Circling Lake Michigan


By Glen Abbott

As featured in H.O.G.® Magazine Issue 039

Suit up if you got ’em!” barked Jeff, the leader of our motley riding crew, as we dismounted our motorcycles. His military sounding instruction referred not to gas masks and flack jackets, but to rain gear. And judging from the ominous black clouds in the distance, it was damn good advice.

We’d crossed the Mackinac Bridge onto Michigan’s Upper Peninsula (U.P.) several minutes earlier in bright sunshine, but as our group of nine motorcycles rumbled westward on U.S. Highway 2, the headlamps of approaching vehicles burned brightly, a chill wind cut across Lake Michigan, and the skies darkened. You didn’t have to be Ferdinand Magellan to foretell our immediate future.

Stopping on a wide section of shoulder along U.S. 2, those of us who had ’em suited up. Back on the highway, raindrops began to fall, lightly at first. The sky dulled to a shade of slate gray. Tiny whitecaps spread across the giant lake and lapped gently ashore. A line from a “Seinfeld” episode popped into my head: “The sea was angry that day, my friends. Like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.”

The skies were angry, as well. Over the next two hours, we pressed on through a deluge of varying intensities, passing shacks and souvenir stands advertising exotic delicacies like “pasties” (a type of Cornish meat pie, pronounced “past-ee”) and smoked fish. Mom and pop motels, whose vintage marquees likely would have once proudly boasted of wonders within, like color television and air conditioning, lined our route. We were two days and 500 miles into a four-day, 1,100-mile circumnavigation of the country’s third-largest Great Lake, riding a route designated the Lake Michigan Circle Tour.

Our journey continued through Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, Manistee National Forest, the slow and curvy Tunnel of Trees, and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The trip concluded at the Harley-Davidson Museum where we said our good-byes and reflected on our 1,100-mile achievement.