All posts by rick wojack

Day 1, MSN to ONT

The plan was to head 'Up Nort' for a little R&R. We would be biking a couple of hundred miles over 4 days, enjoying some wonderful weather, eating some pasties, drinking some, eating some more and have a GREAT time.  . . . . and we DID!!
We would drive up from Madison, leaving at 7:00am, and head to Ontonagon, MI (#2 above) where we would ride to Porcupine Mountain State Park and up to the Lake of the Clouds (#1) (20-30 miles round trip). 
We'd spend the first night in Ontonagon (#2). 

On Day 2 it would be on to Houghton (#3) a 60 mile ride for our second night stay.

Day 3 would find us riding up the west side of the peninsula to Copper Harbor (#4), a 58 mile ride.

On Day 4 it would be back to Houghton (#5), riding along the east side of the peninsula, a 64 mile day, picking up our cars and heading to Boulder Junction, WI for our last night. 

Friday it would be back to Madison! 
After a 6 hour trip from MSN we arrived in the Ontonagon area . . .
. . .  and after a quick change we were anxious to stretch our legs after riding in the cars.
Whoaa . . . who knew I had Native American relatives in the area!!!
Lake of the Clouds is a 133 acre lake  . . . 
 only 7 miles ahead.
It was a twisting winding road with a final pitch of about a 1/4 mile with a 10-20% grade . . . 
 . . .  oh, and there were still 300 feet more to go!!
What a vista looking to the west . . . 
. . .  and a great view of the lake to the east. Too bad it was cloudy. The lake surface elevation sits at 1,076 feet above sea level. We started out our ride at the level of Lake Michigan, 614 feet.
I was happy to be at the top and needed a snack.
When Glenn and Dave summited it was beginning to clear a bit . . . 
. . .  and they actually rode their bikes right up to the observation area!!!
It was a fast descent back to lake level and soon we were moved into our home the Sunshine Motel, showered and ready for dinner. As with many tourist areas these days, finding restaurants open at night can be a challenge. We finally found Paul's Place and settled in for a nice dinner. 

I was anxious for the walleye but they were out of the fish! I settled for the tasty shrimp (caught locally). When I asked for butter for my potato I found out they were out of butter too. 

Would never happen in Wisconsin!!
Sue had the chicken sandwich with yummy, freshly fried, kettle chips. 

I was still hungry so needed some dessert, and ordered what was probably the smallest piece of cheesecake I ever had. Oh well, smaller piece, fewer calories!
It was dark by the time we got back to the Sunshine Motel and we all settled in for a quiet night of sleep.

Day 2, ONT to HOU

Greg ended up staying at a different motel because the Sunshine Motel was full. The rooms were basic but as you can see the wall art was stunning. . . .
. . . which he was able to admire from his 'breakfast bar'!!
The main show in town for breakfast was the 'Up North Café' which was a real treasure. I was there at 7:00 when they opened. 

Ontonagon doesn't have a lot going on and as the waitress told us, "It's an hour drive to get to the Walmart in Houghton!"
They had a little of everything and although the 'Garbage Omelet' was hard to pass up, I settled for the Veggie Omelet, with hash browns and toast . . . and lots of coffee. 

Soon TommyG appeared and ate heartily, followed by Greg who was also hungry!
Plenty to eat!!
Sue had oatmeal in their room and Glenn and Dave settled for breakfast from the local Holiday station.

I must say the crème filled long john Dave had reminded me of my favorites from Kwik Trip!!!
As we were loading up the bikes to shove off, something didn't look right about Glenn's TREK Checkpoint bike . . .
 . . . sure enough a flat. The bike sat in his vehicle all night and went flat while resting. 
The rest of us headed down the road. He couldn't find anything in the tire or the tube so he put in a new tube and soon Dave and he were on their way. Dave and Glenn are our fastest riders and it wasn't long before they caught all of us!!
We would be on M38 for most of the day and the traffic alternated between non existent and mildly busy. Most of the trucks gave us a wide berth, but just like everywhere else there are some truck drivers who just don't like bikes on the road and will not give you an inch, even when there is no traffic coming the other way.

