What’s up, friends? I’ve sat here for 15 minutes figuring out how to intro this. I’m rusty. So, here we go…
We went to Michigan this summer. I am going to tell you about it.
Our summer vacay with Cole and Tyree took us to Michigan with the goal of camping, riding, and no real direction other than to explore the beautiful Upper Peninsula. St. Ignace was our home-base for a few days, but we kept extremely loose destinations for the majority of our trip. It’s really the perfect way to vacay when on bikes. You just never know where adventure awaits, so why stifle it with strict plans, ya know? So, July 2nd, 2021, we kicked off day one towards Bagley, WI where we’d set up tents next to the Mississippi river before nightfall.
Or so we thought.
If you ride, you know to expect the unexpected. Our new reality hit about 2.5 hours into our journey when we found ourselves a parking lot and a broke down bike. Friends, let me introduce you to my friend, Tyree.
Scratch Wisconsin. New destination: Cedar Rapids, IA. And instead of a tent, we rewarded ourselves with a hotel, a much needed shower and a nightcap with our friends John and Jodi at a local watering hole. I tell you what… we know we have the best of the best friends in all our friend groups, but John hit MVP status when he offered up his motorcycle to Tyree. Class act, y’all.
After The House on the Rock, our Saturday journey took us on backroads with a itty bitty stretch of interstate in Green Bay all the way to Marinette, WI. A real quaint town with a 1 star roadside motel that served as our home for the night. Clint was so impressed with our accommodations that he took everything from his bike and hauled it into the room. Honestly, I am surprised he didn’t also remove his battery.
Adventure, folks. Highly recommend 1 star accommodations.
Also highly recommend 4 stars for peace of mind and body.
Happy Birthday, America and Hello Lake Michigan. You were an absolutely gorgeous sight to see. All hands in the water to leave a little bit of us behind and we moved along on our journey. The landscape, y’all. Simply stunning.
If you are up in this area, please stop by MooFinFries. Excellent burgers, delicious ice cream, and the NICEST owner who loves to engage his customers. Small shop, big hearts.
And ice cream cones.
July 4th is also Tyree and Cole’s wedding anniversary. I may or may not have forgotten until right around this time. My bad. Happy Anny, C&T. 😉
After setting up camp at the St. Ignace KOA we headed out to the pier to hitch a ride on a ferry to Mackinac Island.
Mackinac Island is full of history, tourist attractions and about 3,002 fudge shops. We enjoyed a hike around some of the island to take in a portion of its history and the views. Fun fact: about 500 people live on the island year-round, but over 1 million people visit the island each year. I also read on a local blog that the residents of Mackinac call the tourists “fudgies”. See previous sentence.
As luck would have it, our journey off the island was delayed which ended up being a blessing as it gave us the chance to view the fireworks from the top deck of the ferry. Incredible!
Overalls compliments of Shinesty should you be interested in looking as cool as Tyree and I.
I spy with my little eyesomeone holding their 1st trimester belly.
Monday, July 5th we ate breakfast at Bentley’s B-M-L diner and then made our way to Driftwood Sports Bar where we drank bloody mary’s and attempted a few card games while we waited out the storm rolling through. Let’s just say card games are NOT a strong suit of Cole and I. Clint and Tyree no doubt wanted to kill us. ‘Least the drinks were good. 😉
Rain aside, we headed south to ride Michigan’s famed Tunnel of Trees on M-119. The stretch to and through was absolutely breathtaking. 25 MPH and nothing but trees and an occasional break in landscape with views of Lake Michigan. It’s in these moments I wish I had a GoPro to bring you on the journey with us. Simply stunning.
I LIVED for the journey across Mackinac Bridge. There is just something magical about riding a motorcycle across a bridge that lights me up. Mackinac Bridge is the longest suspension bridge between anchorages in the Western Hemisphere, connecting Michigan’s Upper and Lower Peninsulas.
Tuesday, July 6th the boys took off around 6am to for a fishing trip on Lake Michigan while Tyree and I journeyed North to the Canadian border to get our hands in Lake Superior.
