Tuesday, September 20, 2011

2010 Hemlock to Minneapolis Solo Bicycle Tour


I am getting more and more excited about my next bicycle adventure: 2010 Hemlock to Minneapolis. The question of "Why?" has become something that I am thinking about from time to time. Obviously, people enjoy traveling for a wide variety of reasons; new people and cultures to investigate, new and interesting activities and foods, breaking away from the hum-drum of everyday life, and just seeing new places are all important to me. I think another thing for me is to let my day-to-day responsibilities go for a time and think only about my own very limited needs; which direction to point the bike in, and where to stop for lunch. Throughout the rest of the year, my actions are governed by the interconnected needs of many other people in my hectic existence; co-workers, family and friends, and for a few days it’s nice to reduce life to a simpler formula. There is nothing much simpler than eating, sleeping, and riding the bike, and to leave out the riding part would just be boring.

Why by bicycle?

When I mention my plans to friends and acquaintances, they invariably say something like: “I’d need one with a motor” so why not go by motorcycle instead? Two counts; you are treated differently by the people you meet, and you pass through places so quickly and noisily that you get a distorted view of the place. Obviously, traveling by car is similar, and you get even less of a sense of the place because the enclosure of the vehicle limits your senses of smell and hearing. Most other forms of motorized transportation suffer these and similar limitations. Hiking is a good way to see, hear, and feel the places you visit, but your ability to cover distance is so limiting that you can visit far fewer places and again, I think the communities you visit would be somewhat less welcoming to a person on foot. Not every place that you visit will be one in which you wish to spend a lot of time, and on the bike you can make your get-away about five times faster than on foot.
I’ve always enjoyed the conversational opening that is inherent when I come into town on my bicycle; how far, how long, and a host of other questions come from the people I meet, and the answers will often start interesting conversations. I also enjoy the respect (or even occasional ridicule) I am accorded for the physical ability I have acquired to do the things that I’ve done to get to wherever it is that I am. There is something that is deeply satisfying in doing things most other folks can’t or won’t try to do, and thumbing your nose at every car dealership and gas station in town as you pass by gives some pleasure too.
This trip, I’ll have only my blackberry for communication, so the updates won’t come as quickly when I’m on the road; I won’t write more than a few lines on that tiny keyboard with my oversized fingers, but I may find a library with a console for a few hours, and maybe upload a picture or two from the blackberry. I invite you to come along for the ride.

Proposed route: Hemlock, MI to Ludington, MI; ferry across the lake and a take northern bearing across Wisconsin and back down to Stillwater from whence I have a map to avoid most of the Twin City traffic.

Schedule: Mid-June 2010 through July 1, 2010.

Two months to go and my planning is well underway with the route pretty well fixed in my mind. Google Earth has been a great help since I can actually get a look at the road surface and shoulder on my computer right here in Kihei.

Leaving Hemlock, I'll head north to Midland and pick up the Pere Marquette Bicycle Trail all the way to Clare where I'll take the direct route west on US-10. That may seem an unlikely choice, but I've looked at that road in many spots and there is a broad shoulder and good surface all the way to Ludington, and I want to get to the ferry in two days riding if possible, so the direct route is needed. I think I'll need eight days of riding after the ferry ride, if all goes well, and I have only twelve days to my target; June 30th, the afternoon before Cheri arrives from Maui. I'd like to have a rest day in northern Wisconsin, and another day in hand for bad weather, so two days is what I'd like to spend on the familiar roads of Michigan.

I bought a couple maps from the Adventure Cycling Organization that have helped me from Manitowac up to Eagle River in Wisconsin, and then from Stillwater to Minneapolis, the most dangerous section. I'm taking a very northern route through Wisconsin, turning north just out of Manitowac and not heading west until Eagle River, only about fifteen miles from the Michigan border; then probably going as far as Ojibwa before heading southwest toward Stillwater. There I'll pick up the Adventure Cycling route on back streets and bike paths all the way to where Mark lives in downtown Minneapolis.

I hope I'll be in good enough shape for those two long days in Michigan (about 70 miles each) and I'll have a short day after the lake crossing to help recuperate. Then a leisurely stroll north and west at about sixty miles a day and the two extra days as mentioned above.

I have dusted off the stationary trainer and took my Trek to the shop today for a tune-up to be sure it's ready for the trip. I have ordered a new sleeping pad and blanket and inspected my racks and panniers so I think I am fully equipped. Of course, the most arduous task is to tune up the engine itself; I'll be working on that day-by-day and I'll let you know how it's going next month.

The Engine - The Beast Lives

I took a personal day Tuesday and rode my normal 45 mile Saturday route to Lahaina and back and felt better on the bike than I had in a while. I think having the bike tuned made a difference because I felt a lot faster on the downhills where having those bearings lubed up and rolling properly is most important. Then today I had a perfect weather Saturday and decided to test myself with 60 miles. From Kihei to Napili Plaza and back; go ahead and Google it if you don’t believe me.

I felt great all day and it seemed that my cadence felt stronger and more fluid as the day wore on. I left the house around 7:50 and got back at 2:50 including lunch, two stops for cold drinks, two more for some shade, and a nice dip in the ocean at mile 59. And to top it off, a mile and a half walking the dog as usual after dinner! Of course, I'll be hauling more weight on tour, but the terrain will not be as hilly as today, so I feel pretty good. Nothing like a little over-confidence to keep a guy from training too hard, so I'll have to watch out for that in the next nine weeks.

