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Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: Day Five

We awoke early to a bright, shiny day, grabbed a quick con­ti­nen­tal break­fast from the lobby of the Super 8, packed our bikes, and headed out of town. Destination? Shotgun Eddy White Water Rafting!

We rode back through Shawano past the Menominee Casino before hook­ing a left onto a nice curvy, hilly, tree-lined coun­try road for about 10 miles before reach­ing a gravel entrance for Shotgun Eddy. On the way, I spot­ted an Bald Eagle fly­ing grace­fully above us.

Shotgun Eddy isn’t much to see. It’s a col­lec­tion of ram­shackle build­ings, includ­ing a reg­is­tra­tion area, a few chang­ing “rooms” that had seen bet­ter days, a camp­ground and more. Still, we weren’t stay­ing here, and the rafts looked in good shape. The price was also right; we chose to do the slightly shorter “Otter Slide” trip, which they bill as a short ver­sion of their full day “Smokey Falls” 6 hour trip. The Otter Slide is sup­posed to clock in at around 4–1/2 hours, though we ended up doing it in 4.

The Otter Slide is $30.00 per per­son plus shut­tle fee. The shut­tle, a later model van, took us to Otter Slide to put in. The dri­ver slid our rafts, two in our case, down the embank­ment to the water’s edge, handed us all flota­tion vests, and let us know to head to the left side after the final water­fall to reach the pickup spot.

The Otter Slide is con­sid­ered Class III-IV: Class III means “strong cur­rent, big drops, nar­row paths, high white­wa­ter and strong whirlpools.” Class IV is billed as “extreme cur­rent, water­falls, high white­wa­ter and large dips.” I’d say those descrip­tions were pretty much right on. Minimum age require­ments for Otter Slide are 12–18, depend­ing on water level, and parental con­sent is required. They also rec­om­mend pre­vi­ous raft­ing experience.

Shotgun Eddy does have other trips that aren’t as extreme, for fam­i­lies with kids, or those who just want a more leisurely trip down the Wolf River.

Wolf River, Keshena, Wisconsin

Wolf River, Keshena, Wisconsin

I had for­got­ten to pack a swim­suit, so I just wore an extra pair of cargo shorts I’d brought, as well as a base­ball cap and sun­glasses. The only other things I brought with me were a ziplock bag with beef jerky for snack­ing, and a small tube of sun­screen. Both ended up being good choices.

Since my cam­era wasn’t water­proof, I didn’t bring it. Afterwards, I really regret­ted not hav­ing a cam­era, since the scenery was gor­geous and we saw some great wildlife!

I would highly rec­om­mend any­one doing a trip like this to pack a swim­suit, towel, good water shoes, sun­glasses, sun block and a small cooler with water­tight bags or Tupperware con­tain­ers for food and drink. A good, truly water­proof cam­era, or maybe an iPhone in a good water­proof, shock­proof case would be good too.

Tim and I paired up in one boat, with Mike and Dean in the other, and we set off down the river. It was pretty lazy raft­ing for a while. We goofed around, prac­ticed syn­chro­niz­ing our pad­dling and gen­er­ally enjoyed the view.

We saw some great wildlife, includ­ing a hand­ful of large tur­tles sun­ning them­selves on rocks, a deer that had waded up to its neck in the water, a river otter that thought bet­ter of jump­ing into the river once he’d spot­ted us pesky humans, and that afore­men­tioned Bald Eagle who swooped down over top of us, skimmed the water and finally set­tled into the trees at a bend in the river.

Aside from the white­wa­ter and falls them­selves, see­ing the wildlife was prob­a­bly the best part of the expe­ri­ence for me.

After we nego­ti­ated some rapids, we finally came to the first water­fall, about a four foot drop. You hear the rush­ing water before you see it. Tim and I didn’t pre­pare very well. Our first mis­take was to leave me, the heav­ier of the two, in the front of the boat. When we went over the falls, the for­ward weight kept our nose down and ended up let­ting a lot of water into the boat. Oops! Still, we didn’t injure our­selves and we didn’t cap­size, so it wasn’t all bad!

