Friday, November 6, 2009

September 27

I got up early today, left Escanaba at about 8:30 a.m. and rocked out 85 miles in 5 hours. I stopped a few ties, but not for very long. Everyone I talked to yesterday had me so fucking worried about this supposed storm that I barely did anything but ride until I got to the easternmost hotel from Escanaba that wasn’t the full 135 miles to St. Ignace, the next city where I could find an indoor place to stay.

I got to the Scheall Motel around 2 o’clock. Cool, I had beaten the storm. Shit, I’m in Nowheresville Upper Peninsula Michigan, don’t really even get cell phone service up here, and it’s only 2 o’clock. I wanted to ride more when I got here—could’ve easily went another 40 miles, but any more than that and I would’ve started running out of battery power and daylight. I would have to ride over 50 more miles to make it to St. Ignace. And if I didn’t make it there before sunset I would be in Nowheresville Upper Peninsula Michigan without a place to stay indoors, and supposedly there’s a giant storm coming.

So far, it’s rained for five minutes and the wind’s blowing a lot, but no “severe thunderstorm.” Oh well, at least this Nowheresville motel has really nice owners.

But before the end of my day there was a beginning.

I met a guy in a bait and convenience store maybe 20 or 30 miles outside Escanaba. He used to “do a century every Saturday.” He gave me advice on what roads to take and which areas to avoid. I roughly planned out the rest of my trip based on his recommendations earlier today in this motel room. I ate a banana, which cost only 30 cents, while he and the woman who worked there gave me all the knowledge they had concerning the Upper and Lower Peninsulas of Michigan along the cost.

Today was also the first day I wore anything but my biking shorts and jersey while riding. It was coooold this morning. I wore my fleece running pants and Leah’s North Face quarter zip fleece for the first hour, and then I switched to the pants and a windbreaker as I got a little warmer. I think I’ll be wearing those warmer clothes a lot more while riding in the next few days. Hopefully, I won’t need to buy a rain poncho tomorrow because I’d much rather not ride what that guy at the convenience store called “the best part of my ride” soaking wet, and cold.

After leaving that store I felt even more energized and really started to rock the high speeds—pushing 18,19,20 miles per hour. I think it was a combination of the shorter ride yesterday, me getting in better riding shape because that’s all I’ve been doing, and the fear of getting caught in that fucking storm which still hasn’t come. That fucking storm. The dark clouds have been looming for the past two days now, but no storm.

I pretty much rode nonstop until I got about five miles west of Manistique. I was told I’d better call the motel I’m currently at before I rode there assuming I could stay there, because “the season’s ending.” Hunting season, that is, everything on the Upper Peninsula is about hunting; that’s all people do up here: hunt and cater to hunters. Except for the bikers like me, we don’t hunt. Well, I don’t, I shouldn’t talk for all cyclists…

The woman at the convenience store was right, the motel was closing, but not until next week. Good. I wanted to ride more. It was only 11:30. I went on, and made my destination while it was still somewhat sunny out. But there were patches of clouds, too.

Something should be said about the absolute beauty of the places I’ve been riding through. Everything I’ve been seeing as I ride has been incredible, but I don’t think I can capture it with words, and I don’t want to be stopping every 5 minutes to take another picture.

I’m not a photographer, at all. I don’t have a high quality camera. I’m afraid I can’t do these beautiful places justice. I will, though, accompany anyone who wishes to go on this ride. Possibly this spring? Lake Superior instead?

I see trees, and I smell them, and the smell is better than any flower I’ve ever smelled. I see the Lake with various types of coasts: sandy, marsh, rocky, and even some areas where the trees seem to go right up to the water. And the leaves—the reds, yellows, oranges—like a peace forest fire.

At one point, I saw an old man on a bike ahead of me. He looked like another touring cyclist. I pedaled fast to catch up with him, then I realized I didn’t need to pedal quickly to catch this guy. As I passed him I asked, with the excitement in voice of not having had a conversation with the same individual for more than 10 minutes in the past week, “Hey man, how’s it going?!”

All I got as a response was a feeble, uninterested “okay” as he continued to look straight ahead. He never even looked at me. I rode away.

He was going really slow, anyways, I’m sort of glad he wasn’t a talker.

