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Trippin Connies 6: Great Lake Escape

Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
There was no way a motorcycle trip was going to happen this year. My second daughter was born in January and as most people know, they require quite a bit of attention. Mix in a demanding 3 year old and hectic work and I just assumed a trip was out of the question. Flash forward to around the first of May and my wife basically encouraged me to still take a trip this year. I was a bit shocked and hesitant, but I don’t turn down opportunities like this. My first thought was to hit the Dakotas and Mt. Rushmore, then over to Minnesota and Michigan and back down. I’m trying to hit all the lower 48 states with these trips, and Iowa was going to be left out of this loop and too difficult to work in with the amount of time allotted, which was 7 days. So instead, I decided to just focus on a loop that included Lake Superior and Lake Michigan, seeing a few lighthouses and other sights along the way. The Dakotas will be saved for another year.

Day 1 - 6/24/2014 - Houston, TX to Harrisonville, MO - 705 Miles

Houston, TX to Harrisonville, MO - 705 miles – MAP LINK




Oh yes, I forgot to mention that I’ve been a horrible motorcycle owner over the last year. Here’s my ending mileage after Trippin’ Connies 5:
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And here’s my starting mileage for Trippin’ Connies 6:
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That’s right, I haven’t ridden a single mile since I put the bike in the garage a year ago. Embarassing!!! Part of the reason for this was a couple weeks after getting home last year I went out into the garage to start the bike. It fired up and I went out into the yard to do a few things while the bike ran. When I walked back into the garage there was smoke everywhere. I shut it off and stood there dumbfounded. I was defeated. How did everything go to heck in a few weeks of sitting in the garage? The next time I went out to start it, the battery was dead. Now I was frustrated with it and defeated. A month before this year’s trip I went into a frenzy trying to diagnose an oil leak, causing the smoke, along with changing the battery, oil, air filter, and tires. Oh yeah, and I still needed to clean off the Montana bugs and Idaho road grime too.

I mentioned that I tried to diagnose the oil leak. I had narrowed it down to a leak between the bottom of the oil pan and the oil plug washer. Easy enough, I ordered up a new plug and a few new washers. I changed it all and the next day there was still a drop or two in the pan. It was still coming out in the same spot, slowly leaking between the washer and plug. Next course of action was to drain the oil again, and put some high temp sealant between any possible gaps. Back in went the oil and the next day everything looked good. Two days later there was a drop of oil in the pan under the bike. What in the heck was going on!??!?! I tried and tried to trace it, but short of tearing the whole bike apart, I couldn’t figure it out. Oh well! I just told dad to watch out for flying oil when following me.

The plan was to meet dad at his house at 6 am. I ended up leaving my house around 5:50, filled up on the way and so we took off around 6:15 am. We’re used to leaving on a weekend, but this was the best week for me to take off of work, and dad already had a weekend trip planned to the AMA races at Barber for the weekend with mom. They wouldn’t get back until Monday, so the first day we could leave was Tuesday. The bad part about leaving during the week is dealing with a bit of traffic. It wasn’t too bad though, at least we were headed out of town instead of into it. The weather threatened a bit, but all we had was a few sprinkles. The first gas stop was 150 miles north of Houston in Fairfield, TX.

Back at home, thunderstorms were expected. I was hoping we could get out of Texas before everything rolled in, and we did just that. The weather was great. It was a little hot, but certainly not unbearable. We cruised through Dallas, into Oklahoma, and stretched out the second gas stop to just under 200 miles in Caddo, OK.
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We both gassed up and got snacks, standing in the shade when a bike starts up and immediately revs…. BBRRRAAAAHHHDAAHHAAHHHHHAAAA!!!!!!! I turn my head and the dude gives me a nod, we got a good laugh out of that later. He rode up beside us and asked if we were local and we said no, from Houston. He asked where we were headed and when I said Lake Superior he went into how he used to ride the California coast and has two daughters out there. He said he was too old to do trips anymore and dad asked how old he was. He replied with “72.” Dad said he hopes he’s still riding when he’s 72. I threw on my jacket and he took the cue and wished us luck. He then cranked up his metric cruiser…. BBRRRAAAAAHHHDAAHHAAAHHHHHAAAA!!!!!!! He took off and dad and I laughed about the 72 year old rapping it out as soon as those plugs sparked. Nice guy though. Too bad I didn’t get a picture of him.

We continued North on US 69 and 175 miles later stopped for gas in Adair, OK. I wanted to stop here so we could fill up prior to getting on the Turnpike. Most of US 69 was uneventful. Most of the day was uneventful. I can easily say this because the highlight of the ride was meeting a 72 year-old guy back in Caddo, OK.
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We took the Turnpike on I-44 out of Oklahoma and into Missouri, then I-49 North for the rest of the day. This last leg was about 188 miles, so a total of about 705 for the day. When we arrived at the Comfort Inn & Suites in Harrisonville I was still feeling pretty good. Ok, my wrists and shoulders hurt some, but other than that I was feeling decent. Dad said he was surprisingly feeling pretty good after fearing the Day 1 ride for weeks.

