May 2022 MEC

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May 2022


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications


Tour The Electric Grid

Veterans Rise To The No Barriers Challenge Protect Your Home From Hackers

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Not seeing is believing.

Almost every backyard has a shrine to cold air. It’s called an a/c unit. WaterFurnace will help you take back that space. Air conditioners are unsightly and often located in the worst places. They’re vulnerable to the elements and can become home for small critters. But with geothermal, you won’t have an outside unit or any of these problems. So, reclaim your backyard. Plant some flowers and enjoy the unseen beauty that is WaterFurnace. Geothermal is the only renewable that provides reliable operation 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Your Local WaterFurnace Dealers Allendale Allendale Htg & Clg (800) 327-1937

Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691

Bad Axe/Ubly Cutting Edge Htg & Clg (989) 551-0986

Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating

Berrien Springs Waterfurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmichgeo Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717

Indian River M&M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 Lansing Candor Mechanical (517) 920-0890

The Reliable Renewable is a trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc.

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231) 943-1000



May 2022 Vol. 42, No. 5



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association 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.

6 ADVENTURE AHEAD AT DEER TRACKS JUNCTION In addition to being a safe haven for its animals, Deer Tracks Junction soothes the souls of its human visitors as well. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN On The Grill: Fire it up for dinner tonight.

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


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.


Head over hooves about the weather warming up #spring @dds_photo (Danielle Sullivan)

18 GUEST COLUMN Floating Michigan Rivers: For one GLE member, time spent frolicking on the river is a source of enjoyment and daily life lessons.

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

14 NICK BAUMGARTNER: MY NEW FAVORITE COLOR IS GOLD Persistence and determination helped an Iron River native capture gold at the Beijing Olympics ... providing the perfect culmination of his 30-year snowboarding career.

Be featured!

Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Pasta Salads, due July 1 Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.






The Hype About 5G Home Wi-Fi



Robert Hance, President/CEO /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 Email: BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164


’ve seen a lot of commercials lately promoting 5G cellular home Wi-Fi. I have to admit—the Jim Carrey ones are very entertaining. And they make this up-and-coming service sound appealing. It can be, particularly for mobile devices and communications. But what does it mean for the big screen in your living room? I want to share my thoughts.

high speeds—that is, in absolutely ideal conditions. Because of this, some providers won’t advertise specific speeds on their sites. Why? Because speeds fluctuate based on network congestion and other issues. Often, you get the “best available” at any given time. Not what I would call ideal.

Let’s start with the basics: 5G is the fifth generation of wireless networks, and like all technology, each generation gets a little better—at least in a few ways. 5G is significantly faster than 4G, but it also doesn’t travel quite as far, and it has problems with obstructions.

Latency, which is closely related to speed, also matters. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from its original source to its destination. Every time you click around on a site, browse shows on Netflix, or play games online, you deal with latency. Higher latency means your information superhighway feels slower. When conditions aren’t “ideal,” you get higher latency.

Using 5G for your home internet is similar to using your phone as a mobile hotspot. It uses a system of wireless repeaters that connect to an antenna on your home. Generally, it’s more reliable than satellite—as long as there is a 5G cell tower near you. However, you still must watch out for a few things.

Last, there is reliability. Bad weather, trees, and other obstacles impact signal strength and your service experience. The further you are from that tower, the more potential for interference. And depending on the type of 5G service, your walls might even block the signal coming into your house.

Number one is access. If you own a 5G-capable device, check it from your living room. Does it show 5G at the top? If not, you’re out of luck. Seems obvious, but you can’t get 5G if the cell towers around you don’t support it. And it’s largely not in rural areas. Sound familiar?

All in all, this “promising“ technology leaves a lot to be desired at the moment.

Now let’s talk speed. Some 5G frequencies have the potential for

This column is not intended to spend 400 words knocking 5G cellular Wi-Fi. 5G is definitely a good option for mobile devices when you are on the go. It will serve that use well. But at home, or at work—you want service you can count on, all the time.

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762



Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

4 MAY 2022

Memorial Day Our offices will be closed on Monday, May 30, 2022. Please report outages or pay your bill via SmartHub. We will process payments left in our dropbox on Tuesday, May 31.

