Archive for July, 2013

Sunny start

Thursday, 18th July 2013; 9:32 am

Definitely not keeping the rainy-start tradition going this time.  Though it’s hot and humid enough that I may end up wetter than if it were storming.  It’s already in the mid-80F’s without a cloud in the sky.  I’ve already changed my t-shirt once: no pointing in starting out wearing one that’s already soaking wet.

On my last ride, I complained on the first day that it was too cold once I got out on the road.  I don’t think that’ll be a problem today.

I didn’t sleep well last night, between the excitement of leaving in the morning and the limited capabilities of my noisy little bedroom air conditioner.  I’ve been taking my time getting ready, checking and double-checking that everything is packed.  I’ve got my departure time marked on my calendar at 10am, and I’ll be on the road a little before that.  This should get me to Ludington late afternoon, with enough time to get dinner and explore a little.

Packing advice

Wednesday, 17th July 2013; 9:30 pm

One of the best bits of packing advice I ever received is to remind yourself – as you’re stressing about whether you’re remembering to bring everything you’ll need – that you can buy just about anything you’ve forgotten when you get there.

Unfortunately that doesn’t help much when your destination is an island wilderness. And the territory you’re going through to get there has a population density of less than 10 people per square mile.  On average.

Oh, and your vehicle is probably the only one of its kind for a couple hundred miles. 😉

Weather or not I’ll go

Wednesday, 17th July 2013; 8:15 am

It’s going to rain.

It’s really just a given. I’ve been asked a few times if I’m going to cancel the trip if the weather’s bad, and the simple answer is “no”. Because the weather will be bad for part of the trip. It’s going to rain.

I might even storm, and it could possibly be a bad storm. I’m prepared for it. I won’t necessarily enjoy it, but I can handle it.

Several years ago I spent 7 days on Isle Royale, and a few years later I spent 10 days. You can’t go that long there without some rain. So it rained. And when it did, I wore my rain gear and/or I took shelter in my tent. I hid in an outhouse for half an hour.

And I’ve endured plenty of rain on my scooter trips. In fact, I had a tradition going for the first three years that it was raining when I was ready to leave, so I ended up waiting a bit each time for it to let up. (And for the first one, “let up” meant that it was still raining, but not in buckets.) In addition to waiting out rain, I’ve navigated around it, raced to stay ahead of it, and just plain rode through it. It’s just rain.

So the fact that there’s a 40-70% chance of rain in the places I’ll be riding the first few days… doesn’t faze me. It’ll fall or it won’t. And it’ll pass.

(A blast from the past: this was what I saw on radar one morning as I was heading north a few years ago.)

The mostest

Monday, 15th July 2013; 2:03 pm

There are several aspects in which this trip is going to be “the most” of my scooter rides. That’s part of why I left this excursion for last on my tour of the state: I wanted to lead up to it.

It’s the most miles: about 200 more miles on the road than the previous longest trip. If you add in the ferry miles – both directions, across Lakes Michigan and Superior – (and the relatively few hiking miles) that’s a few hundred miles more.

It’s the most days. The longest trip I’ve done so far has been 8 days, and this will also be 8 days of riding. But there’s also three days on Isle Royale, so I’ll be spending 11 days away from home.

(That doesn’t quite match the number of days I spent on my last visit to Isle Royale in 2006. That was two days of getting to Copper Harbor and back by car, plus 10 days (9 nights) on the island. And then there were my earlier trips to Europe, which included a 6-week bicycling trip, and 4 months of touring/school. But I’m talking scooter trips here.)

It’s the most time on boats. I’ve had ferry rides on most of my big excursions, but the only long one was the red-eye across Lake Michigan. With more than 10 hours of daytime ferrying on this trip, I’m going to need to bring a book to read. 🙂

It’s the most gear I’ve packed. More days means more clothes. (I do laundry halfway through, but it’s still another set to bring.) And the combo of biking and hiking means more stuff to bring along for the trail.

It’s the most expensive. Those additional days of food and lodging, and especially the four ferry rides, add up to a few hundred bucks more than I spent on the most expensive prior trip.

It’s the most rustic. The UP is sparsely populated, and this is the least-populated part of it. On a couple days, I’ll have exactly one option for where I can refuel. Furthermore, more than half of my campsites will be in campgrounds without electricity, and with limited (or no) plumbing.

It’s the most challenging terrain. I’ve been through areas with lots of hills, but these will be the first mountains, requiring me to chart my route carefully to deal with them.

Subjectively the first ride was “hardest”, since I’d never really done anything quite like it, and had to figure out what I was doing as I went. But objectively, it’s this one. Am I nervous? Of course I’m nervous. I’ve been nervous about every single one of these trips. After all, I’m a cautious, stay-at-home kinda guy by nature.

Which is why I do it.

Western UP itinerary

Saturday, 13th July 2013; 5:14 pm

I’ve “finalized” (as much as that’s possible) the route I’ll be taking on my upcoming trip. Here’s a map. The green tags are the places I’ll be stopping each night. Ignore the white dots; those are adjustments to get Google Maps to draw the route where I want to to, rather than where it thinks I should go.


A (hidden): home
B: Ludington
C: J.W. Wells State Park
D: Bewabic State Park
E: Porcupine Mountains State Park
F: Copper Harbor
The red line indicates a side trip to Isle Royale for three days.
G: Michigamme
H: Manitowoc WI
I: home

Site upgrade

Friday, 12th July 2013; 7:07 am

Another complaint I’ve received is that I don’t post enough photos. And they’re absolutely right. When I travel, I bring along two cameras: a mid-range digital camera with good optics, and the one built into my phone. I can’t easily upload the “good pictures” while I’m on the road, but it’s a piece of cake to upload them from my phone, so it’s only a few phone snapshots that get uploaded.


I do have a lot of – if I may say so – really good pictures from the last 4.5 years of touring the state. All nicely tagged with dates so I know where they were taken. So after I finish this ride, I plan to go through the hundreds of photos and overhaul this site to include them. In the meantime, here’s one I have handy…