Monday, August 31, 2015

Day 45. Hamburg, NY to Niagara Falls, Ont CA

Short day of riding and it was made better by another good weather day.  It was forecasted to rain in the afternoon, but short of some light sprinkles, it never materialized. 

The day starts as we cycle neighborhoods and industrial edges of Orchard Park and Buffalo, NY.  As were are navigating toward the Peace Bridge that will transport us to Canada, we are stopped by the Buffalo Naval and Military Park.  The first to grab our attention is the USS Little Rock, who alongside the destroyer USS Sullivans and the submarine USS Croaker, are on display.  We snap several photos of the impressive and intimidating vessels. Surrounding them in the adjacent park and walkway are several memorial and statues honoring the service men and women of Western NY.  We spent several minutes ready and taking photos, as the memorial has its intended impact on us.  

Soon we weave through the streets and cross the Peace Bridge in the single northbound lane.  We pass through the automobile lanes for Canadian customs and the officer is very helpful in showing us how to navigate back onto our path. 

There is a trail that takes us to Niagara Falls, but much of it is a very rough ride and we turn back to the main road for the last 13 miles to the falls.  Ultimately we start seeing a heavy mist in the distance and we realize we are close. Certainly we take several photos of the rapids leading to the falls and then as we make the turn, the magnitude of the falls is revealed.  Heavy mist blocks some of the views, as is standard, but multiple angles reveal some nice photos ops.  Brian takes the best pictures, as we compare later.   

We enjoy lunch near the falls with the mass of tourist who are there to do exactly what we are doing: gawk at a natural wonder.  It is certainly crowded, but we seem to create some gaps with our bikes that allow us good views.  

Although it is a short day, we are tired from the long previous days' rides and we find a park to rest and relax for a short time.  At 4pm we go to our Youth Hostel to check in where we have bunk beds for the night.  This hostel is a very cool place with a basement with pool table, washing machine and place to chill out and read.  The bunk beds however are more troubling to navigate as you get older, apparently.  Climbing down takes a level of dexterity better suited for some of my days gone by.  Regardless, it is a great stay.  

Brian elects to rest for the night, but I angle my way back to falls to see them illuminated at night.  Sunday nights they also have fireworks over the falls to top off a great day of seeing sights.  

Today (Sunday) is my wife Brenda's birthday.  She is having a wonderful day with our daughter who has returned from South Africa.  I, on the other hand, am spending her birthday in Niagara Falls with Brian.  That just simply "ain't right" -- at any level.  She has been wonderful for supporting me at every step of this ride, I think I will owe her big time for this.  Actually, I know I do.  Happy Birthday, I love you and miss you.  

Tomorrow is back to the States in Western NY.  

Moose Search: nope. 0

Song in my head.   Happy Birthday, to you. 

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Day 44. Erie, PA to Hamburg, NY

A fine day for a bike ride.  We start out on our 90 mile journey to New York in great cycling weather again. Light winds, overcast and comfortable temperatures allow for a relaxing journey.   Today is much better at almost every level. Namely we had no flat tires nor detours, which helps settle us into our tandem attack on this leg.  

We weave our way out of Erie to Alt 5 which is also bike route 17.  The mostly gentle rolling hills increase the entertainment of the ride.  The variable shifting, slow easy climbs and then the downhill payoffs are fun and a great diversion to the mass of miles that we must roll over today.  More than that the rolling hills increase the texture and views of the landscape.  The smoky grey hillside silhouettes in the distance to our right or the wide expanses of Lake Erie to our left are the borders that surround the acres of vineyards we pedal past.  Many of these vineyards are coop supplies to nearby Welch's plant and processing.  They combine to create a beautiful backdrop for a ride. 

Our breaks work out better today, at least for Brian since he is not spending them wrenching on his bicycle.  Our first stop is relatively early at a roadside fruit and vegetable stand where we munch on a juicy Pennsylvania peach.   They certainly give the famous Georgia peaches a run for their money.  At the stand we meet Kathleen and Barbara who are incredibly friendly and helpful.   They ask a lot of questions on why we are so crazy as to ride bikes all day long. Barbara notes that several cross-stop by this stand during the year.  We explain that the ride helps raise awareness and money for AFI and Kathleen generously donates to the cause.  We are pooling these "roadside" donations that have been acquired.  We enjoyed our morning break and chat. 

Just down the road we take another quick break where a young girl who had a roadside lemonade stand for 10 cents a glass.  Worth it and she earned a tip.  

We eat a full late breakfast just a few miles from NY and then cross into the Empire State, our third State in three days. Our afternoon and lunch break time out perfectly as we stop near marinas or on elevated cliffs near a lighthouse overlooking Lake Erie.  Relaxing and rewarding.  

Tandem riding is paying off for both of us as we share time pulling so the other person can draft behind.  The drafting reduced the workloads or effort by 20% or so.  Brian is 6ft 3in tall and has always broken the wind effectively when I draft.  I am 5 inches shorter and a relative light weight, so I create quite as wide of a crease in the wind.  However, he comments that with my luggage racks I am finally pulling my weight, in more than one way.  Brian is riding a road bike and panniers do not attach to the speed machine.  So he has a seat post trunks and other bags on the bike.   His main hauling device is a backpack, which adds to his challenge. For me, however, it adds to the wind break and when I am in second position, I can hear the angels sing.  It is glorious.  

Tomorrow we are on to Canada to see the falls. 

Moose search: zilch, but getting closer to moose country again. 

Song in my head:  Frank Sinatra; New York, New York.  That's Life.  

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Day 43. Mentor, OH to Erie, PA

It is a great day for riding with the cool temps, calm somewhat helping breezes and partly cloudy skies.  We leave Mentor about 7am. As we pick our way back to the main mapped route, we see 6 deer loping though the light morning fog in a field  just to our right.  We are slightly elevated over them and have a great view as they pass the road in front of us.  We are off to a good start and our plan is to stop often on our 80+ mile day.  

In short order we are on secondary roads that are taking us away from the edge of Lake Erie.  We are in communities where there are small farms and many different plant and tree nurseries.  The roads are poor, but that seems to be the theme in Ohio so far.  Eventually the route takes us back toward the lake where we plan to stop for refreshment at Geneva-on-the-lake.  

At this point our plans begin to go awry. A bridge is out and there is a detour that adds time to our ride.  As we are looking at maps to see what we can do, a helpful motorist stops and explains that is it well signed and the turn off is about 1/2 mile up the road.  It is amazing how often we mis-judge distance when our transport is a car.  As it turns out it is 1 1/2 to 2 miles up the road, adding 3 to 4 miles to the route.  Nevertheless  it is all part of a days work.   

Eventually we do make the turn into Geneva and are surprised that the atmosphere is more carnival like than expected with arcades, rides, mini-golf, and wide variety of vendor shacks all lining the street.  These are permanent fixtures and the gaudy, loud paint selections add to the ambience of the street.  There are not many people in the streets as it still mid morning and perhaps it is coming to the end of the season a bit.  We do find refreshment in the form of a donut vendor who has been there since 1938.  Brian says he is a  connoisseur of junk food and this is a quality donut.  He is right.  They were out of coffee, so we decide to slow pedal down the street. 

