Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Leaving Da Yoop! Part VIII: Headed toward Home

Today we left Houghton and began our ride home. We backtracked down US 41 but in Crystal Falls we turned south so that we could ride through Wisconsin to Illinois, where we'd stop somewhere in the Effingham area for the night.

The route down through the Michigan U.P. and across the Wisconsin border took us on some really nice roads and I spotted a wolf standing near the edge of the woods as we passed through some desolate, unsettled areas. Iron Mountain was a cool little town, sort of nestled in a crotch of some rugged hills. Things quickly got flat and more open, though, as we rode into Wisconsin.

We got off the highway to ride through Manitowoc, check it out, and pick up some AMA Grand Tour points. It was a fine town, with some beautiful homes and a vibrant downtown area.

After this pleasant diversion, we got down to the business of eating some miles. We went through Milwaukee, going over the Green Bay bridge and then headed west to make a wide berth around Chicago. We made excellent time covering those 640 miles - even with the excursion through Manitowoc - and found ourselves in Tuscola for the night, well before dark, and early enough to have dinner and relax a little.

Next day: More utilitarian miles to reach Memphis around 3:00 PM. We took Mike's mom out to Corky's for BBQ, and then crashed for the night, Mike in front of the evening news with his mom, me with a good book, something I'd not had time to do this entire trip.

Last day: Our last day on the road would cover just a little over 600 miles to Pearland TX and home. We chose to wait to leave Memphis until after 9:00 AM, to avoid Memphis morning traffic but, more importantly, to get into Houston well after the evening rush hour had died down. And this is exactly how it played out. One last gas stop in Livingston TX and Mike and I said our goodbyes, then rode together through Houston to the south side where Mike split off for his exit and we waved goodbye to each other. I pulled in to my garage just around 8:30 PM and was greeted by a very happy cat!

Miles ridden: 3900
Days on the road: 10 days
Number of smiles: Countless!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Part VII: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore

Last night we discussed whether to stay another day, as originally planned, or start heading home. It didn't take long to reach concensus. We'd ridden all this way, why not ride as much of the peninsula as we can before heading home. So that's what we did.

I wanted to see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (oh, okay...I wanted to get a NP stamp, too!) so we planned a ride that would take us along the northern edge of the peninsula, where we would get several opportunities to ride along Lake Superior's shores. I also wanted to see Da Yoopers Tourist Trap in Ishpeming. Roadside America says that it has several "world's largest" things on display, an opportunity to gather more points for the AMA Grand Tour. Ron needed to head for Grand Rapids today, so he rode with us to Munising and the national park before he parted company and headed south.

It was a glorious day, comfortable temps and sunny, blue skies. We started the day (my birthday!) with breakfast at Suomi's just off the main street in little downtown Houghton, and met up with some of the Traverse City and Detroit group and with Charles Barnard, an MTF member from Georgia. Everyone had a lot of ground to cover this day, so we all headed for the door very soon after eating.

The three of us rode south on US-41 toward Marquette, where we got on M-28 east toward Munising. Along the way we passed through Ishpeming, and I gotta say that Da Yooper Tourist Trap was disappointing! I expected bigger and grander and tackier, but I did manage to get some "world's biggest" photos before we moved on. Ron and Mike were engrossed in conversation with someone in the parking lot, and I was anxious to find a gas station and bathroom, so I took off and left them there (sorry!).

Now, I haven't pulled a "bone-headed" stunt in a very long time, so I guess I was over-due. We approached the multi-agency visitor center after passing through the downtown area of Munising. I could see it on the right up ahead, just past a side street that came in from the right into a T intersection. What I didn't see and certainly didn't expect, was that we had the stop sign, and the road coming in from the right had the right-of-way. At the last minute (and I do mean the last minute) I saw the stop sign hanging overhead of the lane we were in. All brakes applied firmly, I came to a stop, with front tire neatly tucked behind the stop line...in a cloud of rear tire smoke! It's the shortest distance I've ever stopped a motorcycle, shorter than the emergency stops we practiced in ERC class. Glad I'd had that training!