I asked the motel owners about him. I assume he’s just a homeless guy who rides around until he finds a good place to sleep and sleeps there for the night, then does it again the next day. They told me there are lots of guys like that around here, and they all just keep to themselves. “They don’t really want anything to do with anyone,” is what Phyllis said. Then the Sherryl and Richard, the motel owners, went on to tell me about this man who came to their store once. He was older, too, Richard estimated 60 years old. And he pulled a massive trailer around all day, just walking. The trailer wasn’t small, they stressed this. He slept on it at night, just pulled a tarp over the top of him and he had a shelter.

I don’t think I could do what either of those two men do every day. This traveling alone thing is fun, but I’m already getting kind of tired of it. Shit.

So, the motel, this room cost $27 with tax. Phyllis made me dinner for $1, also—spaghetti with mushroom marina sauce. As I was paying for the room I noticed they had about the same food selection as a convenience store, maybe even a little better. I decided I’d just get a can of beans from there for dinner.

When I went back for my “dinner” at about 4:30 (I didn’t really eat lunch, just a Cliff bar), they told me Phyllis would heat up whatever I bought. This quickly escalated into Phyllis saying, “You know what? If you want spaghetti, I have a whole bunch back there,” she pointed to where I was the kitchen, “why don’t I just make a whole bunch for all of us? This way, I don’t have to decide what’s for supper!” So I ate dinner with Richard and Phyllis, the old couple who own the Scheall Motel.

Phylllis wouldn’t even let me help with the dishes or anything.

That killed a lot of time, too. And, writing always does, as well. Richard told me about their television troubles now that “Obama’s taking control of everything” and everyone in the world has digital cable except them and the other residents of Nowheresvilles throughout the country. They would have to get a dish network out here. Right now they only get four channels or something.

Well, I’m kind of hungry again since I ate dinner at 4:30, and now it’s 8, and I’ve been riding my bike all day for the past week. I’m going to make some instant oatmeal and add some trail mix and a can of pineapple from Richard and Phyllis. Maybe I’ll check what’s on the four channels they get here, but I’ll probably just end up reading when I see they don’t have CNN, MSNBC, or the Discovery Channel.

75 miles today, about 450 total. I’ll hit the 500 mile mark tomorrow. wow

You can't really tell very well from this picture, but that road is paved with something red

The sun, almost.

Yep, they love Jesus a lot on the Upper Peninsula, too.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

September 26

First, I'd like to say, I took the GRE on Friday, which I've been studying for a lot. This studying is why I have been sporadic at best with updating this.

Just outside of Racine I spoke with a man about the extra spoke holder on my bike’s chainstay. He suggested it was only useful to use the spoke as a weapon for protection; I agreed.

Today, about two miles outside of Oconto, I heard a snap.

I didn’t know what it was. Just as I got off my bike to inspect what was causing the rubbing sound that started after the snap, a truck pulled up:

“Everything alright?”
“Uhh, well, I’m not sure, something seems to not be, but I’m not sure what it is.”
”Well, where ya headed?”
“Escanaba, through Marinette.”
“Well I’m going to Marinette, I can give ya ride if you want. There might be a bike shop in town.”

I took the ride. Best case scenario I get dropped off at a bike shop in Marinette and discover it’s just my plastic fenders that cracked from a rock. Then I’ll just pretend I started my day’s ride from Marinette.

His name was Randy. We found the bike shop in Marinette thanks to a nice hunter at a Shell about 10 miles south of town. When Randy was helping me unload my bike from his trailer he somehow cut his finger. I was concerned for him, well I felt more guilty than concerned—here was this guy who gives a random stranger a ride and gets a cut finger—how’s that for karma?

“It’s alright, I bleed every day. That’s how I know I’m alive.”
“Well, thank you very much, again. If there were more people like you in the world it’d be a much better place.”

Those were my parting words to him. I meant them more than I realized I did at the time. That’s how I know I’m alive. Shit. Thinking back on this exchange with Randy, I’m shocked at the utter profundity of that statement. He could’ve just said, it’s fine, it’s just a little cut, but he didn’t. Most people probably wouldn’t offer a random stranger on the side of the road a ride, either.

Inside the bike shop, I found out, unfortunately, the owner, who is also the mechanic, wasn’t in the shop today, and wouldn’t be until Monday. And, the two guys that were there didn’t seem to know that much about replacing spokes. But we hadn’t even got the bike onto the stand yet, so I was still hoping it wasn’t a broken spoke.

Worst case scenario.

