Monday, July 16, 2012

Day 67 - 77 From Gary to Milwaukee

 Day 67 – Petoskey to Traverse City ~ 70 miles

We woke up around 9:30 or so and reluctantly began to pack up our things. We felt comfortable there and really didn't feel like going anywhere. Sharon went to the store that morning and got us a few things for lunch! So awesome. We sat around and talked for a bit and then decided it was time to take off. Unfortunately Zach realized that he had a flat rear tire...another slow leak. So he had to fix that before we did anything. Ended up having to put the tube in the sink to find the leak. It was hard for us to go and especially for Kris to leave Mona, but it was time.

We rode the trail all the way to Charlevoix! It was a super nice trail and allowed us to stay out of the way of traffic as well. We reached Charlevoix pretty quickly and busted through town without stopping. We wanted to stop, but there were just to many tourists there. It was ridiculously busy. After the town we had to get back on the road because the trail had ended. Which ended up really sucking because the shoulders turned to shit. Very narrow and lots of traffic. We stopped at gas station somewhere along the road and at lunch in the shade. A guy in a pickup stopped and talked to us for a bit. He was a local and enjoyed riding bike. It was nice of him to stop, that kind of thing is what makes our trip.

We powered on toward Traverse, and were making great time despite the hills. They were just the right size and spaced just about right so we were able to cruise down one and make it to the top of the next without to much hassle. But it was also extremely hot and we were sweating profusely.

Just outside of Traverse in Acme we picked up the T.A.R.T trail and made our way into the city. Kris's Iphone plan had been turned back on so were were able to use the GPS to help us navigate to Irma's house without to much hassle. Irma is a member of the CCCC (Cherry Capital Cycling Club) which is based in Traverse City and she graciously offered to host us. Traverse City and the surrounding area produces about 80% of the cherries that are sold in the US. However this year is a bad year because of the strange spring we had in the midwest. We arrived at here house sometime around 5. We ended up cranking out 70 miles in about 5 hours today, averaging over 14 mph! Not to bad.

We showered and and relaxed and then headed to the Filling Station, a local brew pub and eatery, and had pizza and beers with a bunch of people from the local club. We had a blast and drank our fair share. And the pizza was amazing. We stayed out pretty late, but were feeling pretty good and didn't want the good time to end.

We are heading to Oneckema tomorrow and a few of the members are going to ride with us about half the distance. Should be a lot of fun and we are really glad it all worked out! It was really nice meeting all of the folk that came out to talk with us.

Day 68 – Traverse City to Onekema ~ 83 miles

We woke up at 9 or so and got ready to go. It was our plan to leave at 10 and meet everyone who was going to ride with us at 10:30. We had breakfast and then headed toward town to meet up with the other riders. There were about 8 of us or so in the group. We headed out of town in a tight pack and made our way across the peninsula to the main part of Lake Michigan. We were shooting for Empire. The terrain was mild with the occasional monster of a hill. This part of the state is known for its hills. We stayed pretty close as a group and stopped every so often to re fuel and then continue on. We are pretty sure most if not all of the members that were riding with us are twice our age, and they were giving us a run for our money. It is really awesome to see them so stoked on riding and staying in shape.

Irma gave us some chews called Shot Blocks, which are basically caffeinated fruit chews. They did help when we took em, but man they made us crash later in the day. We climbed a huge hill just outside of Empire and slowly got to the top where there was a lookout called Inspiration Point that looks out toward the Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore and Glen Arbor. It was beautiful. We made our way into Empire and then stopped for lunch as a group.

We stopped at a local tavern called Friendly's. It was really good food and super busy. We had to wait before we got a table and stood outside eating Cherries and having a pit spitting contest. After eating we said goodbye and parted ways. We had hit the coast and needed to head south. At that point we had done about 40 miles and had to do another 40 or so to make it to our destination. We had a blast with everyone that came out to ride with us and they kicked our butts.