From behind me I hear, "ugh".   I turn to see Brian bent over his bike squeezing his rear tire.  Flat.  After some unsuccessful investigation as to the cause, he has to pull things apart and change a tire.  As he is working under the shade of a Gyro shack, I give my moral support from a park bench a few feet away.  While he was struggling with the tire, I think I napped a minute.  Not much support, I must admit, but bicycle tire change is a one man job.   It is.  

Soon the tire is changed and I get a cup of coffee from a small roadside joint with a crass and obnoxious waitress.  She is harmless and somewhat funny, but admittedly I am glad to leave the half finished coffee behind.  

The views from the road are more variety of houses, cottages and rentals, with views of Lake Erie.  We pedal over what feels like cobbled road to lunch where we grab a sandwich and some rest.  Just a few miles down the road after lunch we enter Pennsylvania where the road is gloriously smooth.  It is fresh wide pavement and we are happy to be on it.  As a matter of fact, when the section of new road ends, the old road they were tearing up was better than the roads we were on in Ohio.  

We pass some vineyards right along the side of the road where we snap some photos of the grapes hanging from the vines.  A bit further down the road Brian ask is the tire is low again.  Sure enough, another flat.   This time, however, he thinks he has found the problem.  The wheel tape has shifted and looks like the tune has rubbed against the spoke ends to cause the slow leaks.  As he is breaking down the bike again, two touring cyclist from Geneva, Switzerland pull along side.  While Brian is slaving over the tire change, I spend the time talking and comparing notes with our cycling kinsmen. Again, I am not very helpful, but it is a one man job.  It is.  Brian does a temporary repair on the wheel tape, replaces the tube and we are off again.  

The stress and frustration of two flats creep into the ride and we are anxious to get to our destination.  Fortunately, our Motel is within one mile of a bike shop.  A huge help.  We drop off our gear and head to the shop where the bike mechanic confirms Brian's diagnosis and she makes quick work of the repair.  Relieved that the problem seems to be solved.  We head out for some fish dinner, preparing for our ride to New York tomorrow.  

Moose  Search: not a chance.  0

Song in my head:   Tom Waits; Broken Bicycles  

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Day 42. Sandusky, OH to Mentor, OH

I left the camp this morning to head to Cleveland to meet my friend Brian who has flown in and getting his bike assembled and tuned for our rides together the next 5 days.  It will be fun working the roads and the routes in tandem. From there we will tack on a another 32 miles to make the day a 90+ mile roll.  It is another flat route and the winds are relatively light and favorable, so it makes the distance manageable.   Did I mention I love the wind?

Shortly after leaving I return to the countryside for a few miles of crops and orchards.  Quickly though, the journey turns to a suburban then urban ride that has quite a few twist and turns.   The main route skirts the surf of Lake Erie.  There is a wide variety of housing along the way.  When the road is hard up against the lake, the homes are magnificent.  Some quaint and charming, some massive and mansion-like.  Some with the long circle drives around central flowing fountains in front of the the large pillared house.  Others were stately older homes in a variety of styles and textures, including siding, brick and rock.  All are multi-million (and higher) dollar homes that went on for miles.  There were a lot of laborers hard at work keeping up the homes for the daily house parade.  At one point it felt like the road was the comma that separates the millions on the left from the hundreds of thousandson the right.  It was impressive to see and had something that everyone one would like, and dislike, for that matter.  Most of my favorites were on the right side of the road (comma).  

Then the road turns and the housing completely changes. As the route turns away from the lake, industry and commerce take over the real estate as I pedal through some hard worn areas.  Then in a few miles, massive homes on Lake Avenue again.  

Ultimately the ride turns urban, which is an altogether different part of the adventure.  At this point, we are not a curiosity, we are just an impediment for people who have places to go in a hurry, apparently.  As we set off the the final 32 miles, we get to meander downtown Cleveland to avoid the main thoroughfares.  We see the underbelly of the city and some of its, frankly fascinating, infrastructure.  The best part was the Center Street swing bridge, one of the oldest in the country. It allowed us to avoid the main bridges to create alternate cross routes over the Cuyahoga River.   

One of the two best auxiliary sights at these homes were the deer munching on the freshly manicured lawns of the mansions.  It happened on multiple occasions.  The scenario seemed bizarre this close to the big city of Cleveland.  

Second, the most daring antic I witnessed was a banner approximately 3x8 with a large dark blue "M" trimmed in light maize adjacent to the words simple words "Go Blue" screaming from the sign.  On a multi-million dollar home on the banks of Lake Ohio.   Priceless.  

As we leave downtown Cleveland we return to many of the expansive homes along the lakefront.   Shortly thereafter, the ride is on rough, high traffic roads along harder suburban neighborhoods where we had to stay alert and defensive to avoid some self-absorbed driving.   We are looking forward to calmer trails tomorrow afternoon. 

It is good to have a friend along and I am looking forward to the next few days. I have blabbered on about my routine, tour expectations, certain lessons learned, what to watch for, both good and bad.  At this point, he may be reconsidering his decision.   

At times I find it hard to retell many of the experiences I have had on this ride.  Having someone along to add perspective and to be able to help retell them, embellishing as necessary, when we get home will be entertaining.  

Tomorrow we hit Pennsylvania.  

Moose search: not a chance today.  Still zilch. 

Song in my head:   Ian Hunter; Cleveland Rocks.  (In honor of cycling past the rock n roll hall of fame.)

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Day 41. Sombra, Ont. CA to Sandusky, OH

My morning Canadian cycling route took me along the St. Claire River between enviable riverfront home and their docks.  Most every dock had their red maple leafed national flag, proudly waving in the wind.  Chairs and swings were positioned to over look their river toward the U.S. as if watching for the return of the elusive Stanley Cup.  

Along the route,  river otters, black squirrels and the oft present chipmunks  were my morning companions as the scenery soon turned back to crops and fields.  Apple orchards took center stage and my attention. I was certainly tempted nab an apple or two, but that was forbidden. 

The skies were obstructed windmills randomly placed throughout the landscape.  I am pleased by the attempts to use alternative

I get to take my third ferry ride in the past week to return to the States, this time by crossing Lake Erie.  I have enjoyed each of them.  My favorite, however, was the SS Badger across Lake Michigan.  

Thursday my friend Brian Jackson will be joining me for 5 days of riding together.  He is a cycling partner from Lakeland and this is the kind of trip we are always talking about.  I am really looking forward to him joining in on the adventure the next few days.  It has been a solitary ride up to now and having a friend to ride with will be fun.  Having that friend be up front doing long pulls as I draft behind him will be even more fun.  It is like getting in behind a big diesel.  

Sleeping in Ohio tonight and about to head through some big cities, including Cleveland tomorrow.  Should be interesting.  

Moose Search: 0

Song in my head.  Steppenwolf; Magic Carpet Ride. Etc

Day 40. Otter Lake, MI to Sombra, Ont. Canada

Breaking camp in overcast skies that would be with me all day, my destination is Canada, which is Southeast of my starting point.  Seems odd but true.  

