Breakfast with Monkey

January 17, 2017

I forgot to add one other anecdote concerning the Lake Michigan Circle Tour, which culminated on Day Five.

Throughout the adventure, Monkey was with me. In fact, most of the pictures I took, Monkey was in them. Like this one:

whitefish_1

I think it was during a meal break, probably Day Three, when my co-adventurers wanted to know why Monkey gets to look at all of the sights but never gets to eat.

It was a good question. I think the answer is “I forget to bring him into the restaurant.”

Day Five, we’ve just loaded up the bikes for the ride home. A quick look at Google Maps pointed me to a local breakfast restaurant (it was very good, a bit pricey, but very good). After we arrived, I remembered that Monkey could use breakfast, too. After all, he’d been with us the entire time and had yet to eat.

I brought Monkey into the restaurant and propped him up on the table with us.

As the waitress was taking our orders, I jokingly ordered an orange juice for our stuffed friend.

It wasn’t taken as joke.

breakfast_monkey

And it wasn’t free, either.

Which was fine, because our little mascot was very thirsty!

I wonder if he can order off of the “Children’s Menu?”


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Five

January 13, 2017

Here it is, the last day on the tour. We aren’t exactly happy when we mount up in the morning, knowing that this will be the last day we ride on the Circle Tour. After five days, and talking about just saying “Eff it, let’s keep riding,” we head south and east. Not a lot of things to report, as it is all highway as we head home.

Day Five:

day5

See? All highway. While we were rocking the Ohio Turnpike at 70+ mph, it was still awful boring. Thanks to my bluetooth headset, at least I have some music to lessen the boredom.

Total miles: 337

After switching the bike off, one last picture to remind me of the trip:

odometer

Five days seems like a lot, but trust me, the trip was too short. We decided that in 2017, we are going back to the Upper Peninsula. This time, since we’ve ridden some amazing roads on the way to the UP, we’re going to ride I-75 north, to minimize travel time, and spend more time exploring the east, central, and western parts of the UP. Perhaps make Newberry, MI, the base town for exploration of the central and eastern areas. Then, find a town in the western part, and explore that area. There’s so much to see and do, this seems to be the best method to properly ride the UP.

What We Learned:

  1. Gas stations, and towns, are few and far between. Be smart, gas up when the opportunity arises. Or, even smarter, map out the gas stations along your route.
  2. The Upper Peninsula has spectacular sights and vistas. Once you’re here, you’ll want to spend more time exploring than you’ve budgeted. A return trip is most certainly in your future plans.
  3. To go with the gas stations point, above, there are long distances between the places you want to visit. I hope you have a comfortable saddle. If not, spend the money. Your ass will thank you. Also, you may want to do some longer trips to prepare yourself.
  4. Gas stations are few and far between.
  5. Just because your GPS or Google Maps tells you that there is a town just up the road, there may not be a gas station. Small towns are norm in the UP.
  6. Don’t count on your GPS, Google Maps, or having cellular coverage in all areas of the UP. Bring an actual map with you.
  7. Everyone we met, with the exception of a few (Newberry hotel operator, customers in a bar in Iron Mountain) were gracious and happy to talk to us, happy to provide directions, and very happy to recommend dining options. You’ll make some new friends in the UP.
  8. If you’re looking for souvenirs, like patches, pins, and stickers, the small stores that you see along your route is where you’ll find them. As a bonus, you’ll be supporting local businesses. And, the staff is used to seeing and interacting with bikers.
  9. The SS Badger is an excellent, relaxing way to avoid Chicago traffic. Remember to bring your tie downs. And since it is a part of US 10, it “could” count into your mileage. We didn’t count it, but you could. 🙂
  10. We averaged 377 miles a day.
  11. Gasoline averaged $2.48/gallon.

endofearth

Links:

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – No Reservations and Day One

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Two

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Three

Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Four

Bonus Link:

As it happens, RoadRunner magazine has an article on riding the Upper Peninsula. Take a look for more professional photographs (no monkeys) and text.