Most Michigan highways have a rumble strip on the shoulder and one down the center line. As Glenn noted, you can hear vehicles crossing the center line and it is always nice to hear it almost immediately repeated as they move their whole rig to the other lane.

It's the times when you only hear one pattern and hope they haven't crossed over the shoulder set. If that was the case, you'd never know what hit you!!
The Keweenaw peninsula has a rich mining history which continues even today. Lots of copper was mined in the past. 

Some of the mines are open for tours and as you can see at this one, the cool underground temp of 48 degrees is probably a real tourist draw during the middle of summer!!
TommyG ahead as we navigate the ups and downs of the 2,350 feet of climbing we will have today.
It's always amazing the things you see on the road shoulder. Here is one that will send a shiver up the back of any rider. 

You don't want to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, when something like this comes flying off a truck at 65 miles an hour. Would probably go right through you!!
A nice downhill about 30 miles into the ride . . . 
 . . . brought us to the lunch place our waitress had told us about this morning at breakfast. The 'best pasties' in the UP!!! We eventually all arrived and everyone enjoyed a pastie but me. No veggie pasties!!!
A pasty is a British baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall, South West England but has spread all over the British Isles. 
The main ingredients are a pastry case traditionally filled with beef skirt, potato, swede (rutabaga} and onions. Dave gave his a thumbs up!!
Greg decided to take a route closer to the lake today that ended up having a pea gravel or larger stone surface. He rode about 20 miles out until he realized he had forgotten his pump which he would need if he had a flat . . . 
So, he decided to turn around and ride back to Ontonagon. And . . . he had no cell service which was to be the case for all of us during the days to come. 

No cell towers in the UP!!
One thing he noted on his ride was the fortitude conifers have up here in not only surviving the vicious winter weather but also the lack of soil. 

Some grow right out of the rocks!!
At Painesdale we turned off Hwy M38 and rode the final hour to Houghton on beautiful low traffic roads with rolling hills. 

It was very quiet, after being on the highway all day, and the afternoon sun felt great on our backs!!

We descended a very steep series of hills and soon saw the lift bridge Houghton is so famous for.

Unfortunately for Glenn, at five blocks from the motel, had another flat. But fortunately he was so close to the motel that Sue drove out with the van to pick up him and the bike. 

In the comfort of his room (rather than sitting on the side of the road somewhere) he spent about a half an hour inspecting the tire and finally found a pieced of wire embedded in the tire. Problem solved!!
You can see it from almost anywhere in town . . . 
 . . . which has a busy main drag with lots of restaurants, shops and breweries!!
Tonight we would all be staying at the Quality Inn, definitely a step up from our accommodations last night. 

It is four stories tall and built into the side of a VERY steep hill.
It was a short walk to the Keweenaw Brewing Company . . . our fist stop after moving into the Quality Inn and getting cleaned up.
Soon we all headed over to Joey's Seafood and Grill where we all had drinks . . . Sue, TommyH and I imbibed with a Joey's special 'Serious Martini' including your choice of Bombay Sapphire gin or Grey Goose vodka . . .
 . . . followed by seafood all round. Some of us had dessert too!
After such a big eatfest it was time for a walk, but some of us decided to take a seat and watch the world go by!!

Day 3, HOU – COP

After a 'hearty' complimentary breakfast at the motel (which I think made me ill later in the day) Greg and I headed out at 8:00am just as Dave and Glenn were going down to breakfast. It would be another 60 mile day today with maybe a headwind. 

We got an early start which included riding across the draw bridge!!
Greg rode to Calumet with me and then turned back to Houghton to pick up his car. 

