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Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula By Motorcycle

Certainly one of the reasons I ride is for the spirit of dealing with the road and life with a can-do attitude, and another is for the joy of seeing the landscape unfold. If that’s part of your riding psyche, too, you’ll feel right at home in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, or “The U.P.” as the locals call it. Stretching 310 miles from Sault Ste. Marie near its eastern end to Ironwood near its western border, it’s a wild land separated from the Lower Peninsula by the Mackinac Bridge, and from Detroit (293 miles to the south) by main cultural differences.

I was born and raised in Michigan’s western Decrease Peninsula, and might remember in grade school singing the unofficial state song, “Michigan, My Michigan” (to the tune of “Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum”). In the 1970s I used to ride up into the U.P. on vacation. Despite a move to California greater than 30 years in the past I still return to my hometown, however had not been back to the U.P. since 1975. That is why I was especially enthused about the chance to ride there for a couple of fall days last October.

On this latest trip I found the U.P. refreshingly unchanged, and fairly than my early 1970s Honda CB450 I was now riding an Electra Glide Classic borrowed from Bald Eagle Harley-Davidson in Marquette. I was additionally accompanied by Brad Kolbus, from Munising, on his Highway King; he publishes a rider’s guide to the U.P.seems to know everybody, and knows where to ride and what to see.

Simply after we began riding alongside the Superior lakeshore by Marquette Bay, I instantly pulled Brad over at a vision that appeared right out of a Star Wars movie to ask, “What the heck is that ” It was a huge structure, huge and gray, and a whole bunch of feet long, a succession of high, shut-set concrete archways extending out into the water. Brad knowledgeable me that it was the previous Lower Harbor Ore Dock, now now not in use. Railroad cars full of iron ore were shunted onto it, workmen lowered chutes and the ore rattled noisily into the holds of the huge ore carriers that used to dock here.

Next we ride west, the place we word signs of the approaching fall season: Pontoon boats up on blocks, firewood neatly stacked on porches and the leaves turning yellow. We reach Huge Bay; this little town was the scene of a murder in 1951 that inspired the e book Anatomy of a Murder, and the 1959 movie by the same title starring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick. We seize lunch at the Thunder Bay Inn, which was the setting for scenes in the classic film. The pub wherein we dine was built onto the resort for the filming.

Though Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario are referred to as “The great Lakes,” they’re actually great inland seas. In Munising I board a 60-foot observation boat for a cruise along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The captain informs us that Superior alone incorporates sufficient recent water to cover the entire continental United States to a depth of 5 feet! It’s cool and blustery this day, and once we clear Grand Island we’re in Lake Superior proper where stone island t shirt flannels the waves begin to rock and roll. Most of the patrons abandon the cold, windswept open viewing area on top for the glass-enclosed seating on the principle deck, as I consider abandoning my lunch over the side. All along the Pictured Rocks we’re treated to a humorous, running commentary about the rock cliffs that have been eroded by eons of wind, rain and freezing weather, and painted in shades of brown, tan and inexperienced by the runoff of the limonite, copper, iron and manganese. We sail past caves, arches and a rock referred to as the Indian’s Head. A wide, filmy waterfall drops like a veil from the striated cliffs.

The next day Brad and i experience from Munising east on M28 along what is known as “the Seney Stretch,” 25 straight miles via scrubland stuffed with stunted trees and pines. Thirty-some years ago I had stopped in Seney to commemorate that it was proper here, where Highways 28 and 77 intersect, that a young Ernest Hemingway had disembarked the train in 1919. Wounded in World War I, Hemingway had hiked north to fish the Fox River, and would later fictionalize the expertise in one of his Nick Adams stories called The big Two-Hearted River. But wait, the two Heart is actually well north of here; did Hemingway get it fallacious Nope. Like a real fisherman, he had misnamed the river in an try to maintain his favourite fishing spot a secret.

We trip eastward on a tree-lined two-lane street, and once we pass the sign for Deer Park I recall camping near it on Muskallonge Lake in the ’70s. My evening was enlivened when five raccoons came snuffling up from the lake, begging on their hind legs. I gave them some bread, and half an hour later was toasting marshmallows over the hearth when one thing tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned round to discover a raccoon, and once i turned back another was running off with the toasted marshmallow as two others were hot-footing it into the darkness with the entire bag between them! They do not put on these little bandit masks for nothing!