RoadRunner Magazine – Michigan’s Upper Peninsula: Northern Exposure


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – Day Four

January 13, 2017

The sadness begins, as we know that we are heading home, the Upper Peninsula already a (great) memory. We now have a destination that does not wait for those that are tardy, a ferry crossing of Lake Michigan, so that we do not have to ride through Chicago and all that entails when you are on two wheels.

Day Four:

day4

As you can see from the route, it isn’t all that spectacular. However, we did make one memorable stop, Lambeau Field in Green Bay, WI.

lambeau1

lambeau2

Monkey does the “Lambeau Leap.” I laugh every time I watch this video.

monkey_girlfriend

Monkey found himself a girlfriend.

A quick look at the time and all shenanigans ceased; we have a ferry to catch. Off to Manitowoc, WI, for the boat ride across Lake Michigan.

The SS Badger

This is a proper ferry, not like the ones that take you to Kelleys Island or Put-in-Bay.

We made it with about 40 minutes to spare. Motorcycles park in a special queue, as they will be among the first to get on the ship. Do not forget your tie downs, they do not supply them for you. After securing our bikes, we had 4-1/2 hours to eat, explore the ship, and simply relax before it arrives in Ludington, MI. The ship is actually a part of Route 10, which is really cool.  Also, it’s a 72 mile ride across the lake. Much like cruise ships, this one has a cafeteria, a movie theater, a cruise director (who runs the games and other entertainment), and, if you want an upgrade, private cabins. We opted to find our comfort where ever we could (cheaper). Not quite to midway, we all agreed that while this was a wonderful method of travel, we would’ve preferred to be on our bikes. Basically, it meant “nap time.”

ssbadger1

 

ssbadger2

Where I had to go to get this picture, it nearly cost me getting the bike on the ship. Much to the amusement of my biker “friends.”

ssbadger3

CJ relaxes on deck.

Once we off loaded in Ludington, we headed south for our last overnight stay in Michigan, in Muskegon. Once we unloaded our bikes, we went in search of dinner. As it happened, this was the first meal we would have at a chain restaurant. All of our other meals were eaten at local establishments. Without my knowledge and much to my chagrin, Doug told our waitress that it was my birthday. After finishing our meals, here comes the waitress, dragging what is best described as a saddle mounted to a saw horse. They coerced me into sitting on the damn thing, placed a cowboy hat on my head, announced to the restaurant that it was my birthday, and proceeded to regale me with the “Happy Birthday Song.” Much to my “friend’s” delight and amusement, I was totally embarrassed.

And that’s another reason why I travel with bourbon in my luggage.

Total miles: 261

 


Lake Michigan Circle Tour – No Reservations

January 11, 2017

This is a post that I’ve been meaning to write for a few months. Okay, it’s been five months. Specifically, since the last week of August, 2016. Better late than never. This will be the first in a series concerning an excellent ride (mostly) around Lake Michigan.

The riders:

theteam-michigan

(left to right, me (with Monkey), CJ, and Doug)

The tools:

  • EatSleepRide – Probably the premier, free, motorcycle GPS app. Recorded progress, share location with others (like those watching our progress from afar), also has CrashLight, which will text someone, or 911, if your mobile phone detects that the bike has crashed.
  • Waze – Route GPS, updated by the crowd, provided best routes, police locations, and more.
  • Google Maps – When Waze wasn’t doing a very good job. It’s always good to have a backup GPS.
  • The Weather Channel App – You’re on a motorcycle, you need to know the weather.
  • Sena 10S Bluetooth Headset – Handsfree, motorcycle helmet bluetooth headset. Allowed me to follow along with Waze’s directions as well as listen to music. First time using a headset, now I can’t imagine travelling without one. Easy installation, easy setup, paired quickly with my iPhone.