We walked down the road to Best Burrito. Margaritas and burritos made some of the little aches go away. Maybe we were starving, but the food was delicious.
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Back at the hotel, I paired dad’s flip cell phone to his Sena headset and his mind was blown. We went to bed pretty early. I knew Day 2’s mileage was almost the same, but with quite a bit less Interstate. It was going to be rough.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Day 2 - 6/25/2014 - Harrisonville, MO to Red Wing, MN - 613 Miles (Plus a few for wrong turns)

Harrisonville, MO to Red Wing, MN - 613 miles – MAP LINK

I woke up at 5:45 am, we ate breakfast at the hotel at 6:30 and were on the road a bit after 7. Dad was soaking up a little golden light before taking off.
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We continued North on I-49 to I-435 through Kansas City and then I-35. Somewhere around Kansas City dad got his first ever phone call while riding, from my wife. We checked another new state off our list. The sign was nicely placed on an overpass.
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And dad slammed a warm one.
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We filled up in Des Moines. I ended up cutting it a bit close, putting over 5.8 gallons in a 5.8 gallon tank. She may have been running on fumes.
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To get the most possible fuel in my bike, I simply put the bike on the center stand. Dad on the other hand, well, I think this photo speaks for itself.
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We then headed East on I-80. The original plan was to go into Le Claire to visit Antique Archaeology, home of the American Pickers. Dad and I both like the show, and we were somewhat close, so why not. But, the more I looked into it right before leaving on the trip 1) we weren’t going to see any of the cast, 2) they don’t have much for sale except American Pickers t-shirts, 3) it could be crowded and the place is small. I talked it over with dad and we decided to not add the extra 80 miles onto the day for it.

Instead, we continued our trek North turning on I-380 at Iowa City. But it wasn’t that easy. We got separated by a semi right before our exit and I went the wrong way, thinking it was correct. Dad ended up going the correct way and pulled over to wait. I had to head South for 3 miles before I could turn around. Not very happy with my GPS and myself, there may have been several curse words flying around in my helmet those extra 6 miles.

Continuing on, we rode North to Cedar Rapids and took US 30 East to 13 and then North to US 151. We started getting into Iowa farmland in the rolling hills. In Cascade we took 136 North and we were due for a fill-up in Worthington.
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I told dad to go sit down under the Short Stop sign so I could get a picture, as we took a short stop. Just then the owner of the station pulled back up from a bank run. She was a firecracker and insisted that Short Stop was no longer the name of the station. I forgot what she actually said the new name was, something much more boring. Anyway, she also decided the picture would be much better with her in dad’s lap. Here’s the result:
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We started to notice neat old churches in every small town we rode through. We ended up stopping in New Vienna at St. Boniface Catholic Church. This quick stop marked the beginning of swarming bugs. Here there were gnats. When we took off from here dad had several in his helmet that drove him crazy and made his head itch for miles.
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136 turned into US 52 and took us to the Mississippi River. Here’s one of the first spots along the river that gave us a good view. It was actually a missed turn and I was looking for a place to turn around, and it was conveniently a good place.
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We followed the West side of the river for the rest of the day. Most of it was slow going as the roads were smaller with low speed limits and small towns. There was some nice elevation change and some decent curves. We stopped at Lansing by the metal bridge. I had a phone call from my wife and she informed me that our youngest had bronchitis and a double ear infection. It was the beginning of a wonderful week for her and I felt helpless.
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Further North we crossed over into another new state for us, Minnesota.
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Starting back in Iowa there were red wing blackbirds everywhere. They constantly tempted fate jetting out in every direction right in front of me. I somehow didn’t hit any of them. This continued on into Minnesota. We finally made it to US 61 along the river and the pace sped way up getting us to our destination in Red Wing, MN. It was a pleasant day temperature wise with no rain, but the swarming gnats at every stop were a bit ridiculous. We rolled into the Best Western in Red Wing at 7 pm. It was definitely a long day. The lady behind the front desk recommended Liberty’s Restaurant downtown, so we went there for dinner. It was a quiet place. The food was good, as was the local brew. The pizza, that was just for me... and I polished it all off.
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Red Wing was a neat little town, but it had a strong stench that came from the factory on the river, not exactly sure what it was.
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We were exhausted after a long day in the saddle. There was no time to rest though, we got back to the hotel, showered, and basically went to sleep.
 
Joined
Sep 4, 2009
Messages
11,194
Location
Arlington
I always enjoy the annual Trippin' Connies adventures. And my bucket list includes some travel & camping up around the Michigan upper peninsula. Looking forward to the rest of your story.
 
Joined
Aug 28, 2008
Messages
1,182
Location
North Richland Hills
Good stuff. As usual enjoying living vicariously through others ride reports. I grew up not far from Red Wing. Between there and the Twin Cities. Nice part of the country. Ride safe.



Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Day 3 - 6/26/2014 - Red Wing, MN to Two Harbors, MN - 457 Miles

Red Wing, MN to Two Harbors, MN - 457 miles – MAP LINK


No rest for the weary, we were up early around 6 am, at some breakfast and hit the road. It was nice and cool at takeoff. We skirted St. Paul and headed North on I-35. 150 miles into the day we stopped at the first gas stop as we exited I-35. As we were crossing over the interstate, I spotted a large bird that appeared to be an eagle flying right over the station we were stopping at. I want an eagle picture bad, so I whipped into the gas station and got out my gear as quick as possible. My 300mm with 1.4x teleconverter was mounted, I looked up into the sky and there was no bird to be found. Never fails.
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After leaving the gas station we took 72 to US 2 into Grand Rapids. Out of Grand Rapids we headed North on MN 38, aka Edge of the Wilderness National Scenic Byway. The ride was nice, there were many lakes we passed but we could only see little bits and pieces due to all the trees. It was definitely a thick, forested area. I couldn’t even find a good spot to pull over. There were sections of great pavement and others where it was torn up. We took a right on MN 1 and would remain on it until we met Lake Superior. A couple miles down the road we were in need of a break so we pulled over at a little picnic area by a river. It was here where we were introduced to the wonderful Minnesota mosquitoes. Within a minute of getting off the bikes we were getting swarmed and attacked. I did manage to snap a few pictures.
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A couple pulled up with their kids for a break as well. We made a little small talk and the guy said his friends who live in Minnesota couldn’t believe they were coming to visit in June, due to the mosquitoes. I smashed a couple on my head, smearing blood on my scalp. Pretty gross. Here dad can be seen trying to enjoy a snack while being attacked.
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When we couldn’t take it anymore we took off and headed East. I felt as if I was riding through the woods of East Texas. We rode on until it was time to fill up, stopping in Tower. Just before getting to Ely, I spotted what I first thought was a Great Dane in the road headed our way. As we got closer the animal jetted across the road in front of me and headed up a steep hill. It was a HUGE wolf. After Ely, MN 1 turned Southeast and turned into quite a bit of fun, one of the most exciting roads of the trip. It was difficult to make any passes so we got stuck behind cars for most of it, but it was still enjoyable. What wasn’t enjoyable was that I finally hit a bird. It jetted out from my left and hit somewhere on the front of my bike. I looked into my rear view mirror and saw it flopping down the road. Dad said, “you got that one.” It was small, probably some sort of finch. Oh, and it is impossible to take a long trip up North without running into some sort of road construction.
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It was a sight to see twisting down MN 1 when Lake Superior finally came into view. The closer we got the cooler it got. When the road dead-ended into the lake, we took a right on MN 61. It was quite chilly riding along the lake. Dad immediately started thinking about how he could get a few more layers as he didn’t come with much to battle the cold. It wasn’t cold to me though, only in the upper 50s. I was enjoying every second in full mesh gear.

It was in the afternoon, and we were actually pretty close to our destination for once. I knew there wouldn’t be much food around where we would be staying for the night, so we decided to go ahead and eat early. In Beaver Bay we stopped at the Northern Lights Café.
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As you can see, it wasn’t busy, but the Open light was on, so in we went. We had a great view from our table, and they had a nice outside area.
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There was a couple that just took off and purposely left some scraps for a local.
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He was either done or I had finally gotten a too close for comfort. I haven’t seen a ton of seagulls in my time, but this thing was massive and had a huge wingspan.
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Our food came and was devoured.
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Next on the agenda was Split Rock Lighthouse. There have been millions of pictures taken of this place, but I wanted to come away with a few good ones of my own. When we arrived, we first walked into the gift shop and dad purchased a Split Rock Lighthouse hoodie to layer up with. We headed down the trail to get to the shore so I could work on getting a picture I was happy with. Dad told me to take my time, and I did. He wandered around and then headed back to the bikes. Instead of the trail, the short way to get back was a hike up 170 plus stairs. We both went back via the stairs at different times. I made it extra fun by having 40 lbs. of photo gear with me. I came away with 7 that I really like, but I can’t pick a favorite.
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I was whooped by the time I got back to the bikes. We finished off the day’s ride by heading further down MN 61 to our final stop, J Gregers Inn. I was worried about finding the place as different sites were showing different locations. We ended up finding it without a problem though. Our room was unlocked so we made ourselves at home. I wasn’t positive when booking, but I thought we might be able to walk down to the lake from the Inn. Unfortunately that wasn’t possible, but was still a cool place to stay. I knew Gooseberry Falls was just a mile down the road, so I wanted to go check it out before there was no light left in the day. Dad decided to call it a day and stay at the Inn.

