Map of route around lake Michigan

Ride around “The Lake”

Well not “THE Lake” for I figure that would be lake Superior.

Either way….  So a friend and I decided to ride around Lake Michigan for the Iron Butt Challenge…

Map of route around lake Michigan

Lake Michigan 1000 – Jeff & Mark 9/10/16

(Jeff E’s take on this)

I have been wanting to do an Iron Butt ride ever since learning about the Association many years ago. I had once ridden coast to coast traveling between duty stations, back before internet, laying down some decent mileage and enjoying the heck out of the travels.

That was many moons ago, around 1989.

Now, second marriage, having kids now old enough to fend for themselves and a friend who was crazy enough to suggest this ride, I said “Sure, why not?”

I am on my third Goldwing, a 1981 GL1100 “Naked” made from parts for every year GL1100s were made – Originally purchased it as an ’82. The original bike was totaled years ago while parked in the street by a hit and run drunk, who was caught a few blocks away by the police (yay!). Which is why the various parts, the engine, swing arm, final drive and “Tins” are original, everything else not so much. Instrument cluster was replaced Acewell 2856 Speedometer, Stripped, drag bars, parts pulled from here and there – not much for looks but it gets me to work and occasionally jaunts up and down the state of Illinois. I feel bad I have not taken it out to just go nowhere in particular. So when Mark said he wanted to ride the Lake Michigan 1000 I offered to go along, at least he wouldn’t do it alone, and I too would get to do an Iron Butt ride – also not alone.

So I changed out all the fluids in my bike, aired up the tires, strapped on a tail bag and tank bags I had scrounged up for the trip and was ready to go! I had done long rides in the past…

Watching the weather with apprehension all through the week and into Friday evening watching the rain forecasts come and go and when morning came we had hopes of the weather clearing. We left out of Bloomington a little after 0400 on September 10th 2016 in a slight drizzle of rain and headed north. Mark had the directions, GPS, Phone, google maps so I all had to do was follow and chatter away and enjoy the open road and music. To my horror I found the Sena SMH10 does not music and talk at the same time, Mark kept turning the intercom back on in case something needed to be said, which I will admit a couple of times was useful but killed the music. We were bundled into our rain suits with hopes it would clear up a few hours and then we would have fair winds and following seas up into “da UP”.

Not so much.

Mark rides a 1700cc Kawasaki Warrior which apparently has a 3.5 gallon fuel tank and goes about 100 miles before he begins to really get worried about pushing the bike. I knew even with a 34 year old carbureted motor, running fuel with ethanol in it my mileage would not be great as it once was but I had nothing to fear about 100 per fuel stop. Besides I had not ridden a long way in years and would want to get off more often than before.

So… rain. We had it and mist it was sort of fun sucking, apparently this was the first time Mark had ridden any significant distance in rain. Other than the short ride home from work he had little rain experience. This ride changed that, now his only rain fears stem from having to wash his bike after riding in it. I figure just toss some soap flakes out in front of my bike and see what comes back clean, not that I mistreat my bike, I just want it in running condition. I know I can repaint it again if the Rustoleum starts to go bad, which in over 12 years is still just fine.

Our first stop was in Rochelle Illinois followed by Madison Wisconsin and Appleton, my odometer was now showing 7390 miles from the starting 7034 miles. We were traveling through areas I was familiar with due to visits with the In-Laws, I sure did miss not getting a pasty at the Pasty Oven, boooo! After Appleton we stopped in Menominee for the last stop in Wisconsin before heading over to Manistique Michigan. By now I was beginning to think of important trip planning questions, for instance did any one plan food stops? Because that was rapidly beginning to fill all my thoughts. I discovered my partner had a camel back on and was happily hydrating, where as I had Smarties, Lemon Heads and few protein bars for staying awake and light snacks. So as we filled up at Manistique I convinced him it was time for food. My odometer was at 7536 having traveled and estimated 502 miles and we had left home town about 10 hours before. Half way! No turning back now!

The weather across the UP (Upper Peninsula) was actually pretty good, over cast but pretty dry. Starting to feel good about the ride, wasn’t sore, nothing hurt all was good. We were chasing blue sky patches in the clouds to no avail. Apparently our ride timing allowed for the rain clouds to swing over and get us again on the Michigan side of the lake below the bridge. Oh the Mackinac bridge, 4 dollars, what… you don’t take I-Pass? (Sigh) Ok best thing the outer lanes are paved! I was so not looking forward to that bride of steel grate death with its winds and our pursuing rain cloud. But the outer lanes are paved so all was good and safe very cool views from way up high. This was another point in the trip where the rain led to disappointment for not being able to pop out a camera or phone and get some photos. Only photo we got on the whole trip was standing in front of the sign into Escanaba, not even a bike photo.