The park rangers were wonderful to talk to. They made sure we knew how to get to Munising Falls, and gave us a lunch recommendation, as well! Great ladies! After I stamped my NP passport, we rode about 2 miles to the waterfall site, which had its own little visitor center and park stamp. Off the bikes, we had a short walk, maybe 1/2 mile, to the waterfall. I can only imagine what this waterfall looks like during snow melt. It was rather mild-mannered when we saw it. Next stop is the Miner's Castle overlook, down a 5 or 6 mile road to the coast.

It was a nice ride, but once there, the views were the best part of this park! Three different observation platforms gave us different perspectives of Miner's Castle, a rock formation along the Pictured Rocks coastline of Lake Superior. The upper overlooks afforded great views in either direction out over the lake; the view down below, at the level of the Miner's Castle formation, gave better views of the coastline to the east, where we could see other rock formations along the distant coast. A sightseeing tour boat went by us as we watched out over the viewing point. The ladies in the Visitor Center said that the park was best appreciated by boat. But this would have to do for us, given the distance we had to ride back to Houghton.

We said our goodbyes to Ron as he pointed his bike south toward home. We then went off in search of the recommended lunch stop: Muldoons. It reportedly has the best pasties on the U.P. and it was close to 2:00 PM by this time, so we were more than ready to eat.
We rode slowly back through town in search of the place. We weren't sure exactly where it was or what we were looking for, and at one point, Mike pulled over to say that we must have missed it. But we rode on for another 1/2 mile or so and there it was, on the right, a cute little beige two story house with freshly paved parking lot and picnic tables set outside on the lawn for us to enjoy our lunch. The sign said "Voted #1 Pasty on the U.P." so the park rangers were right. We had beef pasties yesterday in Copper Harbor so we chose chicken pasties today, just for comparison. These pasties were enormous! And packed with filling: ground chicken, carrots, potatoes. The gravy was lighter color than the beef gravy and very tasty! I'd say that the pasties in Copper Harbor were equally as good.

We hoped to get back to Houghton in time for the closing ceremonies, but we didn't push ourselves, and decided that it really didn't matter when we got there. So we rode west, stopping for a photo opportunity along the shore of Lake Superior and getting back to Houghton and the rally site around 5:30 PM. The parking lots were filled with BMW's and minutes later the crowds starting pouring out of the ice arena. We guessed that we'd missed the closing ceremonies. But we did sit and chat with some folks as they stood in line for their pasty dinner, which looked really lame compared to the really great, fresh pasties we'd had for lunch. We were so fortunate to have such a great day today!

Tomorrow we head for Houston.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Part VI: Keweenaw Peninsula Ride

Today we're riding to Copper Harbor! We met a fellow from PA who was riding alone, so we invited him to join us on this ride. The four of us gathered at Ron's motel in the center of town and headed out across the lift bridge that connects Houghton and Hancock. We momentarily lost Fred as his bike wouldn't start, but he caught up with us in Hancock.

We headed north up M-26 to Lake Linden, then turned onto Gay Road headed east toward Gay, MI. To me this was just another tiny crossroads on an otherwise empty road. But the others knew better! This tiny town apparently has only one business: the Gay Bar. There were several other motorcycles sitting outside this two story white clapboard house, waiting for the restaurant/bar to open. The name of the establishment was not lost on the group, as Mike and Ron hammed it up for the camera. A few minutes later, a worker showed up, unlocked and, in a few minutes, called us all inside. After cold drinks were served all 'round, several in the group selected and purchased the coveted "Gay Bar" t-shirt. Don't ask! LOL!

