Here is a synopsis of my entire trip. I rode my Lake Superior Circle Tour on my bike (really a Harley-Davidson with an aftermarket trike kit) this past July (2012). I did the tour solo and rode it clockwise. I had been planning this trip for several months. Each year since retirement I take an extended ride during the summer. Being originally from Michigan, I had spent a lot of time around Lake Superior, but never in Canada, so it was a ride I was looking forward to. I was not disappointed.
But before I could ride the tour I needed to get north. We now live in central Florida. I set out north on July 1st with my goal to be in the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, area in time to help celebrate our second grandson’s second birthday. The weather was good but very hot. I try to take U.S. and state highways and stay off the Interstates. On this leg of my trip I had the opportunity to ride parts of the Great River Road in Missouri and in Illinois. This leg took me 3-1/2 days. I had time to rest up for the next part.
After the birthday celebration I set off for Duluth, Minnesota. Again, I used the Great River Road in Wisconsin (Highway 35). It’s nice to be able to see small-town America, but one must be patient getting through some of these towns.
On this part of the trip I started to notice a disheartening noise from the transmission/primary area of the engine. It would come and go and wasn’t too loud, so I really didn’t worry too much. The next morning I left Duluth and headed for the border crossing. I stopped at Two Harbors and Silver Bay and took a few pictures and then on to Grand Portage. By this time the noise was getting louder. So I pulled out my HD touring atlas and found that the nearest HD dealer was Thunder Bay. Once in Thunder Bay I found the dealership, but was told there wasn’t much they could do for me as their mechanic was out sick. After a short technical discussion with the service manager, I was on my way. It was his opinion that I had a primary chain tensioner issue and I should be OK?!
I had some lunch and set out for Nipigon, which was my destination for the day. I took Highway 587 to the Sleeping Giant Provincial Park Vista and this is a very nice ride. I also tried to find one of the mentioned Amethyst Mine attractions, but I missed a turn somewhere and I had been on the road for quite a while, so it was on to Nipigon. I spent the night at the Northland Motel. I had dinner just back up the highway and the diner with a couple also staying at the motel.
My next day’s destination was back in the good Ole US of A at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. I found that even though it was very warm, that early in the day it could still be cool, especially if you’re used to Florida weather. I had plans to visit Winnie the Pooh in White River and Magpie High Falls near Wawa, both of which I accomplished. If you are on two wheels, be careful going to Magpie Falls, the dirt road isn’t the best. Thought I might loose my fillings. Old Woman Bay is a must stop, if even for just a few photos. I was surprised at the sand beach, after seeing nothing but rock. There were quite a few people taking advantage of the warm weather and cooling off in the lake.
Somewhere in doing my research for this trip I missed the fact that there are no services (I didn’t see any) once you enter Lake Superior Provincial Park. When I left Wawa I looked at my remaining fuel indicator and it said I had a good 80 miles remaining, so I didn’t worry about gas. I had been seeing services quite often along the highway. Once into the park I didn’t see any services and my GPS didn’t show any available for quite a distance. I started to worry. I got my fuel light, at least I still had a gallon left. Not a great deal of miles with my trike. I slowed down a bit to save on fuel. Still no services in the neighborhood. When the remaining fuel indicator get to 10 miles the indicator just says “LO.” I’m really concerned now! After about 20 minutes I see a sign for Northgate Service in Montreal River Harbour in about 10 kms. Will I make it?
I did make it and thanked the Good Lord for watching out for me. I put over 5.5 gal in a 6 gal tank.
After a break, it was on to Sault Ste. Marie and the border crossing. It was easier to get into Canada than to get into the United States. Once at the motel, I called the HD in Marquette, Michigan, and was able to get an appointment for the next day. I just had to get there just after they opened, so it was going to be an early morning speed run for about 150 miles.
After supper in town, I walked over to the Soo Locks Park and Observation area and watched a tour boat lock through. After buying the obligatory fudge, it was back to the hotel.
Up at dawn and on the road to Marquette. This turned out to be a very cool speed run. I wished I had brought my winter jacket, but who would have thought…. I made it into the dealership and they took the trike in. Now the bad news. They opened up the primary and found it was a primary bearing and they didn’t have one in stock. However, they felt that my bearing, while making noise, was not bad enough for imminent failure and I could continue on. With a smile on his face the service manager said if the noise got too loud, I should turn up the radio.