So off I went. I vividly remember looking the place up on street view and could see tons of cars parked along the road over the bridge. When I arrived there were signs everywhere saying there was no parking along the road. I didn’t know how long I was going to be, and I didn’t want to chance it. Instead, they want you to park about half a mile away from the falls. I parked, jumped off the bike, grabbed my gear and started walking. I first made my way to the upper falls, walking under the bridge. The water was flowing strong and I took a few pictures and then soaked up the scene.
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Next I headed back down the trail following the river and stopping at the different fall areas. Luckily it wasn’t crowded and I had a great time taking pictures along the way. I stayed there until I couldn’t take it anymore. The mosquitoes began to eat me alive.
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I had gone a decent way down the river, so the hike back to the bike was fun, once again lugging all my photo gear. I got back to the room and I think dad had the heater set to about 120 degrees. Our room had two bedrooms, so I closed mine off and opened the window to let that crisp air in. I took a shower and hit the sack, exhausted from the climbing towards the end of the day.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Day 4 - 6/27/2014 - Two Harbors, MN to Marquette, MN - 456 Miles

Two Harbors, MN to Marquette, MN - 456 miles – MAP LINK

We were up with the sun the next morning, it was nice and chilly outside. I actually wore my rain liner in my jacket and my rain pants, which is saying a lot. I took a few pictures of the Inn and our room. Here’s the owner’s house. We actually never did meet them in person.
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Here’s the building we stayed in.
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There were 3 rooms, ours was the Tettegouche room. I got the bed with a view, sorry dad, one of the perks of making all the plans.
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We could have paid to stick around for a nice breakfast, but there’s no time for that stuff. We needed gas as well, so we headed down MN 61 into Duluth. We pulled up to the gas pumps and I started filling my bike with gas and dad began to panic. He couldn’t find one of his fobs and his keychain with various keys on it. I was confident they were somewhere on him, so I didn’t think much of it. As he searched through his layers a Duluth policeman came up to chat. We talked to him for a few minutes, he owed a V-Strom 1k. He suggested we go and check out the Aerostitch headquarters, and I had originally thought about it, but decided against it due to time constraints. Dad was finally convinced the keys were not on him. He was worried they somehow worked their way out of his short pockets in his riding pants and down his leg between his pants and rain pants. He ended up calling the owner of the Inn to see if they could check the room. They were actually in Duluth as well. The only thing to do was ride back and check the room and around the Inn himself.
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It was 40 miles back to the Inn, over an hour round trip. Dad said he’d go by himself, and I told him he could meet me at the Ariel Lift Bridge at the canal. Dad took off. Absolute worst case, he had lost his keys and wouldn’t be able to get into his top box, which contained his shoes, small laptop and toilet paper. Ha! He could still get into his gas tank and side boxes because the fob does have a key in it. Dad has a knack for losing fobs, and they aren’t cheap, so losing another one would stink.
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I took my time at the gas station and ate a breakfast sandwich before heading for the bridge. It was really weird riding by myself. It was just a short drive down to the canal area. From what I understand, this area was pretty run down, but now it has been turned into a commercial/touristy area. I made myself at home at the canal, taking pictures of course.
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Hope you like seagulls. These guys were everywhere. Some of them were a little rough looking.
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Time flies by when you’re taking pictures. I walked back to my bike and gave dad a call. He said he was almost back and that he found his keys, in a pile on the bed. Good news! Bad news was that he had to ride an extra 80 miles, and we were just getting started for the day. He arrived and was hungry, so he walked over to see if this place was open.
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But this face says it all.
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After waiting a bit, we took off, getting back on I-35 and then crossed over into Wisconsin on a big bridge on US53. I need to brush up on my Geography though, I had no idea we had just crossed into Wisconsin and I sure didn’t see any signs saying so. It wasn’t until many miles later I started to wonder if we were already in Wisconsin. We turned on US2 and headed East. I would have loved to have taken a detour and gone to the Apostle Islands, but I just couldn’t work it into this trip. We stopped for gas in Ashland. The guy in the Dodge asked if I wanted to switch, he had just put in about $150 worth of fuel in his truck.
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Ashland was on the lake and it’s amazing how the temperature would swing 10-15 degrees in a matter of a quarter of a mile when you got close to the lake. The Duluth policeman we had spoken to earlier referred to the lake as the air conditioner.

We continued East on US2 and the next stop was the Michigan border. We stopped at the sign for a picture, and there was a couple already pulled over there on a Harley. As I was taking a picture of the sign, dad went over to talk to the couple. It turns out they were from Manchester and were in the middle of a 3 week tour of the US on the Harley. Or maybe it was a 2 month tour, and they were on their 3rd week, I can’t remember which was correct. He was a Triumph owner and it seemed like they were having a good time, relying heavily on their paper map.
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Before we left, the guy took a picture of us. Maybe we’ll make his ride report.

