The Yooper Looper - KLR650's on the Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail
First things first.
Move along. Nothing to see here. There is absolutely no reason for you to read this ride report. :deal Immediately click the address field on your browser of choice and make your way to Cannonshot’s incredible “Upper Peninsula Adventure Trail (UPAT - 1250 miles)”.
You will find his GPS tracks Here.
At those links, you will enjoy great writing, interesting history, and beautiful photography. Guaranteed - This RR will fall far short. Those are the granddaddy. Those are what started it all.
We were just grateful to follow along. :freaky
Here’s DryFire (aka Tim) all happy somewhere in the middle of nowhere:
And here’s me asking, “What has two thumbs and wants to kiss Cannonshot square on the mouth?”:
So thanks Cannon for everything! I’ll share more of our thoughts at the end, but here is the spoiler: This route is fantastic!!!
You’re still here? OK, I warned you.
On with the show. :1drink
A few teaser pics:
This is a Ride report, right? So I want to keep introductions and the non-riding aspects to a minimum. However, I want this to be more than a place to house our pictures. I did a lot of thinking inside that helmet and think it’s important to share at least a little of it. At least for my wife who wasn’t able to come along.
Tim and I have been good friends for a few years now thanks to being Instructors for Project Appleseed. He's a big backpacker and all around woods McGyver. For quite awhile, I've emailed him links to RRs here, loaned him the Long Way Round set of DVDs (let's keep our comments about that series to ourselves, k?) :wink: , and told him how much I love my '05 KLR. Earlier this year he picked up a nice '07 specimen, his first bike even though he's spent a lot of time offroad on quads, and we made plans to tackle this trip.
I have been riding bikes on the road since before I had my driver's license, but have almost zero experience in the dirt. So here's the story of basically two newbs.
We did an overnight shake down trip in the Red River Gorge area of KY you can read about Here. That consisted of my first double digits of gravel miles, but looked a lot different from about everything the UPAT offered. Pretty much everything that trip was level, straight, and fast. See what I mean?
Great to learn on.
For a long time, all of my motorcycle adventures to this point have been 2-up. I’ve been lucky to find a partner who likes packing one change of clothes and taking off for a week to the Ozarks, or Smoky Mtns, or Charleston, or whatever point on the map we decide upon.
But this ride is different.
For this ride, I ratcheted on my AFX helmet, buckled the Sidi boots, and kept weight low in the saddleblags for a reason. This was to be my last Mancation for quite awhile.
It’s almost time to strap on the kevlar, lace up the combats, and jump check my kit for noise...
The Baby Is Coming! :eek1
Sorry guys, that pic above is the only one you’re going to see of my wife lifting her shirt. But I have to tell you... things have progressed... spectacularly. Anyone who doesn’t believe in some form of Intelligent Design needs to explain how anything but an ever-loving God helped ensure mankind's families, and therefore mankind, would continue... by balancing pregnant hormone level growth swings with mammary growth swings. :evil
But I digress... For this trip, I had a lot of thinking to do. The joy and anticipation has been there for awhile. We couldn’t be more excited. We’ve read the books. We’ve put together the crib. We’ve almost decided on a name.
I’ve been blessed with exceptional parents who continue to do anything for us.
Will I measure up? Guess we’ll see.
I'm anxious to read about your trip!!!! I'm betting it was a good one. :lurk
Day 0 - July 25, 2011 - Dayton, OH to St Ignace, MI
How to get there?
DryFire and I debated the merits back and forth whether to suck up full 500 mile days straight up and straight back riding the bikes Interstate 75 from our homes in Cincinnati and Dayton (respectively)... or take our time over two days for a more enjoyable route. As working slobs, it was eventually decided a leisurely jaunt to and fro was out of the question if we wanted any chance of finishing the Loop.
So that left slab. And a lot of it. :puke1
I-75 is some of the most monotonous stuff out there. At least West Virginia interstate has some climbs, curves, and nice scenery every now and then.
As the weeks passed, we got a little smarter, decided to maximize vacation time and trailer the bikes up. Definitely the right decision!
Tim arrived in my driveway at 9:00AM on the dot with his KLR loaded in the bed, and we made short work of attaching my KLR and trailer for the trek north.
