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”.