Wednesday, August 30
I arrived, however, late last night, around 10:00 p.m.--five hours later than calculated. I was on schedule until I entered IL. To welcome me home, it rained. It was a "hard rain," as Bob Dylan sings. As motorcyclists we should avoid these early rains...But I didn't. Yet, RT 43, taught me a lesson. On it, were some people who evidently didn't notice that it was raining for they drove like maniacs--total disregard for slowing down--not everyone--but it only takes one.
Eventually, I exited, found a Border's Books on Tower Line Road somewhere near Lake Forest. I hung out there for about three hours, clumping around in my gear and feeling like the Michelin woman. I sank into a stack of magazines. Quite by accident, I ran into a friend and his three adorable children. They are tiny book lovers, whose combined age is like, 4! They were in book heaven in the children's section, doing serious work on Peter Pan, Cinderella, and Amelia Bedelia, to mention a few.
Finally had to don my rain pants, put the rain coats on the luggage and head home. By the way, purchasing the bike cover was an EXCELLENT investment. Not only did it protect the luggage from probing eyes and hands, it kept the bike dry--who wants to sit on a wet seat?
Took Sheridan Road, which is part of the LMCT, a section that I've done many times. Interestingly enough, when I finally arrived on Sheridan Road, it put me very near The Bahai Temple and it gave me a full circle feeling as I drove by it and glanced at the building, which I've never seen at night. It stands as a mammoth beacon, all lit up, as if welcoming me home; I took it personally. I was happy to be received so brightly. This was a particularly poignant moment for me as this section of the LMCT was my first "long" trip after buying the bike. My signature photo is my bike in front of The Bahai Temple.
Avoided Lake Shore Drive as the roads were still rather slippery. Took Sheridan Road to Halsted and then weaved my way through the familiar Chicago streets. Ended up taking Wells Street all the way to Lake Street and the headed home from there.
In all, I've put approximately 1,128+ miles on the bike.
Again, I will post the conclusion of this travel tale tonight (and photos)--more like the wee hours for me.
In a couple of weeks, the next trip takes place... (to be continued)
Tuesday, August 29
Monday’s push toward home made me a wee bit sad, as there is much I must leave behind and see on another visit. The one good thing about this decision is that WI roads are not as easy to navigate along the lakeshore. One has to ride the interstate, jump on, and off to take roads that lead to and from the shoreline. This is not the case once I leave Milwaukee and continue south. That’s an area I’m familiar with enough to know the good roads. Still, I miss already the miles and miles of MI lakeshore roads.
Manistique, MI: The morning started quite cloudy and gray but people kept telling me it wasn’t going to rain. Uh? It looked like rain to me! Glad I was wrong. But I heard it rained buckets in Chicago much of the day.
Stopped at a little lighthouse near the hotel, one that allowed you to walk right up to the structure, some are impossible to get near unless you’re on a boat, others are so protected that you’re only able to see them from behind a fence or some other structure, still others are now museums and can be walked through. This structure jutted out in the water, surrounded by mammoth rocks. After parking the bike, I headed for the lighthouse. On the way, I saw two people who looked like they might be together (dressed a little alike) leaving the lighthouse. The woman was in front and passed me on the side; neither of us spoke. The man came directly into my path and said, “Hi”.
He immediately asked me where I was riding to (motorcycle gear is a dead give away that one rides…). I told him and this led to a lengthy conversation about our trips. He is from Detroit and covering the lake tour also. He, however, is doing his own route and had ventured off a lot more in the Upper Peninsula area that I. He mentioned the town of Newberry and a bear farm that allows petting of cubs. To him, the Tahquamenon Falls, near Newberry, which is in the UP near Lake Superior, is a “must-see.” To him, the Tahquamenon is “way” better than Niagara Falls. One website said that the Tahquamenon was the “largest waterfall east of the Mississippi outside of Niagara.” (Add to list of next summer visits!)
We studied my map, with its yellow highlighting and pen notes. He showed me some of the places they had covered. He strongly recommended doing the Lake Superior Circle Tour, which is definitely on my list of future lake tours. He asked me about “the” bridge. He said he and his wife, particularly, were nervous about it and that he was going to avoid the grated side. I told him I hoped that he could but that northbound the right side was closed, I thought for repairs; thus, making it impossible to avoid the grates. He didn’t look happy; he said they would often close a lane if it were too windy. It was windy that day. His comment, “oh, shit, really?” He went on to say, “my lady’s not gonna like that.” Perhaps it was good then, that his lady was not around to hear our conversation. She sat on a stoop smoking during out conversation. We parted and I snapped a few photos before heading west along highway 2.
Next stop, Escanaba. I stopped at a Honda Motorcraft store that also sold motorcycles. My key had become increasingly difficult to insert and remove. A few times, it was so stuck that I thought I’d never get it out. I also wanted someone to look at my chain. Those two days of rain had made the outside of the chain rusty in spots. I also wanted to adjust the throttle play, which I could do myself. I asked if they could take care of the key hold and chain or recommend a shop that could. A guy name Dan said, “Let’s take a look.” This might be dumb of me, but I wasn’t sure if I could put oil down the ignition switch. I think I read somewhere that you definitely could for this very problem—but I dream stuff a lot and must check my views against reality.
The little retractable lid that opens and closes has disappeared, leaving a horizontal space that is always open. I wondered about rain getting in there and rusting things. He sprayed some HP Chain Lube in the hole and we repeatedly inserted the key a few times and voila! It’s in and out is easy now. Dan said my chain looked fine in terms of tension. He lubed the chain, along the teeth and on the outside; he said the rust was “nothing” that the lube couldn’t rid. I paid $3.75 for the lube; Dan refused to take anything for his labor. I offered a lunch on me but he wouldn’t take that either. Instead, we engaged in bike talk and he showed me a Honda Goldwing—those bikes are gigantic! He said, “there’s a 70-something woman who is as small as you and she rides one…” To me, that thing is like sitting a small truck! For two-up comfort, I can definitely see it working…Dan and his crew told me where to go in Escabana for some nice sights, lunch, and how to get to the lighthouse. (Reminder to send thank you note to Dan).
Went to Wendy’s for a salad since it was on the way to the lighthouse. Inside, I met an older woman who came up to me and said, “Is that your bike out there?” She continued, “Be care when you go out, there’s a swarm of wasps near some spilled soda—you don’t want to get stung.” She went on to dramatize how she opened her car door and closed it before she could be bitten—she could make it in acting. She sat down and smiled at me a lot. I smile back and tried to stay focused on my map and salad. A man who looked like he was recovering from a stroke or something sat down at her table. He looked over at me and said, “excuse me, that your bike…?” Before I could ask, his “wife”—I’m assuming—said, “I already told her.” He didn’t listen, and told me again. I thanked him and assured him I’d be careful.
Here’s what I learned from them. Both have connections to IL. He has a brother, whom he doesn’t see much now, who lives in Kankakee, IL—not terribly far from the suburb where I have a house. His brother is ill but recovering “nicely” from a stroke. They don’t get to see each other much, but the wife tells me that they talk on the phone “a lot.” Her parents were born in Chicago and she could recall the street her father lived on. I could tell she was a bit disappointed that I hadn’t heard of the street. They come to Wendy’s a lot for the free soda refills. Sometimes they go just to have a soda together. He told me that they are happy because they just paid their light bill and will have lights for another month. I gave them the run down on my trip. She said, “That’s so nice, be careful, God be with you.”
Visited the Escanaba lakefront. Small, clean and well-maintained. Took the lakeshore road that would lead me back to state RT 35. It’s a picturesque section of town with boats bobbing on the water, and large old homes sitting on a hill that surrounds Ludington Park. But Lake Shore Drive ended abruptly with construction. There was an open lane but it was sand—no can do…had to turn around (I’ve done 400 U-turns since beginning this trip!).
Pushed ahead to Green Bay. state RT35 carries you though small towns such as Fox River and Cedar River. The road is fairly well traveled but cars tend to be spaced far apart. For miles, I traveled without a vehicle behind me. Trucks heading east created some interesting moments. Wind blasts, wind buffeting—not even sure about my terminology here. But when some trucks passed me, they slammed me and the bike with a wind force that truly disturbed me--thank goodness, it was only for a few seconds each time it happened. Interestingly, this didn’t happen with every passing truck—don’t know why. A couple of times it was so bad it seemed as if the bike paused and felt shoved back. It was most weird in a curve and leaned—way too much fun for me. The hardest part of this was not to grip the handlebar but to countersteer when some incredible, powerful force that feels otherworldly is whamming you. My little fairing helped with head winds, but no fairing can help with these side windblasts, I don’t think.