We continued north along the eastern edge of the peninsula to Lac la Belle, where the road turned inland and connected with US-41 a few miles south of Copper Harbor. Here the road became hilly and heavily wooded. We rode through another tree tunnel for several miles before it opened up near Copper Harbor. At the intersection of 41 and 26 we found lunch! A wonderful Inn, with many BMW's parked in front and along the side, served us excellent pasties. We enjoyed our waitress, a delightful young lady from Colombia. She's a university student working here in Copper Harbor MI for the summer. She assured us she'd be returning to Colombia for classes in the fall and not staying in the U.P. to experience winter!
After lunch we rode on out to Ft. Wilkins State Park to have a look. I wanted to see it, so everyone forked over the entry fee and we rode into the park, got off the bikes and walked around the grounds of this fort, established in 1844 to protect the miners from Indian attacks. Hard to imagine what it must have been like here in the dead of winter. I needed gas so headed back into town while the others stopped at the lighthouse view.
One of the park rangers recommended that we take the Brockway Mountain Road south, rather than stay on M-26. The left turn onto this road was just a short way south on M-26. As soon as we made the turn, the road went straight up! We reached the top, where there is a pull-out and a fantastic view of Lake Superior to the west and south and peaks and valleys to the east. Photos taken, it was time to continue on this road where, 11 miles later, it reconnected with M-26. This road runs along the western coast of the peninsula and gave some beautiful views of Lake Superior at water level.

We were passed many times by groups of other BMW riders as we rode along this beautiful road skirting the shore and beaches of Lake Superior. Such a shame they were missing these gorgeous views! Many of these riders were passing us on double yellow lines in curves and I thought they were taking great risks. At one point along this stretch we were passed by 4 BMW's and within a mile a very large deer stepped out into the road right in front of us. Mike was in the lead, carrying a leisurely pace (about 5 mph under the posted speed limit) and he braked as the deer gracefully walked across the road and disappeared into the woods on the right shoulder. We slowed down to ensure there were no other deer following her, before we rolled on again. Those guys who sped past us have no idea how close they came to having a really bad day.

On our way toward Houghton we went through Calumet. I saw a sign that pointed toward the historic district so I turned right so that we could get a look at the town. We rode through the main street, its dark red brick buildings vibrant with businesses, shops, cafes, and ice cream parlors. If I hadn't still been full from the giant pasty I ate earlier, I'd have stopped for ice cream. But we also had tickets to see Da Yoopers! so we wanted to keep moving. We didn't want to miss it.

They were hilarious! And a good crowd there, as well! Afterward Mike and I rode up to the rally site to get something to eat and immediately met up with a former Houston club member who's now moved to Chicago. That was a surprise! After brats and ice cream, a little socializing, we headed back to the hotel.

Tomorrow: Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and #1 Pasties on the U.P.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Part V: Arriving at the RA Rally

With fits and starts, the group finally got on the road towards breakfast. We would be eating at a B&B Inn highly recommended by one of our group. We headed straight west out of Escanaba on US 2 then turned north on 69. Before long we saw construction signs ahead, then traffic was stopped at a flag man. The road was down to one lane and traffic was being led by a pilot vehicle. This would not be the first time on this trip that we encountered construction. Yesterday we hit some lane construction in several places, and traffic was controlled by stop lights. This time we waited our turn with the pilot vehicle, which then led us about a mile or so across the one paved lane. At one point, the paved portion was just the width of a tire, with a hump of dirt just to the right of the tire track. A member of our group, riding a K1200LT and pulling a trailer, resorted to riding on the opposite side of the road where it was flat dirt, with no hump.

A little further on, we came upon another flag man in the road, and a line of cars and trucks waiting their turn. This time we could see that the lane we'd be travelling was scraped down to dirt. It was a long wait this time, a clue that the stretch of unpaved one-lane road would be a long one. As we waited, a water truck came lumbering down the road from the opposite direction, wetting down the dirt lane we would soon be riding on. Joy! But with care, we all made it through that long unpaved, wet stretch. Once on good pavement again, the leaders took off and my friend Mike, my brother-in-law Ron, and I pulled up the rear, taking a slower pace to the restaurant.

Finally we came around a curve in the road and there it was, a cute, two-story white house on the right side of the road, next to an even cuter little post office. We parked, went inside, and had ourselves a really great breakfast. Some chose the blueberry Swedish pancakes, and some of us chose the Swedish pancakes with fresh strawberries and cream on top. They were excellent! Delicately thin and crispy on the edges, just as they should be.

