UP Bike Tour Day 6: Where Does All the Water in Lake Michigan Come from, Daddy?

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.

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?



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?



Some Ride/Hike Ideas for 2016

About a year ago I was admonished by a friend for sounding wishy washy regarding my 2015 vacation plans. “Stop planning. All we have is today” was her way of saying don’t plan, DO!  Irony alert: in January 2014 she told me of her plans to obtain certification to teach in DC schools and to open a business. She followed through on none of it, eventually leaving town. Even so, she had a point.

I suck at advance planning. Somehow I managed to do a bike tour, a non-bike trip around the world, nearly a dozen day hikes, half a dozen bicycling events, and take in a bunch of Nationals games. So with that in mind I began thinking about things to do in 2016.

I anticipate one non-biking vacation (to Sweden and thereabouts) to visit my daughter.  (A return to Thailand in the dry season would be nice but I can’t face the 18 hours of flying right now. Maybe 2017.) That will leave plenty of vacation time. So here are some ideas I am tossing around in my head.

Hiking: there are still many, many hikes to do in the Shenandoah National Park. Also, I have barely scratched the surface of hiking in nearby Maryland and Pennsylvania along the Appalachian Trail. One possibility is to gear up and do some overnights. I have never done this and it would be an interesting extension of my day hikes (not to mention save on driving home after a day’s worth of hiking).

Biking Events: WABA swears that it’s going to offer a century ride this year.  If it works into my schedule, I’ll definitely do it. Then there are the usual events: Vasa, Cider, 50 States, Backroads, and Great Pumpkin. I’ve done all of these several times, but the Backroads course was moved to West Virginia this year. I was in Australia and missed it. I can’t wait to do the new version. Two more that I keep threatening to do are RAGBRAI and the Five Boro Ride in New York City. Both of them are cattle drives. Both offer logistical challenges. Some of what follows are a lot easier to do.

Bike Trails: There are all kinds of cool trails around here that I haven’t ridden. Here’s a list of Virginia trails:

  • The Virginia Capital Trail goes between Williamsburg and Richmond. This could be a fun 2-day deal or a long single day ride.
  • High Bridge State Park down near Farmville and Appomattox looks really cool with a long, high bridge.
  • The Virginia Creeper Trail is a bit of a drive from DC. It’s only 34 miles but could be a beast of an out and back ride.
  • The New River Trail is a 57-mile trail that looks really promising with 30 trestles and bridges and two tunnels. This is a two-day ride with camping I think.

In Pennsylvania the Pine Creek Rail Trail runs 63 miles through the Grand Canyon of the East. Looks like a good overnight camping round trip to me.

Bike Tours: Right now I have eight possibilities on my list. All in the Eastern U.S.

  • Skyline Drive and Blue Ridge Parkway: This is a monster tour, 578 miles from Front Royal, Virginia to Cherokee, North Carolina. How the hell I’d get back is anybody’s guess. It’s also super hilly so I figure I’d be lucky to average 45 miles per day, 13  days of riding. This could be beyond my physical abilities. (Never stopped me before.)
  • The Natchez Trace: This 444 mile road is truck free. Tack on another 90 miles or so and the route would go from Nashville to New Orleans. Logistics on this one is a bit pricey (two bike flights). Bike Friday to the rescue?
  • Figure 8 in Vermont, New Hampshire, and New York: Adventure Cycling has two routes that form a figure 8. One loops around Lake Champlain, the other does a lap of the Adirondack Park. This one would be logistically pretty easy as I have family in the Albany area where the Adirondack route begins. The total distance exceeds 700 miles. The riding in Vermont and upstate New York is incredibly nice. Also weather up yonder is pretty much perfect for cycling in June – August.
  • La Route Verte: There are over 5,000 kilometers of marked bike routes in Quebec. The possibilities are endless. Then there is the interesting prospect of conversing in my horrid, mostly forgotten high school French. The idea of cycling to Quebec City, which I have never seen, or around Montreal is pretty intriguing. Getting there is a bit of a haul, but c’est la vie.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – North: Amtrak now has roll on bike service on the East Coast. Theoretically (relying on Amtrak is always an iffy proposition) I could take my bike on a trail and ride to Brunswick Maine, then ride up to Acadia National Park and ride all or part way home.
  • A New Kind of Rail Trail – South: Alternatively, I could take the train to Florida, ride to Key West, ferry to Tampa and ride across the state to Amtrak in Miami. Or just ride home.
  • Around Lake Michigan: This one starts in Monroeville, Indiana, one of the most bike touring friendly small towns in the US. It heads north through lower Michigan into the Upper Peninsula. Then across to Wisconsin and returns by crossing Lake Michigan on a ferry.  It’s 1,100 miles. Logistics would be simplified by using my in-laws house in north central IN as an alternative starting point.

In the increasingly likely (yet still somewhat improbable) possibility that I retire there is this:

  • The Trans Am/Western Express/Northern Tier Cross Country Ride: There remains a faint possibility that I might retire this year. If so, adios, amigos! I don’t know which route I’d take but the possibilities are numerous. The Trans Am is the classic route from Yorktown to the Oregon coast through Yellowstone. The Western Express shortens the Trans Am by taking a b-line across Utah and Nevada for California. The Northern Tier goes close to the US-Canada border.

Once I find out when the WABA Century and the Sweden trip will happen, I’ll pick two of the tours and as many events and hikes as my aging bones can handle.