Within five miles I was on the lakeshore and would follow it all the way to Copper Harbor.
Always fun when you see the lake for the first time in the morning!!
Oh yeah, sometimes that's how it feels in the UP . . . especially in Ahmeek.
It wasn't long before I passed the USS Kearsarge Monument

The Civil War ship, the USS Kearsarge plays a key role in the rich history of the Copper Country.  Kearsarge, Michigan located in the northernmost part of Michigan is home to a giant brick replica of a Civil War ship, the USS Kearsarge. 
Who knew!!! 
The closer I got to Copper Harbor the more cabins there were along the side of the road. Here was a nice little set up less than 100 feet from the lake!
Speaking of 'cutesy', where did these three musketeers come from???
I passed through Eagle River and then rode through the picturesque little village of Eagle Harbor . . . I was getting hungry!!!
The road became very narrow with no shoulder, but the drivers, mostly tourists, were in no hurry and gave a bike rider a wide berth.
Soon I came upon Jacob's Falls, a pretty little waterfall, and only a couple of hundred feet down the road was the . . . 
. . . Jampot Bakery. Time to stop. Soon Glenn, Dave and TommyG showed up too!!
The Jampot sold its first jar of Poorrock Abbey preserves, made from wild berries picked near the shop, in 1986. Since that time, they have been selling the wild berry preserves and other gourmet jams and jellies to customers from around the world. As the years progressed, the brothers added fruitcakes, muffins and cookies, hand made chocolates and of course specialty grade coffees. 

Oh yea, the bathroom is 1.6 miles down the road!!
Here the boys have their money out and are ready to get some of the yummy bakery goodies.
Proceeds from the Jampot support the vision and works of Holy Protection Monastery, a Byzantine Catholic Monastery, located right down the road. Learn more by visiting their website:
Wonder what's down this road . . . 
 . . . maybe the best lodging deal in the UP. Our stays ranged from $100 to $210 per night!!!
We were along the waters edge, like this photo, for most of the day. A bluebird sky and what may have been a headwind ended up being a side wind . . . not an issue!!!
No traffic!!
Soon we passed through the Redwyn Dunes Nature Sanctuary
Greg drove up from Houghton and just south of Copper Harbor drove up onto BrockWay Mountain. 

At breakfast a guy sitting near us was eavesdropping about us heading to Copper Harbor and was going on and on about how we could not go to Copper Harbor without seeing Mt Brockway. Said it was like " . . . going to Yellowstone without seeing Old Faithful!". I finally told him we were traveling on bicycles and he let out a long, "Ohhhhhhh . . .".

Greg said the eight mile road was VERY rough and probably took 15,000 miles off the life of his SUV's suspension!! 
Mt Brockway stands at 720 at its highest point.
Beautiful vistas from the lookout . . . 
. . . and in the upper right quadrant you can see Lake Fanny Hooe, a 227 acre lake that is located just 800 feet inland from Lake Michigan, where the resort is located that we will be staying at tonight.
We rolled into Copper Harbor, population 125, the northern most point of our trip.
After 60 miles, Glenn had not had enough biking and rode another 12 miles around the area!!
Copper Harbor has developed into quite the mountain biking mecca with lots of trails offering a wide variety of riding options . . .
. . . and they take the environment seriously offering a bike wash to wash weed seeds off bikes, eliminating the transfer of exotic plant materials.
We are all staying at the Fanny Hooe resort tonight. Wonder where the name comes from . . . 

Local tales related that the beautiful young woman had drowned in the lake, or got lost in the woods while picking blueberries and was never seen again. In truth, Lucy Frances Fitzhigh Hooe, Fannie, spent the summer of 1844 visiting her brother Thornton, who was stationed at Fort Wilkins. 

She returned to the family home in Virginia. While she led an interesting life, her visit to Fort Wilkins was not a major part of it. She died in 1882, probably in Fredericksburg, (Virginia).
Everybody but me stayed in the double bed condo units on the lake. Having a single room I stayed in the building with single rooms . . . 
 . . . room number 6, actually!
A view of the lake from TommyG and Sue's room.
My room had some lock issues with the main latch not catching . . . so thought I would just use the deadbolt.
. . .  funny  though there was no hole in the jamb for the deadbolt. As seen above in the red square many people had tried to use it. In time, those actions may wear an appropriate sized hole in the jamb and it will work!!
After a great dinner at the 'Lake Effect' Restaurant we walked farther downtown in search of ice cream and saw this teardrop trailer being raffled off . . . 
 . . . it looked a lot like the one my neighbor John owns and sure enough it was made by the same company in Wausau!
The classic general store knew its customers and had everything they may need . . . 
 . . . Glenn was one happy biker!!!
. . . what a way to close out a great day of biking by having a nice campfire and a few beverages!