Tyree and I made it back to St. Ignace before the boys, so we made the executive decision to tear down camp to head out one day early due to incoming severe storms. The one thing that can derail any motorcycle vacay is the weather. For the next three days the radar showed nothing but solid green and red for Northern WI, MN and IA; our original loosely laid out route home. Looking south into Michigan and Indiana also showed us green and red, but with little pockets of hope peeking through. So, we chose the route South which was less suck versus going West which was full suck. Late afternoon we put the kickstands up and headed South through Charlevoix and into Traverse City, MI where we’d find the LAST TWO ROOMS available in the entire city.
Wednesday gifted us with the kind of heavy rain that makes you shiver in disgust. A blessing in the form of an extended checkout time, we hit the wet pavement around noon towards South Bend, Indiana where we rolled in around dinner time for an unexpected journey through Notre Dame campus (hello stadium dreams!) and the best pretzels at an Irish pub.
We woke up Thursday to a little more rain, but overall clearing skies. However, due to an extreme storm cell projected to hit Omaha Friday night combined with the need to return John’s bike to Cedar Rapids and retrieve Tyree’s bike from Des Moines Harley Davidson before they closed, we decided to embark on the 583 mile journey home.
While we technically wrapped up our vacation two days early, we also closed it out filled with love and gratitude to have experienced another spectacular vacation with two of our dearest friends.
During a pandemic. Through storms. And a breakdown.
‘Cause that’s how we do.
Kids, grab your beverage of choice. I’ve got some stories to tell!
Thursday, June 4th, Tyree and I took off on a South Dakota and Wyoming adventure. Coming out of a particularly chaotic season of our professional lives, we were ready for an escape from computers and responsibilities. As the miles between us and Omaha got longer, the weight on the shoulders became lighter.
I was living for it. Tunes on, throttle wide open, bug blasted windshield, perma grin, and a storm front looking all cool and refreshing on the horizon.
With only a few sprinkles felt and a welcomed temperature drop from the blazing 90 degree sun, we made our way towards Valentine, NE where the resident cat at the Trade Winds Motel would welcome us home for the night and the Peppermill and Lounge would serve us hot food and ice cold beer. The Peppermill had only recently started serving folks on-site so we were met with happy smiles and thankful servers.
Friday morning we set out for South Dakota by way of Highway 20 so we could drop in at the bottom of the Black Hills. We were going to get the most out of this day while we slowly made our way towards Sturgis.
First stop after crossing into South Dakota was lunch at Woolly’s Grill and Cellar in Hot Springs and then on into the Black Hills for some playtime with the buffalo.
Deemed “impossible” to construct by its critics, Needles Highway (SD Hwy 87)—a National Scenic Byway—was completed in 1922. The road lies within the 71,000 acre Custer State Park, just 30 miles south of Rapid City, and is an impressive 14 mile stretch that includes sharp turns, narrow tunnels, granite spires and world class views.
After Needles we ran on fumes to Crazy Horse and then on over to Mt. Rushmore.
Fuel light on? It’s fiiiiinne.
And then onto Nemo Highway where we stopped at the Nemo Mercantile to enjoy a beer and chat with the local UTVers.
In Sturgis we stayed with Bob & Janet, owners of the coziest basement apartment, outfitted in furniture and doilies that reminded me of great grandma Leora. Bob and Janet should be airbnb’s token couple for advertising a “Weekend at Grandma’s“. Absolute gems.
And let’s all pay our respects to that long telephone cord, y’all. That’s what we call 1997 phone privacy… landline style.
After unloading our saddlebags, we made our way out to the Full Throttle Saloon. If you’ve been with me long enough you know FTS holds a very special place in my heart as it is the location Clint proposed in August 2010. Sadly the OG FTS, where all our memories were made, went up in flames, but the rebuild is better than ever.
By this point in the night we were starving and the temps were dropping so we made our way back into the Sturgis City limits where we stopped for a beer at the Knuckle Saloon and dinner at One Eyed Jacks.
Saturday morning promised overcast skies, a rainy forecast, and a chill in the air. We needed a breakfast of champions and Red’s Grill & Pub DELIVERED!
A few friendly weather warnings and well-wishes from the locals and we were off to Wyoming. Not even 30 minutes later the skies were BLUE, the sun was out and it was looking to be a rock solid day of play!