Lake Superior is chilly, grey and whitecapped on this blustery day, and when the rain begins I huddle into my electric gear and crank the thermostat to “weld.” The Classic’s fairing and lowers keep the worst of the weather off me, and Gordon Lightfoot’s haunting dirge “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” plays by the stereo on our trip to The nice Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Level. The tune recounts the sea catastrophe that occurred on November 10, 1975, when the ore carrier sank in a storm with all 29 men, just 17 miles northwest of here.

In the Museum’s boathouse I meet Tom Farnquist, executive director of the great Lakes Shipwreck Historic Society. Hypothesis is that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was too near Caribou Island some forty miles northeast of right here, the place 35-foot seas in 45 feet of water allowed the carrier to strike bottom, which damaged her hull and caused her to take on water. She eventually broke in two and sank in 535 toes of water off Whitefish Level. Farnquist has dived on the wreck and personally helped get well the ship’s bell, which now includes the centerpiece of the museum.

Dinner was at the Antlers Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, which was packed this Friday night. Yeah, it’s a Yooper place all right, with trophy heads and stuffed wildlife arranged alongside the partitions and among the many rafters. Instantly, a siren sounds, lights flash and we ask the waitress what the heck’s going on. “Oh, they do that every time they open a new keg,” she explains.

In the morning we cross the street from our motel for a view of the famous Soo Locks. Sadly, at this specific second there’s not a ship in sight. The Worldwide Bridge looms in the space with Canada simply throughout the way in which.

It’s about a 55-mile freeway experience south to the Mackinac Bridge, then we turn westward on Highway 2 by means of low scrubland with Lake Michigan on our left. In Blaney Park Brad introduces me to Steve Zellar, who places on an annual motorbike event called The Blaney Park Rendezvous. He gives us a tour of his expansive campground that accommodated 3,000 riders last year; his 2010 rally can be held June 18-20.

The thumb-shaped Garden Peninsula hangs down into Lake Michigan, and is home to Fayette Historic State Park. Fayette was established in 1867 as an iron-smelting operation with huge furnaces, an extensive dock and homes; about 500 people lived and worked here. When the charcoal iron market declined, the operation was discontinued in 1891 and Fayette was abandoned. At the moment, it has been left as an arrested break, a gift from the past with its unpainted foreman’s houses, the old hotel and castlelike stone remains of the smelter on picturesque Snail Shell Harbor.

We stop in Nahma at the Nahma Inn, a bed & breakfast with 14 charming rooms and a full bar and restaurant. Brad introduces me to house owners Charley and Laurie Macintosh (he appears to know everybody) who are planning a bike event there within the near future. Next door is the old basic store, which was abandoned in the ’50s with some of its merchandise still intact. Its owner, a gentleman named Pat, gives us a tour of its time-capsule interior.

Brad leads us up H13 north into Alger County, and this fall Sunday afternoon we benefit from the turning leaves because stone island t shirt flannels the Harley feels surprisingly nimble following the road’s hills and gentle curves. Footwear Every few miles a trail or two-tracks leads off into the yellow woods, where muddy dirt bikes and ATVs disappear; we lengthy to observe them into the forest.

From there it is west the place we visit Da Yoopers Vacationer Trap near Ishpeming. As an ex-Michigander it was just as corny as I’d hoped, with life-sized dioramas of a Jeep driven by a deer with a hunter tied across the hood, of deer playing cards, the place stuffed with Yooper bumper stickers and souvenirs. Out entrance is “Gus,” the world’s largest working/working chain saw (it’s within the Guinness Guide of Records), and “Huge Ernie,” the largest working rifle.

The ghost town of Fayette serves as a symbol for much of the U.P. that, unfortunately, is suffering economically.

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Along the roads are abandoned properties and factories. Tourism is now the main financial driver in the world, and there is much about the U.P. to love. To me, the true charm of the place-with its pines and cedars, maples and birches, hidden lakes and bays, and rustic cabins-is how the whole thing comes together. On this fall Sunday we rumble alongside backroads to The Up North Lodge close to Gwinn. The sunlight dapples the purple-and-yellow maple leaves, and there’s a cool dampness within the air from a recent passing shower. We tromp inside as the fragrance of wood smoke wafts from the stone fireplace. Many patrons turn to nod and greet us. Burgers and pollock, ribs, whitefish and smelt populate the menu, and a soccer sport illuminates the big screen. This welcoming, rustic friendliness confirms that this really is still Michigan…my Michigan.

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