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Northwest Upper Michigan, September 2021

Wednesday 9-15 / Grand Marais

With over 4 hours in the saddle, I wasn’t overly enthused about leaving, which may have been part of the reason I delayed the whole trip. Eventually, I figured I could at the least make it a tolerable challenge. Maybe I could ride without stopping until the last minute for gas. After packing everything up in my drybag saddlebags (went soft vs hard bags just in case I dump it on a dirt road on the way to the Keweenaw Rocket Range) and Givi aluminum top case, I left just after noon with an ETA of 5:36PM, Michigan time.

"No Country For Old Men" audiobookI never was much of an audiobook guy, but I decided to help the tedious trip time by listening to one. I used a free credit I had with Audible, and downloaded Cormac McCarthy’s “No Country For Old Men”. The movie has a solid cast with Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem, a slow-burn kind of country noir feel to it’s dark suspense and crime elements. The book in comparison, is damn near just like the movie, just with more detail and context, like one would expect from a book, of course. I found Cormac writes rather dry. He doesn’t spend much time telling you how a character feels, doesn’t use similes or allegories, isn’t overly descriptive. His writing in this book is just very matter-of-fact. It’s an easy read (or listen).

After two and a half hours riding, I was happy to see the air cushion I bought to help pad the seat gave me at least another hour of comfort, but my legs really needed a stretch. So much for realizing that personal challenge. I pulled into a gas station to fill up and stretch. While I was filling up, I could see someone out of the corner of my eye approaching slowly, almost hesitant. This of course turned into a conversation about the bike. “Betty Fuckin’ White, that’s great!”, he laughed, looking at my decals on the gas tank. His friend walked up beside him and we chatted about bikes for a few minutes. They both owned KLR 650s, of which I remarked I’d taken one to Alaska and back. Being 2nd generation KLR owners, they were taken aback when I informed them the 3rd generation just released, now fuel injected. They wished me well on my trip, I finished filling up and went in for the usual road-break snack (coffee and donuts).

The last half of the first leg of the trip droned on, and on until I passed the sign denoting “Grand Marais”. The Superior Hotel was not far now, and I was exhausted, but not quite ready for bed, it was only about 7:30PM there. I took a photo, and walked in. I was expecting to start getting some shit from Rick for no other good reason than what seemed to be in line with his character on the phone:

Me: “Do you have any vacancies for Thursday?”
Rick: “Let me check my calendar. Have you been here before?”
Me: “nope”
Rick: “well why not?”
Me: “Actually my cousins recommended your place, they told me all about you”
Rick: “Oh boy… Alright, I got you down for Thursday, Room 7”

Superior Hotel

I opened the door into the hotel, overhearing some other guests talking. I saw Rick ahead down the room and waved, letting him know who I was and I was here to check in. “Have you been here before?”… Nope… “Well why not?”. While Rick got my reservation ready I started searching for the photo he took of my cousins at his hotel, while talking about them. I eventually found it, and him and his wife Mary immediately remembered them and a few things about them. I was actually amazed at this, considering the amount of guests that come through. Their Facebook page is full of guest photos they offer to take. Rick usually types in a nice little story about the customers, which can be interesting to read.

Superior Hotel“Alright you’re all set, I’ll show you the room”. He hands me a key with a small wooden cross as the keychain. I’m amused, because I’m not religious. I followed Rick around the corner and up the stairs. “Down the hall are the bathrooms, one on the left has the shower”. I thanked him and as he headed back down the hall and down the stairs, I looked at my room. Simple, no TV. And that’s just fine. If I got bored enough, I always had my Kindle to read books, or my iPad to try to write some stories brewing in my head, or edit photos from my camera. I went back downstairs and out the door to the bike, and unloaded everything from the saddlebags and most of the top case to my room. I spoke with Rick and Mary a little bit, and headed off to tour Grand Marais. In all reality, this might take about 10 minutes, but I decided to head North right to the water where the beach was. I don’t know what it is, I love the water, particularly the Great Lakes. They are beautiful, yes, but there’s also a kind of power there… a facet of Mother Nature that I think is often maybe overlooked. I think of all the sunken ships and stories this huge body of water must hold. I know there’s history here. I think that’s what fascinates me, too.

