Monday, August 13, 2012

Riding the Great Lakes and BATS!

August 11 & 12

fishin with Josh
I was grounded in Erie on Friday, August 10th due to the weather. Towards the end of the day the weather began to clear and I decided to break out my portable fishing rod I have been traveling with.  I stopped by a lagoon in Presque Isle, put on a random lore and began to fish. I caught nothing, but enjoyed the peacefulness of it. I then decided I would meet with a group led by Brian Gula, the ranger I had spoken with the day before, and participate in the "great bat count" of Presque Isle. Bats counted from the previous year roost in a maintenance shed located on the Isle.   The idea is that a group of people stand guard at different areas in front of the shed and count the bats when they fly out a dusk to eat. We then compared the number to last years count.  My job was to watch the cracks of a single door for escaping bats.  In total the group as a whole counted near 400 bats.  I counted 1. Despite staring at a door for a solid hour, learning about the soon to be nearly endangered (google: white nose fungus) brown bat was fun and informative. The next morning I said farewell to Erie and headed out towards Sturgis, Michigan.
bat door

Motorcycling is more than just a means of transportation. It's a community.  And to many it's a way of life. Have you ever noticed two bikers waving a hand as they pass each other across the road. Take notice. There is an unspoken bond between bikers that makes you feel as though you are in on something a person driving a car (cager) doesn't understand. Furthermore the virtual online community is robust.  Because of this, within a day I was able to find someone to host me for a night while traveling through the Midwest. Neither of us knew anything about each other aside from we both ride bikes and are members of

I decided to make some time and highway slab the ride from Erie, PA to Sturgis, MI. by way of Cleveland and Toledo (made infamous from Mash's Klinger). It took me approx me 6 hours, 3 thunderstorms and intense gusty winds blowing off of lake Erie to arrive at my host Pete's house on the border of Indiana and Michigan. Needless to say it was some the hardest slab riding I have done to date.

My host Pete at the Dark Horse
No sooner that I pulled into Pete's garage did we and his two friends Eugene and Josh drive off to the local Micro-brewery! Meeting new folks is always best over local brews and flat bread pizza.  The place is called the Dark Horse and is located east of Kalamazooooo. Great spot! By time we got back to Pete's I was exhausted and called it a night. Pete has a new house in the town of Sturgis 10 minutes off I-94 and was a most accommodating host as he allowed me to bunk down on an air mattress in a spare bedroom and left me with some energy bars, almonds and chain grease in the morning!  Thanks again Pete!

Josh, Eugene, me, Pete & Puff
The next day I was up early, out the door and on my way to Stoughton, WI by way of Chicago.  Pete recommended I take Rt 12 towards Chicago as a better alternate, non-highway / scenic route.  He was right, RT 12 was great, although a bit slow, as it took me way longer than expected to get to Chicago.  A lot of that probably had to do with the numerous U-turns I made to go back and photograph random roadside things. As I neared Chicago I got back on the highway, as I had already been on the road for close to 3 hours and wanted to make up some time.  Uhmm, that was a mistake.  Between close to $10 in tolls and dead-lock traffic on the local bypass highway of I-90 it took me another 2 hrs to just get through the skirts of Chicago. This is on a Sunday mind you.  If I do decided to spend a day in Chi-town I will be taking a train. I was now on my bike for almost 5 hours and still had 2 hours until my destination in Wisconsin.

somewhere in Michigan
I had my first odd sketchy encounter north of Chicago, beyond O'hare airport as I pulled off to stretch and gas up.  Unlike every other service station so far on the trip, I decided to take in with me the magnetic tank bag that holds small valuables such as camera, pocket knives, cables, basically small personal items.  Being this to close to a major city, I just know better than to leave something on the bike someone can easily walk away with. All was fine at the Oasis (Chicago's version of a service station) and I headed back to the bike. No sooner that I starter to put my gear back on the bike, some random sketchy dude comes over and asks to borrow my phone to make a call to his mom to wire him some money. Here we go, I thought.

OK, I've seen or have been approached with every scam there is..  ahhh the ol borrow your phone make a run for it bit.  However, I'm at service station off the highway, and feeling much more able than this guy, meaning if he dashes with my phone, I will be right behind him. So...I think, ok, maybe this is a sign, maybe this guy is for real and without a phone.  He looked like he was in his mid 40's, dirty, kinda cut up, and stinks. But, I'm a traveler and perhaps I will be needing a favor like this at some point in my trip, so I reluctantly let my guard down and allowed him to use the phone as long as I dialed the number (like that matters). He says "great, it's a Maine number." I dial it, he uses the phone, an says "oh, you musta dialed it wrong, let me".  Up my guard goes and now I am ready to chase this guy if he bolts. He dials, and still no answer, hands me the phone back and says thanks and walks off.  I don't know, the whole thing still seems shady. My Philly instincts are on fire.  Did this dude just make a drug deal using my phone? Did he bug it? Did he just somehow download all my personal info? He doesn't look capable of any of that so I shrugged it off,  thoroughly cleaned off my phone and went on my way.  I might mention that I sat and watched him for about 10 minutes after to see what his deal was. He was with some other guy who looked shady too and they were picking up butts from the ashtrays.  Maybe they were just down on their luck.  Hopefully my reluctant generosity will be observed by the traveling gods!  Off to stoughton.

"I want my own motorcycle helmet" - Jack Dunn
A couple hours later I pulled into the driveway of my dear friends Matt and Amy who have just moved back to their home state of Wisconsin after living in Philly for over 10 years.  These two are an amazing couple and I was sad to see them leave Philly, but now excited  to have a wonderful place to visit in the Mid-West.  They just purchased a beautiful new house with detached garage, huge yard and garden, and HOT TUB! ... far cry from the South Philly row home they used to reside in. They have two boys, Gavin (2) and Jack(3) and both are amazing.  Jack couldn't wait to get on the motorcycle. Once settled in Amy and Matt cooked up a wonderful dinner.  We were eating outside on their deck and it started to drizzle so Amy opened the patio umbrella and low and behold a Bat flew out!!!!  Looks like they are thriving here in Stoughton!! So that's two I counted. Tomorrow I will go and visit the University Of Wisconsin's Arboretum to photograph their native plants!

In the last two days I have ridden over 700 miles for a total of 12 hours riding time. phew. What a haul!  Check the Map!