Monthly Archives: May 2011

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.

Day eight – 51 miles

Day eight – 51 miles

Well, today a couple of our plans backfired due to Rails to Trails mishaps.

It all started when we were cruising along in Cadillac, on the Frederic Meijer White Pine Trail. It was beautiful, and some great riding to boot.

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But about 20 miles in, the trail turned into a two track. We ain’t got those kind o’ bikes. So we took this immensely hilly route sidetrack and ended up spending more than half of our day on roads. A car tried to engage Kevin in conversation and then run him off the road. A trailer came so close to me I could have touched it by extending my pinky. We met a really nice Amish fellow who gave us directions.

But we ended up in Evart, where some helpful folks at The Corner Cupboard restaurant helped us locate a camping spot. A few miles down we set up camp in Sears after navigating around yet another Rails to Trails (Pere Marquette) construction debacle.

As our journey is winding down, the riding gets a little tougher mentally. We were both trying to find ways to get to Lansing faster, and came to the conclusion that if we can’t find a camping place tomorrow, we might call for a rescue ride. There isn’t a ton o camping in farm country, which is what we’ll be going through for the most part. And I’m kind of terrified of motels.

But for the camping we did find here I’ll say it’s the cheapest yet at $15.

Day seven – 60 miles

Day seven – 60 miles

I regret to inform the masses that today I failed to ride with the grace and decorum befitting of a princess. Actually, just normal person decency may have also been ignored.

So it was 85 degrees in the shade today, and you can only guess about how hot that made the pavement we were riding over. We were on a stupidly busy road with a narrow shoulder, riding single file. I was pulling the trailer , which made me thirty percent grumpier. I was sunburned despite a carefully applied and reapplied SPF 50, my head was pounding, and my heat was pounding harder because we were on a ridiculously steep hill with a crosswind so strong I couldn’t stop peddling or it would blow me over.

While I consider myself to be in general good humored and easygoing around 99 percent of the time, this fell into the 1 percent of the time I spend racking up bad karma through thought alone. For instance, I was talking to God about just how many hills he thought it necessary to invent when a series of cars passed me way too close, one hitting the rumble strips and sending me veering into the dirt. My God-dialog turned into “and Mama God, if you could please teach these motherfucking goddamn incestuous heathen hill people how to drive, I’d be forever grateful. KTHX.”

My traveling companion Kevin, if you’ve never met him, is one of those rare souls who is optimistic, happy, energetic and cheerful 100 percent of the time.

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This is a picture of Kevin reacting to spilling a pitcher of ice all over his lap. Seriously.

Anyway, usually I love the kid, but apparently being observant isn’t among his many good qualities, and being patient while in pain and stressed isn’t one of mine. So while I was in the mindset just described and ascending a hill so big I can’t describe it, and the following took place.

Kevin: Hey Em, did you see those horse tracks to the right?

Emily: Are you kidding? I’ve been seeing them for a mile. Along with horse poop. I can practically see the damn horses. New rule, next time you ask a pointless question while I’m panting, I’m going to ignore it.

Ahem. I’m not proud. But this has been hands down my least favorite leg of the journey. Tomorrow I hope to regain my usually sunny disposition.

Day six – 43 miles

Day six – 43 miles

When we got to Traverse City, we decided that as our farthest-north destination, this was a day for indulgences.

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Pictured are the results of our trip into Kilwin’s: some raspberry sherbet and a caramel apple. I can’t speak to whether this may have come after a previous dessert, but biking is hungry work. We keep joking that we need to stock up on calories, which must be true to some extent because we both need a snack every three or four hours we ride.

But in general, i’m pretty sure both of us will gain weight from these 10 days of cycling. We haven’t been eating a ton, and usually one meal a day is trail mix. But we’ve got to be gaining massive amounts of muscle, judging from how much I hurt every night.

Kevin brushed something off his calf yesterday and said “holy shit, do you see that?!” I was looking for a bug or something, but he was just talking about his calf muscle. “That wasn’t there when we started,” he explained.

