By Sam & Janice Harrison
Our trip to Michigan all began with a desire for an addition to our Wing’s camper but ended up being a wonderful trip through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and beyond.
It all began when my husband, Sam, was on the GWRRA message boards last year and posted a note asking if anyone knew where to find an Add-a-Room for our 1996 Kwik Kamp (since they are no longer being manufactured).
Someone replied back, saying a friend had gotten one custom made by a lady, whose name and phone number he sent to us. We called her, and she said she was retired and had made a few of them. The thing was, she lives in upper Michigan, not far from the Mackinac Bridge, but a long ways from our home in Atlanta, Georgia!
Still, after we described what we would like and she agreed to sew an addition for our camper, we figured we could make the trip there, by way of Detroit, and visit some of our relatives as well. And so we began to plan our trek, looking forward not only to our new camper addition, but also to several days of adventure and relaxation.
As we spoke with our sewer extraordinaire, she explained she would need the camper for about four or five days to set it up in a barn while she made the addition, so we began to plan our trip around her needs and schedule. We sent pictures, took measurements, and sent them. She ordered fabric and sent directions to her house. It would be June before the weather was suitable for travel up there, but after weeks of planning, our vacation on the bike began to take shape.
As the time to leave grew closer, Sam called his Uncle Jack and said we would be traveling near his home in Detroit, and could we meet for dinner, and maybe his Uncle Aaron and Aunt Margo could come, too. The very next day Uncle Jack called back, and said they had a plan; we should come to his son Keith’s house, spend the night in their motor home, and everyone would gather there for dinner that evening, which would be Friday. We were very glad to be able to spend some time with them, and see Keith and Bobbie’s farm home.
Day 1: Wednesday, June 20
We had planned to leave on Thursday, but we decided to get an earlier start. So we worked a half day at our jobs at our church on Wednesday, then came home, changed into our travel jeans, and cranked up the new GPS. It led us right out of our driveway in Dacula, Georgia.
It was hot and sunny, and very dry. We had the camper and our 2000 GL1500 SE Honda Gold Wing packed for a 12-day trip. We went up GA 20 to the Mall of Georgia and got on I85 South through the metro Atlanta area to I75 and turned north. We got off at Dalton for a gas/potty/ice water break, then headed north again. Traffic smoothed out near Chattanooga, Tennessee. We turned right for the first time on I75; we have always swung left on I24 and headed back home via Western Kentucky. But this was to be a new adventure! The weather had cooled down, and we rode through rolling hills with evergreens on both sides.
We were headed for a KOA at Sweetwater, Tennessee, discovered on an Internet search for a spot about 200 miles north of our starting point. We took Exit 62 and followed the signs. The campground was nice and shady, enough off the Interstate for no road noises. We quickly set up our Kwik Kamp, got out the Dinty Moore Beef Stew, livened up with a can of peas and carrots, and heated it on our little gas burner. Along with crackers and mandarin orange cups, it tasted wonderful.
After a stroll around the campground, we settled down for a quiet restful time as dark settled in, and lightning bugs flew around us.
Day 2: Thursday, June 21
We had our cereal and bananas, with coffee from the campground office. We let down our camper and headed out, eager to cover as many miles as we could this day. We were on the road by 9:15, headed up I75. The morning was cool and pleasant, and the scenery was beautiful through the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee.
We crossed into Kentucky, state of our birth and lives until 1985 and shed our jackets at noon. We ate our lunch at a rest area near Florence, Kentucky under a shade tree, then continued up I75. Traffic slowed a few times due to construction (they’re always improving or paving Interstates), then due to both volume and construction through Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a hot time of day, about 91 degrees F, and the heat, noise and wind had us pretty tuckered out. Interstate driving for us is for making time, not for sightseeing or enjoying riding. Then we couldn’t find a campground when we were ready to call it a day.
A detour of 16 miles to look for an Ohio State Park made us wary of the state parks. We had started considering getting a motel room when we finally got back to the Interstate and saw a lovely sign: “KOA Next Exit”. It was 7 p.m. by the time we pulled into the Wapakoneta KOA in Wapakoneta, Ohio. We had stumbled upon a top-rated KOA, and it was easy to see why; it was very clean and inviting, with lots of activities.
