Saturday, May 19th, 80s and sunny in the forecast for the weekend. Our road trip across the Mackinac Bridge to the Upper Peninsula was planned for several weeks, and at 5:30pm we hit the road with our friends, Katie and Kevin. Our bikes loaded up, we opted for M-14 to 23 to 75, sat in traffic due to a car fire, then came upon construction on northbound 23 which had traffic down to one lane. I tried to remember if we’d ever been on a road trip without sitting in traffic, as we watched Bill’s oil temp gauge, waiting for his bike (and legs) to overheat. After what seemed like an hour of walking the bikes and periodically shaking out the cramps in our left hands, it finally opened up and we tried to make up time as we headed north. It was dusk by now, and we scanned the two lane highway for deer. Luckily we didn’t encounter any, though I did see one right up against the fencing, about 30 feet from the road.
At one point along 75, we must have ridden over a crest or point of higher elevation, because the horizon of dark trees and fading orange sky above them seemed to span our entire view, a big, open sky that we typically see out west, not here in Michigan. My headlight illuminated Bill and his bike in front of me to my left, and I wished I could have captured that one moment in a photo. My point and shoot is always hanging around my neck, but with the darkness, it would not have been recognizable.
As the sun set and temps dropped, our windshields became covered in bug debris. Something splattered the center of my windshield with a pretty significant thud, not quite sure what that might have been, I was just grateful for my windshield and for the fact that I wasn’t wearing whatever it was I hit. A June bug would have made a different sound with it’s shell.
Speaking of June bugs, we stopped at a gas station not far from Gaylord and I was horrified to find swarms of them under the canopy lights. I’d honestly never seen so many June bugs in one place, buzzing, flying, crawling on the pavement. I dodged and ducked and tried to keep them from getting stuck in my hair (had that happen once, I’m still recovering from that experience) at the same time trying to avoid stepping on them and hearing that sickening crunch. On our way out, I’m sure I ran over a few. Gah. Get this city girl the hell out of here.
Turning off 75 into Downtown Gaylord, we rode around indecisively for a while, then checked in at the Quality Inn. We were 81 miles south of the bridge and we’d finish the last leg in the morning.
The temperature on the bridge was odd – FREEZING cold as you approached the center, pretty much a normal temp going across, then FREEZING again as you approached the other side. Katie mentioned perhaps the reason was the two sides being closer to the water. Hmm.. Anyone know?
After paying our toll, we turned into the welcome center and the very friendly attendant loaded me up with maps. Too bad we didn’t have more time. We decided our game plan was to be back at the bridge at 1:30pm for our ride home, giving us 3 hours to tool around. We decided to take Route 2 along the water’s edge, and stopped several time for pictures. Our turn back point was Naubinway, where I learned later from a co-worker, that Naubinway was technically on Lake Michigan.
I filmed our return trip over the bridge with my point and shoot, surprised at how calm it was up there, considering what a windy ride home we had. Soon we were back in the lower peninsula, headed for home, hitting the “coming home traffic” on a Sunday afternoon. We passed campers, trailers loaded up with four wheelers and dirt bikes. But the most interesting find was the bright yellow Lamborghini. No joke. I smiled as Bob Seger’s Roll Me Away was next on my iPod. We weren’t exactly “twelve hours out of Mackinac City” but it was close enough.
We stopped in St. Helens for gas, and the long sleeved black shirt I had on HAD to come off. Today was hot and windy, and all I thought of was riding out west. Hot, stiff, getting off the bike and unsticking your jeans from your legs. About a dozen dirt bike riders turned into the gas station, the last guy pushing his in, apparently JUST making it to the gas station. All of them four strokes, and Bill and I agreed it would have been nice to hear a familiar riiiiiiiinnnnnggggg ding ding ding ding ding ding….. But not today.
Tony’s in Birch Run was the plan for dinner, our server Rosie was a hoot. At the end of our meal she asked if Katie wanted a box for her monster sized Reuben sandwich, but Katie declined saying that we were on the bikes. Rosie replied, "Oh, we have something for that.." I was interested to see what she returned with, bungee cords made especially for carryout boxes? She came back with two fistfuls of hard candy and said, "Open your purse". Okay… Like a trick-or-treater, I held out my purse and she dumped it in. LOL Meeting the rest of the crew out at our bikes, I found my windshield bag stuffed with hard candy. Thanks Katie!
From Birch Run south our territory is more familiar, not as woodsy and rural as “up north”. I learned today to NEVER stow the point and shoot until we’ve reached our destination. Thinking I had all the road shots I was going to get, I put my camera in my saddle bag, only to pass a horse trailer with a beautiful blonde tail hanging out, swaying in the wind. Traffic became heavier, and the eyes that motorcycle riders develop on all sides of their heads were working overtime. We waved our goodbyes to our friends at the M-5 / I-275 interchange, and headed for home. Deciding against a bike wash, (pipes were WAY too hot) we pulled into our driveway, at exactly 700.5 miles. Later that night my ears were still ringing and face still burning from the wind and sun, as I drifted off to sleep. Another great weekend, another great memory.