Thursday, May 31, 2012

Alpena, MI to Mackinaw City

5/31/2012  A good and easy day today.  It turns out that the weather forecast was off by maybe 10 degrees.  It didn't get so cold last night, and the morning broke with blue skies and lots of sunshine.  There was a pretty good breeze, so it was fairly cool, but not cold as I feared.

We had breakfast and packed the bikes and got on the road around 9am.  We wanted to get back on US 23 and follow it to Mackinaw City, on the southern end of the Mackinaw Bridge, tying the lower part of Michigan with the famous upper peninsula.  The ride was only 88 miles long, so it was a very short riding day.

Along the way, we spotted a sign to a lighthouse and pulled off the road to see it.  The 40 Mile Point Lighthouse supposedly is mid way between Alpena and Mackinaw City; hence "40 mile" name.  According to the volunteer lighthouse keeper, they actually mis-figured the 40 mile distance and it's off by two miles!  But after the discovery, they decided to leave it where it was rather than to move it.

We walked down to the water/beach and found an old shipwreck lying in the sand.  All that was left was some wood and iron; much more iron than I thought there would be.  But it was neat.

The climb up the 57 steps to the top was not difficult.  Actually, it was easy compared to NC's lighthouses. But it was worth the stop and the time it took to see the place.

Onward to Mackinaw City, where we bought tickets to the ferry to9 Mackinac Island.  The ride was very smooth and only took about 15 minutes to cover the distance.

The island was pretty neat.  No cars or trucks are allowed, so everything moves by foot, by bicycle, or by horsedrawn vehicles.  Carriages were all over the place.  We walked around for a bit and decided to get lunch and a beer.  Found a place and had a good sandwich and beverage.

After lunch, we set out exploring the island on foot.  A couple of hours later, we were tired and had walked much of the island.  For the most part, it's a tourist trap, IMO, but a beautiful one.  Huge houses, painted in a rainbow of colors.  Huge hotels, old-styloe, mostly of wood and not especially high.  Small shops selling trinkets or fudge.  It was a neat place to visit, but it felt too rich for me.  Glad we went.

Before leaving, we stopped for another beer before getting on the ferry, drank it out on a deck, and then rode the return ferry back to Macinaw City.  Back on the mainland, we rode to our motel a few blocks away and stopped for the night.  After a little rest, we decided to eat dinner.  The plan had been to walk to dinner, but there was nothing close-by to satiate our appetite.  So, checking the Internet, we picked out a place downtown, too far to walk.  So, we took the bikes to the place, only to find it closed.  We believe that it actually had not opened for the season.  So, rather than riding around after dark, we walked across the street to an Italian place.  It was fair at best, but it was convenient.

After dinner, we rode to a small park by the water to see the big bridge in lights.  It was well worth the effort; Mae, thank you for your recommendation!

A very easy day with only a few miles. on the bikes.

Tomorrow--riding some fun roads, doing the bridge, and saying goodbye to Michigan.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Monroe, MI to Alpena, MI

5/30/12  Today's ride was, overall, pretty good.  We didn't cover too many miles, but we sure saw some pretty sights along the way.

We got up, got dressed, and were on the bikes about 8am. Since the breakfast at the motel was very paltry, we decided to go to Denny's for breakfast.  While it was good, it was very slow.  They were shorthanded, and we waited nearly an hour before the food came.  Some wait is acceptable, but it was just very slow.

From the motel, we caught US 23 that runs close to the shore of Lake Huron and followed it northward for a good part of the day.  The weather was pleasant; mid 70s and variably cloudy, becoming sunny, then cloudy again.  Traffic was not bad anywhere along the way, including riding through Detroit.  This area is a huge industrial complex with car manufacturing, oil refineries, shipping, and usual business.  Lots of history in the area.

US 23 is a pleasant road to ride; good road surface and speeds from 55 to 32 mph, depending on where you are at the moment.  Lots of small villages or towns along the way, each looking like a seaside town of years ago.  Lake Huron is huge; it looks like you're looking at the Atlantic ocean, with waves, white sand, and cottages along the way.  Most of the actual shoreline is developed, with places ranging from trailers to mansions.  Some are huge and beautiful, and a few are run-down shacks, but most are pretty and in good condition.

