Wednesday, September 11, 2013

To My Readers (however few you may be)

I apologize for my tardiness in publishing this year's adventure. Because I am now exchanging text messages with my family on a daily basis, I don't feel the emotional urge to communicate with them through this blog, and I find it has become more of a chore. Which is not to say that I will quit any time soon, because I also want to communicate these experiences and feelings to myself and others sometime in the future. It is my intention to return to extended vacations now that Cheri has recovered, and I promise to keep you up to date regarding same. Aloha!

Separate Vacations - 2013

July 24, 2013 Michelle arrived in Kihei the evening before I was to leave, and we all went immediately to Isana’s, our favorite sushi restaurant, and Michelle’s must do anytime she is home on Maui. The next evening we were back at the airport for my departure and everything went according to plan. With a good book in hand and plenty of room on the plane, it was as comfortable as any flight I can recall. In Detroit, I picked up a rental car, just to get to Mason, and then on to Hemlock, to be dropped off at MBS two days from now. My 20 hours, or so, in Mason went well with Mom and Dad (in-law) seeming in good health and spirits, and brother-in-law, Kevin joining us for dinner out. The weather was fine and the drive to Hemlock on Saturday uneventful. Skip was at the house when I arrived and volunteered to run to the airport with me to drop off the car, saving one day’s rental compared to my plan of driving in with the bike as transport home tomorrow. He and Lenda, Kris, Courtney, and Karen then joined Mom and me at the Farmer’s Home for the best burgers in Michigan. Mom had decided to skip church on Sunday, so we drove to Randy and Mindy’s campsite near Standish. On Monday I rode the bike path to St. Charles and back in the morning, and settled into my role as pool-boy that afternoon, though the weather didn’t warrant using it the entire time I was in Michigan. I got most of it cleaned up that day and Mom and I had a good week together with me riding 3-4 hours each day, and on Wednesday Skip and I paddled the kayaks on the Tittabawassee River north from Midland. They have a dry in and out system on rollers with handrails there by the Tridge that I really enjoyed. That evening I drove to Alma to meet Ron and Lois for a training ride on the bike path there, and dined with them after at a local pub, and finalized plans for transport to Montague on Saturday for the LMB Shoreline West Bicycle Tour. We also had one night out at Olive Garden, and my last evening saw us in the Benchwarmer, where Randy joined us for dinner. August 3, 2013 Skip picked me up mid-morning for the drive to Ithaca and he enjoyed Ron’s brother, Bob, so much that I almost had to ask him to leave so that we could. We had four bikes and five people (Ron, Lois, Bob, Ruth, and me) in Ron’s van, but they had kept the doors open and inside lights running all morning, which ran down the battery and we had to jump it to get going. We would stop at Stanton later for a new battery that I helped Ron install with borrowed tools, but we got to Montague in plenty of time, and the van was fine all week. We registered for the ride and I set up my tent while the other four went to find their motel (softies). After dinner and the riders meeting, we gathered back at the campground to meet Ron’s Pittsburgh crew; Dan, Bill, Ken, Sue, and Beverly, and chatted until it was time to turn in. I had set up without the rain-fly which turned out to be a mistake as I was damp and cold from the heavy dew the next morning. August 4, 2013 Breakfast was pretty mediocre by tour standards, and the first twenty miles out of town were rolling back roads before we picked up the Hart Montague Trail near Shelby, I don’t know why they didn’t route us on the trail right out of Montague. We had lunch as a group at Pentwater at Gull’s Inn; we had a good time, but the seared tuna I ordered was overdone. On the other hand, it was good fish and the beer was cold. WE were on open roads after lunch with a bit of a breeze, but there was no hurry on this 50-mile day and I rolled into the school in Ludington about 3:00PM. I set up close to the showers and after cleaning up, I went and found the crew, who had smuggled in some beer and we had a nice pupu hour before dinner. Dinner was only fair, though the rest of the facilities were nicer than last night (or tomorrow). We swapped more stories after, and sent the motel-ers home and found our beds around 9:00PM. August 5, 2013 I slept better than last night and breakfast was pretty good, but I had a stupid fall off the bike in the parking lot that left me with a bruised knee. I felt good setting out, but the course map and profile didn’t show the short, steep climbs early in the route. I thought the crew would be stopping for lunch in Manistee, but didn’t find them and took a break and had a light lunch at the Burger King north of town. I wasn’t feeling real good, but kept on going through Onekama and on up the first long hill of three big climbs on today’s route called the Three Sisters. I walked a little on the steepest section, but felt better on the long flatter section to come. I was hoping that one of our private SAGs would come by, either Ruth or the Pittsburg van that Beverly was driving most days, but no luck. Then it was through Arcadia and up the steep, steep second Sister, also known as Watermelon Hill, which was a great place for a walk. At the top, I had some watermelon and a rest and both SAGs arrived and the rest of the crew after that. Lois introduced me to Shauna Dock from East Lansing, who was also driving a private SAG for