We were beat and slowly made our way south. It didn't help that we were getting into some enormous hills. Just like the north shore of Lake Superior. The weather was cooler than it had been, but it was still way to hot. We were sweating uncontrollably again today. Hill after hill we climbed and crested and then cruised down the otherside. At the tops there were great overlooks of the dunes further north. Zach hit his top speed of the trip at 38.5 mph heading down from the top of one of the hills a bit north of Onekema.

We arrived in Onekema around 7 and headed into town where we were being hosted by Roger and Leann Burger. Leann was going to be in the U.P for the week, so it was going to be a guys night! We arrived and showered and they had prepared a dinner of venison spaghetti, salad, and some awesome bread. It was delicious and just what we needed after a long day. We were exhausted.

Once the sun began to go down and the temps dropped the three of us sat outside on the porch and enjoyed the beautiful view of Portage Lake. We had a quiet night and enjoyed the conversation and turned in around midnight. Going to be a shorter day tomorrow.

Day 69 – Onekema to Charles Mears SP (Pentwater, MI) ~ 55 miles

I don't think we realized how tired we actually were after yesterdays ride. We ended up waking up at 10:30 this morning...a bit later than we had planned and we could have easily slept longer. Hell at this point we could sleep for a week if given the opportunity. We went upstairs where Roger had already made coffee and had a breakfast of cereal, english muffins, and a Kashi bar. We packed up and by the time we were ready to go it was almost noon.

We said our goodbyes and headed south toward Manistee. We had a blast with Roger and thank him and Leann for their amazing hospitality. Luckily the hills on the south side of Onekema are a bit smaller. We headed down a really beautiful shore drive and made our way into Manistee. On the other side of the city we got onto the country roads to avoid highway 31 and the Sunday traffic.

We slowly made our way to Ludington, where we were planning to stay at the State Park. We ended up stopping at a Little Cesar's for a hot and ready pizza. We each ordered our own...haha what a mistake. Bbbrrrrhhh. That was the sound of throwing up a bit. We ended up just eating the pepperoni and cheese off of the last few pieces and left. We decided that we were going to push on a bit further south toward Pentwater where there is another state park.

Just south of Ludington we hooked up with Lakeshore Drive and had a nice ride into Pentwater. We stopped just outside of town at a store and picked up a few things for dinner. It is a beach oriented park so after we arrived we headed to the beach for a swim in Lake Michigan. It was amazing and totally refreshing! After swimming we ate our cans of soup and then headed into town for an ice cream treat.

Beautiful sunset over the Lake tonight. Hopefully the breeze continues tonight so we can have a decent nights rest. We are headed to Muskegon tomorrow. 5 days away from seeing family and a rest day at Illinois Beach SP...can't wait!

Day 70 Charles Mears SP to JP Hoffmaster SP (Muskegon, MI)

We woke up and got our things together and biked into Pentwater to find breakfast. We ended up stopping at a grocery store and picked up a few small things to hold us over until lunch. The weather was nice. A bit cooler, so it was bearable at least. And the wind was at our back for a good portion of the day. As we made our way toward Muskegon we had to utilize Kris's phone to help us navigate. The main route south along the shore went in and out of freeway so we couldn't be on it. And unfortunately for us the roads right along the shore cut inland to go around the bays and harbors that litter the western shore. So we ended up taking countryside highways to head south.

There were hills that we had to deal with but they weren't to long or steep so we powered up them pretty quickly. Kris's odometer hasn't been working either and despite his efforts to get it working nothing has done the trick. So we are looking for a bike shop along our route. We ended up stopping for lunch in Whitehall, which is at the eastern end of one of the long bays of the lake. From there it was a fairly quick jaunt to Muskegon.

Once we reached Muskegon there was a pretty nice trail that lead us into town. We looked up a bike shop that wasn't to far off of our route and began to head that direction. We have been going through some really nice towns along the western coast of Michigan and were pretty thrown off by the shape that Muskegon seemed to be in. Maybe we missed the downtown area, but the infrastructure of the city really seemed to be in disrepair. And it didn't seem to be the most bike friendly city. Maybe its because we were there during the end of the work day, but it was really busy and nerve racking trying to bike through the traffic. We ended up giving up on our search for the bike shop and headed further south to a grocery store to pick up dinner and breakfast for tomorrow morning.

