Awaking to my 6:01 a.m. alarm, I bungee down the backpack and am out of the cabin by 7:07.
Subtle gray cloud coverage surrounded me as I boarded my motorcycle.
Destination: East on 2.
Roads were smooth with very little traffic -- minus the log-filled tractor trailers.
Trees and trees and more trees.
River with trees.
Then trees, river, trees, river, trees, trees, and river.
Later, Eastern time zone.
The wind picked up just past Escanaba.
Still, no rain.
Less than hour later -- after passing historic Manistique -- sprinkles began.
Nothing of concern.
Then, the drops increased at a faster rate.
I passed a curve; they stop.
Dark gray sky behind me; I was driving away from it.
Then, the downpour came.
But then, it really came down.
Rain drops -- really gum drops -- ambush me.
Hard rain -- on one's lips -- hurt.
I use my left hand to cover my mouth.
Visor down, I use my left hand to wipe the fog from my three-quarter helmet.
Perilous conditions really; I remain calm.
The downpour was at its worst; I was already soaked; the rain felt warm; my gear was protected in a dry bag.
My only discomfort besides my soar lips: soggy socks and boots.
I had my rain jacket on; however, I neglected to wear the rain pants.
During the downpour, I stop for gas and pour out the water from my boots and squeeze out the water from my socks.
I am applauded for my efforts.
When I return to the rain, I keep thinking: it will stop.
It does not.
I keep going.
Later, I gas up again. A boater chats with me and offers some insights on my whereabouts.
I see two motorcyclists (husband and wife) pull into the gas station and decide to wait for them.
I do, and I am pleased with this decision.
They have heavy flashers going on their Harley Davidson's, and I follow them until they turn off again for another rain break.
I realize I am getting close to the Mackinac Bridge.
I continue East on 2.
More rain: this time in spurts.
I try to enjoy the views of the Lake Michigan to my right.
I reach a town called St. Ignace (less than a mile from the bridge).
I decide I have gone far enough; I will tackle the bridge tomorrow.
With the rain coming down, I pull into the covered entrance of a Super 8.
I book a room for one night -- $73.
It nearly blows my daily budget, but I don't care.
When I head back out, boating man is parked next to my bike.
He wanted to check in on me.
I am spooked; however, I remain cool and let him know all is well, and I appreciate his concern.
Little by little I walk up my wet items to my second floor room overlooking Lake Michigan and the Mackinac Bridge.
I wipe off my helmet, and I take my clothes (wet and dirty ones) to the washer and dryer. I walk outside and dry off my motorcycle with a small personal towel.
When I finish, I head back upstairs and change into my bathing suit.
Did somebody say, hot tub?
I try to remember the last time I was in one; I cannot.
About 15-minutes into my hot tub experience, I check back on my laundry and transfer my clothes into the dryer (no special presents this time).
Walking back upstairs to my room, I shower off and rinse out my suit.
Later, I bring up the dry laundry.
Time to dry my jackets and boots.
I see a blow dryer.
Left boot-right boot-left boot-right boot.
I watch the clouds disappear and reappear over Mackinac Island.
Call it: "Lake Effect."
I turn on the heat in my room and use it to dry my leather jacket; it works!
Later, I use it for my boots; it works!
I fiddle with my phone and find an airbnb spot for $40 a night in Essexville.
I book the room and set my 6 a.m. alarm for tomorrow.
Tired, I fall asleep just after 9:30 p.m.
I wake up with two alarms and head to the free breakfast area about 10 to 7.
I take all my stuff in one trip, so I grab my backpack, coats, and scarf and head downstairs.
Overloaded with stuff, I place my leather jacket, my rain jacket and my scarf in the breakfast area. I take everything else with me to the motorcycle. Jim, the extremely nice Super 8 manager, let me keep it under the covered entrance.
I bungee my backpack and tent, and head back inside for a quick breakfast.
The overcast skies encourage me to eat fast. I grab some cereal and oatmeal and gulp down a cup of hot tea.
When I go to suit up (with my jackets and scarf), I realize that my scarf is gone.
Who would take it, and should I say something?
I let it go because I need to get on the road. (Whoever you are, I hope you enjoy that consignment shop scarf from Bemidji.)
What's strange is that at that moment when I realized the scarf was gone, I experience deja vu.
I thank Jim and say goodbye.
The Mackinac Bridge was much less intimidating than I had imagined.
While the left lane has those unstable metal grates, the right lane does not.
Full pavement all the way.
I take it over from the Upper Peninsula side of Michigan to the "mainland."
Mosquitoes splattered all over my face while driving over to the other side.
Still, I managed to enjoy the views overlooking the water. I would offer a picture, but I wanted to avoid rain, so I kept going.
As I begin my journey along 23 (the scenic route along Lake Huron), I realize that neither my speedometer nor mile counter is working.
The amount of rain endured by my motorcycle must have impacted it.
Luckily, the gears on a bike pretty much tell you how fast you're going. In addition, I have had it long enough to know my general speeds.
With regards to mileage, it stopped at around 22,334. (This means I have ridden just over 5000 miles on this trip.)
I will simply need to calculate from St. Ignace to determine how far I've ridden. In addition, I have to fill up the tank and check for road signs to consider how far I've gone. My tank can go just a bit over 100 miles, so I really need to pay attention.
All this pretty much goes through my head while riding.
Trouble-shooting and motorcycling go hand-in-hand.
So far, no rain.
Scenic 23 loops around Lake Huron, but at the start of the ride all I see are state forest signs and, well, forests. It is a chilly morning for a Floridian, but not so cold that I have to wear gloves.
As I ride, the scent reminds me of Christmas.
