"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

Friday, April 24, 2015

Why Now

A Little Nudge from my daughter Elise

For Christmas 2012 Elise gave me a nudge out the door as it were. She presented me with a copy of National Geographic’s Journeys of a Lifetime; 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips with the note “I hope this adventure book gets the ideas going … who knows where you’ll have been by this time next year!” I consumed it in one sitting, annotated the places I’d already been, tagged the places I still wanted to go and, being the organized type, made an ordered list. Since then we checked off China and then Cuba, which had not even occurred to me at the time. And so now I’ll get a chance to do “Around Lake Michigan by Bike” see page 59.

I wrote the following in my journal before visiting China in 2013.  It applies very much to this new adventure as well:
“Somehow I’ve always had it in my mind to visit China – exotic, far away, ancient China; the destination of Marco Polo, the mysterious “East” of spices, silk, culture & chopsticks.  I’m pulled there as I’m pulled to go on long distance bike rides. The adventure and other worldliness of it all intrigues me…. Now, before my life slips away, before I get too old to do this or enjoy it – NOW is the time.” 
“Elise’s global adventure in 2011 made me take note. Three major things I wanted to see since the days of travel logs with my Grandma Elise – three things my daughter Elise got to first: The Pyramids, the Taj Mahal and the Great Wall of China. Grandma’s love of geography and desire to travel passed down to me. I want to see those things for myself. Up close I can feel things I cannot see. I sense the place somehow. I understand something more by seeing the thing in its entirety.” 

"My Younger Self Cheering Me On."

My younger, thinner self the day I rode over the
Silvretta Pass 1980

As I wrote in my previous post, I’ve been pulled by the open road for a long time and had been seriously considering a journey across the country. But, some unexpected health issues got in the way.  Being diagnosed with A-fib simultaneously revealed the problem and presented a possible solution. Now more than a year after a successful ablation surgery I’m anxious to get on with it. A strong riding season last year, a 5-day, self-supported bike ride to Door County and now a willing companion have all convinced me that the time is NOW. The challenge needs to be met. 

To top it off, about the time I started dreaming of the ride, Jim brought home Loreen Niewenhuis’s book A 1,000-Mile Walk on the Beach: One Woman’s Trek of the Perimeter of Lake Michigan (Chickhollow Books).  To say it inspired me is understatement. She gave words to my longing, purpose to my quest. You’ll hear more, much more from Loreen in future posts, but a few quotes here are sufficient.
“This was the perfect time in my life, I thought, to be here doing this. It was necessary. I felt my younger self cheering for me.” Pg 56

Meeting an older man somewhere north of Milwaukee she quotes his lament; “Then years ago, I thought I’d bike around Lake Michigan,” he says. “Haven’t gotten to it.” Pg 155

I will not give voice to his lament. This year I will have My Month with THE LAKE.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Why Do This Ride?

You've Read the Short Answers to Frequently Asked Question. Here's a long answer to the most important:  WHY. 
To do it justice, I'll break this into three parts and three posts: 

1               Why a multi-day bike ride?
2               Why now?
3               Why Lake Michigan? &  What is this about Pilgrimage?

To explain the first,  I've included an excerpt from an article I wrote for the Evanston Bike Club Newsletter in December of 2011. 

 A Dream of the Open Road

I have a dream. It’s not a big and important dream like those first four words would imply, but my own small dream. One day I would like to ride all the way across this country, or maybe part way say from Chicago to DC. For the pull of the open road is strong within me (see Bilbo Baggins quote above).

Inspired by 1976 Bikecentennial

 The first time I heard of anyone riding across the county on a bike was in 1976. A friend of a friend of ours had just completed the first Bikecentennial as a group leader.  After traversing the country from Portland to DC, Jan needed a place to stay for a while.  We had an open room in the attic.  The match was made.  During his stay we heard many stories of his ride, the people he’d met, the challenges he’d faced, the thrill it was to see this great land under his own power.  I was hooked.  Bikecentennial has now morphed into Adventure Cycling and I’m still hooked.  Each year I read their brochure, look at some of the trips, and dream about the wonderful maps and where they’d take me.   

The Original 1976 Bikecentennial Route. Seeing this map again, almost 40 years later still inflames my imagination.

