Around Lake Michigan. - Ex-500.com - The home of the Kawasaki EX500 / Ninja 500R
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-6-2019, 11:57 AM Thread Starter
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Around Lake Michigan.

Just booked hotels for a 4 day jaunt around Lake Michigan. Stops in Green Bay WI, St. Ignace MI. and Whitehall MI. Mileage is in the 1100 - 1200 range. Will be taking old faithful, my 2001 VFR. A good opportunity to add some final miles to the rear tire and chain/sprockets, which are both getting replaced over Winter.

Taking my 16 years old son on the pillion. A time for the 2 of us to get away and just focus on the gentle winding road ahead of us.

I'll be sure to post pics and updates as the trip begins, which is right around the corner at 8/14.
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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-6-2019, 8:33 PM
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Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance...Davenay67 style!!!
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-14-2019, 8:45 AM Thread Starter
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Today's the day.

Bags are packed.
Tools are packed.
Oil level good.
Tire pressure good.
Coolant level good.
Suspension (as) good (as possible given the need for a shock rebuild/replacement).

Just need to wake #1 son up and get him ready for the day. Easier said than done. He's sick. Not short term sick like a cold, flu, aches, pains, etc. Long term sick, every day is a unknown. I'm just hoping he's OK today and that we can actually go.

No expectations. Just hope and prayer.

I'll be sure to post pics from the trip (if we go)....

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2001 Honda VFR 800
2000 Kawasaki KDX 200
1999 Ducati 996 BiPosto
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-14-2019, 11:08 AM
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Wishing you a good trip.

2006 Ninja500R Purchased new July 2006; 0 miles. Miles as of January 2019; 102,137. It's a GO bike, not a SHOW bike.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-14-2019, 2:14 PM
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Please do post pics, sounds like a nice trip. Hoping son is ok, ready and able too.

“Being shot out of a cannon will always be better than being squeezed out of a tube. That is why God made fast motorcycles, Bubba....” quote Hunter S Thompson

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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-15-2019, 8:42 AM Thread Starter
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The trip started. We are on the road!

Day 1: Chicago IL to Green Bay WI.
Day 2: Green Bay WI to St. Ignace MI.
Day 3: St. Ignace MI to Whitehall MI.
Day 4: Whitehall MI to Chicago IL.

I will definitely do a write-up with pics, most likely when we get back. I haven’t done a multi-day trip in years. The feeling of not coming home at the end of a days riding is awesome. If I didn’t have responsibilities, I could see the attraction in just riding forever, following whatever paths took your fancy....
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2007 Kawasaki EX-500 Ninja
2001 Honda VFR 800
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-15-2019, 8:38 PM
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Have a great trip and ride safe! Looking forward to your pictures and write-ups.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-15-2019, 9:48 PM
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This sounds like a great time. I hope your son feels well enough to enjoy it. I'm looking forward to hearing all about it.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-20-2019, 12:35 PM Thread Starter
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Day 1

Preface:

“Good today is better than perfect tomorrow” so the quote says. The kids are out of school for 12 weeks for Summer vacation, so I thought I had all the time in the world to plan this trip. I kept putting the planning off, and before I knew it we had just a couple of weekends left, and I had to act fast. More along the lines of “hastily thrown together today is better than not going at all tomorrow”.

I needed a tank bag, and to make matters worse the panniers I was planning on using did not fit the VFR. 2 expedited purchases later and I had enough luggage to hopefully make things work. Hotels and motels in my planned overnight destinations still had vacancies and I was starting to get a feeling this trip was meant to be.

Other areas of less than great planning on my part included
- Only testing the PackTalk intercoms on a quick trip to Cycle Gear, rather than an extended trip covering a variety of speeds and conditions.
- Only using the navigation system in anger on the trip proper. I downloaded the whole trip from a website of a colleague in GPX format, and the offline map program I have had for ages (Locus Pro) was able to import the route and plot the route for us. Locus is designed more for hikers, mountain bikers, and off-road riders, but it does a decent job of street routes too.

Oh well, fortune favors the brave.


Day 1: Chicago, IL to Green Bay, WI

Mileage – 332

The day before and my son, Jake, was feeling terrible. All day headaches and nausea. I kept all the reservations and hoped he would feel better in the morning. He did, and we were on. A quick breakfast, load the bags, and get going. We headed out mid-morning, a combination of letting Chicago rush hour traffic pass, and beating the predicted rain due around lunchtime. Rush hour or not, navigating anywhere around Chicago and the suburbs is just never quick, fun or easy. It took forever to reach the true start of the circle tour; Sheridan Road, which would take us on a curvy lakeshore tour of the swankiest north shore neighborhoods in Chicago; Evanston, Kenilworth, Winnetka (location of the house from “Home Alone”), Glencoe, Highland Park.