Peshtigo, WI: Wanted to stop and visit the fire museum but needed to push forward. I did drive by the museum and almost stopped for the photo of the historical marker in honor of lost lives during the great fire of 1871, but parking in front of it would have been tricky. Poor Peshtigo, they had a horrible fire on the same day as “The Great Chicago Fire.” And for reasons that still tick off Peshtigo folks, Chicago’s fire received the greatest attention and the event is known the world over—even though the Peshtigo fire was far worse in terms of lives lost and resources destroyed. The Peshtigo fire is considered the “worst forest fire in recorded North American history…” Try dealing with that and having Chicago and its highly suspect story about a cow kicking over a lantern get all the attention—I’d be ticked too. (Next trip, make arrangement to visit Peshtigo Fire Museum)
Marinenette, WI. I guess people here don’t want you to find the visitor’s center. It is in a nutty place that can’t be reached by car. I drove around and around trying to follow the signs and almost gave up. I met four young boys riding their bikes like Evil Knievel, jumping and popping wheelies. I turned down their street and ran into a dead end. They were in hot pursuit of my bike. And when they passed me (I was going very slow) and stopped before the torn apart street, a couple of them jammed on their brakes to force the bike to slide; they skidded for fun, and their back tires spun them around. Within seconds, I was surrounded by four boys whose combined age was probably 29. One of the boys was quite large and muscular, but the face of a pre-teen. Another looked much younger but about the age of the larger boy. Two of the boys were considerably younger, like 7 years old. They all started firing questions at me, “is that your bike,” “what kind of bike is that,” “who showed you how to ride it?” Unanimously, they thought the bike was “really cool.” Finally, the older boy silenced everyone and said, “Can I have a ride?” I said, “Are you serious?” He said, “Yes, I know how to ride-please, let me have a ride, I’ll show you?” I told him,”No, besides you have to have a license.” He said he did, that it was in his house. Then a little, squeakiest voice piped up, “He’s lying, he’s a liar…he tells me lies all the time—don’t let him.” The older boy didn’t get mad, he just smiled and said, “My license is right here, see, it’s invisible. He held up his hand to show me the invisible license. I smiled at my little followers and told the leader that when I returned he could take a ride on my invisible bike. They followed me to the corner.
Rode around some more looking for how to enter the visitors’ center. This is the point in which one side is MI and the other is WI. Turned into the Menominee travel info area (I think) and sat with the bike running. A gold metallic Lexus drove up and parked next to me. The 70-something year old woman inside, opened her car door and said, “Are you looking for something?” I told her. She said, “Well, turn off your bike because you’re not gong to find it on that.” She had the kind of voice that you obeyed. I shut down the bike. She told me to come with her because where I wanted to go is on the way. As we crossed the River Walk Bridge, she stopped. “This is where my husband and I used to come in the winter time and make ice angels. We’d lie on the ice—oh, if my mother ever knew that—“She had a hearty laugh and was all dolled up with make up, blue Capri pants, beige moccasin type shoes, and white top, the kind many older women like—sort of cotton, sort of stretchy that are decorated with flowers along the upper chest area and elasticized band at the waist. She looked out on the river and said, “I wonder where al the smelt is, there used to be so much smelt here, so much that it would be everywhere and we’d slip on them sometimes.” She seemed sad about a long gone past.
According to her, at one time, the river was the hub of life here, the town had activities in the summer and winter-- “we kids had a ball,” she said. She has two “girls” and when they were small, she and her husband brought the girls here too, as they had done when they were courting. We continued to walk; she asked me if I’d had a chance to go to Mackinac Island. I mistakenly told her I’d been there but I was actually thinking of Mackinaw City. She said, “Oh, I love going to Mackinac Island…it’s soooo romantic—of course I’ve been married over 50 years—there’s no more romance there, you know…” I knew what she meant.
The visitors’ center was closed and the woman seemed genuinely sad for me. We found some brochures on a stand outside. We said good-bye and I thanked her for her welcome to WI. What a nice woman. Sometimes I think that kind people we meet along the way are our dead ancestors back in another form to look out for us, which is why it pays to be always kind—at least initially — to people, we met.
A digression on Mackinac/Mackinaw. Mackinac Island, Mackinaw City and Mackinac Bridge, the Old Mackinac Point Light—come on, people, which way do you want us outsiders to say it given your different spellings? On more than one occasion, I said the “-ac” and “-aw” as it is spelled. In reality, the locals get ticked because they disregard the differences in spelling and call everything by the “-aw” ending. This all stems from a difference between how the French and English spelled and truncated the Native American word, “missilimaahkinaank.” The French and British had issues that are still reflected in this commonly mispronounced word.
Pushed ahead to Green Bay where I am now. Even as I write this, I’m lamenting the fact that my trip unfortunately needs to come to a close; my week ends officially Tuesday. Yet, I am debating going to Door County before heading back. In reality, I can make this a separate weekend trip. Ok, I can live with that—don’t like it, but hey…I’m glad I started the trip from Chicago to IN and through MI, because I feel I did what I wanted there and only missed things to which I was not committed to visiting. I’m more familiar with the WI side and it’s closer and easy to get to. Ok, then…I’m on a straight track back home today.
Monday, August 28
Lessons: Despite the love of riding, I've learned that being on a bike consecutive hours on consecutive days is difficult work. Fun. But work that tires you out at the end of the day.
More lessons: Internet access might be spotty at times...blog may have some missing days.
Here it is, two days shy of a week since I left IL and I'm still in MI! What gives? Well, I keep finding recommended roads that need to be ridden--that's what gives! On one of my future circle tours, I'm going to try this as a ride-through. It would be great to do this in one long three-to-four day weekend
I have mentioned before about the isolation of the roads and expressed some concerns about Highway 2. Well, that was a waste of worry juice! I saw more cars on 2 than I've seen the entire time! Still, somewhat sparse, but at least I saw cars. I must say, I was happy to see "cagers." I enjoyed the company.
Arrived in Mackinaw City on a beautiful, clear early afternoon. Exiting US31 heading north, I could see the famed Mackinac Bridge, with it proud, tall arms/legs extending far into the sky. Golden Gate Bridge has NOTHING on the Mighty Mac, which is in fact, the longest suspension bridge in North American--if not the world (ok, I better check the world fact comment) . When I heard that one had a choice between riding the metal grating or the concrete slab in the right lane, I never gave crossing the bride another thought.
Stopped at the Mackinaw City visitor's center and spoke with a woman at the counter who not only gave me three free MI postcards, she also ordered me to be safe. She liked that I was circling the lake, but like many others, expressed her concern about doing so alone.
What I didn't mention to her and haven't mentioned here, is that my only real concern (not even the riding tops this...) is meeting strange men, particularly strange men that are bigger, stronger than me. And don't let it be two men or a group. Sorry, I'm just not comfortable being around people who can overpower me. And I don't expect other men to understand this because they will think only of themselves, knowing that they would never harm a woman. But other men do. The average man is stronger than I am, giving them a distinct physical advantage and I think about those things. I've heard too much, experienced too much, and at one time watched too much Lifetime TV --the purportedly station for women, you know the one where at least one woman has to be raped, imprisoned, tortured, etc. I said I used to watch it. TV for women--what a joke! How about let's teach woman how to be victims--sorry for the digression. Still, kidnapping and involuntary slavery are two of my personal nightmares.
So I travel with inanimate objects for protection. What I've never said is that every time I meet a male stranger, the first thing I do is size him up to see if I can take him down, which is unlikely or whether I can fight back enough that will make him call for his momma! I just note casually where all his sensitive body parts are in relationship to my feet and fists--how far I'd have to extend them to make perfect contact. I thought this about Norm and realized that all I had to do for him, was run a few blocks and Norm would drop from a massive coronary...Poor guy. Anyhow...
Highlights from Mackinaw City included some brief encounters: Two examples. Met a couple vacationing with their two teenage children. They were a true HD family. The mother rode one child on the back of her bike, the father road the other. They wore their HD loyalty to the hilt! Is there another company with such brand loyalty? I could imagine in a few years, the boys will be riding mom and dad on the backs of their motorcycles--or they'll be a four HD bike family. The husband told me that his wife would "love" to do the circle tour by herself. She only smiled so I don't really know if he'd like her to do it, or she would like to do it.
Next story: I was on the phone, watching my bike at a rest stop. A man came from the rest stop building and stopped near my bike. That's not unusual, I'm learning that my bike is a chuck magnet (male version of a "chick" magnet). But this chuck looked all of 100 years old! He was stooped with signs of osteoporosis or something like it...Another middle age man passed him and the oldest guy said something to him that made him also stand there staring at my gal-pal. I'm thinking perhaps they see something wrong with the bike or perhaps conspiring about how to steal it. I cut my daughter off in mid-sentence and tell her I have to go and foil some probably bike thieves.
I mosey up to the bike and the oldest man, in the kindest Mr. Rogers' voice, warmly asks if I "belong to that bike?" I answer affirmatively. And then what he says next makes my heart melt and I think I'm in love. He says, "well, young lady, that a very fine bike, you got, very nice..." He goes on to tell me that he'd just been "admiring it." He says, "tell me about it." Well, I know I'm rabid. I tell him more than he probably wanted to know. At the end, he looks at the middle age guy and says, "...She could sell these bike, she sure could." The middle age man agreed. He told me that he rides a bike too. A Vulcan. He was pleased to know that I had seem a Vulcan and knew a thimble full about the bike. Eventually he left and the elderly gent and I talked. He said regarding my trip, "why young lady, that's very nice, very adventurous...You must be having a fine time...Good for you..." I will confess. I love old people, always have. No matter their background, race, etc., nice old people remind me of my grandparents, particularly my grandfather, who just happened to be the greatest human being ever to walk the face of this earth. So this man was capturing my heart big time with his Mr. Rogers qualities. We said good bye. He got into his car started it up and then turned the car off. I thought, he probably wants to see me pull away. WRONG.
