Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota Life on the frozen tundra of South Dakota

07/10/2009 Through 07/14/2009

07/10/2009 Through 07/14/2009

My choices for motorcycle trip destinations are getting fewer, due to the following limitations:

1. My wife has conceded to put up with my motorcycle adventures on the condition that I don't return to these great destinations a second time without bringing her. I am allowed to go preview the sights, but to go back alone is not allowed.

2. The Grand Canyon is off limits without her.

3. With an allowance of four or five days to be gone (constrained by family obligations, limited vacation time from work and general busyness of life) I am finding the number of interesting destinations reachable within this time window to be dwindling. There isn't a whole lot of interesting riding in my particular area of the country. Don't get me wrong; I love Sioux Falls and it's a great place to live, but there's a reason you don't hear about droves of motorcyclists heading to eastern South Dakota.

So, this meant that my trip this year would more than likely take me north or east, as those were the directions I had yet to travel extensively via motorcycle.

A couple years ago I was looking at an interesting looking route whereas I would head east across Minnesota and Wisconsin, catch a ferry across Lake Michigan, then ride up through Michigan and over the top of Lake Superior back to Duluth, MN. This route was intriguing to say the least.

In researching this route, however, I ran into a logistical difficulty with the timing of the ferry crossing. Coming from the west to catch the ferry would either make the first day of riding an exceedingly long day, or by splitting the ride into two days would dramatically increase the number of miles I would have to go the remaining days of the trip.

This route would also mean two border crossings into Canada, which can also throw a wrench into the timing of a trip. You may get through quickly, but you may sit there a while as well. Plus, crossing into Canada now requires a passport, of which I do not have. So add that expense and hassle to the planning of the trip, and it looked like this route just wouldn't work.

Still, the call of the ferry across Lake Michigan was ever alluring. After staring at the map over a period of months, I realized that a few tweaks to the route would allow me to do this trip within the allotted time period.

First, rather than riding through Canada over the top of Lake Superior, I would ride through the upper peninsula of Michigan and across northern Wisconsin. This would still give me the opportunity to see Superior and ride the coast, but would allow me to do so without the hassle of obtaining a passport or border crossings. This would also reduce the number of miles I would have to ride each day and (perhaps) allow me to slow down a little and see some sights.

Second, I figured out if I reversed the direction of the ride (clockwise instead of counter-clockwise) and traveled through Michigan north to south, I could reach Ludington, MI (where the ferry ports on the east) in 2 1/2 days, spend the night and ride the ferry in the morning. This would greatly reduce the stress of having to ride a certain number of miles during a morning to arrive in time to catch the ferry. Missing the ferry would put a big damper on the trip as I would cause me to either abort and return home, dramatically reroute everything, or add an additional day to the trip waiting for the ferry to return.

As a bonus, this trip would take me through three new states in which I had never ridden my motorcycle: North Dakota, Wisconsin and Michigan.

So with my general route idea in place, I set about determining which roads and making appropriate reservations. Once again, I planned to camp in a tent during this ride. It's not that I like camping that much, it just dramatically reduces the cost of things. $15 to $20 for a camp site each night is much more palatable than $50 to $70 for a hotel room.

The first thing I did was settle on the dates I would leave. Once that was decided, I booked reservations on the Lake Michigan Car Ferry. I then proceeded to make campsite reservations for each night.

I booked a spot at the KOA in Bemidji, MN the first night and at Traveler's Park in Marquette, MI the second night. The third and fourth nights, however, I was having difficulty finding campsites that would allow online bookings.

I'm a big fan of booking things online. Over the last few months I have come to the conclusion that I am somewhat agoraphobic, and have been for many years. The idea of making phone calls is quite frightening to me. I can (and do) force myself to do it when necessary, but I am never comfortable with it. After I dial the numbers and the ring tone starts, I find myself wishing and wishing that voice mail will pick up so I can just leave a message so the person can call me back. I'm fine with answering the phone, just not placing the call. I know that sounds stupid and doesn't make sense, but I suppose the definition of a phobia is that it is an irrational fear. I can't explain it or give a good reason for it, but the fear exists nonetheless.

A few months ago after experiencing complete mental paralysis from the fear of making a necessary phone call for work, I did some research into my situation. I discovered that it has a name, and that other people suffer from it as well. While I haven't rid myself of the issue (and quite possibly never will) at least acknowledging that it exists and that I'm not a complete whacko has lessened the burden of living with this condition.

But enough about me and my mental issues. I didn't feel like calling to make reservations on these last two nights, and online reservations weren't available. So I decided to do something very uncharacteristic for myself, and wing it. I picked a couple of campgrounds and would just show up and see if they had any spots open. If not, I would try somewhere else. I figured the odds of every campground in a certain geographical area not having room for a single tent were low. An acceptable risk.

So with that, my planning was done. It was just a matter of arranging for the necessary days off of work and then waiting for the day I left. Like Tom Petty says, the waiting is the hardest part...

Continue on to day one...

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