After a stop for lunch, the route took us west to the driftless region of Wisconsin and the Kettle Moraine state forest. Elevation changes and curves, all on the same roads no less. Chicagoans have a hard time believing such ribbons of asphalt exist. The roads are amazing and the scenery here is beautiful, but unfortunately for us, the rain started. It didn’t last for long but the damage was alreadydone. Wet roads threatened slippery conditions at every turn. We tip-toed our way through to drier conditions where we could motor on again.

The chosen route was so curvy and out of our way that we were not going to get to our first destination spot for the night. Time to hit the highway and make haste for the last 90 minutes. A combination of damp and ark conditions, and not making enough headway on the route kept me from the luxury of picture stops, so we have very little pictorial footage from the first day. I mad a resolve there and then to fix that on the remaining days of the trip.

We rolled into Green Bay about 7pm. Checked into the hotel, dumped the bags and rolled out again for dinner. A trip to Lambeau Field and dinner at a killer microbrewery restaurant next door ticked 2 boxes at the same time. I’m not a Packers fan go 49ers!), but the stadium is still a sports legend. At the restaurant Jake tried swordfish for the first time, which he loved. I think it was gone before I’d even had 2 bites of my meal!


Thoughts for the day:

We're really doing this. We're on the road and making the attempt to ride all the way around Lake Michigan on 2 wheels. Life is good right now.


Loaded and ready to go.








Vince Lombardi.




Giant Lombardi Trophy.





Father and Son.

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2007 Kawasaki EX-500 Ninja
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Last edited by Davenay67; 8-20-2019 at 12:39 PM.
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-21-2019, 11:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Davenay67 View Post
“Good today is better than perfect tomorrow” so the quote says.
True THAT. Looking forward to seeing more of your trip......sean


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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 8-31-2019, 10:32 AM
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This is great. I'm hoping there's more to come.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 9-3-2019, 6:48 PM Thread Starter
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Day 2

Day 2 : Green Bay, WI to St. Ignace, MI
Mileage – 296

We both woke up at a decent time this morning, imagine that for a teenage boy! This is supposed to be a vacation and I don’t want to enforce draconian mornings on the kid, but we have places to go and only so much time in a day, so a reasonably early start is key. After getting dressed in our riding gear we shuffle and rustle off down to breakfast. The usual cramped little affair with every man and his dog in each other’s way, battling for access to waffle makers and bagel toasters. I beat the mini breakfast rush, sat back with my coffee and watched the mayhem unfold.

Breakfast over and we walk outside to a beautiful morning; bright, sunny, no clouds, and temperature dialed to near perfection. We strap the bags to the bike and we are on our way. Escaping Green Bay was a simple affair and we soon found ourselves back on the scenic route around the lake. The route for day 1 did not even remotely follow the official LMCT (Lake Michigan Circle Tour) route, but across the Upper Peninsula there is literally only a single East-West road shared between tourists and “Yoopers” alike. Prior to the trip I’d read that this road was not too exciting, but we both found the route to be thoroughly enjoyable. Quick enough to have nice air flow, and plenty of beautiful scenery to admire, with vast expanses of Lake Michigan visible for large parts of the route.

Traffic was even very tolerable, and there were plenty of passing lanes for getting around the slow crowd. There were also enough small towns along the route to fill up either the motorcycle tank or our internal tanks without having to travel vast stretches. We made a pact before we left to not eat at any chain restaurants, and instead spend our money on Mom and Pop restaurants and diners along the way. Google has sure made researching this decision an incredibly easy affair. As well as picking places with great reviews, she will even guide you there with accurate step by step directions.

There is no shortage of beautiful houses with back gardens nestled right up to the lakeshore along this route. On a fabulous weather day like today it is all too easy to be envious of such a property. I do wonder, though, how much less fun these homes will be during a brutal Midwest winter.

The VFR proves to be a more capable tourer than either myself or my son, and we found that stops to stretch legs and ease the pressure on numb butts were needed every 90 minutes or so. One of those breaks happened to be a little scenic roadside stop where one of the many lighthouses along the shoreline happened to be located. A routine 10-minute stop tuned into well over an hour as we sat on the beach and chatted, followed by a good walk along the jetty to the lighthouse itself.

Back on the road again and we vowed to make good progress, so we could eat a timely dinner in St. Ignace. Amazing scenery in vast doses begins to become routine after a while, and I suppose the sign of a beautiful route is where an amazing vista just becomes another “cool view”. However, no matter the scenery overload from the day’s riding, the site of the Mackinac bridge was truly spectacular. I missed the scenic stop and rather than backtrack, I decided that dinner would be priority and we could view the bridge later.

