Around Lake Michigan

 

Summer 1994

 

Denis Kertz, ©1994

 

Prologue

 

My cycling equipment is a Miyata 618 touring frame with 36 hole, 14 gauge spoked wheels fitted with 700x28 Continental Super Sport tires and 18 speed Shimano SIS with bar end shifters.A week prior to this trip my frame was a Miyata Triple Cross hybrid but the local bike shop spotted a crack in the frame while putting on a new headset.Fortunately, they had the Miyata touring frame in stock and they transferred all of the components from my old frame to the new frame.My bicycle is equipped with four OverLand medium size panniers and a small handlebar bag.

My trip estimate is 1000 miles although it is hard to figure the mileage given that back roads will be used as much as possible.I actually estimate 900 miles but factor in a 10% contingency and round up to 1000 miles.I plan on riding 70 miles per day which translates into 14.3 days.I plan to take 16 days but weather and other commitments delay my trip by a day.I have never toured before so this is a new experience for me.I typically ride about 125 miles per week with 15 mile rides during the week and a 60 mile ride on the weekend.I have done centuries on my road bike but have never done back-to-back long rides so I am uncertain how my body will respond to daily long rides on a loaded touring bike.For that reason, I plan to start the tour with easy days the first couple of days, not wishing to strain my body and forcing an early finish.I take a tent and sleeping bag with intent to camp along the way.However, I do not carry any cooking equipment.Cooking does not interest me and I figure this will save weight and time and I plan to eat at restaurants along the way.

Day 1: 6/24/94, Friday - Naperville to Union KOA

The weather is overcast and threatening this morning.I finally complete packing my bicycle but I donít leave until 1:00.However, my plan is to do only about 50 miles today since I donít want to over do the first day and pay for it the rest of the trip.I immediately notice that my front wheel shimmies.Fortunately, I had just read about this in my touring guide and knew this was due to some load imbalance.I tried to correct this with some adjustments, taking my spare tire out of the front pannier (no help) and adjusting the position of my rear panniers which helps some.This helps some but not much but I continue on anyway.

My first dayís route is a route to the western end of Lake Geneva that I used on a bike ride several years ago.Iím familiar with the first half of the route since I have biked several times in this area before.This route is primarily flat with a few rollers and the route becomes more scenic once I get west of the Fox River.This is now rural area with generally good roads with less traffic.

Iím not sure where I will stay this first night so I decide to head towards Huntley, figuring I can always find a motel if camping accommodations are not available.I stop around 5:30 at a foodmart in Huntley for a chocolate chip muffin and a Coke since I havenít had anything to eat since I left.I chat a few minutes with three kids on BMX bicycles and tell them I am riding around Lake Michigan.One kid looks at me quizzically and asks ďWhy donít you drive?ĒThe kids tell me there are no motels in Huntley but I am surprised to hear this.However, the traffic on Route 47 is so heavy I am inclined to not even explore.The cash register person tells me there is camping six miles outside of town.I guess this is probably the campground I have seen at the Udder Century bike ride in Union.I agonize whether to head there since I am worried there will be no space since its already 6:00 on a Friday evening. However, I finally decide that this trip is an adventure and requires an adventurous spirit so I head to the campground.I take the back way to the campground and keep an eye out for the farms along the way in the event I need to throw up my tent somewhere.Unfortunately, I confuse the Illinois Railway Museum with the Antique Village that is next to the campground and I end up backtracking about 5 miles which makes my 6 mile trip into a 13 mile trip to the campground.This will be a familiar story along my tour as the mileage to the campground is always longer than the estimate.

This campground is indeed the campground near the Antique Village where the Udder Century has been held the last several years.It is a KOA but there is room and for $15.30, not that much less than the price of a budget motel, I secure a campsite.After setting up camp and a shower, I head to the camp store and order a small pepperoni and sausage Tombstone pizza followed by 2 eskimo bars.Not a bad dinner when you are tired and hungry with nothing else close by.

Although my goal for the day was 50 miles I ended up doing 70 miles.I hope this is not overdoing it the first day but only time will tell.This day also established a recurring pattern of adding a number of additional miles just to get to the campsite at the end of the day.

Day 2: 6/25/94, Saturday - Union KOA to Palmyra

After I packup in the morning, I eat 2 cups of granola with milk (powdered milk) figuring this will keep me going until I find a restaurant.Iím off around 9:00 and continue on my Lake Geneva route.Since restaurant prospects donít look good, I stop at another foodmart in Alden for another chocolate chip muffin.This is the same foodmart I stopped at on my previous Lake Geneva trip (85 miles) when after 70 miles I needed to stop to replenish my water supply.This time I notice a copier machine that advertised nickel copies.Too good to pass up, I make copies of my Wisconsin bicycle map for my intended route.

As I pull into the western end of Lake Geneva I skirt Walworth.I head into Fontana but thereís too much traffic and it looks too touristy for my tastes.So I continue west up Dewey Road which has a short, steep hill.I quickly find that I am undergeared for this hill and, for the first time in my life, walk my bicycle up the last 30 yards.Unfortunately, this will not be my last walk as I find my 13-28 freewheel along with 28-38-48 triple crankis not enough gearing for hills on a loaded touring bike.Continuing west on Dewey I catch K north to X and pull into Delavan about 1:30 looking for a place to eat.Luck is with me as I find a restaurant downtown with an all-you-can eat breakfast buffet that lasts until 2:00.I manage to down 2 plates of bacon and pancakes (about 10 pancakes) and another plate of regular breakfast food.Another recurring theme on this tour will be having no problem downing multiple plates of food wherever I can find an all-you-can-eat special.

After some difficulty finding my route once out-of-town, I finally take M which was labeled with a detour marker and find it is open and I am on my way.The terrain is now more rolling as I am moving towards the southern Kettle Moraine area.I hope to find a place to camp in Kettle Moraine although it is a Saturday and no one in Delavan knew anything about camping in the area.Iím following recommended roads from my Wisconsin bicycling map which is taking me on a number of backroads.While these are good roads, their names donít always agree with the two Wisconsin maps I have.Eventually, I discover I must have made a wrong turn since my bike compass shows me going south when I should be heading north.I backtrack at a cost of about 10 miles and find my correct turn.Eventually, I pick up Kettle Moraine Drive and then H north to Palmyra.