Along the way, we stopped in one of the small villages to walk on a boardwalk along the shore.  Palmer Park is the name of the park; one of many, many waterside parks along the way.  Many of the villages had their version of a waterside park.  They were all very pretty and green with shade trees as well.

We stopped for lunch at a small pizza/tavern place in Port Sanilac.  Had a Reubin sub with a beer.  Reubin was WAY too big; I ate half of it and saved the other half for another time or the garbage.  Probably the latter!  It was good and the beer was very good.

Before we stopped, we noted that the temperature was falling.  While earlier it had been in the mid-70s, it had dropped to 63 degrees.  When we came out from lunch, it was 57 degrees!  Cooling pretty rapidly!  Since I didn't bring warm clothes, the temperature falling that much, coupled with frost and freeze warnings for tonight, I was beginning to worry about being cold.

Since we needed to make some time, we decided to cut westward through the state over to Saginaw on Hwy 46, a two-lane road that ran 45 miles straight as an arrow due west.  BORING!!  Land, for the most part, was flat as a flitter, and with no curves at all, it was boring.  Traffic was light, so we could have run fast, but with a 55 mph speed limit, we stayed under 60.

As we went inward away from the lake, it warmed up into the mid-60s.  But the wind picked up, so we weren't cold, but had to fight the wind to stay in our lane of traffic.  No problems, just tiring riding when it's blowing hard.

In Saginaw, we went back north and caught up with our old friend, US 23 and continued northward.  Finally, at around 6:30 we stopped in Alpena, a small town by the water.  Found a motel and stopped for the night.

Dinner was at a Chinese place across the parking lot from the motel.  The clerk at the front desk told us it was rated in the top 100 Chinese places in the country, so we decided to try.  It was very good, but now I wonder if she meant within the top 100 places in Alpena!  No, I'm being a bit hard on the place; it was pretty good.

After dinner, we walked across the street to Wallyworld so I could buy some warmer clothes.  Got a sweatshirt and a pair of blue jeans so I won't freeze!

Tomorrow, we'll get back on US 23 and follow it northward to the Mackinac Bridge and Macinac Island.  We hope to see the island.

About 365 miles for the day...

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Pfafftown to Monroe, MI

5/29/12  Long day on the road!  But not too hard a ride today.  We left Gary's home at about 8:45am and rode through the country to US 52 headed north.  Traffic was not heavy, and the weather was very pleasant.  A good ride.

In a few miles, we passed Pilot Mountain, which was half-covered in fog, hiding the knob at the top.  We decided to take US 52 north, just to have a few twisties early in the day.  Unfortunately, we got behind an old woman doing about 35mph, and so we did only a few twisties after she finally turned into a side road.  

A while later, we crossed over to I-77 and made some good time, for a while.  Somewhere around mile marker 60, the traffic stopped.  We learned that they apparently had one of the routes closed through a tunnel and were alternating northbound and southbound traffic.  It was slow going and hot (about 90 degrees).  Finally, it was our turn to move, so we got off at the first exit and got onto US 52 again, figuring even though it was longer, it was better than sitting still.  A few minutes after getting off the Interstate, we could see it stopped again.  A good decision.

We followed US 52 to Hwy 19 and took 19 north.  It sorta parallels the Interstate, but with lots of good curves and fun riding.  I enjoy doing hwy 19; not much traffic on the road and it has good sweeping curves.

After a while, we jumped back on I-77 and mo ved along pretty well for a while.
So, 549 miles today, one rainstorm.  Several delays in traffic.  But we made it to Michigan safely.  Now, Gary has caught up with me by riding in 49 states.  Yooo Hooo!

Even though I promised pics, I'll have to post them later.  Can't get Internet except through the phone, and it's 11:10 pm, and I'm tired.  So, I'll quit for now.

Tomorrow... Michigan!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ready to Hit the Road

Well, I'm pretty much ready to go.  Yesterday I went on a good ride, over to Greensboro to the BMW dealership open house, where I had a good lunch and got a free "Carolina BMW"

 tee shirt.  Nice shirt, white with black letters; a nice surprise.  Bought nothing, although they had good deals on some stuff.