husband, Jim, and she agreed to drive me into Frankfort, skipping the Third Sister. The facilities at Frankfort left something to be desired, especially in table space and we ended up with thirteen people around a standard picnic table for dinner. But the food was good and we went to Ron’s motel afterward for some wine and conversation, which was a lot of fun. We toasted Bill Tye, who was Ron’s original connection to the Pittsburgh crew, now deceased but still beloved by all. August 6, 2013 I slept not at all because of the bruise on my leg, but I had agreed last night to advance the Dock’s van as far as Sleeping Bear Dune this morning and starting my ride from there. That made this just a 40 mile day for me, and I liked that idea a lot. I made sure Shauna and Jim were good through the first fifteen miles, and then left the van at the appointed place and jumped on the bike just shy of Glen Haven. The crew would probably lunch at Glen Arbor, but I didn’t want to wait around so went on ahead, solo. It was hilly around Maple City, and I got off course once and rode a couple steep hills getting back on course, and then came Philosopher’s Hill. It’s named that because you have plenty of time to contemplate the meaning of the universe as you are turning your lowest gear for four miles. It took me about forty minutes, but it wasn’t very steep, and led to a nice downhill into Traverse City, where we were to camp at the Civic Center. I called Nikki as soon as I got clean and set up and she sent Gail to pick me up and drag me to Heather’s for dinner, but I took a look at what was being served and decided to have a cherry bratwurst which I really enjoyed as an appetizer. Gail and I sat around and talked as I did my laundry, and the girls came later for a meal of prepared chicken and salads, which were good. Gail dropped me off and I slept pretty well, having stopped to buy Advil to quiet my leg pain. August 7, 2013 I was camped way back by the skateboard park with Ken and Dan and we really hit it off yesterday afternoon and this morning. The tour served a very nice breakfast, but lunch and dinner are on our own today to encourage patronage of the businesses in T.C. Some folks went off to ride up the Old Mission Peninsula, while I just read and then rode downtown and walked around Boardman Park with the fish ladder and then went looking for a nice lunch. I was thinking of a place called Scalawags and headed in that direction on foot but came across the State Street Grill and their special today was planked whitefish. I went in and watched Tiger baseball and had a Labatt’s Blue, and the whitefish was fantastic, the best I ever had, crusted with parmesan and paprika with mashed potatoes. Great lunch! That afternoon I rode to Nikki’s new house at on Indian Trail and chatted with her and Luke as she unpacked knick-knacks and dishes and I got my phone charged. Later, I took Gail out to diner at North Peak, and Nikki joined us after her appointment up in Suttons Bay. We had a very nice time and I got back to the Civic Center about 9:00PM to watch some softball and chat with Ken and Dan. A very satisfactory rest day and I’m looking forward to riding to Charlevoix tomorrow. August 8, 2014 Breakfast was about average this chilly morning and the route out of town was familiar to me from past rides in this area. After doing laundry at Heather’s on Tuesday, I was unable to find my headband, and set off without it, but soon regretted its absence so I stopped in Elk Rapids and found a skull cap at the third place I checked. It’s a beautiful route today with just a few hills, but one really steep one just before Torch Lake, where I stopped and had lunch at a beach park. I bought a sandwich and a quart of chocolate milk at a nearby convenience store for my picnic, and enjoyed the mid-70 degree temperatures and this lovely park and lake. It should be an easy two hours or so to Charlevoix, so I took my time, updated my journal and watched the other park go-ers and lake traffic. I went off route by taking US31 instead of Barnhard Road to the school to avoid the hills I know exist there, but probably didn’t save much because of the tough climb up to the school from town. I got to the school about 4:00PM and got my luggage and went looking for, and found my friends Ken and Dan, and selected a spot to camp near them. As they went in to shower, I called John Diedrich, my buddy in Harbor Springs just to report my whereabouts and make plans to stop and see them on the morrow. John was so excited to hear from me, and asked if he could come pick me up at Charlevoix instead since he is on call tomorrow night, and I agreed, thankful that I had called before setting up my tent, because I would stay in Harbor tonight in a real bed! I went and showered before going out to the front of the school to wait the hour or so it would take John to make the drive. I managed to get the bike mostly in his trunk, and tie the lid down and off we went. We dropped my stuff at his place and had a glass of wine, then exchanged the sedan for his pride and joy Cadillac convertible and we rolled in style to a brew-haus close by for a beer, and then to Bar Harbor pub for a burger and more beer. Bar Harbor is the Farmer’s Home up there with the best burgers for miles around, and we were lucky to get a table and enjoy dinner and catching up with each other. When we got back to the house, Patty and Mary were there with Mary’s daughter Katelyn who thought I was the best toy in the box, and a good time was had by all. August 9, 2014 It was great to sleep in a real bed, and have nothing pressing in the morning. I had a blueberry muffin and juice, and then busied myself with a little bike maintenance. It was a pleasant day for a nice rest, and