Category Archives: Adventurer

Bike Tour – Day 5

Bike Tour – Day 5

Today we made the 44 miles back to Bay City from Au Gres in good time.

We had left my car in a Walmart parking lot (with permission) and Kevin made he joke that it was the happiest he’d ever been to see a Walmart.

This was a pretty difficult trip. We upped the miles covered per day without necessarily upping our preparation or doing too much differently from our last trip. We did drop some weight in our packs, and more evenly distribute the weight. But the basic things we carried (tent, sleeping bags, etc.) couldn’t get any lighter without some significant investment. And I would have liked to get a trailer of my own, but that’s a $300 proposition.

I think both Kevin and I came away with a new respect for Lake Huron. Sometimes Lake Michigan gets all the glory, you know? After riding alongside it for miles and miles, we had a lot of great things to say about how gorgeous Lake Huron is. I think we’re both interested in coming back when it’s a little warmer out to fish, swim and really have more fun on Lake Huron.

Our total this trip was 260 miles. My lifetime total, having done a couple trips without Kevin, is just over 1,000 miles of touring. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned a little. But I’m far from being an expert. My advice to anybody interested in bike touring is just to get on a bike and go!

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Bike Tour – Day 4

Bike Tour – Day 4

The fourth day was our best yet! We went 50 miles, and my muscles didn’t hurt any more than during a normal day’s workout. Kevin feels slightly differently — for some reason on this trip his knees have really been giving him problems.

Our only issue starting out was the temperature. It was cold when we woke up in the morning, in the lower 40′s. I put on what I had and braced myself. Kevin, a habitual over-packer, showed up with a hat, gloves and a scarf! This is his guiltyish, “I sneaked these into my pack” look…

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Kevin and I have a lot of debate over what gets to come with us. Things I nixed this year included a stool, a solar phone charger, a pan, and other ridiculousness. He managed to sneak in apparently a full winter ensemble, a manicure kit, q-tips and who knows what else. I’m still finding things :).

Anyway, it got a lot warmer once we got more inland, and ended up being in the 60′s. We took the ride slow, and had a lot of time for our favorite activity: meeting people.

Among the people we met was a man whose father founded Mount Clemens General Hospital, where Kevin was born. Small world! He showed us a photo wall of his family, including the hospital founder, I believe Robert Allan, who accomplished all that before dying at 45. He also had three daughters, two of which served in the armed forces, and one of which was a helicopter pilot in the military. Which is kind of admirable, considering he had been drafted into Vietmam himself and didn’t like the experience. He made and lost a lot of friends in combat, but it’s great to think that he was still open to the idea of his kids serving.

We also went back and visited some friends we’d made at our first campsite, Rick and Carol. They were kind enough to give us the bathroom code after we had checked in late that night, and we brought them a blizzard to repay the favor. They have a really great system worked out where they have a vacation camper about 20 miles from their real home! But they switch it up so one of them has a shorter commute to work depending on the time of year. Plus their camper is super nice… must feel kind of like being on vacation all the time :).

One of our favorite parts of bike vacations is all the people we meet. The people on this side of the state are so generous and interesting. We haven’t met anybody who hasn’t wanted to know where we’re coming from and if there’s any way they can help us out. They’re pretty amused by us biking so far.

As one lady put it in Oscoda, “Are you biking for a cause or just ’cause you’re crazy?”

Of those options, I suppose the latter :)

Bike Tour – Day 3

Bike Tour – Day 3

As luck would have it, my back tube blew out just as we were pulling into the campground today.

