Tuesday, August 29


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Not home yet...but getting there--sadly...

Dispatches from Green Bay WI: Got lost here but the detour was actually fun as it gave me time to tour the area. They love those Packers, eh?

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.