Saturday, July 12, 2008

Around Lake Superior

An idea of a motorcycle camping trip didn't come to me suddenly. It started just as a ride around Lake Superior with overnight stays at motels. But during my last 1,700 mile trip to Minnesota, I found even relatively nice hotels to be boring. So I decided to spice it up next time.

I initially dismissed the idea of staying at campgrounds. After all, I've never camped in my life. But after I slept on it, I decided to give it a try. The worst thing that could happen is that I won't like it. Besides, I will be traveling through Michigan and Ontario, not Vietnam. I can always spend a night at a hotel, if I get tired of camping.

The next step was selecting campsites. With no prior experience it wasn't easy. Most of my friends recommended staying at the modern campgrounds that have flush toilets and showers. This made sense. But after some additional research using an excellent book by Jim DuFresne "Michigan Best Campsites" and web sites such as and, I realized that most modern campgrounds are very large and don't offer any privacy.

Most smaller campgrounds were rustic - vault toilets and no showers. But, from the description in Jim's book, they were more fun and offered "closer to nature" experiences. After some deliberation, I decided to stay at the rustic campgrounds the first two nights, at a modern site the third night, then take a break and stay at a hotel or motel, and spend the last two nights at the parks in Canada that offer modern amenities. I will be staying with relatives in St. Paul.

The first draft of my itinerary even included crossing Lake Michigan on a Lake Express ferry. But this idea ran into some problems. First, I couldn't figure out how to tie-down my scooter that has handlebars covered with plastic. Then I realized that I would have to carry my helmet and jacket with me to the passenger deck. And finally, being a person who arrives at the airport 2 hours before the departure, I pictured myself sitting in line in full gear in 85F weather waiting to board the ferry and I decided against it. Instead, I would ride along the Michigan west coast, spend the night at a campsite, and cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Michigan's Lower Peninsula the next day.

BTW, it turned out there was a simple solution for tieing down my scoot. A company called Canyon Dancer manufactures a special bar harness designed for sports bikes and scooters. I've ordered it anyway just in case I ever need to tow the scoot.

I tried to limit the number of miles I ride every day to less than 350. I succeeded only partially. There are still three 400+ days. And this is probably OK. After all, the main purpose of the trip is just to ride my bike. Hiking, swimming, and sightseeing will have to wait for another trip.

Here's the final itinerary:

Day 1 - Little Bay de Noc (Hiawatha National Forest, Michigan)
Day 2 - Leelanau (State Park, Michigan)
Day 3 - Pinconning (County Park, Michigan)
Day 4 - Wawa (Ontario)
Day 5 - Sleeping Giant (Provincial Park, Ontario)
Day 6 - Caliper Lake (Provincial Park, Ontario)
Day 7 - St. Paul
Day 8 - Chicago

Note: The route from Caliper Lake to St. Paul is slightly off. I plan to cross the border at Fort Frances. But for some reason Google Maps doesn't recognize Fort Frances as a border crossing point and insists on crossing the border at Baudettee.

With a contingency plan (staying at hotels) prepared and campsites selected, I turned my attention to the equipment. Since I needed basically everything, I started with four of the most critical items - tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and a pillow. All four items needed to fit under the seat of my scooter. This constraint was actually welcome since it helped to limit a dizzying number of choices.

Not being an expert on camping gear, my criteria were relatively simple: small when packed, reasonably priced, and very good reviews. Here's what I selected:
  • Mountain Hardware Hammerhead Tent 2 Person
  • Mountain Hardware Lamina 20 Degree Sleeping Bag
  • Exped AirMat
  • Therm-A-Rest Compressible Pillow
I found the best prices at and The same items at REI were at least 20-25% more expensive.

With the big items out of the way, I focused on other camping equipment. I think I will be adding smaller items to the list right until I leave the house. There are so many of them.

Here's the most critical piece of equipment - my scoot. It's a 2006 Suzuki Burgman. It has a 385cc engine and can go as fast as 85 m/h. From my previous trips, I average 40-45 m/h.

And this is me. Ready to roll.

I probably won't have access to Internet to update my Blog while I'm on the road, but I plan to keep a diary and post the updates as soon as I come back. With lots of pictures of course.

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