"It's a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door" … "You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
~ Bilbo Baggins from The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkein

Wednesday, June 17, 2015


Our Last Day's Route: Racine - Kenosha - Home

Joined by our friend Neal for this last day we once again we avoided the thunderstorms which seemingly were all around us. Arriving at Bluffington's, our last stop we were greeted by Jim and Barbara who drove up and by Robb who rode through much tougher stuff in order to lead us home.  Thanks guys that meant a lot.

Departed:Jun 15, '15, 09:37AM
Starts in:Racine, WI, US
Distance:56.2 mi
Elevation:2082 / - 1996 ft
Max Grade13.5 %
Avg. Grade-0.2 %
Total Duration:06:30:35
Moving Time:04:12:05
Max Speed:22.8 mph
Avg. Speed:13.4 mph

Not Ready for Summing Up Yet

I suppose at this point I should be reflecting on the wonderfulness of our month long trip, recounting my favorite and least favorite moments. I should be taking stock, looking at the totals, seeing the big picture. But, truthfully I'm still stuck in the ending moments the final push to the end, the determination to see this thing through. Reflections, recounting and summing up will have to wait until another day. I become so accustomed to writing in the morning that I have to believe I'll be doing more so stay tuned if you're interested. For now I think I'll just give a short recap of our last day.

Sun then Rain then Steamy Sun all the way Home

TWC radar an hour before
we started
Despite a rather grim forecast on my phone, Will's  Racine radar showed a possible opening, at least for a while. Joined for the day by our friend Neal, the three of us, determined to get this done, headed out just as the sun appeared. We removed our preparatory rain gear and lathered up with sunscreen hoping we did not thereby jinx our chances. But, the nice weather held, at last for 15 miles when it began to lightly rain on the south side of Kenosha. Kept that up for another 15 until we finished lunch and were passing through Waukegan and North Chicago. Then the steamy sun appeared again and held until we finally reached home some 25 miles later. At that point I personally wished for the slightly cooler rain.

All this time our family and friends back home in Evanston, Wilmette and Chicago were getting pounded with rain, wind and thunder. We'd invited folks to join us at Bluffington's in Lake Bluff to ride the 20 miles home but most wisely declined given the torrent. But, Robb, our two week riding companion, accustomed to our determination, braved the onslaught in order to pull us in for most of the final 20 miles. It was great to see him there along with Barbara and Jim who had driven up just for the greeting. Thanks guys.

Jim, Neal, Robb, Will and me taking a short break in front of Bluffington's
a favorite Evanston Bike Club hang-out

Ridin' Down Green Bay Road to Home

Once we reached the final stretch, coming down Green Bay Road Robb suggested I lead the way. What an emotional moment. To think that a little over a week ago I'd been to its northern point along the Fox River. There I touched base a bit with my ancestral roots and now I was riding this historic road home just as I do every Friday when I lead an club ride. It was a strange mixture of the historic and the ordinary and I guess that's what life really is, both a continuation of the past and a making of the new. At one point I was moved to tears and then remembered I still need to keep my wits about me and finish the ride.


"Circumpedalated" THE LAKE

Completed the Pilgrimage

From the Garage Back to the Garage 
Two Wheels All the Way 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Ridin' Through the Ol' Hometown

Our Route: Port Washington - Milwaukee - Racine

The day began with fog and rain but turned to sunshine around Milwaukee. Got to see some sights I'd never visited as a kid. 