Now I didn’t know that much about replacing spokes either. I didn’t think I’d need to. I thought, I’m just going around Lake Michigan, it’s not that far. The broken spoke was found, and collectively, it got replaced. And, the wheel was trued pretty well as we put it back onto the frame. I bought some extra spokes from them and a spoke wrench, just in case. They barely charged me anything, either. At least I was having good luck when it came to paying for the results of my bad luck.

Thank you, Marinette Cycle Center, you’re also how a bike shop should be.

After the set back it was still only about 11:30. I had “traveled” 20 some miles already, thanks to Randy, even though I had barely pedaled any.

I was happy. And the sun came out after a cloudy and wet morning. The sun was making it warmer outside, too. I rode out of Marinette and into Michigan. Yes, Marinette sits on the Michigan border.

I stopped in a little to eat some carrots and trail mix, still feeling great. It quickly became overcast again. I switched from my regular sunglasses to my “cloudy” orange lenses. The sky decided to do that thing where it would drizzle a little. The drizzles would keep up until I was convinced they would persist for a while and maybe actually turn into rain. Then they would stop. Of course, the drizzles were always enough to make me wet, and cold, as a result. This kept up for the rest of my ride, until I got to Escanaba, Michigan, and checked into a hotel to avoid camping in the rain.

The sun came out again. The low temperatures made me okay with my hotel decision, even with the rain leaving. I got some phone numbers for motels from tomorrow in case it’s as cold and rainy, and thunderstormy, as the forecast says. The guys at the cycle shop checked the forecast for me before I left—thunderstorms starting at 2 tomorrow.

Hopefully it doesn’t actually get bad out until 6 or 7. That would be perfect. Or, maybe it won’t rain at all. That would be better. Better than perfect is a mind fuck.

At least I can afford all these motels and hotels. And at least I haven’t lost my house to a flood like some southerners have. (I’ve been watching the news, a lot, actually. I’m already getting sick of CNN and MSNBC. Give me npr and, and my iGoogle homepage with headlines from many major news sites, please.) At least I made it to Escanaba and my most difficult decision is which day I need to ride 80+ miles and which day to do only 60 to get close to Mackinac Island (I don’t know how long it will take to get across the bridge to Machinaw, the city, not the island. I’d rather do that earlier in the day, therefore, I need to be close enough when stop for the night).

I should do the 80+ tomorrow. I really hope it doesn’t rain.

I “lost” an hour coming into the eastern time zone and recorded some rants about time on my digital recorder, which I figured out how to place in my handlebar bag so it can pick up my voice pretty well while riding.

66 miles today, + 20 with Randy = 86 miles

I’ve traveled almost 400 miles already.

I need to get going early tomorrow.

I took more pictures today than yesterday, at least.

Lake Michigan, yep, it hasn't gone anywhere.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

September 25

Yesterday my chain started squeaking and I really started to regret not remembering the one thing I did, bike lube. Yesterday was also the hilliest 80 plus miles I’ve ever ridden.

Yesterday, my front derailleur stopped letting me shift to my biggest chain ring—the one that makes those monster climbs up the hill worth it when you finally make it to the top and begin the inevitable decline—the one you pretty much only use when speeding down hills. I could still go fast down those hills, but only as fast as gravity would allow. Pedaling was pointless. I just coasted down every hill. Still, my top speed for the day was 34 miles per hour. I wonder how fast I could have gone if I had the capability to shift to that big chain ring.

After a day of the incessant squeaking and futile downhill “pedaling,” it was an easy decision to find a bike shop soon. I needed chain lube and a new shifter cable. I replaced one shifter cable before I left, but neglected to change this one, of course.

I found a bike shop in Green Bay with the help of Cha Cha. Then I called them to make sure they were actually a bike shop. They didn’t have the work “bike,” “bicycle,” or “cycle” in their name, but they told me they are indeed a bike shop. Then I called them again after getting directions once, and they gave me more specific instructions on how to find their store:

“It looks kind of like a warehouse”

I found it. This place looked just like a warehouse. And they hooked me up! Holy shit, I bought chain lube, $7.99; three cliff bars, approximately $4; and two Luna bars, $2 is a lowball estimate; on top of that they replaced my shifter cable and made some minor adjustments to both of my shifters that are difficult to do on the road with no bike stand. I had resigned to paying at least $25 for everything I was to leave with. They charged me 16 dollars. That means they gave me a free cable and housing and free labor. Sure it was easy, but holy fuck, those guys were great to me. If anyone is ever in Green Bay I highly recommend In Competition Sports. That shop is exactly what a local bike shop should be.

