Archive for July, 2010

Rain (and sun) at Tawas Point

Sunday, 18th July 2010; 8:10 pm - Location: ,

You’d think I’d learn. I dropped a glove again (the other one) looking for a place to eat in Alpena. I noticed it was missing after lunch, and found it the same way. {sigh}

Stopping in Alpena turned out to be a good choice and a bad choice. It was good because it delayed me while some rain blew through ahead of me. (The steady headwind delayed me by about 5mph as well.) The road was often freshly wet, and even though I don’t like riding on wet roads, it’s better than riding on wet roads in the rain.

It was a bad choice because my timing was wrong for arriving in Tawas. It started raining during my approach to the park, and by the tine I got to my site, it was pouring.

Not knowing how much of this I’d have to put up with, I decided to pitch the tent. This is a nerve-wracking thing to do in the rain, because while it’s going up – before the rain fly is in place and adjusted – it’s vulnerable to the rain. Fortunately I’ve had a lot of practise putting up this tent, so I managed it without getting the interior or sleeping gear substantially wet. I stayed out of the tent, however. My “partial shade” site was a great help, giving me “partial rain shelter”. The main reason I didn’t take refuge in the tent is that it’s a kind of a commitment. I can’t take the rain gear into the tent with me, and if I leave it out it usually gets too wet to use. If it was close to bedtime I’d relent and commit to being in the tent till morning… but not at 4:30pm.

After about an hour, the rain tapered off, and the park came back to life. Tawas Point park is kind of like Holland State Park, more of a beach destination than a wilderness experience. It’s big, and even though the sites are a decent size, it still feels a bit like a while bunch of RVs (and tents) stacked row upon row. (On the other hand, the city park in nearby East Tawas has the RVs packed in almost side by side on cement “pads”, with one row of them separated from M-23 by just a chain link fence. Still the city park is packed, with some people apparently setting up summer cottages (on wheels) there.) The state park is located on a long sandy hook that forms a bay with nice shallow swimming beaches. The sandy point also makes it a prime bird-watching site, and the only nesting ground for piping plovers east of the Straits. I’m no serious bird-watcher, but I enjoyed hiking the trail.

I’m at the half-way point of the trip, which means it’s time to do laundry. There’s a coin-op laundrette near the park, which helpfully bought ad space in the park’s map/brochure. So I’m sitting with nearly all of my clothes in the washer, wearing just my shorts, my jacket, and my camp shoes.

There’s more rain coming soon. The forecast said the probability was dropping from 60% to 30% around now. It was wrong. So it’s back to the camp site, and when the rain hits, hunker down for the night.

Lunch in Alpena

Sunday, 18th July 2010; 12:34 pm - Location: ,

It didn’t rain last night, at least no more than a few drops. But it was overcast and cool when I woke at 6. I didn’t do any morning sightseeing at the park: dreary light, already seen it, and I figured I’d have to get underway early to be ready for the rain. Sure enough, it started to sprinkle after my shower a little before 8, so I quickly broke camp. If you can possibly help it, you don’t want to pack a tent that’s wet from the rain. Not that I like riding in the rain, but as long as I’m geared up, better riding than sitting.

The rain’s been pretty light so far, off more than on. Traffic’s been fairly light as well. My route for today couldn’t be simpler: leave state park, follow US-23 south, watch for signs to state park. But I managed to complicate it. First I had to make a 5-mile detour to get gas. Later I left the highway to ride through Presque Isle, which is not in fact and island at all, but an area of small lames and harbors, with lots of cottages.

I’ve stopped in Alpena for lunch, and also to let some of the rain pass. I’m at John Boy’s, a homey hole in the wall with a simple menu, but clearly popular with the people who eat here.

Now I need to get underway to get to Tawas Point before the storm hits later this afternoon.

Cheboygan, night two

Saturday, 17th July 2010; 9:33 pm - Location:

Putting the unpleasantness and disappointment of “Boblo” behind me, I had lupper in Cheboygan. Since the meal was serving a both lunch and supper, I splurged at a sit-down place on Main Street, called Mulligan’s. Their tagline is “Good food. Bad shots.” The second part is a reference to the golfing cheat of retaking a bad shot, called a mulligan. The place is also a full bar, so they serve… shots. A throng of bikers had been thru for lunch; it was 3:30, so I’d missed all but the last straggler. But I was early enough for the lunch menu.