Shoot, we even found a lonely golf cart on the side of the road. You know we pulled over and called our buddy Cyndi from the seat of that bad boy. Motorcycle rallies of the past would have come haunting had we not paid respect to Cyndi’s devilish ways.
On down the road to Hulett, WY where the Ponderosa Bar served up ice cold RBV’s and an opportunity for self-entertainment as there was literally no one else out in that town. June 2020 Pandemic vibes!
We left our mark and bid farewell to that one-horse town and cruised on down the road.
As we neared Devils Tower we pulled off for a few photo opportunities. We weren’t planning on going closer as we figured it cost $ and would be loaded with tourists. We aren’t tourists, ya know… 😉
Once back on the bikes we made a split second and unplanned decision to turn into Devils Tower parking lot, and in that very moment Tyree’s back brake locked up and her bike stopped rolling.
Y’all. This wasn’t a coincidence. We had our guardian angels riding with us that day. Ours wear leather, you know. We also had our mama’s at home praying for our safe journey’s. There were extra hands in this intervention. Had we kept rolling, I would be telling a different story today.
So, what are two girls in the middle of Wyoming with limited resources to do? Facetime Bill, of course. Bill is the husband of our dearest friend Tracy and owner of Spaz Cycle. Bill – THANK YOU for taking the time out of your insanely busy day to help us two idiots out. You went above and beyond. Thanks, friend.
While Tyree was on the phone with Bill, I went on a walk through the neighboring campground where I made friends with two fellas who had all the tools we needed and the hearts to give us a hand. We were surrounded by the best humans. I wish we could have remembered to grab their names or social media channels to give them a special thanks.
With a locked brake caliper piston, the whole thing had to be removed. While they worked, I was on the phone with Deluxe Harley-Davidson in Sundance giving them the 411. Once Tyree’s brake caliper was back on, we made the 30 mile trek to Sundance. Those 30 miles consisted of Tyree making continual conscious reminders to avoid the brake pedal. What could happen?
A locked brake at 65mph on winding roads is what.
Pro Status: we pulled into Deluxe HD at 2:00 where we would become BFF’s with three of the best HD employees. I mean, we did spend 3.5 hours with them, so BFF status was EARNED.
They took MORE than great care of Tyree’s bike. They even went the extra mile and serviced some other components while we were there. Shoot, we even got a few cold beers out of the deal.
And maybe a few laughs. We were tired. Hungry. Our afternoon plans to ride Spearfish and hang out in Deadwood had vanished. We had to get our jokes in somehow… albeit childish jokes, but hey. You get what you get with us.
If there is something I have learned from Tyree over the years, it is to always make the best of the situations provided. Always something to be thankful for, even when shit hits the fan.
And on this particular day, we were surrounded by goodness of all forms.
5:30pm and we hit the road for a 30 mile cruise towards Spearfish Canyon. And, unbeknownst to us at the time, here is a lineup of events that happened in our favor between 5:15-6:15pm:
Last second clutch adjustment at the HD store as we were rolling out. 15 extra minutes.
Wrong turn in Spearfish led us away from the scenic byway. 10 minutes.
Decision to top off our tanks once back on track. 5 minutes.
Had any one of those events not happened, we would have found ourselves stranded on Spearfish Canyon Byway, no shelter, 55-60mph winds with 75mph wind gusts.
While fueling (#3) we scanned the radar and decided to hammer down to Sturgis to outrun the storm. Mother Nature would have very different plans as the wind and rain came in fast and furious while we prepared to merge onto the interstate. I’ve ridden in storms. We stood no chance in this one with nothing surrounding that stretch of interstate. The driver of the Wranger to my right motioned for me to take the open space in front of him while Tyree maneuvered around back. Squeezing our way across traffic we found quick shelter for our two-wheeled babes.
And there we sat. Helmets on and all.
45 minutes later and Mother Nature wasn’t giving up, so we grabbed some pizza and waited for a window of opportunity to hit the road. It finally came around 8pm, and with a stream of steady rain, we leathered up and headed out with white knuckles bracing for the lurking winds.
Shout-out to the Baymont by Wyndham front desk dude for letting us park our bikes under the awning by the front door and to the family of 6 eating at Pizza Ranch who were ready to give us a lift to Sturgis.
