Hart Ford
Hart Ford

Rotary rides for Polio

Click here to read Wayne Koppa’s view of the ‘Long Day’s Ride’
By Justin Andre

Immediately following our 2022 Adventure around the Tip of the Mitt, you would think that I would have had my fill of 14 hours of saddle time. Well, that all went out the door on Oct. 25 when Wayne and I started to discuss the 2023 format.

We had all kinds of great ideas on how to grow the event. First idea was to move it to the Summer, where we would have the opportunity to enlist more riders and more donors. We also had the idea to split the ride into two options.

Option #1 would have one person lead a 2-day adventure with an overnight in Mackinaw, which would serve as a more site seeing ride.

Option #2 would have the other person lead the one day 600-mile charge, the “CHALLENGE.” The next thing I knew we had the online donation portal open and we were locked in to ride on WORLD POLIO DAY Oct. 25. Our goal to double our funds raised ($5,000 in 2022) to $10,000 in 2023.

The Long Day Around Oct. 24, 2023.

6 a.m. – Felt like I was in the movie Ground Hog Day, as we welcomed the pull of the OPEN sign light string at the Grayling Restaurant. Long Day Virgin Tim Somers, Annette Hritz, Ande Hentchel, Mike Frisbie and Marcia Koppa were present … I know, you are thinking where is WAYNE?

It turns out the Colonel has become accustomed to sleeping in during his retirement. Marcia was a bit concerned about his tardiness and went into a bit of a panic thinking a Michigan pothole may have claimed a BMW and as she walked out the door, Wayne pulled up to the restaurant fashionably late. Now that the crew was complete, we ordered our last meal for 14 hours, and had some entertaining conversations.

6:43 a.m. – With our belly’s satisfied we put our gear on for our obligatory START photo. Wayne clocked our official start time at 6:53 a.m. I was waved to lead the pack of 3 Riders (Wayne/Myself/Tim) out of town. Once we hit M-72 East, the lyrics of Jerry Reed’s Eastbound and Down was playing in my head; (sing along with me)

“East bound and down, loaded up and truckin’,
we gonna do what they say can’t be done
We’ve got a long way to go, and a short time to get there
I’m east bound, just watch ol’ “Bandit” run
Keep your foot hard on the pedal
Son, never mind them brakes
Let it all hang out ’cause we got a run to make!!”

It was easy riding to Mio in the dark. There were not too many vehicles to contend with. The real fun begins on Mckinley Road. Twisting, winding roads that follow the AuSable River make for fun entertainment on a motorcycle. Tim was pulling some unnecessary wheelies “to get his blood flowing,” while I was testing my cornering abilities. Wayne, I believe, was still asleep as it was well before 9 a.m.

7:55 a.m. – We pulled into the High Banks Overlook. If you have never been it is worth the 200-meter detour off the pavement. Gorgeous view overlooking the AuSable River and the valley below.

Wayne in his endless wealth of knowledge mentioned something about dinosaur remains and fellow Rotarian Monte Burmeister. Not sure on the connection, as the view disrupted my listening ability.

After our quick pit stop, we headed out to a second overlook along River Road on our way into Oscoda. I didn’t record the time at the next stop. However as soon as we pulled up to the overlook, a gentleman hopped out of his van walked over and started to admire our motorcycles.

Then a dreaded three letter word came out of his mouth (B.M.W.) that had Wayne fully engaged in conversation. Turns out the guy was a former member of the Saginaw BMW club, and with Waynes’s charm he ended up donating cash to our cause!

Our travels then continued into Oscoda, onto US-23 where we followed the shoreline of Lake Huron. This provided us with a gorgeous calm view of the Lake, orange and red hue sky and beautiful autumn-colored leaves that continued all the way to Alpena.

Shortly after passing through Alpena the sky opened and dumped heavy rain and lighting on us. We pulled into a Dollar General and put on some additional protective gear and continued down the road.

Not one mile from the dollar general I started feeling water dripping into my … let’s just say nether region. I quickly observed that the water was cold… not body temp. “Whew!” right? Anyhow, I battled this to Rogers City.

10:43 a.m. – We pulled into Rogers City where we hunkered under a gas station awning to hide from the scary lightning.

Tim and I had some wardrobe malfunctions. My best guess is that my coat had folded, and water was being blown underneath my coat and making my base layer wet and that was soaking and draining down to my underwear.

Tim’s coat was getting wet in the armpits…  Luckily (you will all laugh at this later) I had some “extra” waterproof, super expensive gear that if you read last year’s recap, I bought from Wayne’s garage sale. I wore all this last year and stayed dry as a bone.

I offered Tim the Gore-tex jacket which he gladly accepted, and I threw on the Gore-tex pants and tried my best to keep my jacket from folding and allowing water underneath. Problem solved! Right?

Where was Wayne? He was on the phone with the National Weather Service (I am sure he knows someone) trying to decide if we should wait out the storm or press on. He was also troubleshooting his Garmin Spot Tracker, which was having issues early on and reassuring Marcia that we were OK.

11:20 a.m.-ish – We decided that we were not going to wait two and a half hours for the storm to pass, we had a short clearing in the radar that we thought we could make it through. So, we rolled the dice and pressed on to Cheboygan.