Once lunch was had, I took a leisurely ride to Baraga, Michigan. If you’re in this area don’t miss a stop at Da Yoopers Tourist Trap in Ishpeming. Lake Superior in Michigan is so different from Lake Superior in Canada. I was having a ride of my life. I had decided to alter my itinerary after spending a good part of the day in Marquette. I cancelled my reservation in Duluth and added an extra day in Baraga. The idea was to be able to visit a couple of the places in Upper Michigan that I didn’t on the way to Marquette.
The next day brought a ride up the Keweenaw Peninsula to Copper Harbor. Stopped at Lake Fanny Hooe, the northern end of U.S. 41, the lighthouse, Brockway Mountain Drive and a stop at the St. John Society Monastery Jampot Store (a must for their pastries).
Back through the Houghton-Hancock area and on to Ontonagon and Porcupine Mountain State Park. Lake of the Clouds is awesome. I remember a lot of these places from when my parents took us camping in this area. It brought back good memories.
Now it was time to turn eastward again and bring the Circle Tour to a close. But not before stopping at a few spots I missed earlier because of the quick trip to Marquette. First stop today was at Palm Book State Park and Big Spring, Kitch-iti-kipi. The water is so clear you can see the springs bringing in new water and the large (Giant) trout swimming in the spring. While there take the self-operated float trip across the spring.
Next it was on to Seul Choix Point Lighthouse on Lake Michigan. From there I proceeded to the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls. The ride along Lake Michigan made me think of how different this area is from the Lake Superior shoreline.
And now for my last stop on Lake Superior, Paradise and Whitefish Point Lighthouse. Here I called my Circle complete. I rode on to St. Ignace to end the day. The Big Mac was visible from the motel and what a sight! As many times as I have seen and crossed the bridge, it still is a sight.
Up early for a lakeside ride to Grand Rapids. I grew up in GR and so did my wife. I planned to catch up with her and see some relatives before heading back to Florida. When I crossed the Big Mac, first time on a bike, I rode part way on the grated section. I wanted to look down to see if I could actually see the water. I could. I now moved over to the paved lane, a little more comfortable. My intention was to ride as much of this route along the lake as possible. Once through Wilderness State Park I looked for Cross Village and Highway M119. M119 is a must, known as the Tunnel of Trees. 20 miles of a literal tunnel of trees. A few scenic turnouts along the lake, one where the Sleeping Bear Dunes were visible in the distance. I was tired when I got into Grand Rapids.
The next day was a rest and visit with siblings day. My wife was already checked into the hotel. The ride home started in the morning and lasted three days. We took county roads out of the Grand Rapids area to Niles, Michigan, and picked up U.S. 31. We rode south to Bardstown, Kentucky. The next day it was east to Danville, Kentucky, and turn south again on U.S. 27. Our plans called for us to take 27 all the way home. This was a section of the ride worth taking. I was a little concerned about Chattanooga, Tennessee, but getting through was not problem and U.S. 27 is a pleasant ride. This day completed in Lagrange, Georgia, and getting drenched in a southern summer afternoon thunder shower. We got dried out and looked forward to getting home tomorrow.
We left at the crack of dawn as this was a long day for us. If you are looking for gas and food once south of Columbus you need to go into the little towns along the way. U.S. 27 bypasses most of the little towns. My wife said to find a little “Mom and Pop” place for breakfast, so we took the exit into Cuthbert, Georgia, and sure enough we had a good meal and experienced little town Americana. Friendly folks there.
Next stop was Tallahassee for gas and lunch. I have traveled this section of U.S. 27 many times in the last few years. I could almost take a nap and still get home. However, mother nature wasn’t done with us yet. The clouds were gathering, and after yesterday’s shower we stopped to put on some rain gear. It rained on and off, but nothing like yesterday. We were dry when we got home.
All I can say it that this trip was 18 days, 16 riding, and one of the best trips I have made on my trike. 5,200 miles door-to-door. I look forward to next year’s trip. And I thank God that He created wonders like Lake Superior for us to see His mighty hands at work.
Feg Henkel, The Villages, Florida