I feel like (weirdly) my arm are getting super toned from a) holding me up all day and b) walking my bike up hills. I’ve whomped out a couple times and it just kind if transfers your pain from your legs to your arms.

Anyway, I’m excited for the return trip coming up, because that’s just another part of vacation. My butt has been hurting way less, and I’m back to wearing one pair if padded bike shorts instead of doubling up. It’s kind of a drag that right when I’m getting in a groove I’m heading home, but it’s been an awesome ride.

Day five – 32 miles

Day five – 32 miles

Today was so beautiful! It was the first day I rode without my trusty rain jacket (thanks Moosejaw), and when we walked into the restaurant tonight the first thing the waitress said was that she was jealous of my tan.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We landed in Crystal Mountain to stay with Sue and Tony, friends of my mom’s. They have a beautiful home there, and they were excited to take us to The Cooks’ House, a sustainable and local food restaurant in Traverse City. We’ll be biking there tomorrow, and that Iittle restaurant might get another visit.

Our hosts said this restaurant was started by a former chef at a five-star restaurant in Las Vegas. The food is amazing. The best thing we had was a crenels burle made of duck eggs. Other interesting items included pig ears as a salad topping, morale mushrooms and a pate made of what I believe they said was pig bladder. I’ve never considered myself a particularly adventurous eater, but this place could definitely turn me into one. And after our last four meals being trail mix, we needed some nutrition.

Anyway, a beautiful day followed by a beautiful dinner.

Day four – 45 miles

Day four – 45 miles

Today may have been our lowest mileage, but it was full of hills. Everywhere.

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We ended up in Manistee and are camping our first night in a state park. We met Ross here, and this guy’s coming from, if you can believe it, Vermont. He’s taking a year to tour the whole freaking country, and he’s 1000 miles in. He’s got a blog at www.guberman313.blogspot.com – check it out! He’s averaging 100 miles per day, so we pumped him for information on all his equipment and tips. But he’s traveling solo and with a ton of weight – it’s amazing.

So tomorrow we’re headed to Thompsonville, where we’ll stay with some of my mom’s friends for the night before heading to Traverse City and then home.

One thing I’m taking away from this trip is how much easier it is to trust people than worry about them harming you. Ross doesn’t lock his bike sometimes, and he was saying that for him it’s harder to prepare for the worst case scenario every day than just have it happen. For us people have been great on this journey, and we’ve met a lot of complete strangers who have showed us great kindness. I’m still locking my bike, but I feel good about humanity these days.

Day three – 55 miles

Day three – 55 miles

Today, as we were about to pitch a tent in Pentwater, it started sprinkling. Suddenly the state campground seemed less cool, and when a man walked up and asked if we’d rather stay with him we took him up on it.

Since then, we’ve become friends. Sam and Jane have been so hospitable to complete strangers. They took us to a neighborhood church for a community dinner, and we met some folks we wouldn’t have otherwise. After some hot showers they introduced us to a game called Rumicubes – rummy with a twist.

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Hearing about their experiences with raising their children and grandchildren was amazing, and I think they liked hearing about what we were doing passing through this retirement community like crazy folks on bicycles. Sam reminds me a lot of my Grandpa Krupp, because he’s always helping people because they have Jesus in them. He said that as he was walking along the state park grounds he asked God to show him anybody special he should meet and it turned out to be us. I’m not hugely religious, but I really respect the humanity of faith sometimes, and this is one of them.

It might sound out of step with my last post, but so many strangers have been so kind to us on this journey. Last night we had dinner with the sweetest family, and Chris, who we stayed with, even offered to let us hand some of our unneeded gear off to his fiancé, who lives in East Lansing.

I just can’t wait to pay it forward with all of this good will. This trip has really strengthened my faith in fellow humans (probably because we’ve asked so many of them for directions – ha).

Day two – 57.4 miles

Day two – 57.4 miles

Slightly omitted from yesterday’s post (I admit to being sorely distracted, haha) was an important safety message: be nice to bikers on the road.