After we cleared the falls, we landed on some rocks, tipped the boat to empty the water out, and adjusted our posi­tion so that we were sit­ting side by side. This worked bet­ter for pad­dling as well as the rest of the rapids and falls.

We went through a few more sets of rapids that we did a pretty good job of nego­ti­at­ing before the final approach to the Smokey Falls at the end. The Falls are between two steep rock walls, and con­sist of two sets of falls, the first being about four or five feet and the sec­ond set a good six to eight feet. We did ok going over the first falls, keep­ing the raft fairly straight, if not com­pletely water-free. We bounded down the sec­ond falls while still try­ing to recover from the first, smash­ing right into a large fin­ger of rock jut­ting out of the water directly in the mid­dle. This bounced me all over the place, mak­ing it hard to steer, and we ended up veer­ing to the right and get­ting caught in a pretty strong whirlpool that trapped us between the Fall’s under­tow and some more rocks. We pad­dled like mad and after an exhaust­ing effort, finally man­aged to free our­selves. We still had to pad­dle hard to the left in order to make the land­ing spot.

All of this fun and chaos took place with an audi­ence, as there is a foot bridge over the left arm of the river to an island with a wooden obser­va­tion deck look­ing over the falls. We were cheered on by a few peo­ple above. I’m sure they were hav­ing a good laugh at us, but we still had fun.

As I’d never done white­wa­ter raft­ing before, I’d say my first expe­ri­ence was a lot of fun. I def­i­nitely learned a few things about what to do, and more impor­tantly, what to not do!

Our dri­ver arrived just after we did, load­ing up the rafts. We had a short wait to make sure no other rafters arrived, and then headed back to base camp, where we changed clothes, dried off and headed back out on the road.

By now it was mid-afternoon and we were hun­gry, so we rode back into Shawano and stopped at Yesterday’s Diner for some well-deserved lunch. The Diner has a big old car set at an angle on the roof, so it’s hard to miss. We chat­ted with the owner, who rec­om­mended their sweet­bread, bring some out for us for free even! We all ordered some home made milk­shakes and malts, as well as burg­ers, and feasted like kings.

As a bonus, they even had free Wi-Fi. These small local restau­rants and din­ers know how to com­pete against the chain restau­rants, and we cer­tainly made good use of the inter­net con­nec­tion while we were there, post­ing twit­ter and face­book updates, check­ing in on FourSquare, check­ing email, and look­ing at route options via Google Maps. Technology has really changed how we travel.

While there we checked on the weather ahead of us, which indi­cated a pretty nasty storm front mov­ing across from Iowa and Minnesota into Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois, our hoped-for des­ti­na­tion for the night. We decided to head into Appleton, less than an hour away, and check the weather again there.

After arriv­ing in Appleton and mak­ing a stop at a Hardee’s park­ing lot, we checked the weather again. Not good. Straightline winds and mas­sive rain and light­ning were rolling into the Chicago area, with another front of equal inten­sity due in south­ern and cen­tral Wisconsin a bit later. We con­sider our options, includ­ing rid­ing as far as we could until we rain into the bad weather. I was really hop­ing to get home that night, but I also didn’t want to risk my life in a really nasty thun­der­storm. Best case, we’d end up under an over­pass some­where; worst case, we’d be caught in the open.

We decided we just weren’t going to be able to make it home on Friday. Tim used Google Maps on his iPhone to locate a Holiday Inn Express nearby, and we rode a short dis­tance and decamped for the evening.

Turns out the Holiday Inn was host­ing a large wed­ding recep­tion when we arrived, and they upgraded us to exec­u­tive level rooms since they were out of reg­u­lar rooms. Hey, fine with us! We hauled all our crap up to the rooms, took a lit­tle breather and then decided to head out to see the new A-TEAM movie, since we were stuck for the evening. The Holiday Inn shut­tle dri­ver dropped us off at the nearby the­ater and picked us up after. Back at the motel, we ordered pizza to be deliv­ered and called it a night after din­ner.

Related posts:

  1. Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: Day Four
  2. Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: Day Three, Part Two
  3. Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: Day Two
  4. Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: Day Three, Part One
  5. Lake Michigan Circle Tour by Motorcycle: The Night Before

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