July 7-13, 2019 Upper Penisula, Michigan
Organized bicycle tours are a fun way to meet new people and forge life long friendships. Over a decade ago I participated in a ride across Oklahoma taking me from the Texas border into Kansas. One such encounter in 2007 brought me face to face with Moni and a friendship was born. Now in 2019 here in UP we meet up again to enjoy a week of fun, fellowship and cycling as we explore a region of the country that we have never been to.
Day zero, which was a pre-ride for the official tour was a fast and fun 20 miler to a place called Kitch-iti-kipi. This translates to Big Spring and is the largest fresh water spring in Michigan. The crystal clear, emerald green waters were incredibly beautiful!
Sunday evening we hung around the fairgrounds for the official start on Monday morning. As the sun set over the fairgrounds, more and more cyclists rolled in. The eerie fog that rolls in from Lake Michigan created a very interesting sunset.
Monday morning came along and we hit the road, today will be a 65 mile day as we make our way to Escanaba.
From Escanaba we pulled two days (Tuesday and Wednesday) that were 74 miles plus. Our route took us from Escanaba to Cyrstal Falls on into Marquette.
On this tour we camp, the tent goes up every night. I have always found the traveleing tent city fascinating. The cell phone and electronics station is something of an electrical chaotic mess.
The youngest participant was a 5 year old little girl. She was so awesome! Not only did she not complain or fuss, but she was helpful with setting up. After she completed her chores she showed off her artist skills. This little girl was talkative and the giggle and laugh was fantastic. What a delightful child!
We had fun on the road and along the way. Lunch was provided on Tuesday and Wednesay. Long rows of bikes lined the fences and buildings where we stopped to enjoy box lunches.
Marquette, MI was a layover day. We had a day off and we enjoyed it immensely! We rode bikes downtown and toured the Historical Society Museum. The woman recommended a couple of restaurants for lunch and we took her advice and enjoyed lunch at The Vierling Restaurant & Marquette Harbor Brewery.
We checked out the local bike shop and cruised along Lake Superior. The lake is so beautiful!! I love the clear blue waters and the many nautical sites.
Black Rocks Brewery is incredible. There is so many bicycle themed things in there and the beer ROCKS. We met a number of other cyclists at Black Rocks, Mike, Bob and John who joined us for a lot of tall tales and laughter.
When we got back to camp, Curtis took a nap in the beautiful sunshine.
The flowers of UP, I am in heaven. The vibrant colors, wow just wow. Seems like I cannot pass up the colors as I cycle past them. Flowers have been and will always be a prominent part of my existance.
Leaving Marquette we cycled along beautiful Lake Superior. The sun was bright as it rose into the sky.
One of our rest stops was at Lakenenland, a local artist that created incredible beauty and humor with junkyard art.
Our final day was from Munising back to Manistique. We cycled through the village of Christmas where there is a huge cut out of Santa Claus as well as Christmas themed everything, street names, buildings, you name it.
We rolled into Manistique where our van awaited us. Moni camped in her tent Saturday night and we enjoyed the comfort of our van. We were tired and just enjoyed the relaxation.
The week long ride was pretty short at 343.5 miles with a nice bit of climbing; 8,978 feet. It took us through some beautiful countryside, on some relatively busier roads but that was simply because there are not a lot of alternate options. We met some great people along the way and on the ride. This gave us yet another good look at this region, UP Michigan from the seat of a bicycle. This was fun, the ride was fun and UP Michigan has not seen the last of us.
It was great getting together with Moni again. This ride is now one for the history book as we continue our journey.
West UP Michigan Meander
Day 1 Ironwood to Upson, WI : 16 miles
Day 2 Upson WI to Little Girl Point Campground : 22 miles
Day 3 Little Girl Point CG to Porcupine WC : 47 miles
Day 4 Porcupine WC to Lake Superior WC : 29 miles
Day 5 Lake Superior WC to Ontonagon Campground : 26 miles
Day 6 Rest Day
Day 7 Ontonagon Campground to Emily Lake Campground : 31 miles
Day 8 Emily Lake Campground to Hancock Rec Area : 33 miles
Day 9 Hancock Rec Area to Lady Slipper Wild Camp : 29 miles
Day 10 Lady Slipper Wild Camp to High Rock Bay Wild Camp : 36 miles
Day 11 High Rock Bay Wild Camp to Cliff Drive Wild Camp : 23 miles
Day 12 Cliff Drive Wild Camp to Hancock Rec Area : 36 miles
Day 13 Rest Day
Day 14 Hancock Rec Area to Obijiwa Campground : 25 miles
Day 15 Obijiwa Campground to Courtney Lake Campground : 35 miles
Day 16 Courtney Lake Campground to Stannard Township RV Park : 35 miles
Day 17 Stannard Township RV Park to Ironwood : 52 miles
Getting to know the true feel of an area is easily done from the seat of a bicycle, the attitudes of the people, the “feel” of the locals, atmosphere of the region. We want(ed) to get to know this area of the country. The cooler temperatures, the changing of the seasons, the slower pace of living all appeal to us and we want to get more acquainted with this area.