As I ride through Kettle Moraine, I donít see any campground signs.At mile 85, I stop at a foodmart in Palmyra for another muffin and Coke.Fortunately, a Kettle Moraine Ranger pulls in and I ask him about camping.He suggests Whitewater about 10-12 miles west but quickly retracts as he must have noticed my body language shouting ďno more ridingĒ.He recalls someone mentioning a county park just outside town and gives me directions.I head for the county park which is 2-3 miles outside town.The park is empty and looks fine except for a broken water pump.It isnít clear that camping is allowed but there is no sign forbidding it and I am not about to move further, especially since the price is right.

I dump my panniers in tall grass in a secluded area and head back into town to eat.Along the way I notice a swimming spot on a lake which I decide will serve fine as a shower after dinner.I eat a ham sandwich, a 6Ē tuna sandwich, and a large (3 scoops) ice cream.Heading back to camp, I stop at the swimming hole but I find the swimming hole closes at 8:00 and it is now 7:55.So I quickly park my bike, take off my shoes, and jump in the water for a quick shower.

Back in camp, I set up as a storm starts rolling in with lightning in the distance.Shortly after 9:00 I climb into my tent and it rains for about 20 minutes along with lightning.The rain stops but it rains off and on the rest of the night.This is another recurring theme for most of the trip - it only rains at night when I am in the tent.

For the day I rode almost 100 miles.So much for my plan to take it easy the first couple of days and ease into this touring thing.But I am encouraged that I did almost a century on my second day without feeling very strained.

Day 3: 6/26/94, Sunday - Palmyra to Pike Lake State Park

The rain has stopped and the morning is nice and cool.A guy comes by in a truck and lets his 2 dogs out for a morning run.Another guy stops by to release some raccoons he has trapped in a housing area.He has 3 traps, one with 3 baby raccoons, one with the mother, and one with probably a male raccoon but it isnít clear whether this might be the father.The baby raccoons treat this all as an adventure and are in no hurry to exit their trap.However, once the mother coon is out, she heads into the woods and the babies quickly follow.The final coon is not real happy with his situation and makes threatening moves as the trapper attempts to release him but eventually he moves on his way too.

After my 2 cups of granola and packing up, I decide to head north to Delafield for breakfast rather than back into Palmyra.I pick up Z heading northeast, Z heading north and then continuing north on C all the way to Delafield.†† After 20 miles, I reach Delafield and find a Shoneys with its all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet.Itís Sunday morning and crowded but I get a table after about 10 minutes and eat all I can eat.

Heading north again on C, the terrain is becoming more hilly.I have to walk up 3-4 hills and just barely make a couple of others.My legs are probably tired from yesterdayís near century but itís obvious I need a couple of lower gears for the hills.I start to cringe whenever I see a hill and breathe a sigh of relief whenever it is downhill.I also notice that when I first see a hill it always looks much steeper than it is.Then as I get close to the hill it looks much more reasonable.Nevertheless, this doesnít make climbing them easy.

I wander northeast on various backroads (Peterson, Kilbourn, Funk, E, Emerald, CC, Power Hill, Waterford, and Kettle Moraine Drive).As I near 50 miles my legs are tired from climbing and I decide I need to find a place to stop for the night.I stop at the Pike Lake State Park recreation area and the ranger says the campground is just up ahead over the hill (!) past the ranger station.So I climb the hill and turnoff right to head for the campground only to encounter another hill.This one is not so steep but it is longer and I stop a couple of times before I make it.My gearing is low enough for this hill but my legs are just too tired.Finally, I pull into the campground, pick a site, and pay the ranger the $9 fee.I decide I need a new freewheel with a couple of lower gears so I ask the ranger about bike shops and he later reports one in West Bend and one in Hartford.I hope to get a new freewheel tomorrow to cope with these hills.Iím also worried about my ability to complete my tour on my schedule.Even though I covered significant miles the first two days they werenít all ďprogressĒ miles and today I only made 50 miles.

After setting up camp, I head to the restaurant at the service station which was just ahead before I turned off to the campground.Unfortunately, this means I will have to climb back up the hill on my return but at least this will be on an unloaded bike. I have a chicken special which is just OK.On the way back, the ranger gives me bike store information on a piece of paper which I stick in my jersey and promptly wash as I rinse my jersey that evening.Fortunately, the information remains legible.

After cleaning up, I pull out my maps to review my situation.I conclude that the routes I am taking are zig zagging too much and adding non-progress miles.I decide that my progress over the next two days will decide whether I can complete my tour as planned or whether I need to plan an alternative.One alternative would be to head west to visit a friend who has just moved to the Eagle River area and then head home from there.

Today is the first day I encounter any mosquitoes, brought out by the recent rains plus the woody area of the campground.I also see a guy and his SO blowing up what looks to be a rubber raft.Iím surprised they would have a rubber raft and then realize this is a sleeping mattress!I have never seen one this thick.

My legs felt a little tire starting out today but not at all bad considering the nearly 170 miles I covered the first two days.My only problem was handling the short, steep uphills.

Day 4: 6/27/94, Monday - Pike Lake State Park to High Cliff State Park

I pack and head for breakfast at the same place I had dinner last night.Breakfast is OK - 3 large pancakes and oatmeal but they have no brown sugar.My legs feel tired and I wonder how they will fare today.I call the Hartford bike shop and a recording says they donít open until 10:00.I decide to head there anyway since it is only a couple of miles west.My other option is to head due north into northern Kettle Moraine but I suspect that would likely result in another frustrating day of trying to climb more hills than my gearing (and legs) is prepared to handle.†† I stop in Hartfordto pick up some granola and stick the box under my sleeping bag but it drops off somewhere along the way unnoticed.I pull into the bike shop 10 minutes early but they are already open. Unfortunately, they only have a 14-30 freewheel and I decide to pass, hoping to find something in Fond du Lac, a fortuitous decision as it turns out.

I start out on another recommended backroad (K) but when it intersects with 83 I decide its time to start using the direct approach to make more progress miles.This is fine since 83 has a nice 3 foot wide shoulder and there is little traffic.When it turns into 175, I stay on it but in a short while the nice shoulder disappears and I begin to think about options.I move off onto the gravel shoulder a couple of times when traffic is coming in both directions but handling is difficult and risky with my loaded touring bike.Fortunately, after about 5 miles the nice should reappears and I stay on 175 all the way to Fond du Lac.The road is continually up and down but Iím able to handle all of the hills in my two lowest gears without too much strain.Interestingly, in spite of my dead leg feelings in the morning my legs seem fine now.I also decide an advantage of taking more mainstream routes in addition to more progress miles is that I believe that these roads probably have less severe hills.I think there are standards for hill grades that arenít used on side roads.