I took some photos along the beach. The sun would be setting within half an hour, and I looked forward to photographing a magnificent sunset. To my right were some houses, and between the beach and the houses was some tall, yet slightly sparse grass. If you were to take a snapshot of this, you might be convinced it was somewhere on the West coast. Either way, I knew these homeowners had money. Even lakefront property along a drop-in-the-bucket size lake is expensive. Envious, a little? Sure. I trudged through the sand wishing I had knobby tires on Betty. While it would have been a little challenging, and likely not all that permitted, I simply wanted to ride her along the beach up to the breakwater of Grand Marais Harbor Lighthouse. I climbed up the concrete form and looked at the lighthouse, maybe quarter of a mile or so out along Lake Superior. A bunch of huge rocks between me and another concrete barrier and foundation of the lighthouse. If I were to walk across that, I’d feel like I was in Super Mario Bros. Let’s try not to roll an ankle. This idea was further compounded with my hopes to photograph the area at night. Get some billions of pin points of stars and maybe the Milky Way galaxy in there, late at night. But on my way back to the hotel, as the sun was setting, fog had set upon Lake Superior, and I wasn’t optimistic for a good night of astrophotography. I never came back that night.

On the way back to the hotel, which was nothing more than maybe a 10 minute walk, I remembered a sign for firewood, $5 a bundle. I walked up to it, looked closely and saw a drop box for the cash. Ah, the honesty system. I wondered how many people just walked off with a bundle having not payed. I pulled $5 from my wallet and slipped in the drop box, remembering Mary from the hotel telling me they didn’t have much for wood for the fire ring outside the hotel. I got back, tossed the bundle near the fire ring, and went up to my room to get all my fire starting essentials: a ferro rod and my Morakniv knife, with a bag of tinder I’ve collected over past camps. This will be easy, I told myself.

Starting a fire is easy, it’s maintaining the fire that can be a challenge, sometimes. Tonight wasn’t in my favor. I batoned a few split logs with my knife, setting up the kindling. I had some tinder layer in the middle, a sheet of Kleenex to catch the spark. I struck the ferro rod with the spine of my Morakniv, and the tissue caught fire. A good sign, no doubt, but let’s wait for the kindling to catch. The next 15 minutes or so wasn’t very optimistic. Mary came out, kind as ever. “If you need more wood, there’s some behind that picnic table there, and here’s a bunch of paper to help get it started. You can use this lighter, too, just return it when you’re done.” I thanked her sincerely. The proprietors of this hotel were really very kind. I told her, “well once I get it going anyone is welcome to join on in, the more the better!” We wished each other a good night. Eventually, the fire took hold while I was on a phone call with my cousin. Nobody else came.

Until a pickup truck pulled up alongside the road. Now, it was past 9 PM, about 9:30. A younger guy with longer hair slowly approached, and had asked about checking in. He said he was a bit late, and wasn’t sure what to do as the lights in the main office were out. I offered to call the hotel right behind me, on speaker, and after about 8 rings, Rick answered. I let the guest speak. We waited outside the front doors, and then a light came on. Rick opened the door, let the guest in. He thanked me for the help, and I headed back to my fire. Funny thing, when I was struggling with maintaining that fire from the initial bundle and the damp scraps behind the picnic table, I thought about just heading to the bar down the road. I like a good combination of drink and fire. It’s relaxing and reflective. Well this far north, don’t expect a bar to be open until 2AM like you would in the city.

Still, all was good. I eventually headed to bed, mentally preparing for Day 2.