So, in order to do so we mapped out a near 500 mile loop on the western side of the UP of Michigan. Yoopers are what they call themselves, we found the majority of these fine folks as pretty laid back, helpful and pretty down to earth. We like that. We were not looked at as oddities, no one stared at us in disbelief that we were on bicycles, we got more of the attitudes of cool and good for you. This was refreshing. The other refreshing thing was the temperatures, it is mid-June and we are wearing jackets and/or long sleeves the entire time. So much better than baking in high heat and humidity.
We left our van in Ironwood, MI and enjoyed lunch at a local café. Ironwood has a history deep into mining and there was an exquisite mural in town dedicated to miners of the area.
We made a slight detour west into the sister city of Hurly, WI before stopping in the small village of Upson and the local city park. The Upson Park has a handful of campsites, complete with electricity and a hand pump water source. There is a beautiful river running near by that has a pretty waterfalls. The water is heavy in tannins creating an almost tea like look to the water. We rolled in to the park in time to get our tent set up, build a quick fire and then settle into our new routine of camping. Our tent is new yet it is familiar. We replaced our MSR Hubbahubba tent when we returned from South America. The original tent was pretty tired, zippers were worn out, small holes here and there had been patched over with tape, bug stains dotted the interior where we had smashed them into the fabric. The new tent is pristine, it is bug gut free, the poles are still interconnected on the center support, the zippers slide easily and the fabric is shiny and new.
The sleeping pads came along from South America and we are still using the 2 pad method, a ZPad on the bottom and an air mattress on top. The sleeping bags are still dirty from South America, we had planned to wash them but never quite got around to that. We left behind the liner sheets as we found that we really didn’t use them much.
Camping is something we both enjoy and our campsites on this short tour were varied and a lot of fun. We camped in organized campgrounds as well as bushwhacked our way into the woods and wild camped.
Roads were mainly paved and traffic was light. We discovered a Rail to Trails trail outside Mass City that headed north. This was fun, hard at times due to soft sand and rough sections from the ATVs that race up and down (although we only saw 3). Animals are plentiful, we saw deer every day and a lot of birds. We even came across wolf tracks on the rail trail. They are huge! Snapping turtles lay eggs along the sandy trails in the boggy areas. We saw a number of laying turtles. We also saw one painted turtle.
We also saw many birds, the Loons are our favorite. The Whistling Swans are giant compared to many other water fowl. There are many babies on the water right now and we saw baby swans, Canada Geese and others. A momma Grouse and baby were crossing the road when a car came through. Momma ruffled up and went head to head with the car when her baby zipped under it. Luckily the car stopped, Curtis had to climb under and catch the baby before letting the tiny chick go back to it’s protective mother.
Loons also have babies and they will ride on the backs of the adults.
Flowers, oh my the flowers that are blooming are magnificent! We saw four different types of orchids, two were Slipper varieties and the other two were just beautiful. The blooming season is here and it seems no matter where we looked, whether open roadsides or deep forests we encountered something in bloom.
The ride was tough at times, the hills were steep and the roads were sometimes remote and difficult with the wider tires of the Salsa Fargos. The ride into Copper Harbor was beautiful, along the majestic Lake Superior.
We were able to stop in town, enjoy Thimble Berry Turnovers and some really good coffee before continuing on. The ride past Copper Harbor was tough. US41 starts just north of Copper Harbor, beyond that is a gravel, rutted, potholed road leading to the Point. This was hard, we had a number of water crossing to tackle but the destination on the point to camp at no charge was too tempting to pass up.
This was our favorite remote campsite. The views of Lake Superior were stunning. The lack of light pollution allowed us to see the Milky Way Galaxy very brightly as it reflected off the massive lake waters below. My camera doesn’t due the night shots justice. We camped on the edge of a small cliff that dropped into the clear waters of Superior. Many others came to the point to marvel in the beauty of it, others pitched tents as well. This is a place we will return to.
