A Winter Morning

For some reason, my affection for winter has been lacking considerably this year. I think it’s part pandemic fatigue, part work stress and some other things that have been weighing on me. But Sunday morning I decided I was going to get out for a bit. I have some favorite stretches of back road that I enjoy riding/driving, so I fired up the Jeep and went out for a bit. I stopped in a couple of places for pictures, but was discouraged from doing much walking around by the single digit wind chills. I wanted a couple of new pictures for the site, so I used one of these for the banner. It was a beautiful (looking) morning, and judging by the fresh tracks in the snow, I wasn’t the only one who thought so.

I hope everyone gets out and enjoys the winter days, even if they are a bit cold. I know it’s tough sometimes, but it’s worth it. And if you live somewhere warm, I do slightly envy you.

The Long Way UP MI v2.0 – the Eastern UP

If you read the posts about my first trip to the UP it was with my longtime friend Ulysses, and at least part of our ride involved some of the scenic coast of the lower peninsula. This time we had a third rider and we decided to focus mostly on things in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. If you’re not familiar, Michigan is essentially two land-masses separated by the straits that join Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. There’s a bridge across the straits, and it is one of the longest suspension bridges in the country. But more on that later. Our third rider, David, grew up in the northern part of the lower peninsula and spent much of his formative years in the UP.

We rode straight up the upper peninsula stopping near Dave’s home town for lunch. After that we toured around the twisty back roads of his youth, enjoying the bikes and the day. In the northern part of our state there are a lot more hills and the back-country roads offered a lot of pleasant riding. Of course it was all narrated by Dave’s recollections of his youth. We even drove by the last home that he lived in, in the area.

After this, we headed north to the Mackinaw bridge, with the goal of staying in Sault St. Marie for the first part of our trip. The ride across the bridge is always interesting, as it’s quite high above the water and often quite windy. But today it was clear and relatively calm. In fact the day was warm and that played a part in the minor misadventure we would experience.

Photo from Wikipedia by Justin Billau

Wikipedia article for the The Mackinaw Bridge

As we descended from the main span of the bridge it quickly became apparent that there was a long wait for the toll booths on the far side of the bridge. Uly and I ride BMW R1200 GS Adventure motorcycles, and they are liquid-cooled. Dave’s R1200 RT however is air/oil cooled and after idling for about 30 minutes in the heat it started act up. There’s a light to alert the rider to high engine temperature and it stayed lit even when he shut it down briefly to cool. By the time we reached the approach lanes for the toll booth (they are at the top of a considerable incline) the bike quit and would not restart. We pushed it to the side and waited for it to cool, which it eventually did.

Once Dave’s bike was back online, we cleared the toll booths and made great time getting to Sault St. Marie. For this leg of the trip, we stayed at the LockView motel, which true to it’s name, has a view of the shipping locks that raise and lower ships between Lake Superior and Lake Huron. We found a local pub for dinner and finished the evening walking around down and the park where you can watch the ships transiting the locks. We rounded out the evening talking about our plans for the eastern part of the peninsula.

The following day found us at breakfast at the diner next to our hotel. After that we made our way to the ferry for Drummond Island. Drummond Island is just across a narrow passage from De Tour, Michigan, and has quite a bit of curvy paved roads that themselves make in an enjoyable ride. The bit that interested Uly and I more, was the unpaved gravel roads and trails. We found ourselves on one rough two-track trail fairly quickly. Dave rode around on the paved roads and waited for us to come out the other end of the trail. Ulysses went down some pretty demanding trail during a ride in the Badlands, but he’s still not fully comfortable off-road riding. To his credit, he engaged eagerly and we set off down the trail. All went well until the last few hundred yards and Uly’s bike went down. He wasn’t hurt and was able to self-recover and join Dave and I in short order. And of course after that, we had to go to lunch. You’ll note so many of the things we do end in a meal.

Waiting for a ferry can be exhausting.

Video: Trail on Drummond Island

The next day we were up and on our way to Tahquamenon Falls. This is one of the most famous and noted attractions in the UP. The ride between the Sault and the state park was scenic enough to be pleasant, and the bikes stretch their legs pretty easily. The winding road that leads to the park is called 123 and it is a very happy series of bends and Northern Michigan scenery. And when we got the falls, there’s also a really pleasant micro-brewery where we (of course) had lunch. After a pleasant meal, we hiked to the upper falls. The temperature was quite warm and we were all in riding gear, so we were all a bit toasty. There were also a lot of bugs. But we still enjoyed the view and we even managed to take a few pictures.

After wrapping up at the falls we headed to the lighthouse at Whitefish Point. This historic site is famous for it’s museum buildings dedicated to the shipwrecks that have occurred down through the years in the approaches to the Sault locks. The Great Lakes have an amazing coastline and this part is no exception.

