It was 90-some degrees and 200% humidity here in Michigan the first week of September. It’s like Labor Day hit and Summer said, “Wait a minute! I’ve got until the 21st, not so fast with your pumpkin spice, you’ve still got some sweating to do.” It’s hard to imagine that in 4 short weeks or so it will be 50 degrees, grey skies, and freezing rain. But it will be, because F and I are planning our Fall getaway together on the Concours.
It never fails. Every Fall sweeps in to Michigan all blue skies and crisp breezes and sun highlighting the magnificent oranges and golds of the trees as they turn. It’s time for cider mills and pumpkins and sweater weather, but mainly just because you want to wear a sweater, not because you really have to. It’s perfect. And then whatever October weekend we’ve set aside to head north to enjoy it all, Fall suddenly says, “Sooo, I’m taking the weekend off, but don’t worry, Winter’s gonna pop in and cover my shift.” So, my apologies in advance, Michigan folks, but we’re planning our annual motorcycle Iditarod. We’re not exactly sure where we’re going or which weekend we’re going yet, but don’t worry, you’ll know. The morning the furnace kicks on for the first time, you can say to yourself from within your warm cocoon of blankets, “Ah, K and F must be on their way up north.”
I know where we’re not heading this year, and that’s the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula. We’ve done that one twice now, so we want to go somewhere new. For our first Fall getaway we rode up to Interlochen, and we got all nostalgic for that trip last year and ended up going there again. We’d like to experience freezing our fingers off in another part of the state this time.
We chose Interlochen for this trip because it was a place that we could make home base: park our stuff and our tired bodies there at night after making day rides. I highly recommend going this route if you only have a weekend to get away, since the saddle bags that get packed so tightly at the beginning of a motorcycle roadtrip sort of spring open like those old “snake in a can of nuts” pranks once they get unpacked on arrival. Who wants to spend every morning trying to Tetris everything back into the bags?
We love staying at little Mom & Pop motels instead of giving our money to big hotel corporations. Plus, with motels you don’t have nearly as far to haul all your gear; it’s great to be able to park the bike just outside your door. The Interlochen Motel is the place that really started us on that kick on our first weekend ride up north, and we stayed there again last year, too.
Our first year we got a single room, and quickly realized what a mistake that was. Motel rooms tend to be on the small side, and this one was tiny. Two people and all their gear take up a lot of space, and we were tripping over each other and our stuff whenever we were there. And the bathroom… wow. It was so small that the toilet paper holder was on the back of the bathroom door. So, trust me: even if you really, really like the person you’re riding two up with, spring for a double room on a motorcycle roadtrip. You’re going to spend hours at a time a few inches away from each other on the bike all day, and the opportunity to get three feet away from each other in the motel room is kind of blissful.
For our first day ride, we headed southwest from Interlochen each time, then north up M-22 along Lake Michigan, and then back east. I know we took slightly different routes on each trip, but all of it sort of blurs together, so I know that it looked roughly like this both times:
The first time out we stopped for breakfast in Kaleva, which as far as I can tell, is just a 4-way stop in the middle of a bunch of nothing with this odd, patched together building lurking at one corner that emits a lot of really wonderful smells when you’re hungry. Apparently those smells lure in everyone within a 40-mile radius, however, because the place was packed, and we waited forrrrreeevvvvverrrrr to get served. And at the risk of sounding totally paranoid, I really think it was in part because we were strangers in motorcycle gear who weren’t riding a Harley. Everyone clearly knew everyone else there, and we got a lot of side-eye from all of the camouflage wearing folk in the place — which was literally everyone else there. Including the waitstaff and the children. We’ve never eaten and fled so fast before or since.
The next time out we thought we would wise up and kept going before stopping for breakfast, and headed south on M-22 for a detour into Manistee. It was a bigger dot on the map, so it was bound to have more offerings, right? Sadly, no. Manistee turned out to be one of those Michigan Main Street ghost towns, a downtown area far past its heyday, half of the storefronts empty, the other hosting a hodgepodge of local retail. After snaking around its one-way streets in vain, we gave up and headed back north.