Thursday 9-16 / Marquette

BreakfastI woke up around 7AM when my phones alarm went off. This was completely unnecessary as I didn’t have to go to work, so I slept in a couple hours. Once I got up and gathered all my things, I packed them back onto the bike so all was ready before I said goodbye to Rick and Mary. I headed down the stairs and Rick as if I slept well, to which I responded that I did, the bed was comfortable! “You still have coffee ready?” I asked and he responded “yes”. I grabbed myself a mug and a powdered donut. A King’s Breakfast, I mused to myself, while checking the weather and updating my trip on Facebook. After I finished, I wanted to show Rick my motorcycle I had packed up and was touring on, he thought it was pretty cool and had mentioned there was a group not too long ago that came up on a Triumph 500. Not too familiar with that myself. We thanked each other for the stay and I mentioned I’d be back again, and headed down the road to a general camp store in hopes of some decals to slap on my luggage. They were closed Monday through Wednesday, which was a disappointment. I’d have to find the souvenirs somewhere else.

Just as I was getting ready to get on with my next destination, I decided to stop just up the road at The Dream Bean Machine, a coffee shop run out of a vintage mobile VW van! I had this place on my list of things to see, so I made sure not to pass it up. Browsing around, the doors were adorned with a variety of mugs, shirts, branded souvenirs, etc. While the gal working there just finished serving a fresh cup of brew to another customer (the van is outfitted just as you would find in an actual coffee shop to make all types of coffee), I asked if they had any bags to buy. She pointed out where they were, and I payed for one. I asked if I could take a photo, and she happily obliged. A really cool stop in Grand Marais for the coffee lovers!

The Dream Bean Machine  

The Dream Bean Machine

While my main destination was Marquette, I had at least a couple stops on the way. I remember the couple of KLR rider guys from the gas station two hours into my first day’s ride had suggested I ride along Log Slide Road. There is an overlook I reached through winding, twisty roads canopied by trees on either side. It was a really relaxing and nice ride. Once I got to the sandy dune overlook, I could see Lake Superior in almost all of it’s enormity. Right ahead of me was a steep sandy drop off that would be fun to sled down, and a trail just off the bend on the right I couldn’t figure out how to access, so I’d didn’t get much for photos. According to, “The Log Slide Overlook sits 175 feet above Lake Superior atop the Grand Sable Dunes. It is so named for a wooden chute that early logging companies used to slide logs 300 feet down the sand dune to Lake Superior.”

I noticed a BMW F750GS parked next to Betty, and I asked the guy walking away if it was his. He confirmed it was, and through some conversation I learned he was actually from California and had been riding around. He was a bit miffed with Michigan’s reservation-only campsites, but otherwise seemed to be enjoying the area.

Taking H-58, another scenic riding road, I stopped at Grand Sable Lake for a photo. Wind had picked up here which was also evident in the waves. To my left, a small group of backpackers crossed the road and along it. After I got my photos, I rode past them and was now en route to K.I. Sawyer Air Museum. I’ve always been a huge aviation fan, particularly with military jets, so this was something I was definitely looking forward to! About an hour later, I passed Pictured Rocks Trading company on my left, but decided to turn around and see if they had those souvenirs decals, the kind that are a white oval with a black font noting a state, highway, or other area of interest. While they didn’t have that specific kind, I bought a couple and applied them on the side of my top case. Jokingly, now I’m almost a true adventure rider, if you go by that practice.

Grand Sable Lake

Grand Sable Lake

Just under an hour later as I approached K.I. Sawyer Air Museum, I could tell I was in an old Air Force Base by the non-description barracks, many of which looked almost abandoned and out of use, metal doors wearing a rustic patina. I spotted an older control tower ahead, and a more modern one not far off from there. While I was routed to the museum, I wasn’t certain this building was it. It looks too small to hold aircraft I thought. Maybe my memory was off from what I’d seen on the website. I pulled around to park, and saw a large sign “Open 1PM to 5PM today!”. I walked in and it was dead silent. Large brick walls painted white, like a classroom. Sterile and boring. Some billboards, an office to the left, and ahead a double door entrance to a large hall. I walked around, looking through some other open rooms, and no lights were on. This is odd.

