Touring the Thumb of Michigan

A great getaway for a day or two is the Thumb area of Michigan. The roads aren't very curvy and the terrain is pretty flat but it's still a good place to go riding. The roads are laid out for the most part in a basic north-south/east-west grid so navigation is basic.

The main drags every mile are great and the secondary roads provide a farmland escape when needed. The golden egg of the thing is the shores of Lake huron that surround you. The road circling the thumb along the coast is well marked as the Lake Shore Drive.

The small towns all have there americana charm and an over abundance of pickup trucks. The main streets haven't changed in a hundred years. A little poking around will always find a good diner of cool dive bar to relax in.

CK and I have been riding the thumb since we were barely old enough to drink and its hasn't got boring yet. The small towns are showing signs of the struggling economy but their heart is still strong.

This ride was a last minute decision that took me north from the boat (Ziggyland South) out of the congestion of Detroit's sprawl. I spent a 95 dgr Saturday slapping on a fresh rear tire and replacing the rear brake rotor and pads. Come Sunday I was ready to break them in.

I decided to make a fuzzy destination of Joe's Pizzeria in Port Austin Mi right at the top of the thumb peninsula. I love this town and have spent a week at a time weathered in on the boat there. It is rated as one of the best places in the world to see the sunset. It is one of the only places to see the sun set over the water on the eastern "sunrise" side of the state. The break wall fills up every nite with spectators just before sundown.

Joe's has a kick ass meatball lasagna and is open to midnight on the weekends! A great combination after a day at dock drinking whiskey and laying in the sun.

Across the street are a couple of bars, the Landing and the Sportsman Bar. Squeezed in between is a bare bones little restaurant that thrives on it's small but tasty breakfast buffet. For a boater Port Austin is a great place to disappear. All you could need is in easy walking distance. There is plenty of Port Austin stuff on the sailing half of this site.

With my general destination in mind (when I left on this run my destination was Hell Mi in the opposite direction) I made my way over to M-53 which shoots right up the center of the thumb.

M-53 is a bit congested until you get north of I-69 and Imlay City. Then the fun starts. The game is to find the little local hole in the wall bars along the way for a quick draft and run. If managed properly this results in about a beer an hour keeping under the legal limit for the afternoon, especially in the 95 dgr heat.

I found a pile of cheesy hash browns and eggs in a family diner in Armada to put down a solid base for the day. When all that sausage, large milk and cheese hit the sun shine I regretted my breakfast selection...

The next town up the road is Almont. There you will find a great little biker bar called Chicky's Paradise Saloon. You can't miss it. there seems to be more motorcycles out front than people in the bar.

There I had an ice cold tall Jack n water that cut through the breakfast brick in my gut. This is a way cool bar for the bike rider. I reluctantly left the air conditioning and mounted up to continue my journey north.

From here you truly enter into the thumb area. Farm equipment and Amish buggies replace the minivans on cell phones.

The next stop was a place in Bad Axe Mi called Pete's. It's another small town bar with amazingly cold draft beer. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds on the jukebox and Killian's Irish Red for a dollar a glass!

I rolled north from there until I was parked in front of The Landing bar and grill in Port Austin. You can't miss it for the bikes out front and the Korean War cannon on the small town memorial to the veterans in front of the bars.

The landing is the local hangout and I have found it empty on Saturday nights and packed on Tuesday nights... There is no rhyme or reason to the locals schedule with a large number of farmers and retirees around.

I settled into a cold beer and relaxed a while before wandering across the street to Joe's. The restaurant was jumping with people. I got my standard Lasagna and home made bread and ate till I hurt.

From there I wandered down to the docks. The parking lots have been redone since last visit and it all looked spiffy. The lighthouse still looks great a mile off shore. East Tawas and Ziggyland North is only 35 miles northeast over the horizon by boat. An often treacherous stretch of water that I know all too well.

From there I rolled east to the small historic town of Grindstone city. I wasn't planning on stopping but a small bar restaurant caught my eye that begged to be explored. Captain Morgan's Bar and Grill.

The food side was packed so I assume the food is awesome. I hit the bar and ordered a Jack n water to cut through the more cheese from dinner and was taken back by the outrageous fee of $5 a shot charged. I now see why this place is named after a ruthless pirate.

I sat on the patio and watched the 3 other bike loads of people wait on the guy and his girl on their new Harley and the fresh out of the wrapper creased biker costumes. It was humorous to watch the new found coolness drain from him as the yamaha and Honda waited patiently for him to figure out why his $30,000 bike won't start.

After a bit his "Harley logoed" head to toe ass figured out it was the kill switch and off they went. A mistake we have all made but watching a midlife crisis yuppie on his first bike strutting like a peacock before failing is always a worth a chuckle. Not worth a $5 shot of Jack but worth a chuckle.

Grindstone City is where the grindstones for the mills were quarried and cut. The waters off the coast are littered with the old grindstones that didn't survive the cutting process and were dumped. You know you're close to the town when every corner and driveway seems to be marked with an old grindstone.

From there I followed the coast as it turned south and headed to Port Hope. I always enjoy looking at the lighthouse when I sail by five or six miles offshore and now looked forward to seeing it up close.

At the lighthouse is a large county park with a campgrounds. I stopped and got some info on the park for a future camping and kayak trip. The rocky coastline is beautiful!

On the way out of town I passed the Port Hope Hotel, home of the famous Leroy burger! I have heard about these things for years. Now I was riding past and had a gut of lasagna.... I will be back for what CK calls the best damn bar burger in the world!

Now the road opened up as I rolled into one of my favorite anchorages on Lake huron, Harbor Beach. This is the largest freshwater harbor in the world and I love spending a few days on the hook hiding from the world. There are plenty of pics and videos of the harbor on the boat side.

But today we are on the bike side so after a circle past the marina I cruised in and hit Hunters Bar. This place and I have a history. It also has a crazy ass bar burger. I paid my respects and rolled south as the sun sunk lower in the sky. A bridge is out on M-25 and an ancient Indian Burial ground has halted the construction while the bone hunters dust for clues. The detour was a nice hop around the farmer's fields and soon I was sliding into Port Sanilac.

I fueled up and stopped to check out the newly reopened Blue water Inn. This place closed eons ago after my 1st sail into port on a small 22 footer. It took longer that expected and I arrived late with no food on board and starving. The bartender saved me with a shriveled up old microwave sandwich he found behind the fridge or something. I remember it was like steak that night!

The old mantel was still in place behind the bar. I love the massive old wooden peeks back into a time long since lost. That was the only character left in the bar but it's good to see the old place back up and running. I didn't stay long and continued south.

I was surprised to see the Applegate bar in Applegate looking so good. Back when I hung out there it was showing it's age. I stopped to check it out and when I walked in I was shocked to find a nice bright clean bar. Just the opposite of the bar back in the day... Turns out the old bar burnt to the ground three and a half years ago around Christmas. A friend of the owners passing by in the wee hours saw the flames in the windows and was able to alert the owners who lived on the second floor just in time to barely get out alive.

They rebuilt and moved the living quarters to a house behind the bar this time...

Now it was dark and time to get headed home. Port Huron was the next stop where I took a break at my old marina/yacht club for a while getting out the leather for the freeway blast home down I-94. The boat felt a little cozier after a day on the road and I was curled up in the air conditioning under a blanket in no time wearing a smile from another 300 mile adventure in the books.