Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Michigander on the Michigander: Part One

Tents:  I figured that I didn't need my 6 person tent (the person they have in mind must be Maya sized) plus the tent bag needed to be replaced so I bought a 3 person tent on quick sale for $25. I already had a 3 person tent at home but I had lent it to an irresponsible person who put it in the washing machine to remove any possible Sue germs turning it into the psoriasis tent with all the waterproofing flaking off (no the person did not offer to replace it). My tent was impossibly compact and yes Steve was right, I will never be able to fit it in its bag. Downsides of this tent? Many. It can only handle light rain, no windows so no flow through ventilation, no quick set up. Initially it took both of us to set it up and much time but as soon as I learned never, NEVER pull on shock-corded poles but only push them through the channels, I became pretty fast and independent. Its waterproofing was tested when we had torrential downpours the first night. Water dripped on my head while I tried to gather everything onto my little pad as water pooled on the floor along the sides of my tent. No sleep that night and it rained hard until 7 am so I didn't want to leave the few square feet of my tent that was still dry. It worked fine through mild showers and could handle the dew. On the very hot night, ventilation would have been nice. I could have left the rain fly off but rain was a possibility.

Sleeping bag: Only needed it one night. Having the down one that took up half the space would be nice but it has been MIA  for 11 years. My Thermorest is similarly gone. I used a cheap knock-off that if over-inflated, would form big air bubbles in uncomfortable places or under-inflated (easier) would provide only a little cushion for my near 60 bones. Plus it is twice as big.

One jersey Sue: At home I have at least 7 jerseys plus I bought one at the ride. I packed one for each day. However I did not try them on. Apparently forty something Sue was a much smaller person. I could not even get into these things without circulation being cut off. My new jersey did fit and I washed it every afternoon for the next day. Same problem with the shorts. Rasta Man, a very light packer, used the one shirt, one short system all week. I did change the sox.

Lost: This was on the road (hard to get lost on the trail). I had left Alpena early that day to beat the heat. I figured Rasta Man would catch up as he isn't as old and fat, had skinny tires and plus he had a 1000 miles under his belt already for the year. The roads are marked with orange Ms  but if you miss one, you are in big trouble. I was battling a headwind, kept my head down, and missed a turn. I wondered after several miles, why no one was passing me or why no one was ahead of me. The interior of NE Michigan is very sparsely populated. We are given a map book but it only covers the roads we are to be travelling plus roads within a half mile. I was headed in the right direction and knew that sooner or later, the road would run into the route near a town Hillman. I stop at the only store and ask where Hillman was? A long way plus I would need to turn off the main road to get there. Could you be more specific on what  'a long way' is?15 miles? I was also told there was a gas station between here and there in case I needed more supplies. I threw a couple of cold Power Ades in my backpack as there would be no water stops and it was very hot. I had a cellphone to report a bike break down but reception is very spotty up north. I saw only one other rider (we had orange bracelets) but he was riding so slowly, I couldn't stand it plus he was not friendly. The other riders emerged just before Hillman and I managed to shave 4 miles off on the most difficult day. Heading west into a very strong west wind was not fun. We were mostly going up hill. On the few downhills, we actually had to pedal.

The Very Welcomed and Rare East Wind: The prevailing winds are west, southwest so it wasn't much of a surprise when we had a west wind heading out of Alpena to Atlanta. The trek from Atlanta to Gaylord was going to be more arduous with a 550 foot climb, mostly in one 5 mile stretch. We were in an Atlanta bar (beer: $1.25; not in Ann Arbor any more) watching a Traverse City station listening carefully for the weather. A NE wind! Hallelujah! I hoped what was good for TC was good for the interior And actually it was more due East and strong (even better!). They graph the distance versus gain in elevation and it looked like a vertical wall between Mile 15 and 20. I envisioned getting exhausted spinning in first gear for so long. I was pleasantly surprised to find myself actually going 20 mph with no effort during this dreaded 5 mile stretch.
Downside of an east wind? : Rain!!!!!

