Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Alpena, Michigan to Cleveland, Ohio

At 6:00 a.m. this morning, out in the "wilds" of Michigan, I awoke to a vermilion glow. The sky on fire. "Red sky at morning, sailors take warning..." Hurricane remnants?

Last night and this morning, the birds have been incredible in their variety and intensity of song. This thickly-wooded area is their domain. It's so refreshing to be surrounded by non-human sounds!

I had tried a new twist: wrapping my air mattress in a cotton "Cocoon" and slept on that, using the sleeping bag as a comforter. I seemed to sleep better.

Packed up in 30 minutes; I didn’t want to be discovered by daylight. Felt some relief at escaping from the woods and reaching the pavement without detection. Resumed travel with the "normal" commuters.

Looked for a family-style breakfast place in Alpena, but settled on “Big Boy”, rather than the one that actually said "family restaurant." Ordered a strawberry waffle (which was remarkably good, with fresh strawberries and heavy whipped cream!) The Cranberries’ “Dreams” playing in the background; with its great intensity, their music represents a particular era in rock, (and it's sad to hear it sedated now as "white noise.")

Horribly muggy. A hazy, stagnant atmosphere. Lake Huron, dead flat, creepy. Virtually every foot of shoreline claimed, cleared, settled and posted “no trespassing”. Replacing the dense forest, trappings of humanity: houses, boats, cars, SUVs, motorhomes, jet skis, playground equipment, wood piles, and the myriad human conceptions of how a landscape should look.

Detroit drivers are the most aggressive I think I’ve experienced. Traveling 80 in a 45 mph construction zone; even to me that's extreme. I had to really watch my tail. Men, women, teens, seniors; it doesn't matter. Their message: "Get your butt out of the way if you're not a competitor."

Just the run into the city on the interstate was enough to leave me with such a bad taste, I had no interest in getting to know this place. The smell of ozone and the slight tightening in the chest, evoked comparisons to Los Angeles, yet without L.A.'s redeeming qualities.

Southwest of Detroit, in Canton, I easily found Erhard BMW, just off the highway. Kirk Groesbeck was concerned as soon as he saw my rear brake. "You just ate up your rotor." He conferenced with the mechanic and they took the bike in immediately, despite other jobs ahead of mine. I supplied the brake pads for them to install, which took less than half an hour. The rotor turned out to be salvageable.

Looked at some mesh riding suits while I waited. “This would be smart for riding in these warmer climates.” But I hesitate at buying anything more. (Rather than be sensible,) I'll just "tough it out," even if it kills me.

At my request, Kirk looked at and documented the oil leaks (clutch housing and drive shaft boot). They couldn't work on the these right now, but considered them non-critical at this point. I could address them further down the road.

Kirk graciously offered his home should I need a place to stay. I couldn't overcome my discomfort at imposing (especially given my nightly foghorn impersonation.) But I did ask his recommendation for dinner. He suggested “Don Pablo’s” across the street. Easy enough, I tried it out. An icy strawberry margarita (a strong one!) hit the spot. (Friendly people; good, fresh food. A bit surprised to learn this is a chain restaurant, owned by Avado Brands. They do a pretty good job - at least this location - which speaks well of the managers.)

Gave Kirk a "thumbs up" as I drove off. He made a motion, as if exclaiming "yes!!!"

Looking for a stopping point now, but the region was still too congested. Drove on toward Toledo. Construction everywhere on the region's interstates. Passed Chrysler's enormous complex near the Michigan-Ohio border. Surprised how quickly I reached Toledo. Having visited as a guest of Owens-Illinois six or seven years ago, I thought of stopping in to say hello to old acquaintances. The thought didn't gain much of a foothold though. The momentum and heat just carrying me along.

Passing billboards from several motels advertising an "as low as $39 per night" rate, I stopped at two: "Super 8" and a "Ramada". Both appeared to be recent buy-outs of some previously-abandoned motel. The advertised $39 rate "is only with a coupon."

"Then the sign out along the highway should state that."

"Yes, it should."

Well, I'm not falling for it, I thought, leaving annoyed.

Hot and wet, as thunderstorms moving in from southeast crossed my path. Cleveland was now becoming the goal as I once again found myself driving longer than intended. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame was the only thing in the area that particularly interested me, so there was a limit to how far I would drive before stopping.

Rode through several storms, trying to slipstream trucks to reduce the soaking, but it didn't help much.

On Cleveland's outskirts, looked for a "Hampton Inn". It was full. Started to worry that I had overextended my luck. Up the highway, A "Courtyard". One room left at $149. Geez! The Desk Clerk volunteered a comparative rate survey they do regularly, listing their competitor's rates and the number of vacant rooms each had this evening. Theirs was the highest rate. "Red Roof" and "StudioPLUS" up the road were cheapest, with the most rooms left.

Looked at the StudioPLUS motel, asking to see a room. More than I needed, with a fully-equipped kitchen, but the $69 rate was now looking attractive. I took it. Once in the room, I scattered my gear. A family right overhead - kids running and jumping (off of furniture, by the sounds.) It was barely tolerable, but I was confident I'd outlast them.

Turned on, tuned it. Checked e-mails and the latest news on TV. Learned more about these remnants of Hurricane Dennis, now hovering over much of the east. They're not moving much. Did laundry, finishing after 3:00 a.m.

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