Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Entering "God's Country"

6-30-10 Day 25: Ashland, Wisconsin to Duluth, Minnesota : 70 miles in 5:05 hours. Rt 2 west to Rt 53/2 west to Rt 2 west.

Yea, this was like a rest day ride compared to the previous several days of riding. Intention was to just keep it short today and relax in Duluth for the rest of the day at a little efficiency. Broke down gear, got packed and rode down to a gas station for coffee and some breakfast. Got a couple of bagels and a couple of Danishes and I was rolling down Rt 2 west by 7:45 AM. The wind was really light out of the west and the days opened up just stellar, with blue sky and much warmer temps than yesterday morning. Had to be ten degrees warmer than yesterday. And as mysteriously as the hill climbing had ended out of Michigan yesterday, it had begun again outside of Ashland, Wisconsin. These weren’t big hills, but long and gradual where I had to get OTS and use both the big and little ring. Pretty country though, so I didn’t mind the changing up in the riding styles as I floated down the highway.

Heated up to the point where I was juuuuuust about ready to switch out the long sleeved jersey for the tank, but the cool breeze coming off of Lake Superior make me think otherwise. There was a beautiful stretch through Chequamegon National Forest where it was just covered with fir trees, and kind of felt like I was riding on top of the mountains in Colorado. You could just soak in the smell of pine in the warm morning sun. This was the section that was the “rollingest” of the day. Made it to the jcn with Rt 53 where the road curved in towards Lake Superior and the town of Superior. This was kind of a crappy section of berm as it headed down towards Minnesota and Duluth. So I took this 2/53 down to where I thought I was going to go over this bridge, the Blatnik Bridge, and into Duluth. But as I neared the bridge there was the sign I was afraid of seeing: No pedestrians, bicycles, farm machinery, blah, blah, blah. No go there.

Turned the bike around and walked it back down the entry ramp way off on the berm and then road over to a gas station next to the entry ramp. Asked a guy pumping gas how the hell do I get to the downtown Duluth area without using that bridge to get across Saint Louis Bay/Superior Bay. He pointed me down the road to an alternate route that has a bikeway/pedestrian walk along the bridge. So I got on this Alt. Rt 2, Belknap Street, and took this towards the other bridge, the Bong Bridge. Yup, bong bridge! But as I was riding west I saw that there were barricades separating the lanes about a half mile up to the bridge, and then all the way along the bridge, and these things were like 5 feet high – and the walkway was on the eastbound lane! So I had to turn my rig around and ride against traffic on the crumbly old berm for a quarter mile to get back to the point to where I could cross over onto the opposite lane and then ride against traffic so I had access to the bikeway on the Bong Bridge.

Pure idiocy with no signs, no nothing to let you know where the bikeway is. So there I was riding again against the traffic to get to the bikeway. And slowly, off to my left, totally fenced in is the bikeway, separating me, riding the wrong way to get on the damned thing, from it. Once I got to the place where the bikeway fence ended, I still had to surmount a 4 foot high concrete barricade to get off of the berm and onto the bikeway. Dismounted, took the trailer off, and I lifted my bike and panniers up and over the barrier, hoping that I wouldn’t blow my back out. Then I picked up the trailer and set it on top of the barricade, climbed over and the took the yak to the other side. Hooked it all back up and started riding across the bridge. And it was actually worth all the work as the view was pretty darned cool. Had to be a hundred or two above the Saint Louis Bay, where in the middle is the state line between Wisconsin and Minnesota. Below a railroad bridge had just allowed a train through, and then turned around by 90 degrees to open the channel back up for barge traffic. Bridge had to be a mile and a half long.

Got to the other side and I was in Minnesota. Nine states down with 5 to go! Choice now was where to go for a place for the night. Downtown would be WAY too high rent for me, so I opted for a place just down the road a piece from the good old Bong Bridge. Ended up at a Super 8, where I pleaded for the “Old guy biking across America discount”. It worked because she knocked off 35 bucks from the bill!! Got a nice place for 40 bucks, with downtown harbor access about 3 miles down the road. I’m going to ride there and watch a couple of the barges come in and depart. The receptionist gave me a slew of departure/arrival times of the big barges down on the warf. I’ll head down there in a few and continue this later this evening.

Rode down to the harbor, half on road and half on bike lanes, and had a nice time just kind of people watching and ship watching. Duluth really reminds me of St. John’s Newfoundland, what with it’s mariner atmosphere and the plethora of pubs and restaurants down along the waterfront. It’s also situated on this bluff overlooking the harbor just as St. John’s is, and the streets run up the flanks of the bluff to the top. Wish I had the time to hang here for a bit with friends, as we’d have a grand time at the pubs!! Had to beat feet and head back as a little rain front was moving in and it was a 30 min ride from here at the motel down to the downtown district. Made it back just in time.

Tomorrow I’m going to ride up this monster looking climb up the bluff and out of town on Rt 2 west. I can see the climb from my motel and it looks like little cookie all the way. What a way to start the day. Then it’s Rt 2 west through northern Minnesota, and past a zillion lakes as I ride my way up to Grand Forks, North Dakota. With good weather I think I can reach Grand Forks by Sunday July 4th.

That’s it for the day. Good day all……..Pete

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Let the sun shine!

6-29-10 Day 24: Watersmeet, Michigan to Ashland, Wisconsin: 93 miles in 7:05 hours. Rt 2 west the whole day.

Haven’t had a stellar, sunny morning to late afternoon day since back in Indiana and lower Michigan!! And that’s no kidding. Been dealing with rain, severe storms, drizzle, fog…….and total &^$^#%$# weather longer than I can remember. Just crazy. Well today I got something back – in the way of just a super day to ride. Got up early, packed my gear, slipped out of camp and onto the road without a thing. Just didn’t feel like stopping at a gas station for coffee and doughnuts. I wanted to RIDE! So I figured that I could go 3-4 hours before I filled up the stomach…or maybe even just go the day on the junk I ate last night.

Which reminds me, last night I rolled over to the casino, about 3 miles away, and hit the buffet. This was the saddest, crappiest buffet I’ve done in years. Total looser for 11 bucks. Now the casino there was just amazing, lines of machines with fat people loading money into them. The was the “poor man’s” casino, not really much. I had to walk by all that junk to get to the casino restaurant. So the buffet: came with salad bar, which I should have just done that alone, and then there was a pizza and pasta bar. I got the both of them, and hit the salad bar first. Really nothing fancy, and I hit most of the veggies. Wasn’t anything more than cottage cheese to go with all the veggies. So next to the pizza. And that was the worst ever! Cardboard with tomato sauce and cheese. Just pathetic. Had 4 pieces and then I just couldn’t stomach any more of that crap. Next the pasta…….bowtie, rigatoni, and noodles. The sauce – the very same cheap tomato that coated the pizza and a sickening looking Alfred sauce that scared the living hell out of me. And there was meat……this pan fried burger meat that looked like it belonged in a Taco Bell taco. Total nightmare stuff. Like I said, this place is the poor man’s casino.

Did one plate of the pasta noodles with the hot tomato paste and the fried ground beef. Looked like a 6-year-old made the meal! Yup that was it. No more. Paid the bill and high tailed it away from that dump back to my little Hellie in the woods.

So anyway, that experience kind of pushed me into NOT going back to the BP at the casino for coffee and breakfast. Just wanted to ride and ride the hell out of there. Got rolling at about 7:38 AM. And the wind was just wicked out of the west-northwest. So if I was to reach Ashland today, it was going to keep me on the saddle for a very solid 7 hours. So be it. Again, like yesterday, I had the road all to myself at times, with zero traffic in any direction and nothing but the ribbon of highway amidst this massive, expansive stretch of woodlands. Felt just awesome to be out there alone pedaling west in the sunshine. Now the temp had to be below 50 degrees when I first got on the bike, and I even had my anorak on to take the bite out of the headwind. Had some pretty chilled knuckles for the first hour. Got off the bike several times for pics of the nothingness of the western UP region.

Had to be about 40 solid miles of nothing between Watersmeet and Wakeman – save but for a few cottages and a 3-4 homes town with zero amenities. The road was my wonderful 6-foot wide berm and it really began to roll with some super long gradual climbs in that 40-mile stretch. Between that and the headwind I was stuck in the 13 mph zone forever. By the time I got to Wakefield I had decided that I had to stop to eat. My legs just felt like jello with zero energy and totally noodled out. Today was not going to be one of those days where I could ride the whole day on nothing. Nope, hot when fighting a headwind and doing a boat load of climbing. Had to get food. So I decided to push to Ironwood for a lunch stop. Good thing I layed up in Watersmeet last eve because if I’d have tried to push on and “make the green” by riding to Ironwood, I’d of spent nearly 11 hours on the bike. Either that or I’d of slept in the bush last night with no food.

