Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula By Motorbike
Considered one of the explanations I experience is for the spirit of dealing with the street and life with a can-do attitude, and another is for the joy of seeing the panorama unfold. If that is 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 call it. Stretching 310 miles from Sault Ste. Marie near its jap finish to Ironwood close to its western border, it is 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 used to be born and raised in Michigan’s western Lower Peninsula, and can remember in grade school singing the unofficial state tune, “Michigan, My Michigan” (to the tune of “Tannenbaum, O Tannenbaum”). Within the 1970s I used to trip up into the U.P. on vacation. Regardless of a transfer to California more than 30 years ago I still return to my hometown, but had not been back to the U.P. since 1975. That’s why I was especially enthused about the chance to trip there for a couple of fall days final October.
On this newest journey I found the U.P. refreshingly unchanged, and reasonably than my early 1970s Honda CB450 I was now riding an Electra Glide Basic 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 information to the U.P.seems to know everybody, and is aware of where to journey and what to see.
Just after we started riding along 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 an enormous structure, massive and grey, and a whole bunch of ft long, a succession of high, close-set concrete archways extending out into the water. Brad informed me that it was the old Lower Harbor Ore Dock, now now not in use. Railroad automobiles full of iron ore had been shunted onto it, workmen lowered chutes and the ore rattled noisily into the holds of the large ore carriers that used to dock right here.
Subsequent we ride west, the place we note signs of the approaching fall season: Pontoon boats up on blocks, firewood neatly stacked on porches and the leaves turning yellow. We attain Huge Bay; this little town was the scene of a homicide in 1951 that inspired the guide Anatomy of a Murder, and the 1959 movie by the same identify starring Jimmy Stewart and Lee Remick. We seize lunch at the Thunder Bay Inn, which was the setting for scenes in the classic movie. 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 nice Lakes,” they’re truly nice inland seas. In Munising I board a 60-foot statement boat for a cruise along the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The captain informs us that Superior alone accommodates sufficient recent water to cover your complete continental United States to a depth of 5 toes! It is cool and blustery at the present time, and once we clear Grand Island we’re in Lake Superior correct where the waves start to rock and roll. Many 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 facet. All alongside the Pictured Rocks we’re treated to a humorous, operating commentary about the rock cliffs which 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 following day Brad and i experience from Munising east on M28 alongside what is known as “the Seney Stretch,” 25 straight miles by way of scrubland full of stunted timber 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 practice in 1919. Wounded in World War I, Hemingway had hiked north to fish the Fox River, and would later fictionalize the expertise in one in all his Nick Adams tales referred to as The big Two-Hearted River. However wait, the two Heart is actually effectively north of here; did Hemingway get it improper Nope. Like a real fisherman, he had misnamed the river in an attempt to keep his favorite fishing spot a secret.
We ride eastward on a tree-lined two-lane street, and after we pass the sign for Deer Park I recall camping close to 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 fire when one thing tapped me on the shoulder. Startled, I turned round to discover a raccoon, and after i turned again another was operating off with the toasted marshmallow as two others have been sizzling-footing it into the darkness with all the bag between them! They don’t put on these little bandit masks for nothing!
Lake Superior is cold, 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” performs through the stereo on our journey to The nice Lakes Shipwreck Museum on Whitefish Level. The song recounts the sea catastrophe that occurred on November 10, 1975, when the ore service sank in a storm with all 29 men, 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. Hypothesis is that the SS Edmund Fitzgerald was too near Caribou Island some forty miles northeast of right here, where 35-foot seas in 45 ft of water allowed the carrier to strike backside, which damaged her hull and brought on 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 time. Yeah, it is a Yooper place all proper, with trophy heads and stuffed wildlife arranged alongside the partitions and among the rafters. All of the sudden, a siren sounds, lights flash and we ask the waitress what the heck’s going on. “Oh, they do that each time they open a brand new keg,” she explains.
In the morning we cross the road from our motel for a view of the well-known Soo Locks. Sadly, at this explicit second there’s not a ship in sight. The International Bridge looms in the gap with Canada simply throughout the way in which.
It is about a 55-mile freeway trip south to the Mackinac Bridge, then we turn westward on Highway 2 by low scrubland with Lake Michigan on our left. In Blaney Park Brad introduces me to Steve Zellar, who puts on an annual motorcycle occasion known as The Blaney Park Rendezvous. He gives us a tour of his expansive campground that accommodated 3,000 riders final year; his 2010 rally can 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 enormous furnaces, an extensive dock and properties; about 500 people lived and labored 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 wreck, a present from the previous 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 mattress & breakfast with 14 charming rooms and a full bar and restaurant. Brad introduces me to homeowners Charley and Laurie Macintosh (he seems to know all people) who’re planning a bike event there within the close to future. Subsequent door is the outdated common retailer, which was abandoned within the ’50s with a few of its merchandise still intact. Its owner, a gentleman named Pat, provides us a tour of its time-capsule inside.
Brad leads us up H13 north into Alger County, and this fall Sunday afternoon we enjoy the turning leaves because the Harley feels surprisingly nimble following the street’s hills and gentle curves. Every few miles a path 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’s west where we go to Da Yoopers Tourist Trap near Ishpeming. As an ex-Michigander it was simply as corny as I might hoped, with life-sized dioramas of a Jeep pushed stone island solde by a deer with a hunter tied across the hood, of deer playing cards, the place filled with Yooper bumper stickers and souvenirs. Out front is “Gus,” the world’s largest running/working chain saw (it’s within the Guinness E-book of Data), and “Big Ernie,” the most important working rifle.
The ghost town of Fayette serves as a logo for a lot of the U.P. that, unfortunately, is suffering economically.
Along the roads are abandoned houses and factories. Tourism is now the primary financial driver in the area, 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 pink-and-yellow maple leaves, and there’s a cool dampness within the air from a recent passing shower. We tromp inside because the fragrance of wooden 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 football game illuminates the big screen. This welcoming, rustic friendliness confirms that this truly is still Michigan…my Michigan.
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