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Old 09-13-2011, 05:41 PM   #1
73datsun OP
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Circle Tour: From MPLS around Lake Superior. Solo.

The route. Mostly. It changed a bit.

Ok. This isn't really meant for your reading consumption. So if you don't like reading. Stick to looking at the pictures. I figured I'd try "journaling" and putting pen to my Field Notes. Here they are transcribed. But seriously. Don't read. Just look at the pictures and ask me questions. :)

Day 1:

Circle Tour, MPLS around the Great Lake of Superior. Sept 10-13, 2011

(Unedited transcription of my personal notes from the trip)

9/10/2011: Left at 630a; roughly 50 degrees out.
First stop @ McGregor MN; ~127miles. Took 2.6 gallons of gas
Second stop; ~257miles. Took 2.9 gallons of gas

(end fuel log)


I thought Iíd be organized and keep track of fuel. That lasted two stops. Hopefully, Iím better at maintaining my notes for this trip. Iím guessing Iíll fail.

The bike has been incredible Itís nice to be on a modern machine. But it doesnít feel like Iím quite as adventurous as Iíd seem on the CB450. But itís so nice to come out and just start the bike and go.

The trip to Ely was uneventful. A few picture stops along the way and a couple gas stops. The Highway 1 from Ely to Finland continues to be my favorite. But a sea of Miatas made the trip slower. Which is probably for the better, this is still a lot more bike then Iím accustomed to.

Cresting the last hill in Finland and seeing superior for the first time is still awe-inspiring. You feel so small witnessing it. Itís further compounded by the fact that you get shivers due to the sudden temperature drop.

As with every trip I take ďup north,Ē I did a stop at Cascade River Falls. Such a beautiful place. If Iíd planned better I would have spent an hour there just cooling my feet in the river and lake.

The drive up 61 is beautiful as it always is. Itís like my midwest Pacific Coast Highway.

A jaunt into Grand Marais was all I had time for, I tried to stop for the usual Worldís Best Donuts but it was closed for the day. Leaving me to just snap a few photos on the peninsula and bay of Grand Marais.

This trip marked the first time that Iíd ever taken highway 61 north of the Gun Flint Trail.

And wow, it just keeps getting better. Stopped in Grand Portage to check out the National Monument. Not sure I actually saw the monument, but the stop was nice nonetheless. There was an Indian village there, a recreation of early days in Grand Portage.

Given I was running short on day light I didnít have much time to explore. So after a quick few minutes on the pier, I set back off towards the border.

Each time I have to re-mount the bike, I question why I am doing this. The bike is comfortable but that long on your ass just leaves you sore and with hot spots.

Made it to the border, had to be ďinterrogatedĒ I guess I was the random search. But the two Harley riders had no hang up.

On to Thunder BayÖ which I think is the biggest city Iíll pass through until Sault Saint Marie. What a dumpy little mining town. I always imagined it was some sort of Emerald City. An oasis across the border. Nope. A stop to get gas had me re-consult my map. I thought the campground was close. Nope. Another hour ride.

The sun is now in its last minutes. There goes setting the tent up in day light.

Every few miles Iím warned of moose and deer. Signs declare warning of night danger. Iím starting to get nervous. Itís one thing in a car. But on a motorcycle itís a whole new story.

Turning off the highway left me with another 20miles of riding.

In dark. On a curvy road Iím unfamiliar with. Whem Iím down to only five miles left I see my first deer. A baby fawn in the middle of the road. I quickly grab a handful of brake and bring the speed way down. It shoots off and I slowly shunter by.

I then see four more on my way to the main gate. At this point, Iím keeping my sped to 25mph.

Of course the check in is closed. So no fire wood for me tonight. And they are out of envelopes so thereís no way to pay.

Luckily there were plenty of sites available. Mine is on the water. I think. I canít see shit.

I struggled to get my tent up while holding a flash lightÖ then I realized I forgot a hammer. There goes staking it down Ė the sites are compacted gravel. I also gave up on the rain fly. So hereís hoping it doesnít rain.