Preparation:

This was not an Arctic Circle run and we wanted to be as flexible with our time as possible. We roughed out the route, the stops, and the deadlines (ferry’s do not wait for those that are tardy). Plus, we didn’t want to be beholden to specific overnight stops. Thus, we spent all of three hours planning the tour. At first, we were simply to circle Lake Michigan. But after our first, and only meeting, we all read more about the tour and were sidetracked by what we read about the southern shore of Lake Superior. From that, we knew that we really wanted to see Copper Harbor, Michigan. In the end, the plan was to ride the western shore of Lake Michigan, until we crossed the Mackinac Bridge. At that point, we would head northwest to the southern shore of Lake Superior and ride that to Copper Harbor. We made no reservations at any hotel, we were going to ride until we decided it was time to locate suitable overnight accommodations.

In addition to the above, we spent a lot of time on the website, Lake Michigan Circle Tour. A great resource for the route as well as things to see and do along the route. Finally, I bought and brought along three additional items. Weather proof maps of Michigan and Wisconsin (again, on a motorcycle, you need backups and items that can be subjected to water) and the book, Ride Michigan. The book was extremely useful to determine what would could see and the best motorcycle routes to take along the way.

Day One:

mi_day1

We met at Cracker Barrel, in Sheffield, OH, for breakfast. Afterwards, we rode the turnpike into Indiana, then turned north into Michigan, Sturgis, MI, specifically, for lunch. If you ask yourself “why Sturgis?” then you aren’t a biker in the United States.

sturgismi

This turned out to be a most fortuitous stop. Using Google Maps, I found a highly rated, local restaurant, Boundary Waters Kitchen and Bar. We just happened to parked out bikes in front of a barber shop. Since three bikes can cause an auditory commotion in a tight area, the owner of the barber shop came out and greeted us. As it turns out, he is biker and had just returned from a trip to the Upper Peninsula. And he had photos, real photos, in a book, to show us. We had a great time talking to him and he provided us with a lot of excellent tips and places we needed to stop and see.

During lunch, he came into the restaurant with a list of things we should see. That was really cool.

A little ways outside of Sturgis, it started to rain. A very light rain. We didn’t stop to gear up, just rode through it.

Then we hit the east coast of Lake Michigan and turned our bikes north. We stopped for gas, and rest, but didn’t stop to see anything, as we were headed to Ludington, MI for our first overnight stop. Rode into town, hit Lake Michigan, and, as luck would have it, a hotel on Lake Michigan had room for us. Ludington is also the town where you can catch the ferry across Lake Michigan. We’ll see Ludington again in a few days.

Total miles: 405

 


Four Days and 1169 Miles

June 6, 2016

The 2016 riding season started a while ago, however I really kicked it off 2-5 June with a 1169 mile journey through Michigan. There was a STAR Touring and Riding event at Boyne Mountain Resort in Michigan which was the focal point of the ride.

Geoff and I met in Avon Lake, over breakfast, on 2 June to begin the ride which would end in Grand Rapids, MI. My sole reason to choosing this destination was to visit Devin Olson on the eve of his daughter’s high school graduation party. Of course, knowing that Devin lives in The Beer Capital was just a happy coincidence.

Because we had deadlines in Grand Rapids, we took the boring but highway method of reaching our destination. There is nothing quite like arriving on Devin’s doorstep on motorcycles; his welcome was probably one of the best I have ever received. A (rare) beer for me, a (rarer) bourbon for Geoff, and plans made to meet up later in the evening. Devin guided us to our hotel and provided an excellent dinner location in town then left us to our own devices. Used Uber to get us to dinner. Once done with dinner, we walked to The B.O.B and to Founder’s, where Devin met up with us. From there, it was Uber back to the hotel.

Friday started rather early, as we planned to ride the west coast of Michigan. We stopped at a rest area on 31, just south of Ludington to stretch. It was here that we discovered that there was an overlook. Took a very nice road to the top of the hill in order to discover . . . an overlook that overlooked tree tops. I think the word was “disappointing.” From there, we continued on 31 until we got to M-22. While on M-22, we discovered another overlook, this one was spectacular! Incredible views of Lake Michigan and coast line. Continued up M-22 and took it north into Frankfort, where took M-115 and linked up with 31 again. Then it was off to Traverse City, one of my favorite Michigan destinations. A very nice ride along the southern shore of Grand Traverse Bay.