Leaving the restaurant, the three of us let the others go ahead so that we could ride our own pace and make stops if we wanted. The roads from here to Houghton were gorgeous. Heavily wooded, rolling hills, and a few whoopdy doo's. There is very little settlement in this area of the UP, just miles and miles of open road. Our route took us through Crystal Falls, a beautiful small town sitting up on a hill. Our approach was up the hill on M-69, with a beautiful view of the Iron County courthouse perched on top.

Through Crystal Falls, the road opened up again, and it was along this stretch that I spotted a very large deer on the edge of the trees on the right shoulder. She retreated into the woods as I approached so I couldn't get a good look at her, but I can say that she was 50% larger than the deer we have in Texas, and her coat was a richer shade of tan than we see here. We saw plenty of dead deer on the roadside here in Michigan, as well. But then, I once counted the number of deer carcasses along the eastbound side of I-10 between Fort Stockton and Junction as I was returning home from a trip to Big Bend country, and quit counting when I reached 100, or roughly one dead deer every two miles.

As we got nearer to Houghton we turned into a nice roadside park in Baraga, overlooking Keweenaw Bay on Lake Superior. By now we were seeing many BMW motorcycles on the road, headed toward Houghton. A short time later, we were riding through Houghton. Mike and I checked into the motel, while Ron went off in search of his motel in the center of town, and we re-grouped 15 minutes later to head for the rally site and get registered.

The athletic complex at Michigan Tech University was the perfect venue for the rally! Everything was in close proximity to each other, up on top of a hill overlooking Houghton downtown and the Portage Waterway, and the rally was able to make excellent use of the tennis center (for registration, the beer garden, entertain, and food vendors), the basketball center (for the vendors), the ice arena (for closing ceremonies), and practice fields (for the campers). All were situated next to a large paved parking lot for motorcycles and for the RV campers.

That night we joined some of the group for dinner at The Library, an excellent restaurant downtown on the riverfront. The food was superb! We were having a hard time adjusting to how late the sun went down. 10:30 PM and it was still light out! This really messed up our meal and sleep schedules the whole time we were on the UP! The next morning the room was washed in sunlight at 5:00 AM! Make note to self: be sure to close the drapes before going to bed!!

Tomorrow: We ride to Copper Harbor on the Keweenaw peninsula.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Part IV: Riding the mighty Mackinac!

Wednesday morning was cold and cloudy as we packed the bikes and checked out of the hotel. Just as we were loading up, the rest of the group arrived. But by the time I could finish getting checked out of the hotel and get on the bike, get her started, and get backed out of the parking spot, the group had already taken off, and only Mike was sitting there waiting for me. A sign of how the day would go? Only time would tell. But we caught up with them in a little bit, and mostly stayed together for the next few miles. As we passed through Charlevoix, the pack instinct took over and I didn't stop at the Worlds Largest Cherry Pie to get my AMA photo and points. Darn! In hindsight, knowing how the day turned out, I should have stopped.

Some needed gas so we stopped in Bayshore. A few of the others continued on, while the rest of us struggled to get the pumps to dispense anything but a few drops. Someone finally had the bright idea to walk inside and ask about the problem. Turns out they were out of gas. How weird is that?
So off the group zoomed, leaving a few of us behind...again. I resigned myself to riding alone at this point and therefore stopped at a Marathon gas station in the next town, Petoskey, and gassed up. This was my first encounter on this trip with a gas station that had both self-serve and full-serve pumps. Wow! It has been a long time since I've seen one of those. Just as I finished getting gas, I saw the group parked about a block up at a restaurant called Flap Jacks. Well, at least for now I'll have breakfast and some company.
The food was good at Flap Jacks and we all left with full stomachs. Most of the others wanted to set a more "spirited" pace so they took off before we'd even gotten our riding gear back on. That's okay, because the next bit of road was going to be not only full of beautiful curves, but full of beautiful scenery as well. Four of us headed onto M-119 to ride along the northeastern shore of Lake Michigan on a road that's commonly referred to as Tunnel of Trees. It was gorgeous! Barely two cars wide with no center stripe, this road was everything they promised it would be. The sun had come out and we caught glimpses of the deep blue water as it sparkled in the sun through the thick tree canopy cover of the roadway. I never wanted this road to end!

