Date of visit: July 2015
In 2011 I rode my new 2011 Street Glide to Tawas City, MI a mere 190 miles away from home base. Last year I traded in that comfortable, fully loaded, did everything but cook dinner bike for a used 2010 Softail. I thought it was a good deal until I actually embarked on a long distance trip. I had my first case of numb ass because a Soft-Tail isn’t.
I really wasn’t planning to venture outside my local comfort zone on my new used Softail, being pretty satisfied riding around the area and eating at the local places in the nearby towns over and over again. However, doesn’t all adventures start with the words however; I read about a ride-in for women that I convinced myself I should attend. After all it was close to home only 265.19 miles away, which I’m sure was calculated as the crow flies.
Those 265.19 miles took 11 hours. We forged through Chicago rush hour and miles and miles of construction; in fact the road captain managed to plan the trip so we didn’t miss out on any active construction sites or rush hours. I now know how to dodge around slow semis and come to a complete unexpected stop at 70 mph without freaking out, and do that again and again. The road captain even stopped for a potty break to allow the only rain storm in the area to catch up with us.
We were two hours behind schedule so we made an unexpected stop to eat at the Sunshine Restaurant in Chicago. (Check out the varied reviews on tripadvisor) I didn’t really eat too much, in fact I don’t even remember what I ate there. Several more hours down the road we finally made it! Oconomowoc, Wisconsin.
The next several days I used to relax. While other women opted to ride day trips I spent my time sipping water and attending seminars. The resort food was nothing to write home about, so I didn’t.
The day we left, two of our little party of five, decided to go home on their own. Down to three we rode 230 (give or take) miles heading toward Iron River in Michigan.
Thankfully that trip didn’t take 11 hours – only 5 before I met up with my husband; he and I were riding to St. Ignace a mere 250 (more) miles or so away.
Our plan: spend some quality time in St Ignace before riding home.
The meet up with Rick was at a gas station (darn if I could find that again) I expected lunch or something, instead Rick told me to get some gas station snacks, yummy.
BTW M&Ms do melt, check the insider of my glove.
About 45 minutes on the road we managed to find a great place to eat on the way to St. Ignace. It was the only restaurant in the area for miles that didn’t have Golden Arches. Don’t recall the name, it deserves a blog, but hell I was too tired to consider it. The only memory I do have is their fame for their Berry Pie.
After lunch (Berry Pie?) it was late afternoon. Deer were out, the temperature was playing games: 85 degrees in the sun and dipping in low 60’s in the shade. It was one of those rides where you either layer up or brave it because there wasn’t too many places to pull over to put or pull off jackets. I opted for a hoodie which was way too hot to wear in the sun and not warm enough under the trees of the Hiawatha National Forest.
As we finally approached the motel, my bike was led between two buildings. The driveway which is very steep and narrow opens into a boxy parking lot. Having not been there before I just followed my husband, who, I found out later, thought I might dump my bike going down that hill, but he was wrong, I dumped it after I entered the parking lot. A group of people, friends, were lined up on the motel porch waiting for our approach. They stood up and clapped when I appeared, a little startled and not knowing where to go, I stopped following Rick, with my handlebars turned and the slope of the parking lot not giving any ground to my extended foot, I went down.
Yup on the ground, I just laid on my back and thought Oh shit, not embarrassed, but oh shit just the same. After that little episode we both discovered we were famished. We were staying at a place where to eat, you bring your own. Rick isn’t that type of planner, because there’s always a restaurant around.
Everyone else in the group had eaten before we arrived; there was leftover tuna salad (hmm in this heat) and an assortment of barbecued meats. I got a tablespoon of tuna salad and some left over cold steak. The tuna was great, but I couldn’t wait until breakfast, but I had too, wait that is.
Morning had arrived. After much discussion I found out there were several restaurants in the area, but everyone’s favorite was Java Joe’s Café. I was told we had to go eat there in shifts because the place was small. I thought that was strange but we did wait our allotted hour after the first group left.
You can’t miss Java Joes, it’s bright yellow, orange awning, with a small fenced around the outdoor patio, a Hippie VW in the front “yard” and parking for two in the front – sparse parking, even for a motorcycle.
We rode to Joe’s. Riding two up was a good idea. For some reason all the buildings lining the side of Lake Huron are uneven with a downward slope (The driveway of our motel for example) and Java Joe’s is no exception. Their downhill driveway ran alongside the restaurant and with the two parking spaces in the front occupied, down the driveway we rode, behind the building.
The back and sides of the Cafe are painted: bright high hippie colors, unicorns, flowers, peace signs. (I remember those days, maybe the food was free!!)
The back parking lot was really cramped. Our friends bikes were parked nose to tail, squeezed in between a hedge and garbage can. I couldn’t park like that, I was impressed. The rest of the lot held 6- 8 cars. While Rick was maneuvering his Electra Glide to turn around, two SUV’s pulled in, backed out and parked along the side the driveway. Not much room for an SUV to turn around. That was fun to watch.
