I am in Muskegon, MI. Exhausted from pushing through a strong headwind that failed to detract from the thrill of riding squiggly, tree-lined roads found in abundance on the back roads along the lakeshore.
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