Big Bike Solo in the Western UP

Discussion in 'Epic Rides' started by Cannonshot, May 18, 2010.

  1. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Just wrapped up an interesting exploration of history in the western Upper Peninsula of Michigan. At one time a small part of this region supplied 90% of the copper in the US. Iron mining, copper mining, shipping, timber, tough conditions, immigrants, the CCC, Henry Ford, and so much more. Gorgeous scenery and entertaining roads that twist and curve as they roll with the elevation changes.

    As usual, I prepared a GPS file to share with anyone else that may be interested in riding some of these roads or visiting some of these sites. Here is a general overview of the trip I started out with. The ride is about 900 miles.
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    And a story about long odds and helping someone out of a bad situation.
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    Hope you enjoy the riding, history, stories, and pictures!

    I did a similar report for the eastern UP as well:
    A CannonTour of the Eastern Upper Peninsula
    #1
  2. ROYAL COACHMAN

    ROYAL COACHMAN Been here awhile

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    The history professor of ADV is on the prowl!:clap

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  3. Klay

    Klay dreaming adventurer

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  4. river_rat

    river_rat Perplexed

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  5. SauS TaR-TaR

    SauS TaR-TaR Go BaBy Go...

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  6. jwalters

    jwalters Farkle Proliferator

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    Do I smell before/after shots coming? :D

    Can't wait!
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  7. GB

    GB . Administrator

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    Lovely ride! Michigan's UP has some great roads.. One time Michigan's finest pulled me over and the first words out of his mouth were "I'm not giving you a ticket, I just wanted to let you know that there's a lot of deer around here and thought you should slow down".. Nice :thumb

    :lurk
    #7
  8. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    The Upper Peninsula of Michigan makes up about 1/3 of the total land mass of the state but only has about 3% of the population. Some say there is a lot of room in which to move around. Over the years, there have been some movements to make the UP a separate state. The attempt that had the most serious chance of success was a movement in earlier years where parts of northern Wisconsin and the UP wanted to join together to form their own state. This had a lot to do with significant taxes but few return benefits from the developed downstate areas. The most recent comment on this subject was a guy in Ontanagon County that put up a billboard outside his trailer house declaring it the "Governor's Mansion of the 51st State".

    This ride takes in much of Dickinson, Iron, Gogebic, Ontanagon, Houghton, Keweenaw, and Baraga counties in the western UP.
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    I'm starting the ride in iron mining country in Dickinson County. About 3 billion years ago the UP was formed by volcanic eruptions. About 2 billion years ago the iron that was recently mined was formed. 10,000 years ago the last glacier came through and 5,000 years ago it warmed up enough to support wildlife. Right around that time some mysterious indians showed up that did some mining in the area but no one seems to know much about them. 1,200 years ago the current tribes showed up and in the 1600s europeans came into the picture.

    This map shows iron deposits in the region. This became very important for industry in the US.
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    Some of the major mines in this area.
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    The ride route and some of the points of interest in this area.
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    I think a good way of starting a ride that tours mining country might be to take an underground tour of an old iron mine. This attraction wasn't open yet as it is not yet tourist season this far north. There are several opportunities to tour mines that I'll mention on this ride route.
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    On this one you don a hard hat and a rain coat and then ride some mine cars into the mine to see some equipment in action and get the general overall tour of how things operated.
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    Speaking of mining, there is a popular Cornish miner's meal that is prevalent throughout the UP. It is a pasty (pass-tee). It is widely available and can even be gotten at drive-through windows. There are several varieties but a common filling includes beef, potato, and onion.
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    Miners would carry this into the mine in their pail and when the time came to eat they would reheat it on their mining shovel over an open flame. These are really quite good. Some eat them with gravy or ketchup - a point of debate among locals.
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    #8
  9. Yossarian™

    Yossarian™ Deputy Cultural Attaché

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    Oooh, another excellently-documented trip in the works.

    Subscribed! :lurk
    #9
  10. malibu_dan

    malibu_dan Adventuring Mystic

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    I'm in!

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  11. Yooper_Bob

    Yooper_Bob Long timer

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    Da UP, eh! (Marquette, MI)

    "Ketchup".....debate over!