I made my peace with the wind last night.  Our deal is that I will stop publicly complaining about it, and she will calm down a bit.  After all, the wind is only doing its job, and it has been mostly helpful to me these past weeks.  As a matter of fact, I love the wind.  (Was that rushed?  The last part seemed rushed).  

I am certainly wind-aided for the first 30 miles and the crosswinds that I  encounter are less than 10mph, more than manageable.  

The early part of the ride is right back out into the fields, farmlands and homesteads of the country.  The crops increase their variety with tomatoes, cucumbers, various greens, beans and of course corn.  The fauna is bountiful and has been for much of the past few days with deer and turkey being prevalent in the early mornings.  The turkey have been present each day since Midland.  Often they have been gathered at the sides of the country roads within a several feet of my passing bike.  They are alert to my approach, but only shoo away when I come to a stop, in an effort to photograph. When I elect to simply pedal by, they just remain alert until I pass.  So I did not get any good pictures.  At some point I figured why bother them, just enjoy and pedal on.  

Within the first 15 miles I happen upon North Branch, a proper Midwest small farm village, complete with feed store, farm equipment shop, garden center, bakery, cafe, barber shop and park.  All aligned down main street with Lutheran Church at its center.  Originally established in 1854, many of the surrounding houses were built turn of century and this town in particular seemed to have taken great pride in their preservation and restoration. I have seen many similar houses such as these along the way, but this particular village stands out among them. 

My younger brother went to Yale.  I now can say I went there was well.  The township of Yale, MI was on the route today. It goes without saying, but their Mascot for the local school is the Bulldogs.  It is a nice place to stop, and has great history as well, including the Yale Hotel.  Unlike North Branch, however, this town more dollar stores competing for space and attention than mom and pop stores.  There is a small bakery in town where I take a break.  With the cooler winds and overcast, I am looking to get warm for a minute.  The bakery has a tempting looking apple fritter of odd design the beckons to be tried.  As I want to help the local shop (my pure motivation) I decide to try the fritter with a cup of coffee.  There is no seating inside so I find a place out of the winds on the sidewalk to test.  Outside of the apples, perhaps, there's nothing good for you in this fritter -- and it taste like it.  It was scrumptious.  I only eat half, enjoying sips of my coffee.  Then I eat the other half along with the remainder of my coffee and head down the road.  

St Claire and Marine city are the towns the route takes me on before I cross to Canada.  St Claire has beautiful old estate homes on small rise overlooking the river of the same name.  Some of the newest homes may even reach mansion status and are built right on the banks.  Impressive, but ostentatious at some point.  Marine City feels like an older fishing village that is still active, but with a tourist destination flair of BnBs and restaurants.  

I cross the river at Marine City on a small car ferry that cost 2 bucks for my bike.  My journey officially covers two countries as I clear customs in Sombra, Ontario, Canada, short one small pepper spray bottle.  

On my way to the campsite for the night, a policeman pulls up alongside.  Many thoughts go through my mind, including wondering if they take US dollars for bail money.  As it turned out, he just asked me about the trip, with what eventually seemed like genuine interest as he was a weekend cyclist.  

Moose Search: 0

Song in my head: Stompin' Tom Connors; The Hockey Song,   Rush; Tom Sawyer.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

Day 39. Midland, MI to Otter Bay, MI

The route for the past two days has been on US Bike Route 20, as mentioned.  This route has taken me through city parks and trails, meandering paths and pedestrian bridges across the Saginaw River in Bay City.  It has worked through alleyways and on sidewalks in long established hard working neighborhoods.  Mostly it is on county roads and rail trails.  It is well signed and creative. 

The wind today is SW at 15-25 MPH.  My primary direction is SE.  So while not an absolute headwind, the crosswinds and I want to do battle again.  The top of of that wind speed is a problem, no matter how you slice it.  However, I could deal with a generally strong steady wind (not 20+).  It is the swirling and gusts that frustrate me the most.  If you can find the right gear, the wind is just like going up hill.  However, when it dramatically gusts, like today, it forces you to constantly shift gears unexpectedly and to fight the bike.  Of the nemesis of the road, the heat is still the worse, as it just beats you down.  But the impish wind makes me angry at times.  

Perhaps my attitude was not right to begin the day.  About 4 miles into the effort, there was a road closed sign on the route due to roadwork. Looking for the detours, it would have added several miles, so I elect to press on toward the road closure.  The thought is that I should be able to pass as I can simply walk around the issue.  Well I could walk around it, just not simply.  By the time I traversed through the construction work, passed the easement and through the fields, (over the river and through the woods) my bike and I were wet and muddy.  It took me about 15 to clean the mud away from the tires and fenders with random sticks that I could find, so that it would freely roll.  Not my best choice. 

Meandering on the route, I came upon Bay City, Michigan.  I did not take a break there, but U.S. 20 has me on a trail by parks and marinas along the river.  That certainly appears to be the center of activities and of significant civic importance with the grandstands for events, parks, boardwalks, etc. 

One of the dots on the map was Frankenmuth, MI.  I ease out of the open farmlands, take a left, weave through the outskirts of a community and cross a river to cycle up on this Bavarian village.   It was packed with people visiting the myriad of shops, inns and restaurants, as you would imagine a historic country German town.  I am told this is the #1 tourist attraction in Michigan.  I stop and walk the streets for a few minutes.  It is certainly full of tourists.  

All was not battles with the wind, Bay City and Bratwurst today. The owners of a small deli where I had lunch gave me a discount for "being crazy enough to cycle that far".  More importantly, the blustery wind had toyed with me enough today and as I headed the last 10 miles due east,  she shifted full on out of the west and sailed me into my home for the night at the Sutter Campground.  She was still blustery and swirling, just enough to let me know who was in charge.  

Of note: I passed under I-75 today.

Moose Search: 0

I have been traveling predominately SE for the last two days.  I will continue that trajectory tomorrow on my way to.......Canada.  Seems a bit counter-intuitive.  

Songs in my head:   Bob Seger; Against the Wind.  Grand Funk Railroad; We're and American Band.  

(note that the recent days artist are all purposefully from Michigan).  

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Day 38. Leroy, MI to Midland, MI

First light of the day was a little after 6am, with the official sunrise about 6:50.  Unrolling out of the tent with my headlamp on, I fix a cup of coffee in the JetBoil.  Folgers instant packs of black silk have been aromatic and a good way to start the day on damp cool camp mornings.   Normally, it takes about 45 minutes or so to break camp, including the coffee and oatmeal prepared separately on the same JetBoil.   Usually I sip the coffee as I pack away the sleeping bag, sleep ma,t and tent.  Then make the oatmeal, find a place to sit and eat it.  Preferably at the picnic table in most camps.  After I clean up, a little maintanence prep for myself and my bike is all that remains before I hit the proverbial trail.   I left the campsite a little after 7am and cycled back out of the area, across the road and down the hill to the namesack of the campground, Sunrise Lake, to indeed see if the sun rose out of the lake.   It would appear to be true.  