At the edge of Fond du Lac, I stop to call a couple of bike shops.One also has a 14-30 freewheel and I decide to pass on this again, partly because I donít know where the bike shop is located anyway.I continue on 175 which heads right downtown, turns into Main street and just happens to go right by the bike shop.†† I continue on several blocks and stop for a lasagna ($5.25) dinner at the Lions restaurant - a good choice for a cyclist.

As I review my gearing situation, I grow worried that I could spend a lot of time looking for a 14-32 freewheel without any guarantee that I would find one anyway.I would most likely have to detour into Green Bay to have a chance to find what I am looking for.Consequently, I stop at the nearby bike shop to pick up the 14-30.When the mechanic removes the rear wheel to replace the freewheel, he notices that my rear axle is broken!Apparently, it had just broken since I hadnít noticed anything.Forty minutes later minus some $40+ Iím on my way.

I continue on 175 until it intersects 55, a main drag.I take 55 out-of-town as it heads east and then north around the eastern shore of Lake Winnebago.This isnít too bad since it is double lanes and there isnít too much traffic in mid-afternoon.When it changes to a single lane, I stay on since it has a nice 3-4 foot wide shoulder.This works fine despite healthy, speedy traffic.My goal is High Cliff State Park which is located at the northwest end of Lake Winnebago.I stay on 55 until county road Hhh which takes me west approximately a quarter mile to Lake Shore Road.Lake Shore is great - it parallels 55 with almost no traffic and none of the traffic noise pollution.This is cycling heaven - straight and flat until a hill at the end, approximately 15 miles later.

At the end of Lake Shore, I pick up 55 again for about 1.5 miles until I reach the High Cliff State Park turnoff.Despite the encouraging name, the campsites are nothing special - they are wooded without a view of Lake Winnebago as I had hoped.After setting up camp, I head to the nearby fast food place to eat.Another Tombstone pizza works OK and I get a free large yogurt because they had oven problems, delaying my meal.The road from camp to the fast food place had a really nice downhill run but now I have to pay the price and climb back up.I shift to my new low gear and climb leisurely up the hill.

The terrain from Hartford to Fond du Lac was rolling all the way.From Fond du Lac to High Cliff it was flat along the lake all the way until the very end with hills as the name High Cliff suggests.However, to the east of 55 there was a ridge and I suspect further east was hilly.The scenery was nice with green fields and some yellow (oats?) fields.It is neat to see the farms with their distinctive silos - some as many as 3-4 per farm.

I finish the day at 80+ miles with my legs feeling fine.Hopefully, Iím getting my second wind.

Day 5: 6/28/94, Tuesday - High Cliff State Park to North Bay Shore rains off and Recreation Area

It rains off and on over night but starts to clear up when I get up. As I leave it starts to cloud up again and this pattern will continue for most of the day.

I pick up 55 west for 4-5 miles during ďrushĒ hour.This is a bit hectic due to the nonexistent shoulder.Then I turn north on State Park Road and head to Kaukauna for breakfast, about 13 miles from camp.As I pull into town, I stop at the first restaurant, a Country Kitchen.The breakfast (pancakes and banana nut muffin) is so-so and the waiter asks about my trip.He says the forecast is for some rain which he says means it will be sunny.

I head northeast to skirt Green Bay, taking first J north, S east, Overland north followed by a jog to pick up C north and finally B east..The farms are still noted by their typical 3-4 silos and I stop to take a picture.Ironically,now that I have my lower gear I have no need for it as the terrain is flat and will be all day.I start looking for a place for lunch but there isnít anything around.Finally, in Suamico, a small town just north of Green Bay with some small specialty shops, I locate a small cafe with an out door patio.I have a tuna sandwich and a chocolate chip muffin which was somewhat dry.A young (about three years old) girl at the nearby table keeps staring at me.Maybe sheís never seen a real cyclist before.

Leaving lunch, I am now near Lake Michigan and head north on J and then northeast on S.The scenery has now changed from farms to no farms and more trees including birch trees.Often the trees line the road as I expect to see in Michigan.Finally at mile 372 I gain my first glimpse of Lake Michigan. I get occasional glimpses of Lake Michigan and stop at the Pensaukee wildlife area to take a picture of Lake Michigan and Door County looking south.

Itís beginning to look like it may take a century to get to a campsite near Peshtigo which was my tentative goal for the day.After passing through Oconto, I pick up Y going north.At about mile 85, I see the North Bay Shore Recreation Area, pull in, and discover campsites on the lake.I pay $7.50 (actually only $6.50 since I donít have enough change) for a campsite with a pretty good view of the lake and an even better one just a short walk away.I actually have difficulty paying my fee since the money slot in the depository is not that big and I had to use $1.50 in change.

The unfortunate point of this campsite is it is not near food.The nearest towns, Peshtigo and Oconto, both look about 5 miles away.I choose Oconto, which is south and I had already passed through, and discover itís really about 8 miles and I end up with a round-trip of 18 miles for dinner, giving me my first century of the tour.

In town I can find only one restaurant, no (open) service station (looking for a Michigan map) and no food store.I ask a local and she directs me to the Brothers 3 restaurant just around the corner where I have the all-you-can-eat Taco Bar.I ask about a grocery store and learn there is only one which I skip since itís at least another mile away.

Arriving back in camp with 104 miles, I take a quick dip in the late at the boat launch to serve as my shower.Shortly after, it starts to rain and I retire to my tent.Tomorrow is D-day.I have made significant progress the last 2 days but I still have a long way to go.

Day 6: 6/29/94, Wednesday - North Bay Shore Recreation Area to Escanaba

I wake up to a cool, overcast morning and it looks like it will rain today.I walk out to the point to get a few pictures, pack up, and leave about 8:00.I head north on Y to Peshtigo (which is maybe a mile closer to camp than Oconto), buy a Michigan map, and stop for breakfast.Andersonís Family Restaurant has a nice sun room where I eat and peruse the Michigan map.It looks like it will take me 3 days including today to make Mackinaw City.Ludington is 190 miles from Mackinaw City and Chicago is 190 miles from Grand Rapids.I assume 3 days for each of these legs (65 miles/day plus 10 miles for adventuring).That leaves 1 day for the Ludington - Grand Rapids leg.Itís going to be tight but Iíve decided Iíve come too far to not give it a shot.