By the time I got to Ironwood I was totally trashed, and that was on 60 miles into the day. Saw a Subway and did a big U turn into the parking lot. Did a footlong and probably 50 oz of fountain coke. Then back on the bike, and I’ll tell you what, it couldn’t have been more than 57-60 degrees out. Had to put the anorak back on just because I was pretty chilled coming out of the Subway. Couple of miles in I was over the state line and in Wisconsin and taking the anorak off again. Thankfully the stretch in Wisconsin was way flatter than the Michigan stretch I’d just finished. My big beautiful berm from Michigan….It was gone, down to a mere 3-4 feet with no rumble strip. Still though, the road was an asphalt that was glass smooth and I felt pretty secure on that berm. Traffic was not really that bad, and everyone gave me plenty of room to ride on my smaller piece of berm.

Seemed as though the topography had changed to more of a flats with heavy coniferous forest, with Lake Superior just off to my right several miles to the north. At times I could see a sliver of deep blue water through breaks in the forest. Just wonderful riding on this stretch and the headwind was just a thing that I was feeling more and more at ease with. Can’t fight it, it’s just there all the time. Best thing to do is to just spin into it and not mash. Between Ironwood and Ashland, there’s just a tad more civilization than the barren 40-mile stretch I had done between Watersmeet and Ironwood. Mostly just me and the forest. By the time I saw the Ashland City Limit sign, I was really ready to be done. That Subway break had totally energized me for another 3 hours worth of riding, so that was a very good move. Had I attempted to do the whole thing sans food and coke – it could very well have been a death march. Finished the day with 93 miles in just over 7 hours of saddle time. That headwind just really takes it out of you, and it did again today.

Was amazing how much stronger my legs felt just 30 minutes after eating. I found an RV park in Ashland down by the lake, and set up camp and then beat it out of there for some dinner – Subway, where I downed another 2 footlongs! Also picked up a couple of bottles of James Page Burly Brown Ale. This is a Wisconsin micro brew and it’s a sweety for sure. Back to camp to work on the computer in a gameroom area that has wifi while I drink these delicious beers. May have to go back for a couple more!

I’m a little disappointed in Ashland. I had though that it would be this really cool, kind of sports oriented, hip place being right on Lake Superior, but it’s really nothing that great. Pretty flat around here and there’s a big coal fired power plant right smack dab in the middle of the city right out on the water. Not rocky or craggy like I had pictured it. The temps finally cracked the 60’s by the end of the day, and it feels very nice out now at about 6 CST. Forecast is for a good 4 days of sun, with the temps bumping up to the 80’s by Saturday and Sunday. Have about 72 miles to make Duluth tomorrow. May just make it a short day tomorrow with that 72 miles and enjoy the rest of the day in downtown Duluth and try to find an efficiency in town by the lake. Supposed to be great weather.

Finally made it all the way through Michigan. Now think about it, I’ve spent 10 days riding through this one state. Now we can 86 two of those days, one for weather and one for a mechanical, and come up with 8 solid days of riding to get through Michigan. I don’t believe that there’s a state much bigger than this to ride through other than maybe Texas and Alaska. I mean I’ve ridding for over 600 miles through just one state, north for a boat load of miles and then west for a boat load of miles. Today I can throw my tattered Michigan map in the garbage. And let me tell you, after 10 days it’s totally beat to hell!

Well, that’s it. Talk to you tomorrow. Love and kisses to you Judy!!!! Love also to mom and dad and Kim. Got you all on this one…….Pete

Monday, June 28, 2010

Last full day in Michigan - 600+ miles in one state

6-28-10 Day 24: Iron Mountain, Michigan to Watersmeet, Michigan: 76 miles in 6:25 minutes. Rt 2 west the whole day.

Pretty whipped today with only 76 miles in the day. Had a lot to do with a northwesterly headwind that gusted at 20 mph and all the hills between Iron Mountain and Rapid River, and there were some pretty long ones!

Slept leisurely today and woke at 7 AM instead of my normal 6 AM. Awesome accommodations in Jim’s fifth wheel, where I slept in this king sized bed that took up three fourths of the room with a cable TV up in the corner. Damn, felt like I was in a honeymoon suite - without my honey! Slept well. I put all my gear together and Jim followed my down to his hangout, the Citgo Station where his daughter Nikky works. We got some coffee and I jammed on 2 nice big gooey cherry Danish slices. Figured that I’d just have coffee and 2 Danish for the day and not stop at all during my ride.

Now the morning had begun just spectacularly, with clear blue skies and a moderate wind out of the northwest. BUT….by the time I rode down to the station, clouds had raced in and it looked as if it was going to storm – pretty ominous looking to say the least. Downed my Danish and pounded the coffee pretty fast so I could get a jump on the weather – yet again. It’s freaking Groundhog day with this weather up here. You know, and I’ve talked about this before, but when you’re on the road like this weather is EVERYTHING! It can crush you. It can make you ecstatic. It can totally bum you out. Well, I’m getting more and more of a lean to the latter. This just cannot go on forever.

Nikky and Jim wanted to do some pics of me, and then of Jim and I, so we did that for several min. Then I gave Jim a big hug, and with my eyes kind of tearing up, I departed, giving them a hearty wave as I rolled on down the road. Will I ever meet this guy again? Don’t know but I sure hope we stay in contact. Funny how close you can get to a person when you’re doing something like this. What he did for me was just so heartwarming. So if I never do see this kind soul again, he’ll always be in my memory of this trip. Thanks again Jim!!

Got going with a slight spritzing of drizzle in the air and a gnarly headwind working me from the front. Then I hit berm where they had just repainted the white line on the far right hand side of the lane, and mysteriously the big wide berm from heaven ended and I was squeezed into a 3 foot berm between the gravel and this freshly painted line with cones atop of it every 100 yards. It sucked! So as I’m riding along there, squeezed in, I hit a hill, and out of nowhere I heard this horrible sound, kind of like my bottom bracket was ready to implode. Sent shivers down my spine what with all the work we went through yesterday trying to get it fixed. So I rode it for another couple of miles and it just kept getting worse. I mean it sounded like the bearing were just mashing, grinding, wearing away to nothing. So I slowed down, shifted into the little cookie and then stopped. Got off and pulled the chain off and set it atop the bike’s bottom bracket so I could spin the cranks freely. And they felt great. I could give it a push and the cranks would spin around on their own for a good 4-5 revolutions, so the young buck from Marquette did not tighten those things up too much as I had begun to think could be the case. OK you mystery people, can you guess what the problem was?

Put the chain back on and the sound was just getting worse and worse, a gnarly grinding, cruching sound. Figure it out yet? And then it hit me, I’d been riding on this thin strip of berm next to a freshly painted line. And do you know what those lines are made out of? Paint….and a gazillion of these little micro glass beads that help to reflect headlights that are shining on the lines. Yup, I was ready to bet the farm that all those micro glass beads had stuck to my freshly lubed chain and were just causing a total mess to build up. Got off the bike again and found pieces of paper on the side of the road that I wiped down the chain with. God, it was just choked full of gunk, and I could for the life of me get all the crap from between links, on the cogs, and on the chainrings. “Had to be the glass beads” I kept telling myself outload. Figured I would go to a gas station and settle the mystery once and for all by finding a hose and washing the shit off of my drivetrain.

Well, I entered Wisconsin for a short stint, and in the town of Florence I went by a car wash. Did a U turn and pulled my rig into a bay. The owner just charged me a buck rather than the usual 2.50 to use the high pressure hose. Let me tell you, I washed out just a ton of gunk from chain, cogs and chainrings. Finished up, took a deep breath and got going again….and YES!!! No sounds at all. It was all the glass beads clogging up the drivetrain. By Florence there was just another quarter mile of fresh paint left, and I rode out to the left of that freaking paint the rest of the way. I had ridden nearly 12 miles along that fresh paint, and it just built up so much that my chain looked like it was filled with mud. Later, I looked at my yak cover, and even that was coated with those glass beads!

The drizzle continued on and off all the way thru noon, and so to did a long series of climbs going through Crystal Fall and into Rapid River. It least my berm from heaven was back, so I could ride in my little safety zone and feel unthreatened. As far as the climbs went, none were of the little cookie variety, but they were long and had me down to 6-7 mph and out of the saddle in the middle ring. Jim had told me of those climbs and he was right, they were enough to convince me that trying to make Ironwood for the day, a 126-mile day from Iron Mountain, would be nearly impossible unless I wanted to ride until dark. What with the hills and the headwind, and the ominous weather, I just knew going for Ironwood was like trying to hit the green with your second shot on a par 5. I decided to lay up, and not go for it. Once through Rapid River I had a slight reprieve from the bigger climbs, and got more of the long gradual variety. And that’s about the time when the sun began to peek through the heavy cloud cover. Then, a half hour later the cover broke up and it was beautiful sunshine. Finally!

Outside of Rapid River I had seen a sign saying that Watersmeet was 29 miles. Yup, that was my destination, and would give me 70+ miles for the day, and leave me with 55 to get to Ironwood and another 30 or so to reach Ashland, Wisconsin. Done. But I’ll tell you, that was a HARD 29 miles what with the freaking headwind. Now don’t feel sorry for me what with all the headwind. I asked for it when I signed up for the east to west crossing. I knew it would be a big player in my ride, and it’s been that way most of the time thus far. That’s a big part of the challenge of doing the crossing from east to west. My mph is much lower than on the Canada trip, and I have to ride longer to get some of the same mileage amounts that I did up in Canada when going west to east. It’s tough!! And I can’t imagine what I’ll encounter in North Dakota and Montana.

