomatoes Preheat oven to 350 F. Heat the oil in a large frying pan on medium/mediumhigh heat. Add the diced sweet potato

and stir to coat with oil. Cover the pan and sizzle for about 4 minutes, until the sweet potatoes begin to soften, stirring occasionally. Add the diced onion and zucchini. Sauté uncovered for another few minutes, until the onions start to caramelize. Add the garlic, corn, black beans, and cumin. Cook and stir 1–2 minutes. Coat the bottom of a 9x13-inch pan with about 1 cup of enchilada sauce. Evenly divide the cooked ingredients into the tortillas. Add a heaping tablespoon of grated cheese and a teaspoon of cream cheese in each tortilla before rolling it up and placing it seam-side down in the pan. Nestle the enchiladas next to each other. Cover the enchiladas with the remaining sauce, then sprinkle the remaining cheese. Arrange the jalapeño slices on top. Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 8 minutes. Garnish with guacamole, sour cream, and diced tomatoes. Enjoy!


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided ½ pound portobello mushrooms (or mushroom of choice), cleaned and chopped 1 medium sweet onion, finely chopped 3–4 garlic cloves, minced 3 cups cooked brown jasmine rice 2 large eggs 1 cup cottage cheese ½ cup sour cream ½ teaspoon fine sea salt ²⁄ ³ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 9x13inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon olive oil. In a large skillet, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add

the mushrooms to the skillet and lightly salt; sauté until mushrooms have released their liquid. Add onions and cook 4 to 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook another 1–2 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in cooked rice. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, cottage cheese, sour cream, and ½ teaspoon salt. In a large bowl, combine the rice mixture and the cottage cheese mixture. Add the combined mixture to the baking dish. Sprinkle with ¹⁄³ cup Parmesan cheese. Cover with foil and bake 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 30 minutes. Top with remaining ¹⁄³ cup Parmesan. Serve immediately.

SUPERB SPINACH LASAGNA ROLLS Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

EASY VEG RATATOUILLE Betsy Little, Alger Delta

1 tablespoon olive oil 1 medium red onion, minced 1 medium red bell pepper, diced 1 medium eggplant, diced 1 small zucchini, diced 4 cloves garlic, minced ½ cup basil, chopped 1 large tomato, diced (or 1 15-ounce can diced tomato) ¼ teaspoon salt

¹⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper In a large skillet, add olive oil and heat. Add the onion and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring. Add the red pepper, eggplant, zucchini, and garlic. Cook covered 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in basil, tomato, salt, and pepper. May serve on rice, mashed potato, or couscous.

8 lasagna noodles, cooked to al dente, drained & cooled 1¾ cups ricotta 2 cups cottage cheese 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese, shredded & divided 1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded & divided 3 cups fresh baby spinach, chopped 4 garlic cloves, minced ¼ teaspoon kosher salt ¼ teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper 3 cups spaghetti sauce, divided • fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, combine ricotta and cottage cheese, 1½ cups Monterey Jack, ½ cup Parmesan cheese, spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper. Spread half of the spaghetti sauce into the bottom of a 9-inch broilersafe baking dish. Spread filling mixture evenly onto each noodle. Gently roll up each noodle lengthwise and place seamside down in the baking dish. Drizzle roll ups with remaining sauce and top with remaining cheese. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and broil for 1–2 minutes, or until the cheese is dark golden brown. Garnish with fresh parsley. Enjoy! MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


“ I absolutely recommend upgrading your HVAC systems and taking advantage of the rebates offered through Energy Wise.” considering replacing the old dryer to help reduce energy use and cut costs even more. Jason also recently replaced an inefficient heating system in one of his rental homes. For that home, he requested the most efficient cold weather-performing mini-split system available. “It’s the most efficient thing I have in either home,” he said. It’s so efficient, even when the weather is below freezing. I was shocked at how low the energy draw is.” Jason said the Energy Wise rebate was a significant factor in his decision to make these upgrades. “The website was easy to navigate and find what I needed. Everything was pretty selfexplanatory,” he said.

