Adventure Home Necessary Options
Michigan's U.P. and Wisconsin, including Door County - September 2000
At the end of this year's DALMAC tour, I arrived in St. Ignace and camped overnight with those waiting for the return bus the next day. When the buses drove away from St. Ignace, I was still packing. Don'tcha sometimes wish they left maybe an hour later? I didn't buy a ticket, because I had planned all along to turn left at St. Ignace.
Riding alone has its benefits. No schedules! No pace! No sag line. Nobody to hear you 'sing'. You can make up your own tunes, which don't even have to be 'in tune'. You can make up your own words, and they don't have to have an iambic pentameter rhythm. Shucks, they don't even have to come close to rhyming! I'm pretty sure of one thing -- I was probably only about 200 miles of open road away from having all the qualifications to be a rap star. Just think of it. Fame, fortune, and an assumed IQ of 80.
I kept encountering connections to the familiar. As I was leaving a party store on US 2, I met a guy who worked in Lansing and knows the rider in our club with the most miles each year - Edie Belcher. Just beyond Little Sturgeon Bay, I stopped for water at a home. I chatted for a half hour with the couple who lived there as I finished the soda they offered me. As I was leaving with two water bottles of ice water, they introduced themselves as the Claflins - related to other club members. Many people knew someone who rides, or had ridden, on DALMAC. Others knew folks who had bicycled across the United States. I even met five cyclists who were on longer adventures than mine.
I wanted an adventure. I defined that as "many days with everything unpredictable". At the top of the "unpredictable" list was where I would stay each night. Beyond St. Ignace, I usually didn't know the place I would stay for the night until I could see it. At the most, I was less than 3 miles away. It was often at dusk, and occasionally after dark.
Since I wanted to increase my chances for unusual experiences, I decided to avoid commercial and private campgrounds with their gravel or paved pads, small sites, and noisy camping vehicles (and occupants). I was always in my tent. I paid to camp only 4 times, and three sites had nothing to which I could object.
This was a "take what comes and deal with it" adventure. I had no television, no radio, no Internet, and only once was a newspaper handy. I only rode in the rain twice, for a total of perhaps 15 minutes. It did, however, rain at least three nights, and two nights in a row there were thunderstorms.
I didn't rely heavily on eating dead animals but, when I got home, I still had some of one that tasted just as good as when I picked up in the Upper Peninsula. Next time, turkeyjurkey will be on my list of must have items.
I no longer take for granted that opportunities for bathing will be available. I'd thought of wading into a lake, stream or drainage ditch to remove the first layer. Only once on Green Bay, where wading out over a hundred yards into cool water didn't even get my knees wet, did I take that opportunity. Rain showers could be used, but there was always the possibility that the sky would clear just as I was all soaped up. And a nightly sponge bath didn't work either because of a lack of water, being tired, or attention demanded by flying insects. I discovered too late that most state parks will charge a couple bucks during the day if you just want to use their showers.
And then, there was the toughest day of the whole tour - the last one. I didn't want it to be over, but it was. Sarah had kept her rubber on the road; there were no crashes or even flats. I suffered no injuries, unusual aches and pains, or other strange personal setbacks while on the road. It was only after returning home that things began to happen.
My first time behind the wheel, I found the car wanted to only go 45 in a 55 zone. Any faster, and I got the feeling I could miss something. Once on the Interstate, I had trouble breaking 65 without real concentration.
Several days after returning home, I began to favor one knee. I used to get knee problems from riding too hard. This was clearly not the case, so I figured it must have come from not riding. I promised myself to ride enough to prevent this condition from happening again. If you want to ride, any reason is adequate!
In the parts that follow, I'll tell you about the shortcomings of planning and anticipation, although these things can be half the fun of your adventure. I'll tell you of decisions made that were bad, but resulted in a better tour. And then, there were the interesting people and animals that kept presenting themselves to me.
After DALMAC, changes happened. No baggage truck to load by 9 a.m. Taking a different road wasn't "cheating". Food was totally up to me. So was where to stay. With all this flexability, I lost no time in exercising it.
I got up late. I got packed and on the road late. I stopped at the first scenic overlook, and most every one after that. A guy on a large BMW motorcycle took a genuine interest in Sarah, so I let him ride her, 45 pounds of camping gear and all. He did OK. And he liked her. Imagine that from a guy on a 300 pound, $5,000 wrist exerciser!
