"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

Saturday, May 30, 2015

We've Made it to "THE MAC"

The Straights of Mackinaw and the Mighty Mackinaw Bridge that is. 

The Mighty Mackinaw Bridge as seen from the ferry dock in Mackinaw City
Tonight we'll "officially" finish Stage 2 of our ride around The Lake as we roll off the ferry into St. Ignace, first stop in the "UP" Upper Peninsula of Michigan. But when I caught my first sight of the top of this bridge from Wildness State Park, miles to the west, I suddenly realized that by putting one pedal in front of the other for 14 days and almost 600 miles we've arrived at this most important spot in Lake Michigan's history without hardly knowing it. Sort of just crept up on us.

While this is not half way in terms of either miles or days, psychologically it is. We're leaving civilization behind, heading to a wild and almost empty land before dropping back down into Wisconsin and known territory. We don't expect much in the way of services, food, housing or communication, but we do expect to see some gorgeous scenery of The Lake and, as my friend Diana points out, LOTS of trees.

So, its off to Mackinac Island today (by the way, no matter how its spelled, Mackinaw, Mackinac, Millimak … its all pronounced the same "Mac'-in-awe"). See you in da UP!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Three days around Grand Traverse Bay

Our Three Day Route: Glen Arbor north through the Leelanau Peninsula, south to Traverse City, then north to Torch Lake and Charlevoix, east past Bay View and Petoskey and finally west to Harbor Springs.

Some beautiful scenery both along the lake and up and over the inland backbones of these peninsulas. Once again dodged the threat of thunderstorms, but hit an hour here and an hour there of rain. Feeling lucky. 

Total miles all three days: 158
Maximum grade: 17% (phew!)

My All Time Favorite Trip Photo - Sculpture in Harbor of Traverse Bay 


Don't have much time to described all the wonderful things we've seen, so for now I'll just put up some photos. Make sure and also check out  "Lovely People Who We've Met" on the ride side of the blog. One of the best parts of this trip for me has been meeting all kinds of people, hearing their stories and then finding out the surprising connections between us.

But Here are a few of my favorite photos from this, the middle part of our Stage 2:

Glen Arbor - Traverse City:

The epitome of adventure

Climbing up over the backbone on Leelanau Peninsula

A beautiful little village a top the ridge on Leelanau

Lunch along side Grand Traverse Bay

Inland Seas Education Center

Information center along the TART coming into Traverse City

A foggy night in Traverse City

Fog in Traverse City Harbor

Traverse Bay to Torch Lake

Our Traverse City hosts, Julie & Bill 

A serindipidious Find "Bicycle Art"

Elk Rapids

Torch Lake - Harbor Springs

Suzie taking pictures of the Mushroom "Hobbit" houses in Charlevoix

Antrim Creek Nature Center

Mushroom House with grander ambitions

Opening the draw bridge in Charlevoix for the Coast Guard

Lunch spot in Charlevoix - designed by the same guy that did the mushroom houses

Harbor in Charlevoix

Another great bike path 

Add caption

Petoskey Clock Tower

Ojibwai quill art work at Blackbird Museum - Harbor Springs

Chief Blackbird

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Day 2.1 - Sleeping Bear a Great Start for our Next Stag

Our Route: Watervale Inn - Glen Arbor

Again the threat of thunderstorms diminished to an hour's worth of light rain as we headed out for a day exploring Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park

Departed:May 25, '15, 09:52AM
Starts in:Benzie County, MI, US
Distance:44.8 mi
Elevation:2128 / - 2106 ft
Max Grade33.6 %
Avg. Grade0.3 %
Total Duration:08:35:56
Moving Time:03:54:52

Max Speed:33.0 mph
Avg. Speed:11.4 mph


We'd prepared ourselves for heavy, day-long rain on this our first outing without support. But it seems, the heavy downpours overnight played themselves out and we were left with a warm damp day. Got a little rain mid-ride. Caused two flats, one for me and one for Robb. Small stones, glass, bits of sharp things stick to tires more easily in the wet than in the dry pavement. Its a double frustration. But luckily it did not rain while Robb and Will set about fixing them. I must admit to be an observer in the game of changing tires when surrounds by experts.

Despite the rain and the two flats we arrived safely in Empire, the entrance to one of Lake Michigan's great treasurer, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We rode through the park in what has to be one of the best and prettiest bike paths I've ever experienced - Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail.

Robb and Will decide to tackle the challenging Pierce Stocking Drive with its beautiful overlooks but 12% - 14% grades. I give that particular folly a pass and head to the Dune Climb and to the beach at the northern end where we meet up with our friend Bill to explore the Plover nesting area.

