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BBBC #10 – A story you love to tell

Truth be told, the weather story from Monday is probably one of my all time favorites. But since I already used that one up I’ll come up with another one.

Once upon a time, in a land far, far away…

<record scratch/>

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No… that won’t do. What’s a story I love telling? Here’s one.

My family and I head to Michigan for an annual family vacation. My uncle owns a cottage up there and graciously allows us to use it every summer. I got my Honda Interstate in 2012. Having come from my Yamaha Majesty, I was yearning to log some miles on a REAL motorcycle.

That summer it was hot. Really hot. The grass all over had gone into hibernation. It was dry. All summer long. As I headed out for my first EPIC ROAD TRIP, I remember sitting in rush hour traffic crawling along at walking speeds. I was very thankful I had a watercooled bike. The fans on the radiator would kick on and off frequently.

As I passed Green Bay on my way to the UP, there was a distinct line where I passed into “the north woods”. I recall with great clarity how the climate changed. It was noticeably cooler. For the first time in my life, I took active notice of the smell. I could smell pine. I could smell firepits that had been burning in campgrounds. These are things I’d never noticed before in a car. Riding was a pleasure. I had the widest grin on my face for hours on end.

M-77_Heading_North
Highway 2 in the Upper Peninsula

 

How much further?!
How much further?!

 

Civilization is at hand
Civilization is at hand

As the road veered east along highway 2 in the UP, I was downright giddy. Riding along the lake is something you hear about but can’t really comprehend. Lake Michigan is a globally recognizable thing like the Rocky Mountains or the Grand Canyon. I don’t know why I expected it to be further away, but it wasn’t. Lake Michigan was “right there”! There are many places where I could have thrown a rock into it. That’s how close it was.

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Lake Michigan is right there!!

Having not gone on any EPIC ROAD TRIPS before, I had planned ahead and decided that I should stop half way through. I’m glad I did. I had booked myself into a crummy little (read cheap) hotel in Manistique. By that point, I was hungry, thirsty and tired. After checking into the hotel, I backtracked toward town. There’s a little family restaurant there. I ordered a steak and enjoyed the relative quiet. The place wasn’t empty by any stretch of the imagination, but compared with the roar of the engine and the howl of the wind in my helmet, it was a nice break.

Bottle opener mounted in the bathroom of the hotel.  They know their clientele.
Bottle opener mounted in the bathroom of the hotel. They know their clientele.

After dinner, I stopped at the gas station right next to the restaurant. I gassed up the bike and picked up a six pack of beer for me. A quick jaunt back to the hotel and I was ready to settle in for the night. A hot shower and the local news was all I needed. Local news broadcasts in the Upper Peninsula are hilarious. Talk about “small town news”!

The next morning, I discovered that it had rained over night. Fortunately, the hotel is very biker friendly. Not only did they have boards for kickstands, but they had towels for wiping wet bikes down. I dried the Honda off and hit the road.

Travelling east on Highway 2 unveiled more spectacular scenery as well as some of the other local highlights.  I came across an actual pastie store (a delicacy not to be missed if you have the opportunity) and THE MYSTERY SPOT.

Get yer pasties!  Get'em here!
Get yer pasties! Get’em here!
Admit it... if you've never been to one of these things, you've wondered.
Admit it… if you’ve never been to one of these things, you’ve wondered.

Well of course I had to stop at the Mystery Spot.  Being a somewhat scientifically minded guy, I just had to see how gravity worked differently there.  And really, who can pass up “fun fun fun”?

After forking over more cash than I had planned on (they gotta stay in business somehow), it was time to tackle THE BRIDGE.

Truly a spectacle to behold
Truly a spectacle to behold

I approached the bridge and paid my toll.  At the time it was $4.  I don’t know how much it’ll be this time, but I doubt it’ll be less.  I found myself in line with four other guys on their bikes.  How cool is this?  We started our ride over.  The bridge is four lanes… two lanes northbound, two lanes southbound.  Of the four lanes, the outer two lanes are solid concrete or asphalt.  The inner lanes are metal grates.  You see, when it snows up there, they have to be able to get the snow out of the way.  The easiest thing is to just shove it into the middle lanes and let it fall down into the lake.

Metal grates are great for when it snows.
Metal grates are great for when it snows.

My four new riding partners and I were traveling in the outer lanes on solid surface.  You can’t really see over the side barricades which is a good thing.  I stole a few glances and found that what I was able to see was SPECTACULAR.  But you have to focus on the road.

As we were riding along, I spotted a car towing a boat up ahead of us.  Going slow.  Really slow.  My riding partners and I saw it too.  One by one, the guys in front of me peeled off into the middle lane.

There are two problems with this.  First of all, that middle grate… that metal mesh… it really grabs your tires.  What was a pretty free flowing ride was now a struggle to maintain control.  Secondly, that mesh… well… you can see through it.  And you are way WAY up there!  I peeked down once or twice and nearly had a heart attack!

I honestly didn't feel this safe
I honestly didn’t feel this safe

When I finally reached the other side of the bridge, I had to stop the bike and just walk around on solid ground for a little while.  Yeeesh.

The only other memorable part of this trip was that due to the heat and my inexperience, I thought it would be a good idea to ride in shorts.

Handsome but stupid fella on his motorcycle
Handsome but stupid fella on his motorcycle

 

While riding in gear that isn’t real motorcycle gear is a bad idea to start with, the real problem was that as you’re riding through the forest at 60 miles per hour, bugs (of which there are many) really hurt!  Plus, there’s just a lot of sand all over the place in the U.P.  Ow ow ow ow ow ow ow ow

Thankfully, I have learned my lessons.  I’ve ridden this trip a few more times since.  This year, I’ll be doing it again.  It was a really great trip and makes for a decent story.

2 thoughts on “BBBC #10 – A story you love to tell

  1. Steel grate bridge decks are something that takes getting used to. There was a short one on my commuting route that was good to practice on. Then one day I crossed the Victoria Bridge that spans the St-Lawrence river on Montreal’s south shore.

    The bike kind of worms back and forth, and the wheels kind of shift under you left and right. It feels so wrong, but in reality I think it’s actually quite safe.

    But if it’s your first time, and you’re crossing a bridge that massive, it’s a wonder you didn’t completely freak out.

    Nicely done, and a great story!

  2. I agree with Richard, great story!

    Metal grates are not a favorite of mind, but I’ve learned to just relax and keep the bike pointed straight. It’s worked so far.

    Oddly, bridge heights don’t bother me. Maybe because heights in general don’t bother me? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been crossing high bridges all my life and am just sort of used to them?

    I was once freaked out by a bridge. I was in my car, on my way home from a solo road trip to Maine. That’s when I encountered my first cable-stayed bridge. The kind of bridge with single, tall supports in the middle where the bridge deck is just sort of suspended in the air. I know bridges are all just suspended in the air, but this thing LOOKS like it’s just hanging in the air. I literally yelled, “WTF kind of bridge is that!?!” 🙂

    I found a blog post of someone else’s with multiple pics if you’re curious: http://blog.adventureswithrenee.com/2014/09/the-penobscot-narrows-bridge-stockton.html

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