I stopped to take pictures of a skinny, nervous fox. I had passed within six feet of it while in MY bikelane on US 2. On the whole trip, I saw few bicyclists, and only six other bike tourists. Alex Eglinton from Battle Creek was one, and I saw him on the road twice on the first day. Alex had helped with routing advise during the planning stage. Thanks, Alex.
My first big disappointment happened on this first full day in the UP. I had studied the maps. US 2 seemed so close to Lake Michigan I figured it was good I had fenders. I even planned my primary route to go inland 20 miles, once I reached Escanaba. I would certainly have had my fill of beaches and big water by then. I was wrong, so I took the "shoreline" highway beyond Escanaba, and still only saw the Lake 5% of the time. Why is it that you tend not to double check the stuff that seems obvious?
I'd heard that the Cut River Bridge and Scenic Overlook was a place worth stopping for. When I got to Cut River Road, I gladly left the traffic of US 2 for a quiet ride in a wooded area. Wasn't long before I found myself back on US 2, apparently having detoured around the place I wanted to see. Oh, well!
A mile north of US 2, Engadine was the first stop on the Shoreline Circle Tour, but it immediately gave me another problem. Was it pronounced "Inj add' een" or "An gad' eyen" or maybe "Ing a dee' nee"? Turned out I was trying too hard - "Ing' a dine" was proper.
If there was more to it than a school and a convenience/grocery store, I didn't notice. But attached to the front of the store was an old time ice cream soda fountain. It was decorated 50s style and had good stuff.
The sun was starting to hide. I put on my jacket and tights and headed west, hoping to find a place to camp before having to rejoin US 2. I noticed a snowmobile trail. Bingo - wrong season! I rode into a woods and chose a place off the trail.
Got my tent set up and looked around. I was smack dab in the intersection of two deer runs. (sigh) By morning, I could tell anyone interested that nothing happened between me and Bambi.
For this trip, I had a good supply of maps. First there was the map of Michigan, with its 'edge of the lake' red lines. I also took a map for each county in Michigan on my route. These haven't been updated for 20 years, but still worked for me. I had the maps and instructions given me by Alex, as mentioned earlier.
I also had the League of Michigan Bicyclists Shoreline Circle Tour map, from which I found the Dreamland Restaurant. I dreamed of getting an authentic Upper Peninsula Pasty (or is it Pastie ... naw, that's something entirely different.) It was quite good, and to this day, I still can't figure why it is the only time I had one.
Gulliver was waiting for me about 25 miles into my second day. As I approached this "intersection with gas pumps and a convenience store", I became concerned about drive train noise. It sounded like my rear wheel bearings were shot. I needed a bike shop, and Gulliver had none. I stopped at the convenience store and was informed that Manistique, 10 miles down the road, had a bike shop.
The nice girl behind the counter looked up the phone and address. I was about to record both on the digital voice recorder hanging from my neck when I noticed the freeloader. Right there on my chest was a dragonfly. I have no idea how long it had been there, but confused thoughts ran throught my head.
"Lord, I wanted a DragonflyER TRICYCLE, not a bug." Well, I knew the manufacturers had quite a backlog, so I forgave Him and just took it as a positive sign. The dragonfly stayed with me, hanging on for dear life (I don't know why?!?), for the next two miles. It was a good distraction from the noise Sarah was giving me. After the dragonfly left, I paid more attention to the noise, and it had moved to my bottom bracket, and then to the idler pullys that keep Sara's long chain from flopping around too much. A bolt was bent and would need to be replaced.
Once in Manistique, I visited a hardware store before the bike shop. The owner of the bike shop was waiting (for me?) on the side walk. Great - no line. Double great - there was a laundramat across the street.
I took Sarah into the bike shop and unloaded her. I asked to have the bolt replaced, my rear hub looked at, and my front deraileur fine-tuned. I would be back after I got my laundry going.
Well, my rear hub was fine, I helped him replace the bolt, and now it was time for the deraileur adjustment. He kidded me by asking which screw to turn, and which way. I went across the street to move my wet wash to the dryer.
When I returned, he still didn't have it right. He had loosened and retightened, shifted it up and down and around the post. I guess he wasn't kidding about knowing what to do.
Then something good happens - a kid walks in needing an adjustment (to his brakes). I grab some tools and in two minutes have it working better. I took it outside to test, and had no problems. So I loaded it up as the man was saying "I guess I ... I mean we ... fixed it!" I waved goodbye and the problem was back within a half mile. I fought with that the next three days. Aargh!