Experienced shorter supported and self-supported tours

 Sure, I’ve done a bit of my own multiday rides.  Jim and I have cycled in England, though Austria, Switzerland and even into Lichtenstein (over the Silvretta pass).  Thirty some years ago we did a self-supported trip from Luxembourg down through the Moselle river valley and on to the Netherlands. We talked my mother-in-law into sagging for us in Ireland.  We’ve done a cycling adventure in the Czech Republic, participated in week-long PAW (Pedal Across Wisconsin) rides and joined my high school friend on SAGBRAW (Scrams Annual Great Bike Ride Around Wisconsin). You’d think with all that I’d have satisfied this pull of the open road. Not so. I yearn for a longer stretch, a grand adventure, my answer to the Oregon Trail exodus of our ancestors.

  Dealing with the uncertainty

 So, why haven’t I gotten done that long distance ride I dream of?  I guess I’m simultaneously intrigued and intimidated by the unknown.  I want to know where I’ll be staying at night and I really, really don’t want to sleep on the ground anymore.  Been there, done that plenty in my earlier days. I am a bit concerned about getting in over my head and trying to do too much distance too soon. I guess I’m also interested in finding other folks who are bitten as much by this thing as I am.  Jim doesn’t have the same wanderlust as I.  And he really, really doesn’t like all the uncertainty of constantly moving.  We ride at similar paces, but travel at different speeds as it were.   Maybe he’d do it if he weren’t intimidated by the logistics. 

Maybe I’ll start short, try with a two week self supported one and grow it from there.  Maybe when my high school friend gets around to retiring we’ll do the Wisconsin to DC route together. Maybe, maybe, maybe … but, one of these days it has to be NOW.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Come Ride with Us Around Lake Michigan

Looking North to the Sheboygan Harbor - from 2014 bike trip to Door County

The Count Down Begins

Months of anticipation come quickly to a close now. Soon my dream of riding around Lake Michigan will become a reality. The planning stops, the challenges begin; riding every day: eating, drinking and sleeping enough; staying engaged with the surroundings, being open to new people, places, ideas; not being fixated on the plan but using it as a guide, and being undaunted by the inevitable set backs.

If you're interested, come along for the ride - well the virtual ride anyway. I intend to share more than just the day-to-day details of riding 50 - 60 miles. I've read those kind of accounts and they get boring very fast. For me this is more than just a bike ride, its pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of discovering Lake Michigan - THE LAKE as I think of it.  Writing about what I find will help clarify some of the inevitable contradictions and help give context and perspective to an otherwise blur of experiences.  Your participation, your anticipation can provide the excuse or maybe the necessary stimulation to do so. Either way, we can have a lively dialog about THE LAKE if you wish.

When I say "we" I mean several of us at various different times. Will and I plan to do the full, 1,350 mile journey, but will be joined by others for part of the adventure. My husband Jim and our friend Ed will join us for Stage I, from home in Wilmette to Arcadia, MI. Then Robb will join us for Stages 2 and 3 - Ludington to Green Bay having taken the Badger ferry across from Manitowoc. Our bike club friends, Jerri & Nancy, will join us from Green Bay to Manitowoc. So, there will be an ever changing cast of characters in our photos and maybe even in our posts. Hence the title "Our Month with the Lake."

In the next few weeks before we leave, I plan to post some background pieces about why I'm doing this, why I have the audacity to call this a pilgrimage what kind of preparations and training we've undertaking, plus packing lists and other logistical details. Some stuff will appear in the daily posts, but other stuff, reading suggestions, maps, timelines, and even short answers to all your questions will appear as links in the right column. You can refer to them whenever you want without scrolling through old posts. Its been amazing how often the same list of questions comes up each time we tell someone about our ride. So, before you leave this page today check out the link to short answers in the right column, there's lots more there than I can cover here. 

An Overview of Our Challenge - 1,350 miles -  24,061 feet of climbing (and descending of course - its a circle afterall)

Updates from the Road

Once we get going I expect to show you where we've been, share some basic statistics, select a few highlights, post some photos and hopefully give a little perspective on it all. I'll post a link to our daily route which you can download in all its painful detail if you'd like. The plan is to have a few rest days every week or so. Hopefully that downtime will give me a chance to maybe catch up and also think about perspective. Frankly I am a bit nervous about promising so much. When my daughter, Elise traveled around the world she found that blogging got in the way of experiencing. Maybe that will happen to me. I give you fair warning now. All this may leave me EXHAUSTED at the end of the day. I give myself permission then to opt out of the blogging. But, I hope that won't happen, or won't happen very often.

Anyway, welcome along on the ride. Enjoy and engage. Let me know what you think if you want. Share stories of your LAKE if you'd like. Its a pilgrimage after all - we need to do this together. You can sign up for automatic updates below, or just look me up as you wish. Either way, remember as my friend Nancy says "The Joy is in the Journey."