Day Seven - September 9, 1997
Wow, Michigan already?
Ashland, Wisconsin - Mackinaw City, Michigan
It rained heavily overnight in Ashland, but we awoke to clearing skies. Mark flipped on the TV as I took a shower. We have become addicts to the Weather Channel. It's really valuable information for someone traveling on the ground. We see that there is a storm front heading in exactly the same direction that we are, so we slow things down as we perform the morning loading ritual, hoping to allow the storm to get ahead of us. We depart in somewhat damp conditions, but it's not raining. It's 54 degrees, which has become a familiar morning temperature - meaning that the standard uniform of jacket line + Aerostich is called for. I think long and hard about my advice offered yesterday, and decide to take advantage of it. I put on my rubber boots and new Goretex gloves. I am ready for action, or at least 100% humidity.
Part of our checkout ritual is to take two smaller towels from the motel bathroom out to wipe off the bike seats and windshields (and bugs, and whatever else might be wipeable). The first day we did this, Mark was paranoid that the motel was going to send us a bill for permanently grease-stained towels; this morning he one-ups me by bringing out a towel AND a washcloth! I guess he's not worried about it anymore. Of course we return the towels to the room, folded nicely, obscured under the cleaner used towels from showering.
The first odd site of the morning is just outside of Ashland on highway 2. There's a small construction zone, but instead of a government employee flipping a "SLOW" and "STOP" sign around, there is a traffic signal. What a concept. Another job lost to modern technology. Mark claims that this is standard practice in Europe.
Shortly thereafter, we are in fog as we ride along the southern edge of Superior towards our breakfast destination in Ironwood.
Our preferred destination, Mike's, doesn't open until 8am. It's 7:45 and we don't want to wait. We head down the road 100 yards to the Country Kitchen or something like that, an establishment preferred by the blue-hair crowd. It's a dead and sorry place with miserable people and miserable service and a miserable menu and we are miserable, because by 8 am we've just ordered and we could have simply waited for Mike. Instead we debate why Mike chose to open at 8am instead of 6am for the breakfast crowd, or 11am for the lunch crowd. We never come up with a satisfactory explanation, but I am distracted by a sign across the street that has us choking on our breakfast:
More about "pasties" later.
One of the pleasant things about riding with someone is getting to learn their riding style. Mark rides a bit more aggressively than I do, so we both prefer that he is in front. Especially on the two-lane roads, he sets the pace, deciding when and where to pass other vehicles. When there is enough space for both of us to pass together, it seems like a beautifully choreographed ballet, with Mark swooping out into the passing lane, me in his track as he speeds up to pass the car, then back in, signals going on and off together. It's an immensely satisfying act with a distinct beginning, middle and end.
When riding a motorcycle, you get to choose among three lane where a car has only one. Within each car lane, you can choose to ride in the left, center or right third of the lane. Depending on the road and the traffic, you may choose to alter your position quite frequently. For most of the trip, we seek the smoothest ride by silent consent. If I see Mark change positions, I will try his new location. If he sees me change lane position, he will adjust his position to match mine. Again, a high-speed ballet with serpentine symmetry.
By 11am we have rain, and I am grateful that we decided to go with the boots. We have real rain, and we realize that we have been fortunate to have five days without any tough weather.
Riding in the rain is just taxing, because it's harder to see, harder to react, and very uncomfortable if you get wet. Riding in the rain makes you appreciate the tremendous subtleties of riding - an adjustment of 1/16" in your face shield, or your collar band can make an incredible difference in comfort. I am pleased that the new gloves I bought yesterday seem to be holding up to the rain - my hands are still warm and dry. I am so pleased that I take a picture of them while we're gassing up.
We stop for lunch at a Pizza Hut in Marquette, hoping to just get something quickly and maybe allow the storm to get ahead of us. We enter the restaurant in full weather gear. Basically, we look like outlaw astronauts. We strip down to street clothes in the lobby, and take a booth with our helmets still wet from the ride.
Something that is starting to bug both of us about the Midwest compared to the west coast is that smoking in restaurants is the norm, rather than the exception. Their idea of a non-smoking section is a booth without an ashtray. Yuck. When we leave, we are donning our rain gear again, and there's a guy standing 10 feet away at the checkout counter waiting for his carryout order, smoking, watching us. Ptooey.
Within another hour of riding in the rain, my brand new Goretex wonder gloves have soaked through and the lining is now absorbing water, so they are getting cold, and heavy, and very wet. And you know how much I hate wet hands. We stop at a grocery store and I buy two pairs of yellow dishwashing gloves, since Mark's gloves have given up all attempts to comply with the manufacturer's claims as well. We put on the rubber gloves, then wring out the leather gloves, then coax them back onto our hands. It will be good to finish this day.
For those of you waiting breathlessly for the next Q&A session, here you go. Today's question has to do with Wisconsin:
We have enjoyed great weather for the last five days, so we have had the full-face helmets packed away in favor of the 3/4 helmets. But with the rain, we had to switch back to full-face. Both of us have been getting plenty of sun, and perhaps not using as much sunscreen as we should. The right side of my face is irritated by the cheek pad of the helmet, and I'm trying to figure out why. I'm thinking about our route, realizing that we're traveling west to east, so the right side of my face is the south side of my face and it all makes sense. By the time we get back to Seattle our tans (burns) should be balanced.
OK, so what about Pasties? As I mentioned earlier, I am rolling on the ground laughing this morning because I think that the Royal Bakery has a Royal Typo on their sign, substituting 'Pasties" for "Pastries". But by the end of the day, it's not funny anymore, because we have seen at least 10,382 signs for "Pasties". So maybe Michigan is the secret headquarters for strippers, kind of like Sarasota is home to circuses in the winter. So, at dinner, we ask the bartender at the Keyhole Bar, "hey, what's a Pastie" (pronouncing it 'pay-stee', just like you would.) The bartender laughs out loud, and says, "yeah, you must think we got nothin' but strippers around here. It's 'pah-stees', and they're meat pies." Oh.
Tomorrow we lay over here in Mackinaw City MI, a mere day's drive from the JerkFest '97. We will do laundry and be tourists, maybe sampling some Pasties. Jerkfest runs from Thursday afternoon until Monday morning, then we head back west on Tuesday.
Keep those cards and letters coming.
PS - Happy Birthday Adam!