Building Vibrant Communities All Year Long Don’t forget: Building Vibrant Communities grant applications are now accepted on a rolling timeline to be reviewed three times per calendar year. We’re proud to offer this expansion to our community-focused grant program, made possible by sponsorship dollars through our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative. If you represent a nonprofit in our service territory, you might be eligible to apply!


Not Eligible

The Process

Generally, organizations applying for a BVC grant must be one of the following:

Some grant requests aren’t eligible to receive funding. These include:

You can request up to $5,000 per grant application. To apply, visit and scroll down to find the “Apply Now” button. Make sure you have:

• An organization holding a current tax-exempt status as a public charity under Section 501(c)(3) or (19) of the Internal Revenue Code. • A recognized government entity at the state, county, or city level, including law enforcement or fire departments, requesting funds exclusively for public purposes. In some cases, other IRS nonprofit designations like 501(c)(4) and (c)(7) are also eligible if the organization is requesting funds for a project that will benefit the public at large. Additionally, your organization must serve community members within MEC’s service territory, including portions of southwest Michigan, southeast Michigan, northern Indiana, and northern Ohio (visit vibrant-communities for a full list of townships).

• Grants for completed projects • Grants for operating expenses • Contributions to individuals • Projects that benefit members of the organization, but not the public at large

• Your organization’s tax-exempt ID number • An IRS affirmation letter verifying nonprofit status

• Projects that fall within the responsibility of the organization

• A detailed list of the project’s budget items

• Grants for endowment funds

• A detailed list of sources and amounts of additional funding being sought for the project

• Grants for political organizations, campaigns, candidates, or causes • Grant requests that facilitate a religious mission or doctrine, or that pertain to the congregation and not the public at large • Grants for public schools* *School grants are available through MEC’s Strengthening Schools Grant Program.

The deadline to be considered in the current review cycle is Aug. 30. The final review cycle is Dec. 31. Once our committee reviews your application, you’ll be notified of the status within two weeks. If you don’t receive a grant, you’re eligible to reapply. If your project is funded, you must complete it within six months of receiving the grant.



Adventure Ahead At Deer Tracks Junction By Emily Haines Lloyd


hile Deer Tracks Junction Adventure Park and Site 57 Safari isn’t an animal rescue, it might be hard to convince any of the hundreds of animals who call it “home” that it’s not. Deer Tracks Junction was started as a family-owned breeding stock facility by Hilary and Kelly Powell, raising whitetail deer and elk for sale. Ultimately, selling the animals became less and less inspiring, and sharing the animals became the family’s true passion. The Powells initially brought animals onto their 80 acres to ensure that their son, Tyler, had the experience of farm chores just like his dad had growing up. Once Kelly retired from his construction business, the animal adventure really got started. “People would inquire about our animals and ask for tours,” said Hilary. “Little by little, bit by bit—the idea of the park came into focus. And with blood, sweat, tears, and prayer—it became real and keeps evolving.” The park offers two entirely different experiences. The first—the Adventure Park—can include a fully immersive experience of petting pigs, feeding camels, snuggling rabbits, and bottlefeeding baby goats. Then there’s the Safari, which opened in 2020 on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic, offering a “trail” to wander the open terrain in your own vehicle. It provides an opportunity to feed animals like alpaca and bison from your car window. You’ll also drive through the black bear paddock and get about as close as you’d dare to these magnificent creatures. The bears actually were rescues who had only ever lived on cement. “They were so nervous at first,” remembers Hilary. “They’d never felt grass under their paws. They went from six years on cement to a really beautiful natural enclosure with a huge play structure that they can forage through. It’s so heartwarming to see them go from hesitant to happy.”


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The Powells’ goal is to take that hesitation out of their visitors as well, by offering opportunities to interact with the animals and see them up close. While bear feedings aren’t on the itinerary, climbing around on structures is something visitors can also enjoy. Handmade jungle gyms designed by Kelly and built with the help of Tyler, now in his mid-20s, are another joyful adventure for those who visit. Deer Tracks Junction is a family affair all around, with three generations all contributing to creating a one-ofa-kind experience—right up to the homemade churned ice cream served on-site in freshly made waffle cones.