After stopping we headed out of town to the state park. The park was really nice. The campground was set back from the dunes a bit so you had to walk through them to get to the beach. We set up camp and waited for Kris's cousin CD, wife Molly, and 9 day old baby son Jake, to show up at the camp site to say hello. They are living in Grand Rapids at the moment and made the drive over to see us. We sat and talked for a bit and then they had to go because it is apparently a lot of work to take care of a nine day old boy! Congratulations to them!

We went out to the beach to enjoy the sunset, which was amazing, and then sat in camp and had a couple beers that we weren't supposed to have in the park. It made them that much better. We are headed to South Haven tomorrow to stay with Deanne and Roger, a married couple that contacted us and offered us a place to stay! They are even going to meet us and ride us into South Haven to their home.

Day 71 JP Hoffmaster SP to South Haven, MI ~ 64 miles

We woke up at around 10 this morning. A bit later than we should have, but thats what happens when you stay up later than you should. We quickly ate breakfast and headed down the road. Pretty nice weather again today! We were still dealing with the freeway today so we had to ride a good distance on the side roads, which we prefer anyways. We stopped in Grand Haven at a bike shop so Kris could get his bike computer checked out. Unfortunately there wasn't anything they could do to fix it so he bought a new one. From Grand Haven we hopped onto Lakeshore Drive and headed south. We like biking on Lakeshore Drives because they are usually quiet roads with really nice homes and beautiful scenery. Pretty much the case with this one.

We underestimated our distance to Saugatuck, which was where we were going to meet Deanne and Roger and we had to stop for lunch because we couldn't wait any longer. We were supposed to meet them at 2, but we didn't end up meeting them until 3. Luckily we were meeting at the Saugatuck Brewery so they were able to have lunch and we were able to have a beer once we got there. It was a really nice facility and the beer was really decent. After sitting and chatting for a bit the four of us headed down the road to South Haven. Deanne's daughter works at a local coffee shop in South Haven and and apparently served the lead singer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers this morning. Apparently he frequents the area...and he was on his bike! Good man.

We made our way toward South Haven and Roger and Deanne led the way showing us the nice back way to avoid as much traffic as possible. They are a very bike oriented family. Both Roger and Deanne ride their bikes to and from work year round and even have a trailer for going to the grocery store and doing other errands. We made it to their house after stopping at the coffee shop where their daughter works and got some ice cream.

Once we made it to their house we had a mug of Oberon (Bell's Brewing) from the keg that they had waiting. We showered and then sat down for dinner. They prepared an amazing dinner of pork loin in the crock pot, carrots, brussel sprouts, cheese rolls, baked potatoes, and watermelon. It was so amazing and we ate until we couldn't anymore. After dinner we sat in the living room and watched some TV for a bit and then walked down the street to use the internet at Burger King for a bit to catch up on a few things.

We came back to the house and then hung out for a bit longer before bed. We can't thank them enough for being such awesome hosts. Tomorrow they are going to ride with us south for a ways as well. We are heading into Indiana tomorrow as today was our last full day in Michigan until we reach the UP.

Day 72 South Haven to Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore ~ 70 miles

We woke up this morning around 8:45 for the breakfast that Roger had prepared. It was pancakes with real maple syrup, sausage links, and scones. A great way to start out a morning. We packed up and the four of us took of around 10. We were cruising along pretty good and then Deanne got a flat. She ended up calling her son Pat to come and pick her up. We said our goodbyes, unaware that we would see her again for lunch, and then the three of us continued on South. Roger was planning on riding with us until he felt like stopping and then Deanne would come and pick him up.