Since we missed the Wisconsin sign earlier, I wanted to go to the other side of the road to get it. US2 was completely shut down ahead, so we had to turn around any way.
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The town we were in was Ironwood, and we followed the detour signs that took us right through the middle of town. We made it back to US 2 and took it to WI28. We took that to US45 and then to WI26. We rode up to Houghton and then crossed the bridge to Hancock. This was a neat area with towns on both sides of the river. In Hancock I was looking for a gas station and we pulled into a small one. Two kids came out looking like they were going to pump our fuel. I asked if it was a problem if we pumped it ourselves and they said no. The gas was the craziest price I had seen on the trip. I assumed it was because of the service, so we decided to just find another station. We found one right up the road, pulled in, and the gas was almost 20 cents more than the other one! I didn’t even feel like going anywhere else so we just filled up here.
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WI26/US41 took us further into the peninsula. After we passed the small towns and slow moving traffic the ride turned very nice. On the ride out we climbed Brockway Mountain Dr. It was a small road and was pretty tore up. We dodged holes and gravel the whole road. The view at the top was definitely worth it though. We were 750 foot above Lake Superior at this spot. It was extremely windy, I was seriously wondering if my bike was going to blow over. The big sign pictured below was blown back most of the time. There was a little enclosed stand that was chained down with a sign on it. Apparently someone sits in it and counts various species of raptors as they fly over this spot during migration.
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We headed back down the other side of Brockway Mountain Dr. and stopped quickly at a great view of Copper Harbor. Dad posed for a picture.
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The ride back down to Eagle Harbor on WI26 was awesome. It had a great surface with nice curves the whole way. Before we got back to Eagle Harbor, we stopped quickly at the Silver River Falls. The falls weren’t anything special, and the mosquitoes were in full force here.
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The next stop was at the Eagle Harbor Lighthouse.
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Before leaving, I wanted to get a picture of us, but didn’t want to get my tripod out, so I did the old camera on a rock technique with a timer trick.
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On the grounds there were two huge anchors, both with stories from sunken ships in the lake. I took dad’s picture by one.
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On the way back to Hancock and Houghton we had to repeat much of the same route. From Houghton we rode US41 for the remainder of the day. To be honest, I don’t remember much about the rest of the ride. We rolled into the Hampton Inn in Marquette as the sun was going down. It was a very long day, and to top it off, neither of us realized we lost an hour when we had crossed into Michigan, so it was already late. My iPhone charger had crapped out on me today, so my phone was dead. Luckily the girl at the desk had one to lend. I wanted to buy it from them, but she wouldn’t let me. I was going to have to stop somewhere in the near future to pick one up. We were both tired, but I picked a waterfront hotel on purpose. I wanted to get some pictures of what was around, and I had very little time to do that. We decided to order a pizza, dad jumped in the shower, and I headed down to the boardwalk.

The sun was already down, but I was able to get a few decent shots.
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Dad called me when the pizza had arrived, which didn’t take long. It was from Aubree’s Pizza, and it was good.
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Oh, I’ve failed to mention that ever since we set our eyes on Lake Superior, a day and a half ago, that dad has been singing Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.” He literally sang it all day long to himself, and every once in a while to me. The funny part was, he could only remember a few of the lines. Of course, I had never heard of the song. I looked the song up as we ate pizza so dad could try to actually remember/learn some of the words. Mom was lucky enough to be serenaded by the 6 ½ minute song.
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Sleep followed soon after, day 4 was in the books.
 
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I was starting to ask how on earth could you not have heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I thought about it and realized that, between classic rock and oldies formats, Gordon Lightfoot simply falls through the cracks. Alas, another of Canada's treasures totally overlooked south of the 49th parallel.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Awesome as always, Kory. Be safe!
Thanks, Eric. The ride was back in June, I'm way late in getting this out. :doh:

I was starting to ask how on earth could you not have heard "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald." I thought about it and realized that, between classic rock and oldies formats, Gordon Lightfoot simply falls through the cracks. Alas, another of Canada's treasures totally overlooked south of the 49th parallel.
Very true. Also, the song was released in 1976 and I was born in 1982. :mrgreen:

After reading a few of the sunken ship stories one can come to the conclusion that Lake Superior is one beast of a lake. Waves up to 35 feet are said to have sunk the SS Edmund Fitzgerald. It's hard to imagine consider the lake was pretty calm everywhere we saw it.
 
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Shows how much I was paying attention. I thought it was "live". I was so into the pics and story.
 
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Houston, TX
Day 5 - 6/28/2014 - Marquette, MI to Muskegon, MI - 517 Miles

