Michigan! My Michigan. 6 Days Touring Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

For some people Michigan is by no means the highlight of a cross-country bike tour. In fact, many of the people we met touring along the way were taking the Manitowic alternate to spend 300ish more miles in Wiscconsin and avoid Michigan's upper peninsula all together. Me, on the other hand, I was raised in Michigan so I've been looking forward to cycling the state since this adventure was just a twinkle in my eye.

Our tour across the lower portion of the upper peninsual of Michigan — which consisted of stops in Crystal Falls, Escanaba, Rapid River, Manistique, Naubinway and St. Ignace — was…. full of ups and downs.

Ups:

  • The lake at Runkle Lake Park in Crystal Falls was beautiful. There was a tiny small dock where Dustin and I sat to drink our coffee in the morning. The bathrooms there had showers and the whole shebang only cost $12. The woman who took our money did the entire transaction with a Mild 100 hanging out of her mouth — and she never had to ash once. Her house (the RV that served as the campsite office) smelled like aged wood and cigarette smoke, a smell a remember fondly and associate very closely with the U.P. It made me feel comfortable in a weird Sweet Home Alabama way.
  • In Escanaba we washed our really smelly down sleeping bag finally! That whole ordeal was a total pain the butt worth a whole blog post of its own one day…

  • We did something a little different and stayed in a cabin in Rapid River, MI. That was fun in a weird way. The cabin had about a dozen '90s VHS tapes (not rewound, by the way) in it, including Fried Green Tomatoes, Joe Versus the Volcano and Buckmaster 7 Volume 2. We watched the first of the three, but got just as much enjoyment just looking at the cover of Buckmaster 7 Volume 2. There was a kitchen in the cabin so we cooked a real dinner — which was awesome — and the cabin was near a lake so I got to sit by the lake and watch our down sleeping bag (theoretically) dry.

  • We saw a giant bald eagle in a tree right next to the road right outside Naubinway and the Hog Island State Forest Campground. It was amazing and it stayed put for a really long time looking regal so we got to take a lot of pictures and then just stand there and stare quietly up at its majestic beauty for a long time. It was really amazing.
  • Hog Island SF CG was really pretty. The campsite wasn't too full and we got to camp in a spot with a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. The view was so nice it more or less made up for the pit toilets.
  • The view of the Mackinaw Bridge coming into St. Ignace was really spectacular and fun.
  • In St. Ignace I bought this sweet Truckin' vinyl sticker to put on my pannier and we gorged ourselves on Mackinaw Island Fudge. #Win
  • We found a moderatly cheap St. Ignace hotel to stay in, which allowed us to take a day off out of the rain, and to dry out our tent as well as our clothes.

  • The Mackinaw Bridge Authority hauled us and our bikes across the Mackinaw bridge for $5 a person. This was much better than the $30+ the ferries were asking.
 

Downs:

  • We spent a lot of time riding on craptastic highways in Michigan. Busy roads or roads with little to no shoulder. At one point in St. Ignace the shoulder basically went away while I was riding up a hill on what seemed to be a full-scale highway. It wasn't the most relaxing of riding conditions.

  • There's no falls in Crystal Falls. Don't be fooled. There's actually not much of anything there. Oh, and the “Four Seasons” you see in the ACA map — it's a baby motel that happened to be sold out when we were there. It's not a “Four Seasons” proper.
  • We rolled into Escanaba the week of the Trapper Convention so everything was booked to the gills with trappers. This was a total pain in the ass at the time because we'd really been planning to take a day off in Escanaba. The woman at the Hiawatha Motel told us this covention happens about once every 10 years and people come from all over to attend; we have really funny timing, Dustin and I do. Also– we didn't get to see any cool trappin's!! WTH.
  • The aforementioned Rapid River cabin…. well, that gem smelled just a tinge like poo all the time. I think there was something up with the plumbing. Not a deal breaker, but for sure a downer.
  • We were really looking forward to going to Mackinaw Island until we learned the ferry is about $30 per person. Woah. How disappointing.
  • It rained like crazy while we were touring through the UP. One day it rained so hard we (and a bunch of motorcyclists) had to actually pull off the road and seek shelter under an awning. We thought we might actuallly get hit by lightning the thunder was so loud. (Pro: We did not get hit by lightning.) The rain really cramped our style riding through Michigan's moustache (assuming the LP in the beard).
  • I feel like there's a lot of beauty to be seen in the upper peninsula of Michigan and the route we were on just didn't do it justice. Every day I was like, “Yeah!! Today is the day! Show me your majestic awesomeness UP!” And every day…. it just didn't blow my hair back. Too much riding on the highway trying not to get run over by trucks. Not enough natural beauty.
  • Oh, and at the Norrmandy Motel — the motel we stayed in while in St. Ignace — I found the world's largest toenail on the floor right next to my face while I was stretching and then I discovered what I hope hope hope is old chocolate stuck to our blanket that we'd been sleeping in for the last two nights. I think it was really poo, but to save myself from the reality that I slept in motel poo for two nights, I am going to really ride our this chocolate theory. This was definitely what I'd consider a “down” of the upper peninsula experience.

Some U.P. Pictures…

 

 

About Chelsea A.

A slow rolling cyclist looking to be an active participant in my own life. Interested in straw bale building, Wayne's World, books on tape, and taking it all one day at a time.

Posted on August 20, 2014, in Cross Country Bike Trip Journal - 2014 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. So jealous and such an amazing opportunity!

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  2. Next time, the Lake Superior Shore. Pure beauty!

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    • YES!!! I want to spend some time on the Lake Superior shore for sure, Jane. I’ve heard a lot of amazing things about it and I think both Michigan and Canada are amazing along the Superior coast. (Guess that’s probably why they all it the “superior” lake, eh?)

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