Before entering Michigan we weren’t quite sure what to expect from the state. Other than Detroit and Flint, where we were not planning to go, and miles of shoreline, which we were keen to sample at least some of, we had no idea what to expect as we crossed West. What we got were super friendly people (continuation of a theme) and miles of quality off-road bike trails that were converted rail lines. Well done Michigan. Oh and the lake shore is nice too.
It was a short ferry ride from Canada to the USA and we were the only people on the boat. This hindered us a little at US customs as it gave them the time to double and triple check everything in our passports and ask us as many questions as they wanted. Eventually we were let out of the door into the pouring rain and made the short ride to our warm showers host who happened to own and live above a great little restaurant. Time to cash in my birthday treat – beer and burgers – safe in the knowledge that we only had to walk upstairs afterwards.
The next morning, after hearing that we were once given lucky rocks that we then felt obliged to carry on our bikes, Cheryl gave us lucky bananas instead as a more useful gift of luck. Much appreciated. We set off, took a wrong turn, turned back to find the road we should have been on, found it was gravel, so turned back to where we were before we turned back. At this point we stood and ate our lucky bananas a little disappointed in their power so far.
But the day picked up, we had the wind at our backs and joined together bike routes that took us West. With no plans of where to stay that evening, after starting bike trail number 3 of the day we noticed some activity under a marquee, a baseball game and a BBQ. Following our noses we ended up at a private boys school freshman event, there was loads of food left so we were told by the school nurse to sit and watch the game and have a hot dog. The assistant principal had cycled across the country 20 years ago so we got chatting to him and he invited us to camp on the school grounds. Not any old school grounds of course, they had their own lake, grotto, and perfectly mown grass. Yes we would like that a lot. Ten minutes later the school nurse returned with an improved offer – would we like a dorm room instead? Yes, we would like that even more. After being shown to our room we went for a walk around the school grounds and returned ready to cook some pasta on the stove only to find two meals boxed up for us waiting outside our door. Sitting watching the sun set over the lake and eating chicken and pork with our dorm room waiting we thanked our lucky bananas at how the evening had turned out.
The next couple of days continued in much the same fashion – good bike routes, not so good roads (including my least favourite, the horizontal-crack-every-ten-metres which involves the whole weight of the bike jarring first through the upper body as the front wheel runs over it followed a split second later by the same jolt through the backside). The friendliness continued. Sheltering from a thunderstorm under a gas station forecourt we were offered three lifts and a place to stay during 30 minutes and got chatting to a guy who was about to visit Europe for the first time and had concerns about whether he could use the term fanny pack. We said probably not. Debs had to explain why, good job we had a teacher on hand to clear that up.
Three days riding got us to Portage, home of Debs’ old friend Tracy and her two boys. We had a great weekend off the bikes playing capture the flag, soccer, battleships, and old arcade games at an actual arcade. We cooked hot dogs and s’mores over a fire and were sad to leave.
Our route 40 miles all the way to Lake Michigan took us on probably the best bike trail of the lot, the Kal Haven route, nice packed gravel, cheery people and loads of wildlife (though we had to be careful to avoid the suicidal chipmunks that run across in front of the wheels). Before we knew it we were on the shores of one of the Great Lakes watching the waves wondering how this is not the sea. That night we camped at a state park by the shore. The lack of bears so far on the trip meant we were a little casual over food and we woke to find a whole pack of tortillas had been half eaten. Half of every tortilla that is, I don’t know why the (assumed) squirrel couldn’t have carefully pulled the top few out of the pack to eat whole rather than digging into every single one. There were also a surprising number of torn mint tea bags amongst the scene of destruction, I can only imagine it’s disappointment scratching around in the pannier for food only to keep pulling out tea bags. As we packed up that morning we were on the lookout for a fat squirrel with minty fresh breath.
The fifth day of riding took us into Indiana (state number 6) for a night camping on the National Lakeshore. We cooked up our typical exciting pasta dinner on the camp stove by the lake and watched the sun set over Chicago – the closest we would get to the city. Not a bad way to end the day, We have cranked up our daily average to around 75 miles given what lies ahead in the mid west – very little if we believe what we are told. Next up for us is a few days riding south west on old Route 66. 50s kitsch, old school diners and Cars (Disney Pixar) memorabilia awaits!
Thanks to Cheryl; Orcard Lake St Mary’s High School; Scott, Karen and family; and Tracy, Ben and Levi.