The day started off nice enough — cloudy, but mild temps in the 70s. Good day for a ride from Detroit to Pentwater to meet up with my wife and daughter and celebrate a good friend’s 60th birthday. No hurry to get there, either — I was an hour ahead of Sheila at least since she was coming from the Central Time Zone, and Chicago traffic would probably burden her further. Mild weather and my bags packed, I decided to roll out and just get lost on the way to Pentwater, specifically our hotel in Ludington, and travel through some of Michigan’s back roads.
Wow. So beautiful once you get off the main roads. Rustic barns, silos, small towns with old storefronts, buildings that give you the sense of history; Europeans have been traipsing all over the Michigan Peninsula for 300+ years, and I can see why. At least in the summer, the place looks like Northern England — I’ll bet before the shipwrights completely deforested the island, especially.
This Friday being the kick-off to the Fourth of July Weekend, I was wondering what happened! No bikes on 96 on the way out of town, but as soon as I turned on the back roads, they were everywhere. I stopped at two gas stations and spoke with couples on HDs rocking easy through the back country, not a care in the world and very pleasant. Especially true to this were the couple of riders and pillions in Oceana — they were from Oklahoma and had been travelling for a week. Made the trip around Lake Michigan and were headed back to Chicago and then down Rt 66 to their home state. Ear-to-ear grins on their faces — their wives mimicking with their air-adjustable seats and all the commo gear. Making memories.
Michigan is bereft of diners. They’re out there, but not nearly as ubiquitous as some of the other states I’ve lived in. Finally found one near Hardy Damn for breakfast and time to sit out a rain storm. Gotta look the name of that one up. The owner rides, but his wife won’t let him park the bike in front of the diner — he was awesome for getting me directions from where I was to where I needed to be, since AT&T and Google Maps had me roughly 3 miles south of where I actually was. Rode through wonderful lanes that were broadleaf-tree tunnels, nice curves with little or no rocks and dirt — the wet road and unknown traffic patterns kept the speed out of me — I just cruised through the turns, braking easy, leaning smooth and just blissing out until I had to get on Michigan 31 North from Oceana to Ludington for the final leg of the trip.
And that’s where things just got stupid. For the first 5-8 miles on the Highway it was one lane with construction, but traffic still managed to move along at 60. The fun started when it finally opened up to two lanes. I was able to move through the stagger in the traffic since most of the cars in the left lane wanted to pass but, due to their size, had to wait. I zipped in the wide gaps (most Michigan drivers are actually awesome — they are motorcycle-aware and let you in) and slowly made my way through the logjam — until…
Going to the right of a slow-moving mid-sized pickup with a camper shell, I suddenly realized that the driver had sped up and “shut the door” on me with a slow car moving in front. At that point I moved in behind because I had nowhere else to go. I’m now uncomfortable. BRAKE LIGHTS — I’m already braking and slowing trying to get distance from the bumper, and driver pulls a “brake check” on me — I look at in the pickup’s window and an woman is looking in her mirror at me and shaking her finger like “I saw you trying to get around me…”
Then she moves over into the right lane, I guess to let me pass. I decide it’s time to drop the hammer and just get out of there. Road rage has left me years ago — I’m too old to deal with drivers like this. As I pull around her, I see her cell phone sticking out of the car as she’s trying to take a picture of me, wildly trying to stay in her lane — it’s time to get out of there. I gesture to her with a number that let her know that she was #1 in my book and then scooted.
3 miles later I’m at the Luddington exit, pulling into city traffic — and there she is behind me with her camera! I just ignore her. Realizing that I have no idea where the hotel is and that I need to check in, I sit in the bumper-to-bumper traffic and she sits on my tail. I’m thinking that she has some road rage issues and decide that the better part of valor is to leave the situation; just get in the other lane, then make a right turn. I get in the right lane, signal right. She cuts off a car behind me and follows me down the street. I stop.
She pulls alongside and sticks out her hand as if I’m supposed to shake it, holding her camera. She blurts out her name is “Val”. I decide this is too much. I’m getting creeped out, feeling like in that old black truck with the cracked windshield and wild-eyed operator there just might be a loaded gun. I’m on vacation and I need to get the hell out of this situation! I drop the bike in first gear, drive around a few blocks as she follows, then finally lose her. Bike gets parked in the back of my hotel on the other side of town, opposite from where I was so if she’s still looking around for me, we’re not going to run into each other.
Oh my GOD. Every once in awhile I run into people that have to act as “regulators” and control how other people act in traffic. I haven’t seen one like this for awhile. Could I have handled it better? Yes. I should have backed off and let her get ahead of me, but I thought taking the first exit would have been enough. Sometines you just run into people that take great umbrage at motorcyclists having an advantage of getting through traffic easier — thank heavens that in California people like her can be charged with attempted murder.
Wherever you are Val, I can’t believe your life is so small and shallow, and you’re so mean-spirited. You need to get some help before your road rage kills a less-experienced rider.