Day 4, COP – HOU

A beautiful sunrise as we started our last day of bike riding, on the southside of the peninsula, from Copper Harbor back to Houghton.
Another very pleasant day to ride 65 miles along the lake with the sun on your face and NO wind!! 

We passed through the village of Gay . . . 
 . . . where the village board is evidently tired of people stealing their village limits sign and has instituted a steep fine for stealing it. 

TommyH was sure the fine was $500,000!!
Soon we were all back in Houghton, arriving about 2:00pm. We loaded up the bikes and all our gear and headed to Boulder Junction, WI to spend the night.
We all stayed at the Boulder Junction Motor Lodge, where the rooms were VERY large and the air conditioning worked GREAT . . . 
 . . . and the complimentary bottle of bourbon was a nice touch!!!
We walked down the main street of Boulder Junction to the Aqualand restaurant for drinks and dinner and to review the previous four days of activities.

What a great trip! Mediocre lodging, so-so food but great riding, great weather, and great companionship.

And a special thanks to Sue for providing luggage forwarding service from town to town.
The happy crew . . . watered down and well fed!
 . . . and it was so nice of Dave to pick up the whole tab!!!
At 8:00pm five of us walked down to the Coontail Grocery store to get some ice cream. To our surprise along the way was a 'high tech' port a pottie the village had purchased for tourist use . . .
. . .  it was spotless and looked like the inside of a aircraft lavatory, only three times bigger. 

Read more about the Ultra Lav here. 

They don't have any two holers in stock but a one holer starts at $50,000!
To our dismay, the Coontail closed at 7:00pm. No ice cream for you!!!

Although the owner of our motel said they had had a great summer, I wondered how the shops and other services were doing. This photo was taken at 8:05pm and there was not a shop, store or even a bar open. 

You could have rolled a bowling ball down main street and not even hit a car!!

. . . Polar Vortex approaching . . . head south!!!

After a three day bike ride to celebrate her birthday and riding RAGBRAI this summer, emJay was jazzed about her new bike and taking more trips, like I have in the past. With her retirement in November  from The Nature Conservancy, after a 38 year career, that dream became a reality!!!


Hitching a ride on RAGBRAI on the way across Iowa???


I spent much of last winter riding in Thailand  and had such a great time we decided to head back there this year. The mild temps have afforded us training ride weather through November and December . . . in fact the  photo above was take on a training ride on Christmas day . . . 50 degrees . . . unlike the –50 degree wind chill the folks in the Midwest experience last January when the first of several ‘Polar Vortexes’ descended across Wisconsin. Not going to be a problem for us this year. . .

. . . as we start pedaling in the mountain region of northern Thailand . . .

. . . and end on the beaches of the Andaman Sea!!!

Day 1, MSN–Bangkok


And we are off!! With a server at home, plus two laptops and two cellphones and a tablet on this trip, we should be covered for all our technological needs!


It was verrry early at the bus stop. Our driver is behind MJ loading our bike cases into the bus. They are surprisingly easy to move.


An otherwise tedious bus ride was brightened by this early morning disco laser show and accompanying music. We were waiting for John Travolta to make a surprise entrance!!!!


After a two and half hour bus ride, we were at O’Hare. Soon we would be on this big rig. Watching for our bikes to be loaded.


Korean Air is a classy airline, including “refreshing towels” as a nice touch!


Rick dove right in with an Asian inspired lunch.


. . . including a tube of spicy hot sauce, enough  to last the whole trip!


A short 14 hours later, we found ourselves in the beautiful  Incheon airport just outside of Seoul, South Korea.


A young lady representing the 5G company took this photo of us by their corporate mascot.  Here Kitty Kitty Kitty! I think we will be having nightmares now.


MJ enjoys the holiday decorations, complete with snow, birch trees and tepees. Think they might be catering to western tourists, eh?