Rode past the (now closed) Bravo Zulu Brewing Company. While it was sad to see, I was wearing my Bravo Zulu t-shirt that day, in honor of an excellent brewery. Arrived at Boyne Mountain Resort at about 5PM to register for the STAR event. Thankfully, one of the hosting Chapters opened registration for us so that we could participate in the bike parade to Boyne City (they had closed registration early). The parade, while short, was a lot of fun as it was escorted by the Boyne City Police Department and the Sheriff. They blocked off an entire city block for us, so that we had ample bike parking. Then, the local Chamber of Commerce passed out flyers with food and shopping discounts specially for us. That was a welcome surprise. After dinner, Geoff and I rode along Lake Charlevoix for picture opportunities. Then, after a 250+ mile day, it was back to the resort for some very welcome bourbon around a fire pit with other STAR members.

Saturday, the STAR Event organizers had an 85 mile route planned for the group. Well, the route, while nice, didn’t include Tunnel of Trees nor the Mackinac Bridge, both of which we really wanted to ride. Michigan STAR members provided us with the reasons they didn’t plan this ride; Tunnel of Trees can be very tricky, as the road is less than 2 lanes, there may be gravel on the road and in the curves, sand on the surface, and very limited sight line. As for Big Mac, the weather plays a very important role in the ride and if there is construction on the bridge, you may end up riding the grated surface for the entire length of the bridge. With that in mind, Geoff, Ted, and I took off to points further north.

Tunnel of Trees.

It was everything the brochures said it was. And more. Beautiful, twisty, and an absolute blast to ride. The “sandy” portions of the road were under construction, so we didn’t go down the lake shore. That was fine with us, the detour was many miles out of the way. The sight lines were, at times, extremely limited, but, as I was leading the ride, I made it work to Geoff’s and Ted’s advantage. Basically, I rode the middle the of the road and only moved over when there was traffic coming in the opposite direction. In this way, I provided Geoff and Ted with advance warning of oncoming traffic. Some parts of the road were 45 mph, but I cannot for the life of me imagine anyone actually going 45 (see “limited sight lines” and “narrow road way”). In addition to the occasional car, we saw a plethora of bikes. This is truly a Michigan “Bucket List” ride.

Mackinac Bridge.

How can you top Tunnel of Trees? Easy, continue north and ride the five miles that are “Big Mac.” The day was overcast and windy. We left I-75 before the bridge to talk to someone in the Michigan Welcome Center in Mackinaw City. Since all alerts concerning the bridge are on the radio, and I do not have a radio on my bike, I wanted to know the conditions on the bridge. Any construction? Wind advisories? The helpful staff in the Welcome Center assured us that everything was fine on the bridge. Off we went. While there were no wind advisories, on a motorcycle, it was fun handling the bike in a cross wind. Truly. And, since there was no construction, we rode the paved lane all the way to St. Ignace. That was a pleasant surprise. Stopped in St. Ignace for a Mackinac Bridge patch and pin. Then, rode to an overlook for some picture taking of the bridge. Then, because of an electrical issue with Ted’s bike, we headed back over the bridge. Unfortunately, because of the issue, we cut short our Upper Peninsula ride. We were planning to ride to Sault Ste. Marie and, depending on the time, Whitefish Point. Just have to add those to my bike “Bucket List,” even though I have visited them in the past. There was nothing of importance on the ride back to Boyne Mountain Resort.

Sunday, we missed all of the terrific storms that passed through Michigan and Ohio. However, before stopping for breakfast in Standish, MI, we did don our rain gear as we did encounter some rain, but not of the biblical proportions that were forecasted. We only rode through light rain in some areas, but it was nice to be dry. Plus, as the air temperatures were in the mid to high 60’s, we didn’t sweat in our gear. That is a very nice bonus.

Geoff and I stopped in Sandusky, OH, to see if there was anything that remained of Ohio Bike Week but were greeted with downed trees and power lines, closed roads, and, above all else, the unmistakable smell of beer.