It’s likely the close family ties and connections are the very reason visitors feel welcome and at home. The Powells have hosted family outings, date nights, and even wedding proposals. It’s a relationship as beautiful as those experienced between the guests and the animals themselves. “It’s not just about the adventure of seeing and experiencing the animals,” said Hilary. “It’s such a blessing that people choose to make family memories with us. We couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of people’s lives in that way.”

“It’s such a blessing that people choose to make family memories with us. We couldn’t be more thankful to be a part of people’s lives in that way.”

Deer Tracks Junction Adventure Park opens Memorial weekend and closes in September, depending on weather conditions. To find out more, visit 7850 14 Mile Road, NE Cedar Springs, MI 49319 616-863-3337



When the Lights Go Out Y

ou’re sitting at home during a storm when the lights blink. You’ve got a flashlight handy—but how close are you to needing it?

A blink is a sign that our power system is working as it should. When something connects with a power line, like lightning or tree branches, a tool called an oil circuit recloser (OCR) opens and closes again quickly to stop the disturbance from interfering with the flow of electricity. Sometimes this is all that’s needed to keep your power on. Other times, one blink isn’t long enough for whatever is causing the disruption to go away. The OCR will trip two more times before remaining open, resulting in a power outage. Once your power is out, make sure you report it to us as soon as possible—visit us at and click “Report Outages” or use the SmartHub mobile app. You can also give us a call at 800-492-5989. Provide as many details as you can when you make a report. Even if your neighbors have already called it in, submitting your own report helps us pinpoint where and what the issue is. Let us know about any fallen lines, but DO NOT approach them as they pose a potentially deadly threat. After that, sit tight. We’re dispatching our crews, who have an order of operations to follow, starting with the biggest

and most urgent jobs. If you see an MEC truck pass you by, don’t worry—we just need to address another repair first. When a crew arrives at the scene, they start by assessing any potential problems or hazards. They then get to work on repairs, starting with substations and major lines, working their way down to individual homes like yours. Before you know it, you’ll be back online. In the event of an outage, it helps to have supplies at the ready. Bottled water, nonperishable food, and a first-aid kit will give you peace of mind in a worst-case scenario. You might also consider including some offline entertainment like books or board games, especially if you have kids.


POWER RESTORATION What happens at MEC when your power goes out? Take a look behind the scenes. 1 Reports Come In

The more reports we receive, and the more details you include in your report, the more accurate the process becomes.

2 We Dispatch Crews

If you see one pass, don’t worry – they’re headed to the biggest and most urgent jobs first.

3 Crews Investigate Issues & Identify Hazards

This includes fallen power lines, which pose a major threat to passersby.

4 Repairs Begin

Substations come first, then major lines, then lines to your home.

5 Power is Restored

The order of service line repairs means your power may not come on at the same time as your neighbor’s.


From Steam To Power

A Tour of the Electric Grid


iles away, a turbine spins. At home, you flip on your lights. Have you ever thought about what just happened?

It’s easy to take electricity for granted—we use it every day in too many ways to count—but behind the scenes, lots of pieces have to fall into place to make sure you have a steady flow of power. Take a peek behind the curtain:



There are lots of ways to generate power, but it usually involves steam spinning a turbine. Power plants create steam by burning coal, oil, or natural gas. Nuclear fission reactions heat water into steam at nuclear plants. Hydroelectric dams collect energy from running water, while solar and wind farms convert energy from the sun or from wind, respectively.

Transmission Once the energy is generated, it has to travel to its destination. Transmission substations near the generator increase the voltage. More power can be transmitted through wires at higher voltages, and less energy is lost as it travels. The large steel towers you can sometimes see in the distance support high-voltage transmission lines. The energy running through these lines is at a voltage as much as a hundred times greater than that running along the wooden power poles on the side of the road.

Distribution When the energy nears its destination, it’s time to step the voltage back down so it can travel the rest of the way to your home. This happens at a power substation. Transformers at the substation decrease the voltage (for MEC, it is 7,200 volts to ground) and send it to a distribution bus.