No sarcasm there — believe me when I say it’s about a hundred times more fun to change a tire at a campsite than roadside, with cars whizzing past you. It’s not a difficult task, but it can be ridiculously frustrating. You definitely know what needs to happen, and it seems so simple. But sometimes your tire/tube/both just don’t take direction well. So I tackled the tire while Kevin set up the campsite. Afterward, I was demonstrably a mess:

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The campsite, by the way, is in Harrisville. The ratio of natural resources to everything else here is pretty high, but we think we may have spotted a place for a beer later. We’re making dinner tonight, but today we stopped at a place called Connie’s Cafe outside of Alpena. We bought some cookies to go… those are good bike fuel, y’know :)

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The ride, by the way, was a short one: 34 miles from Alpena to Harrisville. We knew this was the hilly section (oh my god is it the hilly section) so we decided to make it its own mini-day. The wind was a TINY bit better. It switched directions and was still working against us, but was more of a crosswind than a headwind. But the hills, yeesh.

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The next two legs we’ve broken up into 50-ish mile chunks. See you down the road!

Bike Tour – Day 2

Bike Tour – Day 2

They call Chicago the Windy City, but I think Alpena could give Ms. Windy a run for her money.

Kevin and I rode 66 miles straight into the wind today. Straight. Into. The wind. Typically we keep about a 13 mph pace with quite a few pounds of equipment. This leg of the trip. We averaged more like 6-8 mph, mainly because we were riding into a wall of wind.

On top of that, as the locals warned us, pretty much the whole area between Harrisville and Alpena was hill after hill. I believe there’s an area called Black Hills. Our host for the night said the hills there were so steep that a couple years ago they grated them down. They’re still pretty big though.

Which brings me to, our hosts, who were awesome! The Waligora family hosted us here in Alpena. Kevin and Bret, their son, were RA’s together in college, so we’d all done a fair amount of hanging out (in fact, Bret has met my parents, so I was glad to meet his!) We were so thankful for their hospitality, and their dog, Friday, was super fun to play with.

There’s this thing about showers: on a normal day, they’re just a part of your routine. On a bike trip, they become literally the best ten minutes of your day. I love biking, but the sweat of 60+ miles combined with sun lotion and road dirt just isn’t a clean situation. I feel like a whole new person every time I get it all off me (and let’s be real, I lose a couple pounds of grime, haha).

I’m late on getting this post up, but today’s route is light: 33 miles and then some fun at Harrisville State Park.

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Bike Tour – Day 1

Bike Tour – Day 1

Kevin and I rode 63 miles from Bay City to East Tawas today, but it felt like 163.

Nah, not really. But it’s hard getting back in the saddle (no pun, that’s actually what bike seats are called) for 50+ mile days without actually putting in 50+ mile days. So even though I’ve been going on 10-15 mile rides and taking spinning classes, I found myself unprepared for the rigor here. I know from past experience though that by day three it all feels natural, and by the time you’re on the last day you wish it were the first day of your next journey.

Here’s an embarrassing fact: last time Kevin and I were on a trip, we brought food and utensils but forgot our camp stove. So this whole riding and then making a meal thing is pretty new to us. But today we cooked up some brown rice at our campsite and paired it with a packet of heat-and-serve Indian food. Delicious! Another food difference is that neither of us are vegetarian this time. But for some reason, biking just induces carb and veggie cravings. So we both picked the meat off our sandwiches at lunch, and decided vegetarian was the way to go at dinner.

This time around we’re trying to cook as much as possible, partly to cut costs and partly to make up for not cooking at all last time, I guess :)

Happy trails, guys! Tomorrow we’re headed to Alpena, so stay tuned.

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Old Town has an Awesome Bike Route. No, not that one.

Old Town has an Awesome Bike Route. No, not that one.

While seeking a detour from my usual bike ride on the Lansing River Trail, I remembered seeing some early morning bikers going up Turner Street, a couple of blocks from my house. I took the turn.

I’d driven a couple blocks up Turner, but never more than that. I didn’t know where it went or where it ended, which I liked. The ride was really rough at first, but then smooth. Like, really smooth, with wide shoulders and low traffic. Which is typically biker paradise, but then it got better.

About 6 miles up the road actually runs into Dewitt, and there are… wait for it… BIKE LANES.