It was too bad we only had time for a quick meal of chili and crackers and a hot shower before turning in. It wound up being the best shower we would have all week. We had covered 425 miles this day, and had about 200 more to go to reach our destination—the home of Sam’s cousin Keith and his wife Bobbie Harrison.
We were both tired and ready for bed, but I had to work at least one Sodoku before I could crawl in bed. Yes, I brought a book with me. I have even been known to work one on Sam’s back while riding down the interstate when there’s not much to see!
Day 3: Friday, June 22
We had a nice restful sleep, woke and had our Cheerios and coffee made in our own pot. We took off under questionably dark skies, but soon drove out from under them. We were still on I75, and soon reached the outskirts of Toledo.
Sam had taken off his watch in the garage just before we left home and had not missed it until we were hours down the road. We decided to try to find a Wal-Mart. We soon found one easily accessible, and Sam found a watch. Then we decided to look for a little digital camera that I could keep in my pocket while riding and found one on clearance.
Soon, we stopped at a Michigan Welcome Center, and I couldn’t resist taking photos of the beautifully landscaped grounds. It was a very nice rest stop that even had a large playground area. Our granddaughters would have loved it.
We continued on through Michigan to Detroit. Keith had sent directions to his house, which Sam put in the GPS. He lives on the north side of Detroit, and we had to go through the city to get there.
We started reminiscing about the two or three times we had been there since we married, the last one being about 37 years earlier. Sam’s grandparents and family had moved from farms in Kentucky to Detroit to find work during the Great Depression. Their children had married and settled there, all except Sam’s dad, who had returned to Kentucky. Sam’s dad had passed away in November at age 92. Out of a family of five sons and one daughter, only the two youngest remained, Uncle Jack and Uncle Aaron. We were looking forward to a long overdue visit.
We found Keith’s house with no problem. They showed us to their spacious motor home, all hooked up and ready for us, beside a huge tree near the house. And we found out Uncle Aaron and Aunt Margo and their younger son Jason were coming, as well as Uncle Jack, his friend Elaine, his son Jeff and his wife Linda and their children Matthew and Rachel.
Bobbie and Keith grilled hamburgers with all the trimmings on their deck for all 13 of us. Margo brought a mile-high cake; I think it was called an Izzy’s Bumpy Cake. It was chocolate with butter cream filling and covered with a chocolate glaze. It was delicious, and a sight to see. One pie-shaped slice generously served two people.
It was a cool evening, and very breezy. Soon Bobbie was bringing out jackets for some who were chilly. After the meal and lots of talking and visiting, the guys went out to the barn and Keith came riding out on one of his many motorcycles, then Jeff soon followed on his. They were doing wheelies and cutting up. They have been riding motorcycles all their lives, and followed in their dad’s footsteps. Uncle Jack and his late wife Aunt Jonni had ridden all over the U.S. many times. In fact some of his bikes, along with a cargo trailer he made himself of sheet metal, are still parked in the barn. The trailer was quite innovative when he made it, and it is still beautiful, just needs a little shining up.
We got everyone together and took some group photos, then a picture of the seven Harrison men there. We shared email addresses so we could send the pictures to everyone. It was getting dark, so everyone went inside Keith and Bobbie’s lovely sunroom that they added to the farmhouse. Their house is from the Civil War era, purchased by Bobbie’s parents without water or electricity, which they later added along with other improvements. They had raised six children there and lived there for 40 years. When they decided to sell it, Bobbie and Keith bought the 40-acre farm 13 years ago.
It was a wonderful evening, and we really enjoyed our little family reunion. Keith and Bobbie were wonderful hosts.
Day 4: Saturday, June 23
After a quiet, restful night in the motor home, we awoke to another clear sunny day, with a slight chill in the air. We dressed and took our bags out to the bike, and Keith made us a great breakfast of bacon, eggs and potatoes, served up with coffee in two huge mugs. Then Keith led us out Highway 29 to I95 on his newly acquired BMW, on which he and Bobbie planned to take their own trip to the Upper Peninsula in a couple of weeks.
We stopped to say goodbye to Keith in Michigan City at the St. Clair River, which separates the U.S. and Canada. Then we got on to the interstate.