Departed:Jun 14, '15, 09:15AM
Starts in:Port Washington, WI, US
Distance:65.8 mi
Elevation:3705 / - 3824 ft
Max Grade
25.9 %
Avg. Grade
0.0 %
Total Duration:08:35:02
Moving Time:05:14:17
Max Speed:21.9 mph
Avg. Speed:12.6 mph

Starting Out WET

We left Port Washington prepared for fog and rain. The forecast was not great but Will and I are determined now to finish these last two days on our own two wheels, garage to garage. We've come 1,300 miles already - almost all the way around THE LAKE and we don't want a little inclement weather to keep us from our goal. Fortunately, once again, the threat of thunderstorms did not materialize. Ladies up there still lookin' out for us I guess and we give thanks to them and to all our well wishes constantly. We slogged through the stuff and began to see a glimmer of sun about the time we reached the Schiltz Audubon Center in Bayside, just north of Milwaukee. A little further on and ... Ta Da ... sunshine and our first glimpse of the lake in two days - WOW that felt good.


While doing my history of Lake Michigan research for this trip I found out that I really knew very little about Milwaukee, the town I grew up in. I left there over 40 years ago and although I returned often for family visits I never really spent anytime exploring this great city, second largest on the lake. For this ride I determined to at least visit a few important landmarks. I grew up on the west side of town close to
Milwaukee's Water Tower
built in the year of the
Great Chicago Fire - 1871
North Avenue, but when I went downtown to the Art Center or to college I always went by south first and then east. Never directly east. If I'd done so I would have discovered that the lake was less than 4 miles from my house. I would have seen some of the most historically spectacular residences and community buildings. But, I did not. I stayed in my little world, did not venture out to the north or south side. What a shame. Now they seem intriguing. Now I want to explore. This trip, this "sample trip" as we've come to think about it has the potential for generating many more shorter ones of deeper exploration.

For some reason I particularly enjoyed navigating through Milwaukee's south side by bicycle, finding all the small, lightly trafficed streets that threaded our way out of town and on to the beautiful Oak Leaf Trail bike paths and city parks along the lake.

The Fog that Ate Milwaukee

As Far As I Could See - We've Been There!

After the sun came out and we could see THE LAKE I again marveled that as far as I could see across it in any direction - I had been there and on my bicycle. We've been at this a month now. Left Chicago in the fog (remember the "Fog that ate Chicago" photo) and now are returning in the breaking fog. We've been through the surprising Indiana, but the dune covered lower Michigan shore, past the Straights of Mackinaw, across the wild and desolate UP, down along the shallow and marshy Green Bay, up the other side to Door County and now down the rocky western shore past port town after port town. Many, many memories. Much still to process. Maybe much still to write.

Still, one more bittersweet day to go. I will be glad to be home. I miss Jim and our regular life. I will be sad to be done. I like the traveling, being on the road, the discovery, the sheer determination to keep going despite the weather. But on balance, at least for now. I'm ready to be done traveling. In a week or so though, after I'm emerged in life's routine let's see if I'd rather be back on the road.

Finally Sun - Looking back toward Milwaukee's Harbor

Looking South Toward Racine and the End of Today's Ride

Sunday, June 14, 2015

There Will Be Fog When You Ride Along the Lake

Our Route: Manitowoc - Port Washington

The fog we encountered in spots yesterday moved in in earnest today. Hard to see a few feet in front much less gaze across the lake. Big contrast to riding this stretch just a year ago.

Departed:Jun 13, '15, 09:21AM
Starts in:Manitowoc, WI, US
Distance:57.2 mi
Elevation:1374 / - 1169 ft
Max Grade
4.4 %
Avg. Grade
0.2 %
Total Duration:07:39:03
Moving Time:04:22:38
Max Speed:26.8 mph
Avg. Speed:13.1 mph

Foggy Day Make for Tense Riding

Hyka Park, Cleveland, WI 2015
There's a lake out there somewhere I'm sure

Back in January when we were finalizing our itinerary Will figured that by the time we reached
Hyka Park - 2014
southern Wisconsin we'd have summer riding conditions - we'd be beyond the worst of it. All along we worried about the weather in the UP. Would it rain all the time? Would we have stiff headwinds? What about SNOW?! But, once we got close to home, surely the weather then would be fine.  HA HA Having lived our whole lives near Lake Michigan we should have known better. East winds off the still very cold lake create banks of fog when they reach the much warmer land.

