Ride Around a Lake

Michigan, that is.

Now that I am newly retired, I thought I should take a long-overdue long-distance ride. There were some roads in Wisconsin I read about that “rivaled the Tail of the Dragon” out east. I could visit a good friend in Chicago. I’d never been through either piece of Michigan. I saw a TV show once about Copper Harbor on the U.P. that I could scout for a couples retreat weekend. There you go! The bones of a ride were setup. Southeast out of Minneapolis and go counterclockwise around Lake Michigan. Leave on a Monday, bring a tent and sleeping bag as backup, and see how long it takes.

It didn’t go exactly as envisioned, and I learned lot.

Lessons learned:

  • I don’t like long-distance motorcycle riding
  • Whoever compared WI roads to the ones in the Appalachian Mountains, has never actually ridden both
  • Don’t ride a motorcycle around the sidewalks of a music camp while they’re in session
  • I have only a few friends, but they’re really good
  • A worse home-life makes your road-life better — The inverse is also true

Let me explain.

As I was riding on I-94 past New Buffalo, Michigan, on a Wednesday in between herds of semis and RVs in the grimy wind, my shoulders aching and my neck chafing and my head foggy, bolt upright at 50 miles an hour already 6 hours, but only 70 miles, into a planned 600 mile day because of stop-and-go traffic getting out of Chicago I realized, “I don’t like this. It’s not fun. I have increasingly limited time to do things, and I’m not going to spend time doing this anymore.”

So, there you have it. I don’t like long-distance motorcycling.

But if I don’t like it, why have I ridden motorcycles hundreds of thousands of miles across the continent? When I thought about it, the reasons varied. Sometimes I rode a motorcycle because it was cheaper than any other available transportation. Sometimes it was to escape an unpleasant work situation or marriage or feeling of oppression. Sometimes I was insecure and it was to show others what a bad-ass I am for withstanding tortuous conditions. Sometimes it was a competition (again to try to overcome the insecurity). Sometimes it was an excuse to spend time with brothers, genetic and otherwise. Very rarely, it was to ride to somewhere where the road was made for the fundamental purpose of motorcycling — going fast around corners.

All of which brings me to the “Tail of the Cow?” In an effort to fulfill the objective of going fast around corners relatively close to home, the beginning of the trip was planned on roads purported to be perfect for riding motorcycles. In my estimation, this was not the case. The couple of miles by the river on WI Highway 33 might be challenging for some riders of motorcycles made in Wisconsin, but for those that lean over a little more from vertical, this ain’t it. Pleasant but not challenging. That the clouds opened up just then in a heavy, steady, cold, visibility-obliterating rain for the next 4 hours of riding into the dark didn’t help offset the disappointment.

After drying out and getting some sleep, the next day I got to visit with my friend in Chicago whom I hadn’t seen in many years. We were in multiple bands together when we were younger and have developed a close friendship, but life changes put a break in our regular communications. There aren’t many people who call “bullshit” on some of my ideas, but our discussions there reminded me of how important and profound honesty is in a friendship. Because we’re guys and need an excuse to socialize, we setup a regularly scheduled call to keep the momentum of our visit.

After being on the road again after a couple of days, I saw a sign for the Interlochen Music Camp out of the corner of my eye. I’d heard about this place for years but had never visited. I made a U-turn and rode down the tree lined road to the camp. After letting the guard station know that I was just passing through and wanted to take a quick look, they reluctantly waved me through. I slowly and quietly rode around the perimeter and saw students everywhere and could hear ensemble of many kinds playing in different areas. Without paying any attention to signage, I let the sound and activity determine my course. I rode (again, slowly and quietly) on paved and concrete paths past open concert halls and amphitheaters with orchestras and dancers and no sooner that I asked myself, “Hey, wait a minute! Where am I?” a very angry security supervisor screeched to a stop in front of me and said, “What the hell are you doing?!?” I said, “I’m so sorry but I’m very lost and looking for the exit.” He sputtered out, “Oh, you’re lost alright! Go out there!!!” and jerked and shook his pointed finger down a pathway to my right. I puttered away quietly but quickly and got the heck outta there. As I rode away I imagined what the topic of discussion would be at that afternoon’s staff meeting would be like.

As another day of discomfort on flat boring roads in lousy weather unfolded in front of me I realized that there was no advantage to being alone on a motorcycle on this trip. I’m retired and have no unpleasant work to avoid. I miss my wife and spending time with her. I’m fine being who I am and have nothing to prove to anyone. I’m just gonna go home.

I rearranged my route and took out the loop north to Copper Harbor. It can wait indefinitely. I got on the quickest way back to Minneapolis and slogged through rain and construction and dark and got back in the small hours of the morning.

I decided on the way home that the GS is going to move on to its next owner soon and if I’m going to ride, it’s going to be because I want to. So, let’s try racing.

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