Author Topic: Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought  (Read 3242 times)

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Offline RogerinNYC

Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought
« on: August 06, 2012, 01:56:41 pm »
Hello Forum,

I've just completed about 2400 miles riding from Astoria, OR to Minneapolis, MN, using ACA routes some of the time and diverging at others (e.g., into SD's Black Hills and Badlands) and am now trying to figure out my route home to NYC.

I know how I want to go from Wolf Lake, MI to NYC -- I intend to take the Lake Erie connector route into Niagara, and from there to Albany and down to NYC.

My question: The most scenic and interesting way to get from Minneapolis to Wolf Lake. I've plotted out three alternatives:

1. Take the ACA North Lakes route up to Escanaba, over to Mackinaw and down to Wolf Lake (i.e., Michigan's Upper Peninsula) -- about 800 miles.

2.  Take the ACA North Lakes route alternative to Conover (before Escanaba), then cut down to Mantowoc, WI and take the ferry across Lake Michigan to Ludington and then ride to Wolf Lake -- about 625 miles.

3.  Take the ACA Norther Tier, Section 7, route to LaCrosse, WI, and then self-route directly across to Mantowoc and take the ferry, etc. -- about 500 miles.

I'm leaning towards No. 1, even with the extra mileage, because I've heard great things about the beauty of the MI's upper peninnsula. But following the Missippi River south towards LaCrosse has some appeal also.

Any thoughts or advice? I'm staying only in motels, and doing 50 to 60 miles a day, so there need to be services along the way.
My highest priority is untrafficked roads and beautiful scenery. For those, I'll travel a lot of miles!

By the way, I've blogged the entire first half of my trip if anyone wants to see the route already taken to this point:

Thanks in advance for any help

Offline Gizmosity

Re: Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought
« Reply #1 on: August 07, 2012, 09:26:46 pm »
*This got REALLY long.....skip to the bottom if you're in a hurry.*

I just did parts of the Northern Tier and Northern Lakes route and finished a few weeks ago.   Maybe being from the Pacific Northwest, I'm spoiled, but there was about 200 miles of the UP that I could have done without.  It was worth every minute of it, don't get me wrong, but there was about 2-3 days of "road with trees on both sides".  I had a long talk with a friend of mine to describe it and I read her my journal entry:

"It's all forground.  There is no background.  What you see directly in front of you and to the sides of you doesn't really change much.  I'm used to the NW and there's a mountain in the background pretty much everywhere and it seems to move around in the background and you get closer to it, or you veer in another direction and see a different one. Not so much here.  It's much hillier than the maps topo shows.  The rise and fall isn't enough to show on the map but there are hills after the other, after the other."

I met a couple other cyclists going the other way around and they pretty much said the same thing.  Kind of monotonous and much more elevation changes than they were expecting.

I started/ended in Platteville Wisconsin and started the ACA route starting in Marquette, IA.  The Mississippi River was fantastic.  You'll really only see it for a day starting in Minneapolis following the North Lakes route, which is too bad.  I really enjoyed that portion even though Iowa was brutally hot and had more changes in elevation than I had ever thought possible.  The Minnisota portion was awesome.

I veered off route at Clam Lake Wisconsin and made my way north to Ashland because I'd never seen Lake Superior and it was only 50 miles or so.  Nice town (Karl at Bay City Bikes was a godsend) and a very nice ride.  I took Hwy 2 and 51 south to pick up the route again near Mercer.  From there to Escanaba was tough for me.  It was unusually hot and the scenery is noted above.  Services were ok, but mainly gas station/mini marts.  Fruits and vegitables were rare for a couple of days.  I found 2 bananas in 3 days and they were nearly black.  After Escanaba services were more plentiful and the scenery was fantastic all the way to St. Ignes.  You're also on Hwy 2 for a good part of it, if not all of it.  Lots of traffic as it's about the only road. 

Basically the route from Escanaba to where I beelined to Muskegen, where I took the ferry to Milwaukee and back home, was a fantastic ride.  I did ride the 20 miles or so "Tunnel of Trees" where the maps say not to because of traffic.  Personally, I'd ride it again in a heartbeat.  It was one of the most memorable parts of my trip and the shade was a real treat.

