Lake Michigan Loop – Days 28-30

The morning of Day 28 took an unexpected turn. I had checked the weather the night before, and the forecast predicted cloudy but dry conditions. As I packed up my gear in the morning, a nearby camper told me that a big storm was coming from the west. I checked my smartphone weather radar and sure enough, a monster storm was approaching. Could I make it to the nearest town 8 miles away before it arrived? Only one way to find out. Off I went as fast as an almost 60 year old fart can go dragging 100 pounds of “home sweet home” with me.
In times like this, when I am in a hurry to bike somewhere, I always get the same image in my head. I see Almira Gulch, the spinster in the Wizard of Oz, riding her bicycle down a country road. She has just taken Toto away from Dorothy and is riding to town to “dispose” of the dog for biting her. The music score for this part of the movie is perfect for how I was feeling: rushed, frazzled, and not sure what was going to happen.
Well, I made it to a Starbucks in Grand Haven just before the storm hit. It took three hours for the storm to pass. By that time I was fully charged after consuming two large soy milk lattes and a slice of lemon pound cake. On the road again at 11:30am, I felt lucky to have dogged the storm, staying warm and dry.
Throughout my journey, I have passed so many miles of wild flowers which have started to bloom. Most people would call these flowers weeds. Whatever you want to call them, they are still beautiful and have given me much pleasure from their color and variety.

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I had my first Zen experience on Day 29. Let me explain. So many of my thoughts are judgements based on opposites: good vs. bad, light vs. dark, downhill vs. uphill, or tailwind vs. headwind. Perhaps the biggest polarity of my bike trip was “butt vs. saddle”! It was not my leg strength or aerobic conditioning that would give out and make me consider stopping for the day. It was my butt crying our for a little compassion. The messages were pretty intense. “Why are you doing this to me? What did I do to you to deserve such punishment? Get me off of this saddle now!” Would I ever reach a point during my trip where butt and saddle would finally make peace? Well, it happened on Day 29. I biked for 63 miles and never once got a complaint from my posterior. Butt and saddle had finally become the best of friends. I cannot tell you how satisfying this was. It was one-derful!
Ok, I admit it. I am soooo envious of the farmer who has erected the 10 foot high rooster in his front yard. I had to take another picture of the masterpiece, this time with my bike in the foreground so that you can see I was not exaggerating about the size of the bird. I am also officially changing my website icon image from a hummingbird to the rooster. And cockadootledoo to you, too!

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Day 30 is the official last day of my adventure. I arrived in La Porte IN safe and sound after completing 1420 miles of circumnavigating Lake Michigan (sans Chicago). Michiko is driving up from Cincinnati to pick me up and take me home. Thanks for following my adventures! I will post one more blog in a day or two where I will try to summarize the things I learned while biking solo for 30 days. One last photo from the flight deck of my Surly Long Haul Trucker. I am going to miss this unique vantage point.

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P.S. I cannot thank Michiko enough for allowing me to take this trip. It is very hard on her to be left alone to manage the house, yard and all other administrative duties. It is somewhat selfish of me to take off for 30 days. Time to start paying her back for all of her support!

Lake Michigan Loop – Days 25-27

I am enjoying the views and campsites along the lake. Yesterday afternoon I camped at Platte River Campground which is part of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I rode my bike two miles from camp along the river to the lake. What a gorgeous view! In the distance I could see Sleeping Bear Dunes and Empire Bluffs. At the mouth of the Platte River, there were fishermen catching salmon, and lots of people swimming, kayaking and paddle boarding. Great place to visit if you have the time.

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Just one mile north of Arcadia, I stopped at a scenic lookout, and boy was I glad I did. There was a stairway with about two hundred stairs leading to a platform. I climbed the stairs (like I need more exercise), and found the best view of Lake Michigan so far. What do you think?

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It’s apple picking time in Michigan. All of the apple trees I have passed were loaded with fruit.

