Friday, August 24, 2012

Michigan Aug 2012 Day 7&8

The next morning we woke up rested, and went for breakfast at the "Breakfast Nook" right next to our motel. Great breakfast at a mom-and-pop restaurant. I prefer them over the franchise chain restaurants. Food is usually better, and the place has more character. If you walk in and you see all the locals are there, you know you are in the right place.

The skies were threatening with rain, so we took off dressed in our rain suits.
The plan for today was to cross Michigan from West to East, and make our way up to Port Crescent State Park on the Northern tip of the West Coast (tip of the thumb).
The weather has cooled down a lot overnight, and we were glad we had all our riding gear and rain suits on. We made fast time and reached Kingston, MI in about 45 minutes.

For a very small town, Kingston was a very nice, clean, and well maintained place.

We stopped for a coffee and sieggie break. I accidentally kicked my coffee cup over when I put it down next to my bike. I went in the store to purchase a new coffee, but the owner would not allow me to pay for it. Nice people in Kingston, I must say.

Shortly after leaving Kingston, the skies opened up, and man did it rain. Riding was not that much fun anymore. It also started to get cold. The next fair size city that we would get to is Saginaw. We decided to get a motel room and call it a day.
We found Currie's Motel in Saginaw, and got a room. Only $45 for the night. Everybody was glad to be out of the rain and cold.

That evening we put our rain gear on, and walked to Walmart to buy some dinner to have in our room. We had dinner, ate lots of snacks and candy, and watched he Olympics on TV.

It rained a lot during the night, but the next morning it stopped. It was still cold and the bikes were soaking wet. Motel towels come in handy to dry off the bikes. Both bikes looked like they were washed.

With the weather not cooperating, we decided to head straight for the border, and go home. In Port Huron we stopped for a big lunch before we cross back into Canada. Had to make use of the cheaper prices in the states.

After crossing into Canada, we took the back roads home. In Grand Bend we stopped at a Timmies for coffee. If you know Ontario, you will know that Grand Bend is a very busy vacation spot on Lake Huron. As we rode thru town, it was not as busy, and we saw lots of shops boarded up. The economic downturn is hitting hard in rural Ontario.

We were glad to get home, and see Konstanz and all the pets. Thanks for following along.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Michigan Aug 2012 Day 6

We took off round 9am that morning, looking forward to explore the West coat of Michigan. During our stay the last two days, many people came over to our camp site with suggestions of sites to see on the West coast. The plan was to follow Hwy 31 South along the coast to Traverse City, then go up North into the 2 peninsulas, and them make our way down to the town of Arcadia, where we were planning to camp again.

We had a relaxed and scenic ride down to Traverse City, but did not stop for pictures. I need to work out a plan to take pictures from the bike wile moving (a GoPro helmet cam will work, if you are looking for gift ideas). At Traverse City we went West up the first peninsula to Old Mission State park to have a look at the light house up there. It was a out-and-back route. Apparently, Madonna (the singer, if you don't know who I,m talking about) bought her dad a wine farm on that route, but the farm's name now escapes me.

Here is a pic of the light house. Inside there's a gift shop. I must mention that entrance to the park and visiting the light house is all FREE. If you so wish, you can still blow your well earned dollars at the gift shop.

Here is Denise going into the gift shop. She did the fiscally responsible thing, and did not buy anything.

This looks like a US Marine Corp recruiting picture to me? The flag and the cammo pants just give it that feel.

At the same location is the Hessler Log Home.

Some history of the log home.

An interesting thing about our location is that we were very close to the 45th parallel, the half way point between the Equator and the North Pole.

After we left there, we had to take the same road back down the peninsula to Traverse City, and then we went North on the second peninsula on Hwy 22 Northport. Again it was a nice scenic circular route follow the lake shores. Enjoyed the ride so much, we never stopped for pictures. In Northport we stopped for gas, and took a short break. Dominique was getting tired on the back of the bike. You judge for yourself (picture below)

Our next place to visit, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, was not to far away, so I told her to hang in there. Long break coming up at the dunes.
Now the Sleeping Bear Dunes were a place we heard a lot of, and according to everybody we spoke to, it's a Must See when in Michigan. Something that should be on your bucket list. Apparently it was voted the most scenic spot in the US. So lets go see what all the hoopla is about.

