Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula By Motorbike
One in every of the explanations I trip is for the spirit of going through 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 will really feel proper at residence in Michigan’s Higher Peninsula, or “The U.P.” because the locals name 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 variations.
I used to be born and raised in Michigan’s western Decrease Peninsula, and might remember in grade faculty 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 nonetheless return to my hometown, however had not been again to the U.P. since 1975. That is why I used to be particularly enthused about the opportunity to ride there for a few fall days last October.
On this latest trip I found the U.P. refreshingly unchanged, and somewhat than my early 1970s Honda CB450 I used to be now riding an Electra Glide Traditional borrowed from Bald Eagle Harley-Davidson in Marquette. I used to be also 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 trip and what to see.
Simply after we began riding alongside the Superior lakeshore by Marquette Bay, I immediately 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, massive and gray, and hundreds of feet long, a succession of high, close-set concrete archways extending out into the water. Brad knowledgeable me that it was the previous Lower Harbor Ore Dock, now no longer 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 right here.
Subsequent 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 on the Thunder Bay Inn, which was the setting for scenes in the classic film. The pub by which we dine was built onto the hotel for the filming.
Though Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario are referred to as “The great Lakes,” they’re really nice inland seas. In Munising I board a 60-foot remark boat for a cruise alongside the Pictured Rocks Nationwide Lakeshore. The captain informs us that Superior alone incorporates enough recent water to cover your entire continental United States to a depth of 5 toes! It is cool and blustery this present day, and as soon as we clear Grand Island we’re in Lake Superior correct the place the waves start to rock and roll. Many of the patrons abandon the chilly, windswept open viewing area on top for the glass-enclosed seating on the main deck, as I consider abandoning my lunch over the facet. All alongside the Pictured Rocks we’re handled to a humorous, working commentary concerning the rock cliffs which were 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 large, filmy waterfall drops like a veil from the striated cliffs.
The subsequent day Brad and that i trip from Munising east on M28 alongside what known as “the Seney Stretch,” 25 straight miles through scrubland full of stunted trees and pines. Thirty-some years ago I had stopped in Seney to commemorate that it was proper right here, the place Highways 28 and 77 intersect, that a younger Ernest Hemingway had disembarked the prepare in 1919. Wounded in World Struggle I, Hemingway had hiked north to fish the Fox River, and would later fictionalize the experience in one in every of his Nick Adams tales referred to as The big Two-Hearted River. However wait, the 2 Coronary heart is definitely nicely north of right here; did Hemingway get it mistaken Nope. Like a real fisherman, he had misnamed the river in an attempt to keep his favourite fishing spot a secret.
We ride eastward on a tree-lined two-lane road, and once we move the signal for Deer Park I recall camping close to it on Muskallonge Lake within the ’70s. My night 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 fire when one thing tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned around to find a raccoon, and once i turned again one other was working off with the toasted marshmallow as two others have been sizzling-footing it into the darkness with your complete bag Island between them! They do not wear those 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 Traditional’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 ride to The great Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Point. The tune recounts the sea catastrophe that occurred on November 10, 1975, when the ore service sank in a storm with all 29 males, simply 17 miles northwest of right here.
Within the Museum’s boathouse I meet Tom Farnquist, executive director of the great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society. Speculation is that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was too close to Caribou Island some forty miles northeast of right here, the place 35-foot seas in forty five toes of water allowed the service to strike backside, which broken her hull and triggered her to take on water. She eventually broke in two and sank in 535 feet of water off Whitefish Point. Farnquist has dived on the wreck and personally helped recuperate the ship’s bell, which now includes the centerpiece of the museum.
Dinner was on 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 arranged along the walls and among the rafters. Abruptly, a siren sounds, lights flash and we ask the waitress what the heck’s occurring. “Oh, they do that every time they open a brand new keg,” she explains.
In the morning we cross the street from our motel for a view of the famous Soo Locks. Unfortunately, at this particular moment there’s not a ship in sight. The International Bridge looms in the distance with Canada simply across the way in which.
It’s about a fifty five-mile freeway trip south to the Mackinac Bridge, then we turn westward on Highway 2 through low scrubland with Lake Michigan on our left. In Blaney Park Brad introduces me to Steve Zellar, who puts 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 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 large furnaces, an extensive dock and homes; about 500 people lived and labored right here. When the charcoal iron market declined, the operation was discontinued in 1891 and Fayette was abandoned. As we speak, it has been left as an arrested damage, a reward from the previous with its unpainted foreman’s homes, the previous hotel and castlelike stone remains of the smelter on picturesque Snail Shell Harbor.
We stop in Nahma at the Nahma Inn, a mattress & breakfast with 14 charming rooms and a full bar and restaurant. Brad introduces me to owners Charley and Laurie Macintosh (he appears to know everybody) who are planning a bike event there in the near future. Next door is the old general store, which was abandoned in the ’50s with a few of its merchandise still intact. Its owner, a gentleman named Pat, provides us a tour of its time-capsule interior.
Brad leads us up H13 north into Alger County, and this fall Sunday afternoon we enjoy the turning leaves as the Harley feels surprisingly nimble following the road’s hills and gentle curves. Every few miles a trail or two-tracks leads off into the yellow woods, the place muddy dirt bikes and ATVs disappear; we long to observe them into the forest.
From there it is west the place we visit Da Yoopers Vacationer stone island tracksuit cruise Lure 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 playing cards, the place stuffed with Yooper bumper stickers and souvenirs. Out front is “Gus,” the world’s largest running/working chain noticed (it is within the Guinness Book of Records), and “Big Ernie,” the largest working rifle.
The ghost town of Fayette serves as a symbol for much of the U.P. that, sadly, is suffering economically.
Along the roads are abandoned houses and factories. Tourism is now the main economic driver in the area, and there is much concerning 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 along backroads to The Up North Lodge near Gwinn. The sunlight dapples the red-and-yellow maple leaves, and there’s a cool dampness in the air from a recent passing shower. We tromp inside because the fragrance of wooden 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 game illuminates the big screen. This welcoming, rustic friendliness confirms that this truly is still Michigan…my Michigan.
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