US-31 heads north from the Michigan/Indiana border. Shortly before it merges with with I-196 near Benton Harbor, all traffic is forced to exit onto a two lane surface road, then get onto I-94, travel about two miles and finally merge back onto I-196. The reason I'm giving a little southwest Michigan traffic lesson today is because there is a one mile potion of US-31 that is finished, but has never been used. Where traffic is forced onto the surface road the highway continues but is blocked off. The entrance and exit ramps are in place. There is a speed limit sign. There's even an "Adopt a Highway" litter prevention sign on the south bound lanes. All the trappings of a highway, with none of the automobiles. It looks like a scene from the Discovery Channel show "Life After People".
Abandoned US-31 near Benton Harbor
While we were visiting Susan and Elvin Hayes this Memorial Day weekend we decided to ride our bikes on that abandoned stretch on US-31. It's about 15 miles south of their cottage. The four of us rode past some very pretty Berrien County farms and small towns. Riding on the unused road was eerie. The highway is in great shape. No potholes or trash. And no vehicle traffic to bother us. We rode four abreast down the middle of the lane.
Tom, Elvin, Mary and Susan on the entrance ramp to the deserted highway.
There are barricades to stop cars from using the ramps. There is also a barricade to divert traffic off the northbound lands onto the surface road. But when you ride on the abandoned south bound lanes there is nothing to stop you from riding right out onto the very-much-in-use US-31. I guess the traffic engineers figure no one is going to make a hard left at the end of the ramp and drive the wrong way up the highway. But they could. It made us very nervous to have nothing between our bikes and 70 mph freeway traffic. So we headed back up the closed exit ramp and made our back to the cottage from our little "Twilight Zone" adventure. 33 miles in all.
It's been pretty busy the last few weeks, between working on the job, working on the yard, and working on Jake's Music Festival. I haven't had a lot of opportunities to ride, but Mary and I did get out for an easy 16 miles last night. We rode north on the White Pine Trail up to 13 Mile Road and then turned around and came home. Nothing eventful to report. No speed records were set. Just a leisurely Sunday afternoon ride on an absolutely beautiful day.