Oh Sh*t!

My faithful Trek 520 is faithful no more!

I took my usual Saturday ride in perfect weather (no wind) but something wasn't quite right. Climbing the first hill, I was unable to use the standing position to climb, the bike wanted to shift, and I thought that perhaps the shifting mechanism which had just been adjusted may be at fault. I kept riding but all day I tried various adjustments without success. I was in about the forty-eighth mile of the sixty I had planned when I tried once more to push hard up the last steep climb, and I noticed that the crank set was flexing and as I continued to watch it, I saw that the frame is cracked at the juncture of the seat-tube and bottom bracket. I put it in a small gear and pedaled gingerly the rest of the way home. It did faithfully get me home from its last day on the road, but it is the end of the line for my favorite bicycle ever.

When the crank set flexed it screwed up the alignment of the chain causing the shifting problems. A broken frame is the worst possible outcome and I have never heard of anyone successfully fixing a major crack like this one. I'm afraid this bicycle will never go out on the highway again!

Cheri was upbeat when I told her the news, saying: "Thank God it's today; a few miles from home rather than midway across Wisconsin six weeks from now." And of course, she's right about that part. Do I change my plans or try to get a new bicycle in time to continue this great adventure that I was so looking forward too? I guess the answer is obvious to Cheri that I will immediately get a new bike, but I'm not so sure. The Trek model 520 is by far the best touring bicycle right out of the box for the money. It's in the neighborhood of $1,300 brand new and my accoutrements (racks and panniers etc.) would fit perfectly and bolt right on, but I just broke a ten year old version and maybe I should look at stronger frame materials.

The Trek 520 is made of cro-moly steel tubing which soaks up much of the vibration and bumps that can drain your energy, and have you looking for an early end to the day. Aluminum is stronger but lacks the damping properties of steel tubes, and nobody is currently selling a bike set up for touring using aluminum frame members. Cannondale used to, but they recently discontinued that model: Marketing decision or problems with the bike? Hard to guess. Carbon fiber has the properties needed but it prohibitively expensive, and again, is not currently marketed towards folks like me. Other touring bicycles are made of the same materials as the Trek and most of those have other issues, and none have any significant advantage over the Trek.

Many people choose a mountain bike and change components to fit the requirements for a touring bicycle. Most of the components might be acceptable, but often the frame geometry gives a riding position that is too upright for the long haul. There is a very fine line between short term comfort (more upright) and body position conducive to the long haul. There has to be enough weight carried on the arms to allow the okole (butt) to endure, but not enough to over-stress the arms. Then almost all mountain bikes come with flat handlebars that lack adequate variety of hand positions to allow the rider to endure those long days in the saddle. Road bikes, on the other hand are built too light to carry the additional weight of your gear, not to mention the weight of a big guy like me. They also usually lack holes for the racks and their geometry is closer to what you need as far as the rider, but the bikes don't steer and handle well with the added weight over each wheel where the touring bike often handles better as you add your gear.

I have only six weeks to decide, order, and have the bike delivered to a shop close to Hemlock if I follow Cheri's intuition and get a bike that will allow me to continue with this adventure. Not enough, probably, to choose any option but a real touring bike that can handle what I want it to do straight out of the box. I will spend all day tomorrow researching and deciding so that I can make contact on Monday if I have decided I need a bicycle dealership. Tune in later this week to find out.

Warrantee to the Rescue

Well at least I hope so. As I got busy shopping for a new bike over the weekend, I wondered if Trek had a frame replacement policy and low and behold, they give a lifetime warrantee to original owners of all Trek bicycle frames. I called the shop here in Kihei where I bought the bike and he confirmed that Trek has been very good to his customers in this regard and he took some pictures of the frame and sent them to his Trek customer service rep, and we fully expect to have a new frame shipped out here in plenty of time to rebuild the bike before I pack it up for the trip to Michigan. I know it seems kind of foolish to ship it here just in time to ship it to Michigan, but the local shop needs to do the rebuild. I've ordered some upgraded parts to make it a little more worth their while, and I'm leaning very heavily toward a new Trek from the same shop when I get back to Kihei in late July.

It was fun shopping for a new bike, but what I found in reading all of the reviews and opinions out there about touring bikes is that I already have the best long range touring bike in my price range. To have a brand new one (more or less) is just what I need and I'm very pleased indeed!

SUNDAY, MAY 23, 2010

I got an email message on Tuesday that the frame should arrive "this week" but its Sunday and no update has come through since then. I am so tired of waiting but there is nothing else for me to do. I've been trying to be patient and not bother the local shop too much since they will be putting the bike back together for me and there is no sense getting under their skin. Tomorrow I might grab my shoes and helmet and go down there on the guise of shopping for a new bike for my return from vacation. I have been shopping on-line some, and I think I know what I want, but maybe I can increase the urgency for them a bit by promising a future pay day.

SATURDAY, MAY 29, 2010
This is the Moment


Paste this into your browser and you'll know how I feel today and you'll be listening to one of my favorite songs by my favorite quartet.