Even if you don't need the services of a bike shop, you will know when you are near Manistique. Within two miles in either direction, the shoulders have about the same amount of glass as any main road in Detroit.
Toward the end of the day, I stopped at a convenience store at Garden Corners. The sign in the window said "Public Rest Rooms - 5 miles west". Some kind of convenience! I didn't even go in.
Fortunately, about a mile down the road was a campground. There toilets were the pits, but that was a welcomed improvement. At dusk, they had no campers, and no showers, so I negotiated a "post-season" price of $12. A relatively flat area with trees, I picked a site along the "creek", which looked more like a drainage ditch with slow-moving algae covered water. I set up the tent, then cooked some rice in the dark.
As I entered Escanaba, I found myself riding in the left lane with traffic passing me on my right. For several miles, I rode over the recent work of the dribble patchers. The shoulder was narrow. The road was effectively a single lane. It seemed the safe thing to do, and it was.
From Escanaba, I turned south on M-35, who's red line on the map was even closer to the lake than the one for US 2. Still, I didn't see much of the lake once out of Escanaba. Traffic did get noticeably lighter, however.
I stopped for water at a picnic area across from a campground. The water came from an artesian well, and tasted good. I had to wait for a guy in a pickup truck filling several gallon jugs. He worked in Wisconsin and came home to Michigan once a week. His well water was not for drinking, and this was free.
As it was getting dark, I rode into J.W.Wells State Park, across Green Bay from Wisconsin's Washington Island to the east, but I was still in Michigan. That was wierd, but the campground was nice: great showers, level ground, and a campsite at the edge of the bay.
My neighbors were from Jackson, Michigan. In the morning, I was offered coffee, which I seldom drink. It was so good, I had a second cup. They took my picture, got my address, and said they would send me a print. I'm glad they did, because I forgot what kind of coffee they said I had. (When the picture came, I used their return address to ask. It was almond flavored from Meijers.)
Not Just Cheese and Packers
I crossed the road about 15 miles north of the Wisconsin border to intercept a pair of bicycle tourists. The Langs had parked their truck at the car ferry and were doing a clockwise loop. A young retired couple from west of Chicago, they had bike toured many parts of Europe. I agreed with them when they said I was going the wrong way. They were with ones with the 15mph tailwind.
These winds and the truck traffic give the term "truck wash" a whole new meaning. With no wind, air resistance is not a factor until you get going about 17mph. With a 15mph headwind, however, hardly a moment goes by when you don't feel like breaking wind.
Marinette was just across the border in Wisconsin. I was having trouble getting out of town, so asked a city road worker. He said "Wait a minute". He came back with a county map from the MBK Sport Shop, which must have been nearby.
The best biking roads are lettered, and I wanted to be on B. Not all the road names in the county are as boring. The map showed Nutt Rd, Smiley Rd, Rock Rd, Moonshine Hill Rd, Left Foot Lake Rd, and several named Short Cut Road.
B, more curves and angles than hills, led me to Peshtigo. I approached from the east; the rain approached from the west. Just outside of town, I got guidance from a lady fetching her mail (no, not a fetching lady, but nonetheless helpful) to a town park. I rode about a mile in light rain (has anyone ever seen dark rain?) and found the picnic shelter.
I was tired and hungry, in that order. I stretched out on a picnic table, closed my eyes, and relaxed. Almost immediately, I was being evaluated from outside the shelter by a winged carnivore. Quicker and more effective than a county road crew, it was the Crow of Peshtigo (movie rights pending). The side of me away from the bird got more rest.
A half hour later, I was still whole, and had actually dozed off a bit. As it was still raining, and I was no less hungry, I made some rice with butter and brown sugar. Fat, carbs, and calories, all in one dish.
As I was cleaning up, an older gentleman approached me. He would be feeding a large group here soon, and needed power for the rotisserie in his pig roaster. Turns out that doing pig roasts for large groups was only a sideline. He had started, built, and sold four businesses already.
He was now a distributor of fudge and turkey jerkey. He told of one place where the lady in charge said they didn't sell chocolate because it couldn't stand the heat. He could bring her some samples. She wasn't interested, but introduced him to her husband, with whom he struck up a conversation. He was totally ignoring her when she asked if he was going to get the samples. He said "Yes" and went back to ignoring her. She couldn't stand it, and broke in to ask when. He said, "Oh, you want them right now?" She said "Yes". When he left, he had an order for several hundred dollars worth of fudge and they have become good customers.