It was a cool, clear ride across Michigan toward Mackinac City at the northern tip of Lower Michigan. We enjoyed riding by large fields of corn, wheat and soybeans, dotted with an occasional oil well, most of which seemed to be pumping. We hadn’t realized that most of Michigan is so flat.
We needed gas, and a break from riding, so we pulled in at Charlie’s Country Corner near Grayling. Inside was a large collection of mounted and stuffed animals, probably all the animals found in the area, and another display of models of just about every type of large truck and semi. It was an interesting stop!
As it neared lunch time, we found a rest area and ate the last of our food and ice chest offerings. The Michigan rest areas were some of the prettiest landscaped and well-maintained that we’ve ever seen. I love flowers and couldn’t resist taking some pictures. A group of Boy Scouts was there having lunch and feeding the large flock of seagulls flying all around. We spread our picnic cloth under a shade tree and enjoyed the rest, the food and the great weather.
Feeling refreshed, we rode on to meet the lady who had inspired the plans for our “vacation-with-a-purpose” to get an Add-a-Room made for our camper while we toured some of the Upper Peninsula.
We found her farm home easily. It was amazing—we had been communicating for several months, and now we were finally here! She started measuring and working in her workshop in the pole barn by the house even before we could transfer what we would need for the next several days from the camper to the bike.
Afterward, we drove on to Mackinac City, on the shores of Lake Huron. We found a reasonably priced room at the Travelodge and then looked for a place for dinner, our first restaurant meal since leaving home.
We found the Admiral’s Table and enjoyed fresh caught white fish. Then we took a short tour of the city and took pictures at dusk in front of the lighthouse, with Lake Huron and the Mackinac Bridge in the background. Then it was back to Moonies Ice Cream Shop for ice cream before heading back to the motel. The next day we planned to ride the ferry across to Mackinac Island.
Day 5: Sunday, June 24
We got up to another beautiful day, had a muffin and coffee in the room, and walked across the road to the three ferry lines. We got two roundtrip tickets on the Arnold Lines; we had $2 off each ticket from the motel, and they offer a free Vesper Cruise each Sunday evening at 8 p.m., so we wanted to support them.
Sitting on the open top for the best view of the island, the lake and the bridge, we awaited our 15-minute ride across to Mackinac Island. It’s a unique island, with no motorized vehicles allowed. Travel is by foot, on bicycles, or by horseback or horse drawn carriages. We had heard about it for most of our lives, both and from Sam’s Detroit relatives and from my parents’ camping travels, while we were busy raising three children at home. Now we were finally getting our turn to visit!
It’s a beautiful island, with Victorian-style homes and hotels, lots of shops and restaurants, and of course lots of fudge, one thing the island is famous for. We had read about that, and that folks who come are called “fudgies”. We tried a couple of samples and then got our own little bag.
After a walking tour, we decided to see the island by horse drawn carriage. We got on a two-horse carriage and heard an informative witty narrative by the driver. Our first stop was the Butterfly House and Museum. Then we changed to a three-horse (Clydesdales) larger carriage, which took us up hillsides above the city to the State Park. The driver said about 70 percent of the island is owned by the state of Michigan.
We followed a heavily wooded route which led us by the shore of Lake Huron to Arch Rock. We stopped and took some photos of the spectacular view of the shore line through Arch Rock. When we finished our tour, we walked back down Main Street and had grilled chicken salads at Millie’s on Main and had a piece of our fudge for dessert. Next stop was the Trading Post for some souvenirs. We got our usual T-shirts, a few post cards for our album of the trip, and gifts for our seven granddaughters—billfolds for the four oldest and coin purses for the three going to kindergarten this fall. We had to remember we were traveling on the bike and “buy light”, but we couldn’t forget the girls. Besides Maddie, one of the just-turned-five-year-olds, had told me, “Grandma, when you’re on your trip and you see something I would like, just go ahead and get it.”
Afterward, we met the ferry for the ride back to Mackinac City and took one last look at the lovely island.