A white tail deer seems to dwarf the reindeer (caribou) in size. Now is that right?!


Past the giant cat and holiday decorations, we headed up to the Incheon Airport Transfer Lounge to relax as we waited for our final flight to Bangkok.


It offered many amenities, including this quiet nap zone with individual settees with charging stations and muted lighting.


For the livelier western travelers,  please feel right at home with a Blue Moon pale ale!


After 30 plus hours of travel, MJ wheels her bike box and luggage up to our room at the Novetel Hotel in Bangkok.

Finally, sleep in a real bed with pillows! Ahhh.

Day 2, Bangkok


After celebrating the arrival of the New Year somewhere over China during our flight, we awoke to New Year’s Day at the Novotel Hotel.


After getting to our room around 1:30 a.m., we fell fast asleep. In the morning, Rick followed his usual routine, getting up at 5:30 a.m. Off he went to the expansive buffet breakfast. He texted MJ this photo to help wake her up…but then he had to go to the room to roust her. She made it to the breakfast before it closed at 10:30 thank goodness!


Flashback to our arrival at the airport, where the Novotel staff provided shuttle service to the hotel. This  hotel is extremely convenient: close to the airport so you can walk through an underground tunnel  or shuttle back and forth; five restaurants to choose from; pool ; spa; fitness center; shopping; what more could you want?!


Our day today was composed of exploring the hotel; napping; and eating. Here is the pool, with the swim-up bar tiki hut.


We weren’t suited up for a swim, but it is always time to enjoy a refreshing brew! Singha, a Thai beer, on tap!


We ordered appetizers, wonton-wrapped shrimp, all neatly tied up with a seaweed strip!


Rick insisted that we dine at the sports bar, aptly named “Touchdown.” We sat outdoors, and enjoyed beers that were much larger than we had anticipated! 


All day in the hotel we had noticed ads for Touchdown’s blackened salmon burger. And we wondered, why is the bun so dark? Is it burned? Not to worry; it was dark due to squid ink used in the bread dough! And it was tasty, served along with curly fries. Yum! We were back in bed by 9:00 p.m, exhausted.

Day 3, Bangkok


After a leisurely morning of breakfast and packing up, we took a cab from the Novotel Hotel by the airport, into the city. We had a friendly and helpful cab driver who spoke good English, answered our many questions, and got us to our downtown hotel in 25 minutes!


We are staying at the Somerset Thonglor Hotel, the tall one in the middle of this photo. On the lower right of the building you can see the outdoor pool and its surrounding oasis! The Thonglor neighborhood is described as “hipster” so we fit right in. It is also called “Japanese Town” due to the many Japanese businesses in the area.


MJ rolls right into our “studio deluxe” room.


Spacious,  with even a tiny balcony looking down on the pool.


And fully equipped kitchen with dishes, pots and pans, refrigerator, sink, and washing machine!


We will be using it soon. It is an Electrolux washer-dryer all in one!


And the bathroom features a Toto….


And its got a sprayer operation just like a carwash…except that you have to get out of the car.


Detailed instructions for the eco-washer!


Down on the 9th floor is the lovely infinity pool.


So we stopped for afternoon snacks of edamame, fried fish platter, and beer!


We walked down the avenue prior to dinner. Here we see evidence that a global brand is trying to be culturally sensitive as Ronald McDonald emulates the polite Thai bow.


We found our dinner at an interesting development called “The Commons.” The idea was to build a community; upper floors have outdoor areas. We were in the cool, yes, hipster eating area featuring many different small vendors.


We bought a few beers at The Beer Cap…


…and MJ seemed quite happy with her barbeque from Meat and Bones! Yummy, pork, cornbread and slaw.

Day 4, Bangkok


This is the breakfast layout at the Somerset Hotel. Rick continues his early rising by 6:00, and heads to the breakfast room.


Nice assortment of breads, pancakes, and even crustless egg salad sandwiches!


Today Rick enjoyed an omelet, potatoes and toast chased by a yummy Japanese breakfast of spinach ball, tofu, spiced green beans, squash, and grilled mackerel! Rick texts MJ photos of his food to help get her out of bed and down to breakfast!