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In cities especially, many people have been yelling, swearing and honking at us. Just to clarify, the law in Michigan is that bikes have the same rights as motorcycles and cars. We stop at stop signs and traffic lights and use hand signals to indicate turns. But there’s a reason that I don’t ride on sidewalks, and that’s because they’re a safety hazard.

Think about this: when you’re driving, and considering making a turn, you look at traffic. What you might not see is a biker 20 feet up the sidewalk that you could hit while turning. Also, as a biker I often can’t see up a perpendicular street. When someone comes from that street and stops blocking the sidewalk, I can’t rely on being able to stop fast enough to not plow onto a car waiting to turn or cross.

I know, you’d think riding in the road would be dangerous. And hell yeah it’s a little scary – that’s why I stay to the right and wear reflective clothing and hold my breath every time a semi truck goes by. But don’t be the asshole that yells or honks. We’ve been honked at on roads where a sidewalk wasn’t even available. We’ve had a whole row of cars shout reasons about how we should “get off the fucking road” even though there was a passing lane. And today we had a dude honk twice and then get out of his car to lecture us on what he thought was safe.

When I’ve been riding more than 50 miles with all safety and legal regulations in mind and you honk at me because it took 5 seconds out of your 10 minute car commute to yell at and pass me, I’m pissed. So be nice to those bikers (or even better, be one of them!).

Day one – 60.06 miles

Day one – 60.06 miles

My butt has never been this sore. NEVER! The first 20 miles I thought were fine, but after that I found myself coasting and trying to stand as much as possible. That is also the time at which my companion, Kevin, decided the trailer was too heavy for him. So I carried the trailer for the next 40 miles, which I swear was entirely uphill. At least, that’s what it felt like.

So I can’t say I wasn’t prepared for this, because in the back of my mind “butt” was always a thought. The padded bike shorts did not help as much as I thought they would. Also the natural padding of what I’m going to guess is about 20 lbs of fat and such surrounding my seat bones did not seem to work to my advantage. I guess that proves it is useful for absolutely nothing.

Anyway, Kevin and I have some figuring to do regarding accommodations and ways to pad our bottoms (I would like to point out that he, a full 60 lbs lighter than me when I’ve got the trailer, is in a similar situation).

Tonight the Stancil household was WAY too nice to us – I took the best shower of my life and Mrs. Stancil made us a super tasty meal that was heavy on the protein, just what we needed to rebuild what I’m sure were the 8 million muscle fibers we tore today. And Drake let us pet all of his animals, so we’re emotionally ok now :). I think 60.06 miles is about as far as we ever want to go in one day, however.

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A really long bike ride

A really long bike ride

10 days, to be exact.

My new, lean, mean machine.

I’m taking my new road bike on its first super long spin. The general trajectory is “north,” and my friend Kevin and I are doing a completely carbon-free vacation over the next couple of weeks. We’re staying at a weird mix of campgrounds, couch surfing, friends’ houses, and the homes of fellow bicycling enthusiasts. I’m SO EXCITED, in addition to nervous. Kevin knows a lot more about bikes than I do, so we’re banking on his fixing-a-flat skills. My padded bike shorts and I are ready to roll.

Our bikes are spooning safely in my car until tomorrow's journey.

Thanks to the MIRS Crew for encouraging me to take some time off before becoming a full-time newspaperwoman. I was going to go the Europe/backpacking route, but there’s not really much that I love more than this great state. America’s high-five. You know. Another special thanks goes to the Stancil family for agreeing to put us up for our first night on the road! I feel so much better knowing there’s a hot shower on the other end of the first 70 mile leg.

Check here for updates, and of course leave any words of encouragement you may have for me or my rain-soaked gear and super-sore butt. Also, if you happen to live anywhere along the north/west parts of the state, we’d love any offers to camp in your back yard! In exchange we’ll bring you stories from the road and some pretty good company.