These past two winters  have been particularly cold freezing over the lake leaving spring temperatures still in the 30s. While this kept down evaporation thus raising the water level from its historic low, it has kept the surrounding weather less than summer-like. So, we rode through fog. We struggled to see. We dressed for rain because and wished we had our UP weather back again. How Strange!

Now that we're this close to the end, just three days to go, we don't want anything to stop us. We'll ride through just about anything to say we've done the whole thing on our own two wheels. And truthfully we expected worse - just earlier in the trip. Now its time to "man-up" as they say. I expect more fog / rain before we're done.

On top of fog we also encountered some road construction.
Thankfully it was Saturday, no one working and we made our way cautiously
through the mess. One benefit - no other traffic. Couldn't have seen them if they'd been there

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Right Along the Lake All Day

Our Route: Algoma - Manitowoc

Lots of wonderful lake views, some STRANGE fog, but not much in the way of history or geography. Just riding along THE LAKE with a wickedly marvelous TAILWIND

Departed:Jun 12, '15, 11:23AM
Starts in:Algoma, WI, US
Distance:46.7 mi
Elevation:1214 / - 1236 ft
Max Grade8.1 %
Avg. Grade0.1 %
Total Duration:05:57:35
Moving Time:03:29:07
Max Speed:28.3 mph
Avg. Speed:13.4 mph

Algoma - my favorite lake town

One of several colorful murals on the buildings of Algoma
After so much rain yesterday we decided to wait out the morning storm and start our rather short day a little later. We spent a little time enjoying the environs of Algoma. Like most of these lake towns Algoma was a lumbering town, a shipping port, commercial fishing center. But, unlike many dieing towns, it has reinvented itself with recreational fishing and tourism. With its VonStiehl winery, Ahnapee brewery, renovated Hotel Stebbins, long attractive sand beach and beautiful murals, Algoma has become my favorite lake town. When we did our 5 day trip to Door County we stayed there and all agreed it was our favorite. This year did not disappoint. A bit off the beaten path if one is taking the freeway to The Door, Algoma is worth the detour and even an overnight. Certainly worth a stay if one is traveling by bicycle. Everything of interest, including the Ahnappe Tap room (Will's favorite) is within easy walking distance - no car required. 
Clearly, someone wants to catch our eye

Algoma's beautiful, sandy beach

Riding the Bluffs South to Two Rivers and Manitowoc

Once again we road with a awesome tailwind, pushing us south almost effortlessly. Not much to say here, the scenery will have to speak for itself.

Overlooking the Harbor in Kewaunee - climbing back up the hill for photo effect

Will riding through some of the strange fog we encountered just along the farm fields

A beautiful stretch of road

Two Creeks County Park, just north of Two Rivers

On trips past I've gone swimming at Nashota Beach - just a little too windy and chilly today
Tried to visit the Rogers Street Fishing Village in Two Rivers but it was closed.
Didn't matter as the best stuff was outside open for general viewing

Riding into Manitowoc on the lovely bike path that stretches all the way from Two Rivers

Meet you at the corner of
Lakeshore Drive and ... Lakeshore Drive
a statement anyone from Chicago could
I guess if you eat fish almost exclusively for
a month you qualify for your own
fish market

Friday, June 12, 2015

Door County Riding

Our Route: Sturgeon Bay - Ellison Bay - Washington Island - Algoma

Three Days Spent Exploring the Wonderfully Beautiful Door County

Total Miles in The Door: 160
Total Miles To Date: 1,125
Heading into the HOME stretch


Cycling Door County is a bit like coming home. I have so many great memories of this place: downhill skiing when I was a kid, riding self-supported with my friend Valerie the summer after college, cross country skiing when I moved back to the Midwest, bicycling with Pedal Across Wisconsin (PAW), driving a support van for my friends in the Fall 50 running relay race and then last year as a destination for a 5 day self-supported bike ride. My brain has a map of the place permanently etched inside it, memories like vivid photos attached to many of the locals. My objective this trip was to discover it anew and share it with Will, Jerri and Nancy. The Door did not disappoint.

