I recently had the chance to take a few days for a ride along the west coast of Michigan's lower peninsula, then across the U.P. and down through Wisconsin and finally a ferry ride back to West Michigan. My bike is a 2001 R1150GS, and was a perfect match for the roads ahead.
Starting off in a heavy rain, I took 31 North out of New Era, MI a few hours North to Harbor Springs - passing through some great small towns such as Charlevoix, Traverse City, and Petoskey. Each offer nice spots to eat, shop, and hang out on the beautiful Western shore of Lake Michigan. A highlight was M119 North out of Harbor Springs. Nicknames the tunnel of trees, this stretch is a 1.5 lane low speed paved road which winds along the coast. Just a fabulous ride - even with a steady rain. Sadly, my Tourmaster jacket/pants turned out to be water resistant, and my new Held Air N Dry gloves - even with goretex - proved less than water resistant. Thankfully heated grips kept some warmth in my hands. I spent the night at Mackinaw City, drying out my clothes and enjoying a great Pastie at the Mackinac Island Pastie Shop. Pastie's are a Northern Michigan tradition - a meat pie brought over by Cornish Miners - wonderful! I ordered a set of Frogg Toggs pro action rain gear - delivered to my destination in Marquette a few days later.
The next day we headed North across the Mackinac Bridge in heavy fog. The bridge has a left lane made out of steel grates - and you can usually see the water below as you ride on them. The fog was so thick that as I stood up while passing the peak of the bridge it was like being in a cloud - as I could see directly below me into the fog as well. The fog cleared as I reached the other side (about 5 miles), paid my toll and continued on 75 to M123 and through Trout Lake on up to Paradise and Whitefish Point. The Shipwreck Museum at Whitefish Point highlights the wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and the many other shipwrecks which have happened over the years. Nice ride back past Tahquamenon falls, and then a few fire roads cutting across to M77 and on North to one of my favorite places - Grand Marais, MI. Set on the Southern shore of Lake Superior with a natural small harbor, Grand Marais is a small village with a beautiful view - great beaches, huge dunes along the shore, great fishing, and friendly people. The East Bay Diner is THE place to eat - great food but relaxed paced service.
Heading West out of Grand Marais is one of the best roads in Michigan - H58, recently paved, winding with gently hills, takes you into Munising, and then I took M28 on to Marquette for a few days visiting my dad. I took a day trip up to Big Bay Michigan and then some gravel / dirt roads across the U.P. to L'Anse - taking the Triple A, on to Ford Road, which eventually connected to Eric road, then Skanee and on into L'Anse and back to Marquette on 41. Another great ride was a loop from Marquette south on M35 to Gwinn, mi and then back up - passing the Empire Mine - where the taling piles are possibly the highest point in the state of Michigan - lots of deer on this route so it is much better for a relaxed ride - while the road has no traffic and the tight rolling curves beg for a bit more throttle.
To get back to Grand Rapids, Mi, I headed south on US41 down past Rapid River, Escanaba, Menominee, and on 35 down to Manitowoc, WI which was bustling with weekend festivals and what looked like every family within miles headed to downtown. I parked at the SS Badger Ferry terminal and then lounged along the shoreline reading until the ferry showed up. I think it was about $68 for me and $28 for my bike (need to provide 2 tie downs or they will sell you a set for about $13). The Badger is an OLD coal fired car ferry - perhaps the only one of it's kind still in operation. The loading was very easy, I changed into shorts and sandals and enjoyed the four hour cruise to Ludington, MI. Weather was perfect and being out on the lake on a great day is hard to beat.
Once back in Ludington, I took the basic highway a couple hours back to GR to make a movie with my son (Lone Ranger - don't bother!).
We really have some beautiful roads in Michigan and Northern Wisconsin - nice people all the way and quite a few bikes - once the rain stopped. I've been looking at a low mileage R1200GS, and considering the new 2013 - but after spending several days on an old R1150GS I'm not sure I'll switch - what a great bike!