And they gave me great directions out of town and to my next stop: Oconto, Wisconsin. I would be almost to Michigan, twenty-two miles from the state line when I stop riding for the day, without having eaten a single piece of Wisconsin cheese.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention I didn’t leave my campsite until 11 a.m. today. Not good. I’m getting increasingly less organized with each day.

By the time I made it out of the Green Bay city limits it was almost 4. Shit. I had at least 20 miles to go until Oconto. Twenty mile is without figuring in the detour, which I had to figure out a bike friendly detour to the original detour because it took you on an interstate highway, with the detour, and some wandering, my ride from Green Bay was closer to 30 miles. I arrived in Oconto before the sun set with the help of Ian, his computer, google maps, a couple handfuls of chocolate-heavy trail mix, and two water bottles’ worth of water. The temperature was dropping quickly, but it hadn’t started to rain yet.

For the ride from Green Bay I hovered in the 18-20 miles per hour range. The rest of the day, and most of the trip, I’ve been living comfortably in the 12-16 mph range. I should eat more of that trail mix.

Really, though, I think I’m getting into better biking shape.

In Oconto I discovered another Subway, but hoped I could find something else. Subway should use me as the central character of a new marketing campaign: it’s Sam, he rode his bike around Lake Michigan and only ate Subway.

I’ve also eaten food I brought from home, which was running low as I pedaled up to the Riverview Inn in Oconto. The woman at the front desk gave me a list of restaurants in the area after I checked in, and menus for the places that deliver. I told her I didn’t eat meat. She showed me the one restaurant I could possibly eat at, other than Subway. Then I saw the light flash in her eyes:

“There’s also a grocery store right over there,” She pointed behind her, “just a block down 41 on the right. The have a deli with a pretty good pasta salad, and other things.”

“That’s close! I could walk there.”

“…Yeah…you could.” She didn’t understand how nice it is do not have to ride your bike just to find something to eat when that’s all you’ve been doing for the past few days.

After about a minute of looking through the delivery menus and the very similar variations of typical “family style” restaurants I went to the grocery store. I bought the pasta salad. It had lots of vegetables in it, awesome. I also bought some Newman’s own pasta sauce and great northern white beans. This was better than any family style restaurant. I restocked on road foods: trail mix, instant oats, and wheat tortillas (accidentally bought ones with chives, oops). I grabbed a small carton of chocolate soymilk, too. Tomorrow’s oatmeal for breakfast is going to be delicious with that soymilk. I’m going to have to practice some self control to save some of it for the morning.

It’s raining now. I’m glad I chose to sleep indoors tonight. The forecast is cold for the next week. Low temperatures are predicted to drop into the 30’s, with highs for the day in the 50’s.

Fall really has arrived.

I talked to Ian on the phone, also. We talked about traveling alone. I've decided I like traveling with another person, he feels the same way. The benefits to having a travel companion greatly outweigh the disadvantages of having another person with you. And, the advantages of traveling alone are greatly outweighed by the disadvantages of traveling alone, the main one being that you are alone. This isn't the type of alone that is staying in your room all day. No, this is a different type of alone, a kind you can only know if you've traveled for significant lengths of time without anyone else.

There Ian, I remembered the way I articulated it to myself while riding that I couldn't remember when I was talking to you on the phone.

This is the only picture I took today. I just couldn't resist...

I need to remember to take more pictures.

Monday, October 12, 2009

September 24

Today was great. The end.

I realized this trip isn’t about getting anywhere, it’s about going there, and being there, wherever there happens to be. Even if there isn’t the place you were shooting for that morning, it’s still somewhere. And frankly, it is where you are so you’d better be happy with it. I thought I knew that already, but it really clicked now. I get it. I understand.

I was searching for a road that runs parallel to the larger and busier highway than I had hoped for. I was frustrated because this neighborhood was full of dead ends. But I found the road after only 10 minutes. I felt tired most of the day. I thought I was getting sick. I thought I was too tired to ride over 12 miles per hour—a relatively slow speed compared to the 15 miles per hour I usually can average. I realized all these things were a part of where I was and that is something. And that something is where I am so I’d better learn to enjoy it.

In reality, I don’t think I was all that tired today. This was the hilliest 75 miles I’ve ever rode in one day. And to top every one of those hills which I climbed today, this campsite I’m at, High Cliff State Park, is actually on a high cliff. You can get to the top of it, the hill with high cliffs, that is, and you have to if you want to camp here, but you have to work, or have a vehicle that does the work for you. I don’t have one of those right now. Instead, I climbed the hill on the only vehicle I have, my bike. This thing is close to a 30 degree incline for a quarter mile.