He got out of the car again and waited by the curb. An elderly woman who looked to be around his age was walking toward the car. He called to her, "Honey, I want you to meet this young lady." She' was a sure stand in for Aunt Bea on the Andy Griffin Show. She had the most welcoming smile. They took hands and he presented her to me. We exchanged greetings. He said, "tell her about your bike." So I gave a truncated retelling of the bike's history. The woman never stopped smiling. She thought the bike was "real pretty." Her husband said, "Now tell her about what you're doing and where you've come from." I told her. Her smiles continued with lots of head shaking and affirming looks. Finally she said, "that is so special, this will be something to remember...and you're doing it alone, you must be so proud." I just wanted to take these people home with me. This is why I'm glad I was practically raised by grandparents for I had four grandparents who were just like this, always saying great stuff to you and making you feel like you could walk on air. I know it is not true for all of us...but was for me. In only a few minutes, I was deeply touched by these two people. We wished each other safe travels. Again, I didn't get a pic, but in this case it's ok as I know I'll not forget them in the place where it counts most, my heart.
Well, yesterday's ride was wonderful. Please, please people, whether you ride a motorcycle or not, get in a car for heaven's sake, and do the LMCT. If for no other reason than to ride M119. Let me tell you something about that road. It is better than anything I've written about before. All that flack I said about Deal's Gap--my goodness, pales in comparison to this road. First, it is long. When it was over I stopped clinching my teeth and praying. Second, it is a narrow road with traffic coming and going, all sharing one narrow road--not a lot of traffic, mind you. There is just enough space for two cars to pass side-by-side. Believe me...There is not an inch of extra space. Third, there is no shoulder. The trees come right up to the very freaking edge of the road! Fourth the turns are tighter than spandex on a hootchie momma! And the curves are very squiggly and very sharp and very scary (mostly in a fun way, but I had some moments when I wanted it all to end but there is no turning around once you are on this road). Fifth, it went on and on. Sixth, unlike any other time, I had to watch for a lot all potential hazards at the same time. Oncoming cars and motorcyclists (more about them later), the swiftly changing angles of the road, trying to flick a loaded bike into the turns and all this with little space and time in between to regroup. Make one error and you must forget about it immediately for the next challenge is right ahead of you. When the end finally came (I should have measured the distance but I was in there for at least 30 minutes and the speed ranged from 35 mph to 50).
Here's what Murphy says about M119 in his book, Motorcycling Across Michigan, "Once beyond Harbor Springs M119 gets progressively better, until it turns into the 'Tunnel of Trees', as it is called. M119 is the only state highway where special rules apply. There is no shoulder and the trees are literally right on the edge of the pavement. There is also a sever shortage of any straight sections. Many of the curves are tight, so even though it is very tempting to go fast, try to show some semblance of restraint and keep your speeds reasonable for the road you're on. M119 runs along the crest of a high bluff overlooking Lake Michigan. Unfortunately the land all along it is private, with many drives heading down the bluff to palatial secone homes. M119 is a blast to ride, to put it succinctly." [Emphasis, mine] This man is not lying! (Saw two hot rod crotch-rockets pass a line of cars with tme at the lead. They blasted through like...Well, rockets. They must have had some familiarity with these roads--can't imagine that any sane person would attempt those speeds otherwise. Apparently, they made it alright as we didn't pass any wipe-outs.
Mackinac Bridge: I felt confident crossing it because I'd accepted the fact that I would ride the concrete. Well, guess what?! The freaking concrete side was blocked off almost immediately after getting on the bridge. When I saw the sign to merge to the left lane, the lane of metal grating, I couldn't believe it. It's not that I can't or am afraid of these grating, I ride them in Chicago and it's fine. They are not fun and the wiggling is a bit annoying. Five miles of it on the Mighty Mac wasn't something that inspired me. All I wanted was the view. But I got the view and miles of wiggly too. After the initial freak out, I settled in and kept my throttle steady, head straight ahead and up (No, I didn't look down to see the water--one can have only so much fun before it turns into hedonism, and that just isn't right).
Found a comfortable hotel in Manistique, MI. Wanted to make it to Escabana but it was getting dark. Sunday I rode from 10ish in the morning until 8:30pm --of course lots of stops and touring in between. Can't believe I'm still in MI. The Upper Peninsula is cold! Highway 2 rocks really hard!
I'm way behind schedule and will try to make up some ground on Monday (I've been saying that for the last couple of days...) I want to get into WI and that should be relatively easy. Debating whether I should go to Door County before heading south home. If I don't, I'll miss some great sites that Murphy mentions, places like Sturgeon Bay, Egg Harbor, Sister Bay and Baileys Harbor to mention a few. Perhaps I'll let the weather and my funds determine my next course.
Still having a royal time...
Saturday, August 26
It's just a fact: In the grand scheme of things, we have so little control over any thing, especially when it comes to Mother Nature. I had great plans to get across the Mackinac Bridge Saturday and settle in St. Ignace, MI before embarking on the long journey west aross highway 2 in the upper peninsula of MI. For some reason, Escanaba has stayed on my mind. It's become my signal that the trip is turning toward home. The distance from St. Ignace to Escanaba is approximately 141 miles. Depending on which guide you read (I'll have to check it on the GPS), the distance from Escanaba to Chicago is approximately 315 miles--assuming a straight-shot route, which isn't happening. There are numerous things to stop and see along the way.
If I detour, as I've been doing, and follow the off route sites, I'd eschew St. Ignace and aim more for Petoskey or Harbor Springs about 67 to 70 miles from Traverse City. But Saturday's weather thumbed its nose and opened its sky and rained on my plans big time!
I left Traverse City hungry. I had had a light dinner the night before but the lack of eating more than dinner over the last several days, seemed to be catching up with me. I was ravenous. Breakfast sounded like an excellent way to begin the ride north. The morning's rain had finally let up some but I debated whether I should take advantage of the weather reprieve and just ride in spite of being hungry.
I decided to ride. About 2 miles later, I spotted a Bob Evans, on the right side of the road, a place I haven't eaten in in years and the aroma of breakfast foods cooking snapped my head in Bob's direction. I made a bee line for the parking lot. I opened the door only to find people queued up against it. That's what I remembered about BE, which explains why I haven't been in years, I only liked their pancakes anyway. Too hungry to be discouraged, I asked how long the wait. I figured the 15 minute wasn't too long. Comfort food would improve my concentration and disposition for certain.
While waiting, five adults with a baby waited near me. One asked where I was from. Now, I think this is an interesting question. How do they know I'm not from Traverse City? Hmm--something in the data perhaps? Or, maybe they saw me get off a fully-loaded motorcycle? Still... They were a nice group and the men said they would love to take a trip around the lake. One of the women called it a "real epic journey." I like that the way she put it. A table opened for them and I waited in the vestibule alone.
Soon another couple appeared. They gave their name and waited. The husband immediately asked what kind of bike I rode. I told him. The wife said her husband once had a Suzuki "many years ago" and "loved" the bike. I asked about the model. He looked downright misty-eyed. Said he had a 750. I said, "was it a GS, by chance." The man's face radiated! "Yes, yes it was. I had a GS back in the late 70s." I told him my husband had a GS750 in the late 70s and that it was a pretty greenish-blue. "No, no kidding?! That was the color of my bike--no kidding." The man was gleeful as if he'd just found a lost relative. His wife added again, "he loved that bike."
The man's a trucker and gets to come to Chicago a couple of tmes a year. They want to tour Chicago, but first want to tour their own backyard, that is, Traverse City. Then I was called to breakfast. I ordered tea and pancakes and almost finished the three flapjacks.
Although the sky was dark, it looked like Friday when it was dark the entire day yet rain only in the morning. I hoped today's rain was over too. I couldn't have ridden more than 10 miles when the sky opened and cried buckets of tears! I kept going as there was no where to pull off the road, thus violating the motorcycle safety rule about waiting about 20-30 minutes after a new rain so that the oils and other crap can be washed off the road's surface. That advice assumes that there is somewhere to pull off.
Did I mention that it was also a rather windy day? The roads climbed, twisted and turned and I began worrying about slipping, hydoplaning and being pushed around by the wind and the oncoming trucks. I know now even more than before that one does not want distractions on the road! Sheets of rain came down so hard that the drops on my helmet felt and sounded like I was being attacked with pebbles. My face shield required wiping about every 6 seconds! Let me tell you, you don't really want to let go of your left hand in this kind of weather. Why hasn't someone invented a nice, affordable set of windshield wipers for helmets? But I was dry on the inside. Applause to the FirstGear gear!! It has proven itself in two rain storms thus far.
Because there was nowhere to pull off until you pull into a town, I wondered how far I'd have to endure this. I noticed that I was losing confidence about the curves and taking them hesitantly and not always using the throttle to help me out. It's one thing to be more cautious in bad weather conditions but quite another to be tentative in ones executions--there's a huge difference. I was losing faith...
The roadside tended to be packed sand and/or loose gravel so extra caution was required to pull over, when there was a place available. Even so, there was still that little problem of no shelter.