Door County Day #1: Sturgeon Bay - Ellison Bay

Will, Jerri and Nancy riding into Fish Creek along one of many "Cottage Rows"

Stopped by The Edge of The Park bike shop and visited with
our "Ride with the Wind" friend. - Recognize him?
For our first day in The Door, we headed north along the eastern shore of Green Bay. It was great fun to take note of just where we were relative to our trip southward on the shore. First we started out level with Oconto then Marinette and until I think we were level with Cedar River. Yet everything is so different here. Small, bustling beach towns line the shore. Art galleries, boutiques thriving summer businesses. We have certainly come out of the woods into civilization. And yet we still found pockets of quiet, still traveled along mostly rural roads between spots.

Favorite Sights Sturgeon Bay - Ellison Bay

Frank E. Murphy County Park 
Edgewood Orchard Gardens with its fun garden sculptures
Fish Creek with its  "Not Just Licks" ice cream stand and the great Edge of the Park Bike Shop
Peninsula State Park - Lighthouse and Eagle Tower (unfortunately currently closed)
Ephraim (my personal favorite Door County Town) with Wilson's Ice Cream

Enjoying Life in Ephraim with Nancy & Jerri

Lighthouse in Peninsula State Park

Door County Day #2: Washington Island

We stayed over in Ellison Bay so that we could ride, unencumbered to Washington Island. An isolated outpost at the tip of Door County it supports a mostly Scandinavian community of hardy farmers and fisherman. Lovely day trip filled with historic memorabilia and beautiful view. 

The last bit of road leading to the Washington Island Ferry. Usually quite except when the
ferry comes in.

Aboard the Washington Island Ferry on a beautiful, sunny day

Will, inside the wonderfully eclectic Jacobsen Museum at the Northwest corner of Washington Island

Nancy enjoying a quiet moment on the shore of Little Lake, Washington Island

The Stavkirke (Norwegian wooden church)
Sponsored by Washington Island's
Trinity Lutheran Church

Door County Day #3: Ellison Bay - Algoma

Our last day in Door County threatened and then delivered lots of rain. We headed out early but not early enough to miss it all. Heads down we were not too interested in much sight seeing, but we did catch a few things. 

Crossing the 45th Parallel once again, this time going South. Halfway from the Equator to the North Pole.
Now that's adventure Cycling

Trying to stay dry as we cycled along Door County's eastern shore

The Niagara Escaprment

At Cave Point County Park - atop a sample of the Niagara Escarpment

Door County exists geographically because of something called the Niagara Escarpment. Think of it
 as a long upwardly curving backbone which starts somewhere north east of Madison, WI, forms the spine of the Door, extends northeast creating dangerous islands at the tip of the peninsula, skirts east of Escanaba forming the Stonington peninsula, starts to turn south toward the Straights of Mackinaw, extends southeast through the islands of Canada and finally down to Niagara Falls. Made of HARD bedrock, mostly limestone, this geologic feature is way the Great Lakes take the shape they do. When the glaciers ended nearly 14,000 years ago they had scraped most of the soft rock and deposited it elsewhere. What was left was this backbone. Water was trapped around it. Today we enjoy this geography only occasionally noticing the underlaying structure. In Door County we had several opportunities to touch it up close. The first time I'd heard of this phenomena I was on a PAW ride and stopped at Cave Point County Park where they've posted a particularly rich educational sign explaining all this is far more detail than I can relate. I got to walk out on the ledges of the escarpment there, got to feel the stone and sense the solidness of its character. Its an amazing to me that the rock I stood on extend up to the UP, Canada and back down to the Falls- so large its rather incomprehensible. I was anxious to share this with my friends.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

From Green Bay to the Door

Our Route: Green Bay - Sturgeon Bay

After exploring Green Bay (the city) on our rest day we headed off with two new companions toward Wisconsin's beautiful Door County on what seemed like our first real summer day.