Whether the trees I smelled were spruce or pine or balsam fir, I have no clue.
I barely notice the homes along the landscape because the upper portion of 23 is so heavily wooded.
By the second or third state forest sign, sprinkles begin.
I pull over into one of those state forests.
Although I have on my rain jacket, I do not have on my rain pants. I dig through my backpack and get those on.
Vroom.... on the bike, I go.
Sprinkles continue, but it's not like yesterday's experience.
By the time I reach Rogers City, I catch glimpses of blue sky, and by Alpena, I see predominantly blue skies and feel a temperature change.
Still, I keep the rain gear on because I see gray clouds floating in from the West (or my right side).
I stop for gas in Alpena.
Here, I really begin to see Lake Huron more readily.
My favorite part of the ride though was in the Alcona township/county.
There, 23 is smooth with more areas where the road ascends and descends.
In East Tawas, I refuel.
In that county, Iosco, I notice more lodging (cabins and resorts). This particular part is a bit more touristy than in the other sections of 23.
From 23, I eventually have to merge onto Interstate 75.
With speeds at 70 mph and no speedometer, I get skittish. I stay in the right lane, and hope that I reach Bay City/Essexville soon. (I realize now that I could have stayed on 23 -- which turns into 13 -- and still reached the city without jumping on 75. Too late.)
Nearly 30 miles into the ride, I see exit signs for Bay City.
What a relief!
As I take the exit, I see an SUV approaching me from behind. It is jumping onto I-75! Apparently, the on and off ramps are circularly connected. Talk about scary and dangerous.
I see the SUV merge as I carefully navigate my way onto the next road called 25 East.
Possible catastrophe averted.
I pull into the next gas station and refuel.
Then, I check my phone for directions to Mary's place (my airbnb host in Essexville).
My phone is acting strange.
An older gentleman asks if he can help. I tell him where the house is located, but he is not sure where it is. We begin chatting and I learn he lived in Panama City for a time.
I say to him, "You must have been in the Air Force."
He replies, "Well how do you know that?"
My response, "That's all that's located there."
And, I am right. He was in the Air Force.
As he put it, "Before your mom and dad were born -- in 1957."
When I tell him when my parents were born, and how old I am, he's astounded.
I ask him where I should eat. He tells me to stay on Center Avenue, and I will see many places. He recommends Big Boy, and I go there.
I pull into the restaurant, and look at my bike. I had denied that I heard a clicking sound earlier when I reached Bay City, and I had to know whether or not it was a nail.
I look at my front tire and around it: nothing.
I go to my back tire, and right smack in the middle, I see a nail.
More than 5000 miles with no nails; then, I find one. I blame and curse Interstate 75.
But maybe it happened the day prior because I did not check my tires after the downpour.
Honestly, the back tire had about 1000 miles left on it, and I was going to replace it in Pittsburgh, so I shrug it off.
I go into Big Boy and order a meatloaf platter. (I was desperate.)
Next thing you know the same guy from the gas station shows up. He had called his wife, and she gave him exact directions!
I told him that he must have had a career where he helped people.
A firefighter for more than 30-years.
For some reason, I nearly burst into tears, but I hold back.
I lavishly thank him after writing down his wife's directions.
He leaves, and I use my phone to find a nearby motorcycle mechanic.
I find one less than a mile away: Syndicate Cycle.
I drive the bike into the shop rather than calling first.
There, I meet Aaron Becker. He's tall. More than 6 feet with a shaved head, reddish beard, and slender physique.
He may be close to my age, but it's hard to tell.
I tell him my story about the tire.
At first, he looks agitated.
Then, I tell him about my journey.
Something clicked; his eyes sort of lit up.
He wants to do the same thing: take off for six months and ride!
Then, I tell him that up to this point, I had zero tire issues, so I must be his messenger.
Why else would I be there?
We immediately discuss our lives and dreams.
While I can go into the details, I will offer some highlights.
His friends -- who call themselves Golden Boys (for being over 30 with no children) -- refer to him as the Platinum Boy because he's 40 with no children.
Although divorced, he does not seem bitter about it. (I have met plenty of unmarried men with bad breakups who harbor ugliness.)
He owns and operates his own shop, and owns a few other properties, too.
With respect to motorcycling, it's been a part of his world nearly all his life.
When our conversation begins -- like the one about the Saginaw River and how his dad used to be able to see through it until GM showed up -- we go back out to the tire, and he yanks the nail out from it.
It was long... probably a framing nail.
Air seeping out, he shoves it back into the tire.
We go inside, and we look at new tires to order.
Next, he tells me where the library is located, and I show him my blog.
I roll the motorcycle into the garage.
He hands me the keys to his second car -- an older Volvo he purchased from his sister.
I give him a strange look.
"Take it. It's raining, and you're going to need a car."
Where am I?
He goes over the car's little idiosyncracies, and I tell him I will buy him a beer.
I drive the Volvo to Mary's house and relay the day's events back to her; she's just as surprised as I am.
She shows me my room: small, but comfortable.
I drop off my stuff, and she mentions that she's heading downtown, so she can show me where the library is located.
I follow her, and blog for a few hours.
Next, I end up at a restaurant called Tavern 101.
It's slogan called out to me: beer lives here.
I order their special: a beer flight and large flat bread for $15.
Next, I walk around downtown, and take some pictures of the former logging town, and of sailing enthusiasts on the Saginaw River.
Later, I drive back to Mary's house.
Her daughter is on her way to try on her wedding dress with her newly purchased heels. I try to stay up to meet her, but I cannot keep my eyes open.
I fall into a deep sleep before 10 p.m.
Until we meet again, my friend.