Marquette, MI to Muskegon, MI - 517miles – MAP LINK

For the first time this trip I hit the snooze when my phone alarm went off. I was so tired and comfortable I didn’t feel like moving. I eventually got up and got us going. We had some breakfast at the hotel and hit the road. We took MI28 to MI77 back to US2. As we began to run along the North shoreline of Lake Michigan, dad had to “go.” Then suddenly, I had to “go.” This little spot was an oasis.
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Next stop was just down US2 at the Mackinac Bridge view park. It’s a pretty impressive bridge that I didn’t know anything about until I got back. Dad still wasn’t feeling quite right, so he used the facilities as I took some shots of the surroundings.
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We jumped on I-75, paid the toll and crossed the bridge. Look to the right, Lake Michigan. Look to the left, Lake Huron. We exited just past the bridge at US31 and took that to MI66. We filled up in the tiny town of Cross Village. Next up was the Tunnel of Trees Road, which according to motorcycleroads.com is the 7th ranked road in the country.
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It’s a really cool road, but there’s one huge downside for me, it’s a single lane road that has 2-way traffic. I don’t trust anyone else on the road. The trees create a canopy of shade and it’s quite the experience. Cool road, but #7… no.
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After cruising through the trees we got back on US31 and headed South. It started to get really hot. In Petoskey I spotted a Radio Shack and pulled in. I picked up a phone charger cord, walked back outside and dad’s new thermometer said something stupid like 125 degrees. It wasn’t that hot, but it was hot. From here all the way through Traverse City was slow going. There was a ton of people on the road, it was Saturday so it was to be expected. Traverse City seemed like a cool place. There was a ton of people that had their boats anchored by the beach, sitting out in the water enjoying some drinks. Meanwhile, we were on the road sweating our butts off.

We took MI22 North and after we got out of town everything got better. It sprinkled for a couple of seconds, but not enough to do anything. The slow-moving traffic disappeared and the road became more fun. We rode all the way up to the Grand Traverse Lighthouse. It’s within a state park, so we had to get a day pass. We checked out the grounds. I expected it to be right on the water, but it was about 100 yards off the shore. I saw a brochure and went to check it out. I thought it was something else, but it was about being a lighthouse keeper. The keeper overheard me and we had a short conversation. We told her about the other 2 lighthouses we had seen and she told us how many lighthouse there were on Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes total and said we were off to a good start and to keep at it. Dad asked her how many she had seen and it was most of them, but not all. He told her, “well, keep at it.” Haha.
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There was a group on the grounds having a garage and bake sale. I couldn’t even tell you what it was for, but we picked up a plate of cookies to snack on. We sat down on a bench to eat them and that’s when things got out of control.
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It was hot, so the cookies were warm and melted. Dad dropped a few crumbs on his shirt, went to clean them off and started smearing chocolate on his white shirt. It got to a point of no return and he didn’t care anymore.
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Maybe we were delirious, but we laughed so hard and couldn’t stop. You had to be there. He ended up changing his shirt mid-day back at the bike.
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We took MI22 back down the other side of the peninsula to Glen Arbor where we broke off on MI109 to go through the Sleeping Bear Dunes area. We stopped at a popular place where people can climb one of the dunes. We passed on the climb and made a turn around to keep moving.
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In planning I knew I wanted to stop at one place in the Sleeping Bear Dunes where there was a pier overlooking the lake. I didn’t have the turnoff planned on the GPS, so I was hoping I would recognize the road when I saw it. Luckily I saw a road that looked familiar and turned off at the right spot. There was an entrance with a pay booth and I thought we would be good because the pass we bought earlier was supposed to be good for all state parks. The problem was this wasn’t a state park, it was a national lakeshore. So we had to pay another entrance fee, but prior to paying the ranger asked how old dad was. He was able to qualify for the America the Beautiful
 National Parks and Federal Recreational Lands
 Senior Pass. The cost? $10. I bought it for him. It’s good forever and gets him into all National Parks and the like at no cost, plus anyone (up to 3 other adults) who is accompanying him gets in for free. You can’t beat that with a stick! We rode through the loop, and I thought it was actually a better road than the Tunnel of Trees, just shorter. One lane, but also a one way. We stopped at the recommended place by the ranger and it just happened to be the place I was looking for with the pier.

It was still really hot, so thankfully the walk out to the viewing area was short. When we emerged to see the lake we were about 450 feet above the lake. I have to say, this was probably the coolest place of the trip. If you’ve never been to this spot, the pictures don’t do it justice and probably don’t make much sense. The angle down to the lake is very steep. There were people that dared to go all the way down to the lakeshore and climb back up. The people down on the shore looked like ants from the top. There was a group of athletic looking young adults that began climbing the dune when we arrived. We left probably 30 minutes later and they weren’t even back to the top where we were at yet. This place was crazy.

The picture below is an optical illusion. It looks like the water is so close.
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But when you walk up to the edge, the 450-foot drop appears.
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Here are some more pictures from there.
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We left there and got gas in Frankfort. After that we continued South getting back on US31. It was practically an interstate so we hauled it the rest of the way to our destination, which was Muskegon. 30 miles before getting there, we saw a massive amount of people out in a field. There were tents and pop-up covers as far as we could see. We found out later that it was the Electric Forest festival. I don’t think I’ve seen that many people in one place ever.