We walked back to the Travelodge and did our laundry (we had brought enough clothes for four days, and now it was time to start the next four days). While we waited for our clothes to dry, we read our information on the Upper Peninsula and planned the next few days. We would cross the bridge in the morning and head north again. When we finished our laundry, we walked across the street and ate a delicious buffet meal at the Embers Restaurant for $10.99 each.
By then, it was time to walk back to the Arnold Ferry Lines and wait for the 8 p.m. Vesper Cruise under the Mackinac Bridge. We had inquired about it the day before from a man putting out signs, and he had told us it was a Christian cruise under the bridge with singing and a short devotion, and that we should probably be there about 7:30. We arrived at 7:15 and found a long line already waiting. But everyone in line was handed a ticket, and all boarded at 8. Over 350 persons filled the ferry. The tickets we were handed to board said “Vesper Cruises since 1969, starting in mid-June”. It was sponsored by the Straits Area Resort Ministries and the Arnold Lines.
Song sheets were passed out, and a pastor and his wife from Cheboygan led this week. We sang a mix of praise songs and hymns while cruising toward the bridge just before sunset. They shared facts about the bridge, took questions from the passengers, then the pastor shared that Jesus is our bridge to God. Then we sang some more. The sunset was gorgeous on the horizon of the lake, and we both took several shots with our cameras, trying for the perfect sunset photo. We crossed under the bridge about three times at different places, back and forth from Lake Huron and Lake Michigan.
We were about to head back to shore at Mackinac City when the Captain announced that the freighter Arthur M. Anderson was just behind us, so he slowed so we could pass alongside it and follow it under the bridge. We got back to the dock at 10 p.m., an hour later than the usual time, so everyone could see the freighter. We were told it was a sister ship to the Edmund Fitzgerald, which had sunk off Whitefish Bay in Lake Superior in the ’70s, and was with her when she was caught in the bad storm and went down.
The Vesper Cruise was a worshipful experience shared with lots of fellow Christians, and was a highlight of our trip for us. We felt fortunate that we had been there on a Sunday evening.
Afterward, we walked back to our room and got our things in order to load up and head across the bridge to St. Ignace in the morning for another great day of adventure.
Day 6: Monday, June 25
We got up to a warm, sunny day, packed our things in the motorcycle, and had a breakfast buffet back at the Embers. Then we started north, this time across the famous Mackinac Bridge. We had learned a lot about it; total length is 5 miles, with 2 main towers extending 552 feet above the water, and that go down 210 feet below the surface, between Lake Michigan to the west and Lake Huron to the east. It’s 950 feet longer than the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. We rode across on metal grating, with the water visible beneath us. We took a photo of the water below through the grating. It felt a little like flying above the water.
Then we rode into Sault St. Marie and parked the bike in front of the Soo Locks. We walked inside the museum, then out to the locks. We stood in the covered viewing area above the locks and watched as a freighter—the American Century—1,000 feet long by 105 feet wide, glided in one lock and a small tour ship, along with a barge and tug, pulled in another. In a very short time, the gates were closed between the St. Mary’s River and Lake Superior. The water was raised 21 feet, and the locks were opened at the other end. We had arrived just in time to see the complete process. The next ship wasn’t scheduled to arrive for almost an hour.
We walked down the street and found Goetz’s Lock View Restaurant. We had, of course, very good fresh whitefish baskets. They offered to refill our Butler cups with fresh ice and water. It was welcomed, since a sign downtown showed the temperature as 92 degrees F. It was our warmest day yet, and we were at our most northern point since leaving Georgia last Wednesday!
We rode around the city awhile and decided we were so close to Ontario that we would cross the International Bridge into Canada. We showed our passports and rode into Sault St. Marie, Ontario. It was very hot, and we drove down several streets for awhile and pulled in to view the shore line and across into the U.S. As we pulled up to the entry to the bridge, I took a photo of the U.S. entry—“Welcome to the United States”—but the border patrol guard asked me to delete it. He said since 9-11, it is unlawful to photograph any federal building, and the US Customs Building is what I took a picture of. I fear our country will never be the same since 9-11.
