Cycling – It’s all about the Food

We certainly ate our way around the Trans-Superior Cycling Tour, but with all the cycling I still lost weight!  And each night, we stayed in a different motel or B&B.  So I thought it would be fun to put together reviews of each of the places we ate or stayed.

The lodgings were all booked well in advance.  My husband, Rich, poured hours into researching motels and making the reservations, and deserves huge kudos for his excellent choices.  Our criteria included reasonable cost, nice but not fancy, and convenient location to both our route and to places to eat.  That last one was critical – who wants to cycle additional miles at the end of the day to find dinner?  We also allowed ourselves a couple of splurges on more special places to stay.

The restaurants and ice cream venues were all chosen en route.  Some just jumped out of us and we made spontaneous stops.  For others we’d often get recommendations from other travelers, motel staff or other restaurants.  No one steered us wrong.

So here they are – enjoy!

Ruxy’s Cottage Cafe, Port Wing WI – A spontaneous mid-morning break.  I don’t know why Rich talked me into splitting a cinnamon roll. Big mistake. They were wonderful. Fresh, soft, just sweet enough and not oversized. I should have insisted on having one all to myself.

Big Water Coffee Roasters, Bayfield WI – The sign outside said “Smooth Move.”. That’s all it took to get me inside to find out I had correctly interpreted the message. We enjoyed Lake Berry Breeze smoothies at the end of our day’s 80 mile ride. Oh, did they taste good! The food delivered to the other customers at their outside tables looked mighty fine too.

Ethel’s at 250, Bayfield WI – Hungry for a good dinner, we took the recommendation of a local who sent us here and it did not disappoint. The ambiance and the food were both fresh and tasteful. We sat outside on the balcony and enjoyed the sliver of lake view as well as the balmy evening. My pesto pasta with fresh whitefish was excellent, and Rich enjoyed a juicy burger.

Seagull Bay Motel, Bayfield WI – Not in the center of town, but at a better price than the lodgings that are. We had a beautiful lake view from our room, and there was a lovely yard and garden out back. A nice garden path took us right into town, just five blocks and no hills. The opposite direction offered 2 miles along the water. Our room was simple but clean and comfortable and included a refrigerator and microwave. (And enough room for our bikes.) It was an excellent value.

Tap Roots Coffee Shop, Ashland WI – We didn’t go here but I wanted to. It was my kind of place – lattes and other espresso drinks, yummy looking scones and other baked goods, and an eclectic interior. But Rich needed a “real breakfast” and I couldn’t argue with that given all our cycling. But I’d stop here in a heartbeat if I were on my own.

Maple Creek Restaurant, Ashland WI – It wasn’t the humble local cafe we were seeking, but it turned out to be better than that. Not usually a lover of buffets, I could see the value in this breakfast buffet. They had a nice selection of fresh fruits and yogurt in addition to the cooked foods. Rich could fill up on the eggs and bacon he craved, and I could add a couple pancakes and a sliver of coffee cake to my healthier choices. It hit the spot for both of us and the quality was good, particularly for a buffet.

Black River Crossing B&B, Bessemer MI – Truth be told, we were return customers. We had stayed there last winter and been thoroughly charmed by both the B&B and our hosts, Sue and Stan. Returning in the summer, it was great fun to see the yard in full bloom. The flowers, multiple decks and patios, waterfalls and ponds were gorgeous and provided a peaceful afternoon’s rest. They had stocked the fridge for any post-cycling food we might need, and included us in their evening barbecue with friends. It was like returning to stay with old friends. And the jacuzzi room on the second floor was luxuriously appointed and comfortable.

Syl’s Cafe, Ontonagon MI – They specialize in pasties, so since we were famished after the day’s cycling, we split one for an appetizer. It was hot, flavorful and moist. We each had grilled sandwiches on homemade sourdough bread, which were nice and crisp on the outside and had generous portions of fillings. Everything was freshly prepared and the cafe was typically appointed for a Mom and Pop place, but sparkling clean with friendly wait staff.

Scott’s Superior Inn, Ontonogan MI – They have both motel units and cabins near the lake. Our motel room was plain but functional, if a bit dated and tired looking.. It had only one outlet, which presented a challenge for today’s array of rechargeable electronic devices. They did have access to the lake, with a section of the beautiful sand beach. The price was very reasonable, it was quiet and our tired bodies had a good nights sleep.

