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.

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