Eventually, I see a sign: "Roadside Park 1/2 a mile. By this time I have ridden this messy muck for at least 10-15 miles. I pull off. The sky is getting blacker. I glance over and see someone under a shelter that has only a roof. I pull my bike in one of the parking slots and go underneath a trees (I know, not a great place to be in a storm). This was not the typical rest stop. It lacked a stand alone building with rest rooms. Instead, it offered a very smelly rest room that really was just a giantic outhouse. I opened the door and my desire to go potty vanished.
Just as I walked under the tree, a voice from the open-sided shelter called, "why don't you come over here, it's dry." I took him up on it and discovered that a motorcycle was also under that shelter, which I hadn't noticed. A huge HD with another husband-wife. They were not dressed for conditions at all, when they left that morning, the skies were clear. The husband said that their next purchase would be "proper rain gear." They had leather jackets and beanie helmets and the wife had no gloves. Standing there with her shoulders hunched, hands jammed in her pockets, she looked cold and damp. At one point, she said to her husband, "we should have left earlier." He responded in the best way possible, "you're right, we should have."
They were heading to a B&B in Traverse City to celebrating their anniversary. With two small children, they don't get to ride much together anymore. They live in Petoskey and told me that it wasn't raining there when they left. So if I had to push through another 20 or so miles, I'd be in the clear. The wife called her sister who told her that it still hadn't rained in Petoskey, in fact it was fairly clear.
We chatted about bikes, showed each other our gps devices, he reamed the HD Sportster as being top heavy and having "no" rear end suspension. Twice they made motions to leave when it seeemed that the rain had subsided. Twice they didn't get out of the shelter before the rain angrily pelted the gound again. When they left about 20 minutes later, I was alone again. I stayed in that shelter another hour--at least--occasionally singing a tune I can't seem to extricate from my head. The Mercury car folks use the song "Celebration," in their television ad. I was singing that aloud and enjoying the rain as best I could and realizing that I simply had no control over this and could do nothing but wait it out and find something constructive to do while waiting. I also played around with my camera and took some rainy shots. and even a self-portrait. And the cell worked, so I also called a favorite friend.
When the rain softened, I headed north for Petoskey. A light rain followed me much of the way. I passed through the cute town of Charlevoix, MI, a buzz of activity around its downtown, which is lined with trendy shops. The temperature was comfortable, probably low 70s. But leaving Charlevoix-- before arriving in Petoskey--there was a short, perhaps 3 minute ride at high elevation that was just freezing. It was like I had entered some freeze-zone space. The temp had to have droppped 15 degrees! It was amazing. This temperature shift was immediate and I felt it as I entered that zone. Then I felt it pass as I entered a space dramatically warmer. Very palpable, very interesing. I need to find out more about this.
In Petoskey, I figured I'd better find lodging and not trust the increasingly brightening sky. I stopped at a Wendy's and treated myself to dinner--ordinarily I avoid such places. But I was hungry and too wet to sit down in a slow food restaurant. I ordered a broccoli-cheese baked potatoe and a drink. Called a couple of hotels in Petoskey and found a cheap ($117.00) stay at a Super 8 Motel. that is almost as nice as that expensive hotel treat the first night. I'm pleasantly very surprised.
Sunday is supposed to be a beautiful day. Actually a lot like Saturday--only dry and clear.
One thing I don’t fancy is being caught in a storm while on one of those lovely remote, tree-lined roads I keep talking about. Imagine being struck by lightening or just having to ride through all that darkness, with no one around to find your toasted remains—spooky for sure.
Bookstores are my favorite places to rest. Decided to head for the downtown. Rode the bike there and found parking on the street. Decked in my gear, I headed for Horizon Books to buy postcards and read. First encounter: While paying for my purchase, the cashier said, “we haven’t had rain here in a long time, then you come to town…you brought all this rain.” She smiled as she said this, and I tried to return it, but frankly didn’t like the comment one bit. I have to believe she was well-intentioned. I said, “Well, if it hasn’t rained in a long time, you probably need it, so I’m glad I could help out.”
Took my cards to the café and had some tea. I’m sitting there and a rather rotund man standing at the opposite end of the counter begin looking at me. Actually, seems like everyone there were looking at me. I’m thinking…is it the helmet, is it the clothes, is it the only black face these folks have seen in a while? I tune them out and write my postcards. It’s not easy being a tourist attraction.
I look up and the man is really staring—bold and determined to make eye contact. The others look away quickly when I catch their eyes on me. Finally the man comes over (oh merciful heaven, don’t let him say something stupid, I’m in no mood). The man says, “I was looking at your kind face, wondering who you were and how I was going to come over and say something to you…then I saw this (he is pointing to my helmet). So, I decided, there…that’s what I can ask her about.” So he does.
Turns out, he’s an avid motorcyclist. I’ll call him Norm. Norm tells me “we” don’t get many people up here like you, especially ones all dressed up like I was. Within minutes, I know that Norm is insane, allowed to roam the streets while on a break from the nearest insane asylum or is a genius—it’s difficult sometime to tell the two apart.
He talks fast and stands bent over my tiny table looking closely at me. Occasionally, he dips his head up and down over his glasses as if to see how I look both ways. Norm has owed many bikes in his 60+ years. All of them described to me in graphic detail. Some rather esoteric, like the British number he bought in the 60s and still owns and occasionally rides around town. There were only about 500 or so made and he order one from a magazine. Norm is handy, he can fix just about anything. He is also ABD (all but dissertation). He had planned to get a PhD in English but decided being an “arrogant activist” was more important. He is fanatical about politics and had some choice words for “your” President. Norm detests religious fundamentalist, conservatives, most Republicans, “rednecks” and people who live in Florida but who actually originated from Massachusetts.
Norm’s skin is pale and obviously doesn’t tolerate the sun. He looked like a man who could down a few and judging from later conversation, he does. Hamm’s beer tastes like “horse piss” but you don’t really want to say that because it “insults the damn horse.” Peeking from his nearly white thinning hair are strands of blond. He could have been handsome in his day. He’s tall, about 6ft. 1. He tells me, “Don’t mind my stomach, I’m in my 28 month of pregnancy.” He is carrying like an expectant woman but I didn’t think of it until he mentioned it. I don’t know whether to laugh at Norm or be very frightened. I decide to laugh. I can tell he pokes at people for sport.
Norm tells me I’ve made his day (All I did was sit, listen to him, smile at the appropriate times, and answer his questions). Norm said many things I disagreed with and when I said so, he seemed delighted that I had responded correctly, in his view. I guess Norm was testing me? Norm has a finger that is half missing and another that is missing only the tip. Yet, nothing gets in the way of Norm’s flirting, which he tells me he’s doing because he wants to get to know me better, he says I’ve done something to him… and he’s sure I’ve do this to all the men I meet. It is then that I remember that I’ve left my switchblade at the hotel—Dang!
To make money, Norm is a builder, electrician, boat maker, screenwriter, and documentary filmmaker. He informs me that he’s had several girlfriends in their “30s.” In between talking about himself and his many experiences, Norm tells me he wants to get to know me. (Invoke spouse and show wedding ring). Norm tells me to give spouse a message: “You are one lucky sonofabitch.”
Norm decides we should be friends. If nothing else, he is charming in a strange way. Occasionally he interrupts a story he’s telling to say, “Damn I wish you lived up here.” He says I’d like his son. We talk about motorcycles. He tells me I’ve made all the right decisions and he is “impressed” with my bike selection and that I’m “smart” to not have purchased a used bike. Norm thinks that ‘cyclists ought not to buy new—only used—he doesn’t mention that every used bike was once new to someone. I hear about all the many bikes he’s bought—most of them used. Norm is clear about one thing and he knows it: he is “arrogant and likes getting on the case of those who should be doing the right things. The world according to Norm. Yet, he is jovial and beginning to look a lot like Santa in the off-season. Hmm?
Norm said he couldn’t go to the South during the 60s or he would have been killed. Norm likes black people. I now know all his black people stories and all the experiences Norm has ever had, including that a black woman worked as a domestic for his mother when he was growing up. Norm just came out and said, “I like black people.” I asked him, “all of them?” He doesn’t answer this…Norm also likes a few mixed couples to which I make no response. Norm needs no encouragement.
Norm’s a history buff, so I heard about the Civil Rights Movement, MLK, Medgar Evers, and other slain civil rights workers, etc. He seemed a little surprised when I didn’t know some of the famous black people in Detroit. Norm’s heart is well-intentioned. As he said a bit too often, “we don’t get many interesting people like you up here.”
We talked about schooling and that’s when Norm learned that I had survived the University of Chicago, a school he’s very impressed with. We started to talk about the things we had in common. Actually, we have a lot, hmmm? Perhaps I should be worried about that... For example, we both have written screenplays. Norm is “close friends” with another Michigan resident, Michael Moore (filmmaker)—I’m a fan. Moore runs a successful film festival in Traverse City each June and let Norm tell it, it is way better than Cannes, Sundance, Venice, Toronto—you name the festival and Toronto is better. Norm knows, because he’s been to all of them. He’s invited me to return next year to see for myself. I can even stay with him on his farm. Attendance has grown each year because of Moore’s fame and determination to make Traverse City “the” film festival to beat all others. Norm rebuilt some of the film festival sites and helped Moore organize things. Now, Moore calls him and he calls Moore about films and Traverse City matters. I wondered if this was true…Norm must have wondered if I wondered if this is true. Norm said, “I’m a lot more important around here than you think I am.” Hmm?