But end it did, at the little crossroads of Cross Village. Here we took a break at the Lego Inn, and caught the gorgeous view from their back lawn out over Lake Michigan. Picking up C-66, we headed east and then north on US-31 toward the Bridge. I was getting excited!! The sky was clear and the sun was out, not too windy, so a perfect time to cross the Mackinac Bridge and really enjoy the view. My excitement increased as the bridge came into view.

The right lane (paved lane) of the bridge was still closed off, though the resurfacing project appeared to be complete, so we were riding across the bridge on the grating lane. But it was smooth and the bike hardly knew it wasn't on solid pavement. Ron pumped his fist in victory when he got back on paved surface again. The views were outstanding!! I felt like my head was on a swivel...which way to look? To the left, Lake Michigan. to the right, Lake Huron. Big as oceans. Deep blue water with streaks of turquoise. Well worth the $3.00 price of admission!

After regrouping a little ways beyond the toll plaza, we took off, going west on US 2. There was a turnout just a ways down and I nearly put my turn signal on and turn left, and am very sorry I didn't go ahead and do that. Pack mentality at play again. I wasn't sure exactly where we were going so wanted to stay with our leader. My brother-in-law pointed at it as we rode by and we both commented afterward that we should have turned in. It would have given us a photo opportunity of the bikes with the bridge in the background.

Well, as they say, hindsight is always 20-20. As the day wore on, we started falling behind, since Ron was reluctant - and rightly so - to keep up the pace that his friend was setting. Going through one town, Mike and I fell behind both of them, because we obeyed the speed limit, and then we decided to just stop, take a break, get a coffee and snack, since we didn't stop for lunch. It had clouded up again and was getting colder as it got late in the day. From that point on, it was just the two of us as we headed toward our night's destination.

Escanaba is a sprawling town on the northern shore of Lake Michigan. We found the motel without problem, and pulled in and parked with the others. Our numbers had grown, as more riders joined the group.

Dinner that night would be at Hereford & Hops Brew Pub downtown. It was a straight shot from the hotel, easy enough to get to, but I opted to ride on the back of Mike's bike to get there. The steaks were good - and huge - and they had a good selection of their own brews to choose from. We chatted with one of the owners who told us that two of their beers took gold medals at the most recent international brew competition, the World Beer Cup, competing against over 2,000 entries from 26 different countries. I tried a wheat, which won gold in its class. Very good!

Tomorrow: Swedish pancakes and RA rally time

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Part III: Riding into Michigan

Today we headed into Michigan to arrive in Traverse City in time to join my brother-in-law Ron at his friend's for dinner. Along the way I had Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore on my route, since I just can't seem to stop collecting national park stamps! This is just a few miles east of the hotel, so we don't have far to ride for this first stop. It's a brand new visitor center and we stopped only long enough to get my passport stamped before heading back out. Construction on I-94 had traffic badly backed up so we opted to stay on local roads until nearly MI, where we hopped back onto 94 to head north. After that it was interstate all the way to Grand Rapids where we met my sister and also met an MTF member who lives between Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo for lunch. The closer to Grand Rapids we got, the prettier the terrain became. Rolling hills covered in rich green, bordered by thick forest.

We met at a Steak n' Shake on the west side of town, where Don from MTF was waiting for us. My sister planned to be shopping in the area to await my call that we'd arrive. So she got to the restaurant just a few minutes later. We don't have Steak n' Shakes in Houston, so it was nice to eat at a different restaurant for a change.

I had a couple of AMA "big things" on my route but over lunch decided that we wouldn't have time to catch these and still make it to Sleeping Bear Dunes and then get to Traverse City before 7:00 PM. So we re-routed ourselves up US-131. Once we got to Cadillac, it was apparent we weren't going to have time for Sleeping Bear Dunes, either. I was disappointed, but will just have to go back some day. So we continued on to Traverse City, got checked in, then headed over to Ron's friend Sandy's house for dinner.

In spite of the rain, it was easy to find and we joined the group of riders that were already there for food and talk of motorcycles, the ride to the rally, and the rally itself. Sandy had cooked pork tenderloins in a crock pot, and his wife Judy made scalloped potatoes and cole slaw to go with it.