You have to pay $5 per person when you enter the park, or $10 per car. If I have to pay just to see something, it better be good. There are 11 lookout points in the park that you can stop at. At the entrance gate they give you a brochure with a description of all the lookouts. Being on bike, the park officer told us that lookouts 3, 9 and 11 are the ones not to be missed.
The ride to the lookouts are amazing. Single lane road with the trees forming a canopy covering the road side to side.

This picture is just before you enter the park. Taken by Dominique from the back of the bike.

We stop at lookout 3, and walk to the viewing platform. Big dunes, covered in vegetation. Mostly grass and a few trees. We look at each other with disappointment. Whoop ti Fen Do, is that what all the fuss is about? I thought to myself, maybe we've seen so many beautiful places on this trip, that we are getting spoiled and can not appreciate stunning views as we should. I also thought, tourist trap.

We get on the bikes and ride straight to lookout #9. Find parking and walk to where everybody is looking at the dunes. Then we see this.

Bloody awesome!! eh? The pictures does not do justice to the greatness of the views. I did my best, but you get the idea. From the top of the dune to Lake Michigan at the bottom, it's about 500 feet. You can see the people walking down the side of the dune down to the lake. Big warning signs about sand slides.

In this picture below, you can just see little dots on the water. Dominique said: "Look at the ducks on the water.

In this picture my camera is on full telephoto zoom. Taken from the same location, but zoomed in on the "ducks" below in the water.

It's actually people swimming. Just look at how clear the water is. Makes you think of the Caribbean, doesn't it? Definitely the most scenic spot in Michigan. And I am so glad I had the opportunity to see it. If you ever find yourself in Michigan. Take the time and go see Sleeping Bear Dunes.

It was getting late in the afternoon, and the weather was threatening with rain. We still had about 80km to go before we get to Arcadia. The next 80km down Hwy 22 was absolute "Riding Nirvana". The tarmac was in great condition, and it was fast and twisty. Good thing we did not encounter any cops, because we were flying. Gave the outer edges of our tires a good workout.

Arriving in Arcadia, we had some trouble finding the camp grounds. And once we got to it, nobody felt good about the setup. Looked a bit "zeff". Being tired and hungry, with rain threatening, we made an executive decision, and found a motel.

Great clean place, with a firm bed and a shower. Just what we needed.

That evening we went to the "Rigger's Bar & Grill" for an awesome dinner. Great local restaurant. We can surely recommend.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Michigan Aug 2012 Day 4&5

The next morning we woke up to the sound of birds singing and the the water lapping on the shores of Anderson Lake. The sun was shining and we looked forward to riding. The tents were still wet from the previous night's rain, so we had to pack them wet.
The plan was to make our way to Wilderness State Park, near Mackinaw City. It's located on the Northern end of the Michigan West coast. After you cross the Mackinac Bridge from North to South, you hang a right and you're there.
We were hoping to get there early in the afternoon to give the tents some time to dry out in the sun. So Wilderness State Park route loaded into the GPS, and we were off.
We were going to ride down highway 2 on the Northern shore of Lake Michigan, called the Lake Michigan Scenic Highway, and then cross the Mackinac Bridge onto the main land. The GPS took us down some back roads to get to Hwy2.
At one point we were turned onto a gravel road. I stopped and asked Denise if she is up for doing some dirt with a loaded bike. It looked like a well groomed dirt road, and she said let's do it. We were riding along at about 60km/h enjoying the wild bushed area, when all of a sudden we hits sand. It was about 20cm deep, and the bikes were fish tailing all over the road. We both stayed on the gas (when in doubt, gas it) and made it thru.We stopped, and were all a bit shaken up. If we dropped the bikes, we would not have been able to pick them up filly loaded. And my leg was still hurting from the injury on the first day.
This is what people look like after they did a bit of unexpected sand riding.

We had 2 options. Turn around, and go back thru the sand, or keep going another 3km until we hit asphalt again. We all decided to keep going. We hit about another 5 or 6 patches of sand like that one, but this time we were ready. We would slow down to about 40km/h just before the sand, and then just give her gas and accelerate thru it.

Once we got to Hwy 2 along the shores of Lake Michigan, the scenery was absolutely beautiful. It's hard to believe it's a fresh water lake. Looks like the ocean to me.

And here is my riding buddies enjoying the views.