We continued on down the Blue Star highway and got a call from Deanne saying that she wanted to meet us for lunch. We stopped briefly in St. Joseph and then continued on toward Stevensville which is where we were going to meet Deanne. As we were sitting on the sidewalk contemplating our route south a guy named Bob came up and said hello. He had heard about us through the League of Michigan Bikers and has been following our trip! It was awesome to talk to him and a really humbling experience to know that people are watching what we are doing. Just after talking with him we ran into Deanne and we went to the Cracker Barrel for lunch. We ate and then said our goodbyes and then went our separate ways. It was so nice to meet them and we really appreciate everything they did for us.

We reluctantly continued on south. We are really tired and we think it has a lot to do with our ride our of Traverse City. We don't think we have fully recovered from that day. Unfortunately the quality of the road went down as we continued. Our only real option was to deal with the bad shoulders and traffic otherwise we would have had to go way out of our way. Somewhere along the way we passed over the Michigan/ Indiana border and entered back into the Central Time Zone. That is awesome because we gained an hour. We are probably going to use it for more sleep. It also means that we are that much closer to Chicago!

Not long after we entered Indiana we entered the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore, which is where we are going to spend the night. We stopped for groceries at a C store and then went to camp. It is going to be a quiet night and we are going to bed early to get an early start tomorrow.

We are heading through Gary and into Chicago and we will hopefully be stopping at the Velodrome in Chicago to check it out! We are super excited for that and to be in Chicago! Zach's parents got us a hotel room right down town, not far from the Navy Pier. We are going to check out that and the “bean” in Millennium Park. It is just really amazing to us because Chicago hasn't even been in our thoughts for so long because until now we were still so far from it. Now we are going to be there tomorrow! It is just really amazing to us to think about how far we have come! Going to bed exhausted and excited!

Day 73 – Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to Downtown Chicago ~ 59 miles

This morning is was so hot and we got ready as fast as possible and left the campground. We got onto hwy 12 and headed towards Gary, IN. We soon passed a nuclear plant and US Steel. We marveled at the fact that the National Lakeshore was sandwiched between Power plants and large industrial areas. We entered into Gary and the roads were terrible. We quickly picked up our pace to get through the town. We went through some very bad neighborhoods where most of the houses were falling down, vacant, and in very poor shape. We made our way away from those areas as fast as we could then entered into the industrial area as we headed towards Illinois. This area was just as bad with lots of truck traffic and industrial smells that quickly gave you a headache. We soon passed into Illinois without even knowing it. We didn't see a sign and were not able to celebrate. Just after that we found a bike path that brought us out to a beach where we could see the miles of industry we passed. This was the first time we saw the lakeshore since we left this morning.

After the beach where people were bravely swimming around the industrial plants we found the Chicago Velo Campus where we were to meet people. The campus boasts the shortest and steepest track in the country, almost a 50 degree incline at the turns. We interviewed the volunteers and learned of the owners grand plans to turn the old US Steel grounds into a luxurious area full of apartments, stores, and a massive enclosed Velodrome. It will be incredible when it is done and turn a hard hit area into a brand new place, breathing life back into the area. After we watched the volunteers do some laps which thoroughly scared us they graciously offered to let us try it. We had to fill out some release forms and then take our pedals off our bike and put them onto the track bikes we were to use. Once we got the bikes on the track, an old track racing coach arrived and gave us some great pointers on how to survive. He made us feel very comfortable getting ready for the track. The bikes are fixed gear bikes so you have to keep pedaling in order to not get launched off the bike. It took us a while to learn how to ride them and how to slow down as you cannot coast which is what we have been doing for the last two months. After many laps getting used to the bikes we were ready to try it out. Zach went first and did great. Then Kris went and we marveled at how thrilling it was. You go so fast and it was so scary on the turns being 10-15 feet up on a 50 degree slope. You just had to keep pedaling as fast as you could in order to not fall off. The G-force pushed you up higher as well but the hardest part was getting off the track going incredibly fast and trying to slow down. After a couple more tries we had to go on our way towards downtown. We said our goodbyes and headed north, quickly finding the bike path along the lake.

We followed the path into downtown where there were bikes and people everywhere. