Yesterday’s last 15 miles were no fun. Good thing I didn’t camp out because violent storms came through Escanaba overnight. I managed to hobble to the hotel pub for a sammich and a couple of Great Lake Brewing’s Oberons before falling asleep in my room while watching the Nats game. (I woke up. Then they lost. Maybe I should take a Nats vacation, too. Nevertheless, I am holding Klarence fully responsible for their mediocre play while I am gone.)
I ate a truly uninspiring hotel breakfast (oatmeal, fruit, English muffin. OJ, coffee) then rolled out, headed for Spindrift Cycles. I got to the address right on the lake and the shop was nowhere to be found. I checked my phone. Spindrift Cycles is in Ludington, not Escanaba. Erp.
Lucky for me I passed another bike shop. Mr. Bike and Ski was open and its three employees were eager to help me out. Tom and Hunter worked on my bike, and I talked with Micky about bike touring. She gave me some great info on the road ahead to Manistique.
I noticed that in Escanaba the Fargo accent is behind me. Now people seem to have an Ontario accent, eh.
I headed north along Little Bay Du Noc toward Rapid River. The route took me through the nicer section of Ludington and the bayside town of Gladstone. On the way out of Gladstone I was briefly on US 2, a major trucking route with heavy traffic. My big paved shoulder disappeared twice, once for a narrow underpass and again for a bridge over the Escanaba River. Eek.
Made it unscathed.
I was cruising along with ease, a marked contrast to yesterday’s slog. And my mysterious auto shifts had disappeared. Tom and Hunter done good. Also the flat road and tailwind probably had something to do with it.
At Rapid River, I was on US 2, heading east-ish. US 2 had a 12-foot paved shoulder with a rumble strip between me and the traffic. And the road was mostly flat. And the tailwind persisted. And the sun was shining. And it was 70 degrees. Not. Half. Bad.
Alas, bad weather was forecast for 2 pm onward. My 11 am start did not bode well. Bad weather up here is super violent thunderstorms with hail and lightning and lions and tigers and bears.
Two pm came and went and the clouds were a-buildin’. But no rain fell. I pulled into a roadside store for bananas, quinoa, and kale. Sadly, all they had was beer and junk food. I settled for the latter and an energy drink.The proprietor let me use the bathroom. It was an outhouse. We’re yoopin’ now!
When I came out the rain was starting. The owner was talking with a customer. It seems the customer’s wife’s car was ruined by a hail storm yesterday. It came and went in only a few minutes.
The rain was very light. It came and went as I rode the second half of my ride. I left US 2 and headed on back roads for the last 16 miles. The clouds thickened. The skies darkened. Rumbles. Flashes of heat lightning. Then the winds picked up and the temperature fell.
Now I had a tailwind and a half. And a crosswind and a half. And deafening thunder. And cloud to ground lightning. And rain. Harder and harder and harder. I pedaled on making note of shelter along the way. Anything would do. A carport. An overhang in front of a closed store. An abandoned house.
Nothing focuses the mind like impending doom. My friend the Great Flogini calls my bike commute my meditation. Meditation ain’t got nothing on a bike ride in a violent storm.
With six miles to go I was totally soaked but flying along at 18 miles per hour. Tailwinds are the bomb. As I pulled into Manistique, the rain was so heavy I could not see where I was going. Cars were surrendering, pulling over to the side of the road. I pulled into a gas station and stopped next to the gas pumps under a canopy that did little to keep me sheltered. Laurel and Nicolette were working in the station’s minimart. They told me to come in with my bike. SAVED!!!
We chatted until the rains subsided. They set me up with a hotel room east of town and sent me on my way down a street that was closed for construction. Laurel promised a smooth ride. What she didn’t know was that the storm drains were apparently covered. The street had at least two feet of water on it. No lie.
I pedaled through one lake then stopped at the next. I am glad I did because the deep water obscured the torn up road beneath. I’d have fallen for sure. I managed to find a somewhat dry path around the perimeter and after riding through some construction and other town activities (there’s a folk festival of some sort in town this weekend), I walked into the hotel lobby and everyone had a good laugh. I was utterly drenched. No worries. Take your bike in your room. Have a cup of coffee. Do some laundry. Relax.
Don’t mind if I do.
I was worried about getting caught in the storm. And I know it’s incredibly irresponsible and stupid to ride in this sort of thing. But it was such a rush!!!!
Tomorrow, dry and cool is the order of the day. I ride until I don’t feel like it anymore. It is likely my last full day on the UP.