Three days in Fargo have left us refreshed and ready to ride again. We have blue skies and a cool breeze at our backs as we head east for New York. Our route will take us across the ‘M’ states Minnesota and Michigan, plus Wisconsin, which is really an upside down ‘M’. We are also adding Metzeler to the list of good ‘M’s. While we were at Sturgis, Metzeler offered us a new set of tyres to replace the ones we have worn down with all our riding since Costa Rica. How generous of them. We will get them fitted in Grand Rapids, Michigan, hence our route over the top of lake Michigan.
Across the state line into Minnesota and a change of scenery. The flat plains and large fields are replaced by rolling hills, trees and lakes. The Minnesota number plates say ‘10,000 lakes’ and after seeing as many as we have, and more on the GPS, that the statement is probably true.
Anne spots a real coffee shop in Park Rapids and as we bask in the sun under the shade of a pine tree, we meet Brian & Kathy, the owners, and spend time chatting. They are small business owners, who own this drive through only coffee shop. Open all year round, must be tough in winter with no tourists and half the local inhabitants fleeing south to warmer climes, but what would our staff do without a job if we closed in winter they say. Lovely people.
We also have our first large animal encounter, a deer, walking out across the road, brakes worked fine, but a timely reminder that we should not ride too late and as we head through state and national forest, we need to keep our eyes open.
Duluth is a city that I recall from my geography at school as a major port on Lake Superior for the transportation of iron ore to the steel mills in places such as Cleveland and Pittsburg. Today iron ore and Wyoming coal account for 80% of exports, with grain making up the bulk of the rest. A major import are nacelles, bases, towers and blades for wind turbines. This is the most inland port in the USA. We get to see a Polish ship arrive to collect grain, and the locally famous Aerial Lift Bridge in action.
The size of the port becomes apparent as the Polish ship disappears from view and we see it later looking quite small next to an enormous grain elevator complex, one of many that dot the harbour basin. We are quickly out of town and heading for Wisconsin and Michigan.
The nature of the landscape, in my view, lends itself to holidays by lakesides. We see RV’s with boats, ATVs, jet-skis and a local boat variant called a pontoon boat. The latter is designed for leisurely trips around the myriad of small lakes that exist, some interconnected allowing quite extensive travel. People seem to holiday locally, many we meet are from a few hours away or the next state. A great environment for holidays with kids.
While we are protected by trees for the most part our journey along the northern shore of lake Michigan and then over the Mackinac Bridge, one can see how windy it could be for us, but I am glad we are travelling now with bearable winds – we heard of one RV being flipped over by the wind the other day.
We keep meeting people interested in our journey. At the campsites, hotel car parks and food stops, we get their enthusiasm in our journey. It is quite infectious and a reminder to us of where we have been and what we have achieved in 14 months. It is hard for us to imagine that this way of life is coming to an end in a few weeks. We are so used to having another country ahead to cross, places to visit, people to see. Now we look at our calendar and see flights and family reunions, which we are looking forward to, but how will we miss this nomadic life on the road? Time will tell.
We visit BMW Motorcycles of Grand Rapids. Two new fresh sets of Metzeler Tourances await Streak and Storm. They are fitted and we are able to use their cleaning bay, equipped with all the best cleaning tools and products to change Streak and Storm to their purchased grey colours from the dirt, mud and oil spattered bikes they had become. It will hopefully reduce the number of wasps that seem to show interest the bikes each time we stop, probably because of all the dead insects that formed a film across the front of the bikes protecting the chrome and paint from the elements. We had great help from Gary in cleaning the bikes.
The 3 miles from our hotel to BMW Motorcycles of Grand Rapids took us past 30,000 miles for the trip. Another milestone, no pun intended, and Anne has updated the route map in our blog to reflect this and our recent wanderings in Colorado and Wyoming.
In Australia I was only able to get six months’ supply of heart medication before coming away. A law that exists to stop people stockpiling I guess? Suddenly we have been gone for six months and I need some refills. We find an urgent care clinic who are very helpful and fill my prescriptions. They do not even charge for the service on the spot, just say they will invoice me at my home address.
Across the road to the Walgreens pharmacy the prescriptions were sent. They are electronically transferred. I take Crestor for cholesterol which in Australia with the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme costs me about US$25 for one month. Here the bill is US$265 for one month. Eeeeek!, Just one month please, I will get more in Europe thanks. We forget what is subsided back home. Must be tough for those without medical insurance here when you need such tablets.
Off to Amish Country tomorrow and then a leisurely ride eastwards.