The route is about 77 miles to Midland, MI with the rain and headwinds of 12-14 mph out of the SE prepared to be my main foe.  The terrain, is my friend however, as it falls gently away for a gradual overall downhill run.  I am also aided by the last 30 miles as I travel over the Pere-Marquette Rail Trail that is closely shrouded by trees to break much of the wind.  My friends more that mitigate the headwinds and together we make relative easy work of the course.

The morning actually starts out crystal clear for the first few hours, but about 10am, the first wave of clouds cast a literal foreshadow of the pending rain.   In another victory over the days foe,  I fortunately avoided the heavy rain.  I made Midland just as the storm started in earnest.

It should be noted that for the days in Wisconsin, I was bombarded with the green and gold "G" of the Green Bay Packers, especially as I made my way further East.   Since crossing over into Michigan, they have been replaced by the pristine gothic white "D" of the beloved Detroit Tigers.  (Yes, I know they are different sports, I am just reporting the news).  Being in Michigan, it is refreshing to commiserate with some of the locals on the recently over-priced, under-achieving Tigers.  Quickly, some of the talk moves to UM and Lion football, which I care little about.  I tried to steer one conversation toward hockey to throw down a little thunder and Lightning on the Red Wings, as it were, but I could not get anyone to bite.   I will find a worth adversary that is willing to drop the puck before I leave this great State.

Speaking of adversaries, I did have a rare confrontation today.  As I was pulling into a general store in Sanford to get a Lunchable and water, I pedaled through the parking area and settled my bike into the bike rack at front of the store.   A young fellow in a truck started yelling at me for cycling through the lot.  He was using some choice words and barking at me because he "nearly hit me".  One would have thought if he had "nearly hit me", I would have been the one that was upset.  Since he did not come close to hitting me, more precisely since he truck was not moving, I was not at all bothered.   I attemped to encourage him to control himself and improve his language, especially in front of younger children.   He did not appreciate my suggestion, or perhaps simply wanted to get closer to hear what I said and got out of his truck and stomped toward me.  I simply looked at him (Hillary, you know it) and waited for his parting shot...."just go ride your little bike"... before I turned and walked in the store.  Inside the proprietor apologized for his actions.    Another couple came up to me, exclaiming disgust for how I was treated and then chatted with me for several minutes about the tour and raising money for AFI.   I must tell you, the latter as been what I have experienced most.  From the Cajun who fed me at the campsite on day three; to the lady in Montana who pulled over to check on me and ask me if I had enough water; to the road worker who saw me struggle up a steep grade and purposedfully pulled out a cold water bottle from his truck and handed it to me as I passed; to the saint who pulled over in Washington and turned on his light to escort me through the tunnels, to the bike shop owner who offered for me to sleep in a trailer to get out of the pending rain; to the cafe owner who offered a me use of a shower; there have been many generous and thoughtful people.  Oh, there have been the few who like to squeeze by as close a possible, since they cannot be bothered to slightly adjust their steering wheels, only to purposefully blast the diesel smoke in your face as they roar away.   Even so, in one such circumstance, the very next driver slowed to apologize for the "idiot" and ask if they could help me at all.   Just them slowing down, was help enough.

Moose Search:  0 -- but still vigilant

Tomorrow is Otter Lake, MI

Song in my head:  John Lee Hooker; Boom! Boom!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Day 37. Ludington, MI to Leroy, MI

The light day and the ferry ride yesterday were a welcome change and I truly enjoyed the boat trip. However, I was hoping I would feel more rested than I did when I retired for the night.  My legs felt like they were full of a couple of thousand miles and were not as fresh after a light day as they had been. 

Ludington was quite a nice town, with active farmers markets and active Main Street on a Friday night.  Just beyond the restaurants were lines of several old historical homes, many that had been converted to Bed and Breakfast.  Further down the road was an Inn that I stayed in for the evening.  Ola Kvalaag, originally, was the Innkeeper that greeted me and showed me to my room.  There are scant few things on this trip where my wife would want to join me.  This would be one of them.  Charming and cozy are words that spring to mind and certainly well beyond the campgrounds, recently. 

Ola allowed me to put my bicycle in the garage and informed me that breakfast in the morning is typically served at 9 am, but there will be some fruit, cereal, coffee and juices out by 7am.  He showed me to my room as we creaked our way up the wooden stairs.  There were other guests and no one could come and go quietly.  

After a restful night, breakfast was indeed ready to go as I heard them and smelled it early.  The "pre-breakfast" assortment consisted of fruit dishes, blueberry muffins, cinnamon rolls,  fresh homemade bread (mmm), Ola's grandfather's oatmeal recipe that had to be seen and tasted.  Along with juices, coffee and tea.  Oh yeah, there were small plates of eggs and bacon, before breakfast.   I literally stuffed myself and decided to rest a bit longer, simply for my legs that I was whining about, of course.  Not because of the accommodations.  Nope. Not at all.  

The route today was literally on a designated US bike route.  Much of it was bike lanes on the road, but most of it was just the regular county roads.  It is great that there is work done on designated bike routes.  Many cyclist out this morning using the route and one such group came at me and gave a raucous cheer of encouragement.  It worked. 

After about 18 miles outside the town, the woods and forest turned angry.  There were signs literally on every third tree or so warning of no trespassing and keep out.  Some were of the mass produced signs, others on old siding and plywood were hand spray painted in red the same succinct warnings.  The latter certainly gave the feeling that more severe consequences would befall those that crossed the warning signs, perhaps beyond what the law allowed.  Trust me, I did not venture off the road.  

The ride was good and my legs did feel better with the rest, after all.  The scenes were not spectacular, as the more majestic farms and homesteads of the previous day were replaced by simply a more rural setting near the woods.  It was a beautiful day for riding however and that is what I did, simply enjoyed the bike ride.  

There always seem to be a peculiar event each day.  Today a Harrier swooped down the  trees, turned in front of me and escorted me for a hundred yards or so before flying up into a leafless, dead tree and stared back at me as if to say, the coast is clear.  Have a good ride.  It was not the first time a bird had flown along with me.   I have had a killdeer fly sporadically with me for nearly a mile in North Dakota.  Swooping back and forth in front of the road in a combination of running and flying fits and starts.  One particular, peculiar Canadian goose did the floppy running attempted take off for several yards in front of me one day.  Only to stop and start again a couple of times before taking off for good.  

I reach my destination just outside of Leroy, MI.  I am at the Sunrise Lake State park where it is as quiet as you could want. I showed myself to my tent site for the evening and explained to myself that Quaker Oats Instant Maple and Brown sugar oatmeal will be served from the Jerboil at around 6:30 or 7 in the morning for breakfast. 

Moose Search: 0.  
Kevin Conner, my friend, did some research and found out there were rare few moose in Wisconsin.  They have spotted like 3, or something.  He informed of this a few days ago.  While yes that news was dispiriting, spotting one in Wisconsin would have even been more note worthy, so I charged on. Ah, to no avail, I of course did not see what did not exist. The moose that were spotted by others in Wisconsin were  believed to have been from those in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan where there are hundreds of Moose. I am in Michigan now, so the search continues. 