I heard someone else walking around, and turned around. An elderly lady didn’t even notice me and I said hello. She responded surprised, having not expected anyone in just yet (or today?). She still had brown hair and part of me wondered if she dyed it in a futile attempt to hang on to youth. Very kindly she said I could go ahead and turn on all the room lights, and there was a panel in the back most room to turn others on. I went through all the rooms, taking my time looking at the displays and taking photos. There is definitely a lot of respectable history, story and even tragedy here.

K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base has been decommissioned since 1995 and operated since 1955, although it was built in 1944. While the base hosted a variety of squadrons, they primarily flew F-101 Voodoos, F102 Delta Daggers and F-106 Delta Darts. K.I. Sawyer also ran a Strategic Air Command with the B-52H bomber. Many of these squadrons and organizations within the base were employed during the Cold War events, a pre-emptive defense and offense against the looming Soviet Union threat.

I asked the lady where all the aircraft where, and she said once you leave the parking lot, take a right at the stop sign. I was relieved I’d be able to check those out, so after snapping a few more photos, I headed over to a field with several aircraft. Once I got off the bike and walked around, I was in awe, especially at the size of many of these. Particularly, the B-52H. I had seen a wing flex slightly in the breeze, itself as long as a small house. I couldn’t help but laugh at how enormous this bomber was. There was even an old bomb on display, standing a couple feet taller than myself.

Not much farther ahead, about 18 miles, I arrived at Rippling River Resort for the first nights camp. I checked in with a kind and cute gal (practically wishing I had worked beside her). Most of the resort is the RV parking type, but there are several cabins available. I asked her if there were any cabin vacancies for the next day, because I had been following the weather forecast and saw that a good amount of rain and possible storms was coming. She checked, there were no vacancies, but told me to check again in the morning in case of cancellations. At the very least, I knew I had to be up at 4AM to leave for somewhere, simply because I hate tearing down camp in the rain, mostly if it’s bad.

I unloaded everything at the walk-in rustic site, and headed back for three bundles of firewood to carry back on the bike, and some canned drinks. Once I got back, I prepped some ready made foil pack Indian food on my white gas stove, and tossed in some diced peppers in the bowl when it was ready. It was quite good, and I had a few more packs left for the rest of the trip. Just behind me was a stream I decided to check out barefoot. Having feet along the soft ground and in the mud, then in the water, was pretty relaxing. I realized the irony of having to climb back up and re-clean my feet off. The rest of the night consisted of a few glasses of bourbon, and blogging. It really felt like the perfect night, but bedtime came early if I wanted to beat the rain.

Rippling River Resort

Rippling River Resort

Friday 9/17 / L’anse

At 4AM my phone alarm went off, although I felt like I was half awake prior to that. I was tired, and really wasn’t looking forward to packing everything up at such an ungodly hour. I decided to reserve a hotel room the night prior so I didn’t have to ride in a downpour. Now having checked the weather again, I saw the forecast changed for the better. Damnit. I decided to keep the reservation until I got there, and then figure out if I wanted to stay, or head off to my cousins plot of land about 35 miles away.

With the bike completely packed up again, I head out onto Highway 492 onto US-41. It was a surreal sight, the road a black purgatory pin-striped with white lines and nothing more. It felt like you were driving along the movie poster for Lost Highway. It took about an hour to get to Three Lakes Motel, and once I pulled up and got off the bike, I saw the office was closed, and check in time wasn’t until 2PM, almost 8 hours later. It’s now about 5:30AM, and I decide I’ll head up to a gas station and either wait or make a decision. I pulled into a BP about 18 miles up the road, bought a cup of coffee and a slice of pizza for a quick breakfast.