The ride off the point was a lot faster since it was mainly downhill. We stopped for more of that wonderful coffee as well as Thimble Berry frosted cake donuts. Leaving Copper Harbor was tough, the hills were steep, traffic was aggressive and we had a level of fatigue settling in.
Why is it that vacationers traveling the byways tend to be the biggest assholes? Many tend to be in a hurry, impatient, impulsive and extremely aggressive. Aren’t vacations intended to help people relax? If so, why the obnoxious attitude by so many? This was the worst stretch of road of our entire UP Tour and they aggressiveness all came from RVs and out of state license plates. Sad, so sad that people get so stressed while they are trying to relax.
Despite shorter distances each day, this was tough cycling on the trails and dirt roads. We were exhausted when we made it back to the Hancock Rec Area so we opted to pay for two nights at the campground. We built campfires and relaxed. With a day rest behind us we were back on our bikes and heading back toward to the van.
National and State Forest Campgrounds are rustic but there are typically picnic tables, fire rings and some sort of bathroom facility. These have a small fee to them but it is well worth it. The wild camping is our standard disappear into the woods where no one sees or hears us. Often times, these are our favorite camping areas, they are quiet and remote and we sleep long and deep under the stars.
The bugs are out though, the mosquitos and flies are pretty wicked but it’s one of those things that we just deal with. There is no reason to get mad or spiteful about the bloodsucking insect invasion, it happens. Deet is our friend and we both use the Repel or Off.
Many small towns have Recreation areas or campgrounds in town and they are nice. Bruce Crossing has the Stannard Township RV Park that has a hand full of sites with electric and water, a bathhouse and fantastic shower all for $15 a night. We enjoyed our time in Bruce Crossing and then continued on using the Rail Trail in the area.
It’s time to wrap up this mini-tour and we made a big push the final day back to our van. We really like the areas we cycled but now it’s time to put the Salsas away and dust off the Roadies. MUP, a supported multi-day tour is just around the corner and the road bikes will take the place of our Salsas. It will give us a chance to see a different side of cycling here in the beautiful UP of Michigan.
We would have never guessed the fun and adventure we would encounter in South Dakota. We enjoyed incredible scenery, epic & grand views, majestic animals and fun with family.
We spent May 30, 2019 through June 6, 2019 in South Dakota.
Typically we do not take in tourist regions and activities but we both wanted to check out Wind Cave. We did a cave tour. It was considered a strenuous one but neither of us were even remotely winded from the many steps through the belly of the cave. There are a few interesting cave formations like the box work and the cave popcorn but all in all the lack of stalactites and flowstones made it less appealing to me. I love active, living caves with drops of water falling from above through limestone. This is not one of those types of caves. I did enjoy it none the less.
We got in a few epic bicycle rides on the road bikes. We had planned to go up to a peak north of Wind Cave but were turned around by large herds of bison with new babies that were not only along the road but on the road. These mamas are aggressive and I would rather tackle a car than a bison while on a bike! The Prairie Dogs are hilarious as they chirp and cackle. Antelope look like deer with diapers. I love the cycling thorugh such majestic areas.
We camped at the Wind Cave campground, enjoying the solitude since there were few others here.
There is such a variety of birds and flowers and butterflies and other forms of wildlife. Seeing these from the seat of a bicycle makes it somehow feel more “real”. There is nothing between me and what is laid out before me.
We took the Salsas out on a local trail from Cottonwood Camground outside of Hotsprings, SD. There is an incredible trail and we had a blast. We saw three badgers although only one stayed above ground while we cycled past. After leaving the trail we encountered amazing double track on our way back to Cottonwood. This campground was perched on top of a hill and was incredibly quiet.
Meeting up with my sister Juli, her husband Ed and their friends Portia and Sedona was a lot of fun. We cycled to meet them for coffee in Hot Springs, SD. We then drove to meet them later in Interior, SD which is due south of the Badlands National Park. We enjoyed some grilled ribs and roasted marshmallows.
No trip to SD is complete without seeing Crazyhorse Monument.
We also saw a Bicycle Monument along the roadway. This was a pile of bikes with a few “sculptures”. Very odd!