The last stretch, between Rapid River and Watersmeet, is just 29 miles of wilderness. No amenities. Very little traffic. There were times where it was just me out there with the headwind kind of whizzing past my ears and this big beautiful blue sky above me….and then nothing but forest and a long ribbon of highway. Made me really feel aware of my surroundings, of me, of the trip. Felt good for a change to savor the weather and the surroundings instead of kind of dealing with them or surviving them.

These are the times when doing a solo feels really good. I can smile, talk to myself and just soak in the day, live, revile in life. I made Watersmeet by about 2:30 PM. Any thoughts of going further were tossed out when you look at a map and see that there just isn’t anything out there between Watersmeet and Ironwood. Like I said, I had to lay up in Watersmeet rather than push for another 55 miles at 11 mph into a headwind. Nope, not in me today to do a death march. I found some camping in the Ottowa National Forest, set up and then rode into town to buy sandwiches for my post ride eats. The BP is pretty well stocked, and I just don’t feel like cooking – too much work. I can get wifi with my aircard, so that’s pretty good to. Seems that coverage is pretty good out here as I have three bars to work with.

Next to the BP is a casino, just a freaking goofy place for a casino way out here in the middle of nowhere. Saw an ad in the BP for a buffet in the casino restaurant, and went over and found that they have a buffet that goes to 8 PM, so I’ll go back to munch down later on. They said I could park my bike inside the lobby when I go eat. Might even take my computer and do some work and skype in the lobby after dinner. Well, good day for sure and my legs are pretty tired from taking on the hills and headwind. Tomorrow I’ll be looking to make Ashland, Wisconsin, which is right on Lake Superior. By Wed I should be able to get to Duluth, Minnesota.

Well, that’s it for the day…….Pete

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Jim to the rescure!

6-27-10 Day 23: Norway, Michigan to Iron Mountain, Michigan: 10 miles in 40 minutes. Rt 2 west the whole day.

Yup, that’s right…..10 miles today! And it all started like this: Yesterday on my ride I noticed that I had a bit of “slide” on my ride hand pedal/crank side, and kind of assumed that my right cleat was getting worn. Noted it. Then, last night as I was cleaning my drive train, I usually check my cranks and pedals and cleats to see if they’re showing any signs of wear, and I remembered that slop problem. Checked the pedals. OK. Checked the cleats. Not bad. And low and behold when I checked my cranks arms there was some side to side play. Not good when you’re out of the saddle every 10-15 min hammering with all your weight on the pedals. So I called my mechanic on skype this morning and he told me it could be loose on the axel, or worse case, the bearings could be shot. He told me how to kind of check out axel vs bearings, and it seemed as though the axel was loose.

Got up this morning and got on the net while it was still raining and found that there was a bike shop in Iron Mountain, and I called but on answering machine. Bad thing was that it’s Sunday and I didn’t place much hope in the place being opened. Packed my gear and headed into the drizzly fog from Norway to Iron Mountain with the intent of stopping at the bike shop a check on the bottom bracket. Well, got on the bike, and man, since I noticed that play in the efficiency, I REALLY noticed it slopping back and forth when riding it. Not a good feeling with your cranks kind of slinking from side to side. So I road the 10 miles into Iron Mountain but couldn’t find the shop. Stopped at a Citco gas station and went in to ask for directions to the bike shop. A gal at the desk and a gentleman standing there talking to her told me where it was, but said it would be closed. They even called for me and go no answer.

Then they got in the yellow pages and found another shop in Niagara, Wisconsin, just over the line. The guy was closed but said for my situation he’d go to his shop at noon. The gentleman in the gas station, Jim, said he’d take me up there with the bike. Then he asks if I wanted to kill the 1.5 hrs with a little sightseeing in Iron Mountain. Yup, serendipity all over again! Jim, a wonderful 61-year-old man, and a retired Iron Mountain city employee for the better part of his life in numerous capacities, pretty much came to my rescue and became my sight-seeing tour guide for the day. He knows every nook and cranny of the area. We went up to this 90-meter ski jump on the ski mountain and it was just out of this world. Winter sports are king out here, and this ski jump Jim tells me, attracts a multitude of people for the jumping competition. You just have never seen anything this amazing until you stand under it or upon it.

We then went up to Niagara in Wisconsin to meet this fellow by the name of Tim, owner of a small bike shop who was kind enough to take time out of his day off to look at my rig. Now Tim doesn’t have this tricked out shop full of thousand dollar rigs, but what he does have is a very firm grasp on being a damned good bike mechanic. This guy ripped into my bottom, and came to the determination the the cranks were indeed loose and that the drive side bearings race was probably gone. He got it tightened up and it was the bomb…..BUT there was this horrible creaking that was emanating from the drive side of the bottom bracket. He had figured that when he tightened the arms to the axel the crappy bearings race on the right side started squeeking. He said I could likely ride on it BUT for how long? Didn’t know, and that creaking was downright scary to hear. Sounded like the thing was just going to explode. Nope, the BB was trash.

Just goes to show that despite all the shit I carry with me, and let me tell you I carry about 8 pounds of tools and spare equipment, I did NOT carry a spare bottom bracket. My bad to because when I had my bike tuned up before this trip I neglected to have my mechanic put in a new BB. This one is all on me and me alone. So that brings us back to my pickle…..Tim did not have that “hollow” type BB in his shop. So he called around, in Green Bay, in Iron Mountain to the guy who’s shop was closed, to Iron River, to Ironwood, to Escanaba – either the place wasn’t open or the shop did not stock the BB. Tim even called his daughter to see if one of her bikes had that hollow BB that he could remove, but she had no idea what the hell he was talking about when asked about what kind of bottom bracket the bike had on it.

This was looking pretty grim. Looking like I’d have to ride this creaking sick dog a hundred of two miles to Ashland Wisconsin or Duluth Wisconsin before I could find the proper BB. It would be a gamble that the thing just wouldn’t go Kaboom as I was riding along!! So he made a call to Marquette to a bike shop, and that guy didn’t have this BB in stock…but there was another guy in the shop by the name of Brian who worked for a different shop, and Brian was put on the phone. Yup, he had that BB in stock his shop. Tim tells us that and Jim immediately says that he’ll run me up to Marquette – 1.5 hrs up and 1.5 hrs back!!. Blows me away. I mean I had just met this man in a gas station and now he’s running me all over hell trying to get this freaking rare part. Couldn’t thank him enough.

I filled his truck with petrol and off we went to Marquette. I mean this was a drive mind you, kind of like driving to Columbus and back from Akron! So we get there and this young buck opens up the shop and puts the BB in in no time and was done. Visa and out the door. Didn’t even ride it because it was freaking raining pretty hard out. I just assumed it was done right and that was it. This guy was no Tim with respect to torking it down to the nine, but he was pretty good and very decent to open his shop and give me a hand on a Sunday. Then Jim gives me a tour of Marquette, down to a park called Presque Isle, to these massive ore and coal loading docks for barges, and past the new Superior Arena which is where some of the NCAA March Madness games were played this past year. Sun popped out and it was just beautiful along the coast of Superior. We stopped at a couple really beautiful spots and walked out onto the rocky coastline for me to take some pics.

Then another 1.5 hrs back to Iron Mountain. I took Jim out to a Chineses Buffet – and for those of you who think that was my idea, oh no grasshopper, as I had asked him where he’d like to go and that was one of the two places he named!! Awesome chowdown for both of us. I’m sitting here in Jim’s fifth wheel, which is as laid out as you could ever want, writing my blog. He apologetically offered me this option to spend the night as if I was picky about where I sleep while on the road. I think his fifth wheel is like the Grand Hotel for God’s sake. I’ve got a bedroom in the back and this whole dining area where I’m writing right now. There’s a cable TV in here and I’m cranking on some Steven’s Point Brewery Amber Ales.

It’s crazy how things go when you’re on the road. People like Jim are the memories that make trips like this so amazing. Yup, it’s people like Jim here in Iron Mountain, and Tim in Niagara, and Brian in Marquette, and then from Canada: Barney and Val, and Ken & Kim, and Clayton & Diana, and all the awesome folks from our 2009 trip, it’s these people who bring the trip to life, give it that human touch. This human touch is that intangible that you can never factor into your itinerary. It’s serendipity.

So……despite gaining only 10 miles of forward progress, I’ve had a wonderful time today with Jim as my guardian angle/tour guide and now my host. Looks like 6, count them, 6 good days ahead weather wise……I hope! According to weather channel it’s a good for nearly a week of stellar weather up here. Could I make it all the way through Minnesota with that stretch of weather? We’ll see. Tune in tomorrow for another chapter. Late………pete

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The weather holds for a day

6-26-10 Day 22: Manistique, Michigan to Norway, Michigan: 96 miles in 6:35 hours. Rt 2 west the whole day.