Motel I Didn't Need

By this time it was just past 7AM, so I called the motel and was able to cancel the reservation, and they informed me no charge was made (despite that Expedia said it was non-refundable through the motel itself), but I had to do it through Expedia, who I booked it with. This meant being on the phone with an automated assistant, getting absolutely nowhere for 15 minutes, until it confirmed the booking was canceled. I figured I’m less than 40 miles from my cousins land, so I called them and let them know I’d meet with them later that night, as they were already planning on being there. It was cool that our paths would cross up here, because L’Anse was nowhere on my itinerary, but with the weather forecast botching up some of my schedule, it just made the most sense to take an opportunity. I got there after 8AM and started setting up camp again. The rest of my day consisted of processing firewood, trying out my new hatchet, posting updates, and cooking two ready-made foil pack meals (Indian variety again), which were also very good. I found the needles from a fir tree were great for an impromptu dish scrubber!

Saturday 9-18 / Copper Harbor

Nite Owl CafeAfter all of us woke up, I started making some coffee and packing up the bike. Just after 1PM, we all went out for lunch at Nite Moon Cafe, where I got a taco omelette and cinnamon French toast. That amount of food would probably tide me over into next year, or at the very least, keep me satiated on the rest of my riding that day. From L’Anse I left North up 41 through Houghton. There’s a definite charm to that town, with a historic and characteristic look it’s downtown buildings. However Google Maps routed me, though, wanted me to go up a very steep grade road. Along either side of this road were even some houses, and as I went up, I wondered how people maneuvered their cars in and out of those driveways onto the grade. I could see a stop sign at the top, but my turn was indicated right to my left. There was nothing there but an area of gravel and a house, so I stopped. Whoops. Now, gravity wanted everything. I kept my feet planted and held the front brake, feathering the clutch as I slowly backed the bike to my right, turned it left, and engine-braked my way back down the hill, modulating the front brake. I was pretty annoyed by all of this, so once I got back to a normal road, I decided to take the nearest straight road and let the maps re-route itself. I imagined 470 lbs of motorcycle, plus the luggage, rolling down that hill. It would have been the end of the trip, for sure.

From Houghton I continued on to Copper Harbor, knowing by the time I got to the campground, it would later afternoon and I didn’t want to waste too much time again. Highway 41 leading in was an amazing ride, full of twisty turns, uphill and downhill curves, canopied by changing trees on either side. It felt like a mild and slow roller coaster and was absolutely perfect.

I eventually pulled into the Trails End Campground, rolling over it’s gravel roads trying to find an office to check into. Most of the lots were filled with dusty overlander vehicles like Toyota FJ Cruisers and Jeeps. I doubled back around from a dead end and went back to the sign at the beginning, where it stated the campground was being used for an overland vehicle retreat/gathering, so no camping was available. Great, now where? I got right into town and pulled up at the office of Lake Fanny Hooe, and knowing I needed a shower, reserved whatever motel room they had available at The Pines. I could at least recharge my electronics, too, as the battery bank I mostly depend on was getting low. After unloading the bike and having a shower (they’re the best on the road, seriously), I headed up the road to snap photos of the mysteriously named “Devil’s Washtub”, an alcove of water where a small group of people were climbing out of onto the craggy terra. I asked if it was a hassle getting down there, and a girl complained “if you’re barefoot, yeah!”. The rock didn’t look comfortable to walk on at all, and the alcove did look a bit ominous. I’m now imagining Elder Gods and underwater creatures of H.P. Love craft mythos, which would be cool (and terrifying). After this, I stopped in at the general store up the road for a few things. I would end up going back there for a wall charger, because I didn’t bring one. Go figure.

Now it was time to get a proper meal and I was definitely hungry, so I decided to order food beside the motel, at Lake Effect Bar and Grill. I had absolutely zero data out here, but fortunately the nearby motel had WiFi and I was able to update my status. I ordered a 1/2 lb hamburger with chips to go, and enjoyed a pint of Bell’s Octoberfest amber lager, a great end to the days riding. I chatted with the bartender a bit, he was originally from Wisconsin (Eau Claire, I think), and had moved up here not too long ago. I remarked I wouldn’t mind living up here except that I dislike winter, and it’s always worse north. He said as long as you kept yourself busy with winter activities, it wasn’t so bad, and that it actually tends to be a warmer winter up here. Hmm.

