This year's trip: 2018 Ferry Ring Tour - Stromtrooper Forum : Suzuki V-Strom Motorcycle Forums
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post #1 of 8 Old 09-23-2018, 10:51 AM Thread Starter
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Location: America's Dairyland
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This year's trip: 2018 Ferry Ring Tour

Each summer, I try to do at least 1 'Big Trip' -- a multi-day ride visiting interesting places in my neck of the woods. I'm still not in a position to take a full week off for riding, so I usually fit them into 4-5 days. This year, I decided to combine a couple of areas I really haven't explored too much.

The first was the Door County peninsula. For those that don't know of it, that's the 'thumb' of WI that juts out into Lake Michigan, and it's a pretty big tourism destination. Over summer weekends, the traffic up there can be killer, but since my trip was over weekdays, I figured I'd be safe.

The other area was the western portion of lower Michigan. I've done a bit of riding in MI's Upper Peninsula (and it's great), but I decided the state's lower portion deserved a little love too.

Of course, in between the two is a little obstacle called Lake Michigan. So I decided to make use of the 2 ferries that cross the lake east-to-west on a daily basis. Eastbound, I took the S.S. Badger, which runs from Manitowoc, WI, to Luddington, MI. Westbound, it was the Lake Express, from Muskegon, MI, to Milwaukee. The two couldn't be more different: The S.S. Badger is a big hulk of a ship that harkens back to an earlier era when ship travel was more common; the Lake Express is a smaller catamaran-style, higher-speed ship that's more modern.

Conveniently, my parents live very close to Manitowoc, so I had at least 1 free night's lodging. I reached out to a friend in MI and I was able to secure a second on the other side of the pond.

Rather than spending hours writing up a full ride report, I figured I'd let my pictures do most of the talking for me.

Behold, the 2018 Ferry Ring Tour:

Day 1

A rainy start, that lasted almost until noon.

Waiting for a draw bridge in Sturgeon Bay, WI (the gateway to Door County).

OK, this requires a little explanation. As I was looping southbound through the peninsula, I saw a small sign for the Wisconsin Motorcycle Memorial. I'd never heard of it, so I followed the signs to this unknown treasure. It's a park dedicated to motorcycle riders that are no longer with us. Cool!

Day 2

Waiting to load the S.S. Badger.

The S.S. Badger in all her glory.

Some Lake Michigan ferry history.

Stowed on the ship, as securely as I could make the Strom.

Mom & Dad, acting as if I was off to storm the beaches of Normandy.

Obligatory selfie.

Another cool Manitowoc feature, the WWII-era submarine U.S.S. Cobia and attached Maritime Museum.

Michigan, right ahead!

The tan cliffs of Luddington.

Luddington Harbor, with the Badger's long-docked and more rusty sister ship, the S.S. Spartan.

My bed for the night.

Day 3

Breakfast on Michigan's Route 22, a popular ride that's worth a visit.

A small sampling of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

I should have heeded the warning...

Okay, another short aside. When planning my route, I found a nice twisty section on the map that looked interesting. Shortly after meeting the fellows above, I found out why it was so twisty -- I'd chosen a 'seasonal' road around a lake, and it didn't take long for the pavement to turn to gravel. Then to dirt. Then to hard-packed sand. Then to soft sand. I gave it a valiant effort, but an uphill section was my demise. I'm sure the bike, even with a well-worn 70/30 rear tire, was capable; the rider was not. After burying the rear wheel 3 times, and fearful of burning out a clutch in the middle of nowhere, I admitted defeat and backtracked to a real road.

The scene of my undoing.

I approve of my host's parental methods.

Day 4

The Lake Express awaits its passengers and cargo.

A slightly different loading method from the Badger.

Not to be outdone by the Cheeseheads, Muskegon offers its own WWII sub, the U.S.S. Silversides.

Homeward bound!

The City of Suds, arising from the mist.

That's it for the photos. From here, I disembarked and met my son (a Milwaukee resident) for lunch.

Unfortunately, my trip ended much as it began...with rain. About 20 minutes into my ride home, the skies opened up. And this wasn't the gentle, intermittent stuff from Day 1. This was wave after wave of heavy thundershowers. Visibility down to 30 or 40 feet at times. Interstate highway speeds of 20 mph. A trip that would normally take me a little over an hour ended up running me almost 3. For various reasons, I didn't stop to put on rain gear and, even with temps in the high 60s, I was shivering for much of the last hour of my ride. I would have preferred a better ending, but it couldn't deter from all the other enjoyment I had on this year's ride.
Hank122, gdrew, Rollin' and 1 others like this.

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post #2 of 8 Old 09-23-2018, 12:02 PM
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Location: Massachusetts, USA
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The way they had you load the bikes on that first ferry seems unusual, in my experience, with the nose of the bike pointed to the side of the boat.
All the different ferries I've taken in the Canadian Maritimes have you drive straight in on one side and that allows you to drive straight off when you arrive at your destination.

Thanks for the trip pictures! I know very little about that area.
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post #3 of 8 Old 09-23-2018, 01:51 PM Thread Starter
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The loading method you describe was what we did on the Lake Express. The do things a bit differently on the Badger. Part of it may be that the Badger probably transports 2-3 times as many vehicles daily, and they make use of every square inch of cargo space. On the Badger, you don't drive your own car in; crew members do it for you and they squeeze them in with millimeters to spare. A former co-worker of mine used to work for the Badger as his high school summer job and he parked cars. If there were more than a few inches between the vehicles, they'd get reprimanded. Though we were able to ride the bikes on ourselves, crew members dictated where we parked them and they were almost as tightly packed.

Also, the Badger only had loading/unloading from the rear so vehicles had to be backed out to disembark. The LE was more of a pass-through design, like other ferries I've been on.

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post #4 of 8 Old 09-23-2018, 01:54 PM
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Sounds like a great trip. And I loved crossing on the SS Badger, very cool ship.
I'll have to make it up to the memorial some day, never heard of it before.

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post #5 of 8 Old 09-23-2018, 09:32 PM
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I've done the Badger crossing a few times. Nice trip. I have yet to do the quick one to Milwaukee... maybe someday.

You were right up in my neck of the woods. We often have an extra bed when/if you make it back. There is not really any great riding here, but there is a LOT of good stuff.

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post #6 of 8 Old 09-24-2018, 12:58 AM Thread Starter
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M-22 was a great road to ride, especially on a week day when there's less traffic. I took it all the way up to Northport. I would have also liked to do the Tunnel of Trees but didn't have the time on this one.

If it's a good day to wash the bike, it's a better day to ride the bike.
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post #7 of 8 Old 09-24-2018, 01:02 AM Thread Starter
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I'll have to make it up to the memorial some day, never heard of it before.
I almost drove past the sign.

Here's some more information on the park:
Wisconsin Motorcycle Memorial Park - Home

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post #8 of 8 Old 09-24-2018, 02:33 AM
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Thanks for the Great pictures. 👍
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