Another kind of ominous day, with a very thick fog hanging over Manistique this morning that pretty much blotted out all sights in and around Rt 2. Matter of fact there was a very light drizzle or spritzing of rain from the thick fog I was riding through. Got on the bike around 7:50 AM and was hoping to make either Norway or Iron Mountain today with close to or a bit over a 100-mile day. I was cruising along at about 13-14+ mph early with a very, very slight westerly wind, but no hard enough to really make it feel like I was working to push into it. I’d hit stretches along the lake but could barely see out onto the water due to the really pea-soup thick fog.

Cant’ complain though as the temp was a very good 62 degrees. I had bought a quick gas station coffee and a couple of muffins so I though about just trying to go the distance without making a lunch stop. Temps like that are great for me because I don’t sweat a lot and I don’t get super hungry or thirsty. Made it to Rapid River in good time and noticed again all the little mom and pop businesses that were OOB. There I spotted 2 out of five little efficiency motels that were still viable. The other three had for sale signs on them. Same with several restaurants. Made me sad, myself being a small business person, seeing people’s lives gone down the tubes with this crappy economy. It’s hard enough to make it nowadays when the times are good in that business, but what do you do when the flow of tourist traffic just kind of dries up as it appears to have done over the last few years?

I mean it’s just crazy up here, almost like in a depression state. Makes me pretty thankful for what I have and what I’m able to do. So anyway, I’d pass through these little towns that used to be much bigger players in the tourist trade, towns like Rapid River, Masonville, Kipling and Gladstone, and just see so many places OOB. Seems that the tourists are now just completely bypassing these little places and going straight to the bigger cities like Escanaba to find hotels/motels, gas and food. I say this because when I went through Escanaba it looked to be pretty healthy. It’s a fairly big place for the UP, and has all the big grocery stores and the bigger hotel chains and fast food restaurants. My thoughts are that people traveling just go an extra 30 min or hr down the road to the bigger city rather than staying in some little place just off the beaten track. Add to that the fact that many people just are not traveling like they used to – and this is what you get – near ghost towns with no services available. Sad state indeed.

So I made it through Escanaba in 3:20 hrs, and decide that I felt pretty good, had decent weather and just might as well put in a 6:30-7 hour day in the saddle. Better make hay while there’s hay in the field. Rt 2 stayed totally awesome with that great big spacious 6-foot berm. It’s just wonderful riding on something like that where you don’t have to cringe when semis come barreling by. And the rumble strip kind of keeps all the vehicles out of my little lane. Went through Spaulding and Powers, and they displayed the same ghostly appearance as many of the other little towns. When I got to Hermansville the road began to roll more. Now I’d been dealing with these long, long gradual false flats for the better part of 2 days. But west of Hermansville there was more of a roll in the road. Not enough to make me hit the middle cookie, but enough to send me out of the saddle time and again to get up over the crests of the rolls.

I’d made 2 stops by the time I hit Hermansville, and those were just quick bathroom breaks. Made one more stop just outside of Cunard at a rest area where I refilled my water bottles. From there I just kind of decided that I’d make it the whole way without a food or coke stop. Had an average of 14.5 and enough gas to finish in either Norway or Iron Mountain. About 7 miles outside of Norway the road really started rolling up into tougher pitches. Kind of made me think: “yea stupid, that’s why it’s called Norway!” So went from pretty flat to pretty rolling all the way to Norway.

By Norway I had 96 miles and a choice to make: take it another 7 miles west to Iron Mountain or just find something in Norway. Didn’t see any camping on the way into Norway so just for the hell of it I stopped at one of those little mom and pop efficiencies – the Viking motel. It was totally dead, and just a block away was a Subway. Went in and was dumbfounded that the room was 25 bucks. That’s 5 dollars more than a campsite!!!!! It’s totally crazy. Got the efficiency and it’s pretty dog gone nice for 25 bucks – shower of course, with little frig, cable, air. I mean it’s just unbelievable how cheap lodging is up here. And that was 25 bucks out the door – no tax.

Got settled in……and I even have motel wifi…..and then went to Subway. Got 3 footlongs, 2 I ate there and the third I got for this eve or tomorrow morning. Again, the weather could be a factor for tomorrow as the all knowing weatherpeople are forecasting rain for tomorrow with a chance of severe storms. If I get up and it’s not dumping down rain – game on. Drizzle – game on.

Now if you had read the itinerary you notice that I deviated off course today, staying on Rt 2 rather than going north on Rt 41, and then west on Rt 28. I did this because I’d been through that 41/28 area numerous time in the past, several times when I was in college and doing solo tours up here in the summer. So I’d seen that territory before up around Marquette. Decided last night to go into some territory that was new for me. Never been on the stretch between Escanaba and up to Ironwood. This area is so unlike the Michigan that most people know of and are familiar with. This is like a different state up here, kind of like the bush country of Ontario, Canada. It’s miles and miles of nothingness. I really dig this kind of countryside!

If I’m able to ride the whole day tomorrow I’d like to try to make Ironwood, but again, that would be a solid 100+ mile day. Need decent weather and not 100 miles of rollers like I experienced on the way to Norway today. Well, that’s it for today. Take care from up here in the beautiful north country of Michigan……..Pete

Friday, June 25, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain

6-25-10 Day 21: Mackinaw City, Michigan to Manistique, Michigan: 88 miles in 6:20 hours. Rt 2 west the whole day.

Man, the weather these last several days has just been a real pain in the rump! Popped my head out of the tent this morning and what I saw just didn’t look good – totally grey and ominous skies. I raced to get packed before I got dumped on and then beat feet down to the the call box in downtown Mackinaw City to call for someone from the bridge to pick me up for the bridge crossing. You cannot ride a bicycle across the Mackinaw Bridge. Can’t even walk across it but for one special day a year. I learned that the hard way back when I was a young pup. Yep, I bet a buddy that I could get away with riding a bike across the bridge back when I was doing a 2-week bike trip up into the UP. Got almost all the way across that 5-6 mile bridge when a very P O’d bridge guy stopped me, yelled at me, and threw my bike in the van and took me across the final 1 mile. I was young and kind of stupid, and now, can’t believe that I thought I could get away with it.

Now at 53 years of age, I’m definitely out of the idiot stage of life, and had no problem ringing the bridge people and waiting the 30 min for a worker to drive a truck over to pick me up. As I was waiting the rain began to set in. And by the time the truck pulled up to load all me gear into his pick-up truck, it was a steady rain. The bridge guy told me that the forecast was for partly sunny – yea right. It looked totally socked in as far west as I could see. Got across, paid my 2 bucks, put my rig back together and then set out in the rain with my North Face anorak on. And it came down pretty strong for about a half hour. As I was getting soaked I kept telling myself that I’d rather be out there than sitting in a tent or motel room……hmmmmmm don’t know if I was totally on board with that as rain was spraying all over me, but what the heck, I was out there and wet, so might as well make a day of it. Then I saw the sign: Manistique: 88 miles. OUCH!! Going to be a very long day if the rain continued.

Well, I at least had a really good road to ride on, Rt 2 west, which has the mother of all berms, nice and smooth and about 6 feet in width with a rumble strip on the left side to keep pesky traffic away from me. Rode out of the rain, took the anorak off and continued, thinking that maybe I got away with just a short soaking. Nope. Then came another road. And another, and another. Anorak on. Anorak off. Over an over. I hadn’t had breakfast or even a coffee in the morning with my rush to get packed and across the bridge with the way the weather looked, and with the rain just continually reappearing, I didn’t want to stop for fear of chilling out – the morning temp was 52 degrees to start! Not bad when you’re riding in the rain and it’s 70 degrees out, but 50’s – not good, and my fingers were a bit on the numb side to boot. So I kept it rolling into a very light 5-8 mph westerly headwind. Yipppe, at least the wind wasn’t kicking my ass!

Was maintaining a 13 mph average on relatively flat roads that go across the very top of Lake Michigan. But it’s deceiving in that there are these long, long false flats that just go forever. You only notice it because it’s just harder and harder to maintain the pace you’re doing on the flats. And when I looked back to see if I was indeed climbing, I just saw this ever so subtle false flat the went for miles behind me.

It’s really beautiful up here, what with the north country feel and the Great Lakes, but with the rain, I wasn’t about to stop and snap pics around every turn! Couple of times I was so tempted to stop for food and coffee, but the clouds and rain made me decide otherwise. I wanted to get in at least half the day before I stopped, so I kept pushing. Finally I hit a dry spell, and since it was around 3:10 hrs into the ride, and I’d knocked off 44 miles, I stopped in the town of Naubinway for a bite to eat. Went to a little mom and pop restaurant for some breakfast. Very nice lady waited on me and was asking me about me trip, having seen my bike and my pretty disheveled look of having been rained on for 2.5 hours. I ordered the 2 eggs and 3 pancakes, and was about to order more when she stopped me and warned me that the cakes were monsters. She even told me I’d not be about to eat them all.