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I passed a fruit stand in front of an old farmhouse because I saw a lot of pear trees. Sure enough, they had Bartlett pears, along with three or four different varies of apples, and plums. They were selling everything by the bushel, but I only wanted one pear and one plum. After I picked out the two pieces of fruit, the owners told me to keep my money. What a nice gesture! Turns out the lady grew up in Xenia. We talked about how the Cincinnati/Dayton area has changed so much over the last 30 years. She is very happy to be living in the fruit orchards of west central Michigan.
I have been blessed with many tailwinds along the trip. My luck ran out on Day 26. On the ride from Manistee to Pentwater, the winds from the south started to pick up. By the time I got to Ludington, they were 14mph, with gusts up to 24mph. I knew I was in for a tough ride when I passed a wind farm. All the wind turbines were turned in the direction I was headed, and they were turning around very fast. It was a challenge to ride against the headwind. I would curse and swear for a few minutes, then ride a mile. I would curse and swear again, and ride another mile. Trees were my saviors. Anything to help break the power of the wind.
I reached Pentwater in an exhausted state. I set up camp at Charles Mears State Park. The park has a beautiful sandy beach, so I changed into my swim trunks and took an invigorating swim. This was my first full immersion baptism in Lake Michigan since starting my trip. Definitely what I needed, and I left the water feeling much better.
On Day 27, most of my ride was on the Hart-Montague Trail, a well maintained 27mile rail-to-trail path. There was also a bike path through Muskegon. Lots of pretty fowers in bloom along the path.

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1000 Miles! Days 22-24

On Day 22 I reached 1000 miles! This is a milestone for me. The longest bicycle trip I had previously taken was seven days and about 330 miles on the Natchez Trace in 2014.
I am camping about two thirds of the nights and staying In motels the other third. Mostly I stay in a motel to avoid bad weather, and there have been quite a few major storms moving through Indiana, Wisconsin and Michigan during my travels. It rained last night, so I stayed in a motel in Traverse City. First time I have slept in a shed! Fully furnished of course.

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I am doing my own cooking when I camp. My dinner is a rotation of three basic dishes. There is your good old cowboy grub of rice and beans (with sauté onions, garlic, carrots and potatoes).

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Next I will make a coconut milk curry with onions, garlic, potatoes, peas and rice.

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Finally, I will make a Thai rice noodle dish with broccoli, onions, garlic, and a spicy peanut/lime/soy sauce.

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Usually there is enough dinner left over to have it cold for breakfast. If there are no leftovers, then I will make oatmeal and add peanut butter, raisins, vanilla flavoring and brown sugar.
Lunches are simple affairs. I always have flour tortillas, and will make burritos with retried beans or hummus. I put corn chips inside the burrito, or eat them on the side.

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It sees like I am always eating! Every hour, I will stop to eat a banana, cliff bar or trail mix. If the timing is right, I will stop at a little café for a second breakfast. On Day 23, I stopped at the Harbor Café in Elk Rapids MI for my second breakfast, and was drawn to their long list of stuffed french toast. I ordered the BMW (banana, maple sauce and walnuts). Wow, what a load of calories! And they served real maple syrup, too. It was a challenge, but I finished the whole plate.

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Because bicycling is so quite, I am able to come up on wildlife and get quite close before they realize I am there. Just this morning, I rode by a tom turkey and about 20 hens. They were not scared away by my presence, and I watched them for quite a while before they move away from the road.

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I passed a “yard art in progress”. I have no idea what the final wood carving will be, so I guess I will have to come back in a few years to see what the artist has in mind.

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Lake Michigan Loop – Days 19-21

The ride across the Upper Peninsula is on US 2, which is very flat, and most of the route is inland from Lake Michigan. Not a lot of scenery as I pedaled the 150 miles (3 days) from Escanaba to St. Ignace. Luckily, I had a tailwind the whole way. I averaged 15-16 mph, which is really flying for me, but not as fast as the cars, RV’s, semi’s and logging trucks. There was a constant stream of traffic passing me going both ways.
As you saw in the posted video from Epoufette, a heavy downpour kept me off the roads on Day 20 until 11:30am. By that time the roads were dry enough for me to finish the last 30 miles to St. Ignace to catch the 2pm ferry to Mackinac Island. It was an easy process to buy a ticket, drop my bike at the loading bay, and enjoy the 30 minute ride to the island.