When I got to Oconto, it was dark enough to turn on my lights. I could see the state park across a river, but it offered nothing special, so I kept riding south, looking for some place to duck into with my tent. The road I was on was too busy and developed for that, so I took the first paved side road to the east.
A couple miles later, I was in Pensaukee. I saw a bunch of adults behind the Bottoms Up Bar playing volleyball, so I stopped. Turns out the town was just big enough to support a 2-team volleyball league, and they played once a week, all summer. I went into the bar and got permission to camp on a grassy area behind the volleyball court.
After setting up my tent, I returned for dinner. I was itching to get into the famed Door County, and wishing I would not have to ride through Green Bay. I wanted a ride. As it turns out, the two guys next to me owned a meat distributorship, and probably had a truck going there the next day. The owner lived nearby, and would stop by in the morning to let me know for sure.
He had also been a railroad engineer on a freight train. He would ride while someone else moved the train from one yard to another, then he would drop and add cars within the yard. He was good, too. Where it would take most 12 hours to build a train, he could do it in 7 hours. He knew people and the yards, and that made the difference.
Morning came, and he didn't show. I called the number on his card and got a machine. I called his office, who gave me his cell number, but that was not turned on. My ride had vaporized, and I was back on the road, and not a happy camper, or rider.
But riding a quiet road on a good day can turn that all around, as it did for me. After riding a couple hours, I intentionally deviated from my planned route so the meat truck wouldn't accidentally find me. How about that for a mood swing!
Well, the dreaded town of Green Bay was looming. I had had nobody but myself to talk to for dozens of miles. I was looking for a reason to give Sarah a rest. I turned the corner, and there it was -- a yard sale. A captive audience.
What I found was "Ace", a 72 year old newlywed, and his bride who hadn't yet celebrated her 50th. And Ace was a cyclist, with two conveyances with spoked wheels. He let me ride his Nordic Trac quadracycle. It had 9 speeds and no deraileur. The steering was extremely responsive (may I say "exciting"?) and he had it tricked out with gadgets gleaned from yard sales like lighting and a radio.
He then quietly led me to a place inside the garage to show me a calendar. Now many of you are old enough to know of the calendars real auto mechanics used to hang in their shops, featuring pistons and girls and sparkplugs and girls and ... Well, this one had old custom cars, old bicycles, and not-so-old girls.
He got it from his favorite bike shop, which was only a few blocks away. Off we went to see if they had any more. This time he was on his old mountain bike. The owner gave me a calendar, and I bought a water bottle and cage, and a big tail light he had planned to sell to the local rickshaw company. Mounting it would have to wait until I got home. (This light would be the seed that started my RealLITE taillight business.)
And I wanted to avoid Green Bay. How lucky can you get when things don't go your way!
I was now headed North for the first time since DALMAC. With Green Bay on my left, I was able to actually see the water more often than any time in Michigan. I also found the first hill I had to walk up. Even if it wasn't toward the end of the day, I would have walked this one.
I would camp at Bay Shore Park. It would have been less than 15 miles from Pensaukee, had Green Bay been frozen, but today it was about 50 (miles, not degrees). I set up the tent, had some rice, and settled in at the 10pm quiet time.
About 11pm, there was a disturbance across the road. Eight or ten guys and gals in their late teens had pulled into the empty site. I told the nearest two of the quiet time, then went toward another group in the uncleared area. "Hey, the girls are going to the bathroom" they warned. But the bathroom was a quarter mile north.
They quieted down enough I could hear the folks next to them. Mom and dad were drinking some hard stuff, and had the stereo cranked up. I gave my speech, and they asked if they should turn it down a little. I said to turn it off, they did and went to their tent.
Next to them, a man and his son were building a large fire. I told him of the quiet time rule. He said "Yea, I know. I told those people, and they didn't pay any attention" as he gave the fire another large squirt of lighter fluid.
I said it applied to him, too, and he promised to be quiet. I returned to my tent for a quiet sleep.
Until about 4am. Thud. Clang. Bright lights. Two sites down, a couple had come in and were unloading a house, with their headlights shining into my tent.
Off I went again. "We didn't mean to bother anyone". I think they packed up and left, rather than get a visit from the sleepy park ranger.
As I prepared to leave Bay Shore Park, I overheard one young fella say to his friends: "Hey, look, a tent!" Maybe I should start a museum.