Grandma Myrt’s Cafe, Mass City MI – This was recommended to us as the only real option for a full breakfast on our route from Ontonagon. But it more than fit the bill. There were loads of cars outside, and the plain interior was filled with locals as well as motorcyclist travelers. The cook/waitress was a busy young woman filling dual roles, but she delivered the most delicious food. Rich had a Farmer Omlette filled with sausage and peppers along with all the side trimmings, which he said was excellent. I had divine Cinnamon French Toast made with homemade cinnamon bread – it had a crisp eggy exterior and a firm but soft interior.

Treats Ice Cream, Chassell MI – We had the most enormous smoothies here. They must have been 16 oz. There were numerous flavors to choose from, including the option of mixing them. I had blackberry-raspberry, and Rich went with straight blackberry. They were so thick, it was hard to suck them up through our straws, but we managed. The big waffle cones that others walked away with looked good too.

The Library Restaurant and Brew Pub, Houghton MI – My son reminded me that we had eaten here when on a college visit five years ago, and I agreed that it was worth repeating. We were able to get seats with a view of the water in the setting sun in the pleasant dining room. The food was as good as I remembered. Rich had a good steak, and I enjoyed a salmon topped with grilled salmon.

Super 8 Motel, Houghton MI – This has to be the best Super 8 I’ve ever stayed in. It is located right down on the water, and in fact the bike trail that we took into town led us right there. In addition to nice rooms, it has a large deck outside by the water, as well as a pool, sauna and hot tub. They even had a coin laundry for guests. Their “Super Starter” breakfast was not as complete as others, but it covered the basics pretty well.

Jampot Bakery, Eagle Harbor MI – This bakery is a bit of a local legend. It is the outlet for the labors of the Society of St. John Monastery, which was founded on the nearby shore by a small group of monks in 1983. Their initial penchant for picking wild berries and baking soon turned into a venture able to support their little community. We were served by a pleasant monk who happily described the plethora of decadent flavors of muffins, and left with a heavy bag of muffins. They also sell jams, breads and cookies. We consumed two muffins immediately at a nearby picnic table in the woods, rich and delicious. Be sure to notice their monastery building just down the shore – unique architecture with beautiful gardens.

Harbor Haus Restaurant, Copper Harbor MI – Another guest at our motel recommended this restaurant as having the best food in town. Although we had no frame of reference, we were sure our dinners were proof. They had an extensive menu, which looked expensive, but when we considered all the courses it included, we felt it was justified. Rich’s flank steak and my Lake Superior trout were cooked to perfection, and the sides were fresh and outside the ordinary offerings.

Bella Vista Motel, Copper Harbor MI – This was a well maintained little motel perfectly situated right on the edge of the harbor. Our room was tastefully decorated and included a deck with chairs in a garden setting overlooking the harbor. Not only could we watch the harbor activity, but we could see lake freighters beyond the break front. The price was reasonable, and it was just a short walk from there to the ferry.

Rock Harbor Lodge, Isle Royale MI – This is the only lodging available on Isle Royale, and while it is pricey, it is a worthwhile splurge if you are not the camping type, or just care to indulge yourself. The rooms are in a set of 2-story buildings along the edge of the harbor, with Lake Superior’s water lapping at the harbor shore just outside the windows. Furnishings are a simple modern style and the rooms feel recently updated. No TV, no Internet, no cell phone reception. This is a wilderness park after all.

Greenstone Grill, Isle Royale MI – There are two restaurant choices at Rock Harbor, and they share the same building.  This one is the more informal of the two, although how formal can you get on a wilderness island?  They serve simple fare which is pretty good  considering everything has to be brought over by ferry.  We had tastefully prepared sandwiches and burger, although the portions were not huge. They also make box lunches for the ferry which you can request the night before.  It’s not well advertised, just ask the wait staff.

My Sister’s Place, Grand Marais MN – It wasn’t my choice of restaurant. (For the record, my personal favorite in Grand Marais is the Angry Trout, but Rich thinks their food is too “weird” for his more plain tastes.) It did have the advantage of being just a block from our motel. And it was full, had lively and friendly wait staff, and fairly quick service. It’s definitely a bar/restaurant with a menu to match. My wild rice salad was undistinguished, and the dressing too syrupy for my taste. But Rich had a good burger and fries, so he was happy, and he’s more the type of customer they seek to please.

Mangy Moose Motel, Grand Marais MN – This hotel has been under new ownership for a year, and they have done a wonderful job of renovating a deteriorating older motel. It is conveniently located on the highway near the center of town. The units are a bit back from the road, and all have been completely remodeled. Our room was small, but they made efficient use of the space using modern materials with simple clean lines. We were most impressed by the power strip that easily accommodated all our chargers – a brilliant addition on their part. The price was very reasonable, especially for this artsy and often expensive town.

