After writing our last entry, we spent an awesome evening being fed and talking with Jim and Mary, or Uncle Jim and Aunt Mary, who we foisted ourselves upon through a college friend. Jim could tie you into a pretzel- go to his Crossfit gym and get your butt kicked. Mary made an UNREAL chicken dish about which we still talk, especially while eating unfortunate fried chicken at supermarkets.
July 27: 9 miles from St. Ignace, MI to Mackinac Island, MI
We got to Mackinac (pronounced Mackinaw, don’t ask me why) Island on July 27th, and dragged ourselves and our gear into the lovely Inn on Mackinac, where we immediately availed ourselves of free cocoa and crackers and cheese. We haven’t stayed at any B&Bs this entire trip, and to suddenly have a little rack on which to wheel your luggage, an elevator, free snacky things, and champagne and fudge waiting for you in your room is an AMAZING experience. Well worth the abstinance. A giant thank you to the lovely Novicks for such a wonderful anniversary surprise!
Someday we will post a video about our time in the plains, and sing a song called “all them dudes”. In the meantime, trust that we’ve had this song in our heads the entire trip. We really got to scratch our cowboy itch during our afternoon on Mackinac, which allows only bicycles and horses–no cars!–as transportation. Ian rode Joey, who was a doll, an absolute, mouse, while Christine rangled the more fiery and fierce Charlie, who may or may not have tried to dismount her using trees. But he failed! Riding horses was great.
July 28th: 56 miles from Mackinac Island, MI to Petosky, MI
We started our real-deal anniversary with a bottemless buffet at our lovely inn, where we simultaneously impressed/disgusted/terrified the other guests and staff. It was delicious. Then we took a fine walk around the island, and explored the town where we were delighted to find a Sanders Chocolate shop! Ian’s great-great gramps came from Germany and started a quite succesful confectionary in Michigan way back when. We’ve long lost ownership, but the business is alive and currently reviving in and around Michigan. It was quite a trip to walk into a store with pictures of Ian’s relatives plastered all over the walls and on all the chocolate wrapers. Definite family resemblence! We chatted with the owners, and got free matching Sanders hats, which we then proudly wore all weekend long, upping our dork-factor considerably. No regrets.
Our last hurrah on the island was a very pleasant bike ride around its 8 mile perimeter. A beauitiful lake-side road that we have decided takes second place to the Going-to-the-Sun road in Glacier as nicest roads we’ve ever biked. All in all, this was a fantastic break and a lovely way to spend our first anniversary!
But that’s not all! After a leisurely day on the island, we took at 4 pm ferry to downstate Michigan, and decided to go ahead and bike some more! So, with the clouds threatening to burst above us, we made our way along the north-western side of the state to Petosky. Low and behold, the skies did open up and we got thoroughly drenched in an unrelenting downpour. Wet and hungry, we decided we were definitely not going to make it to the campsite before dark, so we gave in to the lure of pizza and warmth and stopped for a recharge in the town of Harbor Springs, MI. A little less wet, a little less cold, and a whole lot less hungry, we mounted the tandem for our first night-time ride of the trip. It was actually perfect–we rode on a quiet road between the lake and a row of the largest, fanciest homes I’ve ever seen, and since it was dark and these homes were all lit up like Christmas trees, we got front-row seats to spy on the lavishly decorated interiors of these ultra-rich homes. Pretty unreal.
July 29: 40 miles from Petosky, MI to Ellsworth, MI
This was a very lazy, slow day. Late to wake up, early to bed, laundry in the middle, and a wee bit of biking. Not a bad way to spend a summer day.
July 30: 92 miles from Ellsworth, MI to Mesick, MI
We made up for the previous day’s slowness by kicking butt, despite some seriously hilly terrain. One might call it “rolling,” but the hills of western Michigan are steep and consistent. Every up was accompanied by a down, and another up. We stopped for lunch at a grocery store, and Ian came out very proudly with an entire watermellon. That was an adventure.
July 31: 86 miles from Mesick, MI to Lake George, MI
Another big day through beautiful countryside. We stopped for breakfast # 2 at a bar in a tiny town called Luther. The place was dark, and smelled like old beer, but it was full of locals enjoying a super cheap breakfast (and/or a morning ale), and we soon got to talking. We answered the standard questions–where are you from, where are you going–but soon the conversation shifted to shocking stories about close encounters with moose, bears, and–our favorite–a midnight bicycle-porcupine collision involving the loss of one’s false teeth. Good times. We were then instructed to cross the street to the hardware store and pick up a couple of free Gatorades. So we did.
August 1: 76 miles from Lake George, MI to Bay City, MI
Mid-Michigan has some pretty awesome bike paths! Cutting across the state heading east again, the terrain flattened out and we were suddenly happy to be riding on several sections of rails to trails paths. But the real thrill of the day (for Christine) is that Bay City is the childhood home of Madonna!
Today was also the day that we had our first stay with a “Warm Showers” host! Warm Showers is a wonderful bicycle touring online network of bicyslsts looking for or offering housing (and showers!). The idea is that when you’re home, you open your doors to travleing cyclists, and when you yourself are traveling, you take advantage of the generosity of non-traveling cyclsists (or bike enthusiasts). A pretty wonderful system relying on the generosity of strangers. So, we met Donna, a world-traveler and lover of all things bicycle. We had a great time swapping stories while enjoying all-you-can-eat pasta night at the local italian restuarant!
August 2: 59 miles from Bay City, MI to North Branch, MI
Another perk of Warm Showers is that you are even more plugged into the tips and warnings of your touring cohort–those cyclists just ahead or just behind us. Through Donna, we learned about an unusual and unwritten camping treasure! Some of her other guests had stumbled upon the caretaker of the Methodist Church in North Branch, a small town that lies along our route. He opened the doors of the church to these tourers, and word of mouth ensured that these church doors don’t stay closed for long! Word got out that we were headed their way, and when we rolled into North Branch, this famously generous care-taker was waiting for us on the curb outside his hardware store, ready and willing to show us into our home for the evening. We had a great time chatting with he and his wife before we collpased on the plush carperted floor, watching the setting sunlight fliter through stained glass windows. What a beautiful and welcome retreat.
OH, and on the way to Northbranch, we went through Frankenmuth, a town with strong German heritage, and an even stronger tourism bureau. We enjoyed brat and sauerkraut, and endured about as much TERRIBLE oomp-pa-pa music (fabulously mispronounced) as we could stand before moving on with our day.
August 3: 67 miles so far from North Branch, MI to Marine City, MI
We’re nearly done with our day now as we write this post in the library at Marine City, just on the border between the US and Canada. We’ve had a great time speeding along on bike paths averaging around 15 miles/hour through flat farmland. Tonight we’ll cross into Sombra, Ontario, where we will begin the Canadian leg of our adventure. We’ll bike along Lake Eerie, and pop out again by Niagra Falls in about 5 days or so. Hard to believe that we’ve only got this little bit of Canada between us and New York state! The end of our trip is beginning to feel mighty close…Not sure we’re quite ready for that just yet…
See you on the other side!