Departed:Jun 08, '15, 08:41AM
Starts in:Green Bay, WI, US
Distance:58.0 mi
Elevation:1816 / - 1734 ft
Max Grade
8.0 %
Avg. Grade
0.2 %
Total Duration:07:01:39
Moving Time:04:23:27
Max Speed:26.8 mph
Avg. Speed:13.2 mph

Exploring Green Bay

Crossing the Fox River on our way to dinner - note two paper mills in background
but small white dot is really a LARGE pelican

Months ago while planning this trip I came to realize that the city of Green Bay offered more interesting stuff than just a tour of Lambeau Field. I was particularly keen on exploring an exhibit at
American Pelican
soaring over the Fox River
the local Neville Public Museum. and finding a few unique sculptures scattered around town. So I decided to book our rest day here. Good thing too as we escaped having to ride through that morning's thunderstorm. Much to my surprise I also found that the historically polluted and undesirable Fox River has now become a dining, boating and general recreation destination. Its beauty is astounding given its industrial past. Today a large flock of American Pelicans patrols the sky and fishes the water - a testament to an drastically improved ecology.

Beautiful exhibit of Copper Culture Indian artifacts
I was not disappointed with the museum visit. The exhibit, "On the Edge of the Inland Sea," filled my brain with tons of new information. From the Glacial period 14,000 years ago, through the long and various Indian cultures including Copper and Hopewell, the French and British fur trading era, the American settlement and Indian expulsion, the logging and mining era and on and on. It captured in one place all the history I was trying to find out on my route and put it in context. I think we spend over 2 hours there and didn't really have time enough to absorb it all. This is DEFINITELY a place to come back to.

I'd also marked a few spots I wanted to see around town. I suppose the only real disappointing part of
Part of Logging Sculpture
My great, great grandfather
Moses LaBelle was a saw sharpener
our visit to Green Bay was the emptiness of the downtown district. Seems their trying to bring it back to life with several dinning spots along the river and our hotel and conference center. But, by and large, its looks to be an abandoned town. Maybe it comes alive during the week with office workers, but I saw little evidence of lunchtime eateries, coffee shops or other establishments. The edifices are there, the infrastructure is there - where are the people? One history book I read commented that unlike Chicago which deliberately turned its face to the lake, most other, smaller cities like Green Bay, Kenosha and Racine, turned away from the water. Meaning, they built their industry there and ignored the recreational and natural attraction of the place. Only now are some of these towns, like Kenosha starting to realize the economic value of turning their faces lakeward. I hope that Green Bay will begin to see that same value at least with the River.

Heading to the Door

Our new group posing with the statue of Nicolet who "discovered" Lake Michigan
and Green Bay for the French in 1634

On Monday we headed out, now on our last week of this glorious adventure, toward Wisconsin's
Nancy, admiring the shell-filled shore
Door County. I anticipate a very different atmosphere to this section of our ride. First, we'll be in a much more developed, highly structured tourist focused area. The Door is beautiful which is why it
attracts so many visitors. But, there will be far fewer opportunities for historic visits or natural settings. More riding along stunning lake shore vista. Secondly we'll be joined by two new biking friends, Jerri & Nancy, up from Chicago for a few days of self-supported riding. It should be great fun exploring together.

We set out on what to us seemed like our first day of real SUMMER, sunny and warm with a bit of a tail wind. We enjoyed the warmth and the beautiful views. We ate our lunch outside but then noticed the anticipated thunderstorm which seemed to be arriving a little ahead of scheduled. Picking up the pace we got to Potawatomi State Park with just time to climb the tower, view the Bay and observe the incoming storm. Fortunately we could shelter in the campground showers to wait it out before proceeding to Sturgeon Bay, hot showers and a great meal.

View of incoming T-Strom from atop the tower in Potawatomi State Park