The bus splits the energy off in several directions, sending it along local distribution lines. These lines are supported by the wooden power poles you’re probably familiar with. The energy will need to be stepped down even further once it reaches your neighborhood or subdivision. This happens at another transformer—for example, the large green box you sometimes see in a subdivision, or on the power pole nearest to your home, where you might see a cylinder near the top. This is a transformer, which reduces energy from the distribution voltage to the standard 120/240 volts your house uses.

Entering Your Home And there you have it! The electricity has made it to your home and waits at your command. Have a question about your electric service? Call us at 800-492-5989 or visit us at



MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

ON THE GRILL Fire it up for dinner tonight


Marinade: ¹⁄ ³ cup brown sugar ¹⁄ ³ cup teriyaki sauce ¹⁄ ³ cup soy sauce ¼ cup water ¼ cup oil 2 cloves garlic, minced • lemon juice, to taste Salmon: 2-pound salmon filet(s) • salt and pepper, to taste Pineapple: 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into spears or slices ¾" thick ½ cup brown sugar ½ cup melted butter ½ to 1 teaspoon cinnamon (plus small amount for dusting)



energy bill credit!

10 MAY 2022

Pasta Salads due July 1

Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

Mix marinade ingredients and pour into a 1-gallon plastic bag with zip-lock seal. Season salmon filet with salt and pepper. Add seasoned salmon to plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for at least two hours (overnight is best). Grill salmon until it flakes; time depends on thickness of filet. Can put salmon directly on grill (wiped or sprayed with oil) or use a grill pan. For pineapple, spray grill with oil or use a grill pan. Lay pineapple on pan in single layer. Dust with cinnamon. Mix the brown sugar, melted butter, and cinnamon to make a glaze. If the glaze is thick, microwave it for a few seconds until pourable. Pour over pineapple. Grill in single layer for 2–3 minutes per side or until golden and just tender. Great with a tossed green salad, asparagus, and crusty bread. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

JALAPEÑO CRUNCH BURGER Joseph Brewer, HomeWorks Tri-County

5 jalapeños, diced (w/ seeds to make it spicier/hotter, no seeds for a milder taste) 1 green bell pepper, finely diced 2 large yellow onions, finely diced 2 tablespoons butter, for sautéing 3 pounds ground beef (room temperature) 3 eggs 3 teaspoons black pepper 3 teaspoons salt 3 teaspoons red pepper (cayenne pepper) 3 teaspoons paprika 3 teaspoons cumin • queso dip or pepper jack cheese • Fritos or French’s Crispy Fried Onions (for the crunch)

Dice up your vegetables (jalapeños, green peppers, and onions), and sauté them in butter until tender/caramelized. You can sauté them together or separately. Once the vegetables are sautéed to your liking, set aside and allow to cool. In a large bowl, add in the meat, eggs, seasonings, and cooled sautéed veggies. Mix thoroughly, making sure to try and spread the seasonings and sautéed veggies as evenly as possible. Form your patties, and grill to desired temperature (if you are using pepper jack cheese, add it to your burger while it’s still grilling). Top burger with desired crunch (Fritos or French’s Crispy Fried Onions) and queso dip (or can have with pepper jack cheese). Serve on a sesame seed bun and enjoy!

TEQUILA LIME CHICKEN Mary Card, Great Lakes Energy

6 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves—trimmed, rinsed, and patted dry; set aside on platter ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice ¼ cup tequila (gold) ¼ cup fresh orange juice 1½ teaspoons chili powder 1½ teaspoons minced garlic cloves 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced, optional 1 teaspoon kosher salt ½ teaspoon ground black pepper In a large bowl, prop up a large, open zipper-top bag and add the lime juice, tequila, orange juice, chili powder,

garlic cloves, jalapeño, salt, and pepper. Add chicken to bag and zip the top. Massage chicken in bag to combine and place bowl in refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight, turning bag every few hours, or at least twice. Prep grill for medium heat (charcoal or gas). Drain marinade off chicken and place chicken on grill rack. Cook chicken 5 minutes, then turn and grill another 5–8 minutes or until juices run clear when chicken is pierced, or internal temperature is 160 F. Move chicken to clean platter and let rest, covered with foil, about 5 minutes, to allow juices to set. Garnish with lime wedges for squeezing over chicken. Serves 6.