The 8 hr drive seemed to go faster than expected, but we were still happy to see the Mackinac Bridge when we did.
We crossed the Straits in the midst of a rain squall and didn’t see anything worse than a few drops the rest of the week circling the UP. I still can’t believe how lucky we got with the weather.
After The Bridge and a few short miles up the I-75 Business loop, we arrived at the Pines Motel in St. Ignace. Because I completely butchered about every pronunciation up there, my public service for this ride report is, it’s “Saint IGG-niss”. Not “Saint Ig-NASE.” Get ready for a lot more of those lessons as we go, as I struggled all week for some reason.
These nice folks had no problem with us parking the truck and trailer in the back and keeping an eye on it. They come recommended from Cannonshot and now have the MeanStreaker seal of approval!
We unloaded the bikes and rode to fresh fish for dinner. I still can’t shake how weird it was to ride through a somewhat touristy beachfront town next to a huge body of water, see some small waves, eat fresh fish, but not smell any salt in the air. It kind of bugged me. I’ve been on Erie a lot and never got that feeling.
Stomachs full, we returned to the Pines and prepared to enjoy what little daylight remained.
Next door is a small general store and I was confronted with my first important decision of the trip. I walked in and had a feeling this was my kind of place when I saw tall, narrow, brown paper bags near the cash register. Sure enough, a cooler in the back chilled some fine 40 oz offerings that this Adventurer desperately needed after a hard 500 mile day of riding through rain.... in an air conditioned truck cab’s plush, powered seats. :D
After the initial disappointment of not seeing any OE, Colt45, nor Magnum, I searched for the lowest price tag.
There sat Busch at $2.39. I selected the lucky winner from her friends, closed the door, and took two steps towards the check out.
Then, I turned. And stopped.
It hit me.
I’m on vacation.
I retreated, opened the cooler, returned the Busch, and grabbed a Budweiser, totally rationalizing the extra $0.10.
I walked back to the motel porch and watched DryFire make a pass over his bike checking chain tension and the like. He even did a walk around mine, found a loose bolt holding my HT Nerf bar, got out his tool kit, and tightened it for me.
I silently thanked him from a distance while attending to more important matters.
We talked of the good times to come, packed our saddle bags, and took a last look at our unladen steeds that would (hopefully) carry us the next 1200 miles.
Alarm set for 0630.
We were anxious to roll.
That place looks somewhat familiar, eh? (Hey - it's a report about the UP!)
I suspect we'll see several familiar sights. My son and I hope to try this route, but at a more leisurely pace than what CannonShot sets. I think six days would be about right.
Hey, MeanStreaker - we were just a couple days behind you, though we started in Gwinn, hitting St. Ignace on Thursday evening, the 28th.
Yeah, it looks like you guys had a lot of fun on the CannonTrek. I'm enjoying that report. We just missed each other and I was wondering if we'd ever meet up.
Later on in the report you'll meet some local guys on dirtbikes (hi gporter :wave) that told us all about the "20 crazy MF'ers they saw riding together". :lol3
We had 5 full days of riding and definitely wish we had 6. We planned ahead of time to take about half the "big bike go arounds" Cannon charted out (at times, in the thick of it, I was thinking I should've taken more) :eek1 :lol3, and still ended up substituting Route 2 for a few very small sections on the last day so we could make it back to St Ignace in time. I think Cannon says the whole thing is 1250 miles. We ended up with 1202, so all in all not too shabby.
Granted, our first day (which you're about to read about), was probably a lot slower than most would take it. We were newbs to riding off-pavement and combine that with DEFINITELY having a ton of trouble in the deep sand... I'm sure that slowed us down a lot.
Sand? What sand? :lol3
DAY 1 - July 26, 2011 - St. Ignace, MI to Munising, MI
Finally... it’s time to ride. :clap
We awake early to a refreshingly frozen room since I left the window open all night. With temperatures and humidity both in the high 90s the previous few weeks back home, it was a reminder of where we were and what we were beginning.
I made sure to grab a shower since it was unknown where that luxury would next be available.
Then we loaded the KLRs.