Energy-Saving Investments To Get Pumped Up About eeping home heating and cooling costs down is important to most homeowners, but for GLE member Jason Dryja, who owns his own home and several rental properties through his business, Dream House Retreats, keeping these costs down is even more of a priority.


When Jason took stock of how much propane these homes were using, he contacted his heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) contractor to help him explore alternative energy options and the rebates available through GLE’s Energy Wise program.

generate it, heat pumps can efficiently provide comfortable temperatures for your home. Among the three main types of ducted heat pumps—air, water, and ground sources—Jason narrowed his choices down between air-source and geothermal ground-source heat pumps.

Pump up the savings

The most common type of heat pump is the air-source heat pump, which transfers heat between your house and the outside air. Jason chose to have this type of heat pump system installed at his primary residence. Jason said the system’s simple design appealed to him.

Heat pump HVAC systems are a great energy-efficient alternative, even in Michigan’s erratic weather. They use electricity to transfer heat into or out of a space, depending on the season. Because they transfer heat rather than

“It pulls less energy than my old dryer, which now is drawing more energy than anything else in the house,” he said. Jason also recently replaced the kitchen appliances with new, energy-efficient models and is now

12 JANUARY 2024

Jason said he’s happy with the upgrades he was able to make with the help of the Energy Wise program and the savings he’s seeing from them, adding: “I absolutely recommend upgrading your HVAC systems and taking advantage of the rebates offered through Energy Wise.” An HVAC contractor can provide guidance on which system will work best for your home.

GLE’s Energy Wise program rewards members for their energy optimization efforts with rebates to help offset the cost of purchasing energyefficient products and systems. To learn more about the Energy Wise program, visit gtlakes.com/energy-wise.

Waters Service Area Phase 1 Build Sequence

2024 Truestream Construction Plans Announced G

reat Lakes Energy is pleased to announce its 2024 Truestream construction plan that will bring life-changing high-speed internet service to thousands of members in 14 areas in the cooperative’s Waters and Kalkaska service districts. The 2024 construction plan will take place in three phases in the Truestream service areas that are listed to the right.

Members can enter their address in a mapping tool available at truestreamfiber.com/status to determine the Truestream service area for their location.

GLE celebrated many major Truestream milestones in 2023, including: � Oct. 25 marked the five-year anniversary of connecting the first Truestreamer. � More than 4,500 new Truestreamers were connected to the network. � In December, the total number of Truestreamers connected surpassed the 20,000 mark. � GLE was awarded more than $46 million in grants that will support the expansion of the Truestream fiber network in portions of 11 counties during the next three years.

• • • •

Johannesburg 1 Johannesburg 4 Johannesburg 2 Johannesburg 3

• Gaylord 4 • Gaylord 6 • Gaylord 1

For this phase, mainline construction has begun and is estimated to be completed in the spring of 2024. Construction to the home and in-home installations are expected to begin in the summer and continue for several months. Registration in this area is currently open. Members in these areas are encouraged to register and return their completed paperwork to take advantage of free in-home installation and to be added to the construction list.

Waters Phase 2 Build Sequence • Gaylord 2 • Gaylord 8

• Bagley 3

Mainline construction for this phase is expected to be completed in late summer of 2024 with in-home installations to follow. Registration in these areas is expected to open in February.

Waters and Kalkaska Phase 3 Build Sequence • Lovells 1 • Alpine 3

• Manistee River 1 • Manistee River 2

Mainline construction for this phase is expected to be completed in late fall of 2024 with in-home installations to follow. Registration in these areas is expected to open in July. More details about registration for phases 2 and 3 will be provided in monthly construction updates posted online at truestreamfiber.com/news/. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

WINTER THUNDERLAND I-500 Snowmobile Race Welcomes Thrill-Seekers to the UP By Emily Haines Lloyd


n the heart of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, nestled amid the snow-covered landscapes of Sault Ste. Marie, a winter spectacle has been captivating spectators for over five decades. The International 500 Snowmobile Race (I-500), a thrilling 500-mile endurance race on a onemile oval ice track, is a testament to not only the athletic individuals who participate, but also the spirit of the volunteers and residents who come together to share the beauty of the Upper Peninsula and the hospitality of smalltown living. The story of the I-500 began in 1969, when that year’s Indianapolis 500 pace car came to town and a small group wondered if a 500-mile snowmobile race could rival the legendary IndyCar race. Today, after 55 years and only a brief hiatus during the COVID-19 pandemic, the I-500 owes its resilience to the unwavering commitment of its organizers.