Thanked her for the head’s up, but told her I’d probably be able to finish off the cakes. She smiled and refilled me with some piping hot coffee. When she came back with the eggs and cakes my jaw dropped. I mean these cakes were each as big as a dinner plate. No &^%^#$#. No lie. I ended up putting on a half pound of butter and a quart of syrup – just kidding but I put a lot on for sure. And be damned if I could NOT finish those cakes. I got down to one half of one cake left and I was just stuffed. Didn’t want to get back on the bike and just feel like I had a belly full of cement. So I told her I surrender. Rarely do I quit on food, but that massive stack of cakes just whipped me.

Got on the bike…..and the rain had started again. And it really cranked up again, forcing me to don the anorak again for the umteenth million time. Lost count of all the anorak on’s and off’s. Still kind of cold and not very agreeable, and……the westerly wind was picking up! So I was soaked again and riding on great road, with roadkill that was just stinking to high heaven when I’d ride by. Just add a little rain to the ooze on the road and it’s a pretty nasty sight and smell. Matter of fact a fresh roadkill had splattered fresh bits of flesh, bone, hair, teeth and all sorts of goodies on a stretch of berm and I just dreaded getting something thrown up on the wet tires and sticking to my leg or torso. I slowed down and picked my way through the mess.

The rain finally let up, and then the sun actually cracked through the sky for a stretch….and the westerly headwind got even worse, working into the double digits in intensity, which made my day pretty tough for the finish. I was in and out of the saddle for the last 2 hours just trying to keep some semblance of pacing. From the 115 miles yesterday, my legs were pretty shredded by 75 miles in today. Butt was pretty sore to. I just tried to enjoy the Lake Michigan scenery when it wasn’t raining and press on. Five miles out of Manistique I saw this wall of black in the west, and I was wondering if I’d make it into town before then heavens opened up in a very big way. Clicked a few gears down and really tried to push it in. With a mile to go the rain started as a drizzle.

No tenting tonight. Nope. I went straight for one of those little efficiencies. Now this is a vacationer’s market up here. Unfortunately there are just so many businesses that have gone under that everyone is giving discounts on lodging. Matter of fact I went through one little town and there were 5 motel/cabin places…..and only one was still in business. It’s staggering how many little places are OOB up here – motels, restaurants, tourist traps, gas stations. For every little town I road through, I saw at least one motel/efficiency OOB, not to mention all the other side businesses that deal with tourism.

So I found a great deal for 30 bucks. Just as I pulled the bike in the rain came down, harder, and harder, and harder. Went over to a little place to eat and by the time I sat down the rain was just coming down so hard you couldn’t see 200 feet out of the window. True gully washer! And it rained like that for 45 min straight. I sat inside eating the dinner buffet – and it was just out of sight. Tons of salads, veggies, and meats. Just sat and munched as the rains came down like no tomorrow. By the time I left it had let up enough for me to go back to my little abode. Feels pretty good knowing that I don’t have to deal with this rain the rest of the day and night.

Forecast – for what it’s worth – is calling for a decent day tomorrow. Yea, I’ll believe that when I get up, as today was also forecast as being a good day! Locals tell me that it’s just been raining like crazy up here, day after day. They say that next week things will change, as the jet stream is supposed to move away and cooler Canadian dry weather is supposed to move in. Well, we’ll see. Late…….Pete

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A hundy plus

6-24-10 Day 20: Lake City, Michigan to Mackinaw City, Michigan: 115 miles in 8:21 hours. Rt 66 north to Rt 131 north to Rt 31 north to Rt 108 north.

Kind of got up this morning with a bug up my ass – a bit disappointed that I kind of frittered away a decent day of riding the day before. So I awoke at 6 AM and was on the road by 7:15 AM. Got a shot of coffee and 3 doughnuts at the gas station next door for my first round of fuel. Now the illustrious weather people were good enough to call the severe storms last night, but they called for an awesome, sunny day today. Well…when I got rolling it looked like the heavens were going to unleash another round of storms – just totally grey with thick cloud cover. AND the killer nasty northwesterly headwind! Damn. I got it rolling and was working to just maintain 11-12 mph, which immediately led to me doing math in my head to figure out how long it would take me to do the ride to Mackinaw City….let’s see….that’s 12 mph for….oh something like 9.5 hours! Long day, and I didn’t really know if I could keep it jamming for nine plus freaking hours into that cross headwind.

Tried not to think about the time and speed and just enjoy the ride. Let the chips fall where they may, and no use in busting it too hard into the cross headwind, as that would only blow me up by hour number 6. Nope, just took a moderate Z2 pace and used a higher cadence and tried hard not to look at the cyclocomputer’s time and distance settings. I surprised myself by making Kalkaska just 2:10 hrs in. Good deal, and then I did this little jag west to jump on Rt 131 north. And this is a real main road actually and it had a great berm, something like 6 feet wide with a rumble strip next to the lane line. And after a couple of hours my legs warmed up enough to push the pace to about 13-14 mph – and it felt good. By the time I passed Kalkaska I felt I was really entering the north country of Michigan, with many of the trees being coniferous in addition to the birch, aspen and cottonwood. Also noticed that the vast stretches of farm country were essentially replace by endless tracts of woodland.

I’m sure that getting away from the long stretches of open farmland cut down on the cross headwind I had experienced in the first hour of the ride. I mean you ride past these wide open farm tracts and the wind just cuts you down because there’s no wind breaks. And you can feel the difference every time you ride from farmland to forestland – bumps my average up a good 1-2 mph!

So I had that going for me. I had figured that I’d just do Petoskey if the wind destroyed me, but by the time I was rolling down Rt 131 I was totally thinking that I’d shoot for the stars as I had planned and keep jamming to the bridge. Got through Wetzel and Alba with no problem, and just outside of Boyne Falls I stopped for a break at …..Subway. Yep, it came at just the right time, about 4:10 hours into the ride where I was getting that coke craving and gremlin in the belly. Knocked down a footer and probably a liter or so of fountain coke and jumped back on the steed. It was almost like a NASCAR pit stop for God’s sake, where I hammered the sub and cokes and was back on the bike in fifteen minutes!

Through Boyne Falls and then the climbing began. Now not crazy climbing, but climbing nonetheless, where I had to get out of the saddle for long one mile ups in the middle ring. Not killer but certainly taxing with the number of climbs there were. Went right by Boyne Mt ski area and I knew I’d be climbing even more. And I did. Last one took me up above Petoskey for a nice view – but not very appealing from the camera’s perspective what with the still heavy cloud cover.

Petoskey is an upscale place with lots of foo-foo restaurants and coffee shops, along with a gazillion touristy shit shops in the downtown. Pretty much had decided that I’d go for the big dog and ride all the way to Mackinaw City. That rather than hang out in touristy Petoskey the rest of the day. Besides, I’d made it there by 1:30 PM and still had plenty of time to ride. Good thing was that I had bumped my average up to 13.5 mph by the time I reached Petoskey. So I rolled straight through town without a look and kept it going. Got on Rt 31 north and then noticed that the wind was at my back and I was riding in the big ring and rolling along at 18-20 mph – thing was that the road took an easterly jag outside of town for about 8-10 miles. I’ll take it!

As soon as the road straightened out and went due north again, man was I slammed by the cross headwind – HARD! And to add insult to injury the road, Rt 31 was a real mess to ride on. It had that wonderful 6 foot berm, but it was cracked, crevassed and riddled with all kinds of junk – broken asphalt chunks, rocks, gravel, a total mess. So that really slowed me down. And the I saw the sign: 17 miles to Mackinaw City. Now by then I was 98 miles in, I had my hypoglycemia thing going on, the cross headwind was just crazy hard, as the wind had really picked up, and the road was a total piece of &%^#$ to ride on. There were times where I was just creeping along at 9-11 mph, which got the gears turning in my head again trying to figure out how much longer I had to ride. Heck, at that pace it could well take 1:30 hours!

Finally I got off the freaking berm from hell and got on a ribbon of berm next to the outside lane line where the surface was way better. That seemed to help me get the pace back up again. Have to say that that 17-mile stretch was just one long motha, but finally way the heck down the road I saw some signage that I figured signified the place where Rt 31 merges with I-75. From there it would only be about 4 miles into town. Did it!!!

Stopped at the jcn of 108/Rt 31 and downed a couple of Sweet & Salty’s to quench my sugar low, and then got on Rt 108 which parallels I-75 and began riding into town. It went pretty fast and before you know you it I had found a nice little campground in town and a place to buy my Bell’s microbrew and get some food. Got set up, walked into town and ate at this little local pizza shop where I had a full grinder and onion rings. This grinder is as big as 2 Subway footlongs, and the owner kind of thought I was crazy when he brought it to me out on the patio. I mean these things were huge! But I scarfed them down in no time at all. So basically I’ve eaten 3 foot long subs today.

