Ride the USA-Day 32: The Upper Peninsula

Thursday, June 25—Cheboygan, MI to Ashland, WI

For just the second time since leaving California I began the day in full rain gear. There was light rainfall forecasted for most of the morning, so I left at my usual time and made the most of it.

2015-06-25 09.45.49Heading north towards the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I flipped on Bob Seger and rolled into Mackinaw City. I rode past this sign, and couldn’t resist turning around to get a picture of it.

Crossing the Straights of Mackinac on the Mackinac Bridge is spectacular, if not a little unnerving. There was construction on the bridge that routed all traffic onto a long stretch of steel grate road surface, a surface that is very slippery on a motorcycle. As I managed my way across I wondered how people do on this bridge in the dead of winter.

The first thing I noticed as I crossed the bridge and turned west was a sign that read, “Fresh Pasties.” Several thoughts came to mind, none of them particularly good. I saw a few more signs on the subject, and then came across this one, “Fudge Smoked Fish Pasties.” I began to get the idea that a pasty was something to eat, but Fudge-Smoked Fish flavor didn’t sound appealing at all. Then I read the sign again and it made more sense: Fudge, Smoked Fish, Pasties.” These are apparently the three most popular food items on the Upper Peninsula.

It was a little after noon and a heavy downpour that I pulled in to Shingleton, MI and spotted Tanglewood Inn. A sign in front of the restaurant advertised pasties, so I decided I had to try one. As I parked my Harley a nice lady came out of the restaurant, went to her car, fetched an umbrella with long wooden handle, and asked me if I might have been the gentleman on the motorcycle getting drenched as she passed. I said it was possible, and she handed the umbrella to me and said, “It’s OK. Just take it.” I looked at her with some surprise and a lot of appreciation, and told her no, thank you, I’ll be fine in my rain gear. I wasn’t sure if she thought I was crazier for riding in the rain or for turning down her very nice gift.

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Tom and Susan

Tom and Susan

I went in to the restaurant and was greeted warmly by a woman with a heavy accent. I looked at the menu, saw the word Pasty and quickly realized it was a meat pie. I ordered one, and she smiled and corrected me on the pronunciation. It’s apparently pronounced, “pass-tee.” She asked if I wanted it with catsup or gravy, the gravy being 99¢ extra. I went for the gravy, and a small salad.

As I started to enjoy this interesting taste of regional cuisine, a tall man and average height woman walked in and sat down at a table behind me. After a few minutes I heard the man asked me where I was headed. That’s how I met Tom and Susan.

They are from Ontario (it seems all Canadians refer to their residence by province versus city), and a small town north of London where I stayed the night before. We covered many important topics during our visit. They have a cottage about eight hours north of their home where the temperature falls to -50C during the winter. The water is turned off then, which makes a bucket of water for flushing the toilet a requirement during a winter visit.

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Still traveling with Payton’s lollipop

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Tom retired from dairy farming several years ago at age 50. He has gone back to school to learn about being a paramedic, and done a few other interesting things. He loves riding his motorcycle, thus the initial question about where I was headed. He tried asking me multiple questions about occasions on which my wife, Lisa, would ride with me. The truth is, they are few and far between. He was hoping I would have an answer that would encourage Susan to ride with him, but it just wasn’t working. As he asked, the expressions on her face with every one of my answers were priceless.

Tom’s father is a reformed pastor, and we talked about faith. There is apparently a Canadian perception that churches in the USA are less inclusive than churches in Canada. I expressed a different, hopefully clarifying view, which led into a rich discussion that I believe was enlightening to all three of us.

As I made my way into Wisconsin the signs in front of small stores and filling stations switched from promoting Pasties to Wild Rice. It is apparently a delicacy in Wisconsin and requires special licensing to harvest and sell. Who knew?

The route I’ve taken from Vermont through New York and Michigan and now into Wisconsin is clearly hunting, fishing, boating, and snow machine country. Many homes along the route have a rack of camp wood alongside the rode in their front yards. Some offer it for sale with a price and simple bin for payment using the honesty system. Others seem to offer it for free. Regardless, it is another very common occurrence.

The town of Ashland, WI is located on the Chequamegon Bay of Lake Superior, and the Best Western was on the shore. It was perhaps the most beautiful evening of the trip so far.

Route:                   23N, I75N, 2W, 94N, 28W, 2W
Miles Today:         396
Time Today:         10:00
Total Trip Miles:   8,483
Weather:               Rainy in mid 50s to overcast in mid 60s to rainy in low 50s to low 70s
Lunch:                   Tanglewood Inn, Shingleton, MI
Lodging:                B/W The Hotel Chequamegon
Dinner:                   Molly Cooper’s

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