We camped near Mt Rushmore at Wrinkled Rock Climbers Trailhead. This place allows camping up to 14 days. There is no water or electric but there is a vault toilet. This place was amazing and it allowed us to cycle around Mt. Rushmore and then cut back up through on the Centennial Trail in pouring down rain. What a FUN ride!!
The Bandlands National Park is what we would consider a windshield park. It is beautiful and the storms are intense when they roll through. There are pulloffs to see the views and very few hiking trails. We drove through before boondocking our van at the National Grasslands outside the park.
The area that we parked was on the edge of the Bandlands and we were greeted to a most phenominal sunrise.
Good morning world! Life on the road is incredible and full of things to see and do and so many incredible sites to witness.
Our time in South Dakota was incredible and I have no doubt it is a place we will return to.
The world really is a very small place and meeting friends for the first time is FUN! Although we’d never met before, it was as though we’d known each other for many MANY years.
A couple of years ago we were introduced to Jenn & Ron via our Crazy Guy on a Bike journals. We kept in contact and on May 26, 2019 we got to meet for the first time face to face. What an incredibly fun young couple! We spent a few days together taking in a bike ride and several walks.
We left Centennial, CO on May 29th and headed on for a quick visit with yet another amazing couple, Curt and Cathy .
Curt and Cathy ride a tandem and have spent over 15 years on the road toruing various locations throughout the world. We would have loved to spend more time with them but our schedule said otherwise. But, I have no doubt that our paths will indeed cross in the future.
Kindred Spirits … NO DOUBT!
BLM, Bureau of Land Management areas are a priceless treasure here in the USA. Protected lands for our use and often time free of charge. We found our way into Colorado, punching our way through a series of strong storms blowing across the plains states of Missouri and Kansas. We opted for long days driving to get past the seemingly daily deluge.
The snow began ever so lightly, at first just a light dusting in the ditches but as we got closer to Colorado Springs, CO more and more snow filled the roadway. Colorado Springs is a remarkable city but way too many people and way too much traffic for our liking. We headed west, out of the city and into the mountains.
The BLM lands had ample places to park the van for an extended period. Actually, we could spend up to 14 nights here at no charge. There are no amenities other than a fire ring but we had plenty of peace, quiet and solitude.
Day 1 – May 23, 2019 was an all out snow day, weather was blustery and cold but we did manage to get out in the elements for a refreshing and brisk walk through the wood.
Snow! It’s nearing the end of May and we are covered in snow. I like it! The cold was refreshing. We pulled out the space heater to take the edge off first thing in the morning but other than that, the cold just reminded us of the high mountains and I have to say, I like it!
Surprisingly flowers flourish even in the snow. To see small cactus with buds on them, surrounded by snow was really cool.
Day 2 – May 24, 2019 The sun is out today, the skies are bright and beautiful and we unloaded the Salsa bikes, its time for some fun. We cycled to Eleven Mile Lake and back, max grade was 12% and this was a fun workout.
We opted to take a few gravel roads. Realizing that it is Memorial Day Weekend, the dozens of campsites along these roads were filling in. We walked along some rock outcroppings and watched the Mule Deer and the Chipmunks.
By the time we got back to the van we were starving, we filled up water again and cooked up a fantastic lunch
Day 3 – May 25, 2019 There are almost no open campsites along these gravel backroads. We hopped on the Salsas again today and headed up yet another gravel road.
The BLM lands are open to all and they are equisite!
My front wheel is making weird noises and has an off feel. I checked the spokes and they feel a bit loose. Curtis agreed and when we got back to the van he tightened them up and re-trued my wheels.
The cactus and other flowers flourish in the sunshine.
It’s always a great time when we can utilize a fire ring and today we were able to pull out the chairs and sit around a crackling fire. Our van, our home is proving to be an incredibly fantastic place to reside … no matter where the location.
National Forest lands on the USA are an incredible treasure to be enjoyed by all. Finding flat, dry open areas to park the van for a few days is not always an easy task but we located this beautiful area at a trailhead. The area is commonly used for horseback riding but we wanted to take the bikes out and see what fun we could get into. The region is ripe with trails and backroads that zigzag around. I put together an 8 mile route from the van. It should take us a couple of hours max, or so I thought.
There are no maps at the entrance and other than the GPS maps we had created on Ride with GPS, we really had no idea as to what to expect.
Starting out from the van we headed directly into the forest on the well used horse trail. It was pretty rough with a lot of rocks and roots. Sunlight filtered through the dense trees dotting the ground with spots of light.