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It is obvious something is missing when you walk up the dock to Mackinac Island. No cars! Only horse drawn carriages and bicycles. What a nice change from US 2! I had lunch, then biked the 8 miles around the island, checked out the downtown shops, then boarded the 5pm ferry to Mackinaw City. Click on link below to see a short video of the island.

Mackinac Island
Day 21 turned out to be one of the most spectacular bike rides I have experienced. The route left Mackinaw City and followed the coastline past Wilderness State Park and the Tunnel of Trees Scenic Highway (M-119). The sandy beaches and highway were deserted, so I had the whole coastline to myself. M-119 follows the 200-300 feet high bluffs along the shore, and is a narrow paved road that winds up, down and around the hills and rivers. If you have the time, take this side road which connects Mackinaw City and Petoskey.

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I had to take a detour from the ACA route about halfway along M -119. The route took me inland, and I had to tackle some pretty steep hills. My wife, Michiko, always tells me that getting lost or having to detour are the times when you discover life’s little treasures. Being a Type A engineer, it is hard for me to agree with this philosophy’s, but she is absolutely correct. Just as I got to the top of a particularly long and steep hill, there was a vineyard and winery. Time for a wine tasting! I ended up buying a bottle of wine, which I enjoyed for the next two nights.

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Can a Type A person become a Type B person? I think retirement might help me with the transition.
I want one of these Bigfoot’s for my front yard to keep my ten foot high rooster company.

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Lake Michigan Loop – Days 16-18

I had a real treat on Day 16. Our son, Alan, drove down to Escanaba from Chatham to have dinner with me. Alan is a farmer at the Michigan State University North Farm. He is one year into a two year farming program where he is growing organic vegetables and strawberries on farming land provided the the University. I enjoyed hearing about his farming experiences, and his options for working somewhere in the USA over the winter (he will not stay in Chatham between November 2016 and April 2017.

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I woke up early on Day 17 with the hopes of biking through what I thought would be a few small showers. Not! It began to rain heavily while I was at McDonalds having breakfast. The weather forecast was for rain pretty much all day. I called the hotel I had just checked out of, and they said I could come back and hang out in my room until checkout time (11am). I waited and waited, but the rain kept coming, so I decided to take a day off and stay another night in Escanab. The extra day of rest was much needed.
I have been fighting the flu since Day 7. It started as a fever for the first 4 days, then moved to my chest. I have been coughing nonstop. The good news is that I am just about recovered. This morning (Day 18), I have felt the best since Day 6. Yeah!
Hey, guess what? I had a 4T ride this morning! It was temperate, torrid, and tabular, and I had a tailwind the whole way. I averaged 15mph on a very flat road. The winds changed from the South to the West Southwest last night, bringing cool and dry air back to Michigan. What a treat. I saw a gorgeous sunrise over the Little Bay de Noc, too.

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I had my first flat today. I ran over a heavy duty staple and it punctured my rear tire. I was able to quickly change it and get back on my way. A state trooper stopped while I was repairing the tire. He stayed and kept me company until I was ready to ride again. That was a nice gesture.
I am camping at Indian Lake State Park tonight. This morning as I was riding I kept hearing in my head the song with the same name sung by the Cowsills. Appropriate song for the ending of summer I guess. It is a nice campground on the south shore of the lake.

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Lake Michigan Loop – Days 13-15

Big change in the weather last night and today. Winds changed from the north (cool and dry) to the south (warm and humid). The good news is that I will have tailwinds. The bad news is that rain and thunderstorms will be in the forecast for the nest few days. The afternoon weather forecast for Day 13 looked so bad that I decided to make a short day of riding and quickly get to Shawano WI (21 miles away) before the storms hit. Checked into a hotel by 10am. What a nice, dry place to call home as the afternoon and night storms passed over Shawano.
While resting in the hotel room and looking at the maps, I decided to make another route change. The ACA maps had me ride directly north to Conover WI before heading east to Escanaba MI. The route was inland and away from Lake Michigan. I decided to ride directly east from Shawano to Oconto, which is on the lake, and then follow MI-35 up the shoreline to Escanaba. I dodged rain showers all day on Day 14, and made it safely to Oconto. On the way, I passed a dairy farm with a little hotel for calves. I had never seen this before; I usually see calves hanging out with their moms. Must be the bovine version of a European boarding school.

