Departed Pittsburgh to meet up in Cincinnati with Jim Clark (up from North Carolina), then the both of us proceeded to Chicago to collect Gil Ross and we headed North by the west coast of Lake Michigan to the southern shore of Lake Superior. 2200 miles round trip for me. More notes on the logistics of the trip and photos later.
First stop is the venerable Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, a really fascinating tour even of you have little interest in motorcycles. The exhibits are as high tech and modern as it gets. They have representative models of all the famous and infamous Harleys through the years, all restored to perfection, including the first one ever manufactured (by hand), serial number 001. Looks more like a bicycle with a sewing machine motor amidships.
One of the most interesting is the engine evolution exhibit, showing each iteration of Harley engines through the years, the flathead, F-head, knucklehead, Panhead, Shovelhead, the Evolution and finally the Revolution designed by Porsche, one of the highest tech engines ever built. Push a button and you can hear how each one sounds, and they all sound different. This tour highly recommended even if you aren’t an enthusiast. There is something for every interest.
Next stop the Maritime Museum in two Rivers, complete with a tour of the WW II submarine the USS Cobia. The museum is loaded with history of maritime shipping in the Great Lakes. The submarine tour was guided and very interesting as to how the sailors that manned it lived in such cramped and dangerous quarters in a usual ambient temperature over 90 degrees F 24 hours a day. No one noticed body odor, they all smelled like diesel fuel and cigarette smoke (yes, the smoking lamp was lit while submerged).
Then on to the south shore of lake superior, where we quickly figured out the best sightseeing was from a boat rather than the road. So we undertook a three-hour tour of the beautiful shoreline (Pictured Rocks National Seashore). Superior is by far the most interesting of the Great Lakes, on of the largest in the world, one of the deepest (1300 feet), coldest, clearest (100 foot visibility in places) and most dangerous (as befell the Edmond Fitzgerald in 1975). There is enough water in Superior to flood all of North and South America to a depth of one foot.
We did all this in four days, which is typical of us, biting off more than we can chew, and therein lies some interesting asides about motorcycle touring.
We (Tres Hombres MC) all have big bikes that are stable on the road, two big BMWs and a Harley Road King. My BMW R1150GS is Gibraltar on wheels. But we found out quickly how dangerous this can all be on Interstate Highways when integrated with fast moving cars and impatient drivers, many chewing the fat on cell phones. There are only two ways to go north from Chicago, along the lake with a town every three miles, each with ten stoplights, or Interstate 94. If you are on a time budget, there isn’t really much choice.
The Interstate corridor from Chicago to Milwaukee is quite possibly one of the most dangerous I have ever experienced. There are probably others but this one was impressive. Eight lanes (four in each direction) with bumper to bumper traffic all doing 80 to 90 miles per hour, and each jockeying for position, literally risking their lives to gain ten feet advantage over the car next to them. Put motorcycles in this mix, all at the same speed, and you have a really fast video game in which the players are trapped. Small mistakes generate great destruction. It wasn’t Hanoi by a long shot, but it was plenty scary and none of us will ever do it again.
Next trip will by Idaho and Wyoming.
The video of some of the photos follows. Here’s a narrative of what’s what from the beginning.
1. Map of the route for me round trip from Pittsburgh.
2. Fearless Leader the Tour Nazi doesn’t use a GPS (but I have one for backup). He uses copious, detailed notes under plastic on top of his tank bag. A glance downward gives the data to keep on track.
3. The three of us gearing up to depart Gil’s home in Chicago.
4. What I see from rider’s position, tank bag, GPS to the left and “Spot, a satellite tracking system, to the right.
5. Few slides of the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee including a reproduction of the classic bike ridden by Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider”. There were two originals in 1968, one was wrecked at the end of the film and the other was stolen and never recovered. It resides in some rich guy’s trophy room somewhere.
6. Tour of the USS Cobia WW II Submarine.
7. Boat tour of the Pictured Rocks National Seashore, the rim of Lake Superior.
8. Finally the National Shelby Car Club had an exhibit at Road America (Elkhart Lake, WI) that we dropped in on. All of the Shelby Cobras were copies of the original, which is worth about a million dollars apiece if you can find one.
Enjoy if you have in interest. Here’s the URL: