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

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