"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, 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

Monday, June 8, 2015

Green Bay & Reflections on Stage 3

On the Home Stretch Now

From St. Ignace on the East to Green Bay - 330 miles
The UP is behind us as well as Mackinaw Island, the Tunnel of Trees, the Leelanau peninsula, Sleeping Bear Dunes, Watervale, and the Indiana Dunes. 

Riding in a Bubble

When we arrived at the Mackinaw bridge, slightly over a week ago, I said it seemed unbelievable that we'd come half way. Now we're coming now the other side of the lake, my side and it still seems surreal that we've done this all by bicycle. One pedal stroke after another after another and another. Each day the same comfortable routine, saddling up, pushing off, we're rollin'. We've consciously avoided watching TV or following the news. We keep somewhat in touch by e-mail, text and a few phone calls, but our contact with the outside world is limited and, rather one directional. In this way we feel connected to where we are, what we're seeing, who we're meeting, very much in the moment. That helps when we have 60 or so
Riding the board walk into Manistique
miles to ride each day. We're not waiting for the ride, the day to be over, instead we're enjoying the riding, the sights, the air and particularly the lake views when we get them. In a way its our moving bubble and we have one more week inside it. How, we ask will we be able to cope with reality? The daily demands of regular life might, I suspect, feel a bit overwhelming. So, for those of you close to us at home - pardon us if we seem to slip off to never-never land once in a while. But for now, we still have a week to enjoy, we have Door County and then the marvelous ride south along Wisconsin's shoreline. I did that last year in the opposite direction and can't wait to go back.

So What Can I Say About the UP?

Riding along Route 2
Note wide shoulder & protective rumble strip

I think both Will and I agree, we're glad to have done the UP, it was an essential part of riding around the lake, but we're not really interested in doing it again. Parts were absolutely beautiful, especially the eastern most section just outside of St. Ignace before we came to Naubinway. The reclaimed natural area around Manistique is peaceful, and the Garden Peninsula stunning with Fayette Historical State Park at the end. We enjoy staying in Nahma very much and will certainly try to go back. But most of Route 2 is long, straight, FLAT and wearisome for a cyclist. The shoulder is wide and clean, the traffic generally considerate, but the thing goes on forEVER!!! I suppose riding out west, with its long stretches in the plains might be similar and when I attempt that I'll have to harden my brain to handle it. But, for now I'm glad to leave the boring thing behind.

The people though were marvelously friendly. Every time we walked into a place, all heads turned to us, the new comers. What was our story? Where were we from? Where were we going? So of course we told them and then the conversation flowed and flowed, sometimes getting hard to stop. People marveled at our adventure but in this culture of cars, could not really comprehend riding a bike all this way. Many, many wishes for us to stay save I'm sure have carried us forward and surrounded our journey and we are thankful for them. I also discovered a great, unexpected base of ... PACKER FANS - kindred spirits all.

And so in the end I will say that I'll be back, but then by car. I want to bring Jim to see and experience some of these things, Fayette Historical State Park for one, the logging museum in Marinette, the Ojibwi museum in St. Igance, the Neville museum here in Green Bay. I want to stay again at the Nahma Inn and the House of Ludington. And I want to drink some more Widow Maker Black beer. (Why did I not get a picture of that?)

Coming Home to Wisconsin

When we crossed the bridge over the Menomonee River into Wisconsin I felt a surprising sense of euphoria. While I haven't lived in the state since 1983, I guess I still identify myself as a Badger or a Cheese Head. I'm a Packer fan through and through. Being in Northern Wisconsin takes me back to my familial roots as my Dad was born and raised up here before moving to Milwaukee in the 1930s. I identify with the folks in the lumbering business, their hardships, their passion for the woods. I love connecting my family roots with that lumbering history at the same time I mourn their lack of forethought and environmental wastefulness.

Entering Green Bay on Saturday we passed from wilderness into congestion just at the small hamlet of Duck Creek. I did not expect the sudden transition, but I what I also did not realize is that here - right here was where my great grandfather Peter LaBelle was born and spent his early childhood. Duck Creek came suddenly upon me. My connection to the place felt strong. I will certainly come back to Green Bay to explore more of it and my own history.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Along the Western Shore of Green Bay - Entering Wisconsin and on to Title Town!

