Tour Update – UP and Ferry!

The tour is on. The begining and end are not going to be a lot of fun but I worked it out.  Here’s the plan:

Day 1: Drive 12 hours from Alexandria VA to Ludington MI. This is midway up the eastern side of Lake Michigan. Park the car (for free!) at the ferry parking lot. Stay in hotel in Ludington. Celebrate end of hellish car ride.

Day 2: Ride one mile to ferry. Take SS Badger ferry to Manitowoc Wisconsin. Try really hard not to puke for four hours. Begin bike tour (about 50miles the first day).

Days 3 – 13: Ride to and across the Upper Peninsula of Michigan (between Lakes Michigan and Superior). This will mostly involve Adventure Cycling’s North Lakes route. Take ferry to car-free Mackinac Island. Ride around island. Take ferry to Mackinac City on the lower peninsula. Ride the eastern shore of Lake Michigan back to Ludington. It should be a total distance about 850 miles. Crash in hotel. Eat all foods. Drink all drinks.

Day 14: Drive 12 hours home. Celebrate end of hellish car ride.

Anybody want to come with?



Working on Plan B

Because of inept planning and some unanticipated scheduling conflicts, my bike tour of Indiana, Michigan and Wisconsin is in serious doubt. I bought the Adventure Cycling North Lake route maps and thought I could cover the distance in about 2 weeks. I’d need an additional 2 days to drive to and from the starting point at my in-laws house in north central Indiana.

Then I studied the maps. It looks like the route would be about 200 miles longer than I thought. The route goes from my in-laws’ house to Mackinac Island. Then I would ride west through the upper peninsula of Michigan. I’d enter Wisconsin and ride to Manitowoc where I’d pick up a ferry across the lake to Ludington, Michigan. What I failed to take into account was the mileage from Ludington back to my in-laws’. That’s an additional 230 miles pushing the tour over 1,200 miles. A comfortable touring pace would be 70 miles so 1,200 miles would be at least 19 days. Not gonna happen.

So here are some alternate plans:

  • Find somewhere near the ferry in Ludington to park my car. This would eliminate the 460 to and from my in-laws’ place. Now we’re down around 800 miles and 11 or 12 days. Add two days of driving (12 hours each way) and no complications (including wasting a day waiting for the ferry) and the tour is doable. I am investigating parking options.
  • Dump the entire Lake Michigan thing. Drive to upstate New York and park my car at my sister’s place just north of Albany. Do the Adventure Cycling Adirondack Park Loop which is 394 miles. I could even add about 60 miles riding to Burlington Vermont and back for the heck of it. That’s 460 miles or so. A bit hillier than the North Lakes route so I figure 7 – 8 days. Plus two days of driving. Doable.
  • Drive to Albany as above. Do the Adventure Cycling Green Mountain Loop. The loop is 376 miles. Albany to the southernmost point of the loop in Ticonderoga NY adds about 100 miles each way for a total tour distance of 576 miles. This would take about 9 – 10  days allowing for hills. Total days including driving is 11 – 12.

I had thought about doing the latter two loop tours in one go, but that would be around 1,000 miles. Hilly miles. Not gonna happen.

I need to pull the trigger on one of these alternatives in a few days to allow for shipment of the maps from Adventure Cycling.

Tough call….

2016 Coming into Focus

My 2016 bicycling calendar is starting to shape up. I just signed up for the 5 Boro Ride in New York City. By all accounts this is a big mess of a ride. Two night’s lodging and the ride itself will cost over $400, more than $10 per mile. I’ve never ridden in NYC or spent much time there so it’s no guts no glory time. YOLO.

For a tour I am trying to decide between three tours. One is a figure eight loop in upstate New York, Vermont and New Hampshire. This combines the Adirondack Park and Green Mountain Loop tours from the Adventure Cycling Association. It’s about 830 miles. Logistics are simplified by the fact that I have family in the Albany area so I can drive the 400 miles there and drop the car off.  This tour would take about 2 weeks. It would add New Hampshire to the states I’ve ridden in. And involved a ferry across Lake Champlain.

An alternative would be an out and back ride from Albany to Bar Harbor, Maine by way of the ACA Northern Tier Route. This would involve riding from Albany to Ticonderoga then heading to Maine. This is about 1,000 miles round trip. It would allow me to pick off two states that I haven’t ridden in (Maine and New Hampshire), let me visit Acadia National Park, and maybe even develop a taste for lobster rolls.  This one is pretty hilly.