While still in the DALMAC pre-registration camping area, I lost my tent light. I rode to Meijer's and bought a replacement. I found it while in the U.P. of Michigan. How can something that big stay lost in a set of panniers for so long? But then again, my Swiss Army knife stayed lost until just before I entered Door County, Wisconsin.
Just inside Door County, a guy in an open Jeep began to pace me at 15mph. He wanted to know where I came from and where I was going. About the time I was thinking how friendly the natives were, he said he was born and raised in Cross Village, Michigan.
I thought Little Sturgeon Bay might be quaint enough to be worth a side trip. It wasn't. Then the day turned hot with a crosswind as I headed east toward Sturgeon Bay. A long 8 miles later I would turn north and have a tailwind.
I headed down the steep hill through Sturgeon Bay. As I approached the signal at the bottom, a car honked at me. It was a couple of young ladies I had met before getting into Door County. I wonder if they were raised in Cross Village.
There is a channel through town that joins Green Bay and Lake Michigan. An old bridge has a section that lifts high to let tall-masted boats pass through. As I approached, the gate went down, the road went up, and about five minutes worth of boat traffic paraded past.
I saw a handbill announcing a free Bluegrass concert in Egg Harbor that day from six to twelve. I like Bluegrass, and the price was right, so I was on a mission to get there in time. Even though I missed a turn in the process, I got there at ten after six. That was just in time to learn that the concert was from twelve to six, and was over.
I looked at all the expensive homes lining the road and realized wild camping would probably not be an option there. I continued north to Fish Creek, arriving just in time to turn on my lights. It was Saturday night, downtown was hopping, and cars lined both sides of the street.
Beyond the edge of town, and the edge of night, was Peninsula State Park. The guardhouse was dark and empty. A sign said no camping spots were available. I went in anyway. I found a place out of sight of the park road, hid Sarah, and set up my tent on a slanted slab of concrete. Next morning, I left early, just in case ...
In Ephraim, I waited out a few sprinkles at the public restroom at a beach on Green Bay. Some guys with a large boat stopped. There was a heck of a storm in Sturgeon Bay. They were heading north in hopes of getting their boat into calmer water.
At Sister Bay, I found an unusual laundromat. It had a couch and a Lazyboy. Since I'd had two nights in a row with less than enough sleep, this was a nice surprise.
Less than a mile up the road from the laundromat, I stopped at a cafe for breakfast. As I was alone, I took a stool rather than a table. I soon struck up a conversation with a woman. For many years, she had worked in a hospital, helping family members of terminally ill patients deal with reality. She was now an ordained pastor. Our conversation was light and interesting.
Approaching Ellison Bay, I saw the picture postcard view of 'the little town on the bay' and stopped to take a picture, placing Sarah in the foreground. Across the road was the Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church. Little did I know of the generosity that would soon bring me back. This hill provided me with my fastest speed of the entire trip, and without pedaling at all.
I got to Gills Rock and Hedgehog Harbor, which was as far north as one can go without getting wet. 'Passenger Ferry' on the map told me it was OK to go down the big hill to the dock. The lady in the curio shop at the bottom of the big hill said I needed to be at North Port. That was up the big hill and another two miles east. Oh, well!
With the ferry boarding area not quite yet in sight, I came to an intersection. One way was down to the beach, the other was up a steep hill. I was glad I was going to the beach. I noticed a 'dead end' sign. It was for the road to the beach. I pushed Sarah up the other one.
The ferry leaves every hour. I got there with barely 45 minutes to spare. I still believe that I could have gone down that hill and cut through someone's yard and made it on the previous boat.
The crossing to Washington Island was interesting. One guy had a marine GPS. We watched ourselves navigate past the buoys.
Once on the island, I headed for the only campground that was tent-friendly. It had bugs, and they wanted $18 a night. With no other options, I decided to catch the ferry back, but had less than a half hour to get to the dock.
The ferry was loading for the last trip of the day. I just had to make it, even though it looked like the line of waiting vehicles was more than the ferry could handle. I rode past them all to the front and was allowed to squeeze on. Whew!
Once safely back on the mainland, I realized several things. First, three days earlier I had crossed a time zone, but my watch was still on Michigan time. I had taken the next-to-the-last ferry, and could have stayed another hour.