From Peshtigo, I head northeast on B to the Wisconsin/Michigan border and spend a few extra minutes wandering through the town of Marinette before I find the road to Michigan.The road is four lanes and busy but labeled as a bike route.That doesnít stop a guy in a van from honking at me (first of the trip).Shortly, M35 splits off to the right.This is the main highway to Escanaba.I take it since I donít know any other route and it has a nice 3 foot wide shoulder.There isnít all that much traffic so this looks like it will work OK.What doesnít work OK is the constant fairly strong headwind.This is going to be a slow day with a maximum speed of 17 mph!

There also arenít hardly any services along the way.As I near the 50 mile mark, I spot a cafe and stop for lunch at about 1:45.I have a burger and a 1919 root beer (1919 is the brand name) and just as I am about to leave I notice it has started to rain.I delay my departure hoping the rain passes which it does in about 15 minutes.

Unfortunately, the headwind has picked up and itís even slower going.Worse yet, the nice shoulder has deteriorated into cracked asphalt that is generally unfit to ride on.Since there isnít that much traffic I ride on the road with an eye on my mirror and on oncoming traffic.When traffic approaches from both sides, I move on to the gravel shoulder to be out of the way.Thankfully, after about 11 miles, the shoulder is restored to rideable for the rest of the way.

The headwind continues to be a drag.However, the scenery is nice with the left side of the road lined with trees as well as the right side with occasional views of the lake.The road is flat the whole day but I still get to use the low gears because of the head wind.When I stop my calf muscles quickly get tight and even hurt some.

As I near Escanaba, I spot a private campground with a restaurant just across the street.This is tempting but I decide to tough it out.As I pull into the city, the road turns into a four lane with a curb.I pick up the Lake Shore Drive and see the town has a really nice park area along the lake.I head back to the main drag for dinner at Elmerís and stuff myself on a veal/spaghetti dinner.Then itís another 4 miles to camp but really slow going.I finally pull into Pioneer Park which is a county park and pay $7 for my campsite.

Day 7: 6/30/94, Thursday - Escanaba to Biddle Point

Itís cool when I get up so I put on my tights and jacket.After some granola, I head out and quickly find a restaurant.I have oatmeal and oat bran pancakes - the best pancakes of the trip.

Thereís still a headwind as Iím traveling north but that pretty much goes away when US2 turns east.I decide to shoot for Manistique, 50 miles away, for lunch.The road is inland now so there isnít a view of the lake.When I reach Manistique I continue until I find a family restaurant and have a fish sandwich which is disappointing.This is in contrast to the other family restaurants that have been generally good.

Starting after lunch, my legs feel really dead and it takes a while to get them going but then they are fine.Shortly thereafter, I spot a couple on touring bicycles heading in the other direction.These are the first tourers I have seen on the trip and I will only see a couple of others the rest of the way.When I get to Blarnery Park at about the 75 mile mark, I start to look for a campsite.I head for a Michigan state forest campground but the road I turn on looks endless and I fear it may be too far off the beaten path so I retreat back to the main road.Shortly, I see another commercial campsite but a quick checkout makes it look worse than KOA.

I stop at a store for ice cream and advice.The guy says there are campsites 13 miles down the road which will put me at the century mark.I decide to go for it.Iím also starting to realize that the more miles I put in today the fewer I will need to reach my goal of Straits Park at the Mackinac Bridge tomorrow.After 13 miles, there are still no campsites so I stop for dinner at a cafe at the northern most point of Lake Michigan - Naubinway.The host says camp is 7.5 miles down the road.He also warns me not to try to swim out to the island due to undercurrents.††† I have a fish dinner and continue on.

Eventually, I spot a couple of campgrounds but hold out for the one on the lake.I arrive about 7:00 CDT (which is 8:00 Michigan time) and all the choice sites along the lake shore are already taken so I settle for something less ($6).The view along the lake point is great with gulls everywhere.I take some pictures and later dunk myself in the lake for my shower.My dunk was actually very cautious since the lake waves look like they could easily carry me out in to the lake and I keep in mind my Naubinway hostís warning about undercurrents.

When all is said and done, I have ridden almost 110 miles for the day.While this is certainly more than I had planned, I think this will end up benefiting me since tomorrow will be a short ride to get to Straits Park.Since I will get in early, I donít expect to have any problem getting a campsite on July 1, a Friday and the start of the 4th of July weekend.This will also give me a half rest day and time to visit Mackinac Island.

Day 8: 7/1/94, Friday - Biddle Point to Straits State Park

In the early morning it rained some and the forecast doesnít look good.A guy comments that I will get wet today as I leave the campground.I say ďweíll see.Ē

I have only about 35 miles to travel so my plan is to make this my ďrestĒ day.After about 8 miles I stop for breakfast and have the 3 largest pancakes of the trip plus oatmeal.As I leave the proprietor says ďhope you donít get wet.Ē

My luck continues and the weather gets better as the day continues and I never get wet.As I get closer to my destination, I start to hit some gradual hills, the first since entering Michigan.I also get some good views of Lake Michigan which looks a little angry today.

Around noon, I pull into Straits Park with two predicaments - is there camping on Mackinac Island and how do I get across the Mackinac Bridge which I suspect does not allow bicycles.The ranger at the park answers both questions - no camping on the island and folks at the bridge administration facility will give me a ride.I take my assigned campsite ($11), set up camp, and shower.My campsite is rather disappointing since itís just a patch of ground out in the open near some RVs.And right next to my campsite are other campsites that are much more attractive (and available) since they have surrounding trees.

