This is part two of a pretty long trip report.
July 2 – And we’re off!
The Plan: On the Road by 5:30 am, heading for Twin Falls, ID. Expecting it to be a grind day (580 miles) with no time for anything other than the road.
Reality: While I had been waiting impatiently for this day to arrive, I was a bit less excited to finally be off thanks to the last minute battery/charging issues I had run across the previous week. Unfortunately, I got one of those “Disneyland Eve” night’s sleep the night before leaving. I woke up at around 2:00 am and my body had no desire to go back to sleep. I did want to get an early jump, but not that early. I wanted to get out of town before the commute traffic started and get to Reno before the construction crew got to work. But I did not want to deal with Donner Pass in the dark. The plan was to be on the road no later than 5:30. I kept trying to get back to sleep, but finally gave up at around 4:00. I got up, showered, gassed and on the road by 4:30.
Up until I hit a bit of an annoying construction obstruction after I had turned north on 93 off of I80 at Wells, NV, the trip had been as uneventful as possible. The bike was running great. There were no idiot driver encounters. No construction. Nothing. It kind of scared me. I finally hit that situation on 93 where they had a couple sections of one lane traffic. Two of the spots were no big deal. The third was ridiculous. They were controlling the direction of traffic with automated signals. They were timed to handle about 8 cars at a time. Well the line was at about 50 when I got there. Of course, I didn’t know what was going ont until the signals had gone through a few cycles.
When I first encountered the line, I figured it would be a while, so I killed the engine to save gas. A few minutes later the line crept forward like folks do at stoplights, gaining that “extra few inches” is going to make all the difference. Well the line crept up several hundred yards. I figured I’d just stay put until the light changed. Everybody behind me was having none of that and they passed me to fill in the gap. “Whatever”, I figured we’ll all get through, who cares? Once I saw what was happening with the signal, I was forced to move up with the creepers. It took me 5 or 6 starts to finally get through the signal and I figured I had to sit through at least 2 extra signals because of the gap stealers.
I probably lost a good half hour with that nonsense, but was still was ahead of schedule. Once I got to Twin Falls, I found that the Shoshone Falls attraction was pretty much on my way to the campsite (which was actually in Jerome). So I found time to do al little detour and spent a bit of time checking out the falls. Very nice little feature.
At some point during the day I had called ahead to reserve a tent site and it may have been a good thing – the campground was pretty full. I ended up drawing a little tiny footprint of a site which was difficult to get positioned in. I got set up, had dinner and went and grabbed an ice cream that the camp was serving. I took a shower and settled in camp for the evening. I tried to build a fire, but things just weren’t cooperating too well. What little flame I got going was working hard to keep up with a brisk breeze that had developed. I really didn’t think much of it at the time and just knocked the pile over, tossed some water on it and decided to get to bed. At some point in the night, I was awoken by what sounded like somebody knocking on the tent. In my half awake condition, I just ignored it and tried to get back to sleep. Then I noticed that the wind was howling, bouncing my tent and trailer around like I was on white capped water. After a few minutes of putting things together in my head, I realized that I had better check on my solar panel which I had mounted on the tripod.
I got out of the tent and the first thing I noticed was my poor neighbors. Their tent had basically collapsed and the three of them were flailing around inside, I imagine trying to get out. If I had been more awake, I probably would have been quite amused and probably should have tried to help them. I found that indeed my solar panel had blown over. Luckily, there was no damage to the unit. I just laid it flat on the ground for the duration.
July 3 - Houston, we have a problem.
I woke up fairly early (as I always do) and took care of business getting packed. The site was serving breakfast at 7:00, but they were running behind, so I decided to get some miles under me and have breakfast a little later. It was very cold that morning and I neglected to choke the engine. It took 3 cranks to get it started and I noticed that the volts were way down in the scary neighborhood. Sure enough, about 2 miles down the road, the new gauge that I had mounted was beeping, letting me know that the battery was ready to fail. I found an exit, which luckily had a restaurant. I pulled in and got the charger out and hoped to revive the battery while I had breakfast.
