Motorcyclists like cars, too—especially cool street rods like a ’65 Corvette!
Yeah—we know. Ultimate Motorcycling is an online motorcycle magazine. But let’s face it—motorcycle riders tend to like cars, too. And there tends to be a special affinity for high-performance, cool vintage machines.
So, while this piece is primarily about motorcycling in the far north of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan over the 2021 Fourth of July holiday, it also is about the chance to drive and get to know more about a very special car: a 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray!
Reino Hill is Jacci’s brother who has the same kind of passion for classic high-performance cars that most of us as riders have for motorcycles. This Fourth of July, he brought his all-original 1965 Chevrolet Corvette Sting Ray up north to Michigan’s U.P.
The Corvette was the subject of a frame-up restoration by its previous owner a few years ago and no detail was too small to be honed to original factory spec. This particular example has every factory option that was available on the C2 as new, from air conditioning, automatic transmission and power side vents to the rockin’, rowdy “chambered exhaust” factory-installed side pipes.
Powered by a 300 hp, 327 ci V-8, the ‘Vette launches as quick as it looks, slices the wind, and carves corners like the race-bred performance machine that it is. The only concession to modernity—which enhances handling still further—are radial tires that replaced the bias-ply original-spec items.
Jacci got to ride with Reino in the Wakefield, Mich., Fourth of July parade, but I got the chance to drive the thing and it is as much fun as it looks. The only other Corvette I’ve ever driven was a 1975 model a friend had just bought brand new. That ride was taken during the Christmas holiday and also was up north—with less than perfect roads. That said, it was also a rush to drive, despite having to keep an eye out for slippery road conditions.
Driving the Corvette was but one thing that made this trip North for the Fourth special. There was time with family and friends, parade, fireworks, food, and fun at the community picnic, warm, sunny, dry weather every day of the trip, and, of course doing some riding in the spectacular western Upper Peninsula of Michigan and northern Wisconsin.
I keep two of my clunker collection bikes up north; a 1981 Yamaha XJ750RH Seca that has a special allure all its own and a 1985 Honda VT500C Shadow; a light and lively liquid-cooled V-twin. I make it my mission to keep them both busy when we’re up there.
One of my destinations this time offers a rare look into the rough-and-ready past of the old Penokee iron mining range that spans Gogebic county in Michigan and Iron county in Wisconsin. It is the huge headframe at the now-abandoned Plummer Mine west of Pence, Wis., just off STH 77. The Plummer Mine headframe is the last remaining such structure in Wisconsin.
The hard rock underground iron mine operated from 1904 to 1924 and plunged to a depth of 2,367 feet. In those years, the miners who rode the tram down from the headframe blasted, dug, and raised about 172,000 tons of high-grade iron ore.
Iron was discovered on the Penokee Range in 1848 and by 1886, the first iron mines began extracting ore. Between the mines, logging, farming, and all the related businesses that go along with boom-town growth, the Iron Range took off economically. By 1965, the old iron mines were all closed, but not until they had combined to ship more than 71 million tons of ore.
Note that the access road to the headframe less than a mile west of Pence is short, but gravel, and if you go there, take the second turn-off that leads up to the headframe from the gravel track. The first one you can see the headframe from is rough and rocky and tricky on a street bike; take the second access up to the left which is smoother and less rocky.
Along the way to the Plummer Mine in the beautiful old-time town of Gile, just off highway 77 lies the Gile Flowage. The 3,384-acre Flowage is actually a man-made lake formed by the dam on the west branch of the Montreal River. Originally dammed in 1885 for lumber mill operations, the original dam was apparently removed when the mill ceased operations.
In 1940, the modern dam in place today was built to create a reservoir for a hydroelectric dam downstream closer to Lake Superior. It is the largest man-made lake on the ancient bedrock of the Laurentian Shield in Wisconsin. The water is parceled out during periods of naturally low water flow on the river to allow the dam downstream to produce power consistently.
About ten miles west of Hurley, Wis., just a few miles off USH 2 on STH 122 and CTH A is the jewel of Iron County—Saxon Harbor County Park.
Truth be told it is not just a park; it is also a campground, a marina with breakwaters and 81 slips, and is a gateway to the largest body of fresh water in the world. Immortalized in Longfellow’s “Song of Hiawatha,” and Gordon Lightfoot’s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” it is vast covering 31,700 square miles and is bounded by three states (Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota) and Canada.
The view from Saxon Harbor sweeps northwest to Marble Point and the Apostle Islands, northeast toward Little Girl’s Point in Michigan, and straight north to the vast open water.
In 2016, the park and marina were devastated by epic storms and flooding that even caused loss of life. The Park and marina are now fully rebuilt. The Harbor Lights restaurant that is adjacent to the park survived the storms and is still in operation.
Traveling east on US 2 across the border into Michigan through Ironwood, Bessemer and Wakefield, the speed limit jumps to 65 mph on the two-lane highway as you enter the Ottawa National Forest.
Covering nearly a million acres of Michigan’s western Upper Peninsula, the Forest offers the opportunity to ride for miles and miles with little evidence of urban sprawl.
The quality of the views is top-notch, there’s camping, fishing, hiking, hunting in season, trail systems for adventure riders, and generally good paved roads.
Capping off the Fourth is always a good fireworks show and the one put on by the Wakefield Volunteer Fire Department is about is good as it gets. On a warm, clear summer night, this year’s display rocked Sunday Lake, which is located right in the city. With the smooth-as-glass water serving as a giant mirror, the fireworks, which are remotely fired and launched from rafts on the lake made for spectacular viewing and a fitting celebration of the Nation’s founding.
To read about other North for the Fourth adventures, see:
Story and images by Gary Ilminen additional images by Jacci Shauger