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.