that’s about all I did. When John got home, we drove my luggage into Harbor to put it on the truck for Mackinaw City and then went to visit Amy and Adam and their two kids at their new home (a mile or so from their old one if I’m not mistaken). Patty and I worked together to prepare whitefish for dinner, which turned out well, but not as good as State Street Grill in T.C. and just chatted and watched TV as John worked the phone most of the evening helping their group’s patients with medical advice. And another night in the comfortable bed! August 10, 2014 Patty was a sweetheart and cooked breakfast for me in the morning and then I hit the bike path along M119 to Harbor Springs, the first time I’ve ridden that piece. It was pretty flat and very pleasant despite the chill, and took me all the way to the school where I caught up to the rest of the tour. The Pittsburgh crew caught me just before Good Hart, and we all stopped there for a few minutes to chat and say our good-byes and fare-thee-wells. I really enjoyed having a group to hang out with, especially Ken and Dan. I left there ahead of the rest but they caught and passed me again before Cross Village, where I picked up some Gatorade from the tour SAG. It was a pretty easy day of riding, pretty flat and only about 50 miles and I got to Mackinaw City about 12:30PM. I called Skip and found that they were behind schedule, so I indulged myself by riding to the Mackinaw Pastie for a nice lunch (with gravy) before going back to the school to find my bag. It was a pretty tight parking area, and I knew Skip had the fifth wheel and a trailer full of kayaks, so I walked my stuff 200 yards up the road to a parking lot with more room for his vehicle, but then had to wait in isolation. They arrived about 2:15PM, and we loaded up and were off to Munising. Skip had been planning to get fuel before leaving Mackinaw, but forgot and we were a little worried about running out and might have to go off-route at Newberry, but found a station at Robert’s Corners. We got to tease him about it all the way there and home again. We got to the campground a mile or two west of Munising about 5:00PM; a beautiful spot with wonderful access to the big lake and some nice sites, and got set up. We decided to go scout our potential parking location for tomorrow, and grab dinner out. There is a very nice, rustic visitor center at the Miners Castle area of the park and very adequate facilities for parking at Miners Beach a mile or two away. We stopped at the visitor center and walked out to the viewing platforms and had a really nice time, even saw an eagle close up. It had been perched in a tree but flew close to the path we were on at just the right time. The cliff here is higher than any of the trees at lake level, and is a beautiful spot. Our recon finished, we drove back to town and went to the Dogpatch restaurant for dinner; we passed on the seafood buffet and found the burgers and sandwiches very satisfactory. Then back to the campground for sleep and an early start tomorrow. August 11, 2014 We had a quick breakfast of cereal and a banana and headed back to Miners Beach. It’s a bit of a walk to the beach, but the boardwalk makes it easy access for the kayaks with Skip’s unpatented wheels attached. We were on the water by 8:00AM and it was beautiful. Not dead calm, but very nice by Lake Superior standards as we poked our kayaks into small caves and between rocks just feet from two hundred foot cliffs. The colors were amazing and the natural architecture just breath-taking. We got out at Mosquito Beach to eat the lunch Lenda had packed for us, though it was too cold for the mosquitoes to be out yet this morning. We got back on the lake and paddled as far as Portage Point before turning back. Skip and Kris made a beeline from point to point, but I wanted to explore every little bay and crevasse a second time, just totally enjoying this wonderful place. We took another break at Mosquito Beach to rest on the return and watched a couple groups of kayaks go by. There were three or four groups of kayaks that had started an hour or more later than we, and then the commercial tour boats came by from time to time creating wakes for us to enjoy, but nothing could dampen my delight with this day’s adventure. I got back to Miners Beach at about 2:30PM, maybe a half-hour after Skip and Kris, and we pulled the boats out and accepted help from beach go-ers to carry them up the stairs to the boardwalk. Back at the campground we mostly rested and read, and then looked at the pictures Skip had taken with his new little waterproof camera. Lenda fed us well that night, with chocolate caramel fondue for dessert with strawberries, pineapple, pretzels, and pound cake to dip. August 12-14, 2014 It’s back to Hemlock the next morning after a great breakfast from Lenda’s skillet. We were thinking of another short paddle but the weather looks unpromising and we were all satisfied with the decision to hit the road. We stopped in Mackinaw City for the ladies to do some shopping and got home just in time for supper. I spent the next day doing laundry and packing our possessions back into the space we use in Mom’s basement, having had to dig through just about everything to find the few things I needed this trip. On Wednesday, Skip and Mom drove me to Detroit to catch my flight back to Maui and my girls; Michelle is still there with Cheri until a few hours after I got home, like ships passing in the daylight, we basically got to wave hello and goodbye. It was a good vacation, though shorter than hoped for, I’ll have some vacation left over for the occasional bike ride this fall.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Adventure Called "Life" Intervenes.