I took as much time as I could stand having breakfast and went out to check on things. I had gotten a little improvement, and by chance I revved the engine hard and got a great response on the meter. But, I was very nervous that the battery was fried. At my next gas stop, I pulled out my list of Yami dealers in hopes of finding one that was ahead of me that would be willing to throw a battery on a charge for me.
I discovered that many of the dealers in my range had opted to take July 3 off. Pretty annoying, but I did manage to get a hold of the dealer in Billings, MT (which was my destination for the night) to get one charging for me. I thought that I’d get there easily before they closed at 6:00. Feeling a little better, I pressed on.
Along the way, I’d notice that the voltage would just drop from the 13.3-13.7 it was typically running, down to around 12v which is just above where it gets into danger mode. Whenever that happened I kicked the bike down a gear or two and revved the engine as much as I could. At first, after a few miles, the voltage would adjust back up and I figured I had discovered the band-aid. As the day wore on, the voltage would drop more frequently and take longer to get back up. There was obviously something cycling that was causing this.
At about 3:00, I realized that I had no chance to get to Billings by 6:00. I called ahead to see if there was someway I could get the battery delivered to the campsite or try to have somebody pick it up for me. The guy on the phone said there was a place out back he could stash it for me. I got there at about 7:00 and the battery was waiting for me where he said it would be. Great dealer support!
I got to the campsite a little bit later and threw the battery on the charger to make sure it got fully charged, It was, so I pulled the (relatively) old battery and threw it on the charger. I was surprised to see it attain fully charged status in only about 10 minutes. That concerned me a bit, but at least I was able to get things put away for the night. I had penciled in a bit of a scenic detour to get off the freeway and cut over by West Yellowstone, if things were going well, but they obviously were not going well. Despite taking the “fast” route, I was still on the road for over 12 hours and I was dead tired.
July 4 – Still Struggling
When I had dropped the new battery into the bike the night before, the meter showed it as having 100% starting capacity. After one start, it dropped down to 70%. I expected it to build up as I went along, but it never did. So I now knew, without a doubt that I had a deficiency in my charging system. One of the good things about being out on the open road – especially the freeway – is that you have a lot of time to wrap your head around stuff. I pondered what was happening and my thoughts started drifting to the rectifier/regulator which I had replaced last year. It was a used one, but it read out fine when I installed it. The more I thought about it the more it made sense. In the mean time, it was getting to the point that I was racing my engine more than I was not. Aside from killing my mileage running at 65 mph in 2nd gear, it was very annoying hearing my bike sound like a mini bike about to explode. (Not to worry, my bike has a rev limiter that would prevent me from blowing it up!)
At my next fuel stop, I reached down and felt that the unit was very hot to the touch. I also jiggled the connection a bit. I called my trusty buddy who has helped me through numerous other issues (In fact I’m pretty sure that the rectifier/regulator came from him) and he confirmed that the symptoms I was experiencing was very likely the rectifier/regulator unit. I was hoping he knew some gorilla mechanics work around that I could perform to put myself in a better situation until I could find another one. Nope, it’s a black box and the only fix is to replace it.
I got back on the road and found that things were acting much better. I didn’t know if my jiggling did the trick or if the unit heard my buddy’s voice over the phone, but I didn’t have any more issues the rest of the day. I even managed to stop for 5 minutes and take some pictures at the area around the Grasslands National Park. I was still a little nervous so I kept my sight seeing to a minimum.
I actually made pretty good time and found myself in Bismarck by 4:00. I was looking forward to throwing down a few beers. I stopped for fuel as I often do before locating the campground. Fueled up, got some ice and was a bit confused by the fact the gas station didn’t have any beer. I asked about it thinking perhaps they just didn’t have a license.
“Nope, nobody in Bismarck can sell alcohol on a Sunday. But you can go back across the river 3 miles and get some in that last town.”
She got a forklift to get my jaw off the floor and I briefly considered heading back a few miles to get a sixer. But, there was some congestion building up in a construction zone in that area and I opted to skip the beer for the night. Luckily I carry a bottle with me, so I wasn’t completely stranded, but the idea of a beer just seemed particularly good.