We rode back through Sault St. Marie, Michigan, on Lakeshore Drive, and turned on Six Mile Road toward Brimley, which carried us into Hiawatha National Forest along the coastline of Lake Superior. We stopped for gas then at the Port Iroquois Lighthouse. We went through the ’50s era museum, showing the living quarters as it was when the family lived there, then climbed the 75 steps to the top of the lighthouse for a great view of Lake Superior. We pulled our bike in front of the lighthouse, set up our tripod, and took a great shot of us with our bike and the lighthouse behind us.
Then we rode on to the little community of Paradise—just a few small stores, small motels and a couple of places to eat, all local operations, no chains. Sam always asks, “What is your cheapest rate?” and the Paradise Inn attendant offered us a room for $49, reduced because its air conditioner wasn’t working properly. But the evening was already cooler, with the expected temperature in the 50s. He told us we could eat at The Fish House about a quarter mile down the road, and we took his advice. It was ALL we saw in the area! It was crowded with locals—always a good sign—and we ordered broiled whitefish again, fresh caught of course. It was good, but seemed a bit overpriced, served on small plastic plates, with paper cups and plastic dinnerware. It was a busy place, though; every table was full.
Afterward, we rode around a little along the coast and then headed back to the Paradise Inn to relax and review our traveling route in the Upper Peninsula for the next few days. We had to plan to be back in the Gaylord area no later than Friday morning to pick up our new Add-a-Room and our camper and head back toward Georgia. We were both due back at work on Monday morning, July 2. But we would think about that later!
Day 7: Tuesday, June 26
We spent a quiet night in Paradise Inn. Then, after coffee and muffins in the room, we started out north again on the road to Whitefish Point, 11 miles to where the road ends at the point. We were some of the first visitors there, so we pulled our bike in front of the White Fish Point Lighthouse, pulled out our tripod and got a great shot of us and the bike with the lighthouse behind us.
Then we walked out on the beach of Lake Superior for a great view of it. The Great Lakes really are great, and we felt like we were at the ocean instead of a lake. We visited the well-stocked gift shop there and got some pins and cards—our usual souvenirs—plus a piece of homemade chocolate fudge. Then we went through the lighthouse. It was wonderfully restored in the living quarters as when the keeper and his family lived there; even had life-size mannequins representing each family member.
Next we visited the Shipwreck Museum there; lots of artifacts from many ships that had shipwrecked in Whitefish Bay from the 1800s up to the Edmund Fitzgerald that had sunk in 1976. The bell from the ship was on display.
We enjoyed all the sights there, and paid one small admission fee to tour all of it. We ate our fudge in the parking lot, where Sam noticed a GL1200 with North Carolina plates. (We used to have a GL1200; it belongs to our son Sidney now.)
Next, we drove the 11 miles back to Paradise, where it turned into Hwy 123, and headed toward Tahquamenon Falls. The day was sunny and we were getting warm. We skipped the Lower Falls, and rode on a few miles to the Upper Falls. We paid our $8 and parked in the shade. A short walk back to the falls was easy and pleasant. We learned the brown color in the falls is due to tannin acids in the shoals. I took a great picture that I thought would make great wallpaper for my PC when I got home.
There is a nice sit-down restaurant on the grounds—the Tahquamenon Falls Brewery and Pub. We went in for lunch and, for the first time, ordered pasties (pronounced pass-tees), an Upper Peninsula treat of meat and vegetables in a pastry pocket. They were very good! I took a photo of my plate before I ate it. We learned that they originated in the early days when the miners would take them in their pockets into the mines.
Then we rode several miles along Hwy 123 to Newberry, where we gassed up. We looked hard for a sighting of a moose, since it is the Moose Capital, but we didn’t see any. We rode through miles of forested areas that included marshy areas and bodies of water; perfect for a moose. There were many wildflowers and ferns growing along the road. It was a beautiful drive, with very little traffic or signs of civilization.
At Robert’s Corner we turned west on Hwy 28 and rode through Seney and on into Munising. We pulled in at the Visitors Center for info on highlights of the area then headed out to Hwy 58 to Munising Falls. It was a short hike, along a shaded walk by the brook, with more wildflowers and ferns, to a pretty falls. Then we drove on to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. It’s a very scenic area with a spectacular view of Miners Castle Rock on Lake Superior’s coast. Then we walked down a path for another view of the area.
