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Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by Samspade, Jul 26, 2019.
Wish I’d known that when planning the trip.
Excellent! I am heading up there in September and am really looking forward to the trip. Even have the trip across on the Badger planned. Alas, Door County will have to be another time since exploring the North Shore and fishing in Boundary Waters comes first. Your story has me raring to go. Thanks!
How long did it take to get the song about the Edmund Fitzgerald out of your head?
Day 9 (cont.):
The Shipwreck Museum had been my must see for this trip. Now we were off to visit Laura’s. For years she has wanted to visit Mackinac Island (pronounced Mackinaw), the resort island at the confluence of Lakes Michigan and Huron. The island does not allow vehicles so all transportation is by either bicycle or horse drawn wagon/carriage. It’s a place with a lot of history, and a lot of fudge shops.
For 26 miles, from the museum to Emerson, 123 runs along the shore of Whitefish Bay. Riding along the bay reinforces the remoteness that is Lake Superior. Along the way we stopped in Paradise for gas and a quick lunch, then stayed on 123 to the intersection of I-75. To put the remoteness of the UP into perspective, in the 85 miles from the Shipwreck Museum to I-75, you go through 4 small towns and pass 6 roads that are both paved and go somewhere. Lots of woods and several gravel roads going off into the woods. You could spend days or weeks up there exploring on an ADV bike.
If you’ve been paying attention you realize that we try to avoid interstates on our rides. But in a few places there is no other way. This is one of those places. I-75 crosses the Mackinac Straits via the Mackinac Bridge. From Wikipedia:
The Mackinac Bridge (/ˈmækɪnɔː/ MAK-in-aw) is a suspension bridge spanning the Straits of Mackinac to connect the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of the U.S. state of Michigan. Opened in 1957, the 26,372-foot-long (4.995 mi; 8.038 km) bridge (familiarly known as "Big Mac" and "Mighty Mac") is the world's 22nd-longest main span and the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere.
As we’d been riding through Michigan and Wisconsin we talked to a lot of other riders. Many had come down from the UP by riding across the Mackinac Bridge. To a person they all had the same advice; stay in the outside lane. Why? To alleviate wind loads on the bridge the inside lanes in both directions are grating. As every Alaska ride report talks about, riding on a grating bridge is like riding on flat tires. Disconcerting, especially on a five mile long bridge. Fortunately on the Mighty Mac the outside lanes are asphalt. So, if there is no maintenance taking place (we were crossing on a Sunday of a holiday weekend, so no maintenance) you just stay in the outside lane and ride across like on any other five mile long, 200 foot high bridge. I admit I was getting target fixation pretty badly riding along as I kept looking over the guardrail to the water below.
Once across the bridge we were in Mackinaw City. Yes, it’s spelled different than the bridge and island. We were told that one is the French spelling and one the English. Apparently there was a lot of fighting and back and forth ownership in this area during pre-colonial days.
Mackinaw City would be our home base for the next couple of nights. It’s a touristy little lakefront town and not a bad place to stay. It’s also much cheaper than staying on the island. We stayed at a mom and pop motel called the Lamplighter. I knew it was a good choice when we pulled in the parking lot and there was a ’55 Buick Century parked by the office. The Davis’ are great hosts and good people. Add in a good location (2 blocks to the island ferries, 2 blocks to downtown Mackinaw City) and it was one of the better places we stayed this trip.
Mackinaw City Harbor
Mackinaw City Beach
Lamplighter Motel (picture from the web)
'55 Buick Century
Tomorrow we go to the island…
I'm not sure it's out of my head yet! Enjoy your trip.
Day 10 (7/8): Mackinac Island
Being the consummate slackers, this was another non-riding (unless you count boats, horse drawn carriages and bicycles) day. The ferry trip from Mackinaw City to Mackinac Island (there’s that pesky different spelling thing in one sentence) took us under the bridge for a closer look. Once on the island we took a carriage tour.