Given that Iíve got no fire, I couldnít recap my journey at my site. So I remounted the bike and found the ďcomfort station,Ē which is apparently Canadian for ďshower and toilets.Ē

Iíve been writing this all via the dim light of a Bell payphone. In my short time here two interesting things have happened:

1. Some guy stopped to talk about my bike and where Iím from and what Iím doing. As our chat progressed we got on the topic of deer and moose. I told him how much they scared me He then recount that his brother hit a deer just 1km from the main gate. His bike was totaled, which is a small dealÖ as he ended up with a shattered wrist and had to have skin grafts on his face as his skin had been peeled from his chin and jawbone. (note to self: always wear a full face helmet)

2. Another sound began approaching me Ė left me a bit startled, I turn to see a young deer looking at me. It then came closer, roughly 10ft and began gnawing on tree branches. I instinctively click my tongue as I do when calling Tessa. And to my surprise the deer wags her tail. I thought it had to be a coincidence. So I did it five more times. Each time it wagged its tail. INCREDIBLE!

Now back to my shitty no fire having campsite. If it rains tonight, Iím screwed.

Ok, one more thought concerning motorcycle code Ė the nod or stick a hand out. Iíd say Harley riders do it most often. While every BMW or Strom rider does it. KTM riders are apparently above waving at a rube like me on a peon Kawasaki. (note to self: buy BMW)

STRIKE THAT: One more, pack snacks, so Iím not stuck drinking warm water for dinner after having arrived to late to find anything near the site.
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Old 09-13-2011, 05:50 PM   #2
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Day 2:


Shit! Thatís how I slept. Maybe Iím not cut out for this camping stuff. But somehow I managed to stay in my ban until 830a. Shit times two. I managed to tear down and repack in under 30mins. As soon as I came to the gate I spotted two deer just 1km from entrance. Brining back shudders from last nightís tale.

A quick and windy ride to the highway put me at a dilapidated truck plaza and restaurant.

I quietly ate at the bar while ďLindaĒ looked on. Meal was awesome based on the fact that I went sans dinner the night before.

I then rode a short distance to Ouitme Canyon Ė Canadaís ďGrand CanyonĒ the roads leading to it were beautiful and sinuous.

From there it was a hot and sweaty walk to two viewing pods Ė think decks that are built off the edge of the cliff. I gazed from the edge and slowly shuffled out on the deck. Heights absolutely paralyze me. Such a coward.

Bridges and heights. Yet I race cars and ride a motorcycle. Two things that would paralyze a ďnormalĒ person. I managed to tremble and get a few remarkable pictures.

After I continued along to Terrace Bay and stumbled upon a quick walk to a cool little waterfall. While there I met this darling elderly couple. The man was stooped over and taking a picture of his ever smiling wife. I asked if I could take their picture for them and their eyes lit up.

He sauntered over to put his arm around her while I took their photo Ė with a D70, surprising. We then go to talking and they asked me where I was from, mentioning Minneapolis lit the man up. Turns out we both went to grad school at University of Minnesota. He graduated in 1952.

I hope when Iím that old that Iím as happy as those two were with each other and still willing to do things like a Superior Circle Tour. Beyond that, I also got tips on great waterfalls to check out.

That was about the last time I had fun today. The wind beat the shit out of me. Iíd lean into a turn and then get blown upright. Then pulled back the other. Horrifying. I t was not a fun ride.

Every time I stopped someone would say, ďbeautiful day for a ride.Ē They must not ride.


I stopped in Marathon, thinking it would be a good lunch and fuel stop. What a shitty town. Seemed to be based on paper milling.

I wandered down to the bay/dumping point for the plant. Then managed to almost drop my bike in the gravel road. Snapped a few pictures and then stopped at the one restaurant that wasnít closed. An A&W. Fantastic. Turns out they had the best onion rings Iíve ever had. Who knew?

A quick stop for gas gave me a chilling feeling. A cop sped to the intersection and closed the highway heading west. Apparently there was an accident.

The only thing running through my head was that a motorcyclist got blown into on-coming traffic. Or hit a moose. Or a boulder fell. I donít know details but an curious mind just tells you the worst.

I continued to battle the wind until roughly Wawa. Which thankfully Iíd learned was the last stop for ~80mi for fuel.

Yet again it was a full serve gas station. So weird. I asked for directions to the waterfall the couple told me was a must see. He looked at my bike and said, ďwell itís dirt and gravel, are you sure?Ē After I said sure, he gave me the directions. A short dirt and gravel ride later, I was there.

