Friday, August 17

Approximately 2300 miles and 440 pictures

I left Escanaba before 9am Thursday; I arrived home a little past 4pm happily tired after having ridden mostly straight through--with the exception of a yoghurt break, quick lunch and bathroom stops. The day before, I had hoped to ride home from Houghton/Hancock after visiting the Copper Harbor area but when it started to get late, I remembered the deer I saw more than a week prior around this same time that spooked me as I was making tracks to Marquette, MI. I had wanted to see how much seat time I could put in if the ride home had started from Houghton/Hancock. It’s good I didn’t test it and spent the night in Escanaba. By Wednesday’s end, I was exhausted and I don't recall when sleep arrived.

For lots of reasons—the subject of some future blogs—this was a magnificent trip. I hurt no one and didn’t hurt myself. The weather is a winner here (although one person’s win is sometimes another’s lost). The only rain I encountered occurred upon leaving Chicago on August 5th. It delayed my start and reared its head in a few spots along the route to Marquette, my official start point for circumnavigating Lake Superior. The rain, however, was never enough to worry about. In Canada, the weather couldn’t have been more ideal. Cool mornings, seventies in the afternoon, and beautiful evenings. No complaints in the UP--MI area either. My good fortune meant more suffering for the UP area. Chronic arid conditions hurt the environment and increase fire dangers--to mention a couple of things. I recall saying to someone in the Upper Peninsula that “I’ve been lucky, I’ve had great weather…” and the person smiling back and remarking, “But we’re hurting up here—we’ve not had much rain—we really need it.” Much deserved reality check.

Everywhere I rode, I saw Smokey the Bear signs indicating the “Very High” potential for fire. Although I heard that the origin of the fire near Newberry was probably a lightening strike, the fire’s rapid spread and subsequent lost of over 19,000 acres was possible because of the ongoing droughty conditions.

Anyone and I do mean anyone—regardless of vehicle preference—ought to get to Copper Harbor and in route, take some of the side trips too. First, getting to Copper Harbor was a great ride, beautiful, newly paved (in parts) and just heavenly. I must add that getting to Copper Harbor was downright cold and gusty. The ride became colder and more blustery the higher the elevation. This, however, is soon forgotten as one motors through the tree lined, squiggly, curvy roads that never end. The Copper Harbor town is replete with trendy shops, many of which feature the artistic treasure of local artists. I had a nice meal at the Mariner’s, across the street from the Visitors’ Center where one can spend a good chunk of time reading about the history of the area. I talked to the owner of Swedes, a shop on the harbor and learned a few things about this family’s history with the store and in the Cooper Harbor area.

The Brockway Mountain Drive has been written about many times. Tell a motorcyclists that you'll be in the area and Brockway Mountain Drive is the "must-do" that is always strongly recommended. Now that I’ve experienced it, I see why. It’s indescribably resplendent. I’d probably enjoy it in a car too but would miss all the sensory experiences that come with being on two wheels. On a bike, however, there is an added challenge to this northerly trek. The scenery is so compelling that if you don’t watch the road you can get yourself in trouble. Not only is the road up narrow, the people coming down as you go up are watching the views too. Thus, no one is really observing the road that closely. On a couple of ascents, I was surprised to find a car coming down that was way over to my side, which thereafter made me hug my outside edge. In spots, the road is rather bumpy, which adds to your need to pay attention. Alas, it’s just not possible to give full attention to the road, in my humble opinion. I suffered near whiplash looking to my left as I climbed up and this is exactly why one should do the mountain drive more than once. Some locals recommend going up and down the same way, via M26. Then go up again, by taking the Lakeshore side up. Doing so broadens your perspective greatly and you end up seeing things you didn’t on the other trips.

I wasn’t satisfied with the designated pullouts for viewing; I wanted to see it all. It’s breath-taking and I don’t believe it is captured well in pictures because depth is collapsed and one doesn’t get to breath in all that luscious air or feel the incredibly expanse of space there. I really did feel on top of the world as I looked out from the mountain, over all that greenery, water, and treetops that took thousands of years and environmental transformation to create. The mountaintop would be a wonderful spot for sunrises and sunsets. Now, I too have been to the mountaintop.
The trip to Aerostich next...