A RACE LIKE NO OTHER Teams from Alaska to Louisiana, as well as several Canadian border towns, converge in Sault Ste. Marie to participate

14 JANUARY 2024

in this remarkable event for a full week, with the final I-500 race held on the first Saturday of February each year. “It’s the only mile-long oval ice track in North America,” said International 500 Chairman & Director Ric Federau. “It takes weeks for our volunteers to build the track, using 2 million gallons of water. It’s the fastest and toughest race around.” The I-500 race features 38 sleds (snowmobiles), each with 14 team members, including two to three drivers. Like the Indy 500, pit stops are crucial, with team members refueling the sleds and making any necessary repairs. The drivers cover a grueling 500 miles at speeds of up to 120 miles per hour, making this a true high-speed showdown. The green flag drops at 10 a.m., with the race lasting into the late afternoon. Though the final race is the main event, the entire week is a celebration of winter sports, starting early with time trials and the track opening up to the public for skating. A highlight is the world's largest kids' snowmobile race, where youngsters compete on the same track under the lights, with their proud parents acting as their pit crews.

“Without a doubt, it is our volunteers and greater community who make this race a success. It’s not only their dedication and hard work; it’s how they greet visitors like neighbors. They make sure everyone feels at home.”

A BOOST FOR THE COMMUNITY AND THE ECONOMY The I-500 isn't just a thrilling event for spectators; it’s a financial boon for the Sault Ste. Marie community. The race attracts 10,000 to 15,000 spectators who spend a day or a week in the area to enjoy the winter fun. The economic impact of the race reaches far and wide, with hotels, restaurants, and local businesses benefiting from the influx of visitors. A study conducted by Lake Superior State University revealed that the economic impact of the I-500 is felt as far south as Gaylord (over 100 miles south of Sault Ste. Marie), highlighting the race's ability to draw visitors and generate revenue for the entire region, while showcasing Michigan as a hub for winter sports.

POWERED BY VOLUNTEERS & COMMUNITY The heart and soul of the I-500 is its dedicated team of 200 people who work tirelessly to ensure the race’s success—this is the only professional snowmobile race run entirely by volunteers. These individuals are the backbone of the event, contributing their time and effort to make it a memorable experience for all. It also has built its reputation as a premiere event due to the kindness and hospitality of the businesses and residents of the town who open their doors and hearts to welcome winter sports enthusiasts. “Without a doubt, it is our volunteers and greater community who make this race a success,” said Federau. “It’s not only their dedication and hard work; it’s how they greet visitors like neighbors. They make sure everyone feels at home.” The I-500 reminds us how a shared passion can bring people together and create enduring traditions that withstand the test of time.

Jan. 28–Feb. 3, 2024 For more information, visit: i-500.com




OUTAGE TEXTING – YEAH, WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED. Life doesn’t stop when the lights go out. In those unexpected moments, you need a simple, hassle-free way to report your outage. That’s where our new texting solution comes in.

In addition to using your online account, GLE’s mobile app, or making a phone call, you now have the option of reporting your outage by sending a simple text message.  To take advantage of this option, you must be enrolled in outage notifications through your online account or the mobile app.


 Once you’re enrolled, save 1-855-939-3703 as “GLE” in your phone’s contacts.  Then, if you experience an outage, you can simply text “OUT” to your saved GLE contact anytime, day or night. This will ensure your outage is reported and we’ll send you updates as we work to make sure the issue is resolved as quickly and safely as possible.

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GLE: A crew has been dispatched to address the cause of the power outage affecting your service location.

“ I enjoy the people. The employees at GLE do a great job and I want to make sure we keep good people around because they are the ones who keep the cooperative going strong.”

Four Decades of Dedication hen Shelby-area farmer Paul Byl first joined the Great Lakes Energy Board of Directors nearly 40 years ago, the cooperative was much smaller and was known by a different name.


