Michigan UP Tour was a bike tour we took in 2008. Brad and I had rode with my brother-in-law Rick and looped the lake…it was a good ride, but the lower Michigan side was not a lot of fun. We wanted to look around the UP of Michgan – and we added another rider Mike..
Instead hauling the bikes on a trailer – we rode this trip. Home to home. Brad and Mike make this trip with Yamaha VStar650’s, small bike – but boy dies it sip fuel. I was driving a Yamaha Roadliner. A wonderful cruiser – and great looking bike.
This trip was the first time we would pack all we needed – none of us had traveled too far, so we bought some luggage. Brad was packing the Kuryakyn Gran Tour (a fantastic bag) and I used a MotoPack GT-ROLL. Both very good in their own right. The best part about these bags is the easy on and off (depending on how you install them, when you get to your destination. A couple of clicks and it is off. I like to pack my “motel bag” in this and then I don’t have to spend much time digging in saddle bags when we get to the destination.
Luggage Packing Tip:
A good tip when loading lots of luggage. The heavy stuff needs to be as low as possible. This keeps the weight low and keeps the center of gravity low. This is good.
When we head to Wisconsin or the “uupper” we usually route at some point to Merrill, Wisconsin. And when in Merrill – we usually stay at the AmericInn. It’s a nice hotel – it has a nice pool, which is nice to relax in after a day on the bike. I think the real reason we stay there is because we like the breakfast at the Marshfield Family Restaurant. (read more details below)
We used a lot of state maps for this trip – the nice Rand McNally folded, laminated maps are the best. They have a good mix of roads and waypoints. The atlas is super handy if you are hopping between states – it is easy to flip pages instead of maps. But – I highly recommend the laminates state maps over the regular ones, one run in with a thunderstorm will be worth the extra $2 it costs to get it. Plus they tuck well in a tank back map pocket.
After starting in Solon, we headed headed up rural Northeastern Iowa and then to Highway 151 to Dodgeville…we ended our day in Merrill. If you have not rode in Wisconsin – the roads and bluffs are very good. They remind you of many of the raods you find in the south-eastern US. Very similar to foothills of the smokey mountains. Every corner is another breath taking view.
With a good night’s sleep – we kept heading north. We were on a mission to find Michigan, spoiler – we did. Straight north of Merrill is a town called Ironwood, this is where we entered Michigan. Just North and East is Porcupine Mountains State Park – at the top a great surprise, Lake of the Clouds. The views are stellar, the drive is wonderful and that was before you even get to see much of the south shore of Lake Superior as well…win, win, win.
We needed both fuel and food at this point. Southern Lake Superior has great views, a nice cool breeze – but not much civilization. We did find a little restaurant/bar called the Candlelight Inn. It was more of a supper club – but we had a great little meal and it filled us up. We were ready to forge ahead.
Houghton is where we found the Portage Lake Lift Bridge – it officially connects Houghton and Hancock Michigan – but is an engineering site to see. They call it a “lift” bridge, and that means the middle of the bridge is made to go up and down – allowing for boat and barge traffic. Maybe better described as a double-decker bridge, the bridge was meant to allow for boat, barge and car traffic – but is used in the winter to let cars pass over the top and snowmobiles down below.
We crossed the river to get up to Copper Harbor, which is about as North as you can get in Michigan. Copper Harbor proper is a touristy place. Nice to visit – not sure its a “biker” hangout. This is the start of America’s longer National Highway, US 41. You can start the trek in Michigan and take it down to Miami, Florida…1990 miles later.
Another town near by is Calumet – this is where we met up Rick…our last addition. We managed to find Eagle Harbor Lighthouse (see it in the picture in the distance behind the divers). One road to note here is a combination of Michigan 26 and Eagle Harbor Cut Off Road. The cut off takes you over a ridge top and provides a number of picture spots and very good roads. Look for Jacob’s Falls, along M-26 for a waterfall picture.
When done at the harbor – we turned to the south for the town of Gay, Michigan. They have a great sense of humor, must be the cold. We stopped for lunch at the Gay Bar. A great name play and a fun little neighborhood bar. They serve every kind of hot dog you can imagine with any type of topping – lots of patrons and worker make sure you get the food fast.
From here – I’m not sure you could pick a bad road. We headed back for one more stay in Merrill. Southern Wisconsin is a motorcycler’s dream. And most days you will also share the road with a few of the Amish who live in these parts. (This may be one if my favorite pictures from a trip.)
Another advantage of touring near Memorial Day & the 4th of July – there are a number of small towns which decorate for the season. Sometimes we get a great sight of different cities flag displays. Its a good reminder and pays respect to fought and dies for our country – it truly allows us the freedom to do the things we do. Thank you to the men and women who serve and have served.
Merrill is near Marshfield – and Marshfield is home of the Marshfield Family Restaurant. They have the best “skillets” which translates in Wisconsian to “huge plate of breakfast”. If you are in the vicinity…check it out, the food is very good and the price is reasonable.
Rick lives in north central Iowa and we are headed back to eastern Iowa – so Rick peeled off at LaCrosse, Wisconsin so he can head back that way and we wind down the Great River Road to Prairie Du Chien. Its a road which never disappoints – so much river and the train tracks between the road and the river make for a super views most any time.
We didn’t break any land speed records, nor did we cover a ton of miles – but it was a very good trip..