As it turned out, I was camped next to a couple who were on their way home to MA after trying to tour AK on their Wing towing a little cargo trailer. I guess they ran into bad weather on just about every day which made the road miserable and limited their camping opportunities. We chatted for a bit before they took off to take in the local rodeo.
Another rider/camper pulled in on the other side of me. I didn’t want to bug her when she was setting up and then she was pretty scarce so I never got to chat with her at all. I hit the bed before the fireworks festivities really got going and was up and out before my neighbors woke up.
July 5 – Nobody told me there’d be rain….
My early start and easy morning had me in a bit of a good mood. I was heading east on 94 heading for Minneapolis/St. Paul, possibly further. I was just motoring along in what I call my “hug” position (cruise on, leaned over on top of the tank with my legs on the passenger pegs and my hands up under the bars and on the fairing) minding my own business when one of Minnesota’s finest had his lights on and his eye on me. I glanced at the speedo – well under the limit – what did I do?
I pulled over and instantly noticed that one of my spare gas cans had bounced out of its cage and had been dragging along the ground. The officer pointed it out to me and recommended that I secure the next one a little better – it had been dragging long enough that it had a hole in it and all the gas was gone. The trooper said he could smell it well before he saw me. No ticket or any grief.
I got such a good jump on the day that I decided to push my planned stopping location out a couple hours. I was scheduled to meet a fellow forum member (Craig) at Red’s Pizza in St. Paul which my buddy Hank has been raving about. When I got a couple hours out of St. Paul, I contacted Craig to let him know what my timing was going to be. I also asked him to give me the number of the Yami dealer in the Twin Cities area hoping they had the part I needed or could get one for me. I called them and waited on hold for about 20 minutes. Great. I finally decided to get through another tank of gas and try again. I was on hold for another 10 minutes and figured that they just weren’t open and neglected to let anybody know. I was not pleased to have wasted 30 minutes of cell time not to mention the 30 minutes of travel time.
Being the 5th, there was a lot of traffic on I-94 heading towards Minneapolis/St. Paul. I had a 10 – 15 mile stretch of parking lot traffic because a big rig had found a way to squirrel off the road. Most of the back up was just because of looky-loos which really annoyed me. Craig had warned me that there were some “dark clouds” forming in the area when I called him a second time. I really didn’t worry about it as I’d been in cloud cover most of the trip.
As I approached Minneapolis, I saw the clouds and said to myself “Oh THOSE dark clouds”. They were pretty ominous and I suddenly wished that I didn’t have a scheduled meet up in that direction. As I approached the ensuing downpour, I thought about getting my Frog Toggs on, but was going to wait just one more exit.
DOH! Just as I passed that exit, the freeway turned into a parking lot and as I was sitting at the on ramp of the exit I had just passed, the sky just fell down. Had we been moving, it probably wouldn’t have been too bad, but sitting still or even paddle footing along, there was just no where to hide. The rain pretty much never let up for the next 30 miles into St. Paul and the traffic just kept getting worse.
On top of that, the pizza place where I was meeting Craig was in a particularly difficult to navigate section of downtown. I was having a bear of a time dealing with 1) the idiots around me, 2) trying to see my GPS screen, 3) trying to see street signs, 4) trying to see the road and 5) trying to get where I needed to be (some exits were on the left, some were on the right). To make matters worse, right at the very end of the route, there were three or four very quick decisions to make and the GPS was not keeping up. I got right down to the last decision and missed the turn off.
It took me 20 minutes to figure out how to get back. I finally got there and Craig was already there sucking on a beer. He flagged me down and said my raingear must be very good as I didn’t look wet all. “Look again.” I was completely drenched with the possible exception of my butt. “This better be some damn good pizza!” I ordered a beer and went out to retrieve some dry clothes and changed in the men’s room.
Craig and I had a nice chat and the pizza WAS good, but not THAT good. Craig was kind enough to pay for the pizza – I guess he felt responsible for my “welcome” to MN. It was completely unnecessary, but I tried to be gracious and thanked him. I asked him how I should go about getting on the freeway. He didn’t know, as I was going a different direction than he usually does from there.