The island itself is surprisingly hilly. The town district has a lot of shops (especially fudge), boutique hotels, and some pretty good restaurants. The main attraction is the Grand Hotel. Opened in 1887, it claims the largest porch in the world and has 397 rooms. There are gardens, restaurants, a golf course, even an orchestra that plays in the main dining room every evening. If you’re interested, the cheap rooms are $645/night for two people during the week, $680/night on weekends and holidays. The lunch buffet is $42 a person, plus $10 each to enter the property. I’m ashamed to admit I paid the $20 for the two of us to go in and look the place over. But, not really being buffet people, we went somewhere else for lunch.
There is a road that runs the entire shoreline of the island (8.9 miles). We rented bikes and rode the loop. It was a very nice ride with no vehicles to look out for (except other bicycles), water as clear and blue as in the Bahamas, and several beaches along the way.
We also played a round of putt-putt. I know, it sounds touristy and not very exciting. But the course was made up of 18 actual golf greens right along the lakeshore. Probably one of the most picturesque putt-putt courses in the world.
One thing about the downtown area; it stinks. There are horses everywhere and they aren’t shy about doing their business in the middle of the street. There are a whole host of people whose sole job is to go around town and sweep up horse manure!
All in all, it’s a beautiful place and worth a visit if you’re in the area. Sometimes being a tourist isn’t a bad thing.
Coming into the harbor
Archway along the shore
Lake Huron - that's the shore road below
The Island is covered with flowers
Putt-putt, Mackinac Island style
Tomorrow we start the best riding of the trip...
Day 11 (7/9): Mackinaw City to Alpena (94 miles)
The last few days of a trip are always a bag of mixed emotions. It’s easy to miss what’s happening because your mind focuses on the end. To help stop that from occurring we planned a great ride for our last 3 days. We rode the entire Michigan coast of Lake Huron.
The first stop was Alpena. Not a long ride from Mackinaw City (2-1/2 hours) but it was all along the lakefront.
Small harbor on Lake Huron
Alpena sits on Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay. It’s a hotspot for shipwrecks. There’s a maritime museum in Alpena, the Great Lakes Maritime Heritage Center. It’s also home to the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary. The museum runs a glass bottomed boat that takes you on a tour of local shipwrecks in the sanctuary. A perfect afternoon for us.
Unfortunately the wind was up and the seas running too rough so the late afternoon trip was cancelled. No problem. We spent the night, had good Mexican for dinner, and bought grandkid souvenirs in a couple of the local shops downtown.
The next morning we went on the 10 o’clock boat trip. The shipwreck tour was very interesting. Not as much fun as actually diving a shipwreck, but a lot easier. I’m glad it’s a National Sanctuary so the ships are protected.
3-D mural in downtown Alpena
Maritime Heritage Center
Shipwreck in the Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary (picture from the web)
Day 12 (7/10): Alpena to Bay City, MI (135 miles)
After the shipwreck tour we grabbed lunch in Alpena. It was another sunny and 72* day along the lakefront.
Gas and drink stop in Tawas. Nice little lakefront town.
Parked along the lake.
We rolled on for another couple hours with great views of the lake and beaches until we got to Bay City.
Bay City sits at the head of Saginaw Bay where the Saginaw River empties into the bay. It was hot once into the city and the sudden traffic was jarring after several days without. One of those afternoons we were glad to reach our hotel.
A word about our hotel. Astute readers will remember that we like to stay in mom and pop motels. That can be a hit or miss proposition. This trip we’d had several home runs. However, our motel in Alpena was a definite swing and a miss.
At Bay City we stayed at a Comfort Inn. I know—boo—a chain. But after a bad night before it was an oasis. Plus it was within walking distance of a downtown area with a lot of restaurants and a riverfront park. Bonus, there was an Aerosmith cover band giving a free concert in the park. After a great dinner—steak and fries happy hour special—we joined a few hundred others for some music.
Bay City gets a thumbs up from us.
Along the Saginaw River
At our hotel.
City Hall Bay City.
Day 13 (7/11): Bay City to Port Huron (154 miles)
For our last day of scenic riding we chose Michigan's thumb. This would be 150+ miles along the shore of Lake Huron and complete our travel of Michigan's Lake Huron coast.