A guy in a dark gray fleece jacket and black pants was leaving and Norm called him over. I’ll call him Jim. I listened to Norm and Jim talk movies and turns out Norm is legit. They talked about their respective documentaries they are making. Norm asked him when he’d last heard from Moore. New guy said he’d talked to him recently and had been spending a lot of time in NY working on his film. They talked about some film competition that the new guy and Norm entered. The new guy won and Norm told him, “I love your work—it’s great—but I don’t think I’ve forgiven you yet for winning that.” New guy blushed and said he’s still new at this whole filmmaking business and is still learning. Come to find out, Jim selected most of the music and arranged the music for Moore’s film on Columbine.
Norm and I are both avid readers. We traded book titles and talked about his latest about how the fundamentalists and religious right have it wrong. He told me it is important to read people you don’t agree with. We agreed on that too.
My conversation with Norm lasted 3 hours. I tried many, many times to leave only to hear Norm say, “let me tell you this one story and I’ll let you go.” Norm has more stories than the Chicago telephone books as numbers! Then Norm wanted to take a photograph of me but didn’t have his camera; I didn’t volunteer that I always carry mine with me. Norm asked if I’d send him one with me on the bike—he wanted to show his son. I think he just wants to add it to his collection of black people pictures! Norm’s son recently bought a Hayabusa motorcycle, which Norm does not approve of but he respects his son, who is an experienced and safe rider. According to Norm, his son also once owned an SV and that’s why he wants his son to meet me and see the bike.
As I’m finally preparing to leave, another man comes up. Norm had given me his card. By this time, I know that Norm is just a very smart whacky man who likes black people and doesn’t get enough talk-time with them. He is harmless, funny and highly articulate, abrasive, and as he says, “an arrogant cuss.” If he would cease with all the flirting, which he did somewhat, I wouldn’t mind having a time-limited cup of tea with if I returned to Traverse City. So, I give him my card too, the one that has minimal contract info on it.
This other guy comes to our table and says…”can I have one of those?” He is pointing to my card. I look at him. He looks about as crazy as Norm did a few hours ago, but he’s an unknown nut.
I say, “what?” He repeats himself. I am looking at this man with the curly brown hair hidden underneath a yellow cap. He is dressed like an LL Bean model—only pudgy--rugged, outdoorsy type. I say, “Why do you want my card.” He looks at me as if I’ve said something horrible about his mother. He pushes his head back, cocks it to the side and gives me a look of disbelief. “Because I like the tone of your voice.” Now I know he’s mental. There is no affect in his voice, very monotone. In a firm, stern voice, Norm says, “who are you and why are you asking for her card?” The guy looks at Norm as if to say, “from what planet have you just fallen?” He tells Norm, “You have it, why can’t I ask for it?”
My heavens, two crazy men fighting over me!? Never in life has this happened or if I’m lucky—ever will again. I let the men verbally duke it out. I'm convinced now that they both are slightly crazy and recognize it in each other. Norm says, “Well, I know her. I think it’s rather forward and odd for you to ask for it.” To which the guy replies, “Well it’s a free country right, why can’t I ask for it”? Norm: “because you look odd, it’s just a strange request to make of a woman when you don’t know her. Sorry, guy…it’s just strange and I wouldn’t give a strange man my card either. Now if this isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is. Norm has a point, but I can't believe my ears. Just three hours ago, he was this guy to me!
The guy looked pleadingly at me. I say, “I’m sorry, I’m just not comfortable with it, I choose not to give you my card.” The guy said, “okay” as if no big deal and left. I couldn’t help wondering and imagining all sorts of devious things, this person might want my card for. Ugh! (Never leave home without that switchblade again!) Norm had been dissing Chicago about its crime…but here I was about ready to change, single-handedly the crime stats in Traverse City if one of these two men got out of hand,
Norm insisted on walking me to my bike, which he admired and told another series of stories. My bike had been parked in a spot alone. Now it was keeping company with a HD on each side. Norm dissed the HDs and said these particular bikes were for “just riding up and down the street so people could look at them.” Another HD sat across the street. All three bikes had those beanie helmets resting on the mirror. Everything on the bikes shined.
Norm said, “Will you promise to send me a picture of you and the bike.” I promised. “My son would love to see this bike...Wait ‘til I tell him about you.”
Norm was entertaining and looking at it closely, I would say he could be charming. Now I’ve met a few locals and a few locos all at the same time.
Friday, August 25
Assignment: Get a MI map. Find Manistee. Locate that small section of US Highway 31. Follow it to State Highway 22 heading north. Take this north until you can’t go north any more. You’ll be in Northport Point. By this time, if you haven’t already, you will think that you’ve died and gone to motorcycle heaven!
This is the most beautiful stretch of road I’ve seen—and I’ve now seen many. It is topped only by having to take 22 back south because you can’t go anywhere else--you get to experience the other side of Grand Traverse Bay, where you’ll pass through picturesque hamlets like Peshawbestown and Suttons Bay. Going north, you’ll come to the most quaint towns, like Onekama, Arcadia and Elberta, places that will remind you of Mayberry, places where shop keepers place swings and wooden benches out front to encourage sitting and hanging around. And that’s where you’ll find people, sitting, chatting, and eating ice cream. Now, these folks may be tourists for all I know, but they convey many Norman Rockwellian messages about life in these regions. Driving along the local streets, confirms my observation, life here sure is quaint-looking and appealing—even if momentarily.
The downtowns are typically old, some buildings look downright ancient, but in the mix are new cabin-type structures, creatively painted and decorated. Lots of “unique” jewelry and dress shops and more art galleries than seems probable for the population size. Maybe living in the midst of nature’s beauty, being smack on the lake, being able to breath in all fresh air, brings out artistic qualities?
But it is the roads that strike me most. Prior to coming, I had hoped to take many pictures. Wondered how I’d handle the desire to ride versus picture-taking. But this no longer is an issue. Hands down, the roads win! I frequently want to stop in these towns, but for reasons that are too long to share here, I often do not. A huge part of it is the desire to keep riding on these amazing roads. Yeah, I know I’m not getting to meet the town’s people…oh, well. My lost.
Not only is highway 22 scenic, as my Rand McNally indicates with little green dots, (it is also the road that Murphy praises), it is a motorcyclist’s dream for terrain variation. (Often I wish I was on a dual sport here). I have come upon roads that screamed my name only to learn that it is a mix of sand and dirt and gravel. My bike loves a challenge, but she’s not crazy! Still, we’ve had our tons of fun. Highway 22 provides curves, squigglies (my new word for beyond twisty), climbs and descents like I’ve never experienced before. It’s more than the diversity of the road, I’m rambling about. I’m referring to the sheer beauty, the challenge, the serenity of these roads—and all that stuff motorcyclists talk about.
Rare is a straight road that goes on for long. The glaciers through here gazillion of years ago have carved out an unimaginable, wonderful landscape that is felt on a motorcycle unlike you’d feel in a car. This area is not entirely unfamiliar to me. I’ve traveled around Traverse City a lot and Gaylord MI before in a car. But I don’t remember this feeling. I don’t remember feeling connected to the road. I remember the initial glee of starting a trip. Then I recall feeling confined and bored in the car and knowing me, did my share of internal whining about it. I remember a great trip to Interlochen MI, the home of the famed arts high school and one of the nation’s premiere summer music camps, with a fab summer concert series, with the likes of Ramsey Lewis and YoYo Ma. I remember feeling that the trip took forever. The difference, I think is, you ride in a car. It is minimally physical—even driving a stick shift. You ride on a motorcycle. It is maximally physical. You feel it from head to toe. The decisions one makes in a car are important yet more subtle. Almost every decision—if not all--you make on the bike are huge because the consequences are huge. I am praying that I make good decisions for the duration of this trip (and afterwards, of course) Ok, I’m rambling—but I did lose a long post this morning…and writing this one is helping me recover that lost. Still, that’s not an excuse to keep rambling. It’s also raining outside and dark and cold…
The norm here (if there is one) is the extremes of non-straight roads—the twists run the gamut. I’m used to the ho-hum “S” curve. And until this trip, I was thrilled to have these. But here, there are diamond-shaped yellow signs, the ones that tell you what shape the road is in ahead, that I’ve never seem before and never in this abundance. If you have any hesitation about leaning, come here. You’ll get over that fast. Some say, loud pipes save lives—let me tell you, leaning along these roads will save your life. It’s amazing what you’ll do when you must.
The fun of these roads, especially highway 22 is that you lean, and you lean and you lean some more. You lean one way, then the other. And the skills will kick in—if you’re lucky. Anal-retentive practicing works! Not only have I don’t more U-turns here than I’ve ever done before, I’ve had to talk myself through some of these curves—at least initially. Outside entry, find the delayed apex, lean, and roll on the throttle to exit. But you never really exit here. These sweeping curves grow tight, and then you encounter some sharpies that go on and on—never a dull moment! Empty your bladder when you fill up with gas. Talk about learning throttle control—I’m learning to enter and execute without much brake use at all. SEE (See/Evaluate/Execute) works! When MI recommends reducing speed to whatever (it ranges) before entering an upcoming curve: REDUCE SPEED! These people are not playing around.
