Here’s Day 1 of my ride tale for a recent trip I took to Wisconsin.
For noobs, the title is a reference to a similar trip I took two years ago.
========================================================Day 1: Thursday, August 9
Route: Ann Arbor, MI to Madison, WI
Distance: 268 miles in the saddle plus 78 miles by ferry
The last time I visited Wisconsin on my RT, things went so well that it would have been silly to expect the same level of perfection. And indeed, things on this trip got off to a questionable start. After weeks and weeks with no rain, southern Michigan was experiencing a troublesome drought – and then, on the day I was supposed to depart, it was raining hard enough that instead of riding into work that morning for a lunchtime departure, I opted to drive in, come home from work at noon and then ride out. On the plus side, that gave me a chance to have one last lunch with my wife before leaving town for a few days, so maybe it wasn’t all bad. (Hey, Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, right? )
Once I got on the road after lunch, it didn’t rain terribly hard, but it was enough to require rain gear – an annoying proposition when it’s warm out, especially since my Airglide jacket’s waterproof liner was also insulated. Still, a wet ride is better than an afternoon at work, so I didn’t grumble too much as I made my way toward Muskegon.
A few uneventful hours later, I arrived at the Lake Express car ferry
terminal where I was greeted by three other riders who also happened to be taking the ferry that afternoon. I had timed things pretty tightly, and the ferry appeared in the harbor only about half an hour after I had arrived:(If you’re unfamiliar with the LE ferry, it’s the sexy-lookin’ ship on the right)
Once I had my bike tied down on the vehicle deck, I went up topside to watch the crew finish departure preparations:
I was a bit puzzled when the deck crew finished their rope work and stood with their hands over their ears. I should have taken the hint: a few seconds later the ship’s horn sounded, alerting everyone within a fifteen-mile radius that we were about to back away from the pier.
Making our way down the Muskegon river to Lake Michigan:
The Muskegon shoreline has several lighthouses, and of course the ferry passes by all of them before reaching open water. First, the Muskegon Pier Light,
which has been around in its present shape since 1903:
The last light before reaching open water is the Muskegon Breakwater Light,
which has been around even longer, since 1871:
If you’re a lighthouse fanatic, don’t worry: ownership of both of these sites were recently transferred to the Michigan Lighthouse Conservancy,
so you can expect them to be maintained for a long time to come.
Once we reached open water, the ferry promptly ramped up to full speed. Despite a very light drizzle falling from the sky, the sun deck had been crowded during the low-speed run across Muskegon lake. But once we reached Lake Michigan and hit our 32-knot cruise speed, the drizzle and cold gale coming across the deck proved too much for the rest of the passengers, most of whom were dressed for more mild conditions:
Me? Hey, I was head-to-toe in rain gear, and I still had my earplugs, so I was all set to enjoy pretty much anything Mother Nature cared to throw at us:
The teeny-bopper a few seats down from me wasn’t up here for the weather or the scenery. I’m pretty sure she was looking for privacy from her family as she busily exchanged text messages with the boyfriend she left back in port.
This spring was the 100th anniversary of the sinking of the RMS Titanic.
One of the most famous facts about the Titanic was that it only had enough lifeboat capacity for about half of the people on board. A stroll around the Lake Express reveals how far maritime safety has come in 100 years. For starters, if you’re a fan of Deadliest Catch,
then you probably know what this is:
EPIRB stands for Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon.
If the ship sinks, this device automatically separates from the hull and floats to the surface. An on-board GPS receiver determines its position, and then begins broadcasting that information to orbiting satellites. If the ship goes down, stay close to this thing: the US Coast Guard will be on the scene shortly.
The edge of the deck is also festooned with several of these large drums:
Each one contains a self-inflating life raft – and yes, there’s more than enough capacity for everyone on the ship. Moreover, they will not go down with the ship: that small yellow cannister on the hold-down strap is a pressure sensitive release mechanism. If it gets more than six feet below the surface of the lake, it will release the strap, allowing the drum to float free to the surface.
Off to one side, the ship also has a davit crane and a Zodiac boat, suitable for water rescues:
Life jackets are hidden in plain sight:
As well-equipped as this vessel is, her crew do their part, too. In early summer 2005 The Lake Express reported a signal flare that led to a Coast Guard rescue of another boat. Later that summer they directly rescued a hypothermic man from his capsized boat 20 miles out from Milwaukee (and a year later he got married on the Lake Express)
. Nice to know you’re in good hands when you’re on this ship.
After a half-hour of high-speed running, the lonely teeny-bopper headed below deck (no more cell phone service this far out
). My only remaining topside companion was a middle-aged woman who was dressed for the weather, and seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was:
After enjoying the solitude on deck for a while, I retreated to the stern. This was still an outdoor area, but the relative shelter from the winds made for a more suitable environment in which to read:
By the time I finish this book, I expect to have all of you agreeing enthusiastically with whatever position I choose to espouse.
Before long we arrived at the pier in Milwaukee, and I made my way the final 80 miles to Madison for a late dinner. If you’ve read my first Wisconsin ride tale, then you know exactly where I went for dinner:
And yes, that was almost
A short ride to my hotel on the west side of town finished my day. I had survived the least pleasant day of the trip – it wasn’t all that bad – and sheer riding bliss was just hours away.