       My usual approach to this blog is to add posts whenever appreciable headway is made toward my next adventure; a plan is developed, reservations made etc. That would have been the case this year again, but life intervened in the form of a malignant cancer of Cheri's breast. I would have liked to blog immediately, but the emotions of a cancer patient are tricky waters to navigate, and Cheri's desire for privacy was foremost up to this point. She had a lumpectomy and has finished the treacherous chemo-therapy treatments and is now undergoing radiation therapy, which is a walk in the park compared to chemo. She seems to be almost fully recovered as of this writing, and while I must still be more careful than is comfortable, about what I write, I want to bring you up to date.

       We were in the introductory stages of planning a bicycle trip together when we were so rudely interupted; in fact I had already made reservations at a B&B on Boblo Island (aka Bois Blanc) in Lake Huron, and a hotel in Indian River that would have been overnight stops on our proposed ride from Gaylord to Boblo Island and back, that would have happened last week, in fact. It would have been thirty miles each day on the North Central State Bike Path in Michigan with a ferry ride to the island  from Cheboygan, and a rest day on the island, with two nights of luxury at a place called Insel Haus. I was planning to carry our clothes on my new trailer that performed so admirably last year, and it would have been an epic trip, but now we hope to make it happen next year instead.

        We were also in the process of planning another camping trip out to Maine, including meeting my brother, Skip at Umbagog State Park in New Hampshire, that we loved so much in 2009. Those reservations were also made and later cancelled along with the week at the house on Drummond Island that had been reserved and was scuttled. I would have had a lot to report, and you would have read about most of it by now, had not life interupted us so abruptly.

        As it turned out, it has been a good summer to stay home in Kihei since we have dealt with cancer scares for both of our dogs, one that turned out to be a deep infection in Skittles' leg, and the other an operable tumor on Nani's thigh which was removed yesterday. I guess trouble comes in threes after all, and I hope that means we're done for a while. Now all we have to do is pay for it all, and while there has been no vacation as of yet, the bills are close to those that resulted from other summer's happier pursuits. I have been able to participate in Maui's Summer Master Works Chorus, and have enjoyed the rehearsals immensely. More about that later as the performance won't be until December 2013, so there is a ways to go yet.

        Cheri determined that she would not travel until all treatments were finished, and she had time to recover, perhaps sometime in the fall. This schedule would not work with my professional duties, so we are going on separate vacations this year. I leave tomorrow for Michigan (July 24, 2013) to spend a week with my Mom, and later participate in a week-long bike tour called Michigan Shoreline West that takes us from Montague to Mackinaw City. Brother Skip is going to pick me up there and drive us north with our kayaks to near Munising to kayak the fabled Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore for a couple day, before it's back home to Kihei on August 14th and back to work. MY daughter, Michelle is flying in tonight to be with her Mom during my absense. I promise that I will file a full report of this trip upon my return to Kihei. See you then!