After backtracking 3-4 miles for a quick and delicious $3.99 breakfast at the same place we ate dinner the night before (Galley Restaurant), we’re officially kickstands up around 8AM heading counter clockwise following the UPAT!
The skies are seriously ominous and a little spittle appears on my faceshield now and then.
A few miles north of town we reach the first non-pavement of the trip. I announced long ago I needed a pic of that occasion. Needed like a KLR owner needs to pick up the penny he sees in the parking lot. Even if it is heads down. This was about the time I announced to DryFire to kick me when I annoy him by taking too many pics. We stop for that and also throw on rain pants (jacket liners were already zipped in due to the temps) and air down our tires a bit.
Then the fun really begins. Soon enough we leave what obviously looks like a road, and turn down something more UPAT-esque.
Another turn and we’re suddenly in the middle of a logging area. Looking to either side, it seemed like these perfectly spaced trees go on forever. It was pretty surreal and our first memorable “vista” of the trip. What a way to begin!
We were following all Primary Tracks at this point. It was decided when mapping out our route we would take some of Cannon’s Big Bike Go-Arounds when things from his RR looked definitely over our newbie heads, but sprinkle in enough of the Primary Route that I could leave my purse at home. :augie
I believe this worked out to be about 50% each way, although the first couple days were heavy on the Primary Route.
What this translated to for this part of the UPAT was “heavy on deep sand”, which was very eye opening for both of us.
But here I am already getting ahead of myself......
We continue that morning heading north and are already loving the ride. It was amazing how quickly you could be completely remote. At least that’s how it felt.
We make our way to the two culverts Cannon's tracks warn about and have to pause to reconstruct a makeshift ramp to help minimize skidplate grinding.
Then after a few more miles we bust out onto Raco Field - the former WWII airbase.
What a strange, desolate place.
DryFire and I put our Rifle Marksmanship skills to the test... after all, we’re well-trained and think we’re pretty good at this stuff... so our range estimation skills get dusted off and estimates are made about how long each leg of the triangular runway is.
After odometers verified............ Man was I waaaaaay off! :photog
I was using the structure at the other end and visualized someone standing in front of the windows. I know what standard window widths are and took my guess: 750 yards.
It was only after racing all the way down there did we discover the building was way bigger than I thought and the windows I was using for SWAGuestimates were side-by-sides! Those long concrete slabs were incredibly deceiving!
An important lesson to all of us - bring a good set of binocs when ranging Raco Field. :lol3
A lot of fun was had sporting a lap to see how fast the loaded KLRs will run through the gears.
I plan to write a helpful letter to the shadow government working underground at Raco so they can erect more of these signs since this is where we ended up after our loop.
If only that would have been on the righthand side where we would’ve seen it and could've complied!
With plausible deniability intact, it was time to press on...
We had shipwrecks to investigate and I already had Mr. Lightfoot's "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" stuck in my head.
DAY 1 Contd - July 26 - St. Ignace, MI to Munising, MI
We left Raco Field and continued towards our next destination - The Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point... mostly on wide fast gravel roads, with a few sandy patches here and there, before hitting beautiful pavement via Rt 123 and N Whitefish Point Rd as far north as we could travel.
We stopped for a break at a working dock. I imagine these simple boats could tell some stories.
Walking out on the creaky dock, I asked for the first time (of many to come), “How do the people with houses exposed way out here deal with winter winds and snow?”
You’d think after all these years the border fence running through the middle of Superior would finally be complete. Typical politicians and their line-jumping Canadians. :wink:
We hopped back on the bikes and continued a short ways to the Shipwreck Museum. Parking next to two sparkling clean BMW’s, I hoped our dust wouldn't transfer and start a huge biker brawl right there in the lot. While de-gearing, some nice guys riding chrome came over. We all chatted about our trips. They were curious about the route and I showed them some of the GPS tracks as they looked incredulously at the dirt and transplanted foliage already covering our bikes and bags. It was very easy to identify the two guys who thought we were freaking nuts, and the two or three guys that had a glint of jealousy in their eye. Oh well, we all ride our own ride.
I love talking to fellow motorcyclists, but about the time the conversation was wrapping up, my stomach was getting pretty vocal.
Must. Find. Pasties.