Enjoy the photos - I have few words to add:

Those tiny little dots on the dune are PEOPLE

A slightly distorted, panoramic shot of the Dune Climb

I've always been a bit jealous of long-distance cyclists when I've seen them with their
gear at national or state parks. Today I realized - I ARE ONE!

Riding the Heritage Trail was like hiking in the woods -
only better because I was on a bike.

Plovers, one of our most endangered species, make their nests right on the beach. 

To protect the Plovers during mating and hatching season, volunteers rope off areas
and place predator-proof cages around the nests

A Plover nest momentarily abandoned by the father. Mother seems to have gone AWOL

Monday, May 25, 2015

Day 1.6 - Watervale in our Sights

Our Route: Ludington to Watervale Inn, Arcadia

A Special Homecoming for Will

Departed:May 22, '15, 09:05AM
Starts in:Ludington, MI, US
Distance:59.4 mi
Elevation:2346 / - 2459 ft
Max Grade10.1 %
Avg. Grade0.4 %

Total Duration:07:41:09
Moving Time:04:37:14

Max Speed:33.1 mph
Avg. Speed:12.9 mph

Take note of the first of the "Three Sisters" at the end. We assault
#3 as we leave Watervale 


Beautiful, and only a little chilly, our sixth day of riding was really all about getting Will to Watervale as a sort of celebratory homecoming. Will has been coming to Watervale at the end of August for over 20 years. To hear him tell, it’s a bit of Shangri-La and Rivendale all rolled into one.  And if there’s a sacred place to him along THE LAKE’s shores its Watervale.  To arrive there totally under his own power, only on his two wheels constitutes his dream for this trip. I may have my pilgrimage; Will has this quest of sorts.

We leave the delightful Summer’s Inn in Ludington head north and a bit east which is good because the wind’s out of the southwest and we’re glad of the push. There’s not much on our list of sites this morning, so we make good time to lunch in Manistee. After lunch, Will, on home territory, acts much like a horse headed to the barn. We’re all infected by his enthusiasm, but still need to keep that energy a bit in check.

October 1871 Fire Remembered

First order, stop by the Orchard Beach State Park and check out a history marker commemorating the Great Fire of October 8, 1871. Not only Chicago, but Peshtigo, WI and most of this area of Michigan went up in flames that day. A long dry summer, coupled with sawdust-laden air and a ferocious southwest wind made for the perfect storm of a blaze. Far more property and many more lives were lost in these lumbering towns of Wisconsin and Michigan than in the urban setting of Chicago but they were far from national communications and soon forgotten. No one wrote any misleading ditties such as “One
dark night when we were all in bed …” to commemorate these losses. So the markers and the fire museum in Peshtigo, which we will visit on Stage 3 of our journey, is all we have to remind us of the much greater loss.

After the park we just ride on along the lake, catching a far glimpse of tall dunes and harbor lights. In Onekama we encounter Jeff the EZ Mart manager and Rick his supplier overseeing a festive customer appreciate day with free dogs, drinks and celebratory beads. 

Assaulting the Three Sisters 

& Celebrating on Inspiration Point

Just as we leave the party the legendary climb up the long, but somewhat gradual “Sister #1” begins.
A short stop for juice and honey before assaulting “Sister #2” her far more steep but less long twin. PHEW – I’d been concerned about these for days. Would I have the strength to take on the climbs? Glad I didn’t know that last was over a 10% grade. But, finish them I did and enjoyed the feeling of accomplishment while on top of Inspiration Point.

From this point, high on the dune above the lake you get a magnificent view of the shore both north and south.  The day was crystal clear, the wind not too strong and not too cold. A perfect place to congratulate oneself on a hard won accomplishment. 


By now Will could smell Watervale. He knew every turn, every small side road. He brought us in with much fanfare. He’d come home – THIS was his accomplishment not the climbs, but the journey. Now we were done with Stage 1 time to celebrate a bit and take a few days off. Time to just savor the surroundings, enjoy the great food, bask in the sunset and climb the gradual back of the dune just to plunge down its face.

Many thanks to our hosts, Dori, Jenny and Pat and our wonderfully helpful servers Evan and Bea.

The Arrival
Sunset at Watervale
Climbing up the "gradual" backside of Baldy

Plunging down its backside

Stage 1 Completed

We feel we’ve accomplished much. The journey has begun. When we start again on Stage 2 we will be without van support. The panniers go on the racks and we head out into whatever weather awaits us ready for lots of new adventures.