It was getting late, so we rode back into Munising for dinner. We stopped at the Dogpatch, with good country food and lots of atmosphere from Daisy Mae and L’il Abner and the Dogpatch crew. Probably the younger ones don’t know anything about it! We saw three bikers there for dinner that we had seen earlier at the lighthouse.
Then we drove a couple of blocks to the local Dairy Queen for a chocolate sundae. It is a great small town, with lots of folks out together. It reminded us of our younger days growing up in Mayfield, Kentucky. With the next week being the Fourth of July, most businesses and many homes were already proudly displaying the red, white and blue.
Then it was time to find a motel; we had seen a few in the area, and we opted for the Comfort Inn. We have found them to be nice, reasonably priced, with a good breakfast in the morning. It had been another hot day; up to 93 degrees F on the town signage. We were ready for a cool comfortable rest. It was after 10 p.m., and it still wasn’t dark yet, as we had been noticing for the last few nights. We were many miles north of our home now, and it made about an hour’s difference in the sunset times.
We listened to the weather report, and thunderstorms were predicted for the night, so we went out to put the cover on the Wing. Three Harleys already had the covered parking taken for the night!
Day 8 Wednesday, June 27
We woke up to clear skies with no rain all night. We took our time, ate a leisurely breakfast in the motel, and then left Munising on Hwy 13—and south for the first time since leaving home last Wednesday.
It was a very scenic drive through the Hiawatha National Forest. There was almost no traffic—just one semi and later a bicycle. We looked for wildlife, still hoping to see a moose. No moose, but we did see a doe and her fawn standing in the road ahead of us, and a few wild turkeys. A muskrat (we think) crossed in front of us, along with several chipmunks—cute here, but not in my garden at home.
Hwy 13 dead ended into US 2, and we headed East on our route back. It was a beautiful day, with a cool breeze blowing; the high was expected to be in the 70s. This was the kind of weather we had expected to experience all week. The hot dry weather we had been experiencing was also being felt throughout the eastern United States.
It was another lovely drive. We drove through Garden Corners, turned right on Hwy 183 and traveled to the little town of Garden, about halfway down a peninsula. All along we saw large farms, with wheat and corn in large flat fields, and very different from the forested areas we’d seen for the last few days. Then we turned around and started back toward US 2, leading us toward Manistique.
We spotted a lighthouse in the distance and pulled in, walked a short distance along the shore, and took our photos. While we were there, two couples riding Gold Wings pulled in and stopped to talk. When they saw our Georgia plates, they asked, “Did you ride all the way here?” Of course we said, “Yes, we did!” One bike was new; the other was a 1976. (We have one in the shed at home that was given to us, not running.) This one looked good!
We ate lunch at a Big Boy’s Restaurant, which is directly across the street from the shore line of Lake Michigan—a beautiful view. Then we pulled into the rest area across the street, parked the bike and took our picture with the same lighthouse across the bay in the background. We just can’t pass up pictures of lighthouses!
We rode on through Manistique, and just outside the town we spotted “Treasure City-Largest Gift Shop in the North” according to their sign. It did look pretty big, and we still had a few gifts to buy; had to be small—we were traveling on just the bike now! We chose two shirts embroidered with Upper Peninsula on them for us, and a couple of jars of Michigan Amish Jam, and stuffed them in the saddle bags. We figured we would have more room when we picked up our camper the next day.
We continued our ride on US 2—a beautiful drive along the coast, with rest areas and roadside parks all along the shoreline. There are some houses on the shoreline and many vacant lots for sale. There are some small communities, but nothing large past Manistique. There were a few folks on the beach, but they were few and far between.
The sand dunes area runs all the way from Naubinway to St. Ignace. The road follows the lake all along the drive, with lots of public sandy beaches. It surely was a beautiful drive along Lake Michigan. We have enjoyed all the Great Lakes we’ve seen. Michigan surely has a lot of beautiful, unspoiled scenery.
We drove up to the Quality Inn in St. Ignace and checked in. Then we walked across the street to Clyde’s Drive-In—an old-fashioned drive-in with curb service and a few stools inside for eating at the bar. We sat at the counter on stools and ordered two bison burgers with root beers. They were great. It reminded us of our home town in Kentucky; Sam was a curb hop at Hill’s Drive-In when I pulled up in my 1954 red-and-white two-door hardtop Chevy; I had just gotten my driver’s license at age 16, he was 18. It was 1961. I don’t know if he noticed me or the car first, but the sparks flew and we were married two years later. That was almost 45 years ago.
