Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Midwest Roadtrip '09: Minnesota to Michigan

Friday I got off to something of a late start, not leaving the motel until after 8. Then my GPS was acting up and couldn't route me to MN's highpoint. I was 20 miles off course before I was sure I had missed a turn. I stopped in at a small store and they gave me a map. It turns out that the turn I missed was only a couple of miles outside of Grand Marais, so I just went into town and got gas before I took the correct roads to the trailhead. As I knew it would, the road turned to gravel a couple of miles from the trailhead. It started alright, but worsened some on the way. I was riding along at a decent pace when all of a sudden I saw several potholes full of water. It was too late to really slow down or swerve, so I clenched up and went straight through, splashing water everywhere. I made it to the trailhead, stripped my leathers and started the three mile hike. It wasn't a particularly difficult hike, the first two miles were pretty flat to Whale Lake, and the last mile wasn't especially strenuous, but enough to break a sweat. The highpoint itself wasn't particularly impressive, but there was a really nice overlook just beforehand. I think my favorite part was a really nice beaver dam about a half mile in, and Wale Lake was also quite beautiful. I had been concerned about my knees, but they held up just fine. I took a different road back, and as much as I thought such a thing didn't exist, it was a good gravel road, very well graded, and much better than the road I'd taken in. It was almost 2 o'clock when I got back into town and since I was really hungry, I had lunch at the restaurant I'd had a beer in the night before, which was quite tasty. I then headed back along the lake shore toward Duluth. I turned off toward Ely, which was a really great road, nice long turns like I love. It also warmed up quite noticeably as I got away from Lake Superior, but not so much that I had to remove any layers. When I got near Voyageurs NP, the weather was looking threatening. I went to a visitors center, which full to overflowing with boat trailers, but not only was the place closed for the day (it was 7pm), it hadn't even opened for the season. Since I didn't have a boat and didn't have enough time to do some sort of commercial boat ride, there wasn't much I could have done in the park, so when it started raining I decided to head back south toward Duluth. I rode until late and finally stopped for the night just across the Wisconsin line from Duluth. The place didn't seem to be in the best location, but it turned out fine.

It was still quite cool Saturday morning, being on the lake, and I headed to the WI highpoint. Fortunately the problem of my GPS not being able to read its maps was fixed by pulling out and reinserting the memory card, so I had no problems navigating. I was dodging raindrops as I neared the highpoint, but didn't really hit rain. The highpoint was in a nice county park and had a wooden observation tower that gave a nice view. I talked to mom while I was there, while being swarmed by mosquitoes. I felt kind of silly at first, since the sun had come out, but it wasn't long before I was glad I switched from chaps to rain pants when I hit about 60 miles of rain on the way to Madison. The ride from the highpoint to Milwaukee was kind of a whirlwind of POIs, the Tomahawk plastics factory, the Capitol, the Buell factory, the Capitol Drive powertrain factory, the headquarters and finally the Harley museum. At the museum I sat down and had a beer at the bar and chatted with some people. I went to get some dinner at a brewpub nearby, but it was really loud and noisy, plus neither the food nor the beer were very good, so it turned me off to staying the night in Milwaukee. For whatever reason, I decided I wanted to camp for the night. There was supposed to be a campground not too far away, but I couldn't find it, so I went on to a KOA in Fond du Lac, 45 minutes away. I got there at 11, and not surprisingly the office was closed. I went to the tent area to crash, and figure it out in the light of day. I was unpacking and starting to set up when two guys came over to run me off. I tried to explain that I was only looking to stay the night, since their concern seemed to be more related to the holiday weekend, since there wasn't anything set up in that area. The guys went back to their camp, then it must have sunk in that I was alone and just wanted to stay until morning, and they said it would be alright. They came back a little later and invited me to join them for a beer, to be friendly and apologize for any confusion, I suppose. After I set up my tent and used the restroom, I sat down for that beer with the whole group, which included the two guys and three women (the older guy's girlfriend and two daughters, the other guy was one girl's boyfriend). I still felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole situation, but we talked about motorcycles and my road trip, among other things. It was about 12:30 before I broke away and went to bed.

I woke up at 5 on Sunday and didn't feel like sticking around, despite the lack of sleep. I got off at 6, headed north. At 7 I stopped and had breakfast at Denny's and felt better than I had beforehand. I got to L'Anse, Michigan around 11, got some water and snacks and headed to the highpoint. It started out paved, then good gravel, then it degraded from there. The waypoint I had in my GPS was way off, so I had to consult my book to get to the trailhead. I made it to within about a half mile of the trail, which was better than I thought might be the case. Honestly, I'm not sure I would have gotten much further in my car. While walking, my right foot started bothering me, a result of my ingrown toenail. It was a major pain, but I kept on and made it to the highpoint, which was swarmed by gnats. I spent a while at the top, resting my feet. When I got back to the trailhead, a carload of people had just pulled up, and another car pulled up as I was heading back to my bike. Of course they couldn't have come just a little sooner to give me a ride. When I got back to L'Anse I was pretty much exhausted, and rather than try to head toward my next destination, I headed up the peninsula to Houghton. On the way up I saw what I'm pretty sure was three bears run across the road. I checked into a hotel about 5, and laid down and took an hour nap. I woke up and went to a brewpub called The Library, which had good beer and good food. I stayed until 9:30, then went to check out the other brewpub in town, but it was closed.

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