Thursday afternoon South Maui Bicycles called and said the frame was finally here, so we agreed on the final instructions for the upgrade, and he needed my okay to add a new head-set and stem because Trek changed the frame and fork so that the original items couldn't be used with this frame and fork (yes, a new fork is included). They had it done on Friday about 11:00AM, and I was bouncing off the walls at work, then finally had a free moment and went to pick everything up. I have the bike and the box with packing materials for the shipment next week to Michigan. I went out to ride this morning and put 60 miles on it; it's perfect. The larger frame fits just right and the upgraded shifting is a huge improvement. I don't know why Trek doesn't add STI shifting (built into the brake levers) to this bike; I guess they figure every potential customer is a retro-grouch, which is the only kind of person I think would want the bar-con shifting controls. I also asked for the next larger frame size because even though I've been comfortable on the old bike, I always felt a larger, roomier cockpit would be better for me, and they were gracious enough to give me the larger size on warrantee.

I sent a box of supplies out on Friday that includes my tent, front rack, and panniers (the suitcase-like bags that fit on the racks to haul my stuff.) The rear rack is on the bike and will fit in the box when I send that out next week. I'm a little conservative to ship this soon, but as good as FedEx usually is, there is always a chance for something to go wrong, and I don't have time to wait for the bike to arrive after I get to Hemlock. As I've mentioned, I'll be on a pretty tight schedule if we get any weather disruption and Markie wants me there a day early so we can go to the Twins-Tigers baseball game on the 30th of June. I hope he doesn't mind that I use a diminutive form of his name. He's twenty-nine years old and a man in his own right, but he'll always be Markie-boy to his Mom and I. Sorry Markie!

I do hope you were able to open that song on YouTube (search for "This is the Moment" by Acoustix). You'll notice the quality of the bass first; that's Jeff Oxley, one of the best and best known basses in barbershop, and he is undoubtedly fantastic. What you may not notice is that the baritone, Jason January, joins him on the first verse and sings bass under Jeff's second solo later in the song, Jason also sings the high "A" to resolve the last chord. He is far and away the best baritone I have heard. While you're in YouTube, give a listen to their rendition of the "Stars and Stripes" where Jason has the high "A" again, and in that song it is a hanger (the note that stays constant as the ending resolves around it) that he holds for almost twenty seconds, try that at the top of your range sometime. The lead and tenor are great as well and this quartet is fabulous. Good listening!

Soon and Very Soon

I'm very excited now to get to Michigan and get started on this great adventure. Soon and Very Soon is a song we've done in Kihei Lutheran choir, an old favorite that is the only time I can't help but sing the bass part right there in the middle of the tenor section. I have sung tenor in our choir since the very first year when the only other men couldn't or wouldn't, and even though I am a fairly low bass voice, I can reach most of the tenor. But this song has a bass counterpoint that I can't resist, and since I know it and sing it better than any of the other basses, the director allows me this plum.

I got my love of music, and what ability I have from my Mom who was always a fabulous musician and director, and she called today to announce that my bicycle has arrived and awaits my loving ministrations, though she didn't say it quite that way. My kids have always said that their Dad would never use a five-letter word if there was a fifteen-letter word available; and they are mostly correct. I like to educate at the same time as I communicate, or maybe I just like to show off, but my kids have wonderful vocabularies because of that.

So it's Sunday afternoon and I leave for the airport on Wednesday, right after work, and I'm listening to barbershop music on YouTube and writing this blog because my bike is in Hemlock and not here for me to ride. I'll leave this bike in Hemlock and replace it when I get home to Maui; and probably reward Trek and South Maui Bicycles with the business for having treated me so well throughout this warranty deal. I can't wait to share some of this music with my Mom, she is not a computer person, so she will have to receive hard copy of this blog, and I'll play the music for her on my computer when we're together in Hemlock for a few days. For those of you that don't know, my beloved father passed away eighteen years ago at age 63. He was the finest man I ever met, and I still miss him.

After talking to you folks, I'll probably map out an alternate route that takes less time (more southerly) in case I run into enough bad weather that I fall way behind schedule. Obviously, this will only be of use if that bad weather is early in the trip, before days five and six when I'll be traveling almost due north, but it might be of value. I'll go on Google Earth and look at road surfaces and look for tree-lined roads without many towns if I can. The original more northerly route will take me through the area with lots of lakes and forests, and I'll stick with it unless it is completely impossible. Then there is always the back-up plan of calling Markie to come from Minneapolis to pick me up if I fall short of the mark. He has already offered, particularly because he wants me in town on the evening of June 29th so we can attend a Twins-Tigers baseball game together. Then Cheri will arrive on the 1st of July and the next adventure will begin.

I'm bringing my computer with an air-card on vacation, not on the bicycle portion, but I may blog a little on my Blackberry from the road. I probably won't write very much because of my big fingers and the small keyboard, but I'll try to keep you posted, and then I'll write a synopsis when I get back to my computer in Hemlock. This will be the last post until Friday night before the first day of riding. Wish me luck!

FRIDAY, JUNE 18, 2010
The Night Before the Trip.

