Backstory: Welcome to my first motorcycle trip recap – my buddy and I bought motorcycles in late 2006. We rode around and decided it was time to see what we could do. The idea was to ride around Lake Michigan. Labor Day Weekend 2007 was chosen and our game plan was to trailer the bikes to my friend’s shop near Lake Geniva, Leave Friday morning, “loop the lake”…returning Sunday afternoon and head home.
It was our first real motorcycle trip. Brad’s bike is a Yamaha V-Star 650 and I rode a Yamaha FZ1. We had an idea – but didn’t realize we didn’t have a clue. The first mistake was to trailer the bikes…we’ll get into that more later.
The big plan was to meet Rick (future brother-in-law) – he rode a 2005 Yamaha FJR and brought along Cathy (sister-in-law). Rick has been riding a while – and had no idea what he had signed up for. We planned to meet them on Friday.
We loaded up the trailer after work Thursday night – we had no idea what we needed, what we were doing…but we felt cool and it was fun. We thought it would make sore sense to leave from there, instead of ride “all the way” over to Chicago.
Instead of ride the whole trip – we felt like it would be better to trailer the bikes to Chicago and leave from there. My dad had a friend with a shop we could use for this homebase near Lake Geneva. We rolled in late – about 10pm. We made some adjustments to the bikes. The plan was to sleep at the shop – we ended up sleeping in Brad’s truck. Mistake #1 – get a good nights sleep prior to leaving. We got to sleep about 1, then up early. We were ready – for the big adventure.
Loop the Lake: Day 1 – Lake Geneva to Manistique
Rise and shine – day 1 was upon us. Prior to then, our biggest ever max mileage day was about 120 miles. (So basically – we had no idea what we were in for.) Green Bay was the “meet-up spot” for Rick and Cathy and we were making good time, seeing some great roads. Wonderful day, sun shine and blue skies. We didn’t have a spot to meet – we just kind of checked in and found a spot…we found them and the gang was all together.
We didn’t stop much – I think we didn’t know how long it would take to get there. Our first overnight was in Manistique, MI. Because we were pushing the tempo – we arrived at 4:30 in the afternoon. A nice day’s ride – we called a few days ahead and had reservations…in hind sight, it would have been a better idea to forge further ahead for a couple more hours. But what did we know – we were having a blast. Brad and I crashed for a couple of hours – we then had a meal at the Big Boy across the street. Great view of the lake – we were excited to get started, we’d be crossing the Mackinac Bridge Saturday.
Loop the Lake: Day 2 – Around the Horn
Day 2 started with a misty fog. Not the idea riding conditions for two guys who have really never rode this much. Also – we didn’t really know what we were doing…so we were really unprepared for the ride. No rain gear (which would have been nice in the fog) and duffle bags strapped to the back.
Our first stop of the morning is a classic UP favorite…we had to have a pastie (past-tea), a local historical food. We chose Suzy’s Pastie Shoppe, and it was good. As well as the beef jerky and smoke fish we purchased. All wonderful.
The next stop was the Cut River Bridge. What a sight – we stopped for some pictures and rest. This is quite a view – and if you are in the area take time for a quick stop. It is very cool – we didn’t choose to walk down below, but it was a lot longer bridge than it looks.
Onto the BIG bridge. We started to get some glimpses of the Mackinac Bridge as we were very close to the Lake Michigan itself. It is a toll bridge – I don’t recall exactly how much – but its quite long, the actual bridge is over a 1/2 mile long – but from shore to shore I’m pretty sure it is almost 5 miles. A good portion is that metal grate…so if that freaks you out…close your eyes.
Then we found it – one of those cool little places you can only discover, a golden nugget. And it has the most appropriate name…Bliss. Bliss Michigan is a little place that time seems to have forgotten. I’m sure the history it long – but we have caught it well after the hay day. Its a neat little general store which is in the middle of not much…but if you get close – stop by.
Next up is M-119, or commonly called the “Tunnel of Trees”. A beautiful, yet narrow, road winding near the Lake Michigan shoreline is a virtual tunnel of green. Very cool – there is a little place called the Legs Inn you can eat at. I have never eaten there – but have heard good things – and it is busy.
Next stop – Grand Traverse Lighthouse, it looked very cool and a great stop..it kind of turned into a dud for us. The first reason – we were tired. Secondly – we got there on the later side…it wasn’t dark…but getting there and the actual lighthouse itself was closed. So we got to look around – but no go in. We took some fabulous pictures.
As darkness set in – we had two issues. It was the Saturday night of Labor Day weekend and we didn’t have a room. It didn’t look like it – but the light house was a solid hour from Traverse City. It ended up getting late and we found the last hotel room in Traverse City…and we had 4 people. It worked – but it was not ideal. Note to self – plan ahead…sometimes it is good traveling over the holiday weekend, but there are downfalls too.
Loop the Lake: Day 3 – Finish the loop
We started out the morning headed to Solon, Michigan. Now – this is really not too significant for most, but we’re from Solon, Iowa – so it was cool. Brad had scouted it out prior to us coming – and we planned to go there if we got close. We we close enough, it was a bit out of the way – but worth it.
If you do plan to loop the lake – go counter clockwise. Because this leg stinks. When you get south of Holland, it is interstate and is not much fun. We had to take some long breaks as we layout on the sidewalk.
We made it to Gary, IN for dinner…I don’t recall where – some truck stop buffet. Not ideal. Then – one more mistake. We needed to get back up to Lake Geneva, but we didn’t know the most efficient way. It was not the downtown, full of construction route we took…but it worked. We got back to home base just before dark.
Not we had to get home – to Solon, Iowa. It was dark and we were very tired. After two wrong turns and one flat trailer tire…we arrived back home around 1:00 AM local time.
Great ride. We learned a lot – and also were very lucky. We had no rain gear – and awesome weather. This was also addicting – we’re ready to go again.