We had reservations at the Shoreline Inn & Suites. When we pulled up to the front it was clear there was an event taking place there. It was a wedding and everyone we ran across was nicely dressed. Us on the other hand, we walked in with bugs splattered all over us and smelled like heck. I thought it was funny. After we checked in we talked outside to a couple of the security guards for a bit. One of them owns a sport bike with a blown motor. He mentioned it happened last year at a rally in town. I asked him if it was during a burnout and he just laughed and said yes. I was able to find a parking spot and we took our luggage up on a cart. After settling in I wanted to go down to the marina area and get a picture of the sunset.
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After the sun went down I talked dad into getting some food at the restaurant, along with a couple beers. We had a cool waitress that we asked a bunch of questions about local stuff. She was the one who told us about the Electric Forest. We headed back up to the room and crashed out.
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Joined
May 29, 2012
Messages
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Location
Baton Rouge, LA
Great report and fantastic photos. I have family in Traverse City (well, Bingham, next to lake Leelanau) and have been to the sleeping bear dunes as a kid. Thanks for the memory jog. I'd love to go back soon but this will do for now!
 
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Day 6 - 6/29/2014 - Muskegon, MI to Sikeston, MO - 577 Miles

Muskegon, MI to Sikeston, MO - 577miles – MAP LINK

We decided to sleep in a little longer because we’d be gaining our hour back during the ride today. I set the alarm for 6:45 am. I don’t even remember turning it off and then woke up 45 minutes later, somewhat refreshed. We took our luggage back down on a cart and loaded up. We got on the road around 8:30 am.
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I put the rain cover on my tank bag prior to leaving. As soon as we took off we went through a tiny bit of rain, but it didn’t last long. It didn’t take us long until we were riding under clear skies. Today began the 2-day trek to return home. Not much to see other than a couple of covered bridges along the way. Out of town we caught US31 South and it eventually combines with I-196. We stopped for gas in South Haven and took a good break behind the station.
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I-196 merged with I-94 and we continued Southwest. We both completely missed the Indiana state sign, frustrating because it was one that I don’t have. I missed the I-65 exit and we had to do some extra miles to turn around and come back to it. I blame the out-of-date maps in my GPS. We took I-65 South and cut over to US41 on IN14. Lots of cornfields were passed in Indiana. We stopped for another fuel break in in Attica.
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A couple miles South we made it to the first of three planned covered bridges.
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After leaving here the sky started to look really dark and I thought we were going to have to skip the last 2 covered bridges and just keep riding. But it all worked out and we didn’t get a drop of rain. These two were on the same road. It just happened to be a rock road with a little mud thrown in for good measure. Here’s the second bridge of the day.
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As we left the second bridge, there was a sharp turn and then a somewhat muddy and soft uphill. I was going a bit too slow because I didn’t want the rear tire to slip and I almost ended up dropping the bike. I drifted right into an area washed out by rain so I had to back up and retry. The road was fine after that point. The last bridge was the longest and also my favorite. It went over Sugar Creek, a popular tubing spot.
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Continuing on, in Terre Haute we jumped on I-70. We crossed into Illinois and the sign was mounted to an overpass in the middle of the road. I didn’t want to pull over on the shoulder there so we just cruised on. Another new state for me, and another missed sign. We took I-70 to Effingham where we turned South on I-57. The final gas stop for the day was in Mt. Vernon. Typically if a gas station isn’t busy, we fill up at separate pumps, and then one of us will go to where the other one is as to not take up 2 pumps while we are going to the restroom, getting snacks and drinks, etc. At this particular station, there were probably 20 pumps, all with diesel and gas. I pulled over to dad’s pump after filling up and this guy in the U-Haul pictured below pulled right up in front of us to wait on us to move. 15 of the 20 other pumps were empty. I don’t know why this guy had to put the rush on us, but it pissed me off.
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We finished off the day crossing into Missouri and arriving at our hotel in Sikeston at about 6 pm. For once it was before the sun was setting. The hotel was a brand new Holiday Inn Express. I wasn’t exactly sure where it was because the address wouldn’t pull up anywhere and on Google satellite view it is merely a field. It had only been open for 2 months. The sub-5-foot lady at the desk kept joking about letting her ride one of our bikes. She said she had just taken her riding course. I say she was joking, but I think she was actually hoping one of us would let her.

There was a Colton’s Steakhouse next door so we walked over for dinner. It was the absolute worst service I’ve had at a restaurant in a long time. We were there way too long. The food was ok, but nothing special.
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I was tempted to jump in the pool, but showering and going to bed won out.
 