The flights were pleasant enough Wednesday night/Thursday morning and everything went well putting the bike back together and installing the racks and panniers. I inflated the Big Agnes sleeping pad (more difficult than expected) and my sleeping comfort when camping should be fine. This morning (Friday) I loaded most of the stuff I'll be carrying and rode about twenty-five miles as a shake-down cruise, and to visit two cemeteries in honor of my Dad and grandparents. No problems detected, and everything is now adjusted as well as I can do it.

Mom was there when I arrived at the airport in Midland/Bay City and we went immediately to the Riverside restaurant (her favorite) and had a nice breakfast before coming back to the home farm to play bike mechanic. Last night we went to a new Genji Tepanyaki Steakhouse where they do the cooking and entertaining on a flat-top right in front of the diners. The food was pretty good, but not in the same league as Kobe in Lahaina, but very nice anyway. After the bike ride this morning I watched part of the Soccer World Cup and caught a short nap. Tonight we met my brother and his wife and a friend at Famous Dave's BBQ and had a great dinner and brought some ribs home for tomorrow’s breakfast before visiting another brother, and more family. A late bedtime after I finish this blog, but I'm not too worried; I have all day tomorrow...

The First Three Days.

Saturday dawned gray and breezy but still dry. I had left-over ribs from Famous Dave's from last night's dinner with Skip and Lenda, Mom and Skip's friend, Dave. I was up pretty early and left the house at 8:00AM but Skip was already out weed-whacking in preparation for Courtney's party next week. I stopped and spoke to him a minute then was off on this great adventure.

The breeze I mentioned was out of the south, so the miles to Midland slipped by pretty quickly and soon enough, I walked across the Tridge and set off up the Pere Marquette Bike Trail. The wind was now southwesterly and partially in my face, but I rolled along nicely to the first rest stop in Sanford for a coke. I took the bottle back to the trail and stood on a bridge over the river to drink it, and soon was surrounded by bicyclists asking questions and taking pictures. It was a group of about ten people together for a singles/leadership training, or something, but I enjoyed riding with them the ten miles or so to Coleman where they had a designated stop and I went on ahead. It was great all the way to Clare where the path ran out and I was downtown looking for lunch.

The little place I found was called the Whitehouse restaurant and it was tiny, maybe 15' wide by 30' long grill and all. They had six tiny booths that would comfortably fit four kids each, and there were four adults in most of them. I sat down in one as someone was leaving and ordered a burger and fries. The food was what you expect, but the service was very homey and it was a good lunch. I headed up M115 that was under construction to Farwell and a pain but I got to Farwell before I saw the bike path running in the same direction, wonder how far back that started. I stopped at a Rite-Aid to get a notepad and pen and talked to the girl there. She said it went all the way to Evart but wasn't paved all the way, which I assumed to mean was gravel or wood chips where the pavement stopped, so I decided to try it.

The sign said "Pavement Ends - 2 miles" but I thought it would end at a road I could take back to the highway if the surface wasn't passable...Wrong! They just ran out of asphalt and stopped where they were out in the middle of the woods, just a path graded on through the trees. I hate to ride back over miles I've already put behind me and the surface looked passable so I went around the barrier and continued riding. After a mile of dirt, the surface became sandy and I couldn't ride any more, and I turned stubborn and declared that I would walk to Evart before I'd ride backwards, so I walked a half-mile until the surface firmed up some, the rode another mile, then walked another half until I could see a road up ahead, finally!

It spit me out onto Maple Grove road, beautiful pavement and I continued on that for three miles until I ran into a lake and had to jog back north to the highway. I looked at the Garmin, and saw I was only a few miles from the turn-off to Crittenden Park where I had originally thought I might stay, and that another 12 miles would put me in Evart where there was a campground right on the route, so I went on ahead. The wind seemed to be shifting around to the northwest by now and the trees on the roadside helped cut that down, so it was pretty good riding. At about 6:30 I rolled into Evart but didn't find the campground at the address I had entered into the Garmin and as I was riding back toward the center of town I came across a bar called O'Malley's and had to stop in.

On the porch were a half dozen guys drinking beer and the questions were flying before I got off the bike and in a minute I was part of the family. These guys were on a golf outing staying there at O'Malley's as guests of the owner who was an old friend that had moved to Evart to open the bar. He told me where the campground was, and said that if they couldn't help me, he would put me up, no charge. So I stayed there, had a great Rueben sandwich for dinner and rolled down to the Riverside Park campground around 9:00 and got set up just before dark and good thing because I found that I didn't bring a flashlight. I was right on the shore with a beautiful view of the moon on the water. The new mattress, blanket and pillow were perfect but I still didn't sleep very well.

SUNDAY, JUNE 20, 2010

Sunday morning I rolled out about 9:00AM and the camp host told me the bike path would take me all the way to Reed City and I took it all the way out to the junction of 10 and 131 before taking to the highway, wind in my face. As soon as I got on US 10 the hills started, nothing too steep, but a lot of climbing in the granny gear and by the time I made Baldwin, I was pretty tired. The last 30 miles into Ludington were not going to be any fun at all. I wasn't too hungry for lunch, so settled for some Mackinaw Island Fudge ice cream instead and headed out. There was a rode due west out of town that I thought would be an alternative to US-10, and I tried it for a mile until it ran out of pavement and I wisely turned around and took the highway, the very hilly highway. I stopped at the first rest area thinking it had been ten miles and it turned out to be four. I was really hurting and having to rest a lot more often, and I secretly wished that Marilyn Fornwall's sister would come by and offer me a ride, but she just honked as she went by (if that was her).