DUCK ON THE GRILL Margie Guyot, Great Lakes Energy 1 1 1 1 1 1 2

duck (5–6 pounds), defrosted tablespoon salt teaspoon black pepper teaspoon smoked paprika orange, cut into quarters head garlic, top trimmed celery stalks, cut into 2-inch pieces

Set up your grill for indirect grilling. For a gas grill, put a large drip pan in the center. Preheat the grill on high, then reduce the temperature to medium/low when the duck is placed on the grill. For a charcoal grill, arrange charcoal pieces around the side of a drip pan and let them burn until medium/hot (coals mostly covered in ash). Rinse the duck inside out with cool, running water. Pat dry. Use a large sharp fork and prick the skin all over, but be careful not to pierce the meat (or the meat will be dry). Mix the salt, pepper, and paprika. Rub the duck inside and out with the spice mixture.

Stuff the cavity of the duck with the orange quarters, whole head of garlic, and celery pieces. Fold the neck skin under to cover the cavity. Close with a skewer. Set the duck, breast side up, on a rack over the drip pan. Cover the grill and cook for about 1½ hours. If you’re using a charcoal grill, add 10–12 briquettes every half hour or so to keep the temperature up. After 1½ hours, drain the juices and fat from the drip pan and flip the duck, breast side down. Continue cooking for another 30–60 minutes until the meat is tender. Flip the duck back to breast side up for the last 10 minutes to crisp the skin. The internal temperature should be 175 F at the thickest part of the thigh. Allow the duck to rest on a cutting board for 15 minutes. Remove oranges and celery from the duck’s cavity and throw away (ideally on your compost pile). The roasted head of garlic can be used as a spread on bread. Carve duck and serve. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Save Your Cell Phone Data— Enable Wi-Fi Calling Did you know your phone has a hidden data-saving feature that lets you call people over Wi-Fi? It’s turned off by default.

Here’s how to find it on an iPhone: • • • •

Open your “Settings” app Scroll down and tap on “Phone” Under the “Calls” section, tap “Wi-Fi Calling” Slide the toggle on and tap “Enable”

If you have an Android phone, the steps are a bit different: • • • • • •

Tap the phone icon like you’re making a call Tap the three dots in the top-right corner Choose “Settings” Find and tap “Calls” Tap “Wi-Fi Calling” Slide the toggle on

Most people will be able to turn on Wi-Fi calling themselves, but you might need to contact your cell phone provider if the option isn’t available or is grayed out. MEC’s ultra-fast fiber internet service doesn’t have data caps, which makes it an ideal choice for Wi-Fi calling and other Wi-Fi-intensive activities. To sign up, visit us at

You May Qualify for a Discount on Internet The Affordable Connectivity Program provides qualifying households with a discount of up to $30/month on our fiber internet. If your home is on qualifying tribal lands, this discount can be as much as $75/month off. If you qualify for the program, you can also purchase an Amazon Fire HD tablet for $49.99, about half its usual price. 12 MAY 2022

You can qualify for the Affordable Connectivity Program if your household income is at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, OR a member of your household: • Received a federal Pell Grant in the current award year. • Participates in a governmentassistance program, such as SNAP, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, WIC, or Lifeline. • Participates in the National School Lunch Program or the School Breakfast Program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision. • Participates in one of several tribalspecific programs: Bureau of Indian Affairs General Assistance, Tribal Head Start (only households meeting the relevant income-qualifying standard), Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Tribal TANF), or Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

Head to ACP to learn more.

Where There’s Challenge, There’s Growth he No Barriers expedition may take place in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, but it’s far more than just a scenic vacation. This five-day program is designed to help disabled veterans “redefine their identity, purpose, and community as they face present and past challenges.”


Colleen Sexton with new friends Chris Budhay and Bob Evans

Colleen Sexton, U.S. Coast Guard veteran and MEC member, was honored to participate in the July 2021 expedition sponsored by CoBank.

Group shot before the climb


To prepare for her climb, she first noted the rock formations and carefully watched the others. When it was her turn, she took a deep breath, set her sights on the goal, and made it to the top.

“It’s an opportunity of a lifetime—to be able to share experiences with other disabled veterans,” said Sexton.