We had to cross the Mackinac bridge next. The bridge is 8km long, and is the third longest suspension bridge in the world. With the high winds we experienced on the bridge crossing into the US, we were all a bit nervous. Although the crossing was very windy, traffic moved well and we did not have to stop on the bridge at any point. Dominique was still nervous but we made it across.
After the bridge it was a short distance to Wilderness State Park on a fast and twisty section of road. Lots of fun on a bike.

We got to the gate and booked a camp site for 2 nights. Time to relax, and spend some time of the bikes, soaking in the sun on the beach.

We set up camp, and had a wonderful beach vacation.

Relaxing in our camp site.

Going to a near by store to buy some food and wine.

Sun set over Lake Michigan.

We met some great people during our stay at Wilderness State Park. Shortly after we arrived, people came over to our camp site, and introduced themselves. They wanted to know where we are from, where we are going, and told us of sites to see during our travel in their wonderful state. Americans are wonderful hosts, and love to share about attractions in their country with you. I guess that comes with being a proud and patriotic people.
On our second night there, we went over to our neighbors for some drinks. 3 Brothers. 2 from Detroit MI, and one from Baltimore ML. They had some interesting stories to tell about sport, politics and crime in the good old US of A.

Dominique also made friends and it seemed like she had a wonderful time mixing with friends her own age again, after spending so much time in the presence of her parents.

On the morning of our fifth day of travel, we packed up our camp, and we are off to explore the West coast of Michigan.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Michigan Aug 2012 Day3

Today was our first day of riding in Michigan proper. The weather was great, the roads were fast and in good condition, and the scenery was beautiful. I was told before the trip that Michigan has the worst roads in North America. From spending a week in the state, my take on the roads are that they are in great condition and well maintained.
After we covered some good distance in a short time, it was time for a roadside break, to stretch the legs and have a siggie.

And this is the smile you have on your face when you realize the place you picked to have a break, has a sign for "bear crossing"

I didn't get a picture of the sign, and we didn't stay to long. Everybody started to hear things moving in the bush. Did not see any bears, but I think our minds were playing tricks on us. Getting a loaded bike going when a bear is coming? Not prepared to see how fast I can do it.

Dominique told me she would like to see a waterfall, and an old church on this trip. So I was on the lookout for what she wanted to see, and at the last minute coming screaming around a corner, I saw this sign.

Slammed on the breaks and turned into the small parking lot next to the road. I'm not always sure how Denise is able to avoid crashing into me when I do these sudden manoeuvres. But she always does. Must be using the ABS on her bike.
The falls were very scenic and the walk from the parking lot was about 5 minutes. Don't want to work up a sweat in my riding gear.

And another visitor to the site was so kind to take a picture of the three of us together.

After the Wagner Falls, we spend the rest of the day heading East in the Michigan Upper Peninsula, to our planned destination for the night. Anderson Lake State Forest camp ground, near the town of Gwinn.
With camp grounds always pre-booked for summer in Canada, it could be difficult finding a site in your selected camp ground, when just showing up and looking for a site for the night. With this in mind, Dominique called ahead the night before to make sure that there is space available at Anderson Lake. They told her that we would not have any problem getting a site the next day.
On a side note, we let Dominique make the call. She sounds Canadian (no South African accent) and usually she is better understood and the response on the phone is more favourable than when Denise or me call.

The GPS took us right to the camp grounds, but no registration office? We drove around the camp ground, but no, registration office or any other campers? WTF?

Got out my cell phone re-dialed the number we called last night.

The conversation went something like this.
Me: "I am standing at Anderson Lake camp ground, but can not find a registration office."
Park Office: "There is no registration office"
Me: "So how does it work?"
PO: "What do you want to do?"
Me: "I want to camp" (in my mind I said, "camp you F'en idiot. WTF do you think I want to do in a camp ground)
PO: "It works on the Honour System. You put your camp fee in the envelope you will find next to the yellow post, and drop it in the slot in the yellow post. Go pick a camp site, and you are set"
Me: "Oh, that's easy. Thanks"

See the yellow post behind Denise.

The camp site was spectacular. In Canada it's called back country camping, and in the US it's called rustic camping. Only pit latrines, and no running water. Water you scoop from the lake.

The camping is very similar to camping in Algonquin Park in Ontario. The big advantage is that you can ride your bike into the site, and there is no need for backpacking or canoeing for hours to find you place away from civilization.

It rained that night, and Dominique's tent started leaking. She crawled into our tent round 1am in the morning.  For the rest of the trip we put her tent up in the vestibule of our tent. Will have to seal the seams on her tent.