I almost cried when I came to Custer, because I thought it was Scottsville and found that was four more miles. At Scottsville I turn south for my own safety, fearing Saturday night traffic on the four lane US-10 and look for Chauvez Road, and it is five miles south, not the three I had expected. It is rolling and rural but I keep on, stopping once for directions since the Garmin is already low on battery power (I used it only an hour or so last night!) and I get good directions but on main highways, no alternatives were available. As I entered Ludington, I saw a seedy looking motel and stopped by, and the young man that helped me wasn't seedy at all and the rooms were cheap, and there was a wake-up service, and easy access to the ferry tomorrow, and food within walking distance. As I'm wheeling the bike into my room I notice the front tire is flat so I'll have something to do when I get back from dinner.

I walk past the restaurants and go into a supermarket instead and take a chef's salad, fresh blueberries and a pastry for morning back to my room. I leave it there and hit the hot tub for 30 minutes until the 10:00 curfew, then go eat and fix the flat. I pack up the stuff I want to carry on the ferry because I know I won't have access to the bike and get everything ready to go before I sleep. I'm not in bed until 11:30PM but I sleep well tonight.

MONDAY, JUNE 21, 2010

Monday morning I'm up ready for the wake-up call and everything goes off like clockwork. The ferry ride is very nice with my book and water bottle at hand, and even some M&Ms and a slice of pizza thrown in. I have a bike shop on my map and on the way there I run across another bike tourist who is heading south. He is from Minneapolis and has been on the road since May 24th. I find the bike shop, get two new tubes and head out of town with very little traffic but more hills and soon I'm hurting again. I stop for water from a nice man out washing his truck, and again at a farm with a bunch of old tractors in the yard and find the lady picking currants to make some jelly. The fruit itself is sour, I find out. Some of the towns in this part of Wisconsin don't have any services at all; in one place I went into a bar to get a coke and got a lesson in "Liar's Dice" (I still don't understand why they like it), and in the next town I see a coke machine and a lady says there's no grocery until Hilbert.

At that point my seat was killing me and I was desperate to find someplace closer than High Cliff State Park to stay, so I took the Hilbert turn off and found everything I wanted at a place called Scotty's Bar and Grill. I went in for a beer and to ask for information and pretty soon I'm talking to four different guys and the bar owner tells me I can set up my tent in his yard, so I have some more beer, and then some pizza because despite the name, there is no grill in this bar and grill. I set up in a light sprinkle and sleep in a light rain, and life is good again.

TUESDAY, JUNE 22, 2010
Two More Days.

I woke up early Tuesday morning, though I didn't know what time it was, and packed up a wet tent and hit the road. I was hoping I would have a better day today, but the pain in my seat was back and continued to worsen throughout the day. Maybe it was the constant head wind, maybe I was gaining a lot of altitude, but it was just not fun to be on the bike today and I couldn't wait to get off. The only thing I remember about the day's ride was that there is a sign below the name of the town called Freedom, telling you things you can't do there. This one happened to prohibit parking on city streets at certain times, and you see that sign often, it just seemed out of place in a town called Freedom.

When I arrived in Wrightstown, the only place to eat breakfast was a Subway, and I learned there how early I had gotten up; it was only 8:40 and I was already twelve miles into my day. I had planned almost seventy miles to get to Shawano today, and there was no way I was going to be able to do that. Thirty pain-filled miles and one broken spoke later I pulled into Shiocton and stopped at the hardware store to get a flashlight; amazingly, this was the first hardware I had seen since Manitowac. The owner, Dick Johnson was sitting there just waiting to help me, he knew where everything was and he sent me to the Wolf River Inn just across the street when I asked him about places to stay, and told me where the library was, the laundromat, everything I needed. He even called the Inn to be sure Tim was there and sent me on my way flashlight in hand and my afternoon comfort assured.

At Wolf River Inn, Tim gave me a deal on a suite upstairs and invited me to pull my bike into the lobby for security. The suite is fantastic with a kitchenette, balcony, and beautiful view of the river out back. I wish Cheri was here to share it with me; it just seems a waste for only me. I went first to the library to update the blog and got only as far as Monday before they were going to close, then to the laundromat, and managed to get a soda and take a shower because everything was within two blocks of the Inn. I even laid out the tent to dry and went to (you guessed it) Subway to get a sandwich so I could eat in and watch some soccer on the big flat screen TV in my room. Up until 3:30 this was a terrible day, but from 3:30 on, it was great. There is a bike shop in Shawano so I can get that spoke fixed; I brought spokes, but not the wrench needed to get the free-wheel off.


Wednesday morning it was raining, and I was seriously considering staying in to watch the US team play Algeria in the World Cup and take Tim up on his offer to drive me to Shawano (pronounced Schano hereabouts), but the rain stopped and I decided I had accepted enough of Tim's largess (the room was discounted and bike security, etc.) I knew there was a bike shop in Shawano so I can stop and get that wheel fixed this afternoon. I pulled out of Shiocton and wondered what else the day would hold.