    Lets eat! :dg
    #11
  12. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    In 1903 a mining company came through here looking for ore. They drilled a 1,094 deep hole in the ground to see what was there. The hole cut through some steeply angled strata that ran to the higher elevations nearby. Water gets trapped in those layers and now the pressure from above pushes it out this old bore as an artificially created artesian well. While I was there some local workers pulled over for some long refreshing drinks.
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    Anytime there is rock,elevation, and water there are usually a lot of waterfalls. The UP has many, both big and small. Some wayside stops take in some of these falls and usually offer some kind of interpretive exhibit as well. Best to roll through and take a look.
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    This guard protects the open shaft of the Millie Mine high on a hill in Iron Mountain. The shaft is only 360 feet deep but maintains a temperature that makes it, like other mine shafts, a great place for bats to hole up in. This grate allows the bats to go in and out. Seven varieties of bats stay here, sometimes 50,000 at a time, making this one of the largest concentrations in the midwest. A few bats stay here all the time, but most move in to hibernate in early September and move out in April. Good bat viewing during these periods I guess.
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    A peek down the shaft.
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    Back in 1901, Andy Carnegie was in Iron Mountain on business. He decided they needed one of his libraries so he cut them $15K to build this fine structure. It is now a historical museum.
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    Had to get my required artillery shot in for the trip. I am riding a DL1000 for this ride.
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    By the way, remember Christopher McCandless from the book/movie Into the Wild? This is the guy that went to Alaska and died in the wilderness. His mother is from Iron Mountain and some say that Chris developed part of his love of nature while visiting his grandparents in the area.

    These mines needed to be dewatered to be worked. One mine in this area had the nation's largest steam driven pumping engine. It could lift 200 tons of water per minute. A Milwaukee firm built the engine in 1890-91. It served the mine well and had to be moved once when they discovered it was sitting on a spot full of high grade ore.
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    The flywheel itself was 40' and 160 tons. It could pump 5 million gallons per day from a depth of 1,500 feet. This thing was featured on television (History Channel?) as one of the world's biggest machines.
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    There is mining stuff all over the place.
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    Dickinson County was the last county formed in the UP. One of the richest deposits of iron ore in the world was discovered here in 1873 and things took off fast after that. The county was created in 1891 and by 1896 they were erecting this beautiful courthouse and jail (jail is to the right). Even then the jail was built with 34 cells for male prisoners and two wards for females and juveniles. The Sheriff lived there.
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    You know, sometimes it is best not to engage some people you meet on the street. I couldn't really figure this out and he wasn't talking.
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    #12
  13. freeflow

    freeflow get in or go in

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    oh boy, another cannonshot ride report. always good!...thanks for sharing ! :thumb
    #13
  14. Reddog*

    Reddog* "Gone" by P&1/2

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    Cannonshot, he is just in summer training.

    Same guy, he is my buddy's neighbor.
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    #14
  15. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Around 1920, what is now Kingsford was a place that had about 40 people living there. Henry Ford was into manufacturing automobiles and needed wood and iron to get that job done.

    A guy named Kingsford was related to Ford by marriage and he knew his way around the UP. Ford put him to work buying up about 400,000 acres of timber for Ford to use as leverage against other suppliers and in his own work toward manufacturing autos. Ford did a lot of good things in the UP that I'll cover later, but with regard to logging, some say he just about ruined the business. He did this by paying Detroit area wages to UP loggers which was about triple what other companies paid. He built decent camps with steam heat, recreation halls, and electric lights instead of the primitive facilities others provided. He used scientific forestry and selective cutting instead of the destructive methods others used. Instead of leaving the slash on the ground which resulted in devasting fires, he cleaned things up on his lands so when the fires came he was not as severly impacted. Much more on Ford later.