But—back to the present—when we finished our burgers, we walked back across the street, and the car wash in front of the motel had a hand-dipped ice cream parlor. We walked back to the room and got everything inside, relaxed a little, then went out to cover the bike and get some ice cream. Yes, Harrison children and granddaughters, we had our nightly ice cream, even in the UP!
Day 9: Thursday, June 28
We had breakfast at the Quality Inn at St. Ignace, then drove a few miles to cross the Mackinac Bridge again, going South this time. It was cool and in the 50s, so we pulled out our leather chaps for the first time since we had left home. We were comfortable—a perfect day for riding.
We stayed on I75 South toward the Gaylord area. That morning, we had called and asked if we could pick up the camper and the new Add-a-Room around noon.
When we pulled in and saw the new room—set up and attached to the camper—it looked great; just what we had asked for! Our seamstress had a bag for the poles, and then made a bag for the Add-a-Room while we let the camper down and re-packed everything.
Her husband had gone trout fishing for the day, and she had stayed home to bake bread, she said. When we finished packing, she invited us inside their home for coffee. She didn’t tell us until we were inside the kitchen, seated at the bar with two places set, that she also had cinnamon yeast rolls in the oven, and they smelled wonderful! She took them out, glazed them, and served them warm.
While we visited and ate and drank coffee—made in a percolator on the stove—she baked some bread and told us one of the loaves was going home with us. We protested (a little!) but she insisted. When they were nicely browned, she pulled the perfectly formed loaves out, stapled one in a brown paper bag, and even put some butter in a container to go with it. We knew what we would be having for our next meal with cheese and fruit!
When at last we drove out with our camper and new Add-a-Room packed inside, we felt blessed to have met such a talented and gracious family.
We traveled on I75 to 127 and took it this time to I69. This route took us through more open farmlands—miles and miles of huge fields of corn and soybeans, and some hay, interspersed with some lovely small lakes.
We stopped for gas and bought cheese and apples to go with our bread, and an atlas. While we ate at a roadside park, Sam studied the map, and we decided that since we had gotten the camper a day early, we would detour about 180 miles west and stop in Mayfield, Kentucky, for a visit with our Mom and Step-Mom.
The skies were mostly cloudy all day, with rain forecasted for the next few days, so we decided to cover as much ground as we could this day. As the sun dipped lower in the sky, we saw more and more deer munching on the soybeans. It seemed every field had from one or two to ten or twelve deer.
We drove until almost 9 p.m. and found a Super 8 outside Fort Wayne, Indiana, near the town of Markle. We checked in and learned that they had had some showers earlier in the day, but it was clear then. So far, we had missed the showers!
There was a Dairy Queen right next door, so we walked over and ordered sandwiches and milk shakes, and took them back to the room. We had covered about 350 miles for the day and would have about 420 more to make it to Mayfield, Kentucky, for a side trip before heading home.
We figured we should have no problem covering that amount the next day, but rain was expected for the Southeast for the next couple of days. Oh, well, we had had eight wonderful days of beautiful weather, incredible scenery and memories of some great experiences. We have to get some rain sometime, we thought. We just hoped to miss it by staying west of the expected rain.
Day 10 Friday, June 29
We got up early to get started on the trip to Mayfield. There was no rain overnight, but heavy cloud cover filled the skies and rain was predicted for the south. We ate at the Huddle House beside the Super 8 and were on the road by 8:30 a.m.
Our families knew that we were taking the trip to the Upper Peninsula but not that we would consider detouring and coming home by their way in Kentucky. We hadn’t told our families, just in case we wouldn’t have time or that the weather wouldn’t cooperate. But since we thought we’d probably make it on to Mayfield that day, I called my Mother and told her we were on our way there and to expect us around dinner time, unless we ran into more rain.
But later, the whole sky suddenly became one heavy, very black cloud, so we pulled in at the next exit. We were staying put for awhile!
