Lake Superior Circle Tour

On July 27th, Pat O’Neill, Dave McFall, Dave DeCook and myself met in Luddington at the Alpine Motel to start out ride around Lake Superior. We were scheduled to take the SS Badger across Lake Michigan at 9:00 and we had to be there an hour early to load the bikes, so we met the night before to we’d get a good night’s sleep for our first day on the ride.

This was the planned route, just over 2200 miles.

And this is what we actually rode, just a few minor deviations. It was just under 2100 miles.

Day 1, July 28th, 230 Miles

We were scheduled to take the SS Badger across Lake Michigan at 9:00 and we had to be there an hour early to load the bikes.  We got there right on time, then had to wait about 30-40 minutes before we could get on since bikes are loaded last.

The ride across took about 4 hours which put us in Manitowoc about 12:30 or so, Central Time.  Once we docked we went down into the hold to untie the bikes.  As I was putting the bike on the center stand, my boot got caught under it and when I pulled free I had a hole in my boot.

One of the planned stops was Aerostitch in Duluth Minnesota on day 4.  As long as it didn’t rain till then I was OK. We got all our tie-downs wrapped up and stowed and headed for our first stop, AuTrain Campground in AuTrain MI.

But before we got there we had a slight delay in Green Bay WI.  We got stopped by a draw bridge that was just raising.  We were there for probably about 20 minutes while a huge cargo ship passed through. We shut the bikes off, took off our helmets and jackets so we didn’t cook and stood around for a bit. That’s the drawbridge in front, not a building.

Once the ship passed, we mounted up and headed on our way.  We stopped at Hirsch’s Cedar River Pub just outside Escanaba for dinner. Back on the road after, we headed for camp. We pulled in about 8:15, still enough light to set up camp.  We had a beautiful view of AuTrain Lake from our camp grounds.

Day 2 July 29th, 192 Miles

We were up around 7:00  the next morning, packing up and getting ready to hit the road. Our first stop was Lake Michagamme in the Upper Peninsula where we took a short break to stretch our legs.

Back on the bikes and on to Houghton MI.  where we stopped for gas and lunch.  We had another drawbridge to cross but this time there were no ships to delay us.

After lunch it was on to Copper Harbor, our next campground. Dave left for Copper Harbor right after getting off the ferry, he wanted to spend a couple of days there so we met up with him at Fort Wilkins State Park.

It was a short ride to the camp and we had plenty of time to set up and explore around the park.

We relaxed for a bit, then went to dinner at a local place.  Back at camp we sat around for a little while longer then went to bed, we had a 315 mile day tomorrow.

Day 3, July 30th, 315 Miles

Today’s ride was from Copper Harbor to Jay Cooke State Park in Duluth MN. We were up and packed early and on the road about 7:20 in the morning.  In the planning stage, we had decided to not stop and eat breakfast in the mornings to help save a bit of time.  We had food with us and had a quick breakfast in camp before we left each morning, just something to last us till we had put some miles on.  This seemed to work out pretty well. Our first stop was the Lake of the Clouds in the Porcupine Mountians, UP.  A short hike took us to the top where we could see the lake and valley below.

After a nice break, we were back on the bikes to our next stop, the Presque Isle River falls.

Another nice break and some beautiful scenery, it was time to get back on the bikes and head to lunch.  We stopped at the Bad River Casino just outside Bessemer and fueled up both our bikes and ourselves.  It was a hot day and it was nice to sit in the casino and cool off some.  Next stop was the Jay Cooke camp ground, we pulled in about 5:00pm, still long enough that we had plenty of daylight to set up camp, but it was a long day  of riding so we rested a bit before we started setting up the tents for the night.  After setting up camp, we were hot and dirty, the camp yesterday was having water problems, so no showers. And unfortunately this camp was also having water problems, so again no showers.  Dave and Dave decided that they were going to go down to a public beach area about 5 miles away and go for a swim/bath and the get something for dinner.  Pat and I weren’t that hungry so we stayed behind.  We had some chicken noodle soup and crackers.  Then we went down to the river and found a nice calm spot and had a standup towel bath, the water wasn’t too cold and it was just nice to get a couple days of riding grime off of you.

After sitting in the warm sun and drying off we walked back to camp.  Since there was a ban on campfires, when it got dark there wasn’t much to do so we all hit the sack at nightfall. I was whipped and slept like a rock.

Day 4, July 31st, 282 Miles.

We got to sleep in a bit today, the plan was to stop at Aerostitch on the way out of Duluth and we were only about a half hour away.  They opened at 9:00am so we left camp about 8:30.  We got there just after they opened their doors.  Aerostitch makes one of the best single piece riding suits today, plus a lot of other riding gear.

photo by Pat O’Neill

Dave DeCook had a broken zipper on his suit that he wanted to see if he could get repaired. Dave McFalls’ air mattress got a hole the previous night, so he was looking for a new one. I was wanting a pair of their Three Finger Rain gloves and Pat was looking to get sized for a one piece suit.  We spent about an hour there, I got my rain gloves, Dave M got a new air mattress and Dave D. order some parts for his sipper.  Pat almost bought a suit but just quite couldn’t pull the trigger.  We were out of Duluth about 10:15 heading for Nipigon Canada.  Today was a hotel day!!  We had planned to have a hotel day some where in the middle of the trip, giving ourselves a break from setting up and breaking camp everyday.  We crossed into Canada about 1:40pm and stopped at a Robins for lunch.