Downtown St. Ignace is picture-postcard perfect and well suited to the many tourists it receives each year. Good restaurants are not in short supply, so it really was a case of cruising the entire downtown strip and doubling back to the one that looked like it had the best vibe from the street. We were not disappointed. I opted for the pastie dinner that the region is famous for. It was good, but we have them back home where I grew up, so it didn’t turn out to be quite the culinary delight all the signs had promised.

This was probably my favorite day of the trip. Jake was being modest and said they were all his favorite days.

Thoughts for the Day:

“Julia (the missus) would really enjoy this ride”
“God created a day with this kind of weather just for motorcyclists”
“I bet those GoldWing seats are nice”.





















































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Last edited by Davenay67; 9-3-2019 at 10:44 PM.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 9-3-2019, 10:21 PM
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Excellent! I'm right there with you. Do you do writing of some sort? I'm asking because your writing style is very compelling.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 9-3-2019, 10:46 PM Thread Starter
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Day 3

Day 3 : St. Ignace, MI to Whitehall, MI
Mileage – 367

Day 3 : St. Ignace, MI to Whitehall, MI
Mileage – 318 miles

Day 3 was the longest mileage day of the trip, so a good night’s rest was in order. However, like the kid eagerly awaiting Xmas morning, the more you try to fall asleep the harder it is. The heat in the antiquated motel room wasn’t helping. And neither was the fact that the window mounted AC unit was right over my head, cranking out noise and bouts of extreme cold air at regular intervals.
I awoke early, eager for the day’s riding ahead. I think apart of my restlessness from the prior night was the knowledge that the day would kick off immediately with a crossing of the Mackinac bridge. In high winds the bridge is known to sway queasily from side to side. 2 lanes in each direction, one of which is a simple grating. I don’t like riding on grates, and I don’t like heights. The two certainly don’t get any better when mixed.

But there were bigger issues at hand. Jake had awoken to severe headaches and strong bouts of nausea. He took his medication and I had him sit on the bench outside to get some fresh air. I went back inside the room and finished the packing for the both of us. The air outside was crisp and clean, and the forecast of wetter weather later in the day in the lower peninsula were pushed aside for now. A lack of wind meant at least the “Mighty Mac” would be calm today.

I took my time checking out and loading the luggage onto the bike. I grabbed a coffee from the general store next door and came back to sit on the bench with Jake. I asked him again how he was feeling. His answer was, as usual, optimistically brave. “I’m alright, Dad”. I know how much he suffers at times. I wish I could stop the pain. I wish I could take the suffering from him. I can do neither. This my personal pain in his journey.

After an hour he proclaims he is feeling better and that we can hit the road. We suit up and are off and running once again, and for the first time in 48 hours the bike is beginning to travel closer to home. It’s only a couple of miles before we reach the exit for the bridge, barely enough to get the bike warmed up. Even the approach is spectacular. The road slopes downhill, providing a good view of the bridge and a stunning panorama of Mackinac Island and the lower peninsula.

We stop at the toll booth, pay our $4 and begin our crossing. I’m instantly relieved to discover that I can sit in the right-hand of the 2 lanes and travel on the concrete roadway, perfectly content to let cars zip by on the grated section. The bridge rises high and affords glorious 360 views of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron, the upper peninsula, and the lower peninsula all at the same time. Perhaps even Canada on a good day.

All along the ride across the upper peninsula the previous day I was seeing yard signs saying either ‘Vote Yes’ or ‘Vote No’ for a Tunnel Line 5 initiative. Not being a local I had no idea about the issues at stake here. I did some quick ‘googling’ in the motel room the previous night and discovered that there is currently a pipeline that lays on the lake floor besides the Mackinac bridge that carries crude, propane and butane amongst other things. The pipeline is very old and besides the issue of metal corroding in water, the big fear is that a strike from a boat anchor or some other accident could rupture the pipe. In a nutshell, the ‘Yes’ voters want a proposed tunnel to be constructed where the existing pipeline would reside inside. The ‘No’ voters want to shut down the pipeline altogether. Interesting stuff.

We divert from the official LMCT route once again and divert through the more interesting roads and better scenery of Wilderness State Park, skirting the shore of Sturgeon Bay. These roads would be amazing if every other corner weren’t rutted, pot-holed, covered in sand, gravel or rocks. Or all the above. More like riding through a minefield.

We pass through Cross Village and turn onto route 119, which includes the famous “Tunnel of Trees”. As the name suggests, the trees on either side of the road rise and meet overhead to create the illusion of riding through a tunnel of green. The road snakes nicely through the greenery. Large sections of the road are narrow enough to make cars approaching each other head- on slow down and move over to their respective curbs, but the road is wide enough to enable a motorcycle and a car to proceed at a normal pace provided they exercise good lane discipline. The road itself is beautifully paved, racetrack smooth and free from imperfections. I imagine Fall is another story entirely.