We left Bay City via M-25 which was our road for the day. It's always nice on an all day ride when you don't have to think about navigation.
On the way out of Bay City we passed several blocks of Victorian mansions. They were built in the late 1800's by lumber barons. That was one difference we noticed between lower Michigan and the UP. In the UP the lumber industry was owned for the most part by rich men who lived back east. In lower Michigan the lumber companies were owned by rich men who worked at the business. I'm not an economist, or a historian, but it seems like the latter scenario meant more folding money got thrown around and helped create much more prosperous towns.
Once out of Bay City we were back in farm country. Laura is pretty good identifying crops (I stink at it). But we were seeing acres of plants that she hadn't seen before. It wasn't until we passed through a couple of small towns that had sugar processing facilities that we surmised these were sugar beets.
As we rounded the top of the thumb and started down Lake Huron proper (the west side of the thumb is Sturgeon Bay) the towns showed signs of tourism--harbors with marinas for pleasure boats, beaches, and signs for festivals. We stopped at Harbor Beach as the girl at our hotel desk had recommended it for lunch. However, the town was dead. Maybe it was the day. There was a nice beach and there was a lot of activity setting up for a weekend festival. But on a Thursday there wasn't anything going on and no restaurants looked appealing. So we kept riding.
We stopped again in Port Sanilac. There was a large marina, a lakeside park, downtown had several good looking restaurants, and there were a fair number--though not too many--people around. We talked to another couple who were stopped for lunch. She was on an Electra Glide Ultra, he was on a Tri-Glide. We were thinking our ride was pretty epic until Laura asked where they were from. They were two months out from British Columbia, had ridden across Canada to the maritime provinces and were on their way home via the northern US. 12,000+ miles so far and would be right at 16,000 when they got home. Hats off to them for a great way to spend the summer.
After a good lunch in a turn of the century (20th) bank building now restaurant, we headed on down the lake through several other small towns and arrived in Port Huron later in the afternoon. As a scenic ride this was a good one.
Port Huron surprised us. I'd booked us a room at a Bed and Breakfast a block from the St. Clair River. This is the river that connects Lake Huron to Lake Erie (with Lake St. Clair in between). It's a busy shipping channel with freighters and ore carriers passing constantly. It's also a very cool town. We walked the riverwalk toward Lake Huron to a great restaurant where we could sit on the deck and watch ships pass by. Our B&B had a couple of bicycles we could use so we rode around the downtown area. A lot of old building have been preserved and are now restaurants, shops, and offices. There's an energy to the town and you see it along the river with runners and bicyclists, people fishing along the seawall, sailboats tacking upwind to get out the channel and into the lake. If it weren't for the winters (we don't like cold weather) it would be a good place to live.
We expected an industrial town without much going on. We were pleasantly wrong. Port Huron gets a thumbs up from us.
Downtown Port Sanilac
Church in Port Sanilac
heading out of the St. Clair River to Lake Huron. Across the bridge is Canada.
Our Port Huron B&B, the Pleasant Place Inn
Great ride report!
Thanks for following.
Hi from NZ
Liking the report
WOW we were probably on many of the same roads at roughly the same time. My wife and I also did a Great Lakes trip. Left our house in Indiana in late July. Ours went up Michigan over the Mackinac Bridge, up to and around Superior, over to Huron, Ontario and Erie.
Our route and photos => https://advrider.com/f/threads/great-lakes-loop-on-2-lanes.1401980/
Like you, no iron butt marathon. We referred to ours as the slow way around.
Glad you had a great trip too.
Always good to ride with the love of your life!
I really enjoyed your ride report. You did a much better job with pictures then we did.
Thanks for the kind words and for following along.
I liked your photos better! A couple of mine are out of sequence.
You also did a nice job of day-by-day breakdown of the trip, mine often lumped several days into 1 post.
Day 14 (7/12): Port Huron to Romulus, MI (124 miles)
This is one of those "the trip is basically over but we have to kill most of a day getting to the hotel by the airport" days. We had no plan other than to get to our hotel by dinner time and avoid riding through Detroit.