Tomorrow is off to Midland, MI.  They are predicting rain tomorrow, so I will get the rain gear ready.  

Song in my head. Smokey Robinson/Temptations: My Girl.  

Day 36. SS Badger

The skies have indeed cleared and it is a beautiful day for a Friday bike ride.  I have my typical oatmeal with PBnJ on tortilla breakfast and I am off.  

The descent down the hill I climbed the day before is fun and fast.  If only I still had those 10 logs strapped to the back, it would have been even faster, if not dangerously unstable.  

A beautiful morning for riding.  Light breezes, warmer temps (68 degrees and rising) and short ride will make it nice.  The ride itself is uneventful.  That is not to say that it did not have great scenes and birds escorting me along the way.  It was however, very similar to the previous days.  Small and large farms, mostly dairy were stretched along the county roads. The one issue that has come up several times, but especially on this route today, is that on the back roads they do not always take the time or effort to "sign" the roads.  There will be an intersection about the mileage I think I should turn, but there are no signs.  I guess if you are local, you know what road it is.  Not helpful to us.  When I have cell service, I pull out google maps and confirm.  When I don't have cell service, I trust my count and turn.  It has not been an issue, just one of those things to take your time to get right.  "Measure twice, cut once", as it were.  Not fun to add mileage to the route because of misread map.  

A little over 40 miles I reach the port for the ferry I am to take today, the SS Badger.  The notes I ready said it is 10-15 degrees colder on the water.  What I was amazed by was that that cold water breeze hit me the instant I turned up the shore to the port.  We know Lake Michigan is big, but it did have an ocean feel to it when you look at the watery expanse in front of you, including the whitecaps.  

The boat is listed on the national historic registry, I note as I leave my bike in the undercarriage and head up on deck. They have a few buffets type places for lunch.  A TV viewing area, quiet lounging sections, patio tables and a few lounge chairs around the bow.  They even have a small movies room where they showed two selections on the trip. They coordinated some trivia games in one of the table sitting areas and allowed you to spend money in a gift shop, if so desired.  The sailing was smooth with enough whitecaps to give the water texture.  The breezes were cool and refreshing, as the predicted.  I spend my time enjoying the relaxation.  After 4 hours we dock in Ludington where there are boatloads of fisherman and quite the crowd waving and welcoming the ship.  It was a fun and fantastic diversion, as I had hoped it would. 

I am now in Michigan and the Eastern Time Zone.  I must be getting close.  

Today song in the head:  Gordon Lightfoot; The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.   

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Day 35. Shawano, WI to Sherwood, WI

The concept of the weather "clearing" I must not have understood.  The winds are strong again, today from the west.  I would normally be joyous, but I am traveling south today.  I do get about 23 miles with the wind and it was like being pushed along. The major rain has stopped, but the dark, heavy overcast clouds keep drizzling rain periodically. Not enough to put on rain gear, as it is usually brief.  

I mostly travel today by small farms, many of which are dairy farms, mostly up wind it would appear.  The crops are becoming more diverse with varieties of beans and cabbage to go with the corn. 

The homes on the farms and in the smaller communities and towns run the gamut, as you would expect.  Many however, have manicured lawns and robust flower gardens to take advantage of the short season.  Often there are displays of old farm equipment that adorn the lawn.  With the houses surrounded by fields, barns and silos, they are picturesque. Even the ones that struggle against weather and decay grab ones interest, perhaps even more so. 

The ride is short and encouraged from the day before, I take another short off-road river trail for about a mile that parallels the route.  

I am camping tonight at High Cliff state park.  It is a beautiful place, and as the name indicates, is on a high cliff overlooking Lake Winnebago.   There lake is very large and there are moored sailboats in the marina.  I check in at the station.  (I do still get a kick out of the looks I get when I pull up on a bicycle next to these large RVs.).  There is firewood for purchase and I buy a cord and load it on my bike as she tells me the campsite is a mile or two away from the station. I don't want to make two trips, so I load it up.  I have hauled wood like this previously on the trip, so I know how to strap it across my rear panniers.  It is a sight to see, but effective.   It was good of her to tell me it was so far to my site, it would have been better if she told me there were two steep climbs.  I had turned off my Strava that records my heart rate by this time, but I can tell you my lungs, legs, and heart rate were screaming when I cleared the steepest one.  Just before I reached the first climb, a pair of cyclist came flying around the corner, one making an "oh boy" comment, knowing what was in front of me.  "Oh boy" was right.  

I am sure I entertained everyone that saw me, but I made it.  Oh yeah, did I mention that it had been spitting rain.  At this point, I cared not, I was going to burn that wood and enjoy a campfire for the night.  I am happy to report that at this writing, the skies had cleared, the sun broke through for a beautiful sunset, and my fire is burning hot.  It did take a lot of effort to get it going strong, but it was worth it.  

Friday is a big day.  

First, it is a short ride to Manitowoc to catch a ferry across Lake Michigan. Part of the reason I chose this route was to take this ferry.  Should be fun.  

Also, it AFI Burger 21 day.  Stop by Burger 21 for some tasty burgers and shakes and they will donate 10% of proceeds to AFI.  Try the bananas foster shake.  My wife and I have made the mistake of getting one to "share".  It just ends poorly in a spoon fight, but it is good.  

Lastly, but wonderfully, my daughter starts her flight home from South Africa, where she cares for orphaned Rhinos.  She will get to see her mother on Saturday when she lands.  Excited.  

I am not using Pandora, as previously mentioned, but I do have voices and songs in my head.  Today is a little James Taylor:  Fire and Rain and Peter Gabriel: Red Rain.

Day 34. Crandon, WI to Shawano, WI

I understand the last thing that friends and family in Florida want to hear about right now is rain.  Rain has been my story for the day and the rain continued through the overnight.  Deciding to wait out the weather for a clearing in the morning, I am having breakfast at a local coffee shop. About 8:30am the rain stops for a minute. A couple of people around me give me the thumbs-up, so I pay and am on my way.  

The break does not look to last long, so I start out in my rain gear.  I have a nice ride around Lake Metonga in the cool damp morning.  More limbs have fallen from the overnight storms, so I play road crew again this morning.  The ducks and other waterfowl are close the the shore and skitter away as I pass.  I have been trying to make sure that I identify each of the State Birds, so far.  Three of the states have been easy, as they were the meadowlark that I have seen in droves.  One, however has been elusive and you would not think so. The loon of Minnesota. I don't think I saw one in the State, but I still look for them. I perhaps did see them at a distance, but could not tell for sure.  Today two loon were paddling along out in front of some docks.  The sun was hitting them at a good angle so I stop for a photo.  I try to ease out on the dock for a closer shot.  Then they dove under water.  Apparently, they are swimmers, much like the cormorant, and did not come up for several yards, outside my range.  The ducks were none too pleased with their appearance either.  I cycle in for a bit and I spot them around another small corner and then take a photo through the trees.  

