Day 16 - A Chilly Return To Nature With a Little Goldwing Offroading

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June 9th 2017
Published: June 10th 2017
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Day 16 - Milwaukee, WI to Munising, MI

This morning we are continuing our trek northward to a place not many people have visited - The U.P. For those who don't know, "The U.P." stands for the Upper Peninsula. As I vaguely remember my elementary school geography, Michigan is an odd shaped state actually split into two pieces by Lake Michigan. The lower half is affectionately known as "The Mitten" as it is shaped like a mitten, and most of the people live there. But the upper portion is known as The U.P. and the people who live there are called "Yoopers". Now that the geography lesson is done, back to our adventure. After catching up on a little rest yesterday, it was time to start the 300 mile journey into Munising, Michigan. Though we typically stick to the secondary roads, the first half of today was spent going between Milwaukee and Green Bay, Wisconsin. There's not much between these cities but suburbia and farms, so we decided to skip the backroads on the first leg, and jump on I-41. Besides, after about 130 miles of I-41, it reverted to US-41 and took us most of the rest of the way to Munising. The bulk of US-41 followed the coast of Lake Michigan, so the scenery was beautiful.

The Interstate portion of the ride was as expected - straight, flat, and boring. The only tense portion of that ride was that Wisconsin seems to love grooved pavement. I guess it's supposed to be better for drainage or something, but motorcycles HATE grooved pavement. I've ridden on it a number of times, and while I've convinced myself that I am not going to lose control, it is unnerving. On grooved pavement, the bike tends to wander in the lane, especially in turns, and the front tire never feels quite solid and thr grooves transmit a kind of wobble. So I've just learned to slow down a little, not make sudden moves, and just keep the bike in the lane. Once we got off the Interstate portion, the grooved pavement went away and all was comfortable again. That is, of course until the Garmin lady, (and also my MapQuest map) had me turn right from US-41 onto old US-41. Evidently, the reason it's called "old US-41" is because it doesn't have any pavement! Luckily, as I went to make the turn, I noticed a little gravel in the roadway, so I slowed down considerably before entering the turn. Lucky I did, because I quickly realized it was a dirt road. It was packed reasonable tight, and it hadn't rained recently around here, so I just kept the bike in second gear and followed the 1 mile dirt road until it turned onto pavement again.

We arrived in Munising at about 12:30. We lost an hour of travel time as we had also crossed back from central time into eastern time - the rest of the trip will remain in the eastern time zone. The reason to pick Munising is that it has the National Parks Service Visitors Center for the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. We stopped at the Visitors Center, got a map, stamped our Passports and spoke with the Park Ranger. He recommended some of the waterfalls and short hikes we could do in the local area, but since the beauty of Pictured Rocks is really only visible from Lake Superior, he recommended we go into Munising Harbor and book a boat cruise up the coast.

We started by visiting Munising Falls, jut 2 miles up the road from the Visitors Center. We parked the bike and made the short hike into the woods and up to the falls. It was great to be back in the woods again. Michigan must have had a lot of spring rain as everything was a lush green and there were purple wildflowers everywhere. The falls were beautiful from below, so we took a few pictures and videos and then made the climb up the path to the top of the falls. There were only a few people there and a lot of the time we had the place to ourselves.

After Munising Falls, it was only an additional 2 miles up the road to Sandy Point. Sandy Point is exactly what it sounds like - a sandy beach along Lake Superior. Looking at the water from Sandy Point it's easy to forget that this is a lake, full of fresh water. We walked along the beach at Sandy Point for a little while and took a few pictures. Then we headed back to town to book our cruise. We arrived at the harbor at about 1:30, and tours 2.5 hours long and were available at 2:00, 3:00, and 5:00. Since we still wanted to go to Miners Falls and Miners Castle, and they close at 5:00, it made more sense for us to book the 5:00 tour so we could visit Miners Falls and Miners Castle before the cruise. So we bought tickets and a couple of t-shirts and headed over to the local coffee shop for a much needed cup of coffee before heading the 10 miles up the road to Miners Falls.

The road to Miners Falls was fine, though it was interesting that it had a sign stating that it was a seasonal road and would not be plowed beyond the sign if it snowed. The final turn into Miners Falls had the same loose gravel in the roadway near the turn and sure enough it was another 1 mile dirt road to the parking lot. That's our second Goldwing offroad adventure today. Miners Falls was a 0.6 mile hike into the woods and another 0.6 miles back out. These are our favorite kinds of short hikes as the don't take very long and have a reward at the end. Sure enough, Miners Falls was beautiful, and the hike into the woods was also beautiful as there were more purple wildflowers on both sides of the trail. When we finished Miners Falls, we retraced the 1 mile dirt road back onto the main road and continued another 2 miles to Miners castle.