Now I have the rest of the day to relax!I dump two of my panniers, load the other two with camera equipment and some clothing and head for Mackinac Island.I had expected I would have to travel a few miles to get to a ferry to the island but the first available ferry (there were 3 or 4), Star Line, is only a mile away.I pay $11.50 plus $3 for my bike and am on my way in 20 minutes (the ferry leaves every 30 minutes).The ferry is a jet boat that shoots a large stream of water in an arc behind the boat and takes 16 minutes to reach the island.I take a few pictures but itís really hazy even though the sky has cleared up and the sun is now shining.I spend just a couple of hours on the island, mostly riding the 8 mile bike loop around the island.There are inland hill opportunities but I bypass them since this is my rest day.The interesting thing about this island is that no motorized vehicles are allowed.You get around by horse carriage (with noticeable horse manure), walking, or bicycling.As a result, bike rental is a major business and people of all sizes, shapes, and ages are riding around the island.The port entrance to the island is a tourist trap with numerous shops and restaurants.There are also hotels where people can stay.For those who are staying, their luggage is transported either by horse carriage or by enterprising cyclists who manage to stack a surprising amount of luggage on a bike and can hardly see where they are going.The best part of the island is the part away from the tourist trap.In particular, the northern end of the island has some really nice shoreline where the water is crystal blue clear.

Iím not really into shopping so I head back to the mainland after a couple of hours.Apparently another couple who were on my trip out share my view and they head back on the same ferry.Everything has cleared up completely now and you can see the Mackinac Bridge clearly.I get a good picture from the Park overlook and then head out to do laundry just across the street from where I picked up the ferry.

I eat at an Italian American restaurant and spring for the all-you-can-eat walleye/whitefish dinner which is good.

Itís been an easy, restful day and I am glad that I did the 100+ miles yesterday to make this possible.Iím also feeling better about the trip now that I have broken the trip down into segments with my first segment completed handily on time.I should be just over halfways distance wise and today is the eighth day of the trip.My body appears to have handled the stress of loaded touring well without any knee or butt pains.Tomorrow I head back for home.However, itís still hard to predict exactly what the remaining mileage is at this point.And this is the 4th of July weekend so I can expect some difficulty finding campsites the next two days.But this is what adventuring is all about!

Day 9: 7/2/94, Saturday - Straits State Park to Bellaire

The morning is overcast and misting slightly as I pack up.I head to the bridge administration building, pay $1 (cars are charged $1.50) and get a ride across the 5 mile bridge, my bike in the back of a pickup truck.This will be the only mileage of the trip that I do not ride.I stop at the restaurant next to Fort Michilimackinac State Park that was advertised in the park newsletter for an all-you-can-eat breakfast and have three plates.Then I inquire about detailed Michigan maps (the state map is woefully inadequate showing only major roads) and get directed to the information center in Mackinaw City which turns out to be down the road where I need to go anyway.Unfortunately, I can get only a couple of detailed county maps including the current county but I do get directions on how to connect to C81 which will be a good part of the dayís ride.I also find a booklet of Michigan campgrounds including private campgrounds and state parks which will prove very useful over the next several days.

Early on I notice the scenery is reminiscent of home with farms, open fields, and rolling hills.The latter cause me to do a fair amount of climbing and I wonder how long I will last.The climbs are relatively short (quarter mile or less) but I normally use my lowest gear with some strain.Iím glad I have my new freewheel or I probably would have done some walking today but Iím disturbed that Iím proceeding slowly.†† At times it feels like my brake is on.The climbing peaks around Boyne Highlands (ski resort) and I have a nice runout of several miles from there.This runout seems to be more descending than my climbing so I conjecture that my earlier slowness may have been gradual climbing.

After my runout traffic picks up considerably as several roads merge.Picking up M119 leads me into Petoskey where I stop for lunch at Hardeeís.Despite my climbing, my legs feel good and donít tighten up as they had been doing over lunch a few days ago.I suspect that my half rest day has been beneficial for my legs.I inquire how to connect back up with C81 in the restaurant but nobody knows this road by that name and my map doesnít show the road by that name.However, this isnít a problem since I immediately see a sign for a left turn as I head south.What is a problem is that the road immediately heads skyward and I have to climb a significant hill on a full stomach without a warm-up but my legs manage to make it.I also notice that C81 appears to have been stitched together from existing county/side roads since there are several left/right turns on different road sections along the way.

More roller coaster hills and a runout brings me past Walloon Lake and then to Boyne City and Lake Charlevoix.The lake is very blue and people are enjoying the holiday weekend on it.I head west along the lake shore to Advance and pick up the East Jordan road and some more climbing.Coming into East Jordan, I get delayed by a 4th of July parade for about 30 minutes before I can head out west to pick up 66 south towards Bellaire.My plan was to catch a county/side road a few miles south on 66 but the road I thought would get me off 66 is labeled Dead End and Iím stuck on 66.Worse yet, after about 7 miles the shoulder ends. There isnít much traffic on a Saturday evening but it is still a little nerve wracking.Eventually I stop at a state forest campground but it is full (about 12 campsites) so I continue on until I catch a side road that goes west to Bellaire.Just when I think Iím on easy street I hit a couple of final climbs before I roll into town.

Almost immediately I spot Craven Park and hope for a campsite.The price is right ($5) and, due to the holiday crowd, I get assigned an overflow area which is actually good since itís away from the crowd.I head into town about a mile and stop at the local bar for a couple of beers and a large wet burrito which I have no problem putting away.The waiter goes to chiropractic school in Downers Grove (near Naperville) and we talk a little about cycling.The Tour de France prologue highlights are on TV and I see LeMond canít beat Armstrong which doesnít bode well for LeMond.All in all, this is a great bar with good food, the Tour de France on TV, a cycling waiter, and the right kind of music - C&W.Life doesnít get any better than this.After I leave the bar, I spring for an ice cream at the dairy hut and then head back to camp for a shower only to find I am 3rd in line.There is only one shower and the shower is metered, costing 25 cents for about 3 minutes of water.However, I get lucky again and the shower gets stuck on so it doesnít cost me anything..†††

Day 10: 7/3/94, Sunday - Bellaire to Frankfort

I wake up to a clear sky and itís already reasonably warm so I expect itís going to get really warm today.I start with my tights but I donít expect them to last very long.I eat breakfast at the cafe around the corner - oatmeal and pancakes - and order a couple of donuts to go.

