MotoTrippin: Dual Sport Motorcycle Adventure - Part 5, Them Great Lakes is big!
Rolling into Hartland, Wisconsin, had me nervous initially, but very soon that all went away and a most excellent time was had. For a very long time, family for me has consisted of my sister, bro-in-law and their kids. My folks bailed from Wisconsin to the west coast soon after getting married and didn't keep too much contact with the family. Well, my dad did, but his less than pleasant wife cared little for his family and hated her own, so extended relatives were not a part of my growing up. Other than visiting Wisconsin for the grandparents 50th anniversary as a 9-year-old and my granddad visiting for my sister's High School graduation (subsequently getting meningitis and dying) it was us alone in the west.
A couple years ago cousin Mike and his wife Sue got hold of us and said they wanted to come out and visit, catch up and see what was going on with us. It was a great visit and made me happy to have missed out on all the funky family stuff that had been going on in WI that we were lucky to have avoided. However, we missed out on meeting their kids. We are the youngest of the family so everyone else is 15 to 17 years older, with grandkids being a large part of their lives.
All that was rectified with this visit. Met my 2nd and 3rd cousins, Aunt Pat who was married to the main family jerk back in the day, but is now more part of the family than him and his demon spawn, and Bubba, cousin Jill's Jack Russell terrier.
Hanging out with cousin Mike was a hoot. Being a contractor in the area for 40ish years and very involved in the community he seemingly knows everyone and all that goes on in the area. Quite the man about town. Fun to hit the local breakfast hangout for all the old characters in town, chugging coffee and busting balls. Spent time at 2nd cousin Angie's place in the burbs that her husband Jim had turned into an AV/man cave paradise. The garage bar beats any I've seen. Their daughter is a serious ball of fun.
Her brother Chris and his wife Beth have 2 awesome kids and a sweet 100+ acre farm where they raise chickens, make maple syrup and raise bees on top of having regular gigs.
Spent time on the nearby lake cruising around on the pontoon boat one evening, and a jet ski another. Sea-Doo’s kick ass. If you've never gone 70 MPH across the water you really owe it to yourself to give it a go. Soooo goddamn fun!
Hanging out listening to family history and filling in gaps from my side was a great time. It was universally agreed that the family misfits were not worth monkeying up the cool thing we had going. Supporting each other and sharing time with those we enjoy are values and ideals we could agree on.
Highlighting the visit was a day in Milwaukee checking out where they all grew up in the NW part of the city, the wonderfully reinvigorated downtown and the topper: The Harley-Davidson Museum. Holy hell, what an amazing place. I'm not a huge Harley guy, but as a moto guy, I was blown away by the quality and depth of the place. Should you find yourself anywhere near Milwaukee, you need to check it out if you have any interest at all in motorcycles. Words don't do it justice.
Spent the following day tracking down parts for Thumper, which cousin Mike generously picked up, and got them slapped on to keep the adventure rolling. Rear tire, oil, and battery needed to get updated if things were to continue. That evening was Jet ski and pizza night which is really hard to beat.
Needing to get the party back on the road we spent the morning BS’ing with Mike, Jill and aunt Pat and chugging coffee before I headed off to the high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan. No interest in driving through Chicago. Nope. Met a number of other bikers on the ferry and was the only ADV rider. Mostly H-Ds, go figure. All heading back home from Sturgis.
After putting Wisconsin in the rear mirror, it was a while until land came back into view. Them Great Lakes is big! Heading across the lake facilitated getting to visit a friend in Detroit for a bit without having to drive through 3 states and Chicago. As is typical, I had an important phone call that was to occur at noon, precisely the time we were loading the ferry. Missed the call, but returned it ASAP and had an excellent conversation with a potential employer. Later in the day, I received an email discussing onboarding me with the company. I believe I have a GIS gig in Vancouver, WA with a good deal of potential for growth.
Got to friend Heather's place in a suburb north of Detroit and had a nice 2-day hang. She was generous with her time and place despite being in the midst of a whirlwind of suck in her personal life. Didn't temper her ability to give an excellent tour of Detroit and the local environs. Now, the current word on Detroit out west is that it's still stuck in the early-mid 90's hellhole, murder capital phase and beyond help. That could not be further from the truth. While not perfect, the city is vibrant and happening.
As in Milwaukee, old buildings are getting remodeled, there is a great river walk and every block was packed with businesses and people out enjoying it. Took the People Mover to get a good overview of downtown, then hit Greektown and Steeltown before heading back to her place to check out a free concert in a park on St Claire Lake and meet some of her friends. Headed out the next morning to begin the return home. Yes, the trip's eastward progress is over. 7 weeks out has been a hoot, but the new gig necessitates getting my ass back west to get the next phase rolling. This post finds me in a hotel in St Joseph, MO after 2 days of hard pushing west. Hoping to get back in Bend by Tuesday to be in place before the eclipse madness kicks off. Then to Vancouver to discuss the new position.
I 'm both disappointed and relieved to be heading back. Over 9000 miles ridden, so many adventures had and sights seen it blows my mind. Not the trip of a lifetime, but another in a list of adventures in life to be had.
Tomorrow, Colorado or Wyoming depending on route taken.