My brother-in-law Ron has been an on-again-off-again rider over the years, and has borrowed his brother's Honda for this trip. He's a little apprehensive about the trip, the distance, and particularly about riding across the Mackinac Bridge. M;y only concern was the pace that his friend Sandy would be setting for the group the next day. I wanted to enjoy the ride, savor the scenery and the views and not ride like my hair was on fire. He had some last-minute bike packing to do, and we wanted to get back to the hotel before dark, so we agreed to meet up in the morning at the hotel parking lot and to get breakfast somewhere on the road.

Tomorrow: riding M-119, crossing the Mackinac Bridge, and continuing to Escanaba.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Back on the road north

Amazingly, we managed to get out the door and on the road before 8:00 AM, headed from Memphis toward Lansing IL, our destination for the night. We agreed beforehand that we'd try to get started by 8:00 AM and that we'd get breakfast somewhere on the road.

I signed up for two AMA Grand Tours this year, after having an absolute blast doing one last year. For this year I'm doing AMA's Italy in America tour as well as the World's Largest tour. I've had less than a stellar performance so far this year on either of these. So it is with renewed effort that I have waypointed a few Italian-sounding towns and some "big things" into my GPS route for this trip. The first one we got to is the town of Parma MO, just a few miles west, off the interstate. The road takes us about 10 miles through corn fields and small farms then north for another 8 or 10 miles through the same landscape.

We arrived in Parma, a small, mostly boarded-up town pretty much in the middle of nowhere. I had entered the post office as a waypoint in my GPS. When I arrived at the location, I couldn't immediately see the post office, off down a side street on the left, but once I got my bearings, I headed in that direction. Right next door was the combined community center/town hall. Even better! As I positioned my bike for the photo, a woman at the post office asked Mike if we were lost. I'd guess that two people on BMW motorcycles wearing full riding gear head-to-toe would look a little out of place in this town. I got my photo, but then Mike beckoned me to follow him inside. By golly, if he was going to visit the town of Parma, he was going to meet the mayor! He barged in to the office and I followed, a little mortified. The clerk out front said he was in, and to go on in to his office. A tall, middle-aged, mild-mannered man sat at his desk as we entered, and seemed a little startled to see this oddly dressed couple walking in. He seemed a little on guard at first, but relaxed once Mike started talking to him. We introduced ourselves, I showed him my AMA Grand Tour flag, and explained what the Italy in America Grand Tour was all about. He relaxed some, then, and told us that they'd been contacted in the past by people from Parma, Italy. He'd even had a group of visitors from Italy come to this little town.

Those points in the bag, we continued north to where this little road intersected with US 60. This would take us right into I-57. I had the Boomland gas plaza stop in my sights, so pushed on to Charleston MO. I love this gas stop! It is one of the most bizarre, tackiest and wonderful tourist traps out there! I wanted Mike to see it. As it turned out, he'd stopped here once before, and agreed that it's a really cool place.

I had made plans to meet up with another MTF member for a late lunch as we passed near where he lived in Charleston IL. So I called him on my cellphone to give him an idea of when we'd arrive at the pre-planned meeting spot. When he took my call, he said, "Were we meeting today?" Uh oh! No problem. He told us we should expect to get there around 3:00 PM based on where we were, and he'd meet us there as planned. So we had a great lunch at Coles County Airport, so that Mike could have his first elephant ear sandwich. We visited for a bit, then had to get going if we wanted to make it to Lansing IL before dark.

We rode through a stiff cross wind as we headed north on I-57. I began to notice that my windscreen was starting to shake and wobble a little bit, something it never did before. I made a mental note to check it once we got to the hotel. Maybe just a loose bolt holding one of the brackets. When I-57 joined I-80, we got separated at the toll booths, since I have an EZ-Pass. But we knew that might happen so we agreed to just meet at the hotel. Mike caught up with me, however, at the top of the exit ramp at a red light, but then I led him on a series of U-turns as I tried to figure out how to get to the hotel from the main road. It's right there, but how do you get there from here??? Even the GPS was no help!