Michigan, on a motorcycle, in a nutshell:

  1. The roads suck. Do they collect potholes, do they not know about asphalt? And when they do have money for asphalt, the job that is done on the road makes it worse. How is that possible?
  2. The drivers are assholes. Apparently, as a biker, you are responsible for every facet of traffic as we were invisible to pretty much everyone. I think that only in Michigan are turn signals optional equipment on every vehicle and most drivers decided that they wouldn’t spring the extra cash for them. Tailgating motorcycles seems to be a sport. I don’t get it, but I thought I was going to get an engagement ring from several drivers, they were so close to my ass. I also came to the realization that no where else are “speed limits” more of a “suggestion” than in Michigan. If we wanted to keep up with traffic, we would have to travel at 80+ mph on the highways. Pretty much every where. While that isn’t really a problem, see Number 1, above.
  3. On and off ramps, that are maybe 100 feet in some cases. How is this a thing? Merging traffic doesn’t give a damn about oncoming traffic and oncoming traffic doesn’t give a damn about merging traffic. This made for some really “interesting” interactions between all motorists. Oh, and once they do merge, they will stop at nothing to get into the left most lane and accelerate to maximum cruising speed. To hell with everyone and anything around them.

That said, I’ll be back. There’s too much good stuff to see and do in Michigan to let drivers and roads keep me from visiting again on my bike.

Here’s the route:

MI_2016

And here is what I saw when I finally turned the bike off in Ohio:

odometer


A Lesson From Riding New Mexico and Colorado

July 9, 2014

This past weekend, I took an opportunity to ride New Mexico and Colorado.

Let me first say that to prepare for travel, you look at the weather forecast in northwest New Mexico and see that it will be 98°F (36.6°C). You then bring the proper gear for such a temperature. This means: half helmet, sunglasses, mesh armored jacket, Kevlar and armored riding jeans, and light gloves. You allow a family member, who also rides, to decide on the route.

Through the good graces of the father-in-law-to-be, you get to ride his Kawasaki Vulcan 1500. With a windscreen. And highway pegs. This is not a naked Kawasaki in Norway. It’s properly fitted.

Now, said family member, who is a primary participant in a wedding (he brought the cash for his daughter’s grand day), provides you a map of the route, says, “Text me when you reach Silverton, and I will meet you at this spot.”

And off you go.

It is hot, Africa hot, as you make your way along the route. Alone.

Soon, however, you can’t help but notice that it is getting cooler. “Hmmm,” you think, “It must be the trees and the shade.”

And then you see a sign, at the top of the winding road, “Coal Bank Pass Summit, Elev 10640 ft.” I think I know why it is so “chilly,” now.

And then it starts to rain. Not hard, but not a drizzle, either.

Where’s my rain gear? Oh, yeah, it’s at home, because the forecast for New Mexico showed no rain.

A short time later, as you are properly dampened, you see a turnoff for a small park. Might as well stop and take in the scenery and snap a few photos. What does the sign say at this stop? “Molas Pass Summit, Elev 10910 ft.”

Oh,boy.

After a short break, and a nice chat with a fellow biker, who told me that it is not uncommon to have snow in July up here, I start the descent into Silverton, Colorado. And as the town comes into view, it starts to rain. Really rain. I think I have called this “biblical rain.” All of the bikes I saw ahead of me, have taken refuge under the awning of the only gas station in town.

Much to the disdain of those in cars.

I park under the awning, gas up, get a little food and drink in me, and look at my phone.

I have a text from the family member saying that I am to meet him at the Durango Mountain Resort back up Route 550.

The rain isn’t stopping. In fact, I think it is raining harder, which doesn’t seem possible.

I need to mention that in this part of the US, the use of concrete or asphalt seems to not have caught on. The parking lot and driveway of the gas station is gravel. With a lot of low areas. I need to navigate a 900 pound bike over gravel, up a slight rise, and onto the highway. In pouring rain.