We saw plenty of nice houses along the lakeshore the previous day in the upper peninsula. We continue to see beautiful houses along stretches of the lakeshore today as well. But these houses are typically larger, much larger. You can almost date when they were built as the newer houses occupy larger footprints than the ones that came before them. Some even have more levels. I saw one example of an older home being torn down and evidently prepared for a larger structure in its place. I couldn’t imagine an average family needing this much house. Some people exhibit wealth, prestige or power through their cars. Others use real estate. I coined the phrase “Temples to money” for these overtly large homes. I focus back on the road, everything I need in life is 2 states away.

Sore butts, creaky knees and empty stomachs call out for a lunch stop. We are fortunate to roll into the charming little town of Charlevoix where we stop for lunch. Appetites satisfied, we stroll around the town and stop for some photos with Lake Charlevoix in the background. This inland lake is connected to Lake Michigan by a thin strip of water which we crossed over when entering town.

Jake inadvertently leaves his Tylenol in the café we stopped at for lunch. He doesn’t think this is a big deal. I do, I’m right. Fortunately, right around the time his head starts to ache again we roll past a Walgreens in Traverse City. A welcome keister relief and chance to hydrate. We reflect briefly on the day and he’s still very excited about the whole trip. I could understand if the novelty may be wearing thin if this touring gig isn’t exactly your thing, but he genuinely seems to be absorbing the sights and surroundings.

We’re a little behind in out pace for the day, a miscalculation on my part regarding actual progress based on the roads we have been travelling so far. There is a scenic section that I was really hoping to do, but time is against us and I decide we should cut straight through and make haste for the afternoon. This brings us back on the official LMCT route again, using straighter roads with a chance to put down some good miles. The official LMCT route is good, it just doesn’t go out of the way to find twisty motorcyclist roads, like the GPS route I am attempting to follow.

Michigan is a big fruit producer, cherries and blueberries being their famous export. Apples, peaches, pears, plums, grapes, raspberries and strawberries are also in abundance. Fruit stands are aplenty along the roadside, an opportunity for anyone with a larger than normal plot to make some extra money. I wish I could stop and buy some fruit, but where am I going to store it without turning it into a fruit smoothie by the time we reach our destination.

Local art being sold in small towns and at roadside locations is another item is plentiful supply. Everything from metal sculptures and yard creation to pottery and paintings is available to purchase. My wife has a very artistic flair and she would simply love these little studios. I vow to bring her back along this stretch to see these sites for herself sometime soon. She is a digital artist by profession but loves to dabble in pottery and painting when she gets the time. I think she secretly has a desire to have a little studio and sell her own stuff one day in retirement.

The weather throughout afternoon is very unsettled. One hour the weather is sunny skies and exceptionally warm, the next the skies are gray, and drizzle is upon us. The bright spot is that the roads dry quickly when the rain does let up. We must have gone through at least 3 or 4 transitions from dry to wet and back to dry again.

We enjoy more winding road alongside Lake Michigan for the remainder of the afternoon. By now we are seriously behind schedule and opt to hit the freeway for a fast blast to our destination stop for the night. We roll into the hotel parking lot with some daylight to spare, ad once again decide to ditch our belongings in the room and go explore a place for dinner. We are situated in a very small town for the night with nothing for miles around, so dinner choices are limited. We decide on a local sports bar with plenty of atmosphere exuding from within. I encourage Jake to try fried pickles for the first time, and they have since become one of his favorite apps.

On the way back to the hotel we passed a Chevy dealership. Jake has me turn around and go back to a certain spot. He has spotted a Chevy SSR for sale on the lot. There is a house just down the road from where we live that has one of these parked alongside the house. It hasn’t moved in years, let alone been driven. It hasn’t been washed in years either. It sits there quietly rusting. A total waste. Jake seems to understand the crime of car abuse that is happening before our very eyes.

The hotel has a pool and a jacuzzi, so we are able to grab an hour before it closes for the night. Feels wonderful on a tired body.

Thoughts for the Day:

“Beautiful houses, but I haven’t seen a store in miles. Just how far do these folks have to travel to get a pint of milk when they inadvertently run out?”.
”I’m certain that is not the type of scenery that first springs to most people’s mind when you mention Michigan”.
“I need to comeback this way again sometime, next time with Julia”.
“I really wish I was riding a GoldWing right now”.












































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2000 Kawasaki KDX 200
1999 Ducati 996 BiPosto

Last edited by Davenay67; Today at 4:15 PM.
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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old Today, 4:18 PM Thread Starter
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Day 4

....Day 3 added....

2007 Kawasaki EX-500 Ninja
2001 Honda VFR 800
2000 Kawasaki KDX 200
1999 Ducati 996 BiPosto
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