JO and BC had been planning this trip since returning from the big '02 southeast trip. And just like that trip, this one kept getting bigger and bigger each time we planned it. The trip eventually got to be so big that many friends doubted that it could be done. The final itinerary we settled on was Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Indiana and Ohio, in that order. We worked out that this was the fastest way to get as many highpoints as possible. Also, we considered stopping at Missouri for Rick and Jay's sake since we would pass right by the highpoint on our way back.† The itinerary seemed pretty impressive, and would take JO and BC to 40 states if every state were successful. It turned out that Jay and Rick, two friends of ours who accompanied us on our first highpoint (Mt. Washington) were interested in going on the trip with us. We were psyched, as it halved gas/hotel bills and the hours driving per person. However, it did present us with a dilemma: what vehicle would we take? JO's trusty Impreza would not fit four people plus two weeks worth of luggage. We looked into renting a van or SUV, but couldn't find anyone to give us unlimited mileage, and it didn't help that we were all under 25. So, BC came up with the idea of taking his father's '93 Ford Explorer, since it was big, 4 wheel drive, and not a daily driver anymore. Bingo!
We left Jay and JO's apartment in Worcester, MA on Thursday, May 15, 2003 at about 7 p.m. and we had a long night of driving ahead of us. About 20 minutes into our trip we realized that the cassette player in the Explorer didn't work. D'OH! Oh well, we'd have to make due. We hopped on I-90 and drove from Worcester, MA to Niagara Falls, getting there at about 2 a.m. We stopped and saw the falls at night, which were gorgeous. We then crossed over into Ontario and drove straight through the night into Michigan, then northward to the Upper Peninsula and Mount Arvon.
Highpoint: Mount Arvon
Height: 1979 ft.
Highpoint #: 25
Distance: About 1.5 miles roundtrip.
Vertical Gain: ~300 feet
Time Taken: 45 min.
Weather: Sunny, nice, 60ís
Group: JO, BC, Jay and Rick
Comments: With the exception of Niagara Falls and stopping to get a small stereo so that we could listen to music and not kill each other, we drove straight through the first 21 hours to Mount Arvon. We arrived at Mount Arvon at about 4 p.m. on Friday, May 16th. We got good and lost trying to navigate the old logging roads. Getting there involved going down long dirt roads and navigating maze-like intersections. The surrounding landscape was thick, damp forest. It truly felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. To make matters worse, the directions in our highpointing guidebook were poor and we eventually found ourselves traveling down a very wet and rutty dirt road that was becoming increasingly trecherous.† At one point it was so bad we stopped and thought about turning around. The road ahead was filled with a huge pool of water 20 feet in diameter. This was too much even for the Ford Explorer. JO got out and ran ahead over the next rise to see if he could see the next intersection we were overdue for. He could see for another half mile, and there was just more of the same wet bumpy road.† We decided to turn around and head back the way we came and figure out where we went wrong. We were getting concerned since it was late afternoon and it would start getting dark in a little bit. We went back to a gravel pit, which was clearly marked in our guidebook. After exploring the area, we noticed another road leading away from the gravel pit, hiding behind a large mound of gravel.† This road was much more developed and had a more obvious stream-crossing than the other way we had taken. Eventually we got to a small parking lot by a large pond. A short walk up a hill led to our first HP for the trip.. This was a big moment for JO and BC, as it was their 25th highpoint, HALFWAY, BABY!. The area around the highpoint was nice and the weather was beautiful, but we didn't stay too long on this one, because we still had a lot of driving to do.
Left:† Rick at the lake near the top of Mount Arvon.† Right:† JO on the summit, 25 down, 25 to go.
After leaving Mount Arvon, we drove across the rest of Michigan, the northern tip of Wisconsin, and up Minnesota's east coast all the way up to Eagle Mountain in Superior National Park. However, on the way to Eagle Mountain, we ran into a little bit of car trouble (this would become a main theme on this trip). In northern Michigan, our tailpipe fell off, and a good part of the exhaust system was dragging on the ground. It was too late to go to a repair shop, and we just plain didn't have time to take the car into a repair shop the next day. We hadn't passed anything that looked like a repair shop for a long time anyway. We went into a hardware store looking for ideas on what to use to fix the muffler back on the car. We found some metal wire and decided to give it a shot.† We all got under the truck and all took some of the wire and tried to tie the muffler back to the car. On inspecting the bottom of the car, we became aware of the pitifully rusted state of the undercarriage. All the bumpy roads must have loosened the already flaking metal bolts and fasteners. The exhuast pipe had fallen off, and with it the end of the muffler. We ended up hanging the back of the muffler to the car using a kind of hammock setup with either end tied to bits of the framework.† We made sure not to tie anything to the axles. This scenario seemed to work pretty good and we promised to stop at a muffler shop if we found one for a more permanent fix.
Our quick fix on the muffler; this would hold up for another 1000 miles or so.