Many of the curves are sweeping, which makes looking into them easy, but some are so winding, so banked, so unfamiliar to me that I have to concentrate with everything I have (this does not detract from the thrill, mind you).
Only once on Thursday was I spooked. There was a long ascending climb—with curves. Yes, I’m aware that this pales in comparison to CO or VT, but compared to Chicago?—that’s my reference point. Still, these road will challenge, I believe, a seasoned rider. My bike has never had to pull this much this often… and I am happy to report that we liked it. Once I made the climb, right at the peek, the road curved but it angled downward. Whoa-Nelly! Crapola! I had just been pulling fast and hard to get up there and now “they” want me to slow down to go down?! Let me just say, I got loudly prayerful! My instinct was to grab the front brake but as Jerry says in the “Ride Like a Pro”—“your instinct are wrong.” Front brake without the tires straight is a great way to end it all. I very lightly used the back brake as I tried to straighten up the bike a little—I think that’s what I did. I think I let off the throttle a little too—I don’t really know. But I leaned and enjoyed the ride down. Believe it or not, I also relaxed.
The descent was a winding curve, I swear I felt like I was leaned enough to need those knee pucks (don’t know if that’s what they are called). I have never leaned that far before. Never. I would never voluntarily seek opportunities to lean that far. But when roads make you lean, you either lean or find out what it’s like to fly through the air or ride off into the waiting arms of some pretty hugemongus trees. I have no death wish. I leaned! The fun is in doing it and knowing that you can now do it comfortably. Remember, Sharon, leaning is your friend; the throttle is your friend too. I get this clearer now than ever before.
I can honestly now say I have slept with David Hough. That’s right. I brought him along on the trip and we’ve snuggled together each night. (Sidebar: David Hough to family/friends reading this, is the author of one of the best motorcycle skill’s book ever (Proficient Motorcycling. Ok, I only brought the book).
Motorcyclists, without much encouragement will talk about Deal’s Gap (DG). Even non-motorcyclists will ask a ‘cyclists, “have you ever done DG?” Many will make a pilgrimage to TN at some point. Tons of lore and lure about the place. DISCLAIMER: I have never been to the wailing road. Therefore, I might not know what I’m talking about. But that will not cease me from saying this here and now. Deal’s Gap has NOTHING on highway 22! There, it’s out there. Somebody prove me wrong! And yes, I’m going to go to DG to test my claim. Until this trip. I had no desire to go to DG. None. But as my grandfather would say, “Lord willing” I’m going there next summer!
Here are the facts. DG has 318 curves in 11 miles. Perhaps DG is especially twisty; perhaps DG provides advanced skills and challenges so that making a mistake will surely do you in. Highway 22 is more than 10 times the length of DG! Believe it! Size really does matter! Twists? There are few words to describe the variety of thrills riding along 22. You have to be far more attentive than 11 miles worth.
I’m not trying to elevate highway 22 or derogate DG. I think I’m calling for a new Mecca! One of the beautiful things about this trip so far—and I know I keep mentioning this—is the relative isolation on the roads. At times, I rode many miles without seeing more than a couple of cars! Some were locals who would eventually turn into a driveway. I saw a few bicyclists, a few motorcyclists, but I was alone much of the time.
I know I’ve missed many photo ops. I had wondered how I’d manage this…riding over shutter-bugging. However, I just couldn’t help it. I’d be in route to finding a lighthouse, only to discover a road I’d read about and end up—to my great joy-- taking that. Fifteen miles later, I had long forgotten the lighthouse and only wanted to bask in the euphoria (after glow?) from just having experienced another magnificent ride. Is this what some people feel like when they want a cigarette after having…well, you know… not being a smoker…I don’t know.
At Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore visitor’s center, I met a husband-wife on a huge HD—I think it’s the one advertised as HD’s tourer. As I pulled in next to them, they were munching on gorp-like stuff. The man said, “How do you like that little thing.” He went on to say, “must be fun.” I professed my love for the bike. They too were doing the LMCT, only they were going in the opposite direction. They started from their home in Minnesota and were coming down the south along the MI shore. They would then head east through the Gary, IN area and head up north through Chicago. The wife said, “how do you like leaning on that.” She wasn’t referring to the fun leans. She was looking at the tank area. I told her I didn’t lean and I wasn’t the lean-on-your-tank type (I don’t know what all I meant by that). Her husband and I sort of explained naked bike to her. She seemed delighted and approved, almost as if she thought a little higher of me. She smiled and said, “I just don’t know how they ride like that. I don’t think they ride very long on those things, all leaned over...” Her husband told her that some of them do ride long distances. We concluded that “young” bones are probably the key to riding leaned over for long trips.
Totally missed a photo op of them. They were so cute and old school. They were dressed in matching black leathers (head to toe) with hi-gloss black helmets with no face shield (talk about “how one does something—that I’d like to know”) and equipped with helmet microphones connecting their communication systems. Dumb of me not to take their picture—or have them take mine. When you’re tired, you don’t think well or fast and I had about seventy-five miles left to do before I could stop for the day. Before leaving, they warned me about traffic in Traverse City.
I guess it’s all a matter of one’s reference point. I got to Traverse City and wondered where all the traffic was. I waited. And waited. Then it dawned on me. It’s about reference point. To them, this was probably a lot of traffic. To me it was…well…nothing! Now, however, I understand when people, seasoned riders even, say that they would never ride downtown Chicago. It makes them nervous, crazy, mad, and frustrated by all the traffic. We do what we have to do. Traverse City traffic is, from my point of reference, nothing to write home about.
I also had a maudlin moment Thursday. On one particularly long stretch of road, after seeing signs welcoming young people to summer camp, I thought of all the kids I know who reside in the inner city, who would benefit from summer camp, to experience the quiet, peaceful serenity here. Just the chance to silence some of the daily assault of hyper frenetic living that is a part of urban life. It would do some of the kids a world of good to reset their internal clocks to some less hectic pace. Being away in places like this is food for the spirit—maybe that’s why I’m missing breakfast and lunch everyday—I’m full from the riding, lake viewing and the overabundance of endorphines coursing through my veins. However, I don’t think I could ever live in places like these—and it’s not just the lack of racial/ethnic diversity that might get to me—it would be the relentless lure of these roads that would do me in. I’d never get a thing done! No matter the season. Summer=riding and reading by the water. Winter=cross-country skiing and reading by a fire.Too many temptations NOT to do a thing here other than have fun.
BTW, I’ve found the value in the MSR bottles. The peace of mind alone, knowing that I’m carrying my own fuel really helps to enjoy these seemingly never-ending roads. I’m told that US Highway 2 is going to be even more remote. I’m ready for it. The blog might cease until I’m out of these areas.
One last thing. I had an encounter…nothing major.
I’ve had to learn a lot about parking here. The glaciers that moved through here gazillion of years ago and have carved out these amazing terrain, makes for interesting parking situatoins. Flat parking is not always around. I have never entered a casino in my life but wanted to visit one that a Native American governmental organization told me had Native artifacts on display. Honest. I parked on a decline—had to. When leaving, I couldn’t back the bike out and I couldn’t ride forward or turn the tire to drive off on either side. I tried pulling the bike, (it was in neutral) and it didn’t work. Dismounted the bike and tried pulling backwards. The luggage made it heavy and it only budged a little. The rear tire was stuck in a deep dip. I couldn’t get the bike over/through it. A guy in a Hummer was waiting for the parking spot (wonder if he got that with his winnings?). I pulled, pushed, and tried to walk backwards both on and off the bike and it wasn’t budging. Hummer guy left, only to be replaced by another car. Inside I’m thinking…so this is how it all ends, crushed by her beloved, fallen, fully loaded bike. She would have survived but was ignored by the gamblers rushing to play Black Jack. She died from internal bleeding…if only someone had gotten her to the hospital on time.
Ok, back to reality.
I’m pushing and then I hear an angry voice, “turn the bike off!” Uh? Or should I say, “duh?” Turn it off? It’s in neutral…but I turn it off nonetheless. I don’t notice any real difference—the bike was still difficult to push, maybe my prior struggling had already gotten the bike nearly over the dip. Eventually, I did extricate the bike and off I went. BTW, I never got to see the Indian artifacts. I was in the process of moving the bike to get to the right casino door I’d been directed to. A very polite man, dressed like a policeman and fluent in policeman lingo said, “Go to door #3 and right inside you’ll see the artifacts…but we discourage the bringing in of helmets and tank bags types of items” After this, and the wrestle with the bike, I left and headed for Traverse City. However, what I saw inside the wrong door of the casino, did made me think of ancient ruins—read between those lines.
p.s. Thursday night, I slept in the lap of luxury compared to Wednesday night! Of course, I’m paying more than twice as much for the privilege. Who am I to complain?!
Thursday, August 24
Glad I took pictures today--thought about skipping them. The ride was so spectacular that I did not want to stop for any reason. I stopped for gas only, didn't consume a meal until dinner time. I have got to remember to eat. Thank goodness for gorp or I'd starve out here.