After climbing the hill once, and dropping off my stuff, I had to go get firewood, conveniently located at the park entrance, at the bottom of the hill. Climbing that hill with a “bundle” of firewood balanced on top of my rack was a challenge, but I made it. (Ironically, I didn’t use the firewood. Everything else was too wet for this city boy posing as an amateur outdoorsman to get a fire going. Oh well, I’m warm enough in my sleeping bag.)

Today was today—great. High Cliff State Park is great. There’s a cool bench on one of the really awesome hiking trails. And I climbed one of the high cliffs! Yeah!

The bench has a beautiful little poem on it:

Standing on top of this, I just had to climb down it.

The view from below:

I hiked farther down the hill:

I made it down to Lake Winnebago just as the sun was setting:

Monday, October 5, 2009

September 23

I woke up just after 6 a.m. I started boiling water for my instant coffee and equally as instant oatmeal. The sun wasn’t up yet. In the darkness, I thought about my potentially smelly and probably hungry little black and white friend trolling around somewhere in the sandy brush between me and Lake Michigan.

He didn’t show up. My coffee and oatmeal were ready as the sun finally decided to show up. I didn’t realize sunrise was this late. Now that I’m thinking about it, the sky has been dark whenever I’ve woken up at or before six lately. I don’t have much sunlight to work with on this trip. This might become problematic when I am fifteen miles away from a camp site and it’s getting close to 5. I’ll just have to deal with this. I am dealing with it, actually, hence my sitting in this hotel lobby at 7 a.m..

I can’t live by my own time, I have to live by the sun. Maybe that’s when people first stopped getting along with the earth, when they started living by their own time and not following the sun’s. Tyler Bee, from the Bee Hive Art Collective, referred to this as “living linearly in a cyclical world,” I think he perfectly articulates what I need to avoid doing this trip. Hotel’s don’t exist cyclically. Well, they sort of do, but only in how they putt new coffee in the pot every morning and clean the rooms when guests leave.

I’m drinking their coffee right now and about to eat some oatmeal and fruit. I’m going to fill my water bottle with orange juice before I leave, too. I like to mix orange juice and water. This mixture is a lot like a sports drink, but without the high fructose corn syrup. This combination is just how I like it—natural and delicious.

But now I’m getting waaay ahead of myself.


Leaving the camp site, I took route 32 north for a couple hours. I quickly passed into Wisconsin. Randy, who I talked to yesterday on the trail, lives in Wisconsin. I was right on the Illinois Wisconsin border.

I found another bike trail in Wisconsin. I thought This is too good to be true. This won’t last long. I took it. The trail took me all the way to Racine, Wisconsin. In Racine the trail had an offshoot off into town, the “Lake Michigan Pathway,” it was called.

I’m touring the Lake Michigan coast. Of course I took this route. The “Pathway” led through a peaceful Racine residential area. Apparently there is a not so nice part of Racine, or at least there exists three drunken “fishermen” who cannot possibly live in the part of Racine I the Lake Michigan Pathway goes through. They told me this was a bad town. They weren’t really fishermen, I just found them drinking at a picnic table near a dock, on Lake Michigan. They kept offering me beers and hamburgers and telling me I needed to read Into The Wild. They kept arguing with each other. They were like little children, all fighting over the attention of one preschool teacher. But little kids are nice, and these men were very kind as well. They certainly meant the very best in everything they did and said to me.

They kept insisting I get this bike map from the library. One of them went with me to the library, he was a bit racist:

“You can’t leave your stuff on your bike while you go inside, the niggers will take it in a second. If you’re gonna be quick, in and out, I’ll watch it for you”

“Okay, but I’m still gonna lock my bike. I don’t know you either. Even though, I do want to trust people I just met like you, I just can’t” I replied.

And then he went off into a drunken diatribe about not trusting strangers, etc. Good advice, but I could tell he was bitter from something. He seemed like the type that once didn’t follow the advice he had just given me. He seemed the most sober out of the three “fishermen” (least drunk is probably a better way to put it, he was still tanked, but seemed to still have some coordination, enough to ride his rusty bike with me 100 yards to the library). And he gave me the best directions. His name is Ricky, he’s the scrawny one on the right in the picture.