Coho Cafe, Tofte MN – This is an old favorite of mine. I’ve been stopping here for latte and baked goods for years, and have had the occasional lunch. Everything is fresh and artfully presented, and menu options are unique and flavorful. Rich had a hearty breakfast sandwich and I had the Trail Mix breakfast with yogurt and granola as well as a sinful cinnamon twist. I’m only disappointed that I haven’t seen scones there for some time – my personal favorite. Their breads are well worth purchasing to take home.

Big Dipper, Beaver Bay MN – We already knew that they made great smoothies from a prior visit. And they did not disappoint. The perfect ending to our hottest day of cycling.

Camp 61 Motel, Beaver Bay MN – This is another renovated motel. These owners have resurrected not only an old motel but a restaurant as well. The interior has been completed refurbished, and they have a wonderful lobby furnished with lodge style furniture, old photographs and memorabilia. It was a very pleasant place to sit in the evening. Our room was small but freshly remodeled, clean and comfortable.

Camp 61 Restaurant, Beaver Bay MN – This was a big surprise to me. I expected the usual burger or sandwiches and fries fare. Instead, we found a broad menu with tasteful dinner options. I had a delicious walleye, wrapped in leaves and marinated with an Asian flair, served on a wild rice pilaf. Rich enjoyed one of their specials, a thick pork chop with hearty camp potatoes. Due to a slight mix-up, they insisted on serving us complimentary desserts, which we otherwise would have declined. Both the mixed berry pie and decadent chocolate cake, both with ice cream, were heavenly.

Mocha Moose, Two Harbors MN – We’ve been here many times, and love the eclectic interior, the gregarious and lively owner, and the pastries as well as the latte. We both had hearty breakfast turnovers, mine vegetarian, Rich’s with ham and cheese. Light and fluffy as well as ample fillings fed us well. This is a favorite cycling destination or mid-ride stop, not only for us but other cyclists from Duluth.

Grandma’s Box Car, Duluth MN – Our finale ice cream cones!  It was pricey but convenient to our finishing destination in the heart of Canal Park.  And who was going to argue?  The ice cream was good, although the only choices were huge waffle cones or cake cones sold as “kid’s cones”  but in reality were a perfectly adequate adult sized cone.

Cycling the Home Stretch

We were up early and on our way while the sun was still making its way up through the trees. It was refreshing to be out at that hour, when the sky was an indeterminate color of blue, few people were stirring and cars had not yet crowded the highway. It was cool but held the promise of a warm day to come.

From Beaver Bay, the sights came early in our route. Within half an hour we were cycling up to Split Rock Lighthouse. The park was deserted and we were thankful that park rules were not so stringent as to require locked gates. We had our own private viewing of the lighthouse and its surroundings, able to take in the beauty of the buildings and shoreline in the golden sun of early morning. I’d recommend it to any tourist! In fact, we accidentally discovered a unique view of the lighthouse, reflected in the vaulted windows of the visitor center.

Our next pause was at Gooseberry Falls. While most of the rivers we passed along the shore had minimal flow, Gooseberry at least had enough water to provide a good display on the upper falls.

For that entire section of the shoreline, we were able to follow the Gitchi-Gami State Trail, a bicycle trail that aspires to connect Two Harbors to Grand Marais along the North Shore. Although it is still discontinuous, the sections like this that are complete are marvelous. In addition to relieving cyclists from highway travel, the trail is routed through the woods and periodically winds down toward the lake for additional views unavailable to those on the highway. It is well worth the additional hill climbs to take advantage of the trail. I learned too late that there were new portions of trail competed above Schroeder that would have benefited us yesterday.

One very small section of the Gitchi-Gami trail that is not to be missed is at Silver Cliffs. The trail follows the old highway around the tunnel, clinging to the edge of the rocks with stunning views of the lake and shoreline.

Despite having to travel 31 miles before eating, we were determined to stop at the Mocha Moose for breakfast. Not only did it represent truly reaching home turf, being on the Scenic Highway portion of 61, but it was also a key element in one of our earliest training rides. Back in March on a chilly day in the 40s, it was our turnaround point for a ride up the shore and back. That day we desperately needed the warming stop and loved the friendly atmosphere. Today we didn’t need warming, but we still got “moosinated” and enjoyed hearty breakfast turnovers.

From there on we were on extremely familiar territory. The landmarks seemed to fly by. Restaurants, lodgings, houses, rivers and viewpoints came in rapid succession. Was it because we had become immune to the distances that once seemed a stretch? Certainly we had come a long way since that early training ride.