I see houses just off the lake edge with their fire pits surrounded by Adirondack chairs and think my brother Brent would live here.  Quiet, with boat, snowmobile and ATV to tinker on.  Fishing and lots of deer nearby.  This looks to be a place he would like, short of the actual frigid temps.  I think he should buy a place up here and then I could come see how well he was keeping the place up.  

The fun of the lake turns quickly.  The rain break is about 30 minutes and then it is back.  It's rainy and windy for a couple of hours, in earnest, and then lightens up.  The rains lighten up that is, then the wind comes in full force.  The winds are 20 MPH out of the south with gusts higher than that.  I am pedaling south today, into the teeth of the wind.  I am actually on a slow downhill grade for 30 miles and at some points cannot keep the speed as high as 10MPH. To make it worse, I am back out into open fields and farmland by this point.  Passing one farm, a group of people yell encouragement and cheer me on as I am struggling head down into the wind. This is the "no fun" portion. There are no services along this route, so I pull over to the side of the road and find a stand of trees to eat my protein for lunch.  The temps, with the wind and wetness make me put on three layers shirts/jackets to get comfortable.  It does not rain hard anymore for the day, but does sprinkle long enough just to keep me wet.  The 12 year-old child in my head will not be quiet today.  "I'm wet, it's too windy, how much further, my legs hurt, I'm wet, when will the wind stop...."  Geez. 

About 20 miles from the end there is an un-paved trail that is listed on the map.  It reportedly takes off about 7-10 miles of the route.  It is a fee trail where you pay 3 bucks to help with maintenance.   It is a packed gravel surface so it will be slower, but the gravel is "fine" so it will be somewhat smooth.  I elect to try this route.  Theory being it should be closely tree-lined to break the wind, it is shorter, and I need something to distract the 12 year old.  My concern is that is may not be kept very well and it looks rough from the start.  It also may be washed out, muddy or impassable in some places.  I don't want to walk the twenty miles.  There are cross roads on the map, so I figure there are bailouts if I need it.  I decide to pay my 3 bucks at this small green pole that has soaked wet envelopes in a covered holder that apparently does not work well.   I fill out the form, as the ink smears in the wet paper.  Take the display take and put it under my map holder on the handlebar bag.  Slide the money through a thin slot, only to hear the coins I had to use for the last dollar tear through the wet paper and clink to the bottom of the tube.  I wonder how many people actually fill this out and buy the tag.  It reminds of a city park that I camped in I the trip.  The sign said it was a fee of 8 dollars and to pay it at the city hall.  When I went to pay, no one knew how to handle the money, at first.  Since there were other campers at that sight, I imagined very few people paid for their site.  Anyway, it was the right thing to do and I take off down the route. 

As it turns out, it was a great choice.  Indeed the wind was abated by the trees, the trail was slower, but rideable and quite fun.  The 12 year old was distracted by the numerous deer sightings, including one comical scene of three fawn fumbling to escape the side of the road and running into each other.  They had not yet mastered the quickness and agility their adults have when darting through the thick woods. One such adult buck pulled off a massive single bound leap across the road that was awesome.  He was not startled.  He was showing off.  

About 10 miles into the route, there is a truck coming down the path.  There are not supposed to be any motorized vehicles. That must mean it was the park's officer. Sure enough it was. Indeed I was thankful I paid my fee and displayed my badge.  He stopped and we talked about 5-10 minutes, actually.  He was very helpful and I was grateful for the break.  

It was a tough go of it today over the 90 mile leg. The wind and rain were no fun, but the added fun of the "off-road" trail made for a good day. 

Tomorrow it should be clear, but the winds are high and out of the west.  Normally that would be greatly helpful, but I am headed south again. At least they will not be in my face.  

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Day 33. Star Lake, WI to Crandon, WI

Ignoring the varmints and critters in the attic and walls, I still think the old lodge last night in Star Lake was a cool place to stay.  Admittedly, as I creaked my way to the washroom in the middle of the night, illuminated by a dim yellow light, the word "haunted" did come to mind.  Not in the creepy, scary, sort of way.  More in the "friendly" ghost category, as it were.  The common area downstairs was full of old chairs, tables and couches.  Most positioned around a center fireplace that appeared to be accessed from both side.  One side was an old stove and the other was a pure fireplace that was covered up and out of commission, at least for the time being. You can still picture hunters and ice fisherman gathered around, telling tall tales and keeping warm and dry in the lodge.  I would imagine that is still its primary use in the winter.  It should be.  I would certainly stay there for that, except I don't hunt and ice fishing just seems, well, too cold.  

I prepared a hearty peanut butter and jelly tortilla out of my camp supplies, and ate it silently on a small porch as I watched hummingbirds dart in and out of the feeders and flowers.  In the silence, and when they fly so close, their wing flutter can be surprisingly thunderous.  

About 6:30, I had turned on my flashing tail light and set off for Crandon.  It had rained overnight and the roads were wet, the air was fresh and strong of pine.  I rest my left knee early and it seems fine.  At least a dozen each of  deer and wild turkeys were spotted feeding near the road.  The wet dark trees made spotting the deer in their light brown/reddish summer coats a somewhat easier.  Around one bend, a young buck and I simul-startled each other.  He was eating in a swamping marsh, and when I made the turn, I spooked him and he exploded with three loud splashes into the woods, white-tail raised high in the air.  I heard the first splashdown before I saw him and he surprised me so bad I veered slightly into the roadway before I caught myself.  (Simul-startled --  if it is a word, I want credit for using it.  If it is not, I want credit for creating it.  A self descriptive word).  

The air was cool and damp in 50s and low 60s for the day.  Like the recent days before, the route meanders quite a bit. It is incredibly enjoyable early on as I am in two different small roads through thick woods and forest.  The roads are narrow and un-lined, as it appears they are the width of 1 1/2 cars.  They are rougher and their upkeep lags the main road, but they are my favorite of the ride.  The curves and small rolling hills seem perfectly fit for my slower speed and it is like a comfortable sightseeing ride.  There is little easement by the road and the nearness of the trees often make a canopy that shields the wind and muffles sound; creating a calm, quiet ride.  

One of these roads is a national forest road of the Nicolet National Forest. The flowers here have receded and made way for the ferns that protect the ground under many of the oak, birch, aspen and mountain maple trees, along the with pre-dominance of evergreens.  These pine and fir trees create the sweet fresh smell of sap.  Along the way, I spend a few minutes as part of the road crew, removing a recently felled small maple tree from the road. Just doing my duty, although I was briefly tempted to pedal around it.  

The trails inevitably turn back onto more heavily travelled roads. They are still byways, for the most part, but are main routes through the area. The weather turns poor late morning and the predicted rain falls. I don my rainsuit, lower my head and pedal. It is all you can do. At this point, I am thankful that touring bikes have fenders.  It is a short ride of 63 miles today. I am grateful it is not the nearly 80 miles of the previous two days. 

The temp is at 59 and the rain has set in when I stop for the day, so I decide to cancel the camping option and get a roadside motel which is on Main Street in Crandon. The owner is not here and there is a note to call the cell phone. She is out of town, but directs me to take a key for room 20 from the black mail box.  She indicates she will just come knock on my door later this evening when she gets back to town to collect the $39. Things operate differently "up north", as I have been told.  It is nice to get inside where it is dry and warmer. 