There are no superlatives, no language even, to describe the roads here. I will, however, try later tonight. I am tired in a very good way. The lack of real sleep last night is taking me over
Despite being tired, I couldn't fall asleep. The ast time I checked the clock, it was after 3:30 a.m.. I woke up around 6:20 a.m. with more than a few aches from sleeping fetal position in one spot, in one of the dips. I had removed the quilt and blankets so they couldn't touch me. Still, I slept in my clothes. The shower? Definitely Bates Motel scary and the rubber mat is totally funky. I could remove it to take a shower but don't want to know what is underneath. It is a sink bath for me today. Glad I packed a set of towels, for the ones here are dingy; I held up to the light one of the two they provide and could see faint stains embedded in the cloth. I'm not a prima Donna but this place would even disturb the Charlie Brown character "Pig Pen."
But I made it through the night--didn't even freak when I found a hair in the bed this morning. No, judging from the color and texture, it isn't mine.
Heading out now but NOT soon enough.
By the way, it is exhausting riding 6 to 7 hours on consecutive days, stopping only to snap pictures, use the bathroom and get a drink. I'm not complaining...as it also happens to be tons of fun and an excellent way to connect with others. Lots of people, mostly men, have stopped me to talk "bike" stuff.
An adorable boy, who looked to be all of ten, stepped from a restaurant and looked at the bike and said, "is that your bike?" I answered. "Sweet," he responded. I thanked him and told him I thought so too. He continued to eye the bike, and said, "real sweet" as he walked away nodding his head at the bike.
A mother and her three little girls were unloading their stuff for a day at the beach. The mother said, "girls see the lady on the cool bike." One of the girls, who looked to be about seven said, "she's got really cool hair."
A father brought over his three-year old daugher to look at the bike. Mom stayed in the back ground while the dad yelled back the answers to the questions he asked me, where are you from, where are you going, is that a 600cc, etc. Finally, he asked his daughter if she wanted to ride a bike like mine. The little girl said, "yes." Then she asked me, "are you going to ride that?" I told her I would soon as I determined where I was going. At that, she giggled hard. The father asked his wife, ..."Isn't this *the* way to travel? Mom look unimpressed. He said he has a bike. The wife was walking over and heard him. She said, "All I do with the bike is push it out of my way...It's always in my way." Somehow I don't think she'll be traveling on a motorcycle.
My count today was 12 men, one woman and three little girls making connections via the bike.
Wednesday, August 23
Day 2--Rambling thoughts on todays jaunt--too tired for close editing, apologies...
The weather today? Perfect. Low 70s, sunny, some clouds and talk of rain but in the morning, this talk seems foolish. Got another late start—still recuperating from a couple of sleepless nights last week. Then I remembered—this is my vacation. I can do what I want. Left the hotel around 9ish. Michigan has 116 lighthouses. Today I was determined to find three. Ended up only finding two, the White River Light Station in Whitehall, MI, and the Little Sable Point Lighthouse, near Silver Lake and surrounded by sand dunes—really neat!
Following William Murphy’s book takes all the guesswork out of where to find the best roads. If I stayed on Highway 31 and only exited according to the official LMCT map, I’d miss a lot. Murphy knows the mind of a motorcyclist. He puts the rider on some incredible roads, long sweeping curves, mixed with tight snake-like twists that rise and dip in that tummy tickling way. When the speed limit warns to slow down, this woman slows down! Only once did I take a twisty a little too wide. One good thing about Murphy’s roads is their relative isolation. One can go for 8 miles and not see a car, which can also be a little spooky. My mind wanders at such times and I cannot help thinking up the most morbid things, like some half man, half moose jumping out at me and being able to run lightening fast to catch me and make me his love thingy!
A glance to the left of these shoreline roads (that’s all you can manage or these curvy roads will catch you by surprise. Here, you see the lake in all its glory…boats, swimmers, tons of water activity. Oceans have nothing on Lake Michigan!
Lessons: Do not second-guess your map or the GPS. I did a couple of times and regretted it. I got seriously lost, or so I thought, outside of Muskegon. Therefore, I kept turning around and wandering off in other directions. None of this was bothersome as the roads were all great. Actually, I wasn’t as lost as I thought. I kept distrusting the map, Murphy and the GPS. Not sure why. Fact is, I was simply not patient enough. I’m not accustomed to riding roads that go on forever and a day without some idea, some clue that I’m heading in the right direction. A GPS not mounted on the bike is soon forgotten. I made some unnecessary stops to consult it and learned that I was usually heading in the right direction. Again, the second guessing detours were all fun. I’m not complaining. But, I am thinking of mounting the GPS on the bike tomorrow with duct tape!
That perfect weather from the morning turned ugly mid-afternoon. The sky grayed, opened and rained bullets! I wore the FG jacket and pants. They passed the rain/waterproof test. Therefore, I kept riding in that pelting rain. I mean it RAINED—I ignored the 30-minute rule because there was no place to seek shelter, no shoulder to pull of on, nothing in the immediate vicinity. I kept wiping off my helmet with my left hand. I bought yellow rubber kitchen gloves to go over my gloves in case of rain, but I don’t want to stop and dig them out.
The roads looked slippery-slick! The back roads eventually turned to the big highway and I got on. Rain assaults are one thing. Mack trucks passing you at 70+ mph is quite another. I was doing a bit more than 60 and everyone was sailing past me. I was wet on the outside, my jaw hurt from the clinching I was doing but the little blue one kept purring. Finally, a sign saying a rest stop was one mile ahead. I exited and waited out the storm. Not one person at the rest stop. I covered the bike with the Nelson-Rigg cover and sought shelter in the brick hut rest stop. My gear was sopping wet, my boots (glad I didn’t wear the Harley Davidson boots, as I don’t think they are waterproof) were wet but my feet were dry. Totally forgot to put the raincoats on the luggage—each piece came with its own rain jackets. My stuff might be wet after all this.
While waiting out the storm I called a friend. We chatted for about 5 minutes before phone troubles disconnected us twice. The whole storm took about 45 minutes, of which I rode about 30. I had to make it to Manistee, where I had made hotel reservations at the Roadway Inn. According to the rest stop map, I had another 40 miles to go…wishing I had made them for Ludington, which is south of Manistee. While in the rest stop hut, I realized that I had spent far too much time trying to see everything and didn’t make a lot of northward progress today. That’s the rub…I want to cover a lot of ground, but I also want to see many sights. The two are inversely related. When one goes up, the other goes down and vise verse.
The sky brightened after 15 minutes of waiting--or so it seemed. I resumed my northward ride on the big, nonscenic highway only to learn that the rain was north of the rest stop so I ran into more of it. Fortunately, it wasn’t much. Soon the rain stopped and she sun revealed itself.
I resisted the temptation to get off the highway to take one of the always-fun back roads heading north. To arrive in Manistee before dark, I needed to get moving. I was looking forward to getting out of wet clothes.
The weather warmed considerably making it again ideal riding conditions. The hurry to get to the hotel was temporarily delayed when I realized that I hadn’t eaten all day and was ravenous. Stopped at Big Boy in Manistee and had a tuna sandwich. I asked for seating where I could watch the bike. I should have taken a picture as proof that I can now pack the bike as it rests on the side stand and compensate for that lean with a perfectly symmetrical arrangement. Still I check the luggage occasionally to make sure the right side saddle bags have not slipped dangerously toward the exhaust. So far, thumbs up on the luggage.
The hotel. I pass it, but realize that I’m about to head out of town so I must have missed the hotel. I know it’s something like Red Roof or Road In, or something. I stop at a place I hope is not the hotel. A man sitting at the window on the second floor looks down at me. He tells me where the office is. I ask him if this hotel is affiliated with the Comfort Inn. He doesn’t know. He only recently arrived in town. He is bare chest. He reminds me of Hoss from the TV western Bonanza. I ride around to registration. It is the hotel that I have made a reservation for the night. I’m hoping the inside looks better than the outside. I think for a minute about the benefits of canceling; but I am exhausted—how bad could it be? \. I’m on the first floor and can park the bike outside my window. Next door is the owner of a white Harley Davidson. Someone looks out from that window.
I open the door to #111. I am struck by a rather pungent smell. Not good. Dang! I forgot to bring Lysol and air freshener. The bed dips at its two longest sides, signaling the spots on which guest prefer to sleep. The middle of the bed is raised as if never slept on. I see a spider’s web in the corner, near the outlet beneath the desk I’d like to use for writing tonight. I opt instead for the outlet near the bed but cringe at the thought of sitting on this malformed questionably clean bed.
The familiarity of the smell hits me as I near the sink, which is outside the bathroom. It is a combination of urine with a faint smell of cigarette smoke (this is a nonsmoking room) that is all masked with some cleaning solution that evidently doesn’t work. It’s the kind of place that if your shoelaces touch the floor you want to throw them out and get new ones.
Ordinarily, I would complain but that might launch a search, in vain, for another hotel. From the looks of things, it would take a bulldozer to make improvements around here. It’s just one night I tell myself — at least, there is a roof overhead. I decide to sleep in my clothes, quick shower in the morning, avoid the complimentary breakfast and get out of Dodge at dawn. Murphy promises more squiggly roads up north.
Well, from the previous post, I guess I didn't just dream I posted something last night--way too tired to remember much of what I said so forgive nonesense.