At McQuade Harbor we were joined by my friend Myra who came out to ride to the finish with us. It was great having her support and company for the final miles. Upon reaching Duluth, we were able to follow the Lakewalk to Canal Park, our chosen destination point. After traveling at reasonable speeds on highways for 9 days, it was quite a change of pace when we reached the more populated sections of the trail where it is rightfully dominated by tourists, pedestrians, runners and four-wheeled cycle buggies. It made for tricky navigation, slowing and dodging the populous, but had a festive flavor at the same time.

Our end point was the Marine Museum by the Aerial Bridge. There we were met by our son, Erik, and my sister, Susie, who formed a rousing welcoming committee, including a sign. After the obligatory photos, it was ice cream cones for everyone (of course!). To make the celebration complete, we were honored with an oar boat that came through the bridge heading out into the lake – the ultimate Duluth experience. It was the perfect ending to our trip.

We weren’t really done cycling, though. We still had to ride home, seven final miles. As we returned along the Lakewalk, the now cloudy skies began to produce rain. It wasn’t a sustained rainfall, however, and actually felt kind of good, breaking the heat of the day. It was a leisurely ride, lacking the same sense of purpose we’d had on the rest of our tour. After all, we’d already celebrated our finish. We’d passed the 500 mile mark just before entering Duluth. And we had completed the circle around our end of the lake.

It truly was 500 miles of love, just like it says on our shirts. I can’t wait to plan the next trip.

Cycling Familiar Territory

We awoke to the sound of wet tires swishing on the pavement after additional overnight thunderstorms. Given that we had a shorter distance to travel today, there was little reason to rush the start of our ride. Our only concern was the narrow shoulders along today’s stretch of highway 61. But we counted on having less traffic heading south on a Friday to ease that issue. In fact, the situation was not quite as bad as we expected. Recent roadwork had improved the width and surface of the shoulders in many places. However, between the Cascade State Park Headquarters and Lutsen ski resort they were truly terrible. We had two feet at most, and the pavement was crumbling. We took to weaving between road and shoulder, depending on whether there were cars coming or not. It was nerve wracking, even with weekday traffic. The worst incident was a big SUV passing a car in the opposite direction, which put him on our side of the road. He passed within 18 inches of us – very unnerving! We dubbed that 9 mile section of road the “least pleasant” of our whole trip.

I don’t think I had really thought before about which sections of the North Shore had more parks and sights than others. When traveling by car, one passes through them in a short enough span that it makes little difference. On a bike it is a lot more apparent. Today’s miles included few such attractions. So we made up for it with stops of our own making.

First was breakfast. We’ve taken to putting 20-30 miles behind us then stopping for a good breakfast. Today at my insistence we hit an old favorite of mine, the Coho Cafe in Tofte. In addition to tasty meals (and a latte at last for me), we fed our internet-starved cravings. We have been mostly devoid of internet and cell phone coverage the last three nights, which was not entirely a bad thing. But we were eager to update our blogs, so we each got a posting up during breakfast.

Next we visited friend and author Beryl Singleton Bissell. I read her first book, The Scent of God, a number of years ago, then was reintroduced to her work when she put out A View of the Lake about being a transplant from the Twin Cities in Schroeder MN. I was enthralled with both books, and thrilled when she accepted my invitation to meet with my book club last fall. She provided a wonderful evening of discussion and sharing abut her writing. Being able to see her in her North Shore home surroundings was a real treat. By then the day had turned warm and sunny, and we had a lovely visit on her deck overlooking the lake. A highlight was seeing her little red writing shed, which she used on a writing retreat and ultimately was able to move to her own yard. It was an uplifting and inspiring visit.

The sun grew warmer and the day hotter. In fact, this was our warmest day yet. So when Rich suggested we cycle up to Palisade Head, I was astounded. But game! It was a short distance to the amazing overlook area, but had the steepest inclines we had yet to encounter. I was determined not to walk my bike, but it did require standing up to surmount some of those hills! The view was worth it, though. Not even the slight haze in the distance could detract from the vistas. Two rock climbers were there scaling the vertical drop. While their endeavors seemed unfathomable to us, we were fascinated by it and completely floored when the woman climber completed the trip down and back up again in less than 10 minutes.

We completed our day with an interview with a reporter from the Lake County News-Chronicle. I’d done a “media blitz” the day before we started our trip, contacting the local newspapers in the cities where we were going to be staying. Several of them followed up on it, some without our even knowing it. We learned from some other cyclists near Copper Harbor that they’d read about us in the paper! We felt quite the celebrities.