Pulling out of town, I immediately hit a couple of climbs, heading west to Torch Lake.From there I head south along the lake on East Torch Lake Drive into some headwind.Once again, I seem to go slower than I should be and there is a fair amount of traffic.After passing through Alden and Rapid City and about 20 miles, I head west and pick up M72 which is crazy with almost a continuous traffic line on a Sunday morning.Fortunately, the shoulder is wide and after about 5 miles I split off on Old 72 for a few miles before heading south.Crossing M72 at a stop sign is a challenge.The opposite car has the right of way and turning left so I wait for him.At first I think he is cautious but then I get the idea he is waiting for me.So I motion that itís his turn and he takes off and I follow across.The way south on Williamsburg Road (CR605), to skirt the Traverse City area, is slow going again with rolling hills.Then I turn west on Supply Road (CR660) and catch some tailwind.It looks like I am descending but I donít pick up speed so it may be an optical illusion.

At about the 45 mile mark, I stop at a foodmart for lunch since itís not clear where the next restaurant lies.Checking my maps (I picked up a Traverse County map at the information center in Mackinaw City), Frankfort, due west on Lake Michigan, looks like the best goal since there are several campgrounds in the area.I ask the cash register guy who turns out to be a local cyclist how to best pick up Diamond Park Road which goes west to Frankfort.He suggests heading south and swinging west to catch US31 west and then M137 south which I do with no trouble.And just before I turn on to Diamond Park Road, I spot a bookstore in a shopping center and manage to get a detailed map of this part of Michigan which is just what I was looking for.My county maps proved useful but the county maps are actually too detailed for my purposes.

I had noted that the area coming into the foodmart looked flat but then I immediately hit a couple of climbs.But then it stays flat and the route west is accompanied with a nice tailwind and little traffic.But just when I think itís going to be flat all the way, I first descend a big hill, hitting 39 mph on free fall followed by probably the longest, steepest climb of the trip.My legs are not quite up to the challenge and I walk about 40 yards of the steepest part of the hill and get back on my bicycle to climb the rest.Then I pull into Benzonia not sure exactly where my first choice campground is.I assume north as I recall from the directions and head that way.Unfortunately, this takes me down a long hill which I have to reclimb to get back to the road I came west on and should have continued on!I was not happy with myself and this wasted effort which I could have avoided by simply rechecking my directions.

The Betsie River Campground is easy to find and I pull in just ahead of a pickup camper.Being well aware that this is Sunday on the 4th of July weekend, I make sure I get into the store just in case there is only a single campsite available.Iím at about the 90 mile mark and a bicycle is not the vehicle to have to go scavenging around the countryside looking for a perhaps unavailable campsite.As I fear, the hostess says everything is full but then says there is a campsite with a boat and camper where the owner did not make it.Both the pickup camper and I say we only need a spot to park our bicycle/pickup to crash for the night.Rather than fight, we quickly offer to share the campsite and we are both thankful and happy.It turns out that the campsite is large enough for both of us despite the large boat and camper.I set up camp in back of the boat/camper next to the woods and everything is fine.

I head about a mile into town for another large wet burrito at the suggestion of the campground hostess and this burrito was even better than last night.Then I head into Frankfort to see the sights and for ice cream.I have a large yogurt and stop on the lake front where a singer is giving a mini concert.The sun is setting and folks are walking out on the L-shaped boardwalk to the lighthouse.I head back home having added about an extra 10 miles for a total of almost 95 miles for the day.

Day 11: 7/4/94, Monday - Frankfort to Pentwater

Itís raining when I wake up so I go back to sleep for about another 45 minutes.Itís still raining so I decide to eat some granola and pack inside the tent to be ready when it stops.Then I decide to complete packing in the rain, head for breakfast a mile away, and hope the rain is done by the time I finish breakfast.By the time I actually get to breakfast, the rain stops so my timing is a little off.

After my usual oatmeal and pancakes, I start off south on M22 and immediately hit a long climb - not the way to start the day after a full meal without any warm-up.I have to stop twice and rest before making it to the top.This is a hill that is not too big for my lowest gear and Iím sure I would have made it if I were warmed up properly.On my next climb, I stop half way up to don my rain clothes which arenít needed since itís only drizzling a little and my tights and windbreaker are fine for the weather.At the top of this second long hill I catch what looks like a good view looking back north except thereís a little too much cloudiness.At the top of the hill I encounter some other cyclists who look like they are part of a supported touring group.I get a fair picture looking south towards Arcadia.

After Onekama I turn west to catch Crescent Beach Road along the southern shore of Portage Lake back towards Lake Michigan where the hills ease off somewhat and then south on Lake Shore Road.However, it has begun clouding up more and the air has turned cooler suggesting rain is imminent.Iím not far from Manistee where I plan to stop for lunch when it starts pouring so I pull off under a tree (not so good since there is some lightning but there are a number of other trees around) and wait out the rain for about 15 minutes.As I start again, a local has spotted me and offered me his front porch but I say ďno thanksĒ since itís only drizzling now and I wonít get any wetter.I stop in Manistee for lunch at Hardeeís.Like yesterday, I have a chicken sandwich followed by a vanilla shake.These vanilla shakes are made with yogurt and are really good.

Pulling out from Manistee I head south on Maple then Quarter Line Road but wonít get near the lake again until Ludington.However, the ride is almost flat with only some mild hills.Near Ludington, I head southwest on Fountain/Angling/Dewey and Lake Shore.In Ludington, I stop to check out the beach on the lake which is busy since this is Monday of the 4th of July weekend.Leaving Ludington, I swing east then back west to loop around Pere Marquette Lake and catch Lake Shore Road again going south.I continue towards Pentwater which is my goal for today since there is a state park there.I catch a couple of good climbs then begin a gradual descent towards Pentwater.Meanwhile the clouds are getting darker and the air turns noticeably cooler!Itís almost certainly going to rain again - the only question is whether I will make it to Pentwater first.Just as I pass a campground on the left it pours so I quickly retreat back to the campground.They want $15/night and itís a mile to the nearest restaurant/store so I decide to wait out the rain.After about 15 minutes when the rain tapers off I make a dash for town which turns out to be only 4 miles away.It starts raining steadily again so I get pretty wet by the time I make town.

As I pull into Pentwater I start to seriously think about a motel for the night.I stop to eat at a restaurant and then ask about a motel.The host finds a vacancy nearby which I head for.The lady is willing to let me have a single for $58 (regular $65) but I decide at that rate I can camp at Charles Mears State Park which amazingly is only a block away.

I register for a campsite and discover I will be pitching my tent on sand!My tent is also all wet on the inside floor since I hadnít thought to pack my tent in a garbage bag for protection.But thatís not much of a problem since I wipe off the floor with my towel and the remaining dampness isnít a problem for my synthetic sleeping bag.The rain continues to come down off and on so I retire to my tent.