    Anyway, he set up a headquarters operation in what became Kingsford to manufacture wood parts for his vehicles. I think he employed about 7,500 people across the UP so this was a significant operation.
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    There is a lot of stuff in Kingsford named after Ford (Hospital, parks, etc). Sadly, there is not much left of his factory works that built the town.
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    Once Ford started making "woody" station wagons, he built the bodies here and shipped them south for the assembly line.
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    Back in the day, there was a lot of wood in all autos, but the wagons had quite a bit more.
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    Ford was big on controlling waste and using as much as he could. I think I read somewhere that he had about 6% waste wood to deal with so he started making charcoal out of the waste at the plant to sell in his dealerships.
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    Yes, this eventually became Kingsford Charcoal, a familiar household brand.
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    The Kingsford plant now is in Kentucky I think, but the brand is sold all over - including right here where it started.
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    When World War II came, Ford switched over from making station wagons at this plant to making wooden Waco gliders for the Army. The whole shebang went over to glider production with 4,500 people working over three shifts to produce up to eight gliders a day. The plant turned out 4,190 gliders and out produced any other company during the war. On top of that, Ford managed to produce his for about $15,400 each whereas others were producing at a price tag of at least $25K each. Ford had mass production down pat.
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    After the gliders were assembled, government inspectors would check them out. Ford workers would then disassemble them and crate them for rail transport. After a while Ford decided this was too inefficient. He cut a 120' wide swath through the woods a mile to the airport. He used Ford farm tractors to drag the assembled gliders to the airfield so the Army could come in with planes, pick them up, and tow them where they wanted them.
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    By the way, the local school team goes by the nickname "Flivvers" being named after the early Ford automobiles. In 1986, ESPN came up with a list of the top ten names for high school sports teams. Two schools from the UP (and from this ride) made the list. They were the Kingsford "Flivvers" and the Watersmeet "Nimrods". Two out of ten nationwide - right here in the western UP.
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    #15
  16. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Like the trooper pointed out to Gadget Boy, best to be aware that these sometimes pesky critters are all over the place.
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    There are also a few moose around. We ran into a couple just the other day. Don't get too close to these as they can get ornery.
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    Stopped to look at a ski jump (and the related view).
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    This one is kind of small compared to the world class ski flying facility we'll visit further along in the ride.
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    Some people were building a verterans memorial on top of this high hill. I took of moment to thank them for what they were doing. These things don't just happen, some dedicated people work hard to see them come to fruition.
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    Even though the forests were largely destroyed in the early days of the lumber business, for a variety of reasons that I'll cover later, things have come back and the timber industry is strong here.
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    Surprisingly, the biggest employers in the UP are prisons and casinos. Tourism far outdistances these in the summer, but the season doesn't last long. One travel outfit listed the UP as one of the top ten travel destinations in the world. There is a lot of great stuff to see and do here. It seems like it is a long way to go from many places to get here though.
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    By the way, when enjoying these twisty roads, keep an eye out for sand left over from the winter that can make the corners a little dangerous.
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    Some of my fellow ADVers will recognize that corner from when sand wasn't a problem but tar snakes were.
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    Best to keep in mind that some of these roads are pretty unscientific (decreasing radius turns, etc).
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    #16
  17. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Next stop, the ghost town of Mansfield and the site of the Mansfield Mine Disaster.
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    Iron ore was discovered here so they ran a rail spur up from Crystal Falls and got a mine going. The mine was going well. They were down about 425 feet and had six side shafts. I think 125 miners were employed here.

    One of the side shafts ran under this river. The top level was only 35 feet below the river. On September 28, 1893, the shaft caved in under the river and the river flooded the mine. The cave in caused a downdraft that blew out candles and lanterns in the mine. The miners made a break for it but got caught in a torrent of water pouring into the mine.
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    Five made it out by scrambling up ladders. Twenty seven died. A look at the names gives some hints as to immigrant miners.
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    Eventually they re-routed the river and got back in business. The mine closed in 1913 and logging and farming took over. The mine eventually got down to 1517 feet and produced 1.5 million tons of ore that was shipped by rail to Escanaba on Lake Michigan.

    This ghost town once had 2 stores, a boardinghouse, a school, a church, and three saloons.
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    As if they didn't have enough trouble, a year after the cave-in a devastating forest fire came through that burned up the stuff on the east bank including some mining works.
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    The church, on the unburned west bank, has since been restored and is a great building.
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    Some cabins left to rot.
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    This homestead has been reasonably maintained and all of the buildings seem to be in great shape.
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    I am surprised that televison antenna lasted that long though.
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    A nearby hydro project. Still valuable today.
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    Note the use of the tainter gates. These were invented in Wisconsin in the logging days and are now used world-wide.
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    Some of the stuff on the bike. I travel alone a lot so I use a SPOT tracker. I don't rely on it, but it is one more thing in the event something bad happened. The satellite radio works well. In the wooded areas where the roads are narrow and the trees close in it falters a bit. I use the 2610 for highway stuff. For rides like this one, the 60 series with tracks suits me best since I often end up in places where the paths don't route.
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    #17
  18. Cannonshot

    Cannonshot Having a Nice Time Super Moderator

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    Just catching up a bit. Thanks for the encouraging replies. It is always nice to know that some others are interested some of these rides that take in a bit of history. :D
    #18
  19. Serbchaser

    Serbchaser Chasin' the Serb

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    Awesome report, that area is very high on my hit parade. Well done and much appreciated. :freaky
    #19
  20. NorWis

    NorWis No longer a "Wanna Be"

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    Cannonshot,

    Another great report! Thanks.:clap

    What is the bottle attached to your mirror for?

    Thanks again!

    Todd

    #20