Michigan: Doing the Drift

Text: Bruce Currie • Photography: Corey Aultman

The old lumbering town of Lewiston located in the north-central area of Michigan’s lower peninsula has a unique claim to fame. Lewiston is the only town in the U.S. to host two National Rally events a year. In January, the rally crowd descends on Lewiston to turn their Subaru WRXs, Mitsubishi EVOs, and Ford RSs loose on the snow- and ice-covered backroads. In August they return again to try the routes on gravel and dirt. The promoter, Rally America, advertises these events as using “real roads,” and that raised our interest. Would these street-legal two-tracks, logging roads, and seasonal routes be a good testing ground for 2018’s new middleweight dual sports? With a Royal Enfield Himalayan 411 and a BMW 310 GS in tow, Corey, Kathleen, and I set off in early May to investigate the routes that that were used in the January 2018 Sno*Drift event. Unfortunately, the 2018 winter hadn’t lifted its grip completely in northern Michigan. Snow was still visible in the woods and, in many areas, melt runoff was streaming across the roads.

Spring Arrives 

We decide to check out the 2018 Sno*Drift Rally stages south of M-32 and close to Lewiston for our inaugural look at the routes. The first 60-degree weather of the year greets us for day one as we check on the Agren Road route just north of Lewiston off CR 491. We start east on Agren when it becomes apparent we need to switch off the ABS on the BMW after encountering a 40-degree quarter-mile downhill littered with small rocks. To make things more interesting, the road takes a hard left turn at the bottom through piles of soft sand created by runoff. Both bikes could use more aggressive tires to deal with soft terrain. The 19-inch front wheel on the BMW doesn’t like the loose surfaces, but we make it down the cliff without mishap.

Our next stop is farther north at the Shoreline Drive route south of CR 489. A long downhill with a flowing spring in the center of the road (natural dust control!) leads us to Shoreline Drive, a single-lane road that twists and turns along the west shore of Avery Lake. This is great riding, as the road is hardpacked and the bikes have plenty of traction. Thirty mph on this twisting route with blind curves is great on a dual sport, but we wonder how many rally cars end up in the drink while trying to navigate this section on full boost at 70 mph!

Shoreline Drive ends at Avery Lake Road, so we follow it south to try Stage 1 of the Sno*Drift. Soden Road directly east of Lewiston on CR 612 is the starting point for the Soden Road/East Fish Lake Road route. WARNING: Your dual-sport prowess will be tested on East Fish Lake Road by a 120-degree downhill off-camber turn that had water running across its face on the day we tip-toed down it in first gear. 

The last rally stage attempt of the day (Stage 7) takes us north across CR 612 and onto Avery Lake Road to reach Orchard Road, which runs between CR 489 and Avery Lake Road. Deep mud, deeper ruts, and broken motorcycle parts on the ground at the entrance give us an inkling of what’s ahead. We soon discover that no one has been here with a chainsaw yet this spring, as downed trees across the road also factor into the challenge.

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For the complete touring article, including facts & information, map(s), and GPS files, please purchase the November/December 2018 back issue.