Just in time Cycling

The ferry to Grand Portage was a totally different experience from yesterday’s boat from the Michigan side – in more ways than one. First of all, it was a much different boat. This was the U.S. Mail boat, not primarily a passenger vessel. It was a lot smaller and was a 2-person low key operation. Highly efficient and seaworthy, but bare bones. Secondly, in addition to making mail quick stops around the island, it also picked up and dropped off hikers from various points on the island. Hence, it clung to the shore and made numerous stops on the island before heading back to the mainland. In fact, the actual crossing took less than two hours out of our 6 1/2 hour trip. And finally, and most importantly, I felt just fine. Hurray!!! The winds were much less, and the most we had were 1-3 foot swells, with much of the trip being even calmer than that. It was so nice to be able to enjoy the trip this time.
Molly on the ferry - feeling good!It was a long day on the ferry, and highly relaxing given the slow nature of the trip. Venturing into the inlets to pick up hikers was very pretty, and traveling the deep recesses into the island reminded us of the archipelagos of Scandinavia. Beyond that we entertained ourselves by talking to other passengers, trading our cycling stories for their hiking tales. We did quite a bit of reading, but I will admit to doing more snoozing than reading. Unlike yesterday, the boat’s motion kept lulling me to sleep. I didn’t mind a bit.

It was close to 4:00pm by the time our bikes were unloaded from the boat and we were ready to head down the North Shore. After hours of forced inactivity on the boat, it felt good to be doing something physical again. We had renewed energy in our cycling, pushing the pace faster than usual. We were pleased to find that that section of highway 61 had enormous shoulders, which lasted all the way to Grand Marais. Given the late hour, this was not the day to stop for sightseeing. But there were plenty of lake views in that section of the North Shore to welcome us back to Minnesota.

Try as we might, we couldn’t ignore the rain clouds overhead which dropped a few sprinkles on us. Soon they were producing lightening strikes over the lake. When the rumbles of thunder became closer and more insistent, we pressed on even harder. Rain began to fall In earnest as we entered Grand Marais. Before we got too wet, we found our motel, checked in and stashed our bikes in the room. Just minutes later, heavy thunderstorms and rain blanketed the area. Boy, did we time that right! Even better, after showering and settling in, the rain let up and allowed us to go out for dinner, make a trip to DQ and walk around the harbor.

The trip seems to take on a different feel from this point on. Our long distances are behind us, as are the hills. So it feels like we can practically coast home. In addition, we are now on familiar territory. No more surprises in our route – we know what the North Shore will throw at us. That is both reassuring and a disappointment. Seeing new places and exploring different parts of Lake Superior has been a highlight of the trip. It’s different cycling it than driving it in a car though, and I’m sure our remaining two days will provide us with ample experiences. And heaven only knows what must-see sights Rich will find along the way.

I’d Rather be Cycling

Our day off. We had a respite from cycling to take the ferry from Copper Harbor to Rock Harbor on Isle Royale National Park. Rich was like a little kid, he was so excited. It was his first time on Isle Royale and he’d never crossed the middle of Lake Superior before. My anticipation took a slightly different angle. I was looking forward to returning to Isle Royale after a visit 40 (ouch!) years ago. And I was game to take the ferry, even though I have consistently been prone to seasickness. After all, it was an adventure.

The first sound I heard upon waking this morning was the lines of a nearby sailboat clanking against the mast, and the wind whistling through our open windows. I chose to think positively and put my faith in the Bonine that I took prior to boarding the boat. The sun was shining, we watched in amazement as they hoisted our bikes, panniers and all, with a single hand up to the top storage deck, and mingled with the hearty hikers boarding the boat.

It was a four hour crossing, and I made it less than an hour inside the cabin. As soon as we cleared the harbor, we were in deep swells. I watched wide-eyed as the horizon alternately dipped then rose out of sight on the opposite side. Wow, I’d never been in seas like this before! But my confidence remained high, and surprisingly I was not scared as the boat pitched and tossed at wild angles. Before long, however, I took stock of my body and gamely trained my eyes on the horizon on our side of the boat. It was much more stable in comparison. But the water won.

Soon I was dashing out the door onto the back deck of the boat. There I firmly gripped the railing and leaned over the side as advised by the crew. When that first wave of retching subsided (and it was only the first of many) I determined that I was there to stay. I firmly planted my feet apart, tightened my noose-like hold on the railing, and set my sights on the disappearing Michigan mainland straight being us. I used my legs to absorb the sway of the boat, desperately working to keep my upper body as verticle as possible. The fresh air that blew around me felt good, if only it hadn’t been tainted by diesel fumes.