I stopped at a gas station and asked and was on my way, heading for Hixton, WI for the night. It was still raining when I left Red’s, but not as bad and after about 20 minutes it pretty much died off, at least for a while. As wet as I was, I would have liked to have done the cabin option for the night, but the staff had pulled out early and I had to settle for the tent site I had reserved.
It was nearly 9:00 before I got into camp and by 10:00 I was situated and in bed. I had put my wet clothes out on the picnic table under the cover for my trailer hoping they’d dry out a bit. Sometime in the middle of the night, the rain came down again and pretty good downpour at that. It was at this time that I realized that my tent isn’t exactly rain worthy.
I had the usual issue that one gets with a nylon tent, where the water will seep through the sides if it gets touched on the inside. Well, my double wide sleeping bag is pretty much the same size as tent, so a good portion of the edges of the bag were quite damp, particularly at the top of the bag. I also discovered I ha a slight leak – right in the dead center of the top of the tent. Not real bad, but I had a regular drip coming down right on me. So I really had nowhere to hide. I did what I could to protect myself from the drip and tried to get some more sleep until daybreak.
July 6 – So much for gaining a little ground
When I got up it was still drizzling off and on and there was just no dry spot in the camp. I was at a bit of a loss for what to do. I knew I needed to dry stuff out, but how? I took my soaked clothes from the day before over and threw them in the dryer. Meanwhile I erected my extra tarp over the front of the tent and moved the table (which was actually dry because I had my trailer cover over it. I then pulled out my little fan that I carry and used it to blow air over the damp pillows and sleeping bag in the tent. It was slow going, but it was working. As I was getting stuff close to dry I’d move it out on the table so I could work on something else. I wasn’t able to get everything completely dry, but I got things down to a little damp and decided to call it good, hoping I could find a laundromat near my friend’s house so I could finish the job. I spent a good hour and a half extra just getting things packed because of the rain.
I had penciled in a little sight seeing detour if I had time for this day, but having to deal with my wet gear put the kibosh on that. After I got away from the Hixton area the rain let up and the sun came out for the most part. I got to my buddy’s house and he had located a laundromat a few blocks away and I drug my camper over there and decided to just do some laundry while I was at it. The sun was shining pretty brightly, so I caught a bit of a break and was able to open the tent up in the parking lot and let it dry out while I was taking care of the other stuff.
I went back over to my buddy’s house, showered up, had a beer and we headed over to Miller Park to watch my Giant’s play in Milwaukee. Miller Park is a beautiful park, it reminded me a great deal of AT&T park in teering and the seating arrangements. I loved the concourse they have running all around the park from which you can see the field from just about any of the concession stands.
I failed to warn my buddy that when I see the Giants live, they usually win. The game itself was a pitcher’s duel until the 5th when the Brewer’s shortstop made an awful error and Giants capitalized and scored 5 times. That was pretty much all there was to it and I was able to claim victory. I supported my team without being the obnoxious visiting fan (at least I think I did) and had a great time. My buddy put me up for the night, but I had some serious thinking to do about the rest of my trip as the weather appeared that it wasn’t going to cooperate with my plans.
July 7 – Now What?
I wasn’t able to connect to his wireless with my laptop and he had to get to work so I had minimal time on the internet to figure out where I was going to go. All the weather sources indicated that it was going to be pretty ugly up in my planned destination of Eagle River, WI for the next few days. My original plans were kind of a big loop around Lake Michigan so I though perhaps I’d just reverse my plans. Unfortunately, my leg back into Milwaukee was to take a ferry across from Muskegee, MI. I hadn’t fully researched that yet as that was expected to be over a week away. I learned that it was booked for the day, so that wasn’t going to work.