The trail guide they all insisted I get was kind of cool, I guess. I had hoped there would be longer routes, but they’re all just 10 mile loop “tours.” I’m going to use part of one route when I get past Green Bay. That will be tomorrow, I hope.

According to the news it's going to rain tomorrow; tomorrow might be another motel night if its rainy. But tonight I’m staying at a campsite on Lake Winnebago.

Shit I’m getting ahead of myself again.

I stopped at a cool coffee shop outside of Racine. The place looked like a house. There wasn’t a parking lot—only a driveway—with a bike rack next to the wheelchair access ramp. I ordered a smoothie. I sat outside, in a garden, under a tree, and ate a cliff bar while enjoying my smoothie. A guy came over and started talking to me. He was with the group of four who seemed to be this place’s only customers besides me. At least I think he was with that group, he might have lived there, he just seemed so comfortable at that house/coffee shop. I guess the whole group could have lived there. Oh well, he was very friendly, and wanted to know where I was from, where I was going, et cetera. He also rides bikes, and his friend had just done a month long tour in Colorado.

Sounds awesome to me.

I pressed on. Those drunk guys took up a lot of my time. Oh well. I rode through Milwaukee, which seemed like a cool town. Maybe next time I should plan my stops better. I could’ve got some great food in Milwaukee and probably maybe a free place to stay with my friend Kyle’s friends, who are in a band that I let stay at my apartment one night last year.

But instead, I just rode through Milwaukee. I did get to enjoy their bike lanes. And I got lost, thus forcing me to see more of the city than I planned.

I stopped at a Caribou Coffee where a cute girl sold me an orange juice and an Odwalla “Green Machine” juice. Fort Washington is a lot like any other suburb in the world. I felt like I was in Naperville, or St. Charles, or Palatine, or Darien, or Downer’s Grove, but I wasn’t in any of those places. I was in some suburb of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I wrote down the wrong name in my journal. I certainly didn’t stop at a Caribou Coffee in Fort Washington and sleep in Fort Washington, because I rode about 2 more hours after that orange juice and green juice break. Maybe it was Whitefish Bay, or Fox Point, who cares. The girl was pretty, had a cute, timid smile, and was very nice. Usually nice isn’t a very complimentary adjective for someone, in my opinion, but when they are a total stranger, it’s a huge compliment. Do I look intimidating in a cycling jersey and shorts? She seemed shy. Oh well, she filled both of my water bottles for me even though the water cooler was on my side of the counter.

And then I got to Fort Washington. This is a cool town with lots of restaurants that have a lot of meat, especially fish. I ate at Subway. I bought some hummus from a grocery store to “beef” up my sandwich.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Day One of Lake Michigan Circle Tour

September 22, morning

The train was pulling into Naperville and I was a block away from the platform. I made it. The time is 10:30 in the morning and I’m on my way to Chicago with my bike, camping gear, food, and a change of clothes.


Legs itch, arms are sore from lifting weights yesterday—first time in months. The day before a 900 mile bicycle trip was a bad time to start lifting weights.


Spacing out regularly. Thinking about everything.

Spacing out. Regularly thinking about everything.

I think that Ani Difranco song The Atom takes a stance against nuclear energy and weapons. There is a guy on the train who has a gravely voice and was talking on his phone for at least 20 minutes earlier. He’s stopped talking on his phone. Now he’s listening to music loud enough for me to feel as if I have the headphones in too, but I’m really sitting two rows back and across the aisle from him.

Oh yeah, today, I’m taking the train to Chicago and heading north into Wisconsin from Union Station. I figure this is better than riding through 30 plus miles of the same suburbia I always see just to get to Lake Michigan. I will be circling that lake on my bike over the next 10 to 12 days.

This guy has horrible taste in music. First he was listening to that song I put your picture away… I can’t look at you when I’m lying next to him/her. I think its by Kid Rock and Faith Hill. Now, he just finished jamming to what I think was You’ve got it bad by Usher, but it could have been one of many other R&B love ballads. Baby tell me what I can do to please you, baby anything you say I’ll do, ‘cause I only wanna make you happy, from the bottom of my heart, it’s true. Yeah, that song. Poetry, it’s poetry. Now he’s got some other country song projecting for the entire train car to hear.


I’m going to try to find a library somewhere along this ride so I can put all my entries about this cycle tour on the internet for friends and strangers to read. I know my mom would read it religiously. I bet others will as well.