Before breakfast we took a last walk along the Port Huron riverwalk. There were a couple of gentlemen suiting up for a scuba dive. Being divers, we asked what was in the river that would warrant a dive? Turns out it was another shipwreck.
According to the divers they were going down to visit the remains of the Colburn, a 3 masted schooner that was sunk in the late 1800's just off the seawall of the river. The 200 foot long ship lies in 50-70 feet of water. That would be a fun dive!
St. Clair River. The dive site for the Colburn is approximately 50-70 feet below this passing freighter.
After breakfast we loaded the bike and looked for something interesting around Detroit without going into the city. Since we'd already done the Henry Ford and Greenfield Village we decided to stop and see the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights. If we (read me) had bothered to read the fine print on Google we'd have known that the collection isn't open to the public. We found out when we pulled into the parking lot around 11:30 and no one was there. Hey, General Motors, open a museum for people to see your history!
We grabbed lunch in Sterling Heights and, with the afternoon to kill, rode over to Ann Arbor. I thought Laura would enjoy the Nichols Arboretum at the University of Michigan. Of course the arboretum is next to the campus in the middle of town. If you haven't been to Ann Arbor, parking is at a premium around the university (as it is at most major colleges). We ended up parked on a residential street several blocks from the arboretum. Let's just say that if we hadn't been on a bike we'd have been wearing much cooler clothes. It was hot in Ann Arbor. We had a nice couple of mile hike along some of the arboretum trails. But of course none of the flowers were in bloom. So we rode an hour through heavy, stop and go traffic to take a walk in the woods. Yeah, this was one of those days.
After our woods walk it was off to Romulus and our hotel. Laura's flight was early the next morning and the hotel shuttle would be leaving at 5:30am. Needless to say we turned in early after dinner.
Tomorrow I have a 600 mile run down I-75 to get home.
Day 15 (7/13): Romulus, MI to Apison, TN (598 miles)
Not much to say about this day. Laura got the hotel shuttle at 5:30am, I packed the bike, then grabbed a quick continental breakfast. I was on the road by 6:30. It was about a mile from the hotel to I-275. Head south, hit I-75, and keep heading south. Quick stops for gas, food and water and I was home about 4:30. The only variable was weather.
Last year on our Western NY/Canada ride we had 8 days with no rain. On the ride home from that trip, after dropping our wives at the airport, we got rained on for a day and a half. This year looked to be the same. All the forecasts called for rain from Kentucky all the way across Tennessee. When I left Romulus the skies were clear and the temperature was 60. Perfect. By the time I got to Cincinnati it was getting hot, but there still wasn't a cloud in the sky. The first clouds were at the Kentucky/Tennessee line. They were thickening quickly as the afternoon heat set in.
For those of you from other parts of the country, let me give you a quick primer on riding in the south in the summertime. There is always a chance of rain. Always and everywhere. However, all day soakers are rare. We get thunderstorms in the afternoon. In fact, if you go to Florida in July/August, you don't need a clock. If it's thundering and raining it's 4 o'clock. If it's over, it's 4:15. Not as bad in Tennessee. But we get a lot of afternoon boomers when it's hot. You have two choices as a rider. See rain ahead and stop to don rain gear, or ignore it and get wet. Unless you're riding in the mountains, ignore it and get wet is usually the best option. Otherwise you're stopping every 15 minutes to put on or take off rain gear, or you're boiling inside said gear.
I chose to get wet and keep riding. I went through a light shower just above Knoxville that lasted less than 2 miles. It felt good and I was barely wet. Between Knoxville and Chattanooga I hit a toad strangler that had cars pulling onto the shoulder. I know better. Flashers on, slow enough to stop in an emergency but fast enough to not get hit from behind, and 10 miles later I was out of the rain and riding in 80 degree temps instead of 95. Another 10 miles and I was completely dry.
Back up to 80 and in no time I was pulling in my driveway ready to sit in the a/c and relax. It had been another great trip. Time to start thinking about next year.
Thanks for following along.
Home! (in honor of @red bud I managed to get my finger in the picture)
Nice trip. Nice report. Thanks for taking us along.