I woke at dawn and went for a short hike to see the Lower Tahquamenon Falls:
The morning temps were in the mid 40s. Which allowed me to use my ultralight down jacket. Which made me feel good because I was beginning to think it was just wasting precious space in my bags.
I had a classic breakfast of larabar, beef jerky, fruit leather, and pistachios, then set off for Grand Marais. I planned to take the long, scenic route from there to Munising and see Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (my third national park of the trip) along the way. This turned out to be a minor mistake. The ride was pleasant enough, but the “pictured rocks” I wanted to see were all near Munising. I should have just taken the shorter, boring route to Munising and then backtracked slightly to the rocks, giving me more time to explore. I also realized that the best views of Pictured Rocks were to be had by boat... Regardless, the views I got did not disappoint:
From Munising, I booked it west to meet up with my friend Kai’s family at his aunt’s place near Marquette, MI.
My friend Kai committed suicide earlier this year. He grew up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and spoke of it as a magical place. I always wanted to see it. The past few years, when I’d daydream of a cross country motorcycle trip, I’d always imagine coming through the UP and visiting him. I told him as much. In a remembrance I wrote for his memorial, I promised I’d still visit. This was an important part of the trip for me.
Before reaching Kai’s aunt’s, I ran into his cousin Conor (we had first met a month earlier at an LA memorial for Kai) here:
Phil’s 550 Store. Kai gave me a t-shirt from this place once. He spoke of the store as legendary. A cool, weird stop along a desolate stretch of road in the UP. Everyone in the UP knew about it. And they took photos of themselves wearing Phil’s t-shirts all over the world.
The store was indeed cool and weird. They had a photo of Kai on the wall:
And this strange, unsettling painting:
And the t-shirt thing is basically true. The funny thing though is that the store’s not really on a desolate stretch of road. It’s more or less around the corner from Kai’s aunt’s house just outside of Marquette. His cousins both worked their first jobs here. I chuckled to myself. It was so Kai to thoroughly exalt the place and never simply describe it as “the corner store by my aunt’s.”
When I arrived at his aunt Nancy’s, it was packed. Conor (her son) had a bunch of friends visiting from Detroit (where he lives) for the Fourth of July week. They were all super nice, interesting, artistic folks in their 20s. Kai’s mom Sandy was visiting too — she was my point person and had suggested I come here first. I hadn’t really made much of a plan for my visit except to spend some time with Sandy, see some of the places Kai loved, and spend a night in the family cabin he often spoke about. It quickly became apparent that the one additional day I had allotted for this would not be sufficient — it was a two hour drive to his hometown, Hancock, and then another 45 minutes to the cabin, plus “you really need a full day for a Keweenaw Cruise.” (NOTE: All of Kai’s friends and family told me that I absolutely MUST do a “Keweenaw Cruise.” I assumed this involved a boat, but instead it referred to spending a day driving around the Keweenaw Peninsula and stopping at various sights.)
I started to feel overwhelmed. I could probably spend an extra day. I’d have to talk to my brother first. I was supposed to visit him and his wife at her family’s place in Minneapolis next — they were only going to be there so long. But, I was feeling lightheaded and dizzy too. Maybe it was the emotion of being here? Or exhaustion from the ride? Or mild dehydration? Or hunger — I hadn’t eaten a real lunch.
Conor put some pasties in the oven. A “pasty” (rhymes with “nasty”) is a regionally ubiquitous dish consisting of a pastry shell stuffed with ground meat and root vegetables. It’s portability made it a favored dish of workers in the UP’s copper mines.
After eating a couple pasties and drinking lots of water, I felt a little better. But still lightheaded and dizzy. I started to worry that I couldn’t handle the riding. That my trip was doomed. That vibrations from the bike were giving me micro-concussions. A little bit of googling ruled that out — it wasn’t a thing.
I went for a walk around the rocky shoreline with Conor and Sandy. I took this pic of Sandy’s dog Elliot:
I still felt dizzy and lightheaded. And worried. What was wrong with me? I called my brother and verified that I could arrive in Minneapolis a day later. I would take a shower and go to bed early. Hopefully, I’d feel better when I woke up. If not, I’d have to see a doctor.