More significant, I let my emotions affect my thinking in a negative way. The primary goal of my trip was to spend some time on Washington Island. The most I'd had to pay for camping so far was $12. It would have only cost me six bucks more to stay. Because of my wrong watch, and my unnecessarily tight budget, and my insufficient sleep, I was not able to see the big picture.
I rode back to Ellison Bay to the only grocery store in town. I bought more than I had room to pack, so I had supper on store porch. The store clerk refused to refund the deposit on my empty Coke can. Wisconsin has no deposit law. She thanked me for bringing in the trash.
Back on the porch, a guy asked me how I was doing. I said I'd be better when I found a place to camp. He said there was a big storm coming. I could camp in the yard of the Shepherd of the Bay Lutheran Church. It was just south of town.
I was concerned about not having permission. He said it would be OK; he was the pastor. When I got there, he found a spot away from the wind on nice thick grass. What luxury! Only after I was settled in the tent, and the storm had started, did I hear them. Water gurgling from one downspout at my head, and from another at my right side. I didn't dare look.
It seemed like a lot more than a 40-mile day. But then again, the miles are not really all that important, it's the experience and experiences.
In two days, I'd be on the Badger crossing Lake Michigan. I elected to take interior roads to Baileys Harbor. I could just as well have been riding in rural Michigan.
A guy in Baileys Harbor (the town, not the water), highly recommended buying some frozen homemade soup at a convenience store in Jacksonport. I did, but didn't find an opportunity to fix it until I was back in Michigan several days later. By then, it wasn't frozen. It was very good, and was enough for two meals.
As I was crossing the newer bridge at Sturgeon Bay, I got a siren and lights from a bridge cop-ette. I was supposed to be on the bike path over on the left - across the four lanes of traffic and an imposing (at least to Sarah) guard rail. I said I couldn't find the entrance. She said other people could find it. She went on; I didn't cross over.
After what seemed like a long time, I came around a curve to see a big downhill and a curve at the bottom. Someone had considerately put that curve at the bottom so you wouldn't have to get wet in Lake Michigan. Although not particularly scenic, nevertheless, it was pleasantly startling.
I stopped at a fruit stand where a tour bus of older folks had also stopped. The most memorable comment of the whole trip came from one of them. "I wish I had taken the time to do something like you're doing while I still could." He then turned to go to the bus, making good use of his cane.
I got to Algoma for my last night in Wisconsin. The campground owner/manager guaranteed me two things. As I was the only non-seasonal camper, I had a large choice of sites. He also guaranteed that none would be dry. I found one where half the ground was above water and planted the tent. It would be another stormy night.
The Last Leg
Once in Manitowoc, I bought my ticket 90 minutes early. I wanted to tour the WWII submarine there and to dry my tent. More important, however, was a need to get medication for a sore on my lip. I also wanted to buy food to eat on the 4-hour boat trip, having been advised that it was expensive on the ferry. As the nearest store wasn't all that near, there wasn't enough time to dry the tent or see the sub.
I'm not sure what it means to have 'sea legs', but I had trouble getting my 'lake legs'. The men's restroom on the U.S.S Badger had two urinals - one low and one high. With the boat pitching back and forth, I appreciated the high one.
After my 1999 tour, it took me weeks to get back to 'normal' (please, no cheap shots here). So I planned to take an extra day or two, and get some rest before I got home. It turned out to be very beneficial.
In Ludington, as I rode off the boat and through the parking lot, I got an unexpected reception. About twenty people, waiting there for their vehicles to be unloaded, called out good wishes to me for the rest of my trip. I don't remember talking to that many people while on the boat. I hit the brakes and went over to chat with them for a while.
I took random back streets to head in the general direction of a campground at a nearby power company reservoir. I stopped to chat with kids who had complimented Sarah. After all, I needed a rest after the long 3/4 mile ride from the dock.
On my way again, but unsure of the distance, I checked with a guy walking his dog. After he described the HILL just before the campground, I decided to give it a pass. I headed east as the sun got lower in the west.
I figured it was time to do some wild camping. The map showed some public land in the next twenty miles. Dusk came too soon. I checked out a cemetery, but it was too much in the open.
Now it was dark. I stopped at a party store to get a clue. The lady suggested a ball field less than a mile south. She also mentioned the large hog farm a mile and a half south. My choices were limited, so I headed south, into the wind. I can tell you my tent not only keeps out water, but also odor. This hit home when I unzipped the door in the morning.