A few photos to share. Notice the cock-eyed luggage! This is what happens when you can't use your center stand and your brain can't seem to compensate by loading on a slant.
Tuesday, August 22
I left Chicago late. Forty-eight hours late to be exact! To make a very long story short, let's just say that my enthusiasm for the trip created too much personal excitement and it prevented me from sleeping. I did not sleep Sunday night at all, which ruined my plans for leaving first thing Monday morning. In fact, I finally collapsed Monday around 6 a.m. and slept until 11 a.m. Fortunately, I remained sleepy the entire day, which made getting sufficient sleep Monday night for a Tuesday morning departure real easy. So, I left 5:45 a.m. Tuesday.
The ride: Getting out of Chicago wasn't bad. Because of traffic, William Murphy in Motorcycling Across Michigan, recommends avoiding the Chicago to Milwaukee leg of the LMCT, as well as the Gary to Chicago route altogether. He starts his tour in either Milwaukee and ferry to Muskegon; or, in Ludington, MI and ferry to Manitowoc, WI. I found the traffic manageable, just a bit heavy around the industrial regions of south-east Chicago and Gary but still not bad enough to avoid these areas. In fact, I highly recommend them because they show the dramatic contrast in populations once one gets into the more suburban/rural areas. I also think these regions add interesting character to the trip. Do not avoid these areas.
I took Rt 41 (Chicago's Lake Shore Drive) south as far as I could and picked up highway 12/20, until I could get Interstate highway 31, which is also I-196. Didn't like this much. Why the official route puts you on the Interstate more than necessary is beyond me. I guess if you want to save time...but it's a circle around the lake for heaven's sake-- get thee to the lake!
I forgot that the speed limit in MI is 70 (as oposed to Chicago's 55) which of course means that people are flying at 80 or more. I was doing my usual 60 on the Interstate, only to be reminded that I was going way too slow by trucks sitting on top of my luggage! Even though taking the Interstate is part of the official LMCT route, so far, this has not been ideal for me. I followed part of it just to see...This would be downright boring were it not for the lush greenery along the road and the long stretches when very few cars are present. To avoid boredom, the best thing to do is get off the Interstate and follow roads that parallel highway 31 on the west. They have names like Shore Drive, Lakeshore Drive or Road. These roads are hard to find on a paper map but they are definitely worth searching out.
For an extended period of time, I road the Red Arrow Highway, very nice road, spacious, some curves and fun.
One highlight today was stopping at the state parks and beach front communities. I stopped at one dunes area visitors' center and talked to a nice elderly woman who gave me information on all the circle tours. As I was leaving, a man on a huge Goldwing (I know that's redundant) was getting off his bike. He waved. I waved back. He came over and extended his hand, "Hi, I'm Biker Bob from Beaumont, TX." He told me that he'd been riding his bike since July. He was completing the IRB National Parks program--twenty five state parks, and/or historical markers(?) in twenty five states in one year. He had just come back from Chicago and needed only a few states to finish. Biker Bob complimented Queenie..."got cha self a cute one there, uh?" He liked the luggage too, speaking of which..it .is holding up, no sitting on the exhaust. Of course, I do have an extra bungee cord helping to prevent that from happening.
Oval Beach in Saugatuck, MI is worth seeing; however, to me it was the snake-slithering roads getting there that was the real fun. In visits to two state beach areas, the guards allowed me to drive through without paying. Motorcycles do not like sand--even a little! I knew this but experiencing it firsthand put the exclamation point after that. Many of the beach roads, while mostly clear, have a layer of sand consistently blowing across it. Even a thin layer is enough to compromise traction.
I missed four lighthouses! I will encounter enough starting tomorrow to make up for this, but I hate I missed the others. I'll have to catch them next time, as I think, so far, that I'll want to do this tour again.
Hadn't made any hotel reservations since I didn't know how far I would ride. I had hoped to make it to Ludington, MI, which is approximately 60 miles north and would better my daily goal of 250 miles by 10. I thought about pushing ahead but was hungry, tired and beginning to wander mentally. Found a nice, too pricey hotel near US 31. Those campgrounds I passed looked nice, but right now, I need a real bed.
Overall, the ride today was well within my skill level. Lots of sweeping as well as tight curves. Many exit ramps warned of tight upside down U-shaped curves. I've not encountered such ramps in Chicago.--not like these. Keyword: SLOW. Decreasing speed seems to make most things more manageable.
Heading for Traverse City tomorrow. Don't know if I'll actually park it there for the day--so much to see along the way.
Signing off and exhausted...in a good way--later
Saturday, August 19
A mini-laptop, a GPS, a Kubaton, a wanna-be-machete, and a handheld PC--what more could a woman ask?
Mace? I forgot to get mace! (note to self: get some today!--do not leave home without it!)
More than 20 years ago, I owned a fishwhacker. It was a minature baseball bat approximately 12 inches long, in which the center had been hollowed out and lead or something like that had been pour in to fill the hole. It was heavy with a nice solid feel when slapping it against your palm. I remember the little promotional insert that came with it, which read: "For whacking fish and other onery characters." Now, I'd never harm a fish with it but I was ready to whack any two-legged creatures who bothered this peace-loving woman. Talk about a weapon of mass destruction! That little fishwhacker could do some serious damage if called into action.
I don't know how I lost it but I did. I've had many opportunities over the years to miss my fishwhacker. I've tried to replace it on occasion with some facsimile to no avail. So, I've moved on to other security measures that I hope I'm never forced to use.
Now this would be a deterrant--can you image that being mounted on the SV's handlebars?
This is a test from my very own emergency broadcast system.
This message is being sent from my wireless handheld.
Am I really going to be able blog from this thing while on the road?
Or, am I going to end up taking the laptop?
Technology--don't you just love it?
Thursday, August 17
Price doesn't seem to matter as I've gone from expensive to cheap. Recently bought a moderately priced set at a drug store. Like the others, these rubbery ear cones looked like I'd finally found something that might work. These pliable, silicone, disposal doohickies could be rolled small enough (no creases, please) to fit into my microscopic ear canals. Yes!
I followed instructions, held the cones in until they were really in there. They slipped in perfectly. I held them there longer than suggested--because I know my ears. They'd spit these things out as fast as I can take my fingers away. This is where things usually fall apart. These unwelcoming ears need time to accept outsiders.
I released my finger from each ear, nothing... Yes! Then just as I started to breathe, I felt one ear canal squeezing the little bud. I hurriedly put on my helmet and waited...Oh, about a hot minute before I felt that ear muscle out the bud entirely. Both ears closed shop and ejected the foreign intruders! Patooie! --totally spitting them out! I felt one bud thud inside the ear socket of my helmet.
Mean-spirited ears that want me to go deaf for all those times I've stuck Q-tips inside them!
So the results of this newest test didn't really surprise me. I have neither the time nor the $$$ to find an audiologist to be fitted with custom-made ear plugs.
Hmm...Maybe that duct tape everyone tells me to take, will finally serve a very useful purpose!
Bike security... An article I read said think: "layers." A lock is one layer; add to that a lock with an audible alarm, chain it to a stationary object, garage it at all times...if outside, use a motorcycle cover. These layers do not prevent thief but it might dissuade some amateur. The more layers, the more time needed to pilfer a bike. A professional, hellbent of filching, will find a way to quickly haul away the booty. I just don't want to make it easy for 'em.
I have an audible disc lock and always garage the bike. But day trips mean having to leave the bike on the street, in places where I can't always watch it. Solution? Lug my gear with me, which makes exploring on foot after I've reached my destination, exhausting .
Better solution? Cable my stuff to the bike and shroud it under a motorcycle cover. These covers look bulky but I'm told they fold down well and transported easily. Called newenough.com and talked to Nate, one of the owners. It dawned on me that a half cover might not be large enough to cover the luggage and my gear. But an X-large might. I wondered if buying the X-large half cover would work. Nate and I went back and forth on the pros and cons. Eventually Nate volunteered to call Nelson-Rigg (N-R). N-R recommended the X-large but cautioned that the cover still might not cover the mound. The reason: the bottom part of the saddlebags might be too wide and too low for even an X-large half cover. Later, the cover sans the luggage and gear will be an ill-fitting potential sail, defeating the whole security thing. Solution? Get the X-large half cover. Use the rain covers that come with N-R luggage to cover the exposed saddlebags if necessary. On the rare occasions when the cover might be used without the luggage, anchor it to the bike with a cable or two. Tacky sounding, I know, but in a pinch you do what you gotta do.
Best solution? Next time: Givi hard luggage!! Lock it up and forgettaboutit!
Now that I'm down to the wire, I know this to be true: the jacket I wanted to take, I cannot because it clips the helmet when I turn my head. I could take its sister jacket but it's leather/textile, which would necessitate having to tote rain gear. The jacket I'm now forced to take was once my favorite and is the most practical. This "system," multi-purpose weather jacket is great for hot, cold and in-between weather. The Kilimanjaro is fully padded, sports enough deep pockets to carry additional luggage, which is both good and bad, has a removable fleece jacket, and windbreaker and is waterproof--no need to carry rain gear. Matching pants zip into the back of the jacket, creating a sharp touring outfit. But the jacket is puffy and makes me look like the character "Fat Albert." Photo NOT forthcoming!