It was pretty cool, but was overflow from a dam so Iím not sure if I dig an essentially man made waterfall. But it was cool nonetheless. As I look forward to a trip to Alaska, Iím a bit apprehensive. Grave is slow going. With my limited off road knowledge and street tires, I didnít feel comfortable at much more then 35mph. Which would make for some slow ass and harrowingly long days.

Luckily the wind died down. So the remainder of the ride was remarkably uneventful.

However, the sun began to lay low and I was reminded at 10km intervals of moose and ďnight dangerĒ

I donít know why, but the moose thing shakes me to my core. I was constantly darting my eyes to each side of the road. Spending more time scanning the shoulders then the road in front of me.

All I could think was the worst. How long until someone would find me? Would I be paralyzed? I kept hoping that if it happened I would just die. No heroic measures. I canít imagine walking away from that.

Then mu fuel levels started to near reserve. No biggie. Thereís suppose to be gas soon, right?

Nope. The next three gas stations were closed. So now Iím freaking out about that.

Iíve got issues.

Finally I reach Sault Saint Marie. And the lights of civilization. A quick fuel up and Iím off to the bridge to the USA.

Shit. A bridge. Hate them. Iím guessing itís my childhood, seeing the coverage of the Bay Bridge collapse has stuck with me.

Luckily itís pitch black so the bridge feels more like a road with weird guard rails and metal expansion joints.

Customs is a breeze, easier to enter US then Canada. Canada was sure I was entering for a job. The US? Yeah, not so much. The cool, if not tragic thing about entering was that each check point sign had been changed. Each one had a word or phrase. Remember. World Trade. Pentagon. Flight 93.

I commented to the guard how powerful it was and that I almost stopped short to take a photo of it. But we both laughed when I suggested that it might have created some suspension. He agreed.

At this point it was 9pm camping was another 45mins away. And I was sore, tired and needed a rest to prep for the near 600mi Iím riding tomorrow.

A Comfort Inn beaconed me. Namely because there were no SPG hotels around. Iím spoiled. I pulled in to find two Goldwings with trailers. Lame.

And a BMW GS all decked out in adventure gear. And a ďjust marriedĒ sticker. Awesome.

The hotel smells like cat urine and feces. Iíd be better off camping but the shower and bed are so nice.

My alarm set for 6am on the other hand, not as nice.
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Old 09-13-2011, 05:57 PM   #3
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Day 3:

9/12/2011 Sault Saint Marie to Houghton MI

To was a disaster. I got up at 6am and looked out the window. To what I thought was condensation. I opened the window to find it was actually fog. So dense I couldn’t see beyond 20ft. Back to bed for an hour.

Not much changed. Geared up anyways. And talked to the newly wed couple on a 3k adventure with their BMW.

We talked about how much wind sucks. Turns out it wasn’t just me. Which is comforting.

After they went back into the hotel to wait off the fog... I decided to mount. BAD IDEA.

My visor instantly fogged and wouldn’t clear. So I rode visor up. Rain and grit pounding my face and glasses. I made it 70mi which was an absolute chore. I spotted a McDonald’s and camped out responding to work emails. By now I was four hours behind on my ride schedule.

But what a beautiful ride it was. The Upper Peninsula is stunning. But the wind picked up again west of Marquette. Making the ride a chore. I came across a scene of cops and firefighters who had closed the road down to one lane. What I aw next was chilling.

A balled up motorcycle half the size of normal and a car with a gigantic dent in its quarter panel. I’m left to assume that the car pulled in front of the bike. After that I could barely do the speed limit.

I cruised in to Houghton which I was familiar with from my Lake Superior Pro Rally days. Crossed the grated bridge and headed north to Calumet.

At that pint I debated turning around to make camp. But the gas station attendant convinced me to press on to Copper Harbor.

Am I glad I did.

Roads like black ribbons. Strewn through some of the most wonderful land. Turtles and turkey randomly shared the road with me.

Meeting the harbor was uneventful. But then I got on highway 26.

It put 41 to shame. Right down the coast of Superior. I pulled over at a wayside and trekked through the pebble beach to the rock faces that forced their way into the lake. Wave slowly crashed the shore. God rays pulled down through the clouds.