Rosie the Coffee Lady: She'd get up every morning at 5 am to start the brewing process of very excellent coffee. We were asked to bring our own mugs. I've been on rides in which just one pot of weak church lady percolated coffee that quickly ran out was all that was provided so this was a huge treat. Plus Rosie is very nice. I did stop in Cheybogan twice for a really tasty latte across from their Alien Park with the ceramic salmon.

A Very Welcomed Respite: Halfway through the ride on its hottest day and tiring of the anemic swill beer that appeals to the lowest common denominator and to Northern Michiganders apparently, the lovely couple I met in Italy picked me up at the Alpena campground and treated me to some good beer and a nice meal and really nice company. They have a cottage about 25 miles north of Alpena and knew from this blog that I would be nearby. The husband presented me with a sweet pea bouquet as they are rare down state (but all over the place here. It was fun catching up with them in air conditioned comfort. I heard that I had missed the best dinner back at camp but it was served in a sauna setting. After dinner, I got a personal tour of Alpena of its pretty waterfront, Victorian homes, its museums. I have never been here,  sticking to the West coast of Michigan like most other Michiganders and the FIPs (what some west coast people call the people from Illinois).
I was telling the couple about my trials of keeping ants out of my hummingbird feeder. They say they don't dare use one up there as their neighbor had a bear destroy theirs.

The trails themselves: No thanks to the efforts of the group that this ride supports, Michigan has the most miles of trails of any state. We went on two this week: the North Central and the NEST trail (northeast state trail). Compared to trails I have been on in earlier years, they are like I-94. As they are old railroad beds, they are graded to avoid steep climbs and downhills. The NEST trail is 10 feet wide with numerous signs warning of the 'narrow' bridges which seem to be 9.5 feet wide. However no signs warning of the many bars placed at intersections to keep ATVs off of them. My body tightened  in fear every time I passed through these. The principal users are not bicyclists, hikers and runners but snow mobilers. I assume they remove the poles for them. They are crushed limestone and it takes some additional effort to continually plow through the loose gravel. With the effort it takes to go 10 mph on the trail, I'd go 14 mph on the paved road. On the first year of the ride, we had sections of single tracks through shoulder high weeds going over little hills of piled up railroad ties. Whoop-tee-dos, they were called. Other years, through very loose sand or gravel or what was worst, just plain ballast. I had extra knobby tires for those days. My friend managed with semi smooth tires of medium width (easier to go fast on pavement). My hands would cramp up from having to hold on to the handle bars so tightly for control (much more so than on the roads). But they went through pretty land. On the last day on the final stretch before Mackinaw City, I took the road so I could see Lake Huron better. The roads between Alpena and Gaylord? I encounter more potholes going the mile on the road behind my house than the entire 95 miles total on those roads. The road in which we had the screaming 2 mile downhill was thankfully smooth as can be. Nothing worst than hitting a pothole at 40 mph. I thought of my friend Dave whose funeral I attended last year who lost control on a downhill.

Michigan is just one big sand dune: This what I overheard some New Yorkers say at breakfast one morning. It's between those Great Lakes. No, no , no. I pointed out that there are sometimes almost 220 miles between the lakes (as opposed to zero miles at the Straits).The soil around my house and most of our county is clay not sand.

I will resume at some point...tired of typing.


Teri Bernstein said...

sounds like a great, but challenging trip. Could I do it? Or maybe try that Iowa bike ride next summer? I hear the plus of that one is PIE at every stop.

Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

Yes you could! RAGBRAI is 70 miles/day and does feature lots of pies along with bacon covered corn cobs but you have to provide your own sag I think.

The Michigander people are deciding between NW Michigan (where cherry pie abounds)or Central Michigan. I am hoping for the former.

I did try to give you a call: what ever days are more convenient for you..the beginning of your trip? Can't wait to see you!!!!


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