The view from below zero

Sunday, 26th January 2014; 12:01 pm

Michigan is currently stuck in its first old-fashioned winter in years.  I’ve only been on the scooter once in the last six or seven weeks, for a short just-because-I-can ride, on a Saturday when the temperature briefly rose into the upper 30Fs before dropping back down into single-digit highs, where it’s stayed since then.  And the long-range forecast looks equally bleak.  So I’m looking farther ahead.

After aborting last year’s ride up to the western UP, planning this year’s ride should be pretty simple: just adjust all of the dates by -1 (to keep things on the same day of the week) and try again, right?  Not exactly.  Because I’m taking advantage of this do-over to rethink things… just a little.

One of my concerns going into the trip last year was the amount of distance I was going to have to cover on certain days.  Especially on a li’l 50cc that’s no longer as young as it used to be.  And that concern turned out to be justified.  You see, several weeks after I didn’t ride up to Copper Harbor and back, my engine started getting really loud at certain speeds.

The mechanic diagnosed it as a cracked piston, and fixing it required what’s known (among people who know motorcycle engines) as a “top end rebuild”.  After doing this, the mechanic tested out the whole engine, and said it’s within spec now, and it’s definitely running quieter and smoother than it was.  But it still has 23,000 miles on it, and I don’t want to push it.  Especially to the point where I might have to literally push it.  Not on a mountain road, maybe 50 miles from the nearest town, and possibly 200 miles from the nearest motorcycle mechanic.

So I’m sorting out a different route. By taking the unvisited counties in a different order (more or less counterclockwise instead of clockwise), then taking a long shortcut across northeast Wisconsin for the last full day of riding, I can cut 100-200 miles off the total distance, which should make a few of the other days on the road – in the wilds of the UP – a bit easier.  It also eliminates almost all of the time I might otherwise have to spend on US-2, which is the busiest road in the whole peninsula.

Another change that I’m considering is taking a different scooter. There’s an obvious appeal to sticking with Flash, for the satisfaction and bragging rights of doing the whole state on a 50cc scoot. But borrowing (or buying, then re-selling afterward) a 125cc or 150cc scooter would eliminate a bit of anxiety about whether I’ll run into any hills I can’t handle.  I’d have to put up some money up front to buy another scooter, but putting around 1500 miles on it wouldn’t hurt its resale value.  The main “catch” would be the licensing and insurance requirements I’d have to deal with.  And the possibility that I wouldn’t be able to sell it as easily as I bought it.

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