An second alternative would be to ride the North Lakes route (or most of it) from Indiana to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Wisconsin. This would involve some ferries including one across Lake Michigan.  The total mileage is somewhere between 980 and 1,050 miles. This would take me about 17 or 18 days and add two states (WI and MI) to the states I’ve ridden in.  I would start at my in-law’s house outside North Judson, IN. Once again simplifying logistics although the drive is something like 700 miles.

Today I saw a tweet from the Advernture Cycling Association. The ACA announced some changes to their routes. One of the changes moves the start of the North Lakes route in Indiana about 60 miles or so to the west. The new route passes within two miles of my in-law’s house. Are the gods trying to tell me something?



Now We’re Getting Somewhere – Taking a Mulligan

I needed a grease injector to service my pedals. It’s a bit of a mess trying to do it with a baby medicine injector. Not enough oomph in the lilttle plastic plunger.

My local bike store doesn’t sell them but Performance does. I could have ordered it online but that would have taken away a prefectly good excuse to ride over to their Springfield store. A couple of weeks ago, friend of the blog, bike commuter, and Friday Coffee Club devotee Reba told me that Mulligan Road was now open.

Mulligan Road is the new road that connects US 1 with Telegraph Road near Fort Belvoir. Woodlawn Road used to serve this purpose but the military closed it for security reasons after the 9/11 attacks. Traffic has been a mess ever since. In true Washington area style it only took 13 years to fix the problem.

The road seems to have been recently renamed, Jeff Todd Way. Jeff Todd was a local businessman who was very active in the community. He died in a car crash in 2011.

Whatever the name, it was time to check out the road on two wheels. Big Nellie got the call.  I stepped out of the house and was smacked by searing heat. Labor Day may be the first day of meteorological autumn but somebody forgot to tell the weather gods.

To get to the new road, you ride the Mount Vernon Trail to the end at Mount Vernon. Then you keep going down the Mount Vernon Memorial Highway all the way to US 1. At US 1 you’ll see a mess of road construction which will soon be cleared up. Cross US 1 and you are are on the old Mulligan Road. It has been moved a bit to the south and widened. (The old entrance to Woodlawn Plantation has been removed. Access is now available from US to the south. Good luck with that if you are on a bike.)

In a half mile you come to Pole Road. This used to be the end of the line for Mulligan Road, but not anymore. A new road winds up (and I do mean up) through Fort Belvoir. It’s a four lane highway with a 40 mile per hour speed limit. The road isn’t quite done yet. For one thing it needs another layer of asphalt to make the road bed even with the concrete edge of the road. The right lane seems extra wide which I hope means there will be a bike lane.

Up, up, up. Put me in the zoo.

After cresting the hill, you get a nice reward descending through broad curves until you start to ride up again to Telegraph Road. Telegraph is a bit of a mess heading south. The hill you just came down now goes back up, and then some. There’s no bike lane (yet) so it’s just you and the constant flow of impatient drivers yearning to get to I-95 and go absolutely nowhere.

Just before the crest of the hill there is a sign saying “End of Bike Lane” which suggests that maybe there is supposed to be one. Not 30 yards later a new bike lane begins. Signage is not VDOT’s strong suit. This bike lane continues all the way to US 1 south of Fort Belvoir. I turned right at Beulah Road expecting to do battle with heavy car traffic but to my surprise I was given a bike lane of my very own. Yay! It continued all the way through Kingstowne to the Franconia Springfield Parkway. (It wasn’t actually my own. It was used by a man driving a car while messing with his smartphone. He kept weaving all over the road. I caught up to him at a red light and yelled at him to put the damned thing away before he killed somebody.)

I could have taken a side path all the way to Performance but the wide paved shoulder on the Parkway was too nice to pass up.

Mission accomplished thanks to the folks behind the Fairfax County Comprehensive Bicycle Plan.

The ride back was more better because the other side of Telegraph was in much better shape including an on-road bike lane. I turned right onto Mulligan/Todd and saw a wide side trail. I do hope this is not going to replace on on-road bike lane because the right lane is extra wide and can easily accomodate a bike lane.

Ever notice how the ride back seems so much faster once you know where the roads go? I flew down the long hill on Mulligan and zoomed right across Pole Road without so much as recognizing it.

Mulligan/Jeff Todd will be finished soon. I have sent a note to Adventure Cycling so that they may consider adding it to their Atlantic Coast route.

I took a whole bunch of pix so you can see for yourself over on my Flickr page.