I make it. But as I do, and I start heading south on 550, back up the mountain, it starts to hail. It’s now a combination of biblical rain and hail. Remember, I am dressed for a different climate. I can say, with first hand knowledge, getting hit by hail, as you travel along at 40-50mph, hurts. It really hurts as it hits your uncovered face. A lot.

I make it to the ski resort, where a very dry family member awaits with his Ducati.

I hate him.

But, he is soon “enjoying” the rain, too. Although, he is wearing a full face helmet, so he isn’t getting the same enjoyment as I am. At least there is no hail.

We are traveling in a normal staggered position, heading down the mountain, in the rain, when he signals for a left turn and starts to slow. I am a few seconds behind him, caught suddenly unaware of the new direction we are taking. It’s one thing to maneuver a 400-500 pound Ducati, something else entirely to do the same on a 900 pound Kawasaki. I use the back brake, it’s raining, and we are in a slight curve.

I hit the traffic paint on the asphalt, which marks the left turn lane, while braking. The back end starts to slide out from under me. I release the back brake, the bike straightens and goes upright, I roll over the painted area, and now use both brakes. Gently.

I blow right by my riding partner, but am slowing, heading into an area of the highway that is marked for no traffic.

I stop the bike about 30 feet past the turn.

Damn, that was not fun, but it ended well. Note to self, traffic marking paint, when it is wet, is very slippery.

Family member, at the next stop sign, “That turn off came up sooner than I expected.” Yeah, I got that news pretty quickly.

And then it started to hail again.

This was turning out to be quite a ride.

However, we were now rolling into Durango, Colorado, and, at about 6,000 feet, it was starting to warm up. I was happy to realize this, as I was soaked and cold. Soon, it was about 98°F (36.6°C), and what was once a relief started to make me feel like I was in a clothes dryer. The water was evaporating off of me, creating a very humid riding environment. For a short while, we were on the highway, which sped up the drying process and it got to be much more comfortable to ride.

At the end of the ride, with the exception of my socks, I was totally dry.

This was one of the strangest rides I’ve been on; pretty much every season was represented in a few short hours and within 4,000 feet of elevation change.

The route (what I can remember of it):

NMandCORide

Click on image for an interactive Google Map.

The elevation profile (thanks to this site for the image):

NMandCOElevationProfile

 

If I had known the elevation profile before starting out, I would have brought the liner to my jacket. It wouldn’t have provided a lot of cold weather protection, but I would have been a lot dryer (and a bit warmer) in the higher elevations. I’ll know for next time.


Dash4Dosh 2014: Let’s All Laugh

June 9, 2014

For your enjoyment, some random pictures from Denmark, Sweden, and Norway.

First up, Chris pitching his tent. Yes, the photo looks grainy, but that isn’t the fault of the photographer, it was raining. In an epic fashion. Doesn’t he look happy that he will be “sleeping” in a tent?

2014-05-24 21.21.05

I found Paul’s toilet in a Statoil station:

2014-05-25 09.21.12

And Paul’s bike:

2014-05-26 09.48.33

 

The Arctic Circle, Sweden:

2014-05-26 11.08.04

Chris, in his natural pose, taking photos (at the Sweden/Norway border):

2014-05-27 09.49.38

 

And photographing Paul’s bike at the Arctic Circle Center in Norway:

2014-05-28 15.23.53

 

Freshening Paul’s bike:

2014-05-29 16.01.17

Which lead to a bit of freshening of my bike (paybacks are a bitch):

2014-05-31 09.51.11

 

A Chris Harris inspired selfie:

2014-05-31 16.05.55 HDR

 

A beautiful view spoiled by freshly washed undergarments:

2014-06-01 21.07.54

 

Paul discovers that boots with holes in them make for poor waterproofing:

2014-06-02 18.53.08

 

Who would’ve known that there was no pooping in the shower?

2014-06-03 09.52.43

 

Chris, enough said:

2014-06-04 12.55.23

Chris, showing me that I am “Number One:”

2014-06-05 11.35.21

 

The bike that Chris thought he bought, but didn’t:

2014-06-04 19.47.36 HDR