The ride back to the hotel was equally pleasant over much of the same road and of course another group dinner. If I recall correctly, this was also the evening we indulged in ice cream after dinner, and then a nice stroll through town to walk it off. A fine way to round out the day, and this leg of our trip.

Watching The Long Way Up

Just started watching this. It’s not as good as the first one. But it’s a more realistic depiction of what it would be like to take electric vehicles on an adventure, than I expected. Can’t say I’d try what they’re doing (I wouldn’t have the support in place anyways), but it’s kinda fun to watch. They could have called the series ‘Range Anxiety’, but I know that wouldn’t have been catchy enough.

Initially I was disappointed this series would be on electric motorcycles. I think of electric bikes more along the lines of scooters. I’m kind of wondering how they’ll hold up. I was mildly entertained to see the flatbed truck with the diesel generator and charging station. Not exactly eco-friendly, but this is the reality of electrification. Clean/Renewable energy can’t provide the vast amounts of power needed to make electric vehicles genuinely green (yet). I hope we get there someday. But maybe not too soon, as I adore the rumble of my R1200 GS’s boxer engine. The whine of electric motors seems like it would somehow sterilize the experience.

As a note to those new to my blog (probably anyone reading this!) I started referring to my Upper Michigan adventure rides as The Long Way Up (MI) in homage to the original ‘Long Way Around’ and ‘Long Way Down’ series, before I knew there was going to be a ‘Long Way Up’. from our friends Ewan and Charlie. Look for the posts regarding The LongWay UP MI v2.0 shortly. I have the first few in draft and will post them soon.

#LongWayUPMi

My riding buddy and I have started a tradition of going on a motorcycle road trip each year.  The inaugural journey was a seven-day, 2700 mile road trip from Ann Arbor to the Skyline in Virginia, down to Mississippi and Louisiana, an overnight in New Orleans and then the long ride home.  The pace was pretty stout, over 500 miles per day.  We decided that’s more than either of us wanted to repeat, so this year’s ride was around our home state of Michigan.

WholeTrip

The trip was originally planned as a ride around Lake Michigan.  But Uly had ridden through Chicago on his way back from a long solo trip out west and didn’t want to ride through the city again.  I’m not a fan riding urban environs either, so we modified the plan so we could take the S.S. Badger back across lake Michigan from Manitowoc to Ludington.  I’m really glad we did.  The ride on the Badger was a treat.

We rode some of the most scenic coastal roads in the state, and over the Mackinaw bridge (the first either of us had ridden a motorcycle over the Mack).  An unexpected treat was the M26 along the coast of the UP on Lake Superior.  Riding from Copper Harbor to Eagle river was excellent, even in the waning light.  The video is on Youtube here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y6WQ2u9Aefc&t=186s

I’ll be uploading a few of the videos from the trip, so you can check back in the next couple of days to catch the rest of them.

One of the best things about the ride was spending time with a good friend.  I’m not a big solo rider, even though I understand the desire to get out and get away and spend some quality time getting perspective.  It’s what I often do on the short jaunts, on the bike or in the Jeep, on a quiet country ride.  We all need to unplug.  But adventures are best enjoyed with friends.  Talking on the intercom breaks up the long stretches of road where the scenery isn’t engaging and helps keep the focus on the road.  There were plenty of potholes and gnarly sections of road that challenged us, not to mention traffic and the occasional wildlife.

EmpireParking

I hope you find occasion to go on an adventure with a friend.  You don’t need any special equipment or gear.  Any bike will do.  Take a camera (phones work too) and notepad and scratch down some notes so we can hear about it when you get back!

Day Five – #LongWayUpMI

The highlight of day five is the crossing on the steamship Badger. We’ve both had a lot of saddle time and we planned on taking the opportunity to rest a bit more during our four hour journey.

The trip on the S.S. Badger is a much anticipated part of this adventure. I’ve only been on one other car ferry and that one took our party across the English Channel from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. The Badger is special as it’s the last operating coal-fired steam ferry.

Originally designed and built in the 1950s to haul automobiles and rail cars, today it carries passengers and vehicles between Manitowoc,Wisconsin and Ludington, Michigan. Motorcyclists ride aboard and tie their machines down to a steel grate before heading up to the passenger decks.

I did spend more time than expected wandering the decks and looking through the various exhibits on what amounts to a floating museum.

The landing in Ludington was ceremonious, with tourists and locals waving as we pulled into the harbor. Unloading was surprisingly efficient and soon we were on our way.

Most of the three hour ride home was in the dark. We made a fuel stop and a took a break to stretch our legs, but otherwise rode straight home. I’ll write up a summary of the trip in a few days, but suffice to say we succeeded in visiting parts of Michigan we’ve never been too, and rode some of the most pleasant winding roads we’ve ever seen. A worthy adventure indeed!

DayFive