Heading down state Michigan is where it started to tell, more stretching and silence from the intercoms. By the time we had passed through Indian River and Cadillac Michigan I for one was starting to look forward to each 100 mile stop. Even set a trip counter to know how far we had been on the current leg. By the time we had arrived in Jenison it was almost painful to get off the bike to let my butt “inflate”, at least that is what it felt like. And I have one of the good Goldwing saddles for its era! By now it was dark, but we had a half moon up which shed some nice light and the rain was now gone. Sky was clear, stars shining and we were away from major town (as much as one can be in this part of the country) so not as much ground light. It was very blissful remembering why it is so much fun to just get out and roll down a new road. Sooooo many years since I had done that. Up to this point of the trip it was chin down and go.

Sawyer Michigan was our last stop in that state then on towards Joliet Illinois for the turn towards home and a final gas stop. We stopped in Channahon Illinois for fuel odometer now at 8070 which gave us 1036 miles just after midnight or 20 hours of travel! Yay we have made the 1000 miles, now just need to close the circle by getting home. Was about another hour and a half until we pulled into our Bloomington Thornton’s gas station and filled one last time to get the receipt. My bike’s clock showed 0149 09/11/16, so we were home before 0400! And at 8158 miles by my odometer we had managed to hit the required mileage.

We had chatted a few hours earlier about getting a nap and boxing the square later in the day on Sunday to grab another 400 miles to complete a Bun Burner 1500…. Wooooo!!! got off the bike at home and Mark nixed that ide like RIGHT NOW!!! (I laughed)

Problems encountered, now these did not get written in at appropriate locations of this write-up because I don’t exactly remember where they happened. In the need for pit stop timing in the refueling stops and my pokey way of pulling out my paper and updating logs, I missed the finer details of what had happened in the leg we had just finished.

So in order of appearance, but not so much where, some issues we ran into (or better yet did not, as appropriate).

Bumper fascia in the road way. Early in the ride after sun up traffic went odd and after the parting of the cars and trucks one of the three lanes had a wide complete piece of fascia side to side across the lane. Missed that one with room to spare.

German Shepard with a guardian angel. Mark was in the lead, the car ahead of him started to jink and suddenly there was a Shepard in our lane. Mark was pretty much locked up, yay wet road, and the Shepard was starting to panic. I came to a stop alongside Mark trying the whole way to get my horns to blow. I was apparently a little panicked as I had been pressing a screw under the throttle, so wrong hand altogether. By then the Shepard had a clear spot and bolted the remainder of the way across the road.

Killer attack Chihuahua. Little bugger cam zipping across the lawn, I thought here we go again with a dog trying to cross the road. THIS time I nailed the horn, combination electric and air –high low- loudest things I can jam on the bike that Wolo makes, the Chihuahua was stymied, and it cringed back for the edge of the road. All good I though until I saw him gather himself as I was passing and head after me like he was going to get my back tire. Thankfully these little dogs do not have the sprint mode of a cheetah. Maybe they do but their short legs preclude that from being any kind of threat.

Same rock. In a construction area it was dark, “unng” from Mark I though “Great, another pot hole-bump-whatever” then I said “UNNG” he then tells me he had hit a rock in the road… hey I hit the same one! Thankfully it was flat, rocks were being kicked up by the Jeep like vehicle ahead of us as it had to hang a pair off wheels off the road way to fit through.

Was 28, now 50. Did I mention that the last time I did any real mileage on a Motorcycle I was about 28 years old? Thankfully this time was no problem after all! I sweated about going on this trip, freaking out it was some midlife crisis that I needed to do this… Nope, pretty much hoped the bike would not melt, and with any luck some of my butt would actually fall off. No luck there though, all of me made it home safe.

Leaking oil seal. Only problem mechanically was found when I got to our home gas station and I had oil over the toe of my left boot. Looking under the bike, nothing dripping, but oil is coming from the weep hole on the belt covers. So it looks like the cam or crank seal is leaking. All in all I can take that. After replacing the head gaskets, rebuilding the carbs and replacing every O-ring I could access in the time (and reassembling and rewiring in my apartment) I have owned this bike I am so very pleased with the performance. Plus it is something I can fix, so we will keep rolling.

Hydration should have been better. Yeah, that could have gone better. Had one drink from my water bottle, and half a soda when we stopped for our one meal (grumble). So had a few headaches the following day.

All in all I am happy I participated, doubt I will do it again. I will save receipts in the future in case it happens by accident though. My wife is planning to take the motorcycle safety course in the spring. So in a year or two we might be able to ride down to New Mexico to visit family. As far as pounding out the miles, this was not terribly fun. Even if the weather had been better we still would have been needing the focus more on destination and not the journey.

Although I did warn Mark and sang “Gary Indiana” to myself as we passed the town by.

Thank you, and good night! =)

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