Archive for June, 2013

Lessons learned

Thursday, 20th June 2013; 1:13 pm

The primary reason for my bike/hike trip to the Manistee River and Old Mission Peninsula was to learn from the experience, to make my trip to the Western UP go better. It worked. Here are the mistakes I’ve learned from:

  • My backpack was uncomfortable. This was a combination of the belt not being very effective at transferring weight off my shoulders, and the pack being too heavy. I was so pleased with myself for figuring out how to attach extra stuff to the pack – tent and sleeping bag hanging off the bottom, shoes hanging from the sides, pillow strapped to the top – that I didn’t think that exceeding its intended capacity by 100% would make it uncomfortable to wear. So I’m doing two (maybe three) things about it: 1) I’m going to leave the stove, gas, and pan behind. Hot water is a luxury I can live without for a couple days; it just means that my oatmeal and freeze-dried dinners will be air temperature instead of hot, which I think I can handle in July. 2) I’m going to try to rig up some way to redistribute the weight of the pack. 3) Instead of camping at a different spot each night on Isle Royale, I might find a centralized spot and spend the middle day hiking without the pack, only wearing it for the shorter hikes “in” and “out”.
  • My scooter was a bit underpowered for climbing hills. Most of the time my scoot can maintain 40mph, which is good enough. But on some of the hills on this last ride, it bogged down, and the hills I’ll be seeing in the Porkies and Keweenaw (and perhaps a few other areas) will be the biggest I’ve encountered. To address that, I think I’m going to get the performance upgrade I talked about in my last post.
  • My underwear chafed my thighs. I’d forgotten about the importance of underwear that fits just right when hiking, and the sightly baggy cotton boxer briefs I wore… did not. I don’t think I’ll go all out and buy $50 backpacking underwear just for this trip, but I’ll be more choosey in selecting something from my current stock.
  • I didn’t bring my hiking staff. After I injured my knee, I bought a telescoping staff for serious hiking expeditions. I should have brought it to the Manistee River. I will bring it to Isle Royale.
  • My hayfever nose-spray bottle leaked. Instead of packing it with the rest of my toiletries (daily vitamins, basic meds, etc) I’ll put it in one of the pockets of my camera bag, to keep it upright.
  • I got careless with my pre-launch prep. I didn’t check to make sure that my bug repellent had enough to last me, that I’d refilled my oil tank, and other OCD tasks. I’ll do better next time.

The challenge ahead

Monday, 17th June 2013; 10:22 am

The ride I have planned for next month is the most challenging of all. Both for me, and for my steed. And yeah, it has me a little nervous.

It’s a long trip. Not just in miles (which is comparable to the mileage of my first big ride) but in days. Going hiking in the woods for two days actually adds three days to the trip, because of the time it takes to get to Isle Royale and back, turning an 8-day trip into an 11-day trip.

I’ve done long trips before. My high school friend Adam and I went bicycling in Britain under similar conditions for over a month. But I’m not 18 (with no responsibilities) anymore. Several years ago I took a hike on Isle Royale which was also a week and a half. But I’m not 40 anymore either. And as much as I enjoy solitude, and I like being self-reliant, it can get to be a bit much over an extended period of time.

The challenge for my scooter is even greater. With 20,500 miles on it, it’s no longer the just-broken-in, still-under-warranty-and-free-roadside-assistance young buck it was on that first ride. And the territory I’ll be riding is more difficult: higher elevations, and the word “mountain” starts showing up on geographic features. Most of Michigan is pretty flat, but the western UP is the exception, and I seem to be aiming toward all the problem spots: Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountains, the Keweenaw Peninsula, and just getting up into the highlands around the Wisconsin border and west of Marquette will necessarily involve going uphill. Which is the biggest weakness of a 50cc scooter.

I’m looking into the possibility of doing an “upgrade” on my scooter. It’s already been derestricted, which removes the artificial power limitations placed on the engine for licensing purposes, and lets me hit 40mph on level ground. But there’s a different exhaust pipe that’s engineered to change the internal dynamics of this two-stroke engine, resulting in the it putting out about 10% more horsepower. That’d mean another 4mph when I’ve got cars behind me, and less speed lost going up hills. The downside (in addition to costing probably $300, installed) is that it’s louder. As if the standard pipe isn’t loud enough. So even if I installed it, I probably wouldn’t leave it when I got back to flatland here.

Last leg of the Mission trip

Wednesday, 12th June 2013; 2:22 pm

I almost got home without getting rained on. Periodically checking radar, I took the Lakeshore route home, figuring I could wait for the first wave of rain to pass, then sneak in behind it before the second wave came through. The first part of that plan worked. The second part didn’t, but I still only got sprinkled on for the last hour, part of the way home from Muskegon. I covered the gear on the bike, but didn’t bother putting on my rain suit. I made pretty good time, stopping only a few times to stretch my legs and/or buy gas (twice). I got home at about 1:30pm, so it took a little over 5 hours. Quite a bit more efficient than hiking, eh?

The route was almost entirely a repeat of roads I’ve taken before, particularly from the first big ride in 2009. In fact, the ride from Ludington home was pretty much the same ride I did the last day of that trip, after arriving on the ferry at 5:00am. That pre-dawn ride is etched in my memory, and I recognized a lot of the same places.

But now I’m home, and contemplating the next trip. There were some useful lessons learned from this excursion, which I’ll get into later. For now I need lunch. And a shave.

