Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan
The feeling began in the Eastern part of North Dakota. It’s a feeling I get every year. A feeling of loss and let down. Pat, you are no longer in the west. That euphoria from the anticipation of exploring strange surroundings is gone and the melancholy sets in. The physical environment has changed dramatically and folks just seem less friendly. And there is a lot more folks. Also the scenery doesn’t change much. It’s a nice green color, but either in the form of forest or farm. Not much variety. And if it’s not green, chances are you are in a town. There’s a lot more of those as well.
I rode into Bemidji, Minnesota for 2 reasons. One was to see this silly Paul Bunyon and Babe sculpture.
Many towns that once thrived on the lumber industry have a Paul Bunyon reference. He represents all lumberjacks. There is a visitor center right next to this kitchy monstrosity. In there I would get the answer to my second reason for being here and directions on how to find it.
About 30 miles southwest of Bemidji is the birthplace of the Mississippi River. My birthplace is New Orleans, Louisiana where the Great Mississippi makes it’s final turns before emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico. It seemed only fitting that I would visit it’s origin. On the left in the photo is a sign that says Mississippi River, on the right is my Bonnie and the small crossing in the center is the first Mississippi River Bridge.
The river is a mere creek at this point and it is traveling northward. The Mississippi eventually curves eastward then down all the way south pretty much physically cutting this country in half.
As I continued east I passed this giant fish building. My guess is a pickerel. Maybe a Northern Pike as seen in a fish tank from the previous post at the hatchery.
I rode many miles. Storms were in the air. I decided to get a room this night just outside Duluth. In the town just before my hotel, I noticed some event going on. The girl at the hotel counter had no idea what it might be. She only knew of the big train engine expo that was to begin in a couple days. Despite the possibility of rain, I went back to investigate. On the way it was obvious that it was some sort of car show as numerous classic automobiles passed me on the way, trying to escape the impending storm. When I arrived there were still a few cars about. With older cars it’s in the details. It must have been pretty awesome earlier in the day.
In the morning I needed to make one stop before crossing into Wisconsin and then Michigan. I passed by the boyhood home of Bob Dylan at 519 North 3rd Avenue East in Duluth. A real nice woman came out with a guestbook and kindly took a couple shots of me at the location.
Across the bridge and into Wisconsin I went. Would you like to see some photos of Wisconsin? Google it. I flew threw that state quickly in protest with feelings of disgust. Fuck you Wisconsin. Treat your teachers with respect!
And on to Michigan. This was the northernmost part of Michigan, not the glove shaped part.
First it just felt good to be out of Wisconsin. But also, Michigan gave a different vibe. It’s the people. They are proudly a little kooky. They call themselves Yoopers. They are like Canadiens with American bravado.
That’s Lake Superior in the background.
The scowl I wore while wandering Wisconsin was withered when I whipped into a town called Christmas.
It’s hard not to feel happy when you are the corner of Christmas and St. Nicholas Avenues.
The road up here became arched with lush forest and twisty roads, making for an exciting tunnel like riding experience.
Lake Superior is beautiful. Ocean like in many respects. It has quite a tide flowing in. There is an area along the coast called the Pictured Rocks. Theses cliffs here are layered in shades of red, orange and yellow earth. It goes on for miles, but only this one point is accessible by vehicles. The next closest vantage point is a 3 1/2 mile walk each way. You can also catch a boat and see it from the lake.
Michigan also seems proud of their waterfalls. I saw a couple. They were OK. But I also saw one they called a waterfall and it was hardly a rapid. Not a fall at all.
I crossed Mackinaw Bridge on to the mainland of Michigan (the glove). Yoopers call everyone who lives on the other side of this bridge, Trolls.
The sun was getting low and I passed a state park on Lake Huron. The sign said camping. Great!
I rode passed, 5 or so miles to the next town Rogers City for supplies, then returned to the state park. I went into the office at the opening gate (not just a drive thru). I said I’d like a campsite. I was told to ride through, choose the one I liked and return. Before I did that, I asked, “How much is this site?” 22 bucks plus an 8 dollar out of state fee. What the…..? I said no way, that’s not camping. She told me of a place 14 miles away in the woods. That’s just where I went.
In the morning I stopped for gas. I talked for a while with a guy named Frank. He rides, but not on his present trip. He was visiting Michigan from Arizona as I recall. He asked if I had been to any of the lighthouses? Hmmmm. Maybe that was something one does when in Michigan. So I went to see one. This one is on Presque Isle.
Apparently there are Paul Bunyon’s in numerous locations.
This road I rode also had interesting traffic and street lights. Sometimes just a single little streetlight on a wire hangs alone to light a street. But traffic lights hang like this too. And there are the written signs as well. If there is a left only lane, it won’t have a light with an arrow. It will have a red or green light with a hanging sign to let you know it’s left only, dangling next to the light.
Throughout Northern Michigan I saw warning signs for moose crossings. Oh, how I’d love to see a moose. I have seen one twice before. The first time in Yellowstone in 2002. I have that on video. The second time was in Idaho in 2008. A big mama moose and her youngin’ jumped up on the road before me. It had been raining and I couldn’t get to my camera before the moose ran off. When I told a guy at a bar about how it freaked me out and I was lucky to be able to stop in time on that wet pavement, he said, “You don’t slow down for moose, you just ride underneath ’em!”
Anyway, the only moose I got to see were stuffed at Cabela’s.
This Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan is also host to the largest bronze wildlife sculpture in the world.
As I crossed the state line into Ohio I saw a hot air balloon.
I then shacked up in perhaps the worst hotel I have ever stayed in. Not the worst in the sense of dirtiest. That was last year in Tucson. But the worst because it claims to be better than it is. The place in Tucson made no secret of the fact that it was a shit hole. This place in Perrysburg, Ohio said they had WIFI, breakfast, blah blah. There was no WIFI. There was no soap, no shampoo, no bath towels. Just two tiny little towels both of which needed to be used to dry yourself off after a shower. And then at 8 in the morning, the cleaning lady walked right in. No knock. No nothing. Just used her pass key and walked right in. I screamed, “Fuck!” She said “Sorry, sorry!!” and ran off. I was too pissed to bother and see if it actually included breakfast.
The next day Bonnie turned 50,000 miles. It happened in a town called Sandusky, which really bothered me. But some things you have no control over.
My Bonnie has been very, very good to me.