Grilled Meat – Part One


One of my favorite places to hang out online is Region 4 of Sport-touring.net. They are a fun, active community and meet regularly for coffee and rides. I don’t usually ride with them, since I prefer solo travel even before I started using Curiosity to go everywhere, but will meet up with them when I can.

For the last few years one of the members (Clay) has hosted a party at this house with cooked meat, alcohol, and for those who travel from any distance, camping in his yard. I haven’t ever been, but decided this year I would go.

Clay’s house is just south of Grand Rapids, almost directly across the lake. In fact, when I asked Google for directions, it promptly suggested I take the Lake Express ferry, which leaves from Milwaukee. It’s not cheap, though, and I didn’t want to spend the money. Going through Chicago was the next shortest route, but after thinking about it (for a solid 5 seconds) I decided to loop over the northern part of the lake, coming home through Chicago – basically to ride all the way around Lake Michigan.

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The miles from my house to Clay’s “Around the top,” as it were, were about 650. That is a long day on Curiosity, so I decided I would leave Thursday night after work, head north a ways, camp, then do a long ride on Friday to get within a hundred or so miles Saturday morning.

I’d already packed the luggage, so it was just a matter of installing the bags after work Thursday and taking off.

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I was carrying a slightly different load than usual, packing my Nomad Tenere tent (now made by a company called Redverz). I’d gotten the tent on my Americas trip, but it was too big for what I needed and I haven’t used it much. Since I need to decide whether to keep or sell it, I thought I would bring it on this trip and see how I felt about it when I got back.

The weather forecast was only marginal, and while I was filming some video before leaving I remarked casually I was hitting the road well after I usually stopped for the day. That statement bothered me more than a little, and I almost just stayed home, leaving in the morning. But I didn’t, and got on the road north finding somewhere to camp an hour and a bit up the road.

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It really is a big tent.

In the morning I packed and and had a quick breakfast, then started north again. I had to log a lot of miles on Friday, which meant I had to keep moving – different from my usual stop and start approach to riding. I did, however, have some motivation.

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Large storms (40% chance, according to the forecast) were on the way, and I wanted to get on the other side of the lake. Lake Michigan tended to swallow up any summer storms coming from the west, something of a consolation for the way it dumped a couple extra feet of snow in the wintertime along it’s eastern shore.

So, I kept riding and riding. Around lunch time I saw I was almost clear, and despite the occasional drizzle I was feeling pretty good about it.

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This looks worse than it really is, and an hour after lunch I was out of the rain and the roads were dry. It hadn’t warmed up much yet and the sun hadn’t burned through the clouds, but it was bright enough that I switched back to my sunglasses.

Riding US2 the rear of Curiosity started to feel a little loose, and then it started to get worse quickly. I got off the throttle and drifted over to the side of the road, the last few yards  with a rear wobble. Looking at my back tire I knew what I was going to see – flat.

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On the center stand, so maybe hard to tell. but it was.

I was across the street from a closed-looking motel, so I pushed Curiosity over to and set up on the porch. I remembered all the times at OX13 I’d mentioned the number of riders I know who travel without the ability to deal with a flat on the road, without a motorcycle shop. Lucky for me, I wasn’t one of them.

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I’ll be honest and say I am not a fan of changing tires. I will gladly pay my local mechanic, or any other mechanic if they’re handy when I need them, to change them for me. That isn’t the same as saying I can’t change a tire, and an hour and a bit later I was back on the road.

The delay, however, meant I was back in the rain. I stopped at a gas station where three Harley’s, each two up, had stopped while riding west. They were headed for the worst parts of the rain this far north, and I had to shake my head as they carefully got directions to the closest tavern. I am guessing that was to wait out the rain, but didn’t clarify. By then I was only 20 miles from the Mackinac Bridge, which connects Michigan’s two parts. It’s a toll bridge, two lanes in each direction and the middle pair being a metal grate, so you can look down.

There was construction, meaning there was only one lane, and I was behind a semi truck doing 10mph. With the 20-30mph crosswinds it wasn’t the most fun I’ve had going over the bridge, but once I was on the south side it warmed up almost immediately.

Part Two to follow Open-mouthed smile

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2 Responses to Grilled Meat – Part One

  1. Mike S says:

    Hey Andy,

    Just discovered your site after slowly working my way through the wheel nerd backlog and look forward to reading more. This particular post tickled me a little bit and thus the comment. Quick back story, I’ve been riding for just a few years. Started on an old KZ650 (bigger than I would have wanted to start, but the price was right and I put it off for too long). After a year I decided I wanted something I could trust for proper trips so I bit the bullet and got the Wee-strom. My lady and I have been loving it.

    Anyway, I went to school up in Houghton MI and being from the Metro Detroit area I’ve met “The Bridge” a few times. The first time on two wheels, I ran a similar cause of construction. Left lane closed, and you had to face the grates. By then I learned that if you don’t fight it, it’s not so bad. Most recently, about a month after this post, I crossed it with my lady on the way to our wedding in St. Ignace. Fresh in our minds was the fact that just a week prior, a semi-truck got blown over against the support lines. This day was must better, and she even got a video of the grates you speak of! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJIuVcIJn4Q&feature=youtu.be

    The trip back was a different story. As we pulled away from the toll booth, a big gust gave us a pretty good warning. I compensated and didn’t really think much of it. Then another bigger gust came as we accelerated up the bridge. That’s when I realized that these were nothing compared to what would be at the top. Long story short, we had to drop from about 40mph to 10 or less. Even then, the entire front end of the bike was doing whatever it wanted. Felt like riding on a sponge, getting shoved left, then compensating and going too far right, then left again. I had visions in my head of what it would be like to get blown off. The poetic nature of falling to your doom the day after your wedding. Fortunately that didn’t happen. We got to the other side and immediately stopped for a smoke or two. I’ll definitely be back up there, but my days of taking “Big Mac” for granted are over.

    Cheers and safe travels. I look forward to reading through the rest of your blog and more than likely reading “Going Small”.

    Like

  2. Pingback: My Summer of Discontent | Traveling250's Blog

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