As I said… good humans were all around us.
Yo… props to Gr’pa Bob & Gr’ma Jan for the open garage door welcoming us home from the rain. The Real MVP’s!
Y’all still with me?
Let’s insert a commercial break. Go ahead. Refill that coffee cup.
Better yet, grab a beer. You deserve it if you’ve made it this far.
After all the fun roads were traveled and locations visited, we found ourselves at the south end of the Black Hills again and a full day ahead of us.
J: “Hey, T… what should we do now?”
J: “Sold. Should we get fuel first? I don’t remember a gas station for miiiilllesss last time I was out that way”.
T: “Nah, we good”.
J: “Let’s get to it then.”
34 miles along Hwy 36 to Hwy 40 and we found ourselves a barricade outside Red Shirt due to COVID-19 travel restrictions on Tribal Lands in South Dakota. After a very disjointed conversation over loud running motorcycles, mouth coverings and an urgent plea for fuel, the barricade patrol hesitantly let us pass through with the agreement we were headed straight to Whiteclay, our nearest option for fuel. My quick calculations told me we’d be rolling into Whiteclay with about 5-10 miles to spare. Golden.
Thanks, good people. We best be goin’ then!
And, off we went, with no other traffic. Just me and T.
We stopped “for sweatshirts” and to catch a glimpse of the outer edge of the Badlands. About 15 minutes had passed when a truck traveling from TX pulled up wanting to know if we were still on the reservation, to which we confirmed. Come to find out this couple had been warned at the SD/NE border that they’d be hauled off to jail if they stopped at any point on the reservation.
Back on the road and I wondered if we had somehow landed ourselves in Kansas. That storm cell had me thinking I was going to be visiting Oz.
That beaut was traveling North with a vengeance. We mirrored that urgency by hightailing it South towards Whiteclay with just enough fumes to re-fuel and cross into NE, leaving the storm behind us.
We didn’t have plans mapped out for our Sunday journey home, unless you consider flying by the seat of our pants as plans. Since we were near Hwy 20 we decided Trade Winds Motel in Valentine would make for a nice home again.
It should come as no surprise that Mother Nature found us again just West of Cody, NE. We ditched the road for a nice little awning while the storm rolled through. We were starving, and wouldn’t you know it the awning we were under was coverage to the front door of a closed for the day cafe. Come onnnnnnn…
We had leftover Taffy from Keystone and two shooters of liqour in our bags.
Candy and Booze.
Remember that bit about us finding all the good people on our trip? Well, we found more. As we were getting ready to move on, no phone service to check radar, we noticed a truck pulled off the road and inside a mother, daughter and son trio. Come to find out, they were headed the same direction we were, but a phone call from her husband relayed the message that 60mph winds and golf ball size hail was in her path.
Oh and that storm cell we rode by earlier? It produced a twister just North of Sturgis. Our new friends missed it by minutes. Fun!
So, we waited a while longer, said our farewells, gave them a 10 minute lead before we hopped on and rolled out. We had 42 miles left to go.
…And the sailing wasn’t smooth. I think you expected that by now. Just East of Cody, with 34 miles remaining, the sun set and the 50mph winds set in. At one point we were leaning so far into the wind that gravity would have won had the wind let up. That 34 mile stretch saw us through wind gusts that sent us sailing over the center line, shot nerves, stress levels through the effing roof, many prayers, moments of exhaustion that had to be squelched because the wind never let the f up, and random bursts of uncontrollable laughter thanks to afore mentioned shot nerves until we FINALLY saw the city lights of Valentine. It was 11pm, the town was shut down (pandemic probs) and with gas station chips, cheese and water in hand, we fell into our hotel room, straight up delirious with the biggest smiles on our faces and new memories stored away.
The nonsense we get ourselves into… wouldn’t have it any other way.
Get you a Thelma to your Louise. Get yourself a friend that you can do nothing and everything with and have the time of your lives. Shoot… get yourself 20 of them. I am surrounded by friends from all walks of life who fill my cup in so many ways.
And this girl? Well, she’s my Louise.
And I think I’ll keep her.
You can find our last adventures to the Ozark Mountains here. Backroads, nightfall and nonsense. Standard.