I felt a lot better today, but part of that was probably the mental knowing that it was only thirty miles to Shawano, and the route was as flat as if they had painted it on the surface of a lake. It was good into Leeman and my only opportunity for a coke, but when I walked out of the store, the rain was starting up again. I put my lights on and my rain jacket and it continued raining lightly about half-way to Shawano. I shed the jacket and enjoyed the rest of the ride, except that a few miles before I got into town I heard another "ping" of a spoke breaking, and I sure hoped the bike shop would be open, and able to fix me up today. I pulled into a Kwick Stop and got the intel on the bike shop. I found they are open and going to get me fixed up, but it won't be cheap. The wheel is shot and almost certainly won't get me to Minneapolis, so I'm going to have to buy a set of wheels ($225) and ship the old ones back to Kihei ($80) so I can pursue a warranty clam on the old wheel. The nice thing is that when I ask about the Library, they offered me a computer to use here at the shop to update this blog. By 7:00 I should be fed and showered and set up at a campground a few miles away, contemplating the rest of my route to Minneapolis. If I'm paying three hundred dollars for the privilege, I'd better, by God, ride instead of catching the bus.

Wherever the route goes from here, it's likely the phone service and internet availability will be spotty, so I ask your patience. Now I've got a new frame and new wheels, I wonder if the derailleur and brakes will make it to Minneapolis.

To the Bitter End

I left the shop and headed for Shawano County Campground about five miles northeast of town, and found it, as usual, to be a longer ride than expected. I stopped at Wal-Mart on the way to pick up dinner and breakfast; a salad, strawberries, Gatorade, and a long john. This trip has been unusual for me from a dietary perspective as I'm finding myself choosing salads and fruit at the grocery in place of hardier fare. I'm making these choices based on what sounds good at the time, so my preferences are changing to healthier foods, but I don't really feel too much thinner yet. The park is very much like a MI state park, very clean with a beautiful beach and day-use area. I have a walk-in site up a little hill in a grove of pine trees, very nice.

This is the first time I've been in camp in time to meet some of my neighbors, and Mike & Patti offer me a beer as soon as I veer from my path toward their site. The talk is of the weather and their inexperience in dealing with the thunderstorm last evening, and the likelihood of a reoccurrence tonight. I walk over to an unused electrical camp site and charge my Garmin while I start plotting out my route from here forward. I decide to continue north tomorrow to Langlade and finally White Lake, before heading west along WI 64 instead of WI-70 thirty or so miles further north. The bike felt great on the way out here, and I hope that continues throughout the rest of my tour. I was reading and charging the phone battery when the rain started and I made a mad dash to get everything under cover. I read just a bit more, then drifted off to sleep with the rain drumming on the tent above me.


My long john turned into a long john pancake in the rush to cover last evening but still tastes good with the remaining strawberries. I read a little more before embarking for the day; my route north is through the Menominee Native American Reservation. Kenesha is a small town at the edge of the rez (as it is called) and you can see from the schools and other public buildings, our tax and gambling dollars are at work. They are building a newer and bigger casino to continue the harvest of the latter. There were some local folks out selling food in the parking lot of the market so I had a bratwurst with my soda, my $3.00 helping to fund their annual pow-wow. Twenty very pretty, but hilly miles north, I had another one at the Wild Wood Inn for $3.50 with a much better view, and a big screen TV for some soccer viewing, both of which I enjoyed immensely.

Later Thursday:

Just before I stopped at Wild Wood, the new rear wheel was starting to wobble, and I found a number of spokes were very loose. I tightened them back up, just using tension as a guide and it seemed better on the way to White Lake. It was eight very hilly miles to White Lake where I stopped at the grocery, then another seven hilly miles to Elton and the Glacier Wilderness Campground. I am a little worried about availability of services in the next few days so I pick up some cereal bars and peanut butter, and though I hate to carry the extra weight, I also hate to starve.

There is nobody home at the campground and I find a good spot and set up my tent. It's a small campground, only a dozen sites, and empty except for a local neighbor walking his dog. I go back to the office for a shower and the door knob won't turn, so I turn back a little frustrated and as I'm halfway back to my site a lady drives in so I go to confront her with the bad news. She says: "Oh the latch has been broken for years, just push the door open." which works but I'm still a bit miffed. The shower is great and I lose the ire and go into the office to register and try to get some intel on the road tomorrow. The barkeep at Wild Wood said it would flatten out some, and this lady concurs.

The sandwich I got back in White Lake is excellent and I finish the M&Ms Cheri bought for me back on Maui before standing the bike on its head and truing the rear wheel. More spokes were loose, but it looks okay when I finish; something I'll keep an eye on the rest of the trip. There is power and while my phone apparently has no service, I top up the batteries for both it and the Garmin. The Garmin doesn't list any campgrounds where I am going tomorrow, but the Wisconsin map shows a county park in Merrill.

FRIDAY, JUNE 25, 2010
To the Bitter End continued.

I forgot to take a picture of my campsite for Cheri; she likes to see them, but since my phone isn't working, I forget to get it out and record the photo. It's a pretty generic site; trees all around, quite private and grassy enough for a comfortable tent site. I didn't have to climb a hill to get to the campground because it was right at the bottom of a really big hill that I have to tackle first thing this morning, no warm-up.

