THE CIRCLE TOUR: Part 2 - The Comfort of a Forest

- Some weeks ago we made a 913 mile trip around Lake Michigan, known as the Circle Tour. These are our trip logs. -

(Catch Up: Part 1 Here.)

Part 2: The Comfort of a Forest
Leg: Manitowoc to the Hiawatha Forest
Route: I-43 > M-35 > US-2 > NF13

Log Entry: Kara P.

The day that I told Dave “I might want my own bike” I had an email full of craigslist finds and by the next day owned the SR 250. Without really trying to become a motorcycle person, it just happened to me. Maybe it’s because I had dirty nails for a year in the garage, or because I poured lots of time and money into her details, but I really love this machine. As an animal lover I can only compare it to how people feel about pets. You love them and they love you back in their own little way, even if you can’t prove it. It brings experiences that you wouldn’t have otherwise, some you will love and some you won’t, but they will form a relationship between you and your machine. Riding a motorbike will quietly change you.

Maribel Caves 'Haunted' Hotel

When this road trip around Lake Michigan kicked off I had only clocked in a couple hundred miles of riding around Chicago. That quickly multiplied as we logged over a hundred miles a day for eight days at a max speed of 54mph. We camped when we could and got lost a lot. The best part of each day for me was waking up and riding to a diner for breakfast and coffee and then having absolutely nothing to do or think about beyond hitting some mile marker. It’s amazing how fast the time goes; the best indicator being how bad your ass hurts when you stop. Riding through the Hawaithan forest was the highlight of the trip for me, even though I was soaked to my socks. The long stretch of beautiful black road tunneled through the dense forest and we had it all to ourselves. The rain brought out the forest’s poignant pine aroma and I relaxed into Minnie’s cushion. At one point I was singing MIA ‘Sunshowers’ in my helmet. Even when things kind of suck on a motorcycle and you’re exposed to the elements or uncomfortable, it’s still pretty okay. Like Robert Pirsig said, “I argued that physical discomfort is important only when the mood is wrong. Then you fasten on to whatever thing is uncomfortable and call that the cause. But if the mood is right, then physical discomfort doesn't mean much.”

This trip was my ‘last hurrah’ before grad school and I anticipated the hours on the road would be a nice time for self-reflection. This didn’t happen… at all. Being on a motorcycle is not, for me anyway, a time to think. It’s actually a complete absence of thought, like meditation. I can see why most guys like it and even if only for this reason I recommend it to females. Let’s be real - we think too much. I found the physical escapism and taste for adventure that I expected from a motorcycle trip, plus a freedom from everyday mental stressors, and in a sense, myself.

Kara and the SR250: are shown carrying the One Man Tent by Poler Stuff and the Pickwick Day Pack by Brooks England, supplied by Kaufmann Mercantile.
Dave and the CX500: are shown carrying the Pathfinder Sleeping Pad by Field & Stream, the Boulder Pack 2.0 by Lexdray and the Explorer's Cap supplied by Huckberry.
Both helmets are the Gringo by Biltwell.

MERCH: Gerber Gator Combo Axe

Over the past year I've grown an interest in 2-wheeled adventure travel. Anyone who has traveled with the intentions of camping on their vintage motorcycle has quickly learned how valuable space and weight can be, especially when it's on your back. I'm not too keen on throwing saddle bags onto the CX so when I travel everything I need goes into a backpack. An axe and a knife are key elements in gathering and breaking down wood as well as preparing tinder shavings to start your fire. 

A few months back I picked up a Gerber Gator Combo Axe. I bought it for it's ultra compact size and weight. This axe also houses a 2.75" bladed knife in the handle; hence the "combo" in the name. 
+1 for an efficient use of space.

Yes, we took a pristine E30 M3 camping. Some might say this is far from the ideal camping vehicle. I would then have to disagree on account of how ideal this car is for the 2 hours of Wisconsin twisties leading up to the camping location. I originally planned on bringing the CX out for the trip however it was already below freezing in Chicago and I knew it'd get worse once we headed north. We woke up to snow so I didn't regret my decision.

The issue with a compact and lightweight axe is just that - you don't have as much heft behind the blow. That being said, this little guy had no problem collecting and breaking up all the tinder we would need for the night. It's a great balance of size and weight. I personally prefer having to put in a little more elbow grease splitting logs over adding more weight to my backpack. Not having a long handle meant I could use it to make wood shavings to start the fire. The flat butt also works great for driving in tent steaks.
The only real negative I found with this tool was in the rubber sling around the butt of the handle. This sling is used to hold the knife inside the handle, in addition to some magnets and clip details.  When you're whaling on a log the sling gets in the way and ends up coming undone. I ended up just taking mine off. The magnets and detents in the handle do a good job of holding the knife in there firmly.

Gator Combo Axe - 1, Mossy Knoll - 0

All in all I'm pretty impressed with this tool and haven't come across any other axe's that seem more fitting for a 2-wheeled backpacker. If you've got any recommendations I'd love to hear them. I'm specifically on the look out for an ultra compact 1-man tent.