I love the tent camping, but I love it a lot less when things are wet.  With the predicted all night rain, thirty-nine dollars is worth keeping me and my gear dry for the night.  

Skunk streak: back up to two
Moose search: holding at zero.  

South to Shawano tomorrow.  

Monday, August 17, 2015

Day 32. Glidden, WI to Star Lake, WI

Based on my informal poll, Wisconsin would give Minnesota a run for its money on lake counts. There have been forests and lakes for the entire ride today as I spent much of it in the Northern Highland American Legion State Forest.  

The byways were lined with thick forest and the road edges continued their showy display of wildflowers.  Breaks in the tree lines revealed lakes and marshy meadows all along the trail.  At each opening, I excitedly and determinedly scanned the waterlines and marsh for the up to now elusive moose.  I was disappointed each time I wheeled by the open view, but optimistic about the "next" opportunity.  

Other than the few towns I passed, the homes, lodges and resorts that support the lake life and fishing in the area were concealed by the woods. There were plenty of small wooden signs that were evidence of buildings nearby. However, only the small curved roads carved out from the trees were indications where many could be.  

As mentioned, fishing seems to reign supreme in this area.  Indeed, Boulder Junction, where I took lunch, proclaimed to be the muskee capital of the world.  The world.  This I cannot prove and I must admit I still have a bit of cynicism with the recent lack of "falls".  However, they were selling and renting lots of watercraft and bait, which includes: worms, leaches, and beaver tails which are large worms. I think this bait was for smaller species of fish, but nonetheless, I think I still would prefer shrimp or greenbacks for snook.  I have heard some of the locals lament over the past few days about many of the lakes being over-fished and the difficulty re-stocking some the classic "best fishing" lakes.  A reminder to all of us to conserve -- take what you need/use, but practice good conservation habits for great fishing in years to come. 

The cycling part of the ride was very fun today.  The temperatures dipped overnight and I don't think it got into the 70s today.  With the overcast skies and breezes, I was comfortable in long sleeves all day.   The rolling, meandering route was a joy to ride.  One 13 mile section was on a bicycle trail that had rolling hills and tight s-curves through the pines that was simply entertaining.   As a matter of fact, some of the turns were so tight that I doubt you could aggressively ride this on a road bike.  Too much speed around a corner at an unsuspecting walker could end poorly.  Regardless, on my touring bike I had great time.   

Aches, pains, sores and soreness are all part of the ride and are to be expected, but you just medicate, adjust and distract your mind.  Today on a climb, however, I tweaked my left knee a bit that seems to be more than typical aches.  It slowed me down a bit and was troublesome on the hills.  I plan to rub in some Skinners on the knee and calf tonight and let it rest.  Hopefully, it will be good to go in the morning.  

Tonight I am in an old lodge in Star Lake.  For 25 dollars, I have a room at the end of the hall, opposite end from the shared washroom. The 25 bucks is less than I pay to pitch a tent at some state parks.  It has great eclectic character, which is to say that its finest days were in the past.   I think the place is pretty cool, but I heard a couple of ladies comment that it was "creepy" as they passed my window.  There are many cabins adjacent to the lodge that seem to be where families are staying for the week to fish and enjoy the lake.  I plan to enjoy the lake by watching the sunset over it tonight.  

Tomorrow I am off to Crandon, WI.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Day 31. Edgewater, WI to Glidden, WI

As the sun was coming up over Lake Chetac, it was time to break camp for the 80 mile ride to Glidden. The ride started out a bit discombobulated. The bugs were out early and often under the trees as I was packing away the tent. I choose to blame those little flying annoyances for the trouble I had packing. I had to repack my panniers three different times due to forgetting various items. Once I was settled and ready to go, I snatch the bike from the tree it had rested against for the night, only to be reminded by the abrupt stop that it was still locked to the tree. Even on the bike, the first few miles were uncharacteristically laborious. It felt like it was going to be a long day. About 3 miles into the ride, I realized I had forgotten to put on my heart monitor and had to reset my cyclometer.  

After the inauspicious start, things settled in nicely, however. There were overcast skies and a helpful tailwind to aid with the comfort and enjoyment of the ride. 

The route winds and meanders around lakes and over rolling hills.  The area is heavily wooded and part of the route is through Chequamegon National Forest. There is only the rare farm on the course, as most of the small country roads appear to primarily provide access to seasonal homes, resorts and getaways.  As a matter of fact, much like the farms of the previous day, many of the residences had carved or painted signs announcing their owners surname and often the first names around the perimeter. The signs were enhanced with carving and paintings of loons, fish, elk, moose or other things that represented the area along with words like, haven, retreat, and hide-away. 

It was a beautiful ride that, for me, was highlighted by the increasing roadside wildflowers. A wide variety, including aster, blazing star, Queen Ann lace, thistle, phlox, lilies  and purple pickerel weed at the edge of some marsh, that accented the ever present Goldenrod.  

There were many moose and elk crossing signs or other reference to their presence. Indeed, at every opening in the trees that revealed lake or marsh, I scanned the area intently in hopes of sighting a moose.  Many of my backpacking trips we have encountered moose coming through our camp at dusk, eating within yards of the trail as we round the corner the next morning. Many times we have spotted them in the distance eating in the meadow.  Once, when my daughter was taking one of about 4000 pictures of a rock or flower, we looked just beyond the tree line to see a mother and calf hiding a few feet away. We started to snap pictures when they rose and towered feet above us, annoyed at being disturbed. They are obviously huge. It was time to go. Anyway, I think they are incredible animals and attempt to spot them when I can. Today I saw nothing. I was even on Moose Lake road for about 8 miles.  I did not see a Moose.  I did see a lake.  Reportedly the largest herd of elk in Wisconsin reside in the national forest, but I saw none of them.  It was not for lack of trying.  I almost became dizzy looking through trees in an attempt to see them.  I did see several large gobblers feeding in the final months before Thanksgiving, however.  

For those keeping track, the skunk run was broken today.  Can't say that I was disappointed.  

Lunch was at Chippewa Tavern, the restaurant in a wide spot of the road called Clam Lake. The proprietor said the gourmet pizzas he made were the best I would ever taste.  He makes his own dough, cheese, sausage, and variety of sauces that take eight hours to create. How could I refuse? Gotta admit, one of the best pies I have ever tasted.  It was fantastic.  

Resting place for the night is Glidden, WI where I opted to bailout on camping with the predicted overnight rain. There is one motel in town with 5 total rooms. I take one of them. I may be the only one here tonight. 

This is a beautiful part of the country. Can't wait to see more of it tomorrow.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Day 30. St. Croix Falls, WI to Edgewater, WI

I took my last rest day for almost two weeks in St Croix Falls.  There are some shorter days upcoming that should provide the requisite rest, but yesterday was the last full day off until New York.  