BTW you would be in trouble if a group rode down there looking for parking, or hell a crew cab for that matter. Lucky for us and everyone else who knew better then to park in their lot, parked at Holiday Inn Express right next door to Java’s Joe’s. The Holiday Inn Express has a gigantic parking lot in comparison; it even slopped less. And as a plus the walk to Java Joe’s front door probably took less time than walking up the driveway from the back of their building.
We opted to sit outside: actually there was no room inside, beautiful day so why not. The tables are wrought iron covered with ceramic tile, tables just unstable enough to spill your dink if you move in your chair.
My view of the street was the newspaper machine and their VW Bus. I could also see the entrance to Joes, and the entire patio. Signage all over including the saying about Hippies using the Back Door.
The VW was the kind every hippie wished they had in the 60’s, but too perfectly painted (I’ve seen the originals ) with peace signs, hearts, happy suns and a statement, “Its 1968 Somewhere” SO, between the Breakers hotel on one side and the Holiday Inn Express on the other, Java Joe’s is just not too hard to miss.
Rick and I sat at a table for two, our friends sat across the patio from us. The tables were too unstable to move them around and besides round tables are hard to put together to made one happy group of people. There was another party of 4 sitting next to us, drinking coffee; I assumed they were almost done with their meal. Turns they hadn’t even started.
A waitress showed, gave us a newspaper, which is actually the menu and poured the coffee we had ordered. It was windy outside so all the sugars packets I opened, napkins, straw papers and whatever that wasn’t nailed down, including the menu, blew off the tables in a heap on the floor. We picked up what we could and try to stop the rest of the table from blowing away by putting salt and pepper shakers, silverware: whatever items were around, on top of the lighter stuff, but there’s only so much we could do:
it was a losing battle. I figured all the debris would eventually blow away anyway as I watched some sugar packs take off down the street. I decided to stop picking up my trash. No one else seemed concerned.
The waitress made an appearance to take orders. Starting with my friends we arrived with, then over to us. Rick ordered an omelet; I opted for French toast, a side of fruit and ham. Not complicated.
I figured I had some time before food so I went to sightseeing inside Java Joe’s. The café was “packed” all the tables occupied, and only some of the guests had food. That’s probably okay if you’re sitting inside because there’s lots to look at. Ceramic collectable teapots of every size and color, lined one wall, cups and other items on the other wall and lots of items to buy – from big collectible Disney Character cookie jars to mood rings. If it was colorful and attracted dust, it was probably being sold in there somewhere.
I discovered a back porch as I was exploring, and there sat the other people we were staying with, the ones who left an hour (now one hour and thirty minutes) ahead of us. They just got their food, not a good sign if you’re hungry.
Walking back to the front, over painted flowers (painted on the floor) I decided to check out the ladies room. There’s only one rest room for everyone no discrimination here! And behind closed doors in the rest room under dim lighting and psychedelic colors you’ll find wall to wall snapshots, of Java Joe’s guests in various stages of eating. I suppose Joe ran out of wall space in the main dining room. . .
Twenty minutes later I was back in my chair. The people sitting next to us had received their food in my absence. Still waiting for breakfast, out the front door comes Java Joe (?) with a coffee pot and a smile. No eta on the food, we did ask.
As we waited, people were going in and out the front door, it was lunch time for sure. They probably had reservations (just kidding) No one else joined us on the patio, were we forgotten?? AND THEN Finally Food!
Everyone was served, except there was no French toast. I did ask the waitress, she told me I’d get it shortly, less than 5 minutes. I asked about it 20 minutes later and there is was. Magic!
The waitress told me she hated to come to work because Joe’s was always packed and people were impatient. I asked her if Joe was the cook, and she told me it was a lady from Jamaica behind the grill. Thinking about it, the kitchen had to be small, which would explain why the food came out as it did, slow and in order.
To be honest, I don’t know if the food was good. Something about hunger and a plate of food, sometimes you just don’t taste it. I do recall the ham was a piece of processed grilled meat, the French toast, thick with powdered sugar, the fruit, not so good but passable.
Just as we were served breakfast two more friends arrived. They were just in time to sit down at the recently vacated table next to us and ordered coffee, no problem. They wanted a menu; we warned them of the time. So they asked the waitress how long for a plate of pancakes and an order of eggs. The answer 45 minutes, could be longer.
They decided on a fruit dish, like I had. The waitress said that would also take 45 minutes, as each fruit dish is individually made. Really? The waitress suggested we order the fruit dish for our friends, it would then be considered an add-on to our breakfast and they would get it right away. So that’s how it was ordered.
The second fruit dish arrived about 15 minutes later. Canned pineapple, a few chunks of watermelon, sliced banana and grapes. Nothing on that plate required 15 minutes of anything.
The cost was around $20 (not for the fruit, for the entire breakfast) and we did leave a tip.
Would we go back, sure why not. It’s an interesting place, lots to look at. The food might even be good, at least the people on tripadvisor say it is.
Do eat something before you go that way waiting for your meal wouldn’t seem as long. Reservations. Don’t think so.
Parking, forget about it, but hey there’s a Holiday Inn Express next door. The weather in the summer is nice enough to sit outside, no bugs (too windy) and generally a warm place. Don’t expect to sit in a big group.
People are friendly, even the gal who hated her job.
It’s a good destination ride and only 310 miles from (my) home.