We parted ways and I went to find a place to eat breakfast and figure things out. Along the way, I stopped for gas and noticed that they wanted almost 30 cents more per gallon to use a credit card. Wow. For that I paid cash. I found a restaurant down the street and had some good chow. I poured over my maps and it seemed like every one of my outs other than south were pretty much blocked by the storms. I briefly considered heading south and looping around the south end of Lake Michigan, but I really didn’t want to deal with Chicago and there was just nothing in Illinois that I was dying to see. This decision was particularly painful as I was in need of a multiple night stay somewhere, so just heading somewhere dry for the night wasn’t really going to cut it.
It seemed to me that based on the radar, the storm paths were not heading toward northern MI. I opted to head for the Michigan Upper Peninsula (UP) and just try to dodge the storms. At first I was making it work out – I saw a storm in my headlights and pulled over to let it pass. It appeared to just not be moving at all, but after 20 minutes I made a little more progress.
I had been told that Door county is supposed to be some nice scenery and when I saw that the storm that I was playing hide and seek with appeared to be directly between me and Green Bay, I decided that I might be able to see a little of the Lake Michigan coast and kill a couple hours before hitting Green Bay. At first, this was working; well everything except the view of the lake. It was clouded and fogged over. Oh well, at least I was staying dry. Well, that ended as well, the storm had found me. I hadn’t even made it Sturgeon Bay which is the on the southern boundary of Door county and it started coming down pretty good. I figured I might as well bail on the Door County peninsula and head for Green Bay. So, I cut west across the peninsula towards Green Bay.
As I said, the storm was moving very slowly and in my direction, so I stayed in the system for quite a long time. Just as I hit the WI/MI border I got out in front of it, but I needed fuel. By the time I was gassed up, I was right back in it. That lased for about another 20 minutes when I finally broke free of the storm for good. I headed for Manistique and set up camp, planning to try to figure out my plans.
I got to the KOA in Manistique to find a very unique situation as far as KOAs go. They had a motel front and some campsites in the back. I learned that they’re brand new to the KOA system and it showed. The place just didn’t feel right and it didn’t help that the tent sites were just pretty much out in the wide open. There are a few trees between the campsites and the motel, but there was just zero privacy.
On top of that, there was a family set up a few hundred feet from me that just gave me the willies. I’ll skip the details, but I was very happy to see them leave the next day. Aside form the guy running the place, this facility was just not worthy of the KOA system.
After I had dinner, I came out to find another rider/camper setting up near me. We chatted for a few minutes and I learned that he had come the Milwaukee area as well and was about 2 hours behind me. The worst it got for him was that he decided to put his rain gear on! I guess some days it just pays to sleep in.
July 8 - Down Day
I had a few things that needed dealing with so I spent half the day taking care of chores and trying to relax. By about noon, I was hoping to check out some local stuff, but there just wasn’t much to choose from. I opted to head about 15 miles east to check out a light house. It’s not really my cup of tea, but I figured I’d give it a look-see.
Now, I haven’t been talking about my bike’s charging issue over the last couple days, but it’s still there. Every once in a while, the connection on the rectifier would work itself loose and my meters would let me know. I’d pull over, give it a jiggle and be back on the road. It was just so odd, because sometimes I was good for hours and other times seconds. It was really making me nuts. As I was leaving the lighthouse, I rigged up a little harness system with some zip-ties and it seemed to be better.
I went back to camp and made another effort to locate the part I needed. I quickly learned that just because a shop is a “Yamaha Dealer” doesn’t mean they deal with street bikes or even motorcycles at all. I called one location that was kind of in my range and they didn’t have the part, which I guess was no real surprise. I asked for another possible place to try and they referred me to another shop – which doesn’t do motorcycles. Nice that the first shop knows what’s going on 40 miles from them. It was just feeling useless to keep randomly calling dealers, so I put that project on hold.
The weather was supposed to clear up so I decided to do a day trip up to Pictured Rocks National Shoreline the next day. This meant another night in this location. I considered pulling up and hitting another location (there was another KOA an hour away, but in the end, I decided to just stick it out for a couple more nights in Manistique.
July 9 – So THIS is what vacation feels like…
Finally had a nice day. The ride up to Munisig was pleasant and I got to the place where they offer boat tours in time to catch the first ship out. I don’t normally cotton to tours or other group activities, but my internet research had indicated that there was little to see of this attraction from land and that the only way to see the sites is by boat. Not having my own boat, I had to do the tour.