And kept. Heading. North. By this time it was past noon, and we still hadn’t had breakfast. We stopped in Arcadia at a place that had the same sort of atmosphere as the place in Kaleva, only to discover they were closing in 5 minutes. We were hungry, tired, and getting really, really grumpy. Plus, unlike our first trip when this day ride was graced with sun and blue skies, the weather had already turned this time. We ended up stopping at an abandoned gas station so that we could hunker under the overhang and eat granola bars and get some feeling back in our fingers. We tried our luck in Frankfort and still couldn’t find a breakfast place (oh Big Boy, why had you forsaken us?) but knew that we had to find something to eat before the day got irredeemably ugly. We spotted the word “bakery” on a sign and staggered in, thinking that a stale bagel or doughnut would have to do the trick — if they even had any left.
When we discovered what The Crescent Bakery was actually like inside, we just about wept for joy. Their specialty turned out to be paninis, and I had one with eggs and goat cheese and roasted red peppers and caramelized onions and the tears of angels. I’m pretty sure this place saved our lives. AND since they were going to be closing soon (it was after 2 pm by this point), they packed us up a huge bag of baked goodies to take back with us on the house. Including treats for the dogs back home, since they have a Doggy Donut Club (complete with a wall full of snapshots of dogs). If you are ever anywhere near Frankfort, please go see these amazing people and eat their amazing food. This is a local business that I don’t ever want to see shuttered.
Day two of both of our Interlochen trips saw us headed north in some form or fashion — again, it’s kind of a blur, but each of those day rides was some variation on this:
Both times we ended up at Art’s Tavern in Glen Arbor, which I highly recommend. Glen Arbor itself, not so much — but hey, that’s me. It’s clearly a popular place, as both times it was packed with stylish people strolling the main street like it’s a runway at a Land’s End fashion show, and there isn’t an empty storefront to be found; it’s full of coffee shops and galleries and artsy little stores. Art’s, however, feels like a holdout from earlier, pre-chi-chi times: they don’t take credit cards, their hours are 7 am to “really late” or “whenever you feel like going home,” and tater tots are a staple there. And if you can get there in time for breakfast, whoa. I just got all dreamy-eyed reminiscing as I looked over that menu (which doesn’t tell you that the Canadian bacon is locally cured — I don’t even like Canadian bacon and I can’t recommend it highly enough). Their Bloody Mary is probably incredible, but F and I never, ever drink and ride, so someone else is going to need to try that for me and let me know.
Both times we were there, we left Art’s feeling rejuvenated, but claustrophobic as all get-out from Glen Arbor in general — which is a combination that is prime for wanting to tear it up on the twisties, and the stretch of M-22 northeast of there is most obliging. The route may be more scenic along Lake Michigan, but this stretch meanders across the Leelenau Peninsula through hushed woods, and there isn’t a lot of traffic, so it’s a nice, uninterrupted bit of serious riding.
Our first time making this trip, we got off to a much earlier start (hence breakfast at Art’s), so we had time to explore a little bit more, which means that instead of cutting across to Sutton’s Bay, we went all the way up to Northport. What I remember most about Northport at this point is some funky houses, really rude drivers (we almost got run off the road at a downtown intersection), and lots of advertisements for apple orchards. We ended up heading north to Kilcherman’s Christmas Cove Farm, which was really impressive. I’ve never seen so many different varieties of apples (250ish it turns out), and many of them are antique or historical apples that were grown centuries ago, with names like Ribston Pippin or Kandil Sinap. If you travel all the way to Kilcherman’s and get a Red Delicious, you do not have a single adventurous bone in your body and why on earth are you even reading this blog.
So, after writing all of this, I’m once again nostalgic for our trek to the northwest corner of the Lower Peninsula — but also eager to get out and explore a new stretch of roads in our state. And now that I’m writing about these travels, I’ll be sure to take more pictures. I’m generally awful at photographing anything when I’m on vacation, but this year I’ll be on the lookout for interesting things to capture. After all, you never know what kinds of fascinating things you’ll encounter when you’re two up and off the beaten track.