Got the Bell’s Amber Ale and my world is very, very nice indeed, what with 115 miles in my legs, with me totally making up for yesterday’s ride to be back on schedule. Feel pretty good, not maxed out or wasted. Probably because I chose to put more saddle time in rather than fight the cross headwind and knock maybe, just maybe an hour off of that time. Tomorrow I begin my trek west on Rt 2 in the Upper Peninsula. I’ll be on Rt 2 for the rest of the trip. Not doing 115 miles tomorrow, that’s for sure, and I may even sleep a bit later and start a bit later after today’s ride. Well, time to crack a beer. Adios…….pete

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The weather dodged me!

6-23-10 Day 19: Stayed in Lake City, Michigan: No mileage due to “weather”.

Well, on three previous rides I had felt I dodged the weather bullet. Today I decided to play it safe and not ride into severe weather……..and the weather dodged me! Yup, woke up this morning to all three of the major local TV weather stations predicting this horrific storm front that was moving in from the west across Lake Michigan. Got on my computer and same thing, and even looking at the hr by hr, the prediction was for 5-7 hrs of severe weather. So I kind of took my time while watching and looking at the continual updates. My last glance at my weather channel Doppler map, at 8:30 AM showed the front just 30 min away from Lake City. So I hung out. And sure enough at 9 AM the rain started, and it rained pretty hard for a bit. Enough to convince me that today would be a total wash, and maybe even dangerous with the severe weather warnings of high wind and hail. So I rebooked my little efficiency for another day and thought I’d done well to avoid dangerous weather.

Then, by 10 AM the rain stopped with just the wind blowing 20-25 mph out of the southwest. And I started second-guessing my decision to stay put. But again, weather reports warned of a second round coming through just behind the first front. Ok, I’ll hang. And be darned if by 1 PM the freaking sun didn’t come out for little bits and pieces between the thick cloud cover. Turns out that just south of where I’m at, at about the Rt 55 boundary, the weather was indeed severe, with heavy winds and strong rain. But up north of 55, just cloudy and windy. Matter of fact this same front hit Ohio around 3 or 4 PM today with some really bad weather.

There was this rain free zone about 50 or so miles from here north that really didn’t experience anything but about an hour of rain. By 3 PM I was just shaking my head in exasperation knowing that I could have made it to Petoskey with relative ease. Just goes to show that the weather people are NOT as on top of it as we’re led to think. So…….I’ll pick up again tomorrow and try to get an early start, and maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to do 100+ miles and make it to Mackinaw City from here. If I can get in that ride I’d be caught up with my itinerary. If not, oh well, that’s life on the road. Guess it’s better to be safe than sorry.

On the plus side, I got a ton of work done on the computer. On the minus side – I just HATE sitting around all day when I should be riding. This is truly boring! Can’t really stomach too many more of these kinds of days. Now if it were storming like hell, well, I’d at least feel vindicated. But being hoodwinked by all the weather hoopla, that sucks!

Had to hold back in a massive way with my eating, holding out until 3:30 PM before hitting Subway for my 2 footlongs. Seems as though the hungry gremlin hits much harder on an off day. Probably because there’s just so much idle time – time to think non-stop about food! Between working I managed to catch 2 episodes of the Beverly Hillbillies and 2 Andy Griffith Shows…….and a WHOLE lof of Weather Channel, the same folks who goosed me today!!! Hope to have something more substantial for you tomorrow than a day like today of sitting on my (*^*%$ in a motel room..........Pete

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Heat & headwind part 2

6-22-10 Day 18: Edmore, Michigan to Lake City, Michigan: 71 miles in 5:25 hrs: Rt 66 the whole way.

I was awoke by the strong sounds of thunder and lightening last night around 3 in the morning, just as the evening news had forecast, and a front had moved in and nearly out by the time I cracked the drapes at 6:45 AM. Looked really windy though, and I was a bit concerned that my wonderful southeasterly from the day before would have turned out of my favor what with the bad weather coming from the northwest. Turned on the morning news and found out that the severe weather created power outages and some downed trees in the surrounding areas.

Good move to hit the cheap motel last night rather than get blown away in my little Hotel Hellie! Got on the road at 8:30 AM and started pedaling back to Rt 66 north, and I was fighting a northwesterly headwind from the first pedal stroke. It’s funny, but when you’re not doing something like this you really don’t think too much about wind velocity and wind direction, but ride a bike in it everyday for 5-7 hours and it becomes such a huge deal. You’re thinking about it all the time. Some days you’re graced with a killer tailwind and cranking out fast, effortless mileage. And other days you’re killing yourself riding into a vicious headwind where you can barely muster double digit mph. Today was the latter!

Then you add a everything but the kitchen sink to your trailer….and walla…….it’s a massive struggle to keep a rhythm. Once back on 66 I was fighting a gnarly crossheadwind and working pretty hard to maintain 12-13 mph. My wonderful berm from yesterday took a hiatus on me just north of the Rt 46/66 jcn, and for nearly 20 miles I was riding on this measly little 1-foot ribbon of berm – up and down a long series of rollers. At that time even averaging 11 mph was a major victory. Took me all the way to the town of Barryton before the ribbon berm and the undulating roadway ended and I got back to long, gradual climbing on a berm that was 4 feet wide.

Bad thing was that, and I’ve found this to be the case in my cross-country touring, as the day wears on the wind just keeps getting worse. So the 10-12 mph wind from morning had graduated to 15-20 mph by noon. I mean it was literally standing me up on the flats just so I could get my speed back up. And the wind keeps getting tougher as the day wears on – by 1 PM it was like riding into a wall! Rode 4 straight hrs before a stop, and that first stop was in Marion. Got a liter of ice cold coke and some bottle refills and hopped back on the bike. Now by Marion I was seriously questioning my route making decisions, as I was planning on taking Rt 55 west to Cadillac where I had found several good camping options. But with the wind just getting nastier and nastier I really couldn’t fathom going 10 miles west on Rt 55. And when I stopped and looked at the map at the 66/55 jcn, I saw that I’d simply be adding 10 miles to the day and get no further north than I would if I were to just ride into Lake City instead of Cadillac. Matter of fact I’d be about 5 miles further north in Lake City and put in a shorter day. Problem was that I didn’t have any camping info for Lake City.

What sealed my decision was the fact that Rt 131 out of Cadillac jcn with Rt 66 up in Kalkaska. So I’d save myself 10-15 miles of riding if I simply just stayed on 66. DONE! Not riding into the jaws of that headwind if I didn’t have to. So on to Lake City. By 2 PM the temp was a solid 85, and I mean it was freaking hot. Going through bottles of water pretty fast during the final hr of riding. But with Lake City being a big question mark for camping or even motel I tried to get it in my head that I may have to ride all the way to Kalkaska to find anything – that was the point in going thru Cadillac. By round about 5:25 hrs of saddle time I came into Lake City, and what did I see in the horizon………a Subway sign! Stopped at a gas station adjoining the Subway and checked about camping and the dude didn’t know of anything, but he said there was a motel just a block down the road.

Decided to check the motel just for the hell of it before I decided anything, and be darned if the owner didn’t tell me that since I was on a bike he’d give it to me for 40 bucks out the door. I’ll tell you, times must be tough up here in the vacation lands of Northern Michigan because there’s a lot of these little places that are now OOB. I jumped on the offer since it was just 15 bucks more than a campsite. Now this ain’t the Hilton mind you with candy on the bed and a bloody full complement of toiletry items. Nope, it’s a small efficiency room that’s got a fig, cable, a desk, and it’s clean and ……it has a freaking shower – perfect!

Heck the dude was so glad that I accepted the room that he ran in and get me an ice cold Mt Dew and a bottle of water. Went in and showered off another shaker’s worth of salt from my body and then went to the Subway and used my Subway card for 2 footlongs – a cold cut combo and an Itailan. Woofed them both down in 15 minutes. Then I went back and sat in a lawn chair in front of my room. They’re right smack in the sun, which I used to dry my cycling kit that I washed in the shower. While I was checking out my map an old timer was walking by to cash in his “Cobra” big 24 beer bottles at the gas station down the block. I nodded hello to him and then he came over. I could Immediately smell the beer he’d just consumed, and judging by the 5 bottles, and these puppies are big, that he was a bit trashed.

He asked me what I was doing, where I was going, the whole deal. Well this gent stood there and talked about everything from the hot weather up here, to what routes I should ride on as I headed north, to hunting, to his daughters, to his ex wife, to getting pulled over by the locals for DUI and being escorted home, to his part-time lawn cutting business. I mean this dude could talk. I mean he went on for a solid 40 min, with me politely nodding in agreement or occasionally throwing in a “no kidding” or a “wow.” My bud was 65 years old though looked to be 75. Good natured chap for sure. Then he wanted to know if I wanted to come over later and drink beer and have a frozen pizza. He was going to return the bottles, get some more and continue to keep his Tuesday afternoon party going.

I politely declined telling him that I’d just consumed 2 footlong subs and that I had to get to bed early so I could get up and ride early. Seemed like a nice old fellow but I just couldn’t do another gig like Ryan and I did back in Nipigon Canada where we were invited to stay with a group of partyers who were just off the charts drunk. I had to literally pry my way out of their house so I could go to bed.