We opted to move over to a double track old roadbed that was smoother and clear of the big rocks and muddy areas. This was much more fun and I would have to say I prefer the double track over the single.
We were not the only creatures out on the trails today. Snakes and turtles were sunning themselves, warming up in the sunshine.
The trail took us to a creek bottom. We had suspected there would be flowing water or at least we had hoped there would be. It was pretty warm now and the ride down took us a lot longer than expected. So far the trail was pretty easy to navigate. We had to venture off the double track since it forked; one fork dead ending and the other leading to very strongly marked Private Property. We were now back on the single track trail.
Living out of the van we have to adapt and learn new ways of doing things. The journey through the Americas on the bikes prepped us for many of these things so washing our hair and rinsing off in the stream was not all that unusual for us.
The route that I had mapped degraded and we found ourselves on some overgrown areas with thick grasses.
We had to bushwack our way through some of the area. The butterflies were happy with the flowers growing among the grasses.
Well, the one downfall of the tall grasses was what seemed to be a tick infestation. This was horrible and by the time we made our way back to the double track, adding about 2 miles to our route since the one I had mapped was totally impassable and we had to improvise, we were literally covered in ticks. Yes, ticks…AUGH! I hate ticks, tasty little blood sucking creatures. There are critters that I really have to remember to ask the Good Lord, “Why?” and ticks are one of them. It’s not like they are a food source for anything. They are vile, nasty little pesks.
It took us hours, yes hours to traverse the 10-1/2 miles through a portion of the trails. We made our way back to the roadbed where we stopped to brush off literally hundreds of ticks from our clothing. We spent at least 15 minutes doing so. When we got back to the van we had to use some Dawn dish detergent and cotton balls to remove a few that had already imbedded. The bigger ones were easier to feel as the latched on, we could also feel them crawling easier. It was the little ones, the seed ticks that were the hard ones to find. We ended up removing a dozen or so that found there way to us un-noticed.
Blood sucking nasties, the tick unfestation of this region was horrible but the trails are ones that we would like to return to and explore further.
By the time we got back to the van it was after 3PM, the 10 miles had taken us well past lunch time and when we got back we were both starving. We have learned that scrambled eggs with black beans makes a very fast and hearty meal. Add in a number of tortillas and voile we fill our bellies.
Life is good, even when the bugs are bad.
It’s been a rainy spring, a very rainy springtime and many areas are flooded out. But this wouldn’t stop us from having some fun, both hiking as well as cycling. We want to ride some of the Ozark Trail and there is access to the trail at the Greer Crossing Recreational Area in Missouri. We rolled in and for $10 a night we had a beautiful campsite, fire pit, potable water as well as pit toilets. For an added perk, with the annual national parks pass the cost was cut in half so our total fee for the 2 nights we spent here was $10 total. Just having access to water and a secure place to leave the van while we are out playing on the bikes was so very well worth is.
It’s raining and now it’s not and then it’s raining and then it’s not. Rain, rain and more rain, rivers and streams are swollen. We hopped on the Salsa bikes and headed south toward Greer Springs Trail. We knew we couldn’t take the bikes on the trail but that didn’t mean we couldn’t ride them to the trailhead.
Greer Springs is incredible, the water boils up from the ground under the Greer Spring Branch, thousands of gallons boiling like crazy. The rain created green lush everything. Beautiful!
We got back to the campgrounds and decided we really wanted to check out the Ozark Trail.
Well, all that rain caught up with us, the trail was flooded out and our ride on the trail ended all too soon. But we did enjoy the spring time flowers.
Upon leaving Greer Springs area, we headed for Falling Spring Mill. It was nearing lunchtime and we opted to picnic at the spring. This place was beautiful! The original cabin and the old mill house still stand.
The butterflies are incredible! They are such amazing insects.
There is something magical about butterflies and we spotted these large clusters on the road. Oh sure, they are feeding on scat that was left behind on the gravel road. These beauties are very docile and I was even able to pick one up.
We headed to our home for the night at Pinewoods Lake. There is a bike / hiking trail around the lake and with it being such a clear day we opted to take a quick ride around it.
There is a lot of beaver activity on the lake. So much so that the whole end of the lake flooded out the trail due to the beaver lodges and dams.
It’s been a remarkable couple of days, skies cleared and we enjoyed fantastic blue skies. The Pinewoods Lake is a free campsite and even though there was no potable water or services, we had a blast.
Our coutry, the USA has such diverse areas, such beauty but we have to look for it. And find it….we did.