I beelined from Milwaukee to Platteville, through Madison in two days, mostly on the Hank Aaron, Glacier Drumlin and Military Ridge trails.  Personally, I didn't like much of it.  But, I've also been through that stretch a zillion times so it wasn't new to me and I put the hammer down.

A week after I finished my tour, I headed back up to the UP and into the Keweenaw Peninsula for the first time and car camped with a girlfriend who went to school in Houghton some years ago and wanted to go back and see it again.  Wow.  I can't believe I pedaled so close to that place.  Awesome scenery everywhere.  I was stunned and a bit bummed I didn't bring my bike with me.

If I were to have to chose your three options, I'd still chose #1.  I'd also veer off route in Michigan and go into the Keweenaw Peninsula at least into the Porcupine Mountains and see Presque Isle Falls (getting to the falls could be a 50-70 mile day if you aren't camping).  If time allowed, I'd go all the way to Copper Harbor.  I'd head south and catch up with the route again near Crystal Falls and head for Escanaba. The scenery in the Keweenaw would have held me over through that rough patch from Crystal Falls to Escanaba.

If I didn't get detailed enough  :o and you want more info feel free to give me a shout. 

Offline RogerinNYC

Re: Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought
« Reply #2 on: August 08, 2012, 05:26:07 pm »
Geez, Gizmosity, that's one heck of a reply! Thanks so much for taking the time and providing so much detail. I love these Boards!

Unfortunately, we had to decide our route Monday night, and, in any event, got locked into #3 (follow the Mississippi south, cross WI, ferry across Lake Michigan) by my riding partner's schedule -- but so far, I'm really enjoying it (we just made it to Lake City, MN). Great views from bluffs above the Mississippi, combined with deserted back roads through acres and acres of farmland.

But once we get to the other side of Lake Michigan (at Ludington), we are going our separate ways (he's heading South to get to Pittsburgh, I'm heading East across the north side of Lake Erie towards Niagara).

So are there any detours on that side of Lake Michigan (e.g., Traverse Bay) that you know about that might be worth the extra time and effort? I've heard great things about Keweenaw also, but that's a bit too far from Ludington and my ultimate direction, I think.

In any event, thanks again for taking the time to respond so helpfully.

Offline OldZephyr

Re: Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought
« Reply #3 on: August 08, 2012, 08:04:37 pm »
I second the comments about the Keewenaw Peninsula.  It's a blast, and gorgeous.  Here's my crazyguyonabike journal on our recent short trip there:

Maybe you can go there on your next trip! 

Offline Gizmosity

Re: Minneapolis, MN to Wolf Lake, MI Advice Sought
« Reply #4 on: August 09, 2012, 09:26:29 am »
Once I stepped foot on land in Makinaw City, besides my detour through the tunnel of trees, I stayed pretty much on the ACA route until I was just NE of Muskegon and then I hightailed it to there to catch the first ferry to Milwaukee.

I crossed paths with another cyclist in Traverse City at the campground in town and he had been heading North using a mapset sold by the League of Michigan Cyclists.  I see that map is out of stock now on their site, but I would have to assume it was the North Shore Route.  He said it was a great ride from where he started (can't remember where that was but I'm pretty sure it was farther south than where you would be starting in Ludington.)  He had offered to tear out the pages of his mapbook that he had already ridden and I declined thinking that it wouldn't be too hard to follow the shoreline without them.  Ultimately, I chose to follow my original route.

When/if I ever get back to that area, I would like to explore more of the Traverse Bay area and ride of the coastline.  The ACA route stays inland and generally off the busy highways when it can.  There will be a scenery/traffic trade-off, I'm sure.

I hesitate to "recommend" it, as I didn't do it, but if the weather is good and traffic is low, I would imagine it would be a steller sidetrack and it's on my future to-do list.

I'm on Warmshowers if you venture this far south along the Mississippi, but if you're heading to Manitowoc for the ferry to Ludington,  I would imagine you'll be heading east from La Crosse.