For the day, I complete a little over 80 miles despite the weather.I canít really complain about the weather since this is the first real rain while riding I have had in a week and a half.Although it was beginning to look like I would make the trip without getting rained on, it was unrealistic to think rain would hold off for 2 weeks and it didnít.The other interesting fact about this tour is that I have not had a flat tire yet.I keep expecting one and I thought today might be the day my luck would run out.With the marginal weather, it just seemed that a flat tire in the rain was just waiting.As it is, I still havenít had a flat and I keep trying to not think about this for fear that I will jinx my good luck.

Since I reached Pentwater after crossing the Mackinac Bridge, I am now past Ludington which was my original goal when I had segmented the remainder of this tour.So I feel good because I am actually a little ahead of schedule at this point.

Day 12: 7/5/94, Tuesday - Pentwater to Grand Haven State Park

As I start to pack a guy who works for General Motors in Lansing approaches and starts a conversation.This guy is a serious runner and a cyclist and apparently was drawn to conversation because of my touring.He offers coffee which I accept and we talk about cycling (he has done supported touring), work (he is off for two weeks while his plant is shutdown), and things in general.After about 30 minutes I reluctantly beg off to get on with the business of touring.

I head for breakfast where I had dinner the last night because they have an all-you-can-eat breakfast and then I head for the Laundromat to dry out my clothes from yesterdayís rain.The place is busy and I have to wait about 15 minutes for a dryer.I write my notes for yesterdayís ride while waiting.Then I have a mild heart attack as I notice I am missing my bag of riding clothes that contains my alternate pair of cycling shorts/shirt/socks .Fortunately, I find them where I had parked my bicycle for breakfast.

By the time Iím done drying my clothes, itís a little after 10:00.I head southeast around Pentwater Lake and shortly stop at a store and find the detailed map for the next section of Michigan along the lake.I backtrack about a mile and pick up the road that heads west towards the lake to pick up Ridge heading south which more or less runs along the lake shore.Ridge only goes part way and then its a matter of winding along several roads that stay close to the lake and eventually catching Scenic Drive south of Silver Lake.As I near Whitehall, itís a matter of heading southeast along several different north/east roads.The dayís ride is essentially flat but thereís a constant headwind.There are also times when something seems wrong with my bike, almost like the brake grabs intermittently.The morningís ride is nice except for the headwind.As I pull into Whitehall I spot a Subway and stop for lunch - a 12Ē tuna sandwich.Afterwards I order a large vanilla shake from the nearby dairy hut.It comes with 2 straws which was a hint that this was too much even for a touring cyclist and it takes me a good while to work this off.I decide there will be no more large vanilla shakes on this tour.

Leaving Whitehall, I head east several blocks to catch Whitehall Road south to Muskegon.Initially, this road is awful with the shoulder all cracked up and a fair amount of traffic.After about 5 miles, the road is OK but still too much traffic.This continues into Muskegon where I eventually catch Henry street going south after getting directions from a local.The ride through Muskegon is no fun but I donít know any better route than Henry street.Eventually I wind around a lake, pick a street to head south (I canít find the street I was looking for) and magically end up going towards Grand Haven as I had planned.Some more directions in Grand Haven and I get to Grand Haven State Park on the lake shore.

Since the 4th of July weekend is over, I am surprised that the park campground is full but, since I am on a bicycle and obviously have no need for a ďstructuredĒ campsite, I get directed to an open sandy area to pitch my tent.This is actually great.Itís cheaper ($8) and I get to pick my spot and I pitch my tent in an area surrounded by 5 trees and end up with more privacy than if I had a regular campsite.I unload, shower, and walk up the street along the waterway to the lake for some burritos and ice cream.Then I walk out on the pier as many other folks are doing and get to watch a tanker pull into the waterway at dusk.

Day 13: 7/6/94, Wednesday - Grand Haven State Park to Warren Dunes State Park

In the morning when I get up I check my bike.I notice that the left dust cover on the front wheel was loose but there is not much I can do but push it back in.This may have been causing my sluggish bike.As I pack up a ranger from the nearby administration building quizzes me about my campsite.I give him my story about being allowed to camp in this open area.He still seems skeptical and asks to see my permit which I show to satisfy him.I get the impression he does not feel someone should be allowed to camp that close to his building.After I pack, I write my notes for yesterday and ask for breakfast recommendations.I get directed to the DeeLite back in town where it turns out I have to head anyway.The restaurant is packed so I sit at the counter and have my usual - oatmeal and pancakes.

After breakfast I start off, ask for directions and find my way south out of town to catch Lake Shore Ave.The ride is pleasant with some headwind but no hills to speak of.After 20 miles I pulls into Holland and decide to have my front wheel checked.I ask for directions to a bike shop and while looking for the shop find another one instead and stop there.I ask the shop to check the hub and the wheel which has had a noticeable bump for sometime whenever I coast.I get told that the cones are loose and the wheel has a flat spot (which explains the bump).Then the shop owner shows up (he was probably at lunch), checks the wheel and says something is wrong.He repacks the bearings, pronounces the bearings and cones OK and charges $10.He tells me how to connect to 64th heading south to Saugatuck and warns me that Lake Shore Drive south of Douglas is probably washed out.Unfortunately, I forget to ask the owner if he had ever been a racer.His last name is something like Vander Ploeg which suggests a racing heritage.After about a 45 minute stop at the bike shop, Iím on my way.

Once out of town, the ride is a pleasant one along nice asphalt roads with little traffic and the bike seems to be riding better.At about 37 miles I spot a restaurant on the edge of Douglas and decide to stop since it may be a while before I see another restaurant.I have a BBQ pork sandwich which is very good and the waitress confirms that the Lake Shore Road is washed out.So I pick up Blue Star highway south to South Haven.When I reach South Haven, I stop to check for another detailed map for southwest Michigan and get lucky.The heavens also open up with a brief shower that lasts maybe 10 minutes.I decide to continue past the local state park since Iím only at mile 60.

My newmap shows a state park south of St. Joseph but north of Warren Dunes and I decide to shoot for that.Blue Star highway becomes more of a regular highway and the scenery is less interesting.Eventually, it runs into M63 and I pull into the Benton Harbor/St. Joseph metropolis.I pick up Business 94 and swing off just before it connects with I94.Several miles later I find the Grand Mere State Park entrance which surprisingly is hardly marked and has a gravel entrance.I begin to think this will be a rustic campground until I see a sign that says there is no camping.