It was an interminable three more hours. I found weak fascination in watching the clashing waves and gusty spray that created myriad patterns behind the boat. But that’s about all I had to engage my brain. Looking left or right was not an option, nor was talking. Not that my companions were interested in lively conversation. I had plenty of company out there, all in the same state. It’s no wonder, as we were in 6 foot swells. The crew described it as “worse than average” but not out of the norm for this time of year. If standing under the trees shivering in the pouring rain was miserable, this was abject agony. I would much rather have been cycling, even struggling up the steepest hill.

Rich suffered no such affectation, wouldn’t you know. On his visit out to commiserate with me, he was bouncing all around, looking at everything and clearly enjoying himself. All I wanted was to block him from my peripheral vision – I couldn’t handle the additional motion. He spent time out on the front deck, hanging on for dear life, getting hit by the spray, but loving it. I had to rely on his pictures to relive the scenic entrance to Isle Royale after the fact.

It took a nap and a few bites of salty crackers to restore any semblance of normalcy once we reached shore. But I was relieved to rally enough to get outside to explore our small area of the island and take a canoe out with Rich to paddle the pristine waterway in Tobin Harbor. Ironically, I didn’t mind being back out on the water. It was flat and calm there, and shore was only a few strokes away. We paddled in search of the cabin still owned by a friend, the last generation of his family to be allowed to hold private property in the park. In the vast expanse of wilderness here, we saw little harm that the remaining cabins posed.

Isle Royale is a beautiful place. Its deeply forested terrain and rocky shores bordered by deep blue waters were especially nice on a sunny, warm day like today. I would like to have gotten out for a short hike, but Rich was dedicated to keeping it a rest day, and certainly my body needed it. So like the other lodge guests, who are staying in relative luxury compared to the hikers, we took advantage of the amenities while still appreciating the nature all around us.

Tomorrow it’s back to cycling again. But not until I brave another ferry ride over to the Minnesota side. Some travelers who arrived on that boat today clued me in to the first mate, Kirk. They vouched for him as a venerable seasickness coach. Kirk, I’ll be looking for you tomorrow morning.

Best cycling yet – Coastal Bliss

We both agree. This was our best day of cycling yet. Instead of being another long ride to complete the next leg of our journey, it felt more like a pleasure ride. And we loved every minute of it.

So what made it so special? Hugging the coastline. It was infinitely relaxing to cycle along with beautiful views of Lake Superior. We relished the small local roads that were devoid of traffic. And the weather gods favored us today. With forecasts of zero percent chance of rain, westerly winds to help push us along our way, and sunshine for most of the day, we had it made. It doesn’t get much better than that for cycling.

We first followed the waterway that leads from Houghton out to Lake Superior on the western side of the peninsula. The final vestiges of the morning’s fog burned off as we rode and revealed calm waters and sun soaked dwellings and boat houses on the opposite shore. Everything was bathed in the golden sun of morning, leaving a feeling of peacefulness.

The western shoreline offered plenty of scenery. We enjoyed seeing the wide variety of lake homes, cottages and mansions that lined the shore. Parks seemed to be frequently interspersed with the private lands, offering us opportunities to explore the beach, watch waves come crashing in, and take dozens of pictures. We found several lighthouse to check out along the way. And there was an historic bridge to see, although we were more fascinated with the arched wooden architecture of the newer replacement bridge. Waterfalls cascaded down the hillside and under the road. And there was always the big lake. As we neared Copper Harbor, the sandy beaches gave way to rockier shores, more like home.

Our route had just one minor flaw. It forced us inland for a short distance, and that could only mean UP. We knew it was coming, we just didn’t know how bad it would be. When we rounded that corner, we could see the road rising in front of us. Not traversing the incline on an angle, not meandering, straight up. And I’m convinced that the sun chose just that time to beat down particularly fiercely. It took our lowest gears and a lot of pedal rotations, but we made it! Two and a half miles. However, on the flip side, we seemed to get a lot of mileage out of that rise in elevation. On our return to the shore, we got the longest drawn out downhill coast back to the water.

Now anyone who has read any of my previous posts about this cycling tour knows that treats are a required element of each day’s travels. While we normally favor ice cream or smoothies, today when faced with a cute little bakery in the curve of the road we just had to stop. But little did we know that The Jampot was more than just an ordinary bakery. It was the outlet for the labors of the Society of St. John Monastery, which was founded on the nearby shore by a small group of monks in 1983. Their initial penchant for picking wild berries and baking soon turned into a venture able to support their little community. We were served by a pleasant monk who happily described the plethora of decadent flavors of muffins, and left with a heavy bag of goodies. Only half of them made it into my panniers…

Our little motel in Copper Harbor was ideally situated right on the water, with a picturesque view of the harbor. What a great choice! We even had a back deck in a garden setting where we could relax and enjoy the view. Rich chose to use that spot for a different purpose… repairing a flat. In keeping with today’s theme of perfection, his back tire chose to deflate at the entrance to our motel. Even the first equipment failure did not blemish our cycling.