The ship was a double-decker set up with half of the seating enclosed at “floor level” and the other half was on the upper deck in the open air. I got in line early enough to be able to get just about any seat I wanted. The upper deck seats up front were grabbed quickly, so I grabbed the back seat on the upper deck on the shore side and on the rail. There was also a place to stand right behind the seat I chose and I planned to stand back there most of the trip.
The ship had a couple of guides that were identifying certain landmarks and telling us some local history. They did a great job. It took about a half hour to get out to the shoreline formations that were featured on the tour. Very amazing stuff. The only problem was that the featured shore is on the west and the sun was still a little low in the sky at 10:00. This left most of the shore in the shadows, so the colors in the rocks really didn’t “pop” and made photography less effective. If I were to do it again, I’d shoot for the 2:00 tour and I bet the sunset tour is just amazing.
I did have issue with some of the other tourists. As soon as we got near the views, people just swarmed to anywhere they wanted regardless of what seat they got when they boarded. It was kind of frustrating having everybody crowd around, but I guess we all paid to get the views.
All the recent rain had increased the flow of all the waterfalls along the shoreline to spring-like conditions. There were many falls and all of them nice, but nothing really spectacular. Aside from the rock formation, there were also many tunnels and caves along the shore and there was plenty of evidence of recent erosion. I bet the tour is just a little bit different every year.
After the tour, I decided to take a look at the northeast end of the UP and headed for Paradise. Along the way, I stopped at the Tahquamenon waterfalls. It was a bit of a hike to get to some of the viewpoints at the upper falls, but it was worth the very unique view. The falls had a very rich brown coloration – the water looked like root beer or even coffee. I guess this is caused by the tannin that is created by the trees and is leached into the river. The recent rains must have boosted that as well, because I saw a very different color than what I’ve seen in some other pictures. My view was almost 100% brown with a few streaks of white; I’ve seen pictures where it is primarily white with a few streaks of brown.
I headed to the lower falls and found that it would take more of a hike than I was prepared to do to see the main part of the feature and I opted to just head back to camp. I really hadn’t had a good night’s sleep since the trip started and I was just tired. I went into town and got some food to take back to camp. I took a quick swim and had dinner, hung out for a bit and went to bed.
July 10 – Why am I here today?
I realized when I got up, that I really didn’t have much of a plan for the day, I had asked about a few ideas but the guy running the KOA really wasn’t sure what I’d find. I had though about exploring Drummond island, but decided that it would likely be crowded and it was just far enough away that I’d end up having a long day on the bike. I finally opted to do a tour of the south-east end of the UP. I headed along Highway 2 to St. Ignaces and then over to De Tour Village. From there I wound my way north to Sault Saint Marie where I tried to find a place for lunch that had been advertised on the highway. Trying to find it took me through a very congested tourist trap strip which was annoying – especially so because I never found the place.
I headed back to camp and wound up just doing a gas station lunch and opted for a nice solid dinner when I got back to the facility. I was reluctant to eat at the motel again because the meal I had there when I got into town kind of sucked, but didn’t feel like getting back on the bike so I took a chance. I had a nice cut of steak which was way too big. I ended up taking half of it with me to finish the next day.
After dinner, I found some more rider/campers had moved in for the night. A couple of French-Canadians were from Montreal had a trailer in tow and came over to take some pictures of my set up. There was another lone gal setting up next to me who I think was missing a few marbles. Nice enough lady, but was lacking in a bit of social etiquette. She would just wander over regardless of what I was doing and come up with some mindless banter and then wander away. As I was preparing to go to bed, she came by and started chatting and somehow the subject of tools came up. I mentioned that I carry plenty and she said: “Allen wrenches?”
“All righty, that’s what I need” and she proceeded to assume that she was just going to use my tools. I would have offered to help anyway, but it was just the way that she assumed that really bugged me. I grabbed some tools and went over and tightened a few things up for her and rushed to excuse myself for bed before she could come up with another way to monopolize more of my time.