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Day 7 - 6/30/2014 - Sikeston, MO to Houston, TX - 693 Miles

Sikeston, MO to Houston, TX - 693 miles – MAP LINK

The final day of the trip is always operation get home. We woke and had some breakfast at the hotel prior to hitting the road. We made our way to I-55 and headed South towards Memphis. We crossed into Arkansas and made the first gas stop 170 miles into the day in Forrest City. Here we talked to the 3 riders below. The one in the first picture was a lady that had to have been in her 60s. The other couple looked a bit younger. They were from the Northeast and had gone to the J&P Open House Rally in Iowa. We had passed by J&P Cycles on our route North. They couldn’t believe we rode through Anamosa, IA and didn’t stop at the National Motorcycle Museum. We did go right by it, but since I didn’t know about it, it wasn’t in the plans. The older lady seemed a bit grumpy as well. They were on their way to The Woodlands, TX and were just taking off for the day. Us on the other hand, we had already ridden 170 miles today.
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They hit the road and we took a little break before we got going. It took us about 30 minutes of riding before we passed by them on I-40. In Little Rock I made yet another wrong turn. We had to go anther 10 minutes out of the way. When we finally made it onto I-30 we passed by the riders we met earlier… again. I joked that it felt like they were the tortoise and we were the hare. We were practically going to the same destination and it felt like they were going to beat us. I’m not sure what about that was so funny, but we laughed so hard. I could barely see and had tears running down my face. It was another one of those had to be there moments. 190 miles after the last fill-up we were stopping for gas and another break in Prescott. I had dad show off his newly acquired National Park Senior Pass.
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And these are my new riding glasses, purchased somewhere in Michigan. The gas station ones I bought last year in Wyoming broke, so I went with another $10 gas station pair. So far, so good.
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This is dad’s high tech suction cup mounted temp gauge. It lasted the whole trip and provided some good entertainment.
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From Texarkana we took US59/I-69 the rest of the way home. We pushed the last gas stop to 200 miles, stopping in Nacogdoches. I was cutting it close because we were getting pretty bad gas mileage. There wasn’t much left to take pictures of, hence the bugs.
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South of Lufkin we were just discussing how I didn’t recall passing a Kawasaki dealership the whole route. I’m sure we did, but I didn’t notice one. Right about that time we passed by Lufkin Power Sports, a Kawasaki Dealership. Literally half a mile past the dealership dad says something is wrong with his bike and he thinks it’s a flat tire. He pulled over immediately and I took the first U-turn I could find. When I drove up, this is what I saw.
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I took out my repair kit and pump and we went to work. The bad news was, it wasn’t just a nail puncture. Nothing was sticking out of the tire, instead something had slashed it. The puncture swallowed one plug, so dad put in another one beside it. As we pumped it up and pressure built, you could hear air still seeping out a bit and making pops.
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We decided to turn back and go to the dealership to see if they had a tire. Dad took off and I packed everything up and meet him back there. It was a little after 4 and they looked like they were already approaching shutdown mode. They said they had one in stock, but didn’t seem like they wanted to mount it. They suggested a bottle of Ride-On, thinking maybe it would fill the leaks around the plugs.
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Dad pulled around back and put the Ride-On in, then filled the tire up. The guy that helped was really nice, and didn’t even take any money for the bottle. It was still popping a bit, but dad took off and said he was going to take it easy. I still had to get back to my bike and gear up, so I would just catch up with him on the road. As I spotted dad on the side of the road about 45 miles later my mom called to say he was stopped again. I told her that I just saw him and made another U-turn to go back to him. Apparently the plugs shot out and it went flat almost immediately again. This time dad shoved 3 plugs in the slash and we aired it up again. Here was the scene.
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The last leg, he was going about 60 mph. This time he said he was going to go even slower, running about 50-55 mph. I followed him with my flashers on the rest of the way home. The plugs held up the last 70 miles and we made it home safe. Dad called me the next day and said the tire still had 40 lbs. of pressure in it. We probably could have made it home quicker, but better safe than sorry.

My oldest daughter was happy to see me when I got home, as was my wife. The 5 month old on the other hand, she forgot who I was in just 7 days. It didn’t take me long to win her back though.
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My parting shots are of the GPS and bike totals for the trip. My goal is to at least put some miles on the bike prior to next year’s trip. We’ll see how that goes.
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Thanks for following along.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Nice trip, I enjoyed it as always. Now then, let's see about putting at least 1 mile on that bike before Trippin Connies 7. :D
Thanks, and that's the goal!

I still have that stubborn slow oil drip. I'm due for another valve check, so this winter when I tear it down hopefully I can get to the bottom of it.
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2012
Messages
530
Location
Vietnam
You have awesome report. Amazing pictures. And more than that, you can have a real ride with your dad. It's really awesome!
Thanks so much for share.
Btw, any chance you confused which bike is yours?
 
Joined
Sep 11, 2006
Messages
2,446
Location
Houston, TX
Great ride report. Love reading these every year. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks, and you're welcome. :thumb:

You have awesome report. Amazing pictures. And more than that, you can have a real ride with your dad. It's really awesome!
Thanks so much for share.
Btw, any chance you confused which bike is yours?
Thank you! There's never a dull moment riding with dad.

I've walked to dad's bike in the past, but no confusion this year. :mrgreen:
 
Joined
Feb 25, 2013
Messages
1,724
Location
bluff dale, tx
wow! what a great writeup and pictorial!! makes me wanna just 'go'!!!!

the st. boniface catholic church looks a LOT like the catholic church i grew up in, in northern il. beautiful. now it's a rec center.... :doh:

thanks so much for sharing and i'll show this to my connie guy. :rider:
 
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