Sarah and I planned this trip for many months. It was a very romantic idea: two lovebirds in their mid-20s on a camping trip around Lake Huron, keeping traveling costs down and excitement up. Sarah had been camping quite a bit with her family, so Ms. Camping had all the answers. I, on the other hand, am a textbook novice when it comes to motorcycle camping. The fun started when we picked up the KTM 990 Adventure.
As we arrive at KTM headquarters near Cleveland, OH, and try to load all of our equipment onto the bike, it becomes clear that we brought too much. We scramble through our stuff and downsize to fit everything into our hard cases and a Wolfman dry duffel. The hard cases contain our clothes and some cooking utensils, and on the back we strap the dry duffel containing two sub-zero sleeping bags, the tent, rain gear, motorcycle cover, tripod, and more cooking items. We bungee our tennis shoes and some other loose items around the tower of equipment that's already taking over half of Sarah's back seat. To top it all off I mount a tankbag containing my camera, water, and every kind of electronic hardware we brought along and were so sure we needed. By the time everything is on the Adventure it looks more like an Austrian-Mexican donkey. Now all we need are some ponchos and sombreros. I'm sure the KTM staff gets a good laugh out of this. Once we squeeze onto what's left of the seat we're off to Port Huron, MI, the starting point of our adventure.
Day 1 - 250 miles
Port Huron to East Tawas
We leave Port Huron at 7 a.m., eager to hit the road. After a quick cruise into downtown, and chasing after a huge ship headed out under the bridge to take a picture, we head north on Highway 25. We ride near the shore of Lake Huron, and we do see the lake at times, but big parcels of land with nice houses and large trees obstruct the view. The road is flat, straight and long, which makes it easy to check out the scenery. We don't make it far before our first coffee break. Our 6:30 a.m. breakfast is long gone, so we stop at iCrave, a whimsical cafe in Lexington. Some locals sit inside staring at their laptops, and I realize, "I don't have to do that today!" Our fully packed KTM is parked right in front of the cafe, and as usual our space suits catch people's attention and they want to know where we're headed. I tell the owner, Theresa, about our plan, and she quickly warms up to us. She and her husband just moved from North Carolina, our home state, and they also ride.
Motorcycle & Gear
After a quick RoadRUNNER pitch we saddle up fully caffeinated. Many farms, and especially cornfields, line the road. Once in a while there's a roadside pull off with picnic tables that overlook the lake. We stop, just idling and staring at this massive body of water. It's difficult to believe it's a lake. If you don't taste the water you might mistake it for an ocean. As a landlocked Austrian it's hard to wrap my mind around such a sight.
In Port Austin we look for a lunch spot, and ideally it will be one that overlooks the lake. It takes a while to find such a place, but our prayers are answered and orders taken at the Riverside Roadhouse in Caseville, a good spot for great seafood. Lunch gives Sarah and I time to share our impressions so far. Yes, the roads are long and straight as an arrow, but the outdoor spirit is easy to witness. We see many bicyclists pedaling on the shoulder, trucks hauling their boats to go out fishing, wake boarding, and swimming. This part of the trip is quite touristy. Every other property on the shore is a cottage, motel or campground, which raises our hopes because we have no set plans other than circling the lake. We have no reservations and no idea of where we can camp.
In Bay City the road turns into a heavily trafficked four lanes all the way to East Tawas. I twist the throttle a bit harder to get moving, and it's about time to start looking for a campground. The first three so-called campgrounds we stop at tell us "Sorry, no tents". Now is it me or does this not make sense? Campgrounds cater to campers sleeping in tents, but maybe have some RV sites available. And RV parks cater to only RVs. Now that makes sense to me!
We finally find a tent site in East Tawas State Park, squeezed in among RVs. By the time we set up our tent everybody's campfire, grill and stove are in high gear. There is so much smoke in the air it looks like the whole place is on fire. The combination of the smoke, the smell of food, and the fires creates an interesting odor, which lingers well into the morning. All I can think is, "I love the smell of napalm in the morning!"