Saturday, December 6, 2008

It's a Lulu: the Lake Superior Circle Tour Club

It was April of 1985 that I circled Lake Superior. How do I remember? Because it was two weeks before my wedding day. Racing around a Great Lake is not what most brides are doing two weeks before the 'Big Day.'

Members of the Arrowhead Sports Car Club of Duluth decided to officiate an auto rally around the lake to celebrate the coming spring. I’m not sure that it was actually a sanctioned event… We began the race in Superior, WI on warm, sunny spring Saturday morning. If I remember correctly, each team left at two minute intervals. We were timed on the way out, and the car around the lake with the fastest time would win the rally.

I was driving a sporty Audi 4000 – a company car – and my future husband Jerry was the navigator. We were loaded up with coffee and food to keep us awake for the ordeal and dressed in fair weather gear. Our plan was to drive straight through, stopping only for gas and potty stops. No change of clothes, no toothbrush, no long underwear.

The sunny weather was short lived. By the time we got to Ashland, WI, huge clouds hung in the sky and started to drop heavy, wet snowflakes. The road soon turned from wet to snow packed, but that didn’t slow us down. I'd been racing cars on ice with this crazy bunch of sports car enthusiasts for the previous seven years. However, our ice racing vehicles were rebuilt with roll bars and four-point seat belts. I didn’t feel quite so bullet-proof in my boss’s brand new Audi.

As the snow accumulated higher and higher on Wisconsin's back roads, we decided to stop and buy a snow shovel at a Holiday Gas Station Store. Just in case. Once in the store we stocked up on plaid wool hats and winter gloves. By the time we reached Marquette, MI the weather reports on the radio warned that Michigan State highways were being shut down because of the piling lake-effects snow. We raced ahead trying to beat the road closures.

A few of the rally cars made it through Munising, MI and continued around Lake Superior and back to Duluth, and one of them won the race. Jerry and I, however, were stopped by a highway trooper who'd set up a road block outside of Munising. “The road is closed. You need to go get a motel room,” he instructed as he pointed us to ‘downtown.’ Perhaps he had been informed by headquarters that there were reckless speeders in the area. Of course, as expert racers of cars on ice, we knew it would be asinine to drive recklessly in such conditions.

After all those hours of high-speed driving through a snow storm –- that storm added to Munising’s record amount of April precipitation that still is unbroken today –- I was somewhat conflicted about stopping. I remember a shabby 50s-era motel room. The next day we continued on and completed the rally around the great lake they call Gitche Gumee.

I’d like to do the circle tour again some day, but I would be much better prepared… for any type of weather.

FREE Decal when you register for Lake Superior Circle Tour Club

Ever driven or sailed around Lake Superior? Then you, too, can join the Lake Superior Circle Tour Club. Just go to sign up and get your FREE window decal.

BTW, for those of you who know my husband's name is Dan, the Lake Superior story mentions my first husband, Jerry.

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