Even her grandkids were impressed. “When I shared a photo with them of the rock I climbed, they exclaimed, ‘Whoa, Nana, you did that?’”

On July 17, 2021, the group set up tents at the Fort Collins campground. The accommodations were rustic, with shared tents and no running water.

While Sexton admits she has no interest in rock climbing again, there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that she rose to the challenge.

Residing in such close quarters gave the veterans an opportunity to get to know each other quickly. Sexton even met a fellow Michigander in the group.

“Now I can say I did it,” she said. “I faced it.”

“The camaraderie and learning everyone’s story was great,” said Sexton. “Several of us keep in touch via regularly scheduled Zoom calls on Friday nights.” Morning hike at Fort Collins

“I’m not afraid of heights, but it was my first time, and I was intimidated,” she said. “I reminded myself that it’s all about mindset, and all I had to do was take one step at a time.”

The most memorable challenge for Sexton was the rock-climbing excursion.

For Sexton, the expedition enforced the notion that you can make it through any challenge you are faced with. “You may get to a point where you break down—but you’ve just got to regroup, refocus, and get it done,” she said.

ADVENTURES FOR RURAL VETERANS—APPLY BY MAY 13 IN-PERSON EXPEDITIONS WILL TAKE PLACE IN JULY AND AUGUST Michigan electric cooperatives believe there should be “No Barriers” for veterans with disabilities. That’s the name and idea behind CoBank’s No Barriers initiative. Michigan cooperatives are looking for qualified veterans* from our local community to participate. No Barriers is a five-day, all-expenses-paid expedition in Colorado, designed to help veterans with disabilities transform their lives through curriculum-based experiences in challenging environments (climbing, rafting, and hiking). If you are a disabled veteran, or you know of a disabled veteran in our community who would like to participate in the No Barriers program, please complete the form on our website: *Must have VA disability rating to be eligible.


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By Yvonne Whitman || Photography by Keven Zini

It’s not every day that an Olympic gold medal finds itself in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. But that’s what happened after Nick Baumgartner of Iron River captured first place with teammate Lindsey Jacobellis while competing in the mixed team snowboard cross event at the 2022 Beijing Olympics. This event, which made its debut in this year’s games, features a male and female rider from the same country paired and placed into a multi-team bracket. Competitors tear down a course with turns, jumps, rollers, and drops designed to push them to their limits. Competitive snowboarding is not for the faint of heart. “Snowboard cross is chaos in every sense of the word,” Baumgartner said. “We are doing something that is so unpredictable. We go down the course at highway speeds of 50–60 mph on a five-foot-long board with metal edges that are sharp as a sword, with

14 MAY 2022

nothing to protect us except for the helmet on our head.” At 40, Baumgartner was the oldest medalist in Olympic snowboarding history—but he started riding early. “When I was 10 years old, I got this funny-looking plastic snowboard for Christmas, and I took it to the sledding hill behind my house,” Baumgartner said. “Fast-forward 30 years, and that plastic snowboard and my persistence turned into an Olympic gold medal at age 40. To think that 18 years after I started on this team, here I am still going, I would never have

imagined it. You’re never too late to take what you want from life.” When reflecting on receiving his gold medal, Baumgartner said, “I’ve always been a huge fan of ‘The Star-Spangled Banner.’ It hits a little bit different when you’re standing there on the podium and listening to it being played because of something you did. It was a proud moment and very emotional for me.” That emotional celebration followed him back to the U.P. A born and bred Yooper, Baumgartner wasn’t surprised when crowds of local people welcomed him home from Beijing. “I know the people of the U.P., and I know Yoopers, and it didn’t surprise me at all that the celebration started so far away with people standing out on the side of the road hooting and hollering in the freezing cold weather, holding signs that they had made,” Baumgartner said. And when he says, “so far away,” he means it: His supporters began lining the route 60 miles from his hometown, where a community parade awaited him.

