Saturday, August 26

Rain, rain, go away...

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.

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