It’s a good thing that tomorrow is our “day off” from cycling. It would be difficult to top today’s ride.

Cycling with Mother Nature

We operate by our body clocks. We were up at the usual early hour, but lost an hour to the Michigan time change. It seemed strange that the sunrise was just after 7am, but we enjoyed watching it from our beach just the same.

Today we cycled coast-to-coast across the Keweenaw Peninsula and then up the eastern shore to Houghton. There is not a lot of population on the peninsula, so I decided to focus my camera on the beauty of the nature we encountered along the way.

Sunrise over the western shore of the peninsula at Ontonagon.

We have been enamored with the windflowers blooming along the roadside throughout our trip. My favorite are the purple blossoms.

Fall colors are definitely beginning to show in the maple trees.

Fantastic clouds formulate over pastoral farmland in the interior of the peninsula.

Tall pine trees line the road going north from Baraga to Houghton.

The eastern shore, cycling along Keweenaw Bay.

We experienced another aspect of Mother Nature as well today. After having been blessed with sunshine throughout our trip so far, our luck ran out less than 20 miles short of our final destination. We thought we had out-biked the rain, leaving a few thin showers behind us, but that was nothing in comparison to the squall that slammed into our path. Within a matter of minutes, the temperature plummeted, sheets of rain came pouring down and gusts of wind blew right into us. Fortunately, Rich spotted a thick grove of pine trees across the road. We dashed over there and huddled in the relative protection of the trees waiting for the rain to subside. I was amazed at how well sheltered we were in comparison to the torrents falling on the road. The rain did indeed abate allowing us to resume our ride, although it was wet and chilly cycling (Rich called it “miserable”) and semis showered us with roadspray. Then just as suddenly the sun returned. The amazing warming power of the sun was such that when an ice cream stand materialized on the side of the road, we didn’t hesitate to stop. Two huge blackberry smoothies were happily consumed as we parked ourselves on a picnic bench and basked in the sunshine. Mother Nature wooed us back into her good graces that easily.

Wilderness Cycling

I have to compliment my tour planner and co-cyclist, Rich, on today’s route. It was stunning! If you like wilderness and quiet scenery, this is the itinerary for you. And I think even Rich was awed by the perfection of today’s ride. In fact I know so – he said as much!

After a necessary 10 miles on Highway 2, we turned away from traffic and civilization and headed into the wilderness. The first 15 miles were on a road leading to the Porcupine Mountains Wilderness State Park. It could have been a bike path. We shared the road with only a few passing cars and traveled undisturbed down the tree-lined lane as mile after mile of smooth pavement uncurled in front of us. We were prepared to find hills, which we did, but most were reasonable grades alternating between up and down.

We then turned onto South Boundary Road, which traverses the perimeter of the park. Our near-solitude continued as did our appreciation of the sun, the trees, the rivers and the wilderness. Having hiked in the area, we had vivid memories of clambering down and up the steep sides of the ravines in our path. We were relieved to find that road construction techniques alleviated such dips. Nevertheless, the road began to climb steadily, and looking into the distance we could see the high ridge of trees defining the summit – a sobering sight. It was a solid 10 miles uphill, mostly a gentle grade, but a challenging pitch at times. It gave us great pleasure to top the hill and begin our descent, which lasted 15 miles. We faced a strong headwind as we neared Lake Superior, but had no complaints mixing that with our downhill rush.

We rejoiced to see Lake Superior in the distance, and the view upon arrival was impressive. The pristine sand beach was enhanced by trees and white crested waves rolling into shore. What a difference from the rocky coastline we are accustomed to on the North Shore, yet beautiful in its uniqueness. Our final 15 miles closely followed the shore. Our view of the lake disappeared when private land intervened, but the water was close enough that we could get a glimpse of it down the driveways and periodically between properties. For us it was enough to know the great lake was there. Traveling lakeside also had the advantage of being blessedly flat. This time at the end of the day we left the hard work behind us and glided up to our motel near Ontonagon.

This trip just keeps getting better.

Cycling sights – a purple cow?

It felt a lot milder when we set off from Bayfield this morning, and indeed at 52 degrees was nearly 10 degrees above yesterday’s start. We saw a beautiful sunrise over Lake Superior and enjoyed a quiet ride alongside the lake down to Ashland. It was a good start to day 2 of our Trans-Superior Cycling Tour.