Paul said the job of a board member for then-Oceana Electric Cooperative was much less complicated than it is today. However, four decades, two mergers, and a name change later, Great Lakes Energy now serves more than 126,000 members in portions of 26 counties. “Originally, it was a fairly easy job,” Paul said. “As the industry has become more complicated and all these mergers have happened, now it’s a lot more work.” Beyond the changes in the cooperative’s name and size, Paul said advances in technology have had a major impact on GLE during his tenure on the board. He pointed to the growth of computer systems that now not only play a critical role in nearly every aspect of the cooperative’s operations but also served as the

driving force behind the launch of GLE’s Truestream fiber internet service in 2018. Looking to the future, Paul is hopeful more grant opportunities will become available that will help expedite Truestream construction efforts. He said one of the biggest challenges facing the cooperative will be balancing electric service reliability with affordability as the industry shifts toward carbon-free power generation. Paul said it’s the people who work at Great Lakes Energy who have been a big part of his desire to keep serving on the board all these years. “I enjoy the people,” Paul said. “The employees at GLE do a great job and I want to make sure we keep good people around because they are the ones who keep the cooperative going strong.” Paul also serves on the board of directors for Wolverine Power Cooperative—GLE’s sole electric supplier—and Spartan Renewable Energy.

In addition to serving on these boards, Paul continues to operate his family farm where he grows cherries, asparagus, apples, peaches, and blueberries. Paul also serves his community as a volunteer with the Ladder Community Center in Shelby. He soon will be expanding this work through a new program the center has started known as “Kid’s Hope.” The program will pair Paul with an elementary schoolage student with whom he’ll meet for about an hour each week to provide mentorship and a listening ear. In his free time—usually in the farm’s off-season—Paul enjoys the occasional evening out or a winter getaway with his wife Anne.

Paul is one of three GLE board members whose terms will be expiring in 2024 and he said he is planning to again seek reelection to his District 7 seat on the board.


MI CO-OP Guest Column

Rural Michigan Pickleball By Christopher Mulder, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member

y mom was a trendsetter when she picked up and started to share her newfound pickleball game approximately six years ago, well before the current pickleball rave. While celebrities are pickleball influencers and investing in pickleball in heavily populated areas, rural America is picking up the sport, too.


Mystery Photo

Win a $100 energy bill credit!

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo above by Jan. 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $100 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at countrylines.com/community.

The first place mom introduced pickleball to my family was during a Tuesday morning game at a local church’s indoor multiuse court. We were on Christmas break, visiting my parents from Texas, our latest Air Force assignment at the time. My family of five played with young and old alike, building community, embracing light competition, and raising our heart rate. We were hooked. Over the years since then, we have played wherever we could find court space—back at the church, close-by community center, or Village of New Era’s pickleball court, which it has thanks to a grant. Playing the game with our school-age children is always a highlight.

Nov./Dec. 2023 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Keith Hemenway, a Midwest Energy & Communications member, who correctly identified the Dome at the Michigan State Capitol. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/ August, September, and November/December.

The most recent and significant pickleball playing event occurred this past summer. We put together a small but competitive pickleball tournament at New Era’s pickleball court.

After clearing the water from the court following an overnight rain, it was time for opening ceremonies— invocation, national anthem, and tournament rules. Over the next few hours, the six teams aggressively competed for the title of inaugural champion, but of course only one team can come out on top. That team was composed of my two teenage sons; they played with heart and poise, defeating my wife and me in the final round. Of course, in this house, we haven’t heard the end of their big victory. Rural America can offer excellent pickleball play with friends, family, and even strangers. Our goal is to have an annual pickleball tournament in the Village of New Era. Even beyond this tournament, I hope to continue making memories well into the future while playing pickleball in west Michigan and other locations around the state.

About the Author: Christopher enjoys playing pickleball, making maple syrup, and traveling. He is a United States Air Force Officer and F-16 pilot. He once wrote an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal suggesting we send a president to space.

Guest Column Win $200 for stories published!

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit. 18 JANUARY 2024

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