I was dumbfounded. I rode 500 miles through Michigan using the most bike-friendly routes last year and there were bike lanes available on maybe 5 miles total. I did a tour of the Upper Peninsula this summer and didn’t run into one bike lane.

And I saw I wasn’t the only one taking advantage of it. I typically ride between 6 and 10 miles on the river trail, and in the mornings I see maybe three other bikers. This road? I saw at least six. Some looked to be commuter, but some were clearly in my boat: exercisers on tried and true road bikes going in the 15 mph range.

Here’s to Lansing’s worst kept secret that it took me a year of living a few blocks away to find out.

(Other) Drivers Are Crazy

(Other) Drivers Are Crazy

I was on another bike trip this weekend, and found myself recounting some of the crazy things drivers have done to me as a cyclist. But my trip back reminded me that as a driver, I’ve seen some really strange stuff on the road as well.

Me with the 1996 Tahoe I drove for most of these encounters.

1) Today I was pulling into a parking lot, and a minivan (it’s always a minivan) backed out nearly into me. I was confused and half in traffic, so I just kind of waited. The guy spent some time trying to do some reverse-turning thing and eventually just rolled down his window and yelled “MY SON IS BLEEDING!”

There were a lot of connections that I tried to make and couldn’t. For instance, how does having a bleeding son make you a shitty driver?

But I figured I should cut the panicked parent some slack, so I backed out onto the busy street and he had room to maneuver out.

2) A couple of years ago I saw a grown man driving in the lane next to me while sucking on a pacifier. People are weird.

3) Cops are another story, but I felt that the time I was pulled over for allegedly tailgating in bumper to bumper traffic was particularly ridiculous. As was the time I got pulled over for stopping to pick my roommate up from the library.

4) While I was driving my 1996 Chevy Tahoe of yesteryear, I got rear ended in Lansing. I pulled over, reached for my insurance information, and looked up in time to see the driver of the car go by and give me the bird. I guess my trailer hitch had put a hole in their low-to-the-ground sedan. But still. You just hit my car and gave me the bird? People.

5) I am 85% sure I rear-ended an undocumented worker a couple years ago. I reached for the phone and he was like “NO POLICE NO POLICE!” Then he called me a “crazy mujera” and demanded $300. I made a police report without him, but don’t really know how that was resolved. Nothing ever came through on my insurance.

6) A week or so ago, I was behind one car at a traffic light. It was a four lane road, and when the light turned green all the other lanes went. So probably 30 seconds later, I gave the horn a little love tap to alert this guy. He waved a bible at me out his window. A bible!

I was like whatever man, God’s on my side and so are the traffic laws.

Anyway, next time I get hit by a car, chased off the road by a gang, etc. while biking, I’ve got to keep this in perspective. Drivers are crazy, and on my bike there’s just less metal between me and the crazies.

The President Project

The President Project

I love libraries, and I don’t know a lot about presidents. Therefore, I’m embarking on a mission to read a biography of every president.

This actually started when, upon realizing I had President’s Day off of work, I picked up a biography of George Washington in appreciation. I read biographies of both he and his wife, Martha “Patsy” Washington. Now I’m on John Adams.

In college, I took an entire class on the executive office. So I’ve got this strange, multiple-factor categorization of presidents in my head — mainly domestic vs. foreign policy presidents, presidents that used the office for activist vs. pacifist activities, frequent fliers on the veto jet, and sex scandal presidents (no, it’s not just Clinton). But other than that, I’ve got nothing more than vague, one-sentence associations with most presidents. Some examples:

James Madison: “Wonder if he was as pompous as everybody in that program at MSU?”

William Henry Harrison: “Poor sickly guy died in office.”

William Taft: “Stuck in a bathtub. Ouch.”

Teddy Roosevelt: “Can’t believe he got shot and finished his speech. Badass.”

Richard Nixon: “A Republican started the EPA, and now they all want to get rid of it. #ironic”

Gerald Ford: “The only president from Michigan was never really elected. For shame.”