Not too far away, I checked out Hunter’s Point Park for a little walk/hike, and came across seven deer (some of which may have been the same few deer) on the way in, and out. After taking a few shots of the water over the shore rocks, I unfortunately lost my ND filter for my camera, so this meant I couldn’t take any long-exposure waterfall photos I had planned on. I was not very happy about this.

While back at the motel, I wrote down an itinerary to stick in the window my tank bag. This way I knew the next days schedule at a glance and knew what to pull up on Google maps.

Sunday 9-19 / Porcupine Mountains

After waking up and making a cup of coffee, I packed everything back on the bike, left the motel key in the drop box, and headed for the first spot on my itinerary, which was the Beginning of highway US-41. Between Green Bay, WI and the Wisconsin-Illinois border, it is also designated an interstate since 2015. It is a major road I take frequently to get across and out of my home city, so it was pretty cool to see where it all began. The highway ends all the way into Florida.

Beginning of Highway 41

Beginning of Highway 41

Just ahead, a dirt road leads to the Keweenaw Rocket Range. There, the first rocket from Michigan to enter space was launched, January 29th, 1971. And, from 1964 to 1971, NASA used this location to launch Nike Apache and Arcas rockets to collect various data and measurements. The road leading into the site is comprised of a mix of fine to dense gravel, larger pebbles, stones and rocks, to layers of sand and dirt, of which can become damp or even completely muddy. I only had street tires on, but for the two-ish miles I did ride, it was fairly easy going at an average 15 MPH. However, there were spots where I felt I had to be a little more careful, combined with a few downhill grades, and having to choose my line as I rolled down. Larger stones would deflect the front wheel slightly, and the whole trick was to be loose on the handlebars with no rapid throttle gain or loss. It tires your hands and upper body, and with five more miles left, which would take half an hour, I decided to not risk dumping the bike, and headed back. Overall, I would highly prefer to complete the road with adequate knobby tires, and I could more confidently ride a little faster, too. Nonetheless, I was happy to have at least given it a try. You can watch some video here:

From there, I rode about 30 miles to Holy Transfiguration Skete Society of St. John, which just looked like a cool church to photograph. Once I got there, I didn’t really see a good spot to park, so I kept going. Up ahead to my left was The Jam Pot, another along-the-way stop to check out. The Jam Pot sells bakery and locally made jams and preserves. Unfortunately with it being Sunday, they were closed. I was very hungry at this point and would have loved to grab something from there. Onward to my next stop, the Gay Bar in Gay, Michigan. This place is in on their own joke, so once I walked in, I asked the bartender for a souvenir beer koozie.

“Pink or black?” the bartender asked.
“Black” I responded.
“Jokes on you, it has pink on it!” as he handed me the koozie, and I payed him $3.00, then took a photo outside the bar.

The Gay Bar

Stopping in Ontonagan, I was hoping to get photos of the lighthouse, but of course, with it being Sunday, entrance was fenced off, so I turned around and went into town for gas and some food for camp that night. I waited patiently for a couple pasties and a donut at Syl’s Cafe. The styrofoam box the hostess handed me full of the food felt like it would add another 10 pounds to my luggage. I stuffed it in a saddlebag with the intention of having one pasty that night, and one in the morning. After filling up on gas, I went up the road to a small grocery store for a few things (one of them being a bottle of bourbon, as I was out – this time, it was ol’ Evan Williams). Walking up to the checkout aisle, I overheard the cashier saying she had moved to the UP from Tucson recently. I remarked how I was going to fly out to Arizona next year and consider moving, and that it was funny she was escaping the heat, and I wanted to escape the cold. She mentioned she was still stacking up on warmer clothes and sweatshirts. There was something about her I liked, but I couldn’t name it. She just seemed sincere.