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The back roads were flat and I had a tailwind; two conditions that led me to daydreaming. I was trying to figure out how to rate the level of difficulty or ease one experiences while pedaling 100 pounds of bike and gear around the roads. I came up with the Four H’s of Hell and the Four T’s of Tranquility. Bear with me now, this was harder than it looks. I even had to use a thesaurus for some of the words (you will know which ones as they are definitely not part of my daily vocabulary). Ok, here goes!
The Four H’s of Hell are Heat, Humidity, Hills and Hemorrhoids … no, no,no, just kidding. The fourth H is Headwinds. Not that hemorrhoids are to be trivialized. I am sure they must be painful. But they are not an external element that all riders experience, so I am not including them.
The Four T’s of Tranquility are Temperate, Torrid (dry like a desert), Tabular (flat like a table), and a Tangueray & Tonic … no, no, no, just kidding again. The fourth T is Tailwinds. I must admit, though, that the Tangueray & Tonic is a potent contributor to tranquility. I mean, look, it’s got TWO T’s. But the fact is that very few cyclists ride and drink T&T’s at the same time (at least not the cyclists I hang out with), so I did not put it on the list.
So there you have it. The Four H’s of Hell and Four T’s of Tranquility. As for rating a ride, not all riding conditions are all H’s or all T’s. Usually there are one or more of each. This is where it gets complicated. You see, any H cancels out any T. Yes it might be hot, but if you have a tailwind, the two cancel out and you cannot complain about the heat. So the next time someone tells you what a tough ride they had, pull out your handy dandy Bob Kissinger’s 4 H’sand 4 T’s and grill them on just how bad it really was! Or just ignore them and order another T&T.
Just as I was leaving Wisconsin, I passed a museum in Marinette. There was a life-size replica of a sled full of lumber being pulled by a team of horses. Look how small my bike is compared to the horses and lumber! There are 10,000 board feet of lumber in just this one load.

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Last night I camped at J W Wells State Park. It is located on the shores of Green Bay. It is so nice to be back along side Lake Michigan again. My campsite was right on the shore.

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Land of Cheeseheads – Days 10-12

While overnighting at a hotel in Ludington, for some reason I decided to change my itinerary and go clockwise around the lake, instead of counter clockwise. This means that I needed to catch the 8:30am ferry from Ludington to Manitowoc on Day 10. I was up early enough to arrive at the ferry terminal one hour before departure (a “must follow” rule I was told too many times when making the reservation the previous night).

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It was an easy boarding process: I just walked my bike onto the ferry and one of the ferry workers escorted my to the place where bikes are parked. After securing my bike, I went through security and then up two flights of stairs to the main cabin.

Named the Badger, this is a pretty big ferry. It is a coal fired steamer built in the early 1950’s to ferry loaded railroad cars across Lake Michigan. It was remodeled in the 1990’s to become a car/people ferry. You can pass the four hour cruise time by eating, watching a movie, sleeping in private cabins (you pay extra for these), or sitting out on the deck enjoying the sun.

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The deboarding process was just as easy. I was escorted to my bike, I walked it off of the boat, and I was on my way.
Welcome to the Land of the Cheesheads! It was immediately obvious the I had crossed more than just a state line. The blueberry, apple and asparagus fields were replaced with dairy farms and Lutheran churches. Now I know where all the cheese  (and Lutherans) come from. I passed quite a few freshly cut fields of alfalfa. I love that smell. Reminds me of my high school days working for the Green family in Grangeville ID. We would stack a lot of alfalfa hay bales each summer.

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Always on the lookout for interesting yard art, I had to stop and take a picture of this horse. It was standing in front of a car body repair shop. It is made out of stainless steel parts from cars and motorcycles. Very flashy in the sun, yes?

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Last night I camped at River’s Edge Campground on the Wolf River near Leeman WI. Throughout the day and evening I made the acquaintance of a particular frog. He stayed right outside my tent pretty much the entire time. There were lots of flies around the river bank, so I think he must have been successfully catching flies so as not to have look elsewhere. This also might mean my tent was attracting a lot of flies!

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