When I got home, I looked at the mileage since the last oil change (almost 5,000 miles), and decided to change the oil and filter because I didn't want to go 8,000 miles between oil changes.  So, the oil and filter were exchanged for new oil and filter and the motor is very happy.  It smiles when it runs now!  I think the bike is ready, although I might change the primary sparplugs today since sometimes one cylinder is firing intermittently at idle.  Plugs have 44,000 on them, and the recommended changing interval is 24,000.  So, I might get the energy up to changing the primary plugs.  The secondary plugs require the fairings to be removed, and I don't want to do that much work today.  Will change those when I get home.

I'm washing clothes today, getting them ready for the trip.  Not packing a whole lot; only 8 days on the road.  Four changes of tee shirts, socks and undies.  A couple pair of convertible pants.  A couple of long sleeved shirts.  The plan will be to wash once along the way; either use a laundromat or do it in the sink.  Prefer a laundromat because sink washing never gets all the stink out of them.  And miscellaneous things like shoes, electronics, cooler, etc.  I'll be moderately loaded; not too much, but hopefully enough stuff.  But I can't finish packing until all I need is washed.  So, it will probably be Monday morning when the stuff goes into the bags.

I ordered tickets to the race about a week ago.  I figured there was plenty of time to make the order and to have them sent to me.  However, I figured wrong!  Yesterday was the last day of mail delivery before leaving home, and the tickets are not here yet, so we'll have to deal with tickets now.  Damn!  I called the track to see how it could be handled, and the lady there told me that I would need to go to the Customer Service desk, explain what happened, and buy new tickets.  When I get home, I can send them the unused tickets, and they are supposed to refund my money.  I hope it works out to be that easy, but somehow I believe it will end up being a hassle.  I'm not concerned about being able to get it; the tracks are never sold out, but we wanted to save a few dollars by buying them before getting to the track.  Oh well, the best plans of men and mice...

Remembering earlier last week that my helmet liner had gotten that accumulated-sweat smell that nauseates me, I took the liner out of my Schuberth C3 helmet and washed it.  Three times!  Rinsed it twice, and it smells slightly like soap.  So much better than sweat, so I think I can ride without nausea.  And, remembering that my riding boots have had no polish for probably 5,000 to 6,000 miles, I have now polished them.  They were looking a bit ratty, so the black polish has them looking a bit better.  They're still mostly watertight, but the Gore-Tex lining has some holes to allow water to intrude.  They are comfortable, though.

So, with a couple of last-minute exceptions, I'm ready to hit the road.  I won't post on Monday; just riding to Gary's house.  But there should be something to post on Tuesday night.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Prelude to Another Road Trip

Well, it's been a while since my last blog.  In reality, it's been almost a year since my last post.  But I haven't had a significant trip to write about since then.  Some trips of a few days each, but nothing worth writing about.

Gary and I are heading out of town on the bikes on May 29.  I plan to ride to his house the afternoon before so that we can start early on the 29th.  I know it won't be really "early", but if the ride starts there, it saves me two hours of riding.  So, I usually go to his house to begin most of our rides.

The bike is pretty much ready to go.  Tires have a few thousand miles on them, so they should hold up for the approximately 3,000 miles for this trip.  All headlight bulbs are working (knock on wood).  And all services have been done.  I may have the brake fluid flushed and the throttle bodies balanced next week, but I'm not sure if my shop can get it done before we leave town.  If yes, I'll also install new spark plugs.

This trip is to ride to Michigan in a day's ride, see the big lakes as we ride north, explore the upper peninsula of Michigan, ride over to Wisconsin to Elkhart Lake where they are holding the RoadAmerica Road Race, and then, when it's over, return home.  If all goes as expected, we'll be home on June 5, the day before Gary's 65th birthday.  All in all, this will be one of our shortest trips ever.

We haven't decided if we'll camp or do motels every night.  I don't mind camping except that it takes a lot of space to carry the tent and sleeping gear.  In any case, I know we'll do motels most of the time; actually if we camp, it will probably be only at the campground at the racetrack.  We'll see.

Hopefully the weather will be decent.  It can't be as hot as last year's ride, where we saw 113 degrees one day!  That's just too hot for old men like us!!  So, hopefully we'll have cooler temperatures and be more comfortable.

I'll shut up for this post, but wanted to introduce folks to the ride.  I may do one more post before I leave town.  Or not...

BTW, I'll post a pic of the bike and my grandboys playing on it so there'll be a picture to look at.  I know that folks enjoy the pics more than what I write....