I didn’t find a library. Well, I did, but I didn’t want to stop there long enough to type this up. In fact, typing all this up is going to be quite the task. I’ve got about 30-40 pages of a journal full, with certain areas that I will no doubt feel the need to elaborate on as I type this.

September 22, night

I made it through the first day. Everything went well. I have no qualms with today except I kind of wish I rode farther. I covered just over 50 miles today, every one of them after noon, pretty good I guess. There is much more riding in store for me, though. I shouldn’t worry.

From when I left Union Station to here, when I am now, Illinois Beach State Park in Zion, Illinois, I probably spent at least 20 miles riding on bike trails. I started on the Lakeshore Trail in Chicago. Then I was on roads for some mileage. After a prolonged stint on Sheridon road through the very nice (read: rich) north Chicago suburbs, I got on some trail that goes all the way to Kenosha, Wisconsin. The first section I rode on was paved, but after a little the trail transitioned to a crushed limestone surface.

(This new, compact journal I’ve started using for this trip is lined on the front side of each page and unlined on the back. This is a nice compromise for me, because I have been using unlined notebooks lately. But then again, this will likely be the most prose writing I will have done in months.)

While on the McKinley Trail (this is the name of the trail going all the way to Kenosha), and getting close to this place where I am now, my campsite, I was approached by another trail user. He was on a hybrid bike with a large and probably very bright headlight and taillight set up:

“Where ya headed?”
“uhhh, Wisconsin, around Lake Michigan.”
“Yeah, okay, but where are you going today?
“Oh, umm, well I’m deciding right now if I should go to Illinois Beach State Park or keep going further north”

Randy was his name, he told me what he knew about this prospective campsite.

“Yeah, there’s pretty much only one way to get in there. I know other ways with back roads and such, but they’re confusing.”

I rode with Randy along the trail for a while. He told me about the 15 mile commute he makes five days per week and the tours he has done with friends, and I listened. This is when I first realized random interactions with other “Randys” are going to be the only times I will have face to face interactions with human beings. I can call my friends and family, but it’s pretty much just me alone out here.

I’m not going far, so it won’t be too bad.

At the time I didn’t think it was far: just around Lake Michigan. Just around Lake Michigan.

After leaving Randy I had a quick ride to the campground. It’s a fucking shame I biked all the way here because there are bike trails everywhere. Oh well. I walked on them, collecting fire wood and taking some pictures.

When I got to the park entrance the nice man at the booth had an awesome beard—long, grey, and with hair to match.

“Lemme guess, you need a campsite?” He asked in a friendly and sarcastic manner.

“Oh, yeah, where else am I gonna go with all this?” I nod to the sleeping pad and two fully stuffed panniers strapped to the rear of my bike.

He was a cool guy. Still is probably. He gave me great instructions on where to find the ATM I needed to find. Cash only.

After I paid him, and he was almost done filling out the necessary paperwork, he said, “You know, my son is on a bike odyssey of his own right now, too.”

Wow! I should be riding with him.
“He’s not traveling as light as you are, though.”
“Does he have a front rack with mounted panniers, too?”
“No. He’s got a trailer.”

I guess right now his son in somewhere in Iowa, by himself, just riding, probably headed west. I wonder how many solo bike tourists are out there right now, sitting by fires of scavenged wood or in cheap motels. I wonder if I would prefer this trip with one of them, even if I don’t have that much in common with them. Ian should just have everything needed to come with me, including time. That would be perfect. But, this solo thing is going to be crazy, and fun, in a different sort of way. I’m still excited.

And I’m still kind of hungry, too! I just ate two whole wheat tortillas filled with textured vegetable protein (TVP, dehydrated soy protein) seasoned with a mix of paprika, curry powder, and lemon pepper I combined in a film canister before leaving. The seasoning is alright, probably should’ve tested it first. Whatever, this is better than plain TVP. On a plain wheat tortilla that would be bland. I’ll eat some trail mix while I read some Herman Melville in my tent (I brought Billy Budd and Other Tales as my only book. I haven’t read any “classic” literature lately and it’s small. Hopefully, if I finish this book I can find a used book store to trade for a different one).

Most people would hate touring with my vegan self. At any restaurant they’d probably be scarfing down hamburgers and I’d be complaining because there is nothing for me to eat besides a shit house salad with Italian dressing.