The only planned stop this day was a the Pass Lake Train Trestle. Pat had watched a video on YouTube showing people walking along the trestle and wanted to stop.  We found the trestle easy enough, we were on a road that passed under it, but couldn’t find a place to get up to it. We decided we didn’t want to lose too much time looking for it so we got back onto highway 11 and headed for Nipigon.  We pulled into the Town & Country motel right off the highway, and across the street from a huge truck stop. It wasn’t too bad though.  The rooms were clean, the showers hot and if you closed the windows and put on the fan for some background white noise, you could barely hear the trucks.

After dinner at the truck stop we had a talk about the next days schedule.  The original plan was to try and be on the road around 7:00am as we had another 300 mile day.  Dave M. decided that he wasn’t in that much of a hurry, and he was going to sleep in the next morning, seeing how he was retired and on vacation.  I decided to join him, although not retired I was on vacation too.  Dave D and Pat would go on to the next stop at Pancake Bay Provincial Park.

Day 5, Aug 1st, 237 Miles

We walked out of the hotel about 9:15 to a cold morning, it was 45 degs.  We bundled up in layers and headed out.  Our first stop was Kama Bay Lookout.

After a short break, we’re back on the road.  We stopped again a couple hours later at Aguasabon Falls.

Next stop was in Marathon for lunch.  Up until now, we had been riding mostly along the north shore of Superior.  We’d crest over a small rise in the road and be presented with this beautiful view of the great lake.  After lunch, we started to head inland some, skirting northward over Pukaskwa National Park.  Along the way, Dave M and I stopped in White River, the origin of A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh.

After reading about the bear and how the character came about, we headed across the street to Robins to take a break and warm up some.  Last stop for the day was Wawa and the giant goose.

You can read about it here.  After checking out the goose we asked at the visitor center about hotels in the area.  They recommend a couple for us, and even called to see of any of them still had a room available.  We found a place in downtown Wawa called the Outdoorsman Hotel. The owners were from Wisconsin and were in the process of renovating all of the rooms.  We didn’t get a new one, but they were still nice and clean and had hot showers.  There was even warm chocolate chip cookies in the morning. Not exactly a continental breakfast, but I’ll have cookies for breakfast anytime.

Day 6, Aug 2nd, 120 Miles

Day 6 was a nice leisurely ride down to Pancake Bay Provincial Park.  Pat had decided to stay there for another day while Dave D rode on to St Ignace.  We made several stop today, saw lots of waterfalls.  Two were just outside of Wawa.  The first one was Scenic High Falls.

After that was Middle Silver Falls.

Then on to the Sand River Falls in the Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Last stop for the day was Pancake Bay Provincial Park, we pulled in about 3:30.  This is one huge park, I think I saw a sign for camp site 420.  It’s long and narrow, following along the shoreline for almost two miles.

It was a nice quite park and there was good separation between sites.  We set up our tents and then headed down the road a bit to eat dinner at one of the only restaurants for about 50 miles.  Back at camp we sat around for a while and the hit the sack.  This park was having water problems also, so no showers here either.  They did get them fixed in the morning, but we were heading out by then.

Day 7, Homeward Bound, 412 Miles

We had a short ride down to St Ignace, so we slept in again on Friday morning. We were packed and on the road by 9:00am.  We hit Sault Ste Marie about 10:am with a quick stop at a gas station to spend the rest of our Canadian money filling up.  Then it was over the bridge and through customs back into the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.  It was quicker getting back into the US then it was getting into Canada. We breezed right through and were headed to St Ignace where the plan was to meet up with Dave D and a bunch of other members who were on the clubs UP ride.  We got there about 11:30am and stopped for lunch at an outdoor restaurant.

We got to talking, and again changed the plans.  We figured the other members wouldn’t get back to the hotel, where we didn’t yet have reservations, till about 4:00-5:00.  We didn’t really want to hang around waiting for people to start showing up, and there wasn’t a lot to do in St Ignace, so we came to the consensus that we’d just make our way home a day early.  Pat headed to his parents house near West Branch and Dave and I went south, me to Pinckney and Dave to Irish Hills.  Riding the back roads we saw lots of nice scenery. Going through Huron National Forrest we had to backtrack a couple of times because of dirt roads that weren’t marked right on the GPS. We stopped at this little ice cream place near Horsehead Lake for a break and a couple of scoops. We took highway 33 most of the way down, but after a while, we were beat and decided to jump on the freeway to make better time home.  Dave got off with me at my exit for a final break. I was ten minutes from home, but Dave had about another hour to go.  I pulled into my driveway about 8:15 pm, I was whipped.  I took a shower and went to bed, I’ll unload tomorrow.  At least I have two days to recover.

It was a fantastic trip, beautiful countryside and good company.  None of us had any real problems, Dave’s air mattress and my boot was really about the extent of it.  The bikes all performed flawlessly.  We had great weather the whole time.  It did rain a couple of nights, but at least we didn’t have to ride in it.  It was a nice break to have that hotel day in the middle of the trip.  I’ll start having to take better notes on these longer trips, I can’t remember all that happened when it comes tome to start writing.  I’m going to try to take more pictures too.

All in all, we couldn’t have asked for a better ride.  One of the guys had such a good time he’s already working on next years trip.  Looking forward to it.