Never had a pastie before. (PASS-tee; not a pole dancing accessory.) In fact, never heard of them. But meat? Bread-like stuff? Gravy-ish? What’s not to like?
Next we toured the Shipwreck Museum. It was obviously a sobering place, and be prepared now to hear Gordon Lightfoot at least a few times. Yep, you’ll be stuck with it repeating inside your head for the next 48 hours. Over and over and over.
After spending two hours in and around the museum buildings, which was probably just a tad too long, it was time to hit the road.
We were making good time, until...... Looky looky what we have here. Even in taking the big bike go around down to Rt 123 , thanks to warnings from Cannon, we are still fortunate enough to encounter a pretty deep stretch of SAND!
Thus far we had successfully made it through some sandy trails, but nothing compared to this stuff. It was also completely humbling as this was our first day and we were still wearing little kid booties when it came to this off-pavement stuff. As the trip went on and our experience grew, we were able to throttle through some sandy puckering spots... but looking back, I don’t think we could have done any better with this section even if we had ridden it on Day 5 ripping the throttle.
It was deep!
After almost washing out numerous times , we took a break and did an appropriate amount of whining and moaning.
At least it was a beautiful spot for it.
Then we hopped back aboard, decided to Nut Up or Shut Up........ and slowly duck walked :rofla good ways (half mile? mile? two miles?) until things firmed up.
I’d call this particular battle with the sand a draw. Yes, I did have to walk it and never once put my feet on the pegs, but at least I stayed upright!
Things got more manageable and finally we were making time again.
Had to make a stop at the Log Slide outside Grand Marais:
Did you see those people about halfway up?
You can’t tell from the pictures, but that thing is incredibly steep.
Moving on! We need to make some miles and hit Munising to fuel up!
We get in to Munising around 8:30-9:00PM and demolish large plates of food.
After paying the bill, it’s obviously getting dark and we have to decide where we’re spending the night.
Both of us easily remember the many signs for state campgrounds we saw as we blasted our way into town. Surely one wasn’t more than 5 or 6 miles back the way we had come. At least that's how we remembered it. We were both so positive I didn’t even look at the GPS to see what was closest if we continued westward on the UPAT.
We were about to learn another important lesson. Distances seem much shorter when you’re famished and trying to reach a known destination.
We backtrack out with both the sun and temperature dropping fast.
That 5 or 6 miles wasn’t happening.
It turns out the nearest campground was at least 30 miles east of Munising. As we’re riding through the darkness, especially the last three miles on gravel, I kept having visions of turning a corner and my puny KLR headlight barely illuminating a 2500 pound moose standing in the way before I bulldoze into him. I was sure he'd be a little miffed at the inconvenience and give my broken body a stomping before nonchalantly walking off.
We finally arrive at the campground sometime around 10:30 PM and are just happy to find a spot. With headlamps ablaze, we start pitching tents.
The nice people in the spot next to us came over and loaned us their lantern, which was a huge help. In the rush to set up camp, after the adrenaline of the day had worn off, and probably because our stomachs were packed to capacity shortly before, our guards were down and that led to our first tip over of the trip - DryFire walked right into, and over, the fire ring in the dark. :lol3 I'm glad he did it and showed me where it was as I'm sure I would've done the same shortly after.
We set up camp, returned the lantern with much thanks, talked briefly with the nice folks near their beautiful RV, and went straight to bed.
UPAT Day 1: In the books.
Welcome to 'da UP, eh?!
There's a sweet little campground right on Lake Superior just a mile WEST of Munising! :lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3:lol3 :lol3:lol3
No worries Bob, I'm sure that's the sign we saw the next morning.
Also in reviewing my tracks after we got home, I saw the nice little green triangle-like icons (whatever those are :hmmmmm) Cannon had placed a few miles west and south of Munising - the way we needed to go. :lol3
At least Tim had an excuse - he didn't have a GPS with him.
Oh well, all part of the adventure and we met some really nice people because of it!
Love seeing this from another perspective.
Cannon does an incredible job and I love his writing and history classes!! :deal It is very cool to see this ride through anothers eyes. Keep up the great report, I love the humor, pics and the U.P.
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