Once we checked in and unloaded the bikes, I took a closer look at the windscreen problem. The bolt seemed loose, so I pulled out a Torx to tighten it, but it wouldn't tighten. Mike gave it a try, but then pulled the bolt out to discover that the hole was stripped. Steel bolt in an aluminum hole. Mike jumped on his bike in search of some JB Weld to fix this problem. I pulled the bike up under the canopy at the front door since it was starting to get dark and we'd need the light. Well, we thought we had it fixed, but, overnight, gravity took over and the JB Weld along with the bolt slipped out so that the bolt was now nicely welded to the bracket but not to the bolt hole. Duct tape? Nah. How about a zip-tie? I always carry a few, so we zip-tied the bracket up snug against the steering head. Problem fixed. Possibly forever, given the age and high miles on this bike.

Next day: lunch with my sister Robin in Grand Rapids then on to Traverse City to meet up with my brother-in-law and his group.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Going to Da Yoop! Day one to Memphis

Today my riding friend Mike and I got on the road to head to the Upper Peninsula (da YOOP) to attend the annual BMW RA national rally, which will be held in Houghton MI on the campus of Michigan Tech University. I finally got the bike packed last night for the final time. Lots of packing and re-packing went on all week to keep up with weather forecasts and indecision. It's always hard to envision how cold it will be at my destination when it's in the mid-90's with high humidity in Houston and this trip is no exception. Should I bring long johns? Will the AST jacket be too heavy? How many days will it be cold, which translates into how many long-sleeved shirts will I need? A call from Mike cleared up one problem. He suggested that doing laundry mid-trip would ease the packing situation. I checked on-line and confirmed that the motel we'd be staying in for 3 days in Houghton had a laundry room. This helps!

Geared up, bike backed out of the garage, I was sitting in my driveway waiting for Mike to show up at 7:00 AM. At 7:10, Mike whipped into my driveway, tore off his helmet and declared that he had a flat rear tire. He popped his bike up onto the centerstand and we quickly saw the problem: a large screw dead center in the tread. The only real viable option was to air the tire up with my compressor and head over to On The Border discount motorcycle tire store in Pasadena. I went into the house to confirm what time they opened (9:00 AM) and we headed over there, thinking he could get the rear wheel off the bike while we waited, and maybe catch breakfast somewhere nearby, as well. We were thinking he'd need to buy a rear tire, and were hoping they'd have something in stock that would fit his BMW GS Adventure, but on the way over there I remembered that I'd had them patch a nearly new tire for me so when we got there I reminded him that this was an option.

They got his tire taken care of very quickly and we were on the road by 10:00 AM, three hours later than we'd hoped, but we should still get to Memphis before dark. By this time the sun was high in the sky and I was sweltering in my riding gear until we could get moving at highway speed to get out of town. We ran into a little rain as we headed north and this cooled things down quite nicely. In fact, the temps stayed very comfortable all the way to Memphis.

The ride up US 59 was uneventful and, after a late lunch and gas stop in Texarkana, we got onto I-30 and headed northeast toward Little Rock. The traffic was noticeably light on the interstate, and remained so, even after we got onto the usually busy I-40. But I did break the $4.00 per gallon barrier somewhere along I-40 and I also dropped my bike backing out of a parking spot at one of the gas stations when my left foot went down into a dip in the tarmac while I had the wheel turned full lock to the right. Full gas tank. The perfect formula for a drop. When these kinds of drops happen I usually stay on my feet while the bike goes down beneath me. When I feel it go, I don't wrestle with it, I just step off to my left, lifting my right leg over it as it goes down. The tankbag hit the horn button on the handlebar which got everyone's attention (nothing like drawing attention to oneself!!). Sheesh!

It was our plan to get to Mike's mom's house in time for dinner. Mike called her to let her know it would be closer to 8:00 PM before we got there, so go ahead and eat. She had oven-fried chicken waiting for us when we got there, and homemade cake for dessert.

We spent the next day, which was Father's Day, in Memphis with Mike's mom, brother and his family and had a great cookout at his brother's house. After eating ourselves silly we sat outside and watched the fireflies...how long has it been since anyone has seen those around??

Tomorrow we head north through Missouri and Illinois.