The Red Bike Gang rides again. You will recall from a previously posted post you probably haven’t read that the males in our family all own red motorcycles and have a nasty habit of annually riding them about the countryside within a 4-day travel radius of the greater Southwestern Michigan area. This year is no exception as the five of us spent last weekend astride our semi-hoglike two-wheeled vehicles hell-bent for scenic overlooks and home-style diner food. This is our story.
As the title indicates, during this trip we were GAMEY: Great Apostle Motorcycle Expedition Yahoos. Our stated goal was the Apostle Islands in northern Wisconsin, where there are 22 islands named for the twelve apostles of Jesus to evidently include some of his lesser-known followers like Stockton and Basswood and Raspberry.
The expedition began in Holland, MI, where my bike had been left after dumping Thing 1 at college (read about it here or here). We started by meandering up the center of Michigan and visiting a number of historical familial sites like the country church where my grandparents met and their childhood farms, each of which still possess the original barns and satellite dishes built by my great-grandparents. We also stopped at the oil well registered under our family name since 1940. It is still pumping crude on the farm once owned by my great uncle, though he can’t be that great since we don’t seem to be seeing any of the royalties.
As we continued north we rode through the stoned town of Petosky and then Bayview with its impressive Victorian homes overlooking Lake Michigan. As a child I often pictured myself owning one of these beautiful houses, sitting on the porch and gazing out over the bay as I sipped iced tea and tried to figure out how to pay the ridiculous mortgage and its accompanying taxes. Ah, that’s the life all right.
After lunch we crossed the impressive and unnerving Mackinac Bridge. Impressive because it is the longest two-towered suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere; unnerving because its always stupid windy and its lanes are a steel grate that, when on a motorcycle, allows you to see the icy waters pass 200 feet below your 2 feet.
Three hours later we were amongst the Yoopers in Munising, MI. (Yoopers are residents of the U.P., i.e. the Upper Peninsula, and—just calling it as I see it—tend to make the characters on Red Green look like cosmopolitan sophisticates.) After a 420-mile day we were in serious need of some rumpanbum recovery and needless to say, we slept on our stomachs that night.
When we took off the next morning it was so cold even my air-cooled engine was wishing it had brought another sweater. We headed west along the shore of Lake Superior and the endless claims of local establishments possessing the best pasty. Please note: pasties are not to be confused with pasties; what I’m talking about are little meat pies that are a Yooper specialty, though the first one I had was actually in Australia where they have an especially exotic name for them: meat pies. We eventually ended up in the northern-most town in Wisconsin where much of the Hunger Games took place, Cornucopia. There we bunked in what appeared to be my grandmother’s reincarnated 1967 home complete with smells, shag and more afghans than a New York City cab company.
The next morning we took the ferry to Madeline Island, originally called Moningwunakauning by the Ojibwe, meaning “Summer Cottages of the White Man” but later changed to “Madeline” by a French trader because the French are terrible spellers. (Trois? Come on.) We wanted to eat breakfast at Tom’s Burned Down Café for no other reason than the cool name, but Tom is not open for breakfast and so we ate at Grandpa Tony’s. We then hiked around the town of La Pointe (French for “The Point”) to include the Casper Trail, which I guess is actually pronounced “Capser” (see know-it-all comment below). The trail has an overlook overlooking a swamp that was previously a small lake created by a ¼-mile long beaver dam. Since the area had been declared a wetland however, the dam was blown up by the DNR in order to protect the wildlife. (I did not make that up.)
Saturday afternoon found us riding south past the very aptly named Argonne Cemetery to our rented cabin in Laona, WI, just a few miles from Tomahawk where there was a big Harley rally taking place, of which we were not a part though everyone asked us if we were:
“Are you here for the rally?”
“No, we are GAMEY.”
“Right. But are you here for the rally?”
We had to share the road with about 1.4 trillion other bikers and more leather than a gay pride parade through a dairy farm, but we made it in time to gorge ourselves on pizza and root against Notre Dame and their racist mascot.
The next morning it was raining and time to split up, with me heading westward home and everyone else south to catch the Lake Michigan ferry at Manitowoc. Since they were on a schedule, they had no choice but to ride through the rain while I was able to wait it out by lounging about the cabin eating bonbons and watching OWN until it passed. My ride home was warm, dry and comfortable while theirs was cold, wet and miserable. SUKKAZ! Feel the love.
All told, we covered just over 1200 miles and two bags of peanut m&m’s in four fun-filled days. No wonder we are GAMEY.