Taylor Falls and St. Croix falls are sister cities across the St. Croix River and across State lines from each other. Taylor Falls was my exit from Minnesota where I was rudely introduced to a 9% grade through St Croix falls.  The two towns themselves are very inviting with ornamental flower baskets brightly hanging from lamp post down the respective main streets.  There were cafes and malt shops, antique stores and gift shops and a myriad of other businesses that I had the chance to investigate for a day.  I can tell you that my raspberry chocolate malt passed the test. There was an antique shop that I wish my wife Brenda could have seen. There were some interesting finds within the store that I thought were relatively inexpensive. They would have brought a steeper price further east, I would imagine. Crystal decanters and vases for a few dollars and antique dressing tables and fully operational antique wooden cash registers for a bit over a hundred dollars.  Very neat place. 

Further fact-finding about these two cities as one walks the trails by the river reveals a stunning truth: There are no falls.   Nary any rapids. That is false advertising that needs to be corrected. They should be required to drop the last word of their city names, for integrity purposes. There is a dam for power production. There are also very sheer cliffs where many rock climbing ropes were left dangling. But no falls.  

Setting my "sans falls" disappointment aside, they are very nice towns worth a visit.   

I leave the "fall-less" cities to head to Edgewater, WI. I have already prepared myself to not be on the edge of any water.  

The early part of the ride is smooth rolling hills that alternates forests, family farms and villages. The roadsides are heavily guarded by goldenrod and pleasantly interspersed by a few other wildflowers for most of the ride. The family farms often have ornate signs proclaiming the family name and type of farm they preside over. This being Wisconsin, I guess it should be of no surprise that many are dairy farms. Corn, beans and potato farms still take up much of the acreage. 

The latter part of the ride moves me through more lakes and areas that support fishing. There are increasing signs of lakeside resorts that cater to summer vacationers and fisherman. These resorts are primarily cottage and cabin rentals on the lake that provide boat launches and other basic services for those whose target are Muskie, Walleye and Blue Gill.  (Birchwood, one of the towns along the way is apparently the Blue Gill capital of Wisconsin. I had no idea.). I am not staying at one of these quaint resorts, however.  

My stop for the evening is a motorhome campground that appears to cater to seasonal visitors.  Some of the units look like they remain here year-round with their owners visiting when the snow melts. One such couple in their 70s had dozens of hummingbirds flying around their home nearing sunset. They had plenty of feeders and flowers to attract them. They explained to me that they show up to their home and every year they are there.  

Although tents are allowed, it is not a "tent" site, per se. The manager suggests a spot for me under the trees behind and RV where the owners had just left that morning. I accept and set up camp for the night. Oh yes, I am just a short walk from the waters' edge. Nice. 

This area is also well known for ATV trails and snowmobiles.  Obviously the latter were not in use on a day in the 90s with high humidity. However, the former were out dusting up the trails on a Saturday. I note this because I am often very self conscious when I stop and eat at a cafe or similar. I try to pick a table away from the crowd, being very hot and sweaty. Today, however, when the ATV crew came in for a bite to eat, I may have been the cleanest one in the room.  

Expecting clear skies tonight, but tomorrow there is supposed to be late rain. I plan to get up and try to beat as much of that as I can. 

Friday, August 14, 2015

Midway Stats

This journey is just about halfway to its destination.  So far:

We have raised $9175 for AFI. Thank you so very much. Amazing.  We really have a chance to blow the goal out of the water. Please pass along to family and friends.  

Cycling stats:  

63,855 feet climbed
2001 miles
160 hours in the saddle
30 days
26 cycling days
7 States
5 dog chases (nothing too close)
4 flat tires
3 travel tubes of sunscreen
2 time zones
1 continental divide
0 jackalopes (but some really large rabbits)

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Day 29. Dalbo, MI to St. Croix Falls, WI

The storm that came in through the night was pretty strong, as it downed some smaller limbs.  I was again grateful for the bicycle bunkhouse.  

So, I know Poptarts are nutritional nightmares.  We don't buy them anymore because I loved eating them too much. Well... the bunkhouse had brown sugar cinnamon Poptarts....and a toaster....and milk.....and I could not resist.  Mmmmm. As good as they were, they did me no good on the ride.  About an hour in, I was already hungry because I basically had a sugar breakfast. Not smart. (But they did taste good).  

I take a bit longer in the morning to relax in my accommodations, but as usual, I am eager to get on the road. I am also slightly concerned I may be put to work on the farm.  It surprises me somewhat  that after 4 weeks I still have an eagerness to start the day on the bike.  I do enjoy it, especially the fresh early mornings.  

The ride was uneventful for the most part.  Quiet back roads and byways with smaller farms.  Much of the ride went through undeveloped and over-grown land where more deer were spotted and polecats were present.  In several of the farms and fields there are tall wooden structures about 15 or 20 feet in the air, mostly at the edge of the fields.  I take these to be hunting stands and blinds.  I can imagine that the local owners have a relative easy time with gathering venison in the fall as these blinds look out over the recently harvested corn fields.  I am sure it is harder than I imagine, but it does look like prime country.  

In the early morning on the country roads, I especially enjoy the "quiet" sounds.  I have often mentioned my
enjoyment of the fowl of the air on this ride.  In the mornings, they seem to be in fuller voice with their variety of chitters, tweets, tidadees, shrieks, and cheers. I wish I had the knowledge of how to identify the calls of the smaller birds. I'm slowly working on identifying them by sight. I am nearly clueless on the bird calls.

Crickets have been a constant daily background sound for the past week.  It seems contradictory that the chirps of the crickets are internationally considered the sound of silence. As in,  "Cue the crickets".  When really they are often a discordance of sound and certainly not quiet. Their racket is really more the sound of solitude, not silence. I have a lot of that on this ride....solitude.  

Speaking of sounds, I have learned to love the screams of Chewbacca. Yes, the Chewbacca from Star Wars.  Is there another?  Listen to that guttural screech in your head.  It is the same sound that large truck tires make when rolling over the rumble strips, at speed.  With many of the State roads and highways in the recent states having center lane rumble strips, it is the sound I listen for when vehicles approach.  When I hear Chewy howl, I know they are giving me plenty of room.  It is oddly relaxing.  

Finally, since I am on a "sound" theme today, let me address the missing Pandora song mix.  For those of you who noticed, I have stopped adding that to the blog for a week or two.  Fact of the matter, I have not listened to one note since the first pedal stroke I took four weeks ago in Astoria, Oregon   Don't get me wrong, I "heard" the songs I listed played in my head, several times.  However, I have just not put on the headphones like I thought I would.  Several reasons; 1. Part of trip is to experience all elements of the road, sights, smells, and sounds.  If I am going through this much effort, I want the full service. 2. I want to hear the traffic as it is approaching and to deploy evasive maneuvers as necessary.  3. It takes up too much valuable battery. 4. I have usually been out of cell service much of the ride. So with all of that, no Pandora. Now you know. 

Oh, by the way. I am in Wisconsin today.  Another milestone. St Croix Falls.  Beautiful area that I will explore more tomorrow.  I cycled past some falls that I will get a closer look at in the morning.  They better be impressive as the ending climb was 9% grade to get to my lodging tonight.