Now it was getting later into the afternoon past 3PM, and I continued en route to Lake Of The Clouds, an oft-suggested overlook for some grand views above the wilderness. Riding into the checkpoint, I mentioned to the lady I had a reservation for Presque Isle campground, so she told me to pay for the state park fee once I got there instead. I continued along the road up to the parking area. There was a sign stating WARNING: STEEP ROAD GRADE, SLOW. Great, I thought. Another Houghton incident?, but while the road was steep and curvy, it really wasn’t all that terrifying. I pulled into a parking spot, got off the bike and took off my helmet. An older man in a maroon t-shirt nearby looked at my bike and says, “Triumph huh?”, I responded “yeah it’s a great bike! I’m touring Michigan on it. I toured Northeast Michigan a couple years ago on my Triumph Bonneville”. He nodded and said “Oh yeah I had a Bonneville too, ‘52!” I smiled and said “it’s a fun bike, definitely”, to which he agreed and said “you know what they’re about!”

It definitely wasn’t the first time an older gentleman had talked about owning a Bonneville, a classic motorcycle with a well esteemed history that goes back for well over 50 years. Ahead, I took some steps up to the overlook, the wind now becoming louder as branches swayed. As I walked along the overlook, I took several photos, trying to get a sense of how far away the trees and streams were, it was amazing if a little unsettling, as I’m not a fan of heights. It would be quite the location for a sunrise or sunset photo, but I decided I probably wasn’t that motivated of a person today. Getting back on the bike, I was a bit apprehensive going down that steep graded road, now. Don’t want to fade the front brakes. Turned out to be not much of a worry after all, and now I was off to the Presque Isle campground in the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park.

Nobody was at the check-in office, so I did a self-registration filling out the form, slipping in the cash and the whole thing into the drop box. I pulled along the one-way road in, stopped and bought a bundle of firewood off one of the park employees driving around on a UTV, and would load that up in my saddlebags after I unloaded everything at camp. It was another walk-in site, but this time not nearly as far, and the campground was all very level, so there wasn’t too much tree canopy for solace. Despite this, no one else was settled in near me, so it felt like I had the area to myself. As I pulled into the walk-in parking, a really cute gal nearby was doing yoga. For me there is always that fine line of wanting to be friendly and gather together with someone for a drink or two, but at the same time, a lot of people just want to be left alone, so I said nothing. Back at my site, I finished one complete pasty, of which made me really full and I had wished I’d of gotten the mini. After feeding my hunger from the past couple hours, I set up my tent and everything else as necessary.

Since it was dusk, I walked down the road to the stairs leading to Lake Superior to hopefully wade in and cool off. There was no sand or beach here, just extremely slippery rocks, so instead I just filled up an empty bottle and doused myself soaking wet, which was a great relief. Back up the 130 or so steps, heart pounding, this was an easy workout of which I’d end up doing four times throughout the day as I went back later for photos. I was able to get my one and only bit of LTE signal so I could update my status that I made it safely to camp, no data. The rest of the night was zero signal.

Presque Isle Campground, Porcupine Mountains

Towards the end of the sunset, I had the fire going and re-listened to a podcast, WTF with Marc Maron, whose guest was Matt Damon. I realized not having any music on my phone was a big bummer, because with no phone signal up here, I had no one to have a phone call with. I’m content being alone, but boredom does often get the best of me, so it’s nice to have a little distraction once in awhile. All I had was myself and a glass of whiskey, and a bit of reflection. I gotta find somewhere to go, I muttered out loud to myself, profoundly bored with the Midwest after nearly 40 years. I found some extra wood left around at another unused site, and had a pretty good fire going until I decided to go to bed. Remembering a sign for “Be Bear Aware, Recent Bear Activity In The Area!”, I hung up on a tree branch, that last pasty in its styrofoam box, sealed inside a bag. It occurred to me I hadn’t read any of Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King, a book I bought a few years ago and intended to finish, and in recent weeks had started over reading. I’m a terrible reader with a few exceptions, which often makes me question why I should write fiction at all. All I know is that I want to do it, but I feel like a fraud sometimes. What might I think of myself in the next 40 years? You didn’t get anything done, loser! Oh well, at least there’s this bottle of whiskey.

