Both the temperatures of the bike and the temperature under my helmet were creeping upward. Traffic was at a near standstill, which is way worse than just stopped altogether. If we were stopped dead, at least I could turn off the ignition and rest on the side stand. As it was, I would feather the clutch a little bit and move a few feet, find neutral, sit for a minute or so, then repeat again, and again.
It seemed like we had been stuck all day although in actual time it was more like an hour. Hot, creeping time generates a much different perspective than rolling along time. I wonder if Einstein formulated any of his theories on time and relativity while sitting on a motorcycle seat under a hot sun trapped behind a beige Hyundai?
Our band of merry motorcyclists had started out with the prospect of a long first day on the road, 540 miles, but being the beginning of an extended trip, we were running on anticipatory adrenaline fueled by an early start and a beautiful, cool morning – Jeff Ackerman in the lead, me in the rocking chair, then Mike Burke, followed by Mary Ackerman in charge of the Can Am closing the back door.
The route was simple, I-70 to I-57, to I-80, to I-94 past Gary, Indiana, then hop on some two lane and follow the lake shore into Michigan, aiming for our overnight motel accommodation in Manistee. It seems easy enough, and probably should have been, were it not for road construction starting at the Indiana line. To make things even sadder, we had to pay a toll to get to the road that we were ultimately going to be stuck on for over an hour. Talk about rubbing it in. Sheesh!
Once you are stuck, there is not much you can do except look for an exit. We had no options in that regard; what’s the point of taking a group of four motorcycles onto the city streets of Gary hoping to be able to somehow circumvent a blockage that was located, where? And so, we plodded on.
When the highway went from six lanes to four, we worked our way over to the inside lane. It seemed better to be away from traffic merging from the right, trying to fit a bumper into any space, either real or imagined, that would result in a claim on a car sized space.
When the traffic went from four lanes to three, we continued to creep, yielding to the aggressive crazies who think that they have a right to the space in front of you just because they are bigger. Well, right or not, it isn’t worth getting a tire mark on your forehead to have “dibs” on a slab of hot concrete.
Then we went from three lanes to two, then to one. Throughout the ordeal, we saw lots of traffic cones marking forbidden territory but nary a single workman. We ultimately concluded that, this being July 5th, there was no actual work going on at all. However, removing the cones and then putting them back when work recommenced was probably too much trouble for the work crews. Thanks a bunch, IDOT.
I kept checking my engine temperature gauge and the water cooled machine crept upward, but not to the point of significant worry. My patience, however, reached critical mass much sooner. The outside temperature, according to the bike thermometer, hit low 90’s. Thank goodness the day was relatively cool. I can’t imagine what a miserable experience it would have been had we passed this way a few days later, in the middle of a heat wave.
Finally, Jeff calculated a detour using Indiana SR 12. When we hit that exit, we bobbed and weaved through nearly stalled traffic and accelerated down the off ramp. Yes, our speed on the off ramp was actually faster than our rate of travel on the interstate. SR 12, even with traffic lights, intersections, and driveways, was a welcome contrast to the creepy crawly concrete griddle we had been cooking on for the last hour.
The rest of the day went pretty much as planned. We checked into a decent motel in Manistee and walked to a local pizzeria for dinner. The following day, we took a scenic diversion to Sleeping Bear Dunes before setting course for Petosky, Michigan, the site of the BMW Riders Association Rally. We had a nice, late lunch, then motored toward Traverse City.
Traverse City is the home of the Cherry Festival, held each year around the Fourth of July. The Cherry Festival is quite an event in Michigan. It is such a popular event that there is a lot of traffic in Traverse City. Our route of travel just happened to go smack through Traverse City to get to the rally.
Guess what? We be jammin’ again.