Orchard Beach State Park

Wednesday, 12th June 2013; 8:19 am

A dry and uneventful night last night. The sleeping pad is still airtight. It was a bit cold, so I wrapped my head up in my sleeping bag, which is how I slept in until 7:30; it still seemed dark to me.

In the extended forecasts today was the one day with a 0% chance if rain, and it’s sunny this morning. So of course rain is now almost certain. There’s a line of rain moving diagonally to the SE which I might be able to slip through as I ride south. But not the huge glob of yellow and red that’s creeping along south of it. It’s hard to judge how long it will take to hit Grand Rapids on this small screen, but I’m not taking chances. I’m breaking camp and hitting the road, and don’t plan to stop and smell the roses, spare the horses, or any such clichés.



Tuesday, 11th June 2013; 8:28 pm

After leaving Traverse City, I headed northwest on M-22, taking the long way. (Most of my day would be spent on or near M-22.) I didn’t go all the way up the Leelanau Peninsula, only as far as Suttons Bay on the east side and Leland on the west. Leland has a little sentimental attachment as the port of departure for North Manitou Island, a reclaimed wilderness where I’ve backpacked a couple times; I also stopped there for dinner on my first big scooter ride four years ago. I didn’t stay long – no time to indulge nostalgia – just a stroll through Fishtown (the über-rustic old waterside market).

From there I headed south, the reverse of the route I’ve usually taken through this area. But still on M-22. As required by state law, I stopped at the Dune Climb in Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. And yes: I climbed the dune. Not just to the first spot where it kinda levels off a bit. I went all the way to the (nearest) lookout point. Which also has a little sentimental attachment: when my extended family visited the area around a decade ago, we came to this spot. And on a more recent solo visit, I hiked there from the other side, from a stop on the Stocking Scenic Drive. And yes: I did it to prove that I (still) could. If not for the beating my legs had just taken, it would’ve been fairly easy. Don’t get me wrong, I still had to stop to catch my breath a few times, but I handled it like… a healthy person of my age. My calves will still punish me for it tomorrow, I’m sure.

On my previous ride through here, I stopped to do the Scenic Drive, which winds its way through the woods with some overviews of the dunes, and lots of twisty hills. I skipped it this time, figuring that time was limited, and I’d already proved that my scooter could handle it.

My next destination was Frankfort. Dedicated readers of this blog will recognize that town. It was where I drove after breaking a brake lever four years ago on the Leelanau Peninsula, as the location of the nearest Genuine Scooter dealer. The owner (whose name escapes me at the moment, I’ll fix this later) of Bayside Cycles pulled a replacement fro one of his stock Buddies, and literally saved my trip (and possibly my life), for a nominal fee. I had to stop in and say “hi”.

He wasn’t there when I got there. The shop was open, with no one around. A minute later he returned: he’d stepped out to test a newly prepped scooter. You can do that in Frankfort. I wasn’t sure if he’d remember me, but he did. Seeing my overpacked red Buddy parked in front jogged his memory. We chatted for a little while, with me filling him on what I’d done since our first meeting. He asked how I’d done on the Mackinac Bridge, and was suitably impressed that I’d passed 20K miles. (He’d recently rebuilt a similar engine after 18K.) I left him with my thanks, figuring I’d never see him again. I was wrong.

A few miles after leaving Bayside, the “add oil” light came on. I keep a 3-ounce bottle of oil on the scooter for such emergencies, but I’d need a full quart pretty soon. Now… where did I know nearby that would have 2-stroke motor oil? Bayside, I course. As I stashed the oil on the bike, he offered me a “Bayside Cycles” sticker for my scoot. Considering that the dealer I’d bought it from doesn’t exist anymore, and I’d been to Bayside more times than any other Genuine dealer, I accepted. He also tipped me off to a scenic detour just across the bay. Cool guy. The world needs more scooter dealers like him.

Remarkably, I kept pretty close to the really rough schedule is put on my calendar, arriving at the Old Mission Peninsula around 11 and leaving TC around 1, then reaching the Dune Climb about 3 and being on M-22 drinking past the southern sections of SBNL around 5. I’d penciled in “dinner in Manistee” for 8-9, allowing for the latest acceptable arrival, and that’s roughly the time I spent at TJ’s on historic River Street.

I’m staying at Orchard Beach State Park, a couple miles north of Manistee. It’s… a lakeshore state park. Nice enough, with easy access to the beach, but otherwise unremarkable. It’s maybe 1/10 full (making my reservation pointless) which I guess isn’t too bad for a Tuesday night I the cool part of Summer.

Old Mission Accomplished

Tuesday, 11th June 2013; 12:40 pm

I finally made it to the Old Mission Peninsula, almost 4 years after a broken brake lever sent me to a shop for repairs instead. (I’m more careful about parking on uneven surfaces now.) The weather stayed foggy most of the way north, leaving the views of the bay less than spectacular, and the air chilly. I put on every shirt I have with me (2 long sleeve, 3 short) to keep warm. It was a nice ride though. I stuck to the shorelines as much as possible, avoiding the more trafficky Center Road.

The Old Mission Lighthouse is a little underwhelming… not worth the ride by itself, but worth stopping if one is in the neighborhood. The scenery is the real reason: lots of grape trees, cherry bushes, and blueberry vines. The vacation homes along the shore contrast with the working farms just inland. The sun finally broke through, which made it a good morning ride.



I tried finding a place for lunch in downtown Traverse City, but a frustrated by the business district traffic and on-street metered parking. I decided to give up and look for some place on my way, and left the business district, and immediately came upon J&S Hamburg, a cluttered diner… with a parking lot. I took a seat at the counter, the only option.