Now at 90 miles, I have little choice but to head for Warren Dunes State Park.I continue on, cross over to Red Arrow highway and pull into Warren Dunes camp registration, almost exactly on 100 miles.Since there isnít much daylight left and Iím worried abut food, I let the registration guy pick a campsite for me.Then I notice a sign advertising Pizza Hut delivery so I order out.This gives me about thirty minutes to set up camp and start these notes.The mosquitoes are bad so I break out my OFF bug spray for the first time on this trip to hold them at bay.The pizza guy delivers and I have no trouble devouring a medium, deep crust pepperoni pizza along with most of a 2 liter Pepsi bottle.

Day 14: 7/7/94, Thursday - Warren Dunes State Park to Naperville

I get up, pack, have three cups of granola, and head for the beach to at least see some of Warren Dunes before I leave.The very large beach area looks nice but this is early morning and there are only a few other people around.There is one large dune but I suspect there are others.I am dismayed to find a camping area on the beach front.I would have loved to have camped here last night but had no idea this was an option.

I head south on Red Arrow highway and will be leaving Michigan shortly.I have seen my last view of Lake Michigan.Just outside of New Buffalo, I stop for my usual breakfast except I get pecans in my pancakes.Continuing on, Red Arrow turns into US12 and I enter Indiana and pass through Michigan City.Shortly after entering the Indiana Dunes, I stop at Pines to pick up a detailed Indiana map.As I peruse my map, the host advises heading south on 49 and west on US6 to avoid the Gary area.Passing through Indiana Dunes is pleasant without too much traffic.Heading south on 49 is another matter.It is packed with traffic, much destined for either I94 or I80/I90.After about 5 miles, I am glad to get off on US6 heading west.US6 has a lot of traffic too so itís not much fun.I stop at a McDonaldís for lunch and wait quite a while to get my order in.Iíll have to speak to Big John (a friend who works for McDonaldĒs) about this.

Continuing on US6, I notice the clouds darkening and the air cooling and itís just a matter of time.When it starts to rain, I duck under an awning attached to a hardware store in an area for dispensing propane.As I sit on some steps, it really pours for about 20 minutes and then passes on.Reviewing todayís ride, I have been thinking that it is possible that I could make it all the way back to Naperville today.My alternate plan is to stop by Big Johnís place in Manhattan and camp on his lawn although Iím not sure Big John would be home since his work requires extensive travel.Now with this delay and the uncertain weather, Iím beginning to think that Naperville may be impossible today.My other option would be to go as far as I can and hope I get close enough to Naperville that it wouldnít be too inconvenient to call someone and have them pick me up.

After about a 30 minute delay, I start again.When US6 heads north to join I80/I94, I continue straight on Ridge, also called Business 6, and enter Illinois.Ridge dead-ends into 83 which I take north a few miles until it intersects US6 again which I pickup and take west.Starting with 83 and now US6, I am on main drags with four lanes of traffic.This is not fun but I donít know any other way to go.I go as fast as I can becausethe better I keep up with traffic the safer I believe it is.People are doing a good job driving around me.My biggest fear is hitting a pot hole or crack in the pavement and losing control.Once I slip off the pavement edge but retain control despite a mild heart attack.The trickiest maneuvering is around toll/interstate intersections.You have to be prepared to dodge entrances and exits and I maneuver around these carefully.

Near Oak Forest, I stop for a vanilla shake at a McDonaldís and talk to a couple of kids.I impress them with my gear and my trip.When I see the Frankfort sign, I decide against staying at Big Johnís.I donít know exactly how to get to his house in Manhattan, itís at least 5 miles out of the way, and I donít know if heís in town or on the road.Iím also getting optimistic Iíll at least get close enough to home to make a pick up reasonable.Now US6 starts leaving the metropolitan area and the traffic becomes more reasonable and weíre down to a single lane.

Finally, I pick up Parker Road going north and am immediately relieved to be off the main drag with little traffic and no noise pollution.Now I will be doing the Big John route home, Parker to 131st to Derby to McCarthy to Lemont Road.I take the walkway across the Lemont bridge, do a jog around 75th up to 63rd to Hobson.Itís nice to be in a known area because now I can jog around the traffic via side roads.From Hobson I pick up Greene and Green Trails past Seven Bridges and wind my way through Naperville to home.I get home right around 8:30 - just as itís getting too dark to ride anymore.

After a shower, I head for the car (after 116 miles Iím ready to drive) to pick up some food but the car wonít start.I give it 3-4 healthy cranks and the engine doesnít even threaten to catch.Finally, just when Iím thinking bike forever, the engine catches and Iím on my way.

For the day, I completed 116 miles, making this my first back-to-back centuries ever.Earlier in the trip I completed 300 miles over the course of 3 days but the middle day was less than a century.

Summary

After unpacking, I weighed my bike and panniers with the following results:

Left front pannier

9

Right front pannier

11

Left rear pannier

12

Right rear pannier

12

Empty panniers (4)

6

Tent and sleeping bag

10

Bicycle with racks, pump, handlebar bag

32

Loaded bicycle

86

 

From a reliability perspective, I finished the ride with no flat tires, one broken rear axle, and a loose front cone.However, two days after finishing this tour, the left rear tire was flat, having developed a slow leak. I also discovered that I had a rear, right side spoke that had come loose at the hub flange.My local bike shop has advised me that the flat spot in my front wheel could not be repaired so I need to replace the front wheel.My body finished the trip without any knee or bun difficulties.

In retrospect, I allocated too little time for this tour.While I was able to finish this tour a day early, I was never comfortable that I had enough time.As a result, I never felt I had the time to take a day off (or a half day) if something really interesting appeared on the horizon.As it was, the one half day I did take off was a fortunate side effect of having done more mileage than planned on the previous day.For my next tour, I hope to allocate more time for side trips or just general lazing around.On the other hand, the almost 90 daily cycling miles were never boring nor a chore.I found touring much more enjoyable than other long rides I have done on my regular road bike.I attribute this to the nature of touring where there is something new to see each day plus the overall goal of finishing the route.

 

 


 

Copyright Denis Kertz, 1994. All rights reserved.