I have always wondered what it would be like to take a multi-day road trip on a motorcycle. Although I have always had a motorcycle and enjoy riding even when I am traveling for work, but those are just day trips, sometimes on rented Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
It all started a week and a half before my trip when I went into the DMV to renew my drivers license. The lady at the kiosk saw my ‘M’ class and we struck up a conversation and she introduced me to Jose Thariyath. We quickly struck a friendship based on our common interest of riding motorcycles and being from the same part of the world. Joe mentioned that he has circled Lake Michigan and was planning on a 5-day trip around Lake Superior in August and was planning to do it alone. Long story short, I was buying motorcycle luggage and other accessories for my 98 Harley-Davidson Fatboy the same day.
I ended up getting a windshield, a speaker system and saddlebags along with a few other necessities for the long ride. The cup holder and luggage rack was an absolute essential. Prior to our trip, we got together for a couple of quick rides to get used to each others riding styles. During the week, I spent several hours a day on the motorbike for me and my butt to be prepared for the longer riding days to come.
Day 1. – Riding up to Lake Superior
On August 1st, without much sleep due to excitement, I loaded up and headed out to the rendezvous point at 5:20 AM. It was an unseasonable cold morning with temps around the mid 40s. I had three layers of clothing on but it was still a little bit brisk when I arrived at McDonald’s for breakfast with Joe. We ate, quickly filled up the tanks and headed north towards UP, Michigan around 7 am. We stayed off the tollway system for this leg and rode for about 3 hours to get to the first stop when my tank went into reserve mode. This was my test to figure out how long would I be able to go with a full tank prior to getting into sparsely populated areas of Ontario. Another item that I had purchased was a pair of Fuel canisters that I attached below my luggage carrier which would provide me with an additional half a gallon of emergency fuel if needed. We stopped for our first fill-up around the 200 Mile mark near Green Bay, WI. After riding for another 3 hours and crossing into Michigan, the scenery changed and it started to look like we were in some remote country away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. We stopped at this BP, at the intersection of 96 and 41 where I grabbed a slice of Pizza and some water. We met a family there from Rolling Meadows who had been vacationing there and she warned us about the storm that would hit them the next day. We continued west towards Houghton through Baraga to enter the famous Keweenaw Peninsula which is known for it’s scenic drive. The loop around the island was the highlight of the day. The road was nice and very curvy, ideal for any motorcycle enthusiast. We stopped by the famous bar in Gay, Michigan before continuing on to the northern most tip of Michigan, Copper Harbor known for it’s history and the numerous shipwrecks and fires. We wrapped up the day around 10:00 pm after having dinner at Houghton MI, which is a college town hosting Mich Tech university. MTU was started in the late 17th century to support the engineering needs of the copper industry. The school sits on a bluff overlooking a large lake, Lake Portage. I had to stop and get a picture from the bluff 😉
Day 2. Entering into Ontario, Canada…
At 6 am, I hear this loud knocking at my door, woke up startled but realized quickly that it was Joe who was ready to hit the road before the rains started. As I hurried and packed my bags, it started to drizzle a little bit. There were a couple of other riders who looked at us as though we were crazy to start riding looking up at the sky. We headed straight towards the rain clouds and before we had a chance to put on our raincoats, we were in the thick of it. So much for trying to beat mother nature! We pulled off to the side, and put on our raincoats and headed west towards Thunder Bay but luckily, it didn’t rain after that first initial burst as we were leaving. We stopped for breakfast at Syl’s Cafe in Ontanagon on US-45 at the 50 mile mark. After breakfast, I changed into another set of clothes so I could ride dry the rest of the day. Next stop, Duluth. Joe forgot his rain pants, and we stopped by a Menards and picked one up. We got a chance to stop by and enjoy the Ariel Bridge, we crossed it back and forth before heading out to Thunder Bay on Hwy-61. This highway along Lake Superior was a lot of fun to ride.
Gooseberry Waterfalls (above) Temperance River State Park (Below)
Next stop was at Temperance River where I did some Cliff diving . Loved this part of the day best. The river is literally littered with Waterfalls as you hike the trail along the river.
Next stop was to get ready to enter the Canadian side of the border. We filled up and put our helmets on because Canada has a helmet law. As soon as we entered into Canada, within the first 10 miles, a big black bear crosses right in front of us. What an awesome sight that was! Joe had his GoPro on and he was able to capture this. With all the stops on Day 2 we reached Thunder Bay as the daylight started to give way to the night. The speed limit was 90 Km/hr or about 55 mph. Throughout the rest of the Canadian ride, we stuck to the speed limit. Next morning on our way out of Thunder Bay, we saw so many cops before reaching the city’s outer limits.
Day 3. Riding along the north side of Lake Superior
If it was not for the low temperature and the rainy day, this would have been the most spectacular part of our trip. The roads were just awesome with beautiful scenery on both sides. I didn’t want to take any chances and at the first sight of rain clouds, we stopped an geared up. I stayed dry but the temperature was in the low 40s all day and as we entered Sault Ste. Marie. In the morning I saw a moose that looked like it got stuck between a large rock (probably fell) and the highway. This was my first live sighting of a moose. I have been to Alaska and the great Yellowstone National park and never saw a moose. This was just awesome. Talking about Alaska, one of the things that I noticed as we entered back into MN on Day 2 was how clean the air was, it was very thin and crisp. The last time I felt the air so refreshing was when we crossed from Alaska to Yukon Territory two years ago.
We made several stops along the way. We stopped at this gorgeous gorge (Below) and a beautiful waterfall which was just off the highway. We had lunch at Wawa before heading for our final stretch to the other end of the lake. One thing to keep in mind once you enter Southern Ontario is staying aware of the Gas stations. (Petrol pumps?) We made it a point to stop every 100 Miles to fill up. At Sault Ste. Marie, we stayed at this motorcycle friendly super 8. This was no ordinary motel. I felt like I was at a Sheraton. The place was updated, nice beds, new bathrooms. The whole motel was very nice. Although our plan was to spend another two days in the road, I was craving to breathe some warmer air and we planned on heading back into the US next morning.
Day 4. Coming around Lake Michigan and home
After passing through the border, we were constantly tormented by rain clouds for another two hours after which the day got better and the ride got a lot more enjoyable. Riding through Michigan was a perfect end to a long multi-day motorcycle trip. We got back home around 6:30 pm wrapping up my first such adventure. I am looking forward to something like this but in the Fall.