Touring Michigan’s Higher Peninsula By Motorbike
One in every of the reasons I ride is for the spirit of facing the street and life with a can-do perspective, and one other is for the joy of seeing the panorama unfold. If that is a part of your riding psyche, too, you may really feel proper at house in Michigan’s Higher Peninsula, or “The U.P.” because the locals name it. Stretching 310 miles from Sault Ste. Marie close to its japanese end to Ironwood close to its western border, it’s a wild land separated from the Decrease Peninsula by the Mackinac Bridge, and from Detroit (293 miles to the south) by main cultural variations.
I was born and raised in Michigan’s western Lower Peninsula, and might remember in grade faculty singing the unofficial state song, “Michigan, My Michigan” (to the tune of “Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum”). Within the 1970s I used to experience up into the U.P. on vacation. Despite a move to California more than 30 years ago I still return to my hometown, but had not been again to the U.P. since 1975. That is why I was particularly enthused about the opportunity to ride there for just a few 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 used to be additionally accompanied by Brad Kolbus, from Munising, on his Road King; he publishes a rider’s guide to the U.P.seems to know everybody, and knows where to ride and what to see.
Just after we began riding alongside the Superior lakeshore by Marquette Bay, I instantly pulled Brad over at a imaginative and prescient that seemed right out of a Star Wars movie to ask, “What the heck is that ” It was a huge structure, massive and gray, and a whole bunch of feet long, a succession of high, close-set concrete archways extending out into the water. Brad knowledgeable me that it was the previous Decrease Harbor Ore Dock, now now not in use. Railroad vehicles stuffed with iron ore have been 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, where we word indicators of the approaching fall season: Pontoon boats up on blocks, firewood neatly stacked on porches and the leaves turning yellow. We attain Massive Bay; this little city was the scene of a murder in 1951 that inspired the book Anatomy of a Murder, and the 1959 movie by the same name starring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick. We seize lunch on the Thunder Bay Inn, which was the setting for scenes within the traditional movie. The pub wherein we dine was constructed onto the hotel 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 statement boat for a cruise alongside the Pictured Rocks Nationwide Lakeshore. The captain informs us that Superior alone incorporates sufficient recent water to cover the complete continental United States to a depth of 5 ft! It’s cool and blustery at the present time, and once we clear Grand Island we’re in Lake Superior proper where 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 main deck, as I consider abandoning my lunch over the aspect. All along the Pictured Rocks we’re treated to a humorous, operating 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 green by the runoff of the limonite, copper, iron and manganese. We sail past caves, arches and a rock known as the Indian’s Head. A wide, filmy waterfall drops like a veil from the striated cliffs.
The following day Brad and i ride from Munising east on M28 along what is called “the Seney Stretch,” 25 straight miles through scrubland full of stunted bushes and pines. Thirty-some years ago I had stopped in Seney to commemorate that it was right 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 experience in certainly one of his Nick Adams stories known as The large Two-Hearted River. But wait, the two Heart is actually properly north of right here; did Hemingway get it wrong Nope. Like a true fisherman, he had misnamed the river in an try to maintain his favorite fishing spot a secret.
We experience eastward on a tree-lined two-lane highway, and after we pass the sign for Deer Park I recall camping near it on Muskallonge Lake within the ’70s. My evening was enlivened when 5 raccoons got here 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 fireplace when something tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned around to find a raccoon, and when i turned back another was running off with the toasted marshmallow as two others have been hot-footing it into the darkness with your entire bag between them! They don’t put on those little bandit masks for nothing!
Lake Superior is cold, gray and whitecapped on this blustery day, and when the rain begins I huddle into my electric gear and crank the thermostat to “weld.” The Basic’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 through the stereo on our trip to The nice Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point. The music recounts the sea disaster that occurred on November 10, 1975, when the ore carrier sank in a storm with all 29 men, simply 17 miles northwest of right here.
In the Museum’s boathouse I meet Tom Farnquist, govt director of the great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. Speculation is that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was too close to Caribou Island some 40 miles northeast of here, where 35-foot seas in 45 feet of water allowed the carrier to strike bottom, which broken her hull and triggered her to take on water. She eventually broke in two and sank in 535 toes of water off Whitefish Point. Farnquist has dived on the wreck and personally helped recover the ship’s bell, which now comprises the centerpiece of the museum.
Dinner was at the Antlers Restaurant in Sault Ste. Marie, which was packed this Friday night time. Yeah, it’s a Yooper place all right, with trophy heads and stuffed wildlife organized alongside the walls and among the many rafters. Suddenly, 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.
Within the morning we cross the street from our motel for a view of the well-known Soo Locks. Sadly, at this specific second there’s not a ship in sight. The International Bridge looms in the distance with Canada just across the way.
It’s about a 55-mile freeway ride south to the Mackinac Bridge, then we flip westward on Freeway 2 via low scrubland with Lake Michigan on our left. In Blaney Park Brad introduces me to Steve Zellar, who places on an annual motorcycle 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 will likely be held June 18-20.
The thumb-formed Backyard Peninsula hangs down into Lake Michigan, and is residence 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. Right this moment, it has been left as an arrested ruin, 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 cease in Nahma on the Nahma Inn, a mattress & breakfast with 14 charming rooms and a full bar and restaurant. Brad introduces me to house owners Charley and Laurie Macintosh (he seems to know all people) who are planning a bike event there in the near future. Subsequent door is the previous general 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 the Harley feels surprisingly nimble following the street’s hills and gentle curves. Each few miles a trail or two-tracks leads off into the yellow woods, where muddy dirt bikes and ATVs disappear; we long to follow them into the forest.
From there it’s west where we go to Da Yoopers Vacationer Lure close to Ishpeming. As an ex-Michigander it was simply as corny as I would hoped, with life-sized dioramas of a Jeep pushed by a deer with a hunter tied across the hood, of deer playing cards, the place full of Yooper bumper stickers and souvenirs. Out front is “Gus,” the world’s largest running/working chain noticed (it is within the Guinness Guide of Information), and “Massive Ernie,” the most important working rifle.
The ghost city of Fayette serves as stone island t shirt grey a symbol for much of the U.P. that, unfortunately, is suffering economically.
Alongside the roads are abandoned houses and factories. Tourism is now the principle financial driver in the world, and there is much in regards to 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 entire thing comes collectively. On this fall Sunday we rumble alongside backroads to The Up North Lodge close to Gwinn. The sunlight dapples the pink-and-yellow maple leaves, and there’s a cool dampness in the air from a recent passing shower. We tromp inside as the fragrance of wood smoke wafts from the stone fireplace. Many patrons flip to nod and greet us. Burgers and pollock, ribs, whitefish and smelt populate the menu, and a soccer sport illuminates the massive display screen. This welcoming, rustic friendliness confirms that this truly is still Michigan…my Michigan.
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