While we were in the lobby preparing for our day’s outing, a family also staying at the hotel said to us: Where in the US are you from? Turns out they were from Minnesota! Then Minnie at the front desk shared that she spent last summer at the Wisconsin Dells! She was a lifeguard at the Wilderness Water Park there. Small world!


We took a cab for a 30 minute ride to the old part of Bangkok to tour the Grand Palace. Covering about 60 acres, the site includes Thailand’s most holy temple and a lavish palace that was once home for the  king. In the past it was like the White House, with many government buildings. Today its use is mostly ceremonial.


This is Dusit Throne Hall with very lush grounds and fun topiary trees!


Six pairs of demon giants like this one guard the entrance gates to the temple. Wouldn’t want to meet him in the alley!


In the galleries (or loggia) around the temple are 178 mural panels depicting scenes from the Ramakien epic. This is the Thai version of a story from India about the triumph of good over evil.


Warrior monkeys were part of the story, including this giant one that served as a living bridge for the troops to cross!


Guardian giants—they are BIG!


This is a scale model of the famous Angkor Wat temple in Cambodia. Rick toured it while there last year. The King of Cambodia gave the sandstone carving as a gift to the King of Thailand.


A guilded figure – but don’t touch! Is it a bird? Is it a man?


Scary figures hold up the tower.


Example of intricate tile work. Can you tell that this place was kind of overwhelming?!


More scary figures holding up an important tower!


Serenity now! Behind this gilded figure you see some of the eight prangs that tower above the Royal Chapel of the Emerald Buddha grounds. Each prang represents a tenet of Buddhism.


In the foreground is a small wooden pavilion, so exquisite that a replica was exhibited at the 1958 World’s Fair! In the background is the Grand Palace and former king’s residence.


MORE scary characters holding up golden towers!


Aaaah! Now we are really going to have bad dreams.


It’s funny, when we saw this last year over here  in Thailand and the trend continues . . . women getting all ‘dolled up’ like for a photo shoot and then taking photos of each other posing at temples and other historic sites.  Seems almost sacrilegious!!! ( I don’t think the guy to the left with his jogging suit on was involved in such an event.)


The Grand Palace was originally built in the 1850s using European-style architecture. But that was not deemed appropriate, so Thai details were added.


The Guard at the Grand Palace. Lots of the grounds were closed, and carefully guarded by these fellows. All armed with bayonets!

For a dinner treat, we returned to a restaurant that Rick and Tommy H enjoyed last year. We had appetizer, vino, entrees and dessert for a very reasonable price.  All delicious.  Need reservations!

Dessert was coconut ice cream on sticky rice with fresh mango, and Thai tea panna cotta with sweet cream…for sweet dreams!

Day 6, Bangkok


This morning things were very still—even a bird joined us for breakfast at the infinity pool!


Today’s treat was Japanese breakfast custard with mushrooms—yummy.


…followed by a nice dessert of tofu and egg salad sandwich!


After a leisurely morning it was time to take a cab back to the Novotel Hotel near the airport. And this sign on the cab window is the widely recognized international sign for _________????  The traffic was not bad, as many of the 18 million residents of Bangkok have not yet returned from their holiday vacation.


Back at the Novotel we had lunch. MJ loved her refreshing salad with chicken, barley, greens, avocado and orange slices,


Getting ready to leave our room, after reassembling our bikes,  to meet the gang for our opening day meeting.


A shiny hallway looks like water! MJ walks across the reflecting pool.


Tour organizer Tom and biking guide Woody share important background information with the group.


Then we break bread together at the Novotel restaurant. These two tables make up our group.


We had attentive waitstaff who kept our wineglasses full!


Dinner was a big smorgasbord, with sushi, fresh oysters, entrees . . .

. . .  including a delicious red curry with salmon.


. . .  and best of all, delicious desserts. Had to have three; there were so many choices!


The ever-full glasses of vino totaled nine bottles! Eight white and one red. Have to cut back after this!