Presque Isle Campground, Porcupine Mountains

I woke up at a decent morning hour, past 8 or 9AM, made myself some coffee and a bit of oatmeal, and then packed up camp. I always feel slow doing it, but I simply don’t rush myself. It is what it is. One thing at a time. I figured out how to not cram a whiskey bottle into a saddlebag, wrapping it up methodically in one of my sweaters and tucking it atop my packed tent, across the passenger seat. I was pretty proud of figuring that bit out, so I shared it online when I got home. A quick stop in Bergland for a photo for my cousin. It was one of those small stories where they’re traveling with their significant other, and the other accidentally drives the wrong way, well far away from their destination of L’Anse, ending up in Bergland. Her nickname given by the in-laws was Bergland, and I thought it was a funny store, so here I was. In Bergland.



I thought about making a stop in Kennan to stop by a family friend, but this would have added over two hours or my already 3 plus hours trip heading home, so I continued on, listening now to comedian Doug Stanhope’s audiobook, Digging Up Mother, a sort of memoir. A lot of laugh out loud bits in that book, I still have to finish it. Nearing home about an hour and a half in Townsend, I could see the weather was changing. The air now felt damp. I stopped in at Mike’s Grocery to see if they had WiFi, but they pointed me to a bar down the road. They graciously let me get the password, so I connected and pulled up the radar. Looked all green, but nothing awful. I thanked the bartender, headed back put on my rain pants, and continued on home along a route I knew by heart, having spent a lot of time in the area. A brief shower of rain kept my helmet visor full of rain droplets, but I could otherwise see just fine. My general rule is that rain is absolutely ride-able as long as I can see reasonably ahead. If the conditions are too much of a whiteout, I’ll wait it out. Otherwise, the bike is just as capable of staying on the road as in the dry.

Once I got into town, I stopped for a quick burger n’ fries to bring home, and begin unloading all my photos and videos onto my computer for editing the next couple days. It was a trip I had been putting off, losing motivation for, and regretfully missed several stops along the way because I’m not a morning person unless I absolutely have to be, but it was a much needed break. And now I have to go back to work tomorrow.

This Post Has 7 Comments

  1. Howardstender

    I enjoyed your account of your ride in the western UP. However, you missed at least 98% of all the good stuff to see and experience up there. You’ll have to ride back and spend a week or two, at least.

    1. Justin Self

      Thank you for reading! I had several spots around Marquette I wanted to visit, but I was pressed for time.

      In addition, I had quite a few waterfalls I wanted to photograph, but I lost my neutral-density filter for my camera, so I couldn’t take long-exposure photos as I wanted to – so I skipped them.

      I have a custom Google Map full of sights-to-see and while some I did get to, and some I did miss, it probably comes down to time management more than anything (and waking up earlier).

  2. Greg S

    Great write up! I grew up in Michigan, I ride a Tiger, and loved your travelogue.

  3. Amy Conforti

    Only read this post so far. Sounds like a lot of work exploring by bike and camping but sounds like you enjoy it. I can’t wait to see these areas. Lived in lower MI my whole life. Spend a week in Trout Lake every year since I’ve been little. Want to explore so much more and would love to live somewhere more north then where I am now. Thanks for your sharing info and photos!!

    1. Justin Self

      Thank you Ami, it is definitely worth exploring! Another reason I enjoy documenting these trips is that they provide others ideas and suggestions to visit and experience.

  4. Patricia Moreno

    Justin this is so cool! Enjoyed the ride

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