Light rain for the next 25 minutes and then the sky cleared up. Gear Update:  Tim stayed dry with the addition of the coat through the rain. I continued to get wet.

Just before Cheboygan we came across a fallen tree across the highway. With the help of a couple of friendly Texan motorists (Tim) was able to clear it from the road.

12:30pm-ish – Smooth riding all the way into Mackinaw City, where we topped off the tanks. When we stopped for fuel, I noticed my jacket was pouring water out of the sleeves and bottom cuff. Mystery solved.

Turns out my jacket was not waterproof at all. My jacket was soaked, and my underlayers were getting saturated and all that was draining downwards into my pants, and my sleeve cuffs were draining into my gloves. Due to great base layers and heated gear, I was not aware that my whole upper body was wet.

I swapped my gloves out and used an old trick of putting rubber gloves on before my insulated gloves. This would keep my hands dry and comfortable if my gloves were to become wet again… On with the adventure. A quick stop at the Bridge where our Texas tree moving friends shared the video of the tree removal, and traded group photos in front of the bridge.

1 p.m.-ish – We departed Mackinaw City and headed to the Wilderness State Park area, Wayne calls this the Tunnel of the Trees – NORTH. North Lakeshore Road from Mackinaw City to Cross Village is amazing, follows the shoreline and is so much fun on a motorcycle. There may have been a couple of tire tracks on the beach, but I assure you they were not from a BMW. Good news is my gear seemed to be drying out.

1:45 p.m. – Arrived at the Legs Inn for our annual photo, then kept rolling on M- 119 through the Tunnel of Trees – SOUTH as Wayne calls it. (Most are familiar with this). Beautiful colors, lots of leaves on the road and a lot of vehicles in this section. Just beautiful all the way into Harbor Springs/Petosky area.

Upon leaving Petosky enroute to Charlevoix, we encountered a second storm. We did not break stride. The heavy rains came as we cruised from Elk Rapids through Traverse City (TC) where we were dodging bike swallowing puddles (TC received over 3 inches of rain) through the city.

4:45 p.m. – We pulled into a church parking lot in Northport. Tim decided his boots were full and poured the water out and changed his socks. Despite the delays and poor weather, we were still making good time.

5 p.m.-ish – M-22 yes please! If you have never cruised M-22 to Manistee you are missing out. On a motorcycle it is even more enjoyable. Clear skies, dry-ish roads made for a great time! This section was filled with picturesque views of Lake Michigan, Lake Leelanau, Little Traverse Lake, Glen Lake, and the Sleeping Bear Dunes Area. Again, fall colors were amazing (peak/just past peak). We made another fuel stop in Frankfort. And as always, Wayne found an open ear!

6:05 p.m. – Depart Frankfort. Once we could navigate around a slow-paced garbage truck, we were able to get back on record setting pace heading to Manistee. Note: The ride along the lake into Onekema is gorgeous.

6:49 p.m. – Manistee! We pulled over just to take a picture and let all our followers our E.T.A. to Grayling (8:45 p.m.). Wayne does not wait for this, after informing me of the ETA. He announced, “we are on record pace!” and then motors off.

Tim and I have a little chuckle as Wayne takes advantage of his head start. After getting the phone out and taking Tim’s thumbs up photo and posting the ETA. We get back on the road. It is now a drag race (kind of) back to Grayling. M-55 is a Speedway of sorts, just must be mindful of Black Bears (we did not see any) and semi-trucks with no running lights.

Tim and I ride the same model of motorcycle, so I am sure the vehicles we were passing were doing the old Double Mint Gum “double take.”  We caught up with Wayne just before Cadillac. Another quick top-off of fuel in Cadillac and then M-55 through Lake City onward to Houghton Lake, where we opted to hop on US-127 all the way into the business loop where we then pulled into Spikes.

8:37 p.m. – The neon lit “SPIKES” sign was a welcome sight for my wet butt. Wayne, Tim and I took our last group photo of the day. Wayne and I wished Tim a safe journey home as he still had to travel 30 miles north to Gaylord, where his infant daughter, wife and dry socks awaited.

I immediately ditched my wet coat, heated jacket, and grabbed a dry shirt and sweatshirt out of my bag and changed in the bathroom. Shortly after changing into a dry top (I can deal with the wet butt a little longer), fellow Rotarian Ruth Pilon joined us for a celebratory beer and congratulated us on our efforts. Wayne and I devoured our Spikes Burgers and filled Ruth in on the day’s events.

A NEW RECORD:  This only matters to us riders. Last year we set the record at 13 hours and 45 minutes. This year we topped that by five minutes.

Wednesday, Oct. 25 – The aftermath …

A bit sore and tired, Wayne and I attended our Rotary Club’s weekly lunch meeting, shared a little about the ride as we promised everyone post ride recaps.

After leaving lunch I received a call from Wayne that I had left my jacket at lunch, and he generously met me in town to return it. As he got out of his car, he asked me a great question…  “Do you know what was wrong with yesterday’s ride?” You guys have read the recap on the day’s events… The answer is “ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!!”

Thank you all for your support.

Thank you, Wayne & Tim, for a memorable experience!

World Polio Day and The Long Day Around has past, but our Rotarian efforts to eradicate polio remain.

There is still time to donate: ERADICATE POLIO!

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