But even a 60-mile celebration couldn’t hold a candle to the welcome home from his 17-year-old son Landon. “Getting a gold medal is wonderful, but Landon is my greatest accomplishment. It has meant so much to me to be able to share this journey with him and to have him be proud of me,” Baumgartner said, his voice brimming with emotion. “That’s what really matters to me. I’ve been trying to show him through my whole career what it takes to be a champion, how you don’t give up on your dreams, and that you can accomplish anything. I think he learned those lessons along the way, but winning the gold medal definitely cemented those ideas for him.” Nick Baumgartner is a model of commitment and determination. Entering the elite atmosphere of gold medal athletes did not come easy. It took considerable work, endless training, and competing at countless events for many years, but he made it to the top. Michigan is not just proud to be the home of an Olympic gold medal winner, but incredibly proud to be the home of Nick Baumgartner.


• This was his fourth time in the Olympics. He also competed in 2010, 2014, and 2018 (where he placed 4th). • He is an assistant coach on son Landon’s track team and will be the commencement speaker at Landon’s graduation ceremony. • When training, Nick lives out of a van four days a week with his dog Oakley to stay closer to his gym, which is 90 minutes from his home. • He played football at Northern Michigan University. • Nick built his own house. He is a union concrete worker. • No stranger to medals, Nick has also procured gold and silver in Snowboard Cross at the X Games. • He next plans to compete in the Snowboarding World Championships in 2023.




It wasn’t long ago that a phone connecting to the internet was unheard of, let alone a TV. But these days, even your doorbell might rely on your home’s Wi-Fi network. With all that activity, it’s important for your network to be protected against dangers like hackers and viruses. If one device is threatened, they all are. That’s why the free CommandIQ app includes ProtectIQ, a service that automatically detects and blocks threats and intrusions seeking to harm your network. How effective is it? According to our data, ProtectIQ blocked 14,536 threats in March across all MEC accounts that have it enabled. That’s a lot of extra protection.

Via a web browser: • •

• • •

Log into Under Contact Us, go to: - Service Orders/Inquires - Other Issues/General Inquiry - New Router Request Select Internet Account Number Select Requested Date Click Submit

Via the SmartHub mobile app: If you have a GigaSpire router, ProtectIQ is automatically enabled for you. If your router looks like the one above, however, you’ll need to upgrade— don’t worry, it’s free. Give us a call at 800-492-5989 or follow these steps to submit your request through SmartHub.

16 MAY 2022

• •

• • •

Log in Go to More, then: - Contact Us - Service Orders/Inquiries - Other Issues/General Inquiry - New Router Request Select Internet Account Number Select Requested Date Tap Send

Once you have a GigaSpire, you’re all set—ProtectIQ will send you an alert every time it detects or blocks a new security threat. To see your alerts, tap the bell icon from the main dashboard. CommandIQ will show you a list of notifications, and you can tap on any of them for more information about what ProtectIQ is up to. If you see ProtectIQ trying to block something it shouldn’t, not to worry. Simply select “Add to Trust List” on the corresponding alert to whitelist whatever has been blocked. If you’re wondering how ProtectIQ is doing, tap “My Network” from the main dashboard, followed by “Security.” The graph at the top of the following screen shows you how many viruses, intrusions, or threats ProtectIQ has blocked over the last seven days or four weeks. To get the most out of ProtectIQ, we recommend using it as an additional layer of security on top of your devices’ security features. Your individual devices will also need protection when you leave the home—ProtectIQ only applies to your home network.

For more information on using ProtectIQ, find our CommandIQ User Guide at internet-resources.

Fuel Mix Report

The fuel mix characteristics of Midwest Energy & Communications as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ending 12/31/21.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

Smart Devices for Your Health Y our devices aren’t just for working or browsing the internet—they can work to keep you healthy, too.

KardiaMobile ( is an FDA-cleared personal EKG that connects with most phones and tablets. It can help you detect arrhythmias and send your EKGs to a cardiologist so they can review them remotely.

Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix
















Renewable Fuels












Solid Waste Incineration









NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas; and wind includes a long-term renewable purchase power contract in Wolverine’s mix.

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

EmFit ( tracks your sleeping patterns, including your heart rate and how much you snore. It can also monitor elderly users and alert family members if something is wrong. QardioBase ( is a smart scale that can measure a lot more than just your weight. Keep track of your body fat, water makeup, muscle mass, and more—it even features a pregnancy mode. Your MEC fiber internet service can handle all these apps and more. It’s never been easier to stay healthy from the comfort of your home!