Back at the state park I hit the trails. Once you’ve seen one northern hardwood forest by the big lake you’ve seen them all, so it wasn’t really special. But despite the bugs, it was a good hike. One leg of the trail was thru loose sand, behind the shore treeline. The walking actually got easier on the return leg, which was on the beach: a stereotypical east-coast beach of hard sand, rocks, and grasses. 🙂

I had a couple neat bird sightings. The first was a flock of swans bobbing on the waves, acting like oversized ducks: sticking the heads in the water and their tails into the air. The second sighting was a trio of bald eagles eating a fresh kill at the shoreline. They were behind some plants so they didn’t see me at first; I noticed one of them flapping its wings, which were way too big to belong to a shorebird. I crept closer, sticking to the trail like a good camper. Then one of them saw me (they have amazing eyesight) and they took off. I managed to squeeze off a couple of shots as they flew off, one of which is pretty good (ignoring the blurriness). (The iPhone sucks for wildlife photography, so those will have to wait until I get home and can upload the photos from the good camera.)

For those watching the map on the main page, today was the day that it didn’t change. I was in two counties (Bois Blanc is actually the same county as Mack Island, St Ignace, and a bunch of the UP) but both were repeats from last year. I’ll start lighting them up again tomorrow.

The weather is beautiful, partly sunny but breezy and not too hot. However that’s forecast to change, with a small chance of rain tonight, and 60-70% chance of rain tomorrow, all the way to Tawas Bay, my next campsite. So I’m expecting to scoot in the rain. The outlook for tomorrow night improves, then the day after should be back to partly sunny. I’ve checked radar, and there’s something really ugly in Minnesota that looks like the cause of these dire warnings for tomorrow. Regardless, it’s full rain protocol for the camp tonight: everything under cover as if rain were certain, just in case.

Leaving Bois Blanc

Saturday, 17th July 2010; 2:54 pm - Location:

At some point today, Flash’s odometer hit 6000 miles. I was too busy keeping him upright and listening for one of the tires to pop to notice.

The good news is that the pilot with the chip – but little head – on his shoulder isn’t on board this run. Plaunt Transportation is a four-generation family business, and I recognize the third generation’s captain running the ship this time, and the second generation Plaunt (90 years old) is along for the ride. I don’t recognize the other crew either; must just be a change of shift. The captain gave no indication of knowing who I am, just professionally directed me to park my “motorcycle” next to the ship’s bridge, out of the wind. Which also happens to be a rather noisy spot, and no less prone to the deck tipping. I stood with my Buddy. No further troubles.

Bois Blanc Island

Saturday, 17th July 2010; 11:49 am - Location:

My visit to Bois Blanc Island did not get off to a good start. The ferry ride itself was uneventful, but ended badly. There wasn’t really anything to tie my scooter to, so I stayed with it on deck, just in case it tipped. It didn’t, but the lake was rough enough that it might have. Aside from a little spray, it was fine until we got to the island.

As vehicles were starting to unload, the ferry pilot nearly ran me over with his truck! He glanced in his rear view mirror (he says) and started backing up. I grabbed my scooter and dragged it away from him (it’s not easy to drag 200lbs of scooter backwards while on it center stand), but not fast enough.

The damage was cosmetic – the front fender is scraped – but Captain Careless didn’t even pretend to be concerned. He just gave me an “oops, sorry”, explained that he thought I was already off the boat and the bit about checking his mirror, and got back in his truck. You know, a few minutes earlier there had been a kid sitting on the deck just past my scooter; did Captain Oblivious think to check for anything like that?

As I pushed my scooter of the barge, I passed this guy sitting behind the wheel waiting for me to get out of his way, and gave him the finger behind me. He came after me, apparently planning to pick a fight because I… was rude to him. Which is SO much worse than running into someone’s vehicle. “It was an accident. I said I was sorry,” he snarled. As if that made it all better.

Bois Blanc itself is a nice enough island. A good place to come if you want to get away from it all, but without abandoning electricity and such. It provides a little different perspective on the Mighty Mack, and an obscured view of Mack Island.

I met a doe along the road out to the point facing Mackinac. She leaped into the forest before I could even stop, let alone get out my camera.

The roads on “Boblo” aren’t what I expected. The maps I’d seen distinguished between “roads” and “dirt roads”, but it turns out they’re all dirt. Parts are hard-packed sandy dirt which is fine, but other stretches are little better than gravel, which is aggravating to ride on, and also makes me nervous for my tires. I get some level of comfort from the Slime sealant I put in before I left, but that won’t help if I run over a big sharp rock.

Cheboygan, night one

Friday, 16th July 2010; 10:20 pm - Location:

It’s my first night at Cheboygan State Park. This is the first time I’ve actually camped one place for two nights in a row. I’ve booked sites for two nights before, but didn’t actually use them both.

The campground isn’t full, but it’s pretty well-used tonight. There’s a whole string of sites unoccupied between mine and the ranger office; I suspect they’re tent-only sites, since mine is a tent, and the next one is a tent. Most people bring RVs to these places.

At least my reservation puts me far away from the annoying remote-control toy car at one of the sites closer to the water. I don’t know if it actually uses petrol, but if not it’s designed to sound like it, and the buzz is… irritating.