After the first, comes another, but then it levels out some and isn't too bad all the way to Antigo and beyond, except for the bloody head wind. For a bicyclist, a head wind is an insidious menace that sucks the spirit right out of you. You can't keep momentum from downhills to help with the next climb and every mile takes a huge effort. It can be really disheartening and it is for me today, so much so that I start asking people in Antigo about a Greyhound terminal, with no luck.

The wind is mostly blocked by the trees in the ten-mile section right beside the state forest, so I'm feeling a little better; No wildlife viewing in the state forest today aside from some birds and three deer that have been sacrificed on the alter of the automobile. Then the last six miles into Merrill are really hilly and the wind seems to be picking up, so I decide to stop for the night at Council Grounds State Park just outside of town.

At 4:15 I walk into a bar where no one is friendly at all, and I pester the overworked barkeep to get the World Cup TV coverage, but they don't serve any food except pizza. After I've caught up a little I get the name of another bar out near the park that is likely to have the games showing and head out there and get to see most of Switzerland-Honduras game while I feast on the Friday night fish fry; a great evening for me.

I get to the park about 8:00PM and it is sprinkling so I rush to set up my tent on one of about sixty sites in this beautiful park. The sites are larger and more wooded than most MI state parks but it is further to water and other facilities. I walk the loop I'm on looking for water to take my nightly pills (haven't missed yet!) and it's at least three-fourths of a mile around. MY phone still isn't working so I again forget to get a picture.


I waste all morning thinking that the USA-Ghana game will be on at 10:00 and that bar opens at 10:30, but when I get there, the USA game isn't on until 1:00PM. I head out and I'll try to find a place to watch it on the road. It's about forty miles to Medford and the one bar that I find ten miles before town has no TV, so at 2:15 I find Opie and Tammy's Country Corner and I'm alone in the place with the TV tuned to USA-Ghana. I haven't eaten anything all day but again, all they have is pizza which I don't want, so I try a pickled sausage and then a pickled egg with my beer and soccer and enjoy the afternoon. The USA looks the better team but it's tied at full time 1-1 and in the overtime, Ghana scores on a very pretty counter and the USA chases the game for the last twenty-five minutes. It's what the USA team does best, but it's not a good way to win soccer matches and they fall short in this one, 2-1.

The barkeep was a lady my age and we talked on and off throughout the game so I get the skinny on camping and everything else in Medford. There is camping at the city park and I get directions, but it is still five miles into town. I stop at a grocery and have a brat and coke from the local football fund-raisers, and leave with another chef's salad, blueberries and Gatorade to take to the park for my picnic. It's a great park with just a few very nice campsites and I think I'll enjoy the evening, although there are no showers and the rest rooms are far away. I'm set up by five o'clock and go wash clothes before my picnic. I true that rear wheel again and it is still loosening up every ten or fifteen miles which is very unusual, so I have to stop and tighten spokes often. I'm worried that because I don't have the training and tools to really true this wheel, this constant tightening and loosening is going to ruin the wheel sooner rather than later. It looks like rain so I choose high ground close to the trees for my tent, and I baton down the hatches before crawling into the sack.

SUNDAY, JUNE 27, 2010

It was good and dark before the storm rolled in with thunder and lightning and plenty of the wet stuff, but no danger because the lightning was some distance away; at least six seconds between flash and rumble. It was muggy and warm before the storm and I slept better after the rain. I spent an hour breaking my fast and trying to dry things out before packing up and rolling out about 9:00AM. The hills moderated a bit and the road surface improved considerably when I hit the national forest but the wind which had started out southerly now shifted to westerly. I'm in Gilman by 12:30PM (27 miles) and nothing is open save one gas station/convenience store where I get a coke and tighten spokes for the third or fourth time. The next ten miles was better, to a bar called Norma's Place where I decide to have a proper lunch for a change, and ordered a chicken wing basket that was pretty good; whole wings not just the pieces that you get in most places. Another seven miles through a stiffening head wind brings me to Cornell and a state park called Brunet's Island with a beautiful site right down on the river.

I had stopped in town for a coke and Gatorade for morning but I'll leave the park later to get some dinner for a change (again) and spend a fair amount of time thinking about tomorrow and talking to the very nice staff at the park about campgrounds west of here, etc. The weather is calling for NW winds 10-15MPH which is not good news and there aren't many campgrounds that I'm likely to reach in a day's ride. Add in that a pick-up plan without a working cell phone utilizing my son will require a set destination that I can reach for sure, and that Mark can find. With the problems I'm having with that wheel, I'm leaning toward a Monday pick-up rather than Tuesday, but we'll see how it goes tomorrow morning. I go to a little diner called Sandi's Drive-in and they have decent root beer and pretty lousy food. When I'm truing the wheel tonight, I discover a broken spoke, so I'm really in trouble if I can't find a bike shop in Bloomer about twenty miles from here. I sleep well but have an unusual dream about being appointed to fix the USA World Cup team, and I'm not really sure that my skills as a corn breeder will do the trick.