Well, that’s the story for today. Looks like the potential for more severe weather tonight, and maybe tomorrow morning. So it’s another day of playing it as it comes weather wise. Still forecasted are the steamy temps. If weather isn’t an issue I should make the Mackinaw Bridge by Thursday and be nearly a day ahead of schedule. Late……….Pete

Monday, June 21, 2010

Last day together

View Day 17 Assyria to Edmore Michigan in a larger map

6-21-10 Day 17: Assyria, Michigan to Edmore, Michigan: 71 miles in 3:55 hrs: Rt 66 the whole way.

Last day with Judy and Jared. The previous night at the mosquito campground, and let me tell you that this place was a real dump, we were prisoners of our van and the tent. I mean other than cookikng dinner that was it – no more outside. This place had some of the rattiest trailers and RV’s we ever seen, all situated on Thompson Lake – nice lake but not by our campground. Nope, surrounding the beach was a virtual litter box of goose poop and algae. And the shower room……ouch! Wow what a dive

Anyway we literally couldn’t get out of the car once evening set in, and before we hit the hay I tried in vain to eliminate every blood sucker that got in the car when we were opening and shutting doors during our stay. Well, I got them all………but one. And that one damned mosquito just buzzed my head for a good hr. I was swinging a T-shirt in the dark hoping to score a kill but with no luck. Then a saw it, silhouetted in the rear window, just flying around ready to buzz us again, and I took this giant swing with the shirt – and silence. I had hit it, like turning on a fast ball, knocking it from the rear of the van to the front. And alas – sleep!

Got up in the morning and rather than suffer the bites of a gazillion skeeters if we were to make breakfast on the picnic table, we loaded up the van and headed to Nashville – Michigan – for a mom & pop breakfast place. Hell, Jared ended up with several quarter sized bites on his dome just taking down the tent. Ate at a nice little place and then drove back south to Assyria where we ended yesterday. Judy and I began with Jared doing the van, and low and behold we had a pretty nice little cross tailwind out of the southeast so we were able to really jam up Rt 66 with temps of 80+ degrees. Here 66 is still fairly flat to rolling, with these super long false flats that tend to get you out of the saddle just to stretch your legs out.

Made great time for 2 hrs with Judy up to the town of Ionia and then Jared took over on the bike. He pulled at 20-24 mph the whole time and I watched our average go from 16.5 to 18 over the course of the next 2 hrs. Most of the time we had great berm that was 5 feet wide with a rumble strip just off of the lane, and then occasionally it would narrow to 3 feet or so with no rumble strip. But nonetheless this is a good road to ride.

We made amazing time to my day’s destination of Edmore. Now with the 10 miles we rode ahead of schedule yesterday, that made today’s ride really a cake walk of 71 miles in 3:55 hours. I mean we were done at 1:45 pm. I felt like I’d just done a bloody warm up. But this worked out great for Judy and Jared to get on the road early and head back to Ohio. I opted for a cheap motel in Edmore where we could just unload my junk and take it to a first floor room. Worked out well.

Ended our trip together at this little gas station/store/restaurant right next to the motel where I got the “lunch buffet”. Ahhh yes, buffet, a word that brings tears to my eyes, especially when I’m riding 5+ hours each day. Yep, had 3 plates and soup of the day – cream of ham and potato. Well, the good time had to end, and they ended with a wonderful road trip with Jude and Jared to share some of my adventure across the US. Hugs and kisses to Judy and a big bear hug to Jared, aka pup, and they were off.

Sitting here in the motel room right now catching up on skype and emails and feeling like I’m ready to really put it down going solo with the yak and all my junk. Forecast is for chance of rain for the next couple of days, more like the afternoon thunderstorm kind of stuff, so hopefully I can just ride through it. Anyway, here we go, for 6 weeks of adventure. Talk to you soon…….Pete

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Ohio, Indiana, Michigan

6-20-10 Day 16: Columbia, Ohio to Assyria, Michigan: 82 miles in 5:20 hrs: Rt 20 west to Rt 327 west out of Indiana thru Orland, Indiana, thru Bronson, Michigan thru Sherwood, Michigan to Rt 66 north to Assyria, Michigan.

Last night was the antithesis to the night before at Eagle Lake Campground. At Eagle Lake we were in an upscale place where the people disappeared at 9 PM and went to bed…… Nettle Lake where it was a complete unadulterated party machine. Contrast like Icecream Social in Hudson to Arsenal Fest in Ravenna. These folks were stumbling drunk by 9 PM and whooping it up as if it were December 31, 1999. I mean screaming, loud music fire works, everything. So…….another night of negative sleep value for Judy and I. Jared had plugged in his Ipod and just got in his own world. Probably got in 5-6 hrs sleep max.

We packed up, ate breakfast and got us back to yesterday’s end point by 9 AM. Got moving with Judy for the beginning of the ride while Jared did support duties. Now I had looked at a map last night, and determined that if we did a series of county and township roads we’d knock about 15-20 miles off of my planned itinerary. But I did not know the name or numbers of the road. So we winged it. Made it through Indiana with a light westerly headwind in 2 hrs and took a north on Rt 327 into the unknow instead of riding all the way to Lagrange Indiana and then going north.

Now just to go back a bit. We had met a fellow cross country rider yesterday, Adam, who had started in Boston and was riding to LA. And let me tell you……this guy gets about a million hard ass points for the way he was doing it……not even toe clips, circa 1980’s 10-speed and a ton of gear loaded on front and rear panniers. And this guy was not the most svelte fellow in the world. It had taken him 4 weeks to get from Boston to where we saw him 25 miles east of Montpeiler…..and he was walking due to saddle sores! Dude did nothing but free camp at firestations and in the woods and had probably lost, according to him a good 15 lbs or more over the first month.

He looked like me from the 70’s when I first started touring, but at least I had toe clips. I was ahead of where he is right now with all the technology and advances in cycling 32 years ago. And I told him that he got major kudos from us for the way he was doing that trip. He’d already going through a bunch of broken spokes. Jared gave him an apple and he jumped in with Jared and I…..and he was OTB in 5 minutes. I felt for the guy, and I wish we could have helped him out for the day, but his schedule was for 40 miles/day…..yup. We just had to keep it rolling, and so that was the last we saw of Adam.

And Judy and I were wondering if we’d pass Adam this morning because he was aiming for Angola yesterday as the destination and us just the Indiana line. But no Adam. Anyway, went up Rt 327 and then just kind of winged it with all these unnamed roads on the Michigan state map. And we did pretty danged good not having any road numbers or names. Got through Bronson Michigan and then Judy switched with Jared for the bike. Jared and I blew through Sherwood, which had seen a tornado touchdown from Friday night’s storm and where trees were just splintered and scattered all over the place. Clean up crews were still pulling stuff down and sawing downed trees. The we went up to the Rt 66 jcn, my home for the next 3-4 days of riding.

Went into Battle Creek, and had to deal with this pseudo freeway section where we couldn’t determine whether bikes were legal or illegal. But we made it, with Jared flatting out in the middle of the freaking freeway. Then through Battle Creek, which is kind of a crappy place – But NOTHING like riding through Erie Pennsylvania!

Then up the road another 10 miles. What we saved in doing our little short-cut was nearly 15-20 miles of riding, and we were through Battle Creek by 2:30 PM. Just wanted to get out of there and have a start spot for tomorrow that was totally away from the city. This seemed like a mellow ride compared to the last two days for sure, and I almost felt like I was cheating by just going 82 miles, yet I’m still ahead of schedule by about 10 miles.

Had to pack up the bikes and drive 15 miles northwest to find a campground, and this place, well, it makes last night’s place look like Shangri-La. We’re camped next to a mosquito infested creek and three-quarters of the campers in this place look like they should be condemned. Judy kind of shuddered when we pulled in, same with me, but…….nothing else around anywhere. Sometimes you just have to take what’s available and this eve is a case in point. Right now we’re all sitting in my van, with the AC going full blast, me blogging and working on the computer, and staying inside away from the mosquito swarms out on our picnic table. I have a hunch I’ll be starting up the van, cranking the AC and letting this thing get cold this eve because we CAN NOT open any windows.

Tomorrow is the last ride with company. Judy and Jared will go the day with me and I’ll get a campsite and get set up and then they’ll head back home. From there it’s just me and my little heavier than hell yak.

This is all rolling farm country up here in Michigan but will get hillier as I go north. Great berm on Rt 66 and easy to ride on with a 29er. I used to ride this section of road way back in the 70’s and 80’d when I’d tour in around the Great Lakes. Great section of road to get you to the UP of Michigan. Four days and I’ll be crossing into the UP and ride along the north shore of Lake Michigan. Well, shower time and beer thirty. All the best……Pete

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Heat, headwind and hell

6-19-10 Day 15: Woodville, Ohio to Columbia, Ohio: 82 miles in 5:46 hrs: Rt 20 west to Maumee to the Wabash CannonBall Rails Trail, to Rt 20A west to Columbia, Ohio, just 2 miles east of the Ohio-Indiana border.