We ate and, about three hours later, the sky cleared enough for safe travel, and we finally put on our rain suits and took off in a light rain. It was 6:30 p.m., and we had about 40 more miles to go. When we reached Paducah, we felt we were home (we had lived in the Paducah area for 8 years before moving to Georgia 22 years ago). Then we headed to Mayfield, about 25 miles, to where my Mother and Sam’s stepmother live.
Day 11 Saturday, June 30
We visited with family in and around Mayfield. We enjoyed seeing my Mom, my sister Bobbie, Sam’s step-mom Carolyn, and others, though I didn’t get to see my brother Mike this visit.
We showed them the pictures we had taken of our trip and talked about our trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and of my parents’ visit to Mackinac Island many years before—comparing memories and photos of our visits. My Dad, who has passed away now, loved to travel, and I share his love of seeing new places in our great country.
Our visit was short, but it was great to see our families again. All day Saturday, the sun was shining without a cloud in the sky. We packed up for the trip home and watched the weather. More rain was predicted for Sunday, so we planned to get up at 7 a.m. and head for home, weather permitting.
Day 12 Sunday, July 1
At 7:30 am, the rain was just beginning. We ate breakfast, and watched the weather channel. The rain got heavier, with a heavy cloud cover. The forecast was rain in the A.M. for Mayfield, then clearing. We waited until the rain was light, said our goodbyes, then put on our rain gear and started South on the West Ky Parkway leading to I24.
We soon drove out of the rain, but the roads were wet, with puddles along the roadway. Off and on throughout the day it cleared and then got rainy again, so we had to stop and put on our rain suits every now and then. It actually got to be humorous.
Later, the skies turned dark and the rain really started. It got steadily heavier, and we pulled in at a rest area, where the weather on the TV showed a severe weather watch for the entire area from where we were to below the Atlanta area.
So at that point, we knew we were not driving home that night, even though we were both due back at work at our church in the morning. We pulled in a Quality Inn in Chattanooga and ate our food that we had packed for lunch. We called our three children and their families to tell them where we were. They had all been watching the weather, too, and said they were glad we had stopped.
We planned to get to bed early, get out before the traffic, and just pray that the rain would let us get home.
Day 13 Monday, July 2
We got up early, had breakfast in the motel, and continued south on I24. We learned that last evening a severe storm, with high winds and heavy rains, had covered the entire distance that we had planned to travel. So we had made a wise decision to stop for the night. This day the weather was clear; the storms of yesterday were only a memory.
We drove straight through, only stopping once for gas, and got home just before noon. We got what we needed to change and get ready for work, then had a quick lunch and were able to get to the church by 1 p.m., ready to begin work but especially ready to share our wonderful experiences of our Michigan Upper Peninsula trip with our friends and co-workers.
Indeed, we had had an incredible trip, with many good memories. We had traveled 2,979 miles since leaving home on the 20th of June. And not only had we gotten a new custom made Add-a-Room for our camper, we had been able to visit with family members on both sides of our family, and had seen some of the beautiful parts of our great country that we had never yet seen.
Traveling on a bike is always a great way to experience even more of the sights, sounds, smells, temperatures—and yes, even the rain. And we feel staying in campgrounds and eating at rest stops offers more ways to connect with nature and with people while traveling by motorcycle.
We have learned that traveling on a bike seems to look like a “novelty” to some folks, especially when you pull a pop-up camper. Often folks in vehicles will stop to chat and inquire about our bike, camper or travels. It’s a great way to meet lots of folks across our great land—like we did this trip to the Upper Peninsula!
And even as we unpacked and cleaned everything for putting away that evening, we were already talking, dreaming and planning where we would like to go on our next bike trip! Now, the only questions are: “What else do we need for our Kwik Kamp?” and “Where will that journey take us?”
Originally published in the September 2008 issue of Wing World Magazine.
Articles and accompanying photos courtesy of Wing World, the monthly magazine for Members of the Gold Wing Road Riders Association (GWRRA), the world's largest single-marque social organization, founded in 1977, for owners and riders of Honda Gold Wing and Valkyrie motorcycles. For a complete list of Member Benefits, including a subscription to Wing World magazine, please visit www.gwrra.org or http://www.gwrra.org/members/. All rights reserved