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A Three Day Ride to Traverse City, Michigan: A Motorcycle Ride just for the Sake of Riding.

In my life, I have been blessed with many things. While it might not be the most important of those things, sharing the experience of riding motorcycles with my father and younger brother certainly ranks up there on the list.

Since 2004, we have taken several one, two, three, or four day trips together each year.

We don't generally seek out specific sights to see or historical landmarks to explore when we go on a motorcycle trip. If we happen upon one, or end up at a special spot for the night, that's a bonus. You see, for us it's all about the ride and being on the road together. The ride itself becomes the destination. Bonding as men and family and bikers becomes the attraction. Beautiful scenery and landmarks or sights to see of historical significance are just icing on the cake.

The following is a chronicle of one of those rides with my father and brother, a ride just for the sake of the ride (with some great roads and sites that we happened onto along the way).

The game plan was to travel from home (Rockford, Michigan) up to Traverse City, Michigan, one of our favorite spots. We planned to spend two nights there and do some riding around the area. We'd been through Traverse City several times and had ridden the nearby roads on the Leelanau Peninsula and the Mission Point Peninsula, but had never explored the areas to the east. So, naturally, we planned to ride the areas to the east in the three days we had planned for the trip.

Day One

We left on a Friday. This particular friday morning was unusually cool for the month of June, but that didn't bother me too much as I packed my gear onto my '03 Harley-Davidson FXD Super Glide. The old beast had been my faithful, rumbling companion for over a year and a half and I was quickly closing in on the 12,000 miles mark.

Our meeting point was a gas station at the corner of 10 Mile Road and US 131 West of Rockford. As I rolled up, I saw my dad, Bruce, standing next to his gleaming blue Harley-Davidson 2002 Electra Glide. It was good to see that Dad had actually washed his bike for the trip.

My brother, Jason, was also already at the gas station. Jason and Dad's bikes are identical Harley-Davidson Peace Officer Special Electra Glide Classics. Jason is a cop for the City of Grand Rapids and bought his first Harley which he sold to dad a couple of years ago after he bought his current one.

As we fueled the motorcycles up, we discussed the first leg of the trip which consisted of making a bee line for breakfast. We jumped on US 131 heading north and after a short round of jockeying with the light morning traffic, we exited and headed west on State Road M 46 heading for Muskegon. As always seems to happen, we found ourselves behind a convoy of County road maintenance trucks out for an apparent joy ride, spewing diesel fumes in our faces. We made quick work of passing them and motored on into the outskirts of Muskegon where we stopped and had a hearty breakfast at the good old stand-by Bob Evan's.

Stomachs full and anxious to get rolling, we set off through the town of Muskegon toward the State Park on the north side of Muskegon Lake. We followed Lakeshore Drive north through the woods, skirted around the south end of Whitehall Lake and into the town of Whitehall.

County road B 115 zig zags through a lot of uninteresting farm land on its way to some more inviting roads that wind through Stony Lake, Silver Lake and the famous sand dunes of the State Park there, and then on into Pentwater. The actual town of Pentwater is rather quaint and as you pass through there is a marina and then the requisite cutsie shops and restaurants.

As we arrived in Pentwater, we found that the one gas station on the main drag is small and only has "port-a-potty" facilities. It seems strange in this day and age that the sole gas station in a touristy town would have such primitive facilities. We decided to press on taking the scenic Bass Lake Road around, you guessed it, Bass Lake. The narrow road twists and turns tightly amongst the cottages and vacation homes nestled amongst the trees. I felt kind of bad disturbing the peaceful setting as we rumbled our motorcycles through, but it was a fun road to ride.

Brothers taking a break near Pentwater

As the woods spit you out on the north side of Bass Lake, you find yourself looking at a massive power plant facility south of Luddington. The road seems to teeter in mid air as you pass between a towering mound of earth on the right and the wild blue waters of Lake Michigan on the left.

The exact mileage to the next probable gas stop was somewhat in question so I suggested that we stop at a station in Luddington where we topped off and took a few minutes to stretch and talk about the ride so far.

Soon it was time to saddle up and head out on the least favorite leg of the journey for all of us, following US 31 for the 30 odd miles into and through Manistee. Leading the pack I took the brunt of the flying loose gravel kicked up by the various RV drivers we encountered. The one thought that kept running through my mind was that whoever came up with the idea to lay down a thin layer of asphalt and then dump pea gravel over the top of it should be strung up by their privates and beaten severely. Obviously, no thought was given to the poor saps on motorcycles that have to travel over these roads.

Glen Arbor, with Glen Lake in the background.

We soon found ourselves on State Road M 22. State Road M 22 is by far one of our favorite roads to ride and we were glad to come upon it at last. The road winds its way up and down forested hills and through valleys dotted with farms as it passes through a handful of small towns. Cresting some of the hills you are afforded a brief but magnificent glimpse of Lake Michigan shimmering in the distance. Another striking sight is Crystal Lake just north of the town of Frankfort. Just inland of Lake Michigan, the aqua colored water always seems to be angry and churned up even on the calmest of days. We missed our usual photo stop near the marina in Frankfort this trip so we made a quick stop near Empire to stretch the old legs.

Continuing north on 22 leads you through Glen Arbor and over the stunning but short causeway over Glen Lake. With sand dunes as tall as mountains on one side and rolling tree covered hills on the other, it is one of the prettiest areas in lower Michigan. Glen Arbor serves as the gateway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes as well as the Leelanau Peninsula. We opted to skip the dunes and continue on 22 enjoying the increasingly challenging roads winding their way through the hilly landscape.


randyhickman98 says:

We rode this basic trip in August. Rode the tunnel of trees crossed the bridge to the UP and rode along the northern shore of Lake Michigan and then north to Newberry. The next day we rode from Newberry to Whitefish Point ant then back to Mackinaw City. It is a great ride and not too far from home.
Sat Nov 2, 2013 at 2:10 PM

Maddogcurler says:

This trip sounds like a great one. We have a place in Charlevoix and I think I'll explore the area beyond Harbor Springs my trip up there, especially. The tunnel of trees. Thanks for writing it up.
Fri Apr 19, 2013 at 9:30 PM

Titlerider says:

Nice story. I just bought my first bike in mid-September and found this site by accident last weekend and tried your Croton-Hardy Dam route. It was a lot of fun on to follow your route and ride on roads I hadn't been on before. Your Traverse City article has inspired me to make that trip next Spring.
Thu Nov 1, 2012 at 8:14 PM

blazensunset says:

Hi Todd - what a great trip!! northern michigan is a great place to explore...I am looking forward to several days of riding around the U.P. this summer. Be safe and enjoy!!

Thu Apr 12, 2012 at 3:38 PM

Robbies_life says:

Great reading journal! Thank you SO much for taking the time to post. Hubby and I are heading on that trip next month and plan to hit all the places you enjoyed. God Bless!
Sun Aug 14, 2011 at 9:56 AM

felon says:

Todd, sounds like you guys had a great time together. You are so right about when sharing these trips with family & friends how even more special it is. And remember.... you can never go wrong with a Bob Evans breakfast!!!LOL
Sun Oct 14, 2007 at 3:17 PM

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