So as you can see, I needed a better education. I’m hoping that reading biographies in order will help me get a little better perspective on how each term evolved the office, and connect the historical politics a little bit better in my head.

As a side note, I’m expecting the 1800′s to be really boring.

Day 10 – Lessons Learned

Day 10 – Lessons Learned

This post could alternately be titled “large-scale policy reccomendations being sent to naught but the blogoshepere.” After biking nearly 500 miles in Michigan (disclosure: we got rained/tornadowarninged/thunderstormed out of the race and quit in St. John) there a a few things I’d like to see changed.

1) Driver’s attitudes. I think it’s appalling how many people honk as they’re passing you, give you the middle finger, yell at you or stop their car to confront you. I think a statewide education campaign with the message “bikes have the same rights as cars” would do some good.

The lock from my third stolen bike, cut by SWIPERS.

2) Theft prevention. I’ve had three bikes stolen in East Lansing and not recovered any. That’s ridiculous. Registering bikes by city is a decent idea, but most of those registration stickers get torn off before people post their stolen goods on Craigslist, I’d imagine. I think that cities should consider microchipping bikes, if not create a statewide theft prevention system. Locks of all kinds are easily cut, and now I live in fear of leaving my more-expensive-than-me bike unattended.

5) Infrastructure. Ok, they passed complete streets legislation. But the fact is, we went 70 miles before hitting our first bike lane in Grand Rapids. And the map program we used routed us toward bike lanes if they were available. They’re not widespread, and sometimes roads aren’t built with shoulders.

4) Hand signals. If you’re like me, you look at this picture and think “what the hell?” What’s more scary is that when I used these signals on the road drivers were thinking the same thing. I am a firm believer in the fact that everybody knows you’re going right if you point right. And I refuse to do the real right signal, which is just raising your left hand. I think drivers are more likely to call on me a la second grade than know which direction I’m going.

5) Lazy levels. I’m guilty of driving to my work, a 3.5 mile trip. But I try to bike at least once a week, because I love the environment and the 5lbs of leg muscle I gained on this trip. It was hard to — literally — get back in the saddle after living on a bike for so long, but doing it felt good. My new residence will be about a mile from work, and I plan on biking really frequently.

So there you have it folks, Emily’s recommendations on the official. Biking has been an awesome addition to my lifestyle, and I’ll never regret the 500 miles. Indeed, I hope it’s not my last.

Day nine – 61 miles

Day nine – 61 miles

There are a couple of jokes from this trip that firstly help make the ride more enjoyable and secondly never get old. So if you’re going on a bike tour anytime soon, be sure to giggle at the following:

1) Funny sunburns. Mine is on my hands, because they’re half white and half red. But Kevin’s is why better. I keep calling it the “no entry” sign.

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2) Speed limits. Whenever you see a highish speed limit sign, it’s best to warn the other person (normally traveling at about 12 mph) not to break the speed limit. This is better if there is a cop nearby. We did actually break the speed limit twice – we went 7 mph in a 5 mph residential zone and 36 mph down a hill with a 35 mph limit.

3) Roadkill identification. The first person to ID a dead animal from afar gets bragging rights. The hardest to tell apart are opossums and porcupines. We have also seen a lot of dead turtles and one dead cat. It’s gross, and way too up close and personal when you’re sharing a shoulder with some former beast. We have killed several bugs ourselves, mainly in unfortunate swallowing instances.

4) TGIH. We decided the best way to deal with hills is pretend they were awesome, and adapted “thank god it’s Friday” to “thank god it’s hill.” The laughs are more solid than the grammar.

5) Bikers vs. Bikers. We love passing bars and shops with “bikers welcome” signs, because it’s funny to pretend they’re talking about us and not motorcyclists.

I hope that’s given you either some food for thought or a taste of how boring life on the road can be. Also, come one come all to celebrate the end of this great journey tomorrow… the only fitting ending to an epic bike trip is an epic bar crawl. Call Kevin or I tomorrow night and we’ll tell you our location.