Our Route: Escanaba, MI - Marinette, WI - Green Bay, WI

Two Days of Riding, Over 120 Miles and Every Bit of It Along the Western Shore of Green Bay - Most with a TAILWIND!

Escanaba, MI - Marinette, WI

A strong north wind blew yesterday’s rain far away and left us with a beautiful, sunny day to ride south along the western shore of Green Bay.  This is, I think, the closest we’ve been to the lake for the longest period of time on the entire route, all day within sight of the water – what a treat. Downside, for there always seems to be a downside, our route took us along MI 35 a rather busy and narrow shouldered road. But, the traffic, especially the large truck traffic was, by and large, very considerate, moving over and giving us plenty of room. Thankfully we had a clear day with a monster tailwind so the riding was easy. 

We started our day in Escanaba with a stop at the Swedish Pantry - almost made me think I was back in Minnesota with their Swedish pancakes tasting remarkably like the German ones my Grandma Elise used to make. Great omen for the day. 

Escanaba Harbor as we depart. A strong north wind kicks up the bay and blows us along.

Enjoying the playground in Fox Park right on the edge of Green Bay (the water) within easy access of MI route 35

Another view from Fox Park
Entering our second to last state - one close to my heart. We leave the wilderness behind and start on "known" territory

Another beautiful sunset from the bridge over the Menomonee River which separates Michigan and Wisconsin

Marinette  to Green Bay with stops in Peshtigo and Oconto

Although the weather channel says the wind is from the southeast and therefore in our face as we move south, it sure seems like another glorious day of tailwind riding. We make our way slowly out of Marinette through a complicated route of residential, industrial and eventually frontage roads to Peshtigo and across the Peshtigo river. 

On the same night as the Great Chicago Fire, October 8, 1871 the forests around Peshtigo erupted into an "inferno of flame and terror," the worst forest fire in American history. While the loss of life and property in Peshtigo far exceeded that from Chicago's blaze, the news of the destruction took a long time to creep out of the wilderness and into the national news. Rescue teams from southern Wisconsin were well on their way to assist displaced Chicagoans when they heard of the far worse tragedy in their home state. Over 800 people lost their lives that night, some 350 so badly mutilated, men, women and children so indistinguishable from each other, that they were unidentifiable and buried in a mass grave. Some of them had been almost instantly incinerated in the conflagration that overtook a boarding house thought to be safe on the east side of the river. 

When I was young my father told me stories of this fire. It haunted him. His mother, Dora had grown up in Pound, WI just a short distance from Peshtigo. His father, Shorty worked as a truck driver for the Connor Lumber Company in Dad's home town of Laona. Both families had long histories in the lumber industry. Both told horrific stories of being almost caught in forest fires.

My reflection fittingly captured in the reflection of the Mass Grave market

Peshtigo was a living, breathing, memory for Dad. Visiting the mass grave, wondering the cemetery filled with memorial stones and recent placards telling their stories I wept. I wept for the loss of life. I wept for their sacrifice. I wept for their contribution to the southern cities along the lake in which I grew up and now live. The volunteers who lovingly maintain the museum we didn't have time to visit and tend the graves have my grateful thanks for keeping those memories, alive so we don't take them for granted.

Continuing South through Oconto and to

 Title Town (a/k/a Green Bay) Home of the Packers

Momma Goose, Daddy Goose and ... count 'em 12 goslings - crossing a quite country road just north of
Oconto on our second day along Green Bay

A flock of egrets trying to decide who gets the best spot to feed, or maybe the female.

Last lunch with Robb as he leaves us in Oconto and dashes back to Green Bay and then home.
Will miss him in so many ways.

One of many beautiful "painted ladies" in Oconto's historic district

Will overlooking the Oconto river from a new bike / pedestrian bridge

The perfect adventure cycling photo - looks like I'm really going somewhere
Dinner at Title Town brewery - a fitting end to some wonderful days of riding along the shores of Green Bay