Soon after passing the hog farm, I came to the Wiley General Store out in the middle of nowhere. A couple weeks earlier, a lady had stopped in to ask if they could handle a large group of bikers. No problem - she had once handled over sixty motorcycle riders. Well, this time, there were over 300 coming as part of the Quint-Century DALMAC tour. She sent out for reinforcements. On that hot day, the air conditioned store became crowded. She also mentioned that her grandfather had owned a recumbent bicycle.
I'd heard of a nice roadside park west of White Cloud. It was a bit off my planned route, but the timing was right, so I went there. Wanting to not set up my tent until it was nearly dark, I fixed dinner, then walked around and found an inconspicuous spot for my tent.
Time came to set up the tent, but now my carefully selected spot was bathed by the full moon. I moved to a place near the bridge over the creek.
When I first arrived in the park, there was an unfriendly guy reading at a picnic table. For the first time on the trip, I was a bit concerned. I'd brought an alarm that goes off when you pull a cord. One end went around Sarah, and the other end went under the tent to a tent stake.
It rained all night and most of the morning. I stayed in the tent until 11am. When I got out, I accidentally kicked the alarm cord. Nothing happened. Turns out I had forgotten that I had reversed the batteries during DALMAC to keep it from going off in the baggage truck.
In White Cloud, as I headed toward the bridge, I saw another cyclist coming up the hill. It was a black man on an old bike with a basket. He was wearing a long trench coat and a floppy hat, and carrying a fishing pole. As I passed, I heard him yell "Sweet".
I regret not having turned back to talk with him. I'm sure he would have had an interesting story to share. But I do know why it didn't happen, and so do you.
The problem with gaining momentum down a hill is that things may go by too fast to appreciate. Most will only stop for one of the three "f"s - flat, food, or friend. Actually stopping, then going back up the hill, generally means you have missed your turn. To do so for any other reason is hard. I was riding alone, and I still couldn't do it. With companions, it is nearly impossible. There are so many great opportunities missed when you don't stop. I promise you I will be working on this one.
The most frightening part of the whole trip occurred as I left Newaygo. I was on a steep hill with two busy lanes in each direction, but no bike lane, shoulder, or sidewalk. To make it even worse, it curved to the left, giving drivers little advance notice that I was there. And I had to push Sarah up the last half. This town will not see me on a bike again.
South of Newaygo, I stopped at a store to get some butter to go with my rice for dinner. It is in the center of a farming area using migrant workers; a Hispanic family lived in the back. With no butter in the cooler, I asked if they might have a half stick in their refrigerator. She came back with a full stick, and refused my offer of double its value. I was forced to buy something else in the store to not feel guilty about her generosity.
As the day was coming to an end, I had not found a place to stay. I came up to a school where I could hear a band practicing through an open door. The band director couldn't give me permission to camp on the grounds, but there was a rail trail a couple miles down the road.
Off I went to find the White Pine Linear Park. Problem was it ran along a main road. There were few spots to hide, and none wide enough for a tent. After several miles on this limestone spaghetti farm, I gave up and waited for dark. Concerned about a possible visit by four-wheelers after the bars closed, I set up the tent as close to the edge as I could. Unfortunately, that meant the ground was far from level. Sleep eventually happened.
Next morning, I took the first opportunity to get off the trail, get on to the road, and immediately gained about 5mph. I would get close to Rockford before turning east. M57 took me through Greenville, a town with a nice multi-use path, and on to Carson City. I used a laundromat, had dinner, and went looking for my last campsite of the trip.
My map showed some public land in the Maple River area. Unfortunately, the three spots I checked out were unsuitable. It was now dark (again), and as I climbed a large hill (read "generator headlight not real effective"), it started to sprinkle, then rain lightly.
I rounded a corner and pulled into a farmyard drive. An old farmer answered my knock and gave me permission to camp. His yard was uniquely rolling - not a flat spot as large as a tent. I picked a spot away from the house near the barn and settled in for the night.
Clanging and banging woke me up in the morning. The farmer's son was in the milk shed next to my tent, washing all the stainless buckets. Barn cats were drinking fresh milk, and I was done sleeping.
Back in familiar territory, I stopped at the corner of Airport and Clark for a snack. A lady pulled up, rolled down the window, and offered help. It was the first such offer of the whole trip.
I was on a curving road. A truck driver approaching from the rear sees my bike flag almost too late. He squeals the brakes and swerves around me. It is then that I notice his bumper sticker. It says "Choose Life". I thought I had been.
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