Regional Average Fuel Mix

Access to Rules and Rates Please be advised that the following information is available to Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) customers: • Complete rate schedules;

Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

• Clear and concise explanation of all rates that the customer may be eligible to receive;

Type of emission/waste

Your co-op

Regional average*

• Assistance from MEC in determining the most appropriate rate when the customer is eligible to receive service under more than one rate;

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide



• Clear and concise explanation of the customer’s actual energy use for each billing period during the last 12 months. The information can be obtained by contacting MEC at 800-492-5989.

Oxides of Nitrogen High-Level Nuclear Waste





*Regional average information was obtained from the MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 12/31/21. Midwest Energy & Communications purchases 100% of its electricity from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.


Guest Column

Floating Michigan Rivers By Julie Kate O’Brien, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member


he rivers of Michigan have danced through my soul since an early age. Bank fishing, trolling, and canoeing was where I learned much about family love and respecting the Good Lord’s grace in nature. The joy of big brothers upstream and the upland bird dogs romping and resting on the river’s edge taught the daily practices of contentment, gratitude, faith, and joy, as well as praying and dancing with the Great Spirit. The AuSable and Manistee Rivers are home. There is nothing better than watching a dog weave the river’s edge, flushing birds for hours, and then inflating our tube, floating back home, and dropping a line. Many lessons of life can be learned by watching anglers, rivers, and dogs, as well as those big brothers upstream. From age 7 to now age 70, big brothers have always been upstream watching over. Life’s successes and failures gain understanding because of family members just being on the river together. There appear to be three types of anglers on the rivers. The newbies, the locals, and the “don’t get it” crew, and on some rivers, we may fall into each category. The newbies are fun and often kindly referred to as “trunk slammers,” as they return to their vehicles frequently. They often have the newest fishing gear and are still learning about the concept of effortless movement. The locals may live anywhere but have fished the same area for generations. They move gracefully and effortlessly and understand going with the flow and the concept of catch and release on the river, as well as with life’s issues. The “don’t get it” crew is trying so hard that they don’t succeed much. They often share their frustration with others. Their movement reflects impatience. Setting healthy boundaries in life and respecting other people’s differences are two lessons learned on a river. So float, fish, canoe, grow old with your big brothers upstream, or just watch the rivers of Michigan ... experience the beauty of any season of life on the river banks and find the peace that nature brings.

Win a $50 energy bill credit!

Photo is from south M-72 bridge on the Manistee

Julie is retired from Otsego Memorial Hospital. She enjoys hiking and watching sports on TV (Go Green! Go White!). She loves shooting pool and having grilled ham and cheese at Tony Deckers in Oscoda.

WIN $150!

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $150 for stories published. Visit to submit.

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by May 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at March 2022 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Lisa Brodeur, a Cherryland Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as The Tridge in downtown Midland. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/ December.

Add a Well-Connect to your Existing Furnace TODAY.

Cool (and heat) for half with your well.

Add a Well-Connect for $0 down and as little as $80/month.

Typical heating cost savings over $100/month. Air conditions for pennies a day. Well-Connect pays for itself.

LOW COST COOLING Air-condition and dehumidify your home for pennies a day. Say goodbye to box fans and noisy window or outdoor units.



Heat your home for an estimated 50%-70% less than propane, fuel oil, electric or eliminate the need to burn wood.

Stop worrying about rising energy costs. Instead, install a Well-Connect in a day and reduce your energy costs tomorrow.

Well-Connect™ is a water source heat pump designed to provide efficient heating and cooling all year long. It is designed for rural homes that have a well and where either propane, fuel oil, electric resistance or wood is used as the heating source. Well-Connect is ideal for use in rural areas to deliver clean, economical heating and cooling. It works with an existing furnace, it does not replace it, and greatly reduces the expense associated with burning fossil fuels and keeps the up-front cost of the system as low possible. (989) 356-2113

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DIGITAL THREATS? You might have virus protection for your computer. Maybe even for your phone. But what about your doorbell?

Any device that connects to your Wi-Fi network is susceptible to hacks. The protection for all your devices – from your PC to your thermostat. Flip to Page 16 to learn more.