Three ladies told me I just missed the storm but that weather was coming. I laughed them off. Shouldn’t have.

As I carved through the landscape, with trees taking the place of a shoulder, I found a quaint lighthouse. Snapping a few pics led the sky to turn itself on. I switched to weather proof mode. The gloves were the first and only thing to succumb to the rain.

A stop for impromptu dry bags – trays bags left me trying to determine what to do. I ended up at a hotel. The same I stayed at for the rallys.

The shower was fantastic. All the sins of the road washed off me. I headed to the bar, where I was promised free drinks for my trials.

There I met a man who headed up a gold mining company – apparently they still exist. And not just in western movies and HBO’s Deadwood. (RIP, great show).

He gave some suggestions for my ride tomorrow.

And then left me this insight.

At 18, his suggestion is that every person should be given two options:
1. join the military
2. go to a third world country

He then recounted how he saw children working dumps and landfills. Picking through garbage. Hoping to find some wealthy white man’s hotel cast off. Kids earning 40 cents USD a day selling fruit.

At that pint no one would ever complain about potholes or taxes.

We have it so damn good.
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Old 09-13-2011, 06:02 PM   #4
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Day 4:

9/13/2011: Houghton MI to MPLS

9/13 /2011 Houghton to MPLS

I woke up well before my alarm. Geared up and loaded the bike. Forecast for rain but I was hoping to get away from it.

I took the advice of the guy at the bar and ran to Silver City. Nice windy road and Silver City bay was beautiful. Got there in time to get some fantastic photos of the sun rising over Superior.

Then it was back to 26 South. There were NO cars. Iíd be lying if I said I didnít exceed the speed limit by great amounts. The air was still and no one was around. It was hard not to.

I made minimal stops today. Just gas and food. Only stopped for two pictures. I needed to get back home.

The majority of this ride (the whole damn trip) was spent on two lane highways. Which makes you feel like youíre away from it all. So it was only requisite that I have to get on a six lane highway (35w) for the final 30 some miles home.

I hate riding that road. Trucks going well over the speedlimit. People passing with no care for safe distance. And the wind. Damn it. The wind. Just beating the shit out of me like some pudge in an MMA fight.

Regardless. I got back home. To an excited dog and an impatient fiancť who anxiously awaited me removing my helmet for a hug and a kiss. Great way to wrap up a 1,773 mile solo journey.

Now what do I do next?
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Old 09-13-2011, 06:53 PM   #5
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Awesome. I miss home. Anyway, nice pictures and the writing style was enjoyable. Thanks for taking us with.
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Old 09-13-2011, 07:54 PM   #6
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Like, Like, Like. Nice pictures of beautiful and green country. Thanks for sharing.
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Old 09-14-2011, 04:26 PM   #7
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Great RR!
I was there on holidays a few years back
loved the photos... memories,
thanks mate.
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Old 04-15-2014, 07:45 AM   #8
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Really bummed that i can't see these pictures, I will be doing this ride in august with some friends.

Why dont the pics show up?
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:04 AM   #9
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Not sure. Sorry. They were linked from a facebook album.

I'm actually heading off to do this ride again, with some buddies, in August, too.
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Old 04-15-2014, 10:56 AM   #10
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Really? We dont have a date yet but it sure would be fun to do with others. How many days do you split it up to do the 1400 miles?
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:21 AM   #11
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Thanks for giving me a couple extra destinations on my next trip. I agree that Grand Portage is unimpressive; I didn't even stop at the monument and chose to zip by and almost end up in Canada instead.

The countryside sure is pretty though, even in the rain.
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Old 04-17-2014, 08:22 AM   #12
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Nice picture!
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Old 04-17-2014, 11:24 AM   #13
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Very nice pic, thanks for sharing.
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Old 04-17-2014, 01:58 PM   #14
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My brother-in-law and I are planning on doing the circle with the starting point of Siren, WI. Possibly the first weekend of August. Plans are in the works and the passport is finally in my hands.
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Old 04-17-2014, 03:35 PM   #15
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It's a fun ride. Much of it was almost as enjoyable as my AK trip.

That's a slight exaggeration, but it's certainly one of the best in the Midwest.
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