Miners Castle is the name of a rock formation at the end of the trail. There are a couple of short hikes out onto observation platforms where we could view the formation from a couple of different angles. We really enjoyed this hike also, and by the time we got back to the bike it was getting close to 3:00. The lady at the cruise desk said they started lining up on the dock for the 5:00 cruise at 4:00 and that they would begin boarding at 4:45 so we still had time to make it to the hotel to check in and drop off our stuff. I knew I could just retrace the ride back into town, and I had a pretty good idea where the hotel was, but there might be a cross street between where were and the hotel, so I just put the address into the Garmin and let the Garmin lady show me the way. Sure enough she had me turn onto Indian Road, and then about a mile later, she said to turn onto "old Indian Road". Well, I had learned my lesson on "old US-41" so I remarked to Jody, "I hope this isn't dirt!" Of course, it was dirt. Only this time it was 3 miles long. I didn't really want to turn around and retrace my steps all the way back into town, so bolstered by my last three forays into Goldwing offroading today, I just put it in second gear, and rode the 3 miles at 20 mph until we made it back to pavement again and we were at the hotel in minutes.

Once we checked in and headed back to the harbor, it was just about 4:00 when we arrived. There was just one couple on the dock when we arrived, and a few more joined quickly. It turned out that a few of them were also motorcycle riders, so we started talking about places we've been and places we wanted to go. By the time we turned around and looked back the dock was just full of people waiting for the 5:00 cruise. Now, one of the things I failed to mention about today was the temperature. The Great Lakes are large bodies of water, that tend to hold the cold. The outside temperature near the lakes tends to be about 10 degrees cooler than inland. So the bulk of the trip up US-41 was adjacent to Lake Michigan and the outside air temperature was about 63-66 degrees. As we turned northward into Munising, since we are even further north, and since Lake Superior is even colder than Lake Michigan, the outside temperature in Munising was 53-56 degrees. That's COLD! I wasn't doing to badly, but Jody was really cold!

Of course the cruise boat had a lower, heated, enclosed deck and an upper, open, exposed deck. Of course, I wanted to take pictures and didn't want to be hampered by the windows of the lower deck. So Jody and I arrived at a compromise, she would sit in the lower deck and keep warm and view the scenery out the window and I would brave the elements on the upper deck and take the pictures. Since the boat heads up the shoreline for the first half of the tour and turns around and heads back down the same shore, I decided to sit on the right hand side of the boat for the trip up the coast, and move downstairs with Jody for the trip back. Luckily, I was one of the first persons to get to the upper deck, so I was able to snag the front-most right side seat, perfect for picture taking.

The cruise was spectacular! Pictured Rock National Lakeshore is a series of cliffs on the side of Lake Superior, formed of sandstone in 2 distinct layers where the upper layer is very hard and the lower layer is very soft. This cause the upper layer to remain while caves and crevices are worn into the lower layers. Also, the lower layers are porous so that minerals in the ground water leach through the softer stone and deposit minerals staining the surface with blacks and browns of iron and blues and greens for copper, and white for calcium and many other colors for the various minerals. The result is spectacular! We say waterfalls, and arches, and caves worn into the sides, all with various colors on the walls throughout. We took hundreds of pictures along the way, me from my freezing vantage on the deck above and Jody through the window in the warmth of the cabin below. We were so glad the ranger recommended the cruise. It really is the only way to appreciate the beauty of Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore.

We returned from our cruise at about 7:30 and both of us were starving. The local delicacy around here seems to be something called "Pasties" which are Finnish and consist of meat, potatoes,and vegetables including rutabaga covered in a sealed pastry. Sounded too risky for both of us, so we settled for a local pizza place and the pizza really hit the spot. Tomorrow, the plan is to continue up the coast as there is another scenic road along the coast of Lake Superior and we work our way south to Mackinac Island.

347.3 Miles Today

2381.3 Miles Total

8.012 Gallons Today

58.868 Gallons Total

Additional photos below
Photos: 36, Displayed: 29


Tot: 2.258s; Tpl: 0.059s; cc: 10; qc: 51; dbt: 0.0457s; 2; m:saturn w:www (; sld: 1; ; mem: 1.4mb