Very tough day indeed with my old friend the westerly winds. Let me catch you up with last evening as it was pretty eventful. We had a severe thunderstorm come through last eve, and tornados touched down in a couple of place in our surrounding area. This area of Ohio is a virtual “tornado alley” for sure, and we were giving emergency information prior to getting setup at our campground. So it’s serious out here. Anyway, Jared slept on the bench seat last eve, and it was so hot that we left the van doors open – and then the storm came through with intense winds. We battened down the van and toughed it out for a half hour. Then with the heat getting intense inside, we opened the doors again – and a gazillion little gnats came home to roost. They were just incredible, buzzing around our heads, legs, torsos – everything. But it was so hot we were all sleeping without covers or sleeping bags.

Eventually we had to try to cover ourselves to keep the bugs off, which resulted in us sweating like crazy with the covers on. Now the camp host had come over earlier to tell us she left the office doors open for us because of the storms, and said we could go inside and sleep if need be. Well, about 1 AM Judy opted for the office. Thirty min later I was in the office. Thirty min later Jared was in the office. We totally ditched the gnat infested van for the sanctity of the office. Don’t think any of us got more than 3 hours sleep all night. Those bugs were pure hell!!!

The camp host woke us at 7 AM and we rousted, ate a quickie breakfast and then Judy and I took the first leg, riding with a southerly wind which was a crosswind. We got through Perrysburg, crossed the river to Maumee and then hopped on the Rails Trail. But what I though was to be a wonderful 63-mile trail was only 10 miles paved and then 53 miles of gravel, dirt, ruts and old rail ballast. So we were forced to get back on the road after a wonderful 10-mile section of Trail. Got on Rt 20A and continued west after a little bit of jigging and jagging to get back on track.

Judy put in about 36 miles with me – getting off just in time for the wind to turn from a due west direction at 20 mph right in our faces. We were in for a long rest of the day. The temps today were nearing 90 degrees, so couple that with fighting the wind and ………..ouch! Jared took over on the bike and Judy in the van. Thankfully Jared got to the front and just pulled the rest of the freaking day, into this insane headwind out of the west. We were working our asses off to get anywhere from 13.5-15 mph – him more than me! So we continued down Rt 20A, which is pretty flat. No really flat, so flat that you can see miles and miles down the road. It’s mentally defeating when you look down the road and deal with a nasty headwind like we had. Jared asked me what I though of when I had to deal with winds like that and I told him I just let my mind run the gamut, anything but fixating on the wind and the flat road. We’d switch in and out of the saddle every 10 or 15 min just to get a different feel to the legs and the butt. We got to the day’s destination, Montpelier at about 1:30 pm, all salt encrusted, sweaty and disheveled from the intense heat and headwind.

God, part of me wanted to call it a day right then and there – Jared to. But with it being so early in the day I just had to put in another hour to get a good full day of riding in, despite the fact that we were right on schedule with yesterday’s longer ride and today’s shorter ride. So after pounding a quart of poweraid each, Jared and I pressed on on Rt 576 north to get on Rt 20. We did that with a nice crosswind and actually felt rejuvenated…..only to turn back into the westerly headwind on Rt 20, and bang, right back into the jaws of hell.

Now something about riding into a westerly, in the morning it’s fairly light, and then, slowly, over the course of several hours it just gets worse and worse, until you get to about 1-2PM and it’s just vicious hard. Well, that final stretch down Rt 20 west to Columbia Ohio was just that – pure hell. Jared was in Z3 the whole freaking time. Me, I was hot and suffering like a dog in that heat. We’d knock down water bottles in a matter of 10-15 minutes a bottle. It was crazy. So while we were in our last miles of suffering Judy was looking for a beer store and a place to camp. She found camping but no beer store, and she told us that about 2 miles from the Indiana border, right past a Subway. I was DONE, right then and there, right next to the Subway. I figured I’d ask a Subway person about beer store and camping.

Went in just salted to the max. I looked like a pillar of salt for God’s sake, sticky, soaked and stained. Got our subs and the sub guy told us of a place called Nettle Lake for camping and beer store. DONE! And here we are, at Nettle Lake just off the Indiana border, sipping beers and listening to country music next door and the sounds of guys all lit up playing horseshoes just around the corner. Jared and I dipped in the lake and it was just glorious. Judy cooked up some Indian Peanut Chicken and noodles…….and life is good.

I’m totally wasted today with so little sleep from last eve. We have to get some quality sleep in tonight or tomorrow and another hot day will likely do me in. We’ll be in Indiana for a short spell and then go north into Michigan, heading towards Battle Creek.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Back in the saddle

6-18-10 Day 1: Hudson, Ohio to Woodville, Ohio : 105 miles in 6:18 hrs: Barlow Rd west to Truxell Rd west to Akron-Penn Rd north to Rt 303 west to Rt 20 west.

Got it rolling again after a week of R&R and it felt pretty great. Had Jared ride point for me for his 67-mile segment and it really helped me conserve energy. We got going at 8 AM and floated through Peninsula and Richfield with no problem. Then came “Big Da Da between Richfield and Hinckley, a monster 17% hill climb on Rt 303. Jared pulled ahead of me and I just spun easy, trying to conserve energy for the remainder of the day. I knew from past rides that the stretch between Peninsula and Brunswick were going to be the toughest part of the next 4-5 days of riding. And couple that with the 85-degree temps today, and going mellow through the hills was definitely the way to play it.

Riding 303 through Brunswick was kind of crappy, and it had totally grown since the last time I’d ridden through there – about 10 years ago! Once through Brunswick 303 is just a nice country road out in the middle of farm country. We cruised through Valley City, Lagrange and Wakeman with a very nice southerly wind. I just echeloned on the right side of Jared’s rear wheel and conserved energy the whole time. Kind of nice to have a bud do the domestique work for you on a trip like this for sure. Once we came to the end of 303 in East Townsend and jumped on Rt 20 west, things changed. From there the road is frequented by a gazillion 18 wheelers and big time traffic with the road going dbl land. This is where my echeloning really helped as the wind just got downright nasty at times.

He did an awesome job getting us up to a solid 16 mph average as we road to the outskirts of Norwark. Then – problem. I had written Judy instructions to just go 20 west all the way through Norwalk, Bellvue and Freemont, but just outside of Norwalk 20 west departed to a freeway section where bikes weren’t allowed. We’d have to ride through town and as far west as we could go without using freeway 20. This was a fairly new stretch of road so I was kind of in a pickle as to what to do. Bad news considering that I had figured Judy to be just 5-15 min behind us based on our mileage. If she continued on freeway 20 she’d miss us completely. So Jared ended up waiting at the 20 west turnoff while I continued into town on what became Rt 61 south.

Finally, inside of Norwalk, I stopped and asked someone what the deal was with the 20 west section of freeway that was no on my map. Guy told me that it was a bypass, and that I was on old Rt 20 west, which had changed names to Rt 61 south. So I kept rolling on alone. By then temps had hit a solid 85-degrees and I was cooking. Prior to Jared hanging back, we were both about on the hypoglycemia track, and I was just craving an ice cold coke or two. Just figured that Judy would be through in a matter of minutes so I kept rolling on. Well, made it through Bellvue and still no Judy and Jared. Then I started thinking that maybe she had an accident or something grim. I mean it was an hour and still nothing.

The road was flat, the trucks were just flying by and the heat felt nearly oppressive is it just kept climbing higher. I’d gone conservative with my water but by then I was out, and the old inside of the mouth was beginning to get dry and sticky.

Now my destination for the day was Freemont, and 5 hrs into the ride I saw a sign that read: Freemont 6 miles. “Not good” I thought as I had figured Judy to be through an hour earlier. Then as if out of a movie, I heard Judy give a yell and Jared pulled the van over to the side of the road. Jared had waited 40 min for Judy at that bypass, and thing was that the freeway part just went around Norwalk and then went back to general road. He could have ridden the whole section with no problems for Judy as we were WAY ahead of her at that time.

Anyway, all intact. Judy got on the bike and we decided to ride further west than Freemont for the day since I was ahead of schedule and it was only 1:30 pm in the afternoon. The wind had slowly shifted from out of the southwest and was turning into a bit of a headwind, which hurt 85 miles into the ride. Our stretch down 20 west was very crappy, seeing that we had this freaking rumble strip in the middle of the berm which forced us into this little 2-3 foot wide section of berm to ride on. Despite the wind and the shit berm Judy did an excellent job hanging in there, especially when I had all those miles in my legs and she had sat in a car for 3 hrs.

We jammed into Woodville as a final day’s destination and immediately hit a Subway for a quickie glycogen refill. Jared had gotten the scoop on a camping area and we went there straight away – nice little place situated on an old limestone quarry with a big lake in the crater. Only problem was that there is no tenting. So Jared was good with just sleeping under the stars tonight while we sleep in hotel Dodge 1500 Van.

Did an excellent dip in the lake. Judy fixed an amazing dinner on the grill and now we’re just chilling with some beers. Great day, albeit a hot one, and I eeked out 105 miles for the day. We’ll try to get an early start tomorrow with the forecast for 90-degrees later in the day. Well………Beer thirty!! Late……..Pete