Not even the early morning hours can deter Rich from his tourist stops. This morning as we passed what appeared to me to be a junkyard, he shouted out, “Look! A purple cow!”. Surely he wasn’t going to stop for that? I should have known better. He eagerly dragged me back to see this creature, which stood among other large scale wood carvings, and required a picture. Before we could make our retreat, we were scrutinized by a man who materialized in the drive. Once he determined that we were harmless, he offered to show us around his father’s studio. He led us back to a fairy tale-like set of buildings in a garden setting, and a workshop full of intricate carvings. Who would have guessed? Perhaps Rich’s weird taste has merit now and then.

Along our way we discovered a distinct phenomenon. Each rise brought us nice warm air, and on each downhill the temperature plummeted. Soon I felt as chilled as yesterday! I eagerly anticipated the hot breakfast that awaited us somewhere in Ashland, and was ultimately rewarded with hot coffee and pancakes. We exited the restaurant to an entirely different day. The looming clouds overhead had dissipated, leaving sunshine in their wake. Once we turned inland, away from the lake, the temperatures rose quickly and we cycled through a real summer day. We had a solid tale wind, which provided little relief from the warmth, but we readily traded that for the extra boost it gave us.

I have decided that each day’s cycling on this trip poses a unique challenge. Today’s was highway miles. I knew we had 40 miles of cycling along Highway 2, which is a main thoroughfare, and was apprehensive about the traffic. It then became 50 miles when our alternate route to avoid a section of highway was torn up for repair. Thankfully, my fears were for naught. A large portion of the distance was on new pavement with wide shoulders, the traffic was very reasonable, and trucks gave us a wide berth whenever possible. Probably the larger downside was that it was a long, straight road with little diversion in scenery. Woods dominated over farms this time, and we passed few sights that gave us reason to pause our ride. We did find the Hanka Finnish Homestead Museum outside of Ironwood to be a pretty and peaceful park with a fun giftshop of Scandinavian goods.

Today’s destination was the Black River Crossing B&B outside of Bessemer. We’d been there last winter, and enjoyed it so much we were eager to return. Our hosts Sue and Stan greeted us like old friends and saw to our every need, as before. We spent a peaceful afternoon in the lovely garden surroundings, with the sounds of waterfalls, light breezes, and sunshine playing on the beautiful plantings and flowers. We’ve already been invited to their evening barbecue with friends, so we needn’t even venture out for dinner. And we’re more than happy to be pampered. We feel we’ve earned it.

First Day Cycling – Idyllic

We could not have asked for a better day to start our Trans-Superior Cycling Tour! Well, okay, I readily admit that it was a might chilly when we set off. A bank temperature reading confirmed that it was only 43 degrees. And I shivered and stiffened up during those initial miles. But the sun rose quickly and warmed our bodies and my attitude.

Traveling along highway 13 to Bayfield was a cyclist’s dream. The road surface was excellent, there was a good shoulder, and traffic was light. Add to that a perfectly sunny day, the wind mostly at our backs, and pastoral farmland scenery interspersed with forest and views of Lake Superior and you have a ride that can’t be beat. I might not have chosen to have the hilliest portion of the route in the last 20 miles, but even that could not detract from the experience. Probably the biggest drawback to the day was knowing that we could never replicate its perfection.

True to the nature of this tour, we made several stops along the way. An historical site with a Finnish homestead and windmill caught our attention, and proved to be beautifully cared for and well preserved. The first wayside rest with a view of Lake Superior demanded a visit. We couldn’t pass up the “Best Food on the Circle Tour” so we paused at Ruxy’s Cottage Cafe in Port Wing for a fresh cinnamon roll. The harbor in Cornocopia was a scenic diversion, with picturesque boats and little shops. And everything was enhanced by the beautiful sunny weather. Probably our most interesting stop came about completely by accident. I happened to spot the Lake Superior Binational Forum Symbol – the same one that adorns our cycling shirts – on the door or a roadside building. Returning to investigate, Bruce Lindgren stepped outside, and we soon learned that he is a member and co-chair of the Forum! He was pleased to learn of our association with the Forum and a lively conversation ensued, fueled by our mutual care for Lake Superior.

Arriving at our destination, the descent into Bayfield was a picturesque (and welcome) sight. Sailboats and other vessels dotted the deep blue waters of Lake Superior as the quaint buildings of this pretty town came into view. At the first available cafe, we deserted our bikes and emerged with lake berry breeze smoothies and consumed them in the warmth of the sunshine. Oh, were they good.

I would have to say that this was a most successful start to our trip. We’ve enjoyed a delicious and ample dinner and are now resting in our motel with a lovely view of the lake and the setting sun. We’re tired, but happily so. And tomorrow’s another day on the Tour.