MONDAY, JUNE 28, 2010
The Bitter End

The plan before the broken spoke was to ride to Colfax today and into Baldwin tomorrow for an easy one-hour pick-up from Mark. But the hills, the new broken spoke, the debilitating west wind, and the constant worry about the wheel have completely demoralized me when I get to Bloomer around 11:30AM and you can stick a fork in me, 'cause I'm done. I stop for a long lunch, then call Mark and ask him to drive to Bloomer to save me, and he seems happy to do so. He's at work and doesn't get off normally until 3:30PM so I settle myself at Hardees right beside the interstate and prepare to wait until 5:30PM or 6:00PM tonight. The folks in the restaurant are very nice to me and one assistant manager lady sets me up in a room with a TV and gets the World Cup game on for me and everything. I feel bad freeloading, so buy a couple orders of their chicken snacks for pupus and they are really quite good. Mark shows up at 4:00PM and sees the bike right out front, then finally spots the back room I inhabit and we're soon on our way to Minneapolis.

JULY 9, 2010

I apologize for the tardiness of the last week of this report, but when I got to Mark and Katie's house my days were full of activities and I didn't force myself to sit down at the computer to update the blog. In some ways, this was good because my emotional condition changed over time and allowed me to report more dispassionately. In some ways, this was a difficult tour, and at the end turned into a bit of a forced march. But there were many good moments, and I'm happy to recall them now; however I won't take another tour that requires such rigorous time pressure in the future. I’m thinking that I may not take another fully loaded camping trip because of the wheel issues I’ve had in the two most recent tours, but may switch to “credit card touring” sleeping at motels and carrying a lot less weight. The wheel I had so much trouble with during this tour eventually worked fine for day rides (unloaded).

Mark and I played Frisbee golf twice and took in a Twins-Tigers baseball game at Target Field, then after Cheri arrived on the first of July; we were busy, busy right up until July 6th when we left for Michigan. We had a couple great days at Pine Island Lake with Katie and the rest of the Brown family, and had the best illegal fireworks show ever, sitting on a pontoon boat in the middle of that beautiful lake. What a wonderful night that was!

After an uneventful car trip to Michigan, including four hours sleep in a state room on the USS Badger car ferry, we rode our bikes, played in the pool, visited relatives, and even paddled the kayak on the Cass River with my brother before heading north for the Cornish family gathering on Drummond Island. I'll report more on that adventure later, but take this opportunity to thank you for coming along on this tour. Mahalo and Aloha.

JULY 10, 2010 – JULY 28, 2010
Drummond Island and Beyond

Cheri is a little bit crazy in a couple ways, and one of them is an inordinate love for freighters; she loves to watch them, listen to them, even race them in the kayak (from a very safe distance, of course). Back in 2004 we first rented a cottage on Drummond Island, right on the St. Mary’s River which is the shipping channel between Lake Huron and Lake Superior by way of the Soo locks. We repeated that in 2007 for a few days, and because this was the first year her parents would not be able to camp with us (sold their motor home) we decided to rent a larger cabin and have the Cornish family gathering there instead. It was called St. Mary’s River Retreat and it turned out to be nearly perfect.

We rode our bikes, toured by car, kayaked in the river and nearby Sturgeon Bay, enjoyed visits from some friends and spent a day on a rented pontoon boat exploring parts of the island. There seem to be thousands of white tail deer there and we enjoyed seeing those graceful creatures from the car and bicycle. We also enjoyed a lot of good food, and a memorable dinner celebration of Bill and Anita’s sixtieth wedding anniversary. We also saw many, many freighters, from the smaller tug and barge type, to personal sailboats and yachts, to the great thousand foot lake freighters that ply the Great Lakes.

We returned to Hemlock and the Beyersdorf family farm to stow our gear and visit some more; had a bicycle ride with Cheri and Skip on the Saginaw Valley Rail Trail that finished in the dark, and a nice dinner in Gladwin at the Riverwalk Grill with Mom. Then we packed out suitcases again for the flight to Denver Colorado to visit our daughter, Michelle, and our friends, the Dolin family that moved to Denver from Maui a few years ago.

While there we visited Estes Park, hiked the Bear Lake to Emerald Lake trail in Rocky Mountain National Park, drove to Moab Utah to visit Arches National Park and enjoy the amazing rock formations there, and take another long hike. We visited the Dolins at Dustin and Erin’s beautiful new home, and later in the week Don took me to a Rockies game (pro baseball) at Coor’s field just steps from Michelle’s office downtown at the Premiere Lofts apartment complex. We also met Miki’s coworkers and current beau and his Mom, very nice folks, all. I always hope I don’t embarrass her too badly in those situations, and I think I succeeded this time.

On July 27th, more packing in preparation for the tearful good-by the following morning. We had extended the car rental that we got for the long road trip so Michelle was spared the miles on her car and the drive back from the airport after the afore mentioned good-by, and were able to hold the event in the privacy of her apartment. We left in what we thought was plenty of time and ended up with just enough; Denver is a major hub with a lot of traffic, even on this Wednesday in July. The flights took off and arrived on time and we returned to our home on Maui safely, and to the delight of two dogs. Now all we have to do is pay off the credit cards and start planning for next year, which will be a big one; three whole months if it goes as hoped for. Look for it here next year. Aloha.