So far I’ve managed to eat only things I brought with: an Odwalla energy bar and those TVP wraps I just ate. I brought about 6 energy bars (Odwalla bars were on sale at Jewel for 79 cents each, so I have 4 of those and a couple Cliff bars in case the Odwalla bars aren’t palatable), eight packets of instant oatmeal, two large bags of trail mix (one with primarily raisins, almonds, and semi-sweet chocolate chips; and the other with assorted dried fruits: kiwi, pineapple, apricots, and papaya, along with nuts—the former mix is my afternoon and nighttime mix, the latter is my morning mix, especially for mixing into oatmeal), one jar of soynut butter (higher protein to far ratio than peanut butter, I’ll be eating a lot of nuts already so this lighter nut butter is a nice option), one baggy full of hemp protein powder (best when mixed with soy milk, but can be mixed with water as well), and the already mentioned TVP (one ziplock bag full) and wheat tortillas. Food makes easily half the weight of what I brought on this trip.

The other half of my supplies consists of a sleeping bag (good down to 30 degrees Fahrenheit, supposedly), a backpacker tent, a sleeping mat (actually an exercise mat, but they’re pretty much the same, I think), one pair of jeans, two pairs of underwear, one pair of socks, two t-shirts, one long sleeve shirt, one windbreaker jacket, one north face fleece quarter-zip mock turtle neck, and one pair of Sanuk shoes (look these things up, they’re great). There are the toiletries, too: travel sized toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, and conditioner, deodorant, and Dr. Bronner’s soap (for body, laundry, and bike). I brought enough contact lenses for 15 days, just in case this takes longer than I expected.

In my handlebar bag: I have three pairs of glasses (sunglasses, night riding glasses, and prescription glasses), a knife, mechanical pencil and pen, composition notebook, and maps (Wisconsin and Michigan state maps). Also on up there, I have various tools for fixing minor bike problems (adjustable wrench, bike multi-tool, zip-ties, hemp chord (3 feet approximately), and tire levers. I purchased a new mini-pump for this trip, too. This little guy has an extendable hose attached to the pump valve and a small fold out piece that allows it to be used like a floor pump.

I brought some other little things, too: cell phone, pad lock, 7 foot cable for lock and bike, digital recorder, “wallet” dry bag, compass, three 9 LED bulb flashlights, bike headlight, and bike taillight. But I’m tired of lists now. Really fucking tired of lists. I’ve been making so many lists lately I could almost say I can condense my life into a series of single words preceded by dashes, but that would be completely false, actually. I could make a list attempting to encapsulate my entire life within its first and last entries, but that last entry would impossible to reach.

K, well, I gotta pee and wash out this pot now!

peace and love

September 22, later at night

I was brushing my teeth outside my tent. I looked over and there stood a cute little SKUNK! sniffing around my tent. I didn’t really want to scare him, that would probably result in me smelling bad. So I stood, waited, and hoped he didn’t go in my open tent. He didn’t. He was just checking my stuff out, and eventually he left. I finished brushing my teeth, rinsed my mouth, and climbed inside my tent.

Annd some pictures from today:

On the Lake Shore Trail, Chicago. All packed and ready to go.

Tent, bike locked to a tree, Sham Wow! "towel," cycling shorts, jersey, and Smart Wool socks hanging out to dry.

Lake Michigan shoreline, 100 feet from my campsite.

My campsite is where those trees are. Taken from the beach.

I don't know what this building is/was, but it is now "closed." I really wanted to climb on top of it to that spiral staircase.

All the pictures I took on this trip can be seen in this facebook photo album

Note: I hope to get one day typed up every day for the next 8 days. So check back often if you want to.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


I stepped off the All One gear fixed gear bike I ride around mostly and onto my Fuji Touring for a trip around Lake Michigan. I wrote much more than I did take pictures but I'm still trying to get these pictures off my 6 year old digital camera. The USB chord is not properly connecting it to my computer so far. I will figure this out, though.

I've set up this separate blog for my bicycle related postings, which I hope there will be many of. My friend Andrew, who recently rediscovered the bicycle because of a suspended driver's license, said it.

"We are the engines."

He's right. We are.

I recently propelled myself around Lake Michigan. Most of it, anyways, cutting off the last few hundred miles (four days worth of riding probably). The weather was getting colder every day. This successfully sucked any joy out of riding for 7 hours a day. If it isn't fun anymore, why keep going? Plus, my mom wanted to pick me up and ride some with me in Michigan.

All in all I rode approximately 700 miles from Chicago, Illinois, to Traverse City, Michigan, going clockwise around the Lake.

Now hopefully I can get these pictures up....