Jason and I had come this way six months ago on a color tour and we had a great time pushing our big bikes and our skills to the limit. This time, we restrained ourselves a bit taking in the scenery at a slightly more relaxed pace.
North of Leland the road turns into a playground for motorcycles, and we couldn't hold back any longer. We raced through the curves doing our best to remove some chrome from our floorboards. The road takes a right turn at Northport and we finally all caught up with each other in quaint little Suttons Bay.
Later that afternoon we arrived in Traverse City, Michigan. We quickly checked into our motel and started to discuss dinner options. It was a short discussion. It was a short discussion because absolutly no trip to Traverse City would be complete without a dinner at Boones Long Lake Inn. Widely renowned for their Prime Rib, Boones is always a favorite. After stuffing ourselves with melt-in-your-mouth prime rib, we lazily rode back to our motel and decided we'd ridden enough for the day.
No trip to Traverse City would be complete without a stop for prime rib at Boones Long Lake Inn
I had a pretty good route planned out for the day and we were anxious to get rolling. After a good nights sleep and a hearty breakfast at another Bob Evan's, we set out heading north on US 31. There were several options for us to choose from today: do we just ride? do we ride up to St. Ignace and check out the annual classic car show? Or, do we check out Wilderness State Park? Since I had studied the map at great length, the guys pretty much told me to lead the way and see where we end up.
North of Traverse City, we came to Elk Rapids where we turned right on county road 593 taking us around Elk Lake and then around the south end of Torch Lake. The county roads that I had hoped to follow were poorly marked and I soon realized that I was making educated guesses as far as where to turn.
We rode through some sleepy little towns and through the rolling countryside up to Bellaire. North of Bellaire, the hilly terrain turns almost mountainous as we wound our way up one side of a hill and then down the other side. Some of the road surfaces were less than ideal which necessitated greater care than normal on our big bikes.
Soon though, we found ourselves in East Jordan, home of the East Jordan Iron Works whose label you will see stamped in sewer grates or manhole covers worldwide. After a short break, we were off again toward Boyne City taking, oddly enough, the Boyne City - East Jordan Road. I had mapped out a road that looked like it might be a good route, but it turned out to be dirt, not the best choice for two dressers and a hot rod Harley. We continued on into Boyne City and made another brief stop at a park on the south end of Lake Charlevoix. I was really enjoying the fact that we were taking our time today and stopping frequently.
We followed Boyne City Road around the west side of Lake Charlevoix enjoying the bright sunshine and empty roads. In the Town of Charlevoix, it was time for another break, and this time a cup of coffee.
As we sat by the marina, looking out at Lake Charlevoix ("The Beautiful" in French or something) and nursing some good strong coffee, we started waxing philosophical. I've noticed that riding motorcycles for long periods of time sure can make the mind wander.
The road was calling to us again and soon we found ourselves motoring north along US 31 again toward Petoskey. Lake Michigan would be in our view for the rest of the afternoon glinting at us in the sun.
Petoskey is a great town with a lot of vacation activities nearby no matter what the season. The downside to this town is that its popularity, and the fact that two major highways, US 31 and US 131 intersect there make it a busy and congested area. We wound our way through the busy streets and turned left onto State Road M 119 just north of town. As we rolled up on the upscale little burg of Harbor Springs, I noticed that the skies had clouded up considerably and it seemed like it could rain any second. We made a quick stop to pull on our jackets and continued on our way.
Just up the way from Harbor springs, we saw a road sign that motorcyclists love to see, it read: "Narrow Winding Road Next 20 Miles." Grinning from ear to ear, we wound our way along single file not letting the occasional light drizzle spoil our fun. Nicknamed the "tunnel of trees" this section of M119 is just wide enough for two cars to pass and twists and turns its way along the shoreline of Lake Michigan. There are plenty of elevation changes and hairpin curves that will test your riding skill.
We were not the only bikers enjoying this unique road either. We passed a group of riders on cruisers who fell in behind us and then we were passed by a bunch of riders on sportier type bikes.
We made a brief pit stop near Cross Village and noted that this was definitely a popular destination for motorcyclists.
South end of Wilderness State Park
Continuing north, we enjoyed more twisty roads and entered the south end of Wilderness State Park. From there, getting to the other end of the park requires zig zagging inland through some very desolate areas with miles of flat straight roads that seem to have been forgotten by county road crews.
Arriving in Mackinaw City, we were all running on fumes and made a quick stop at the first gas station we came to. At that point it was getting late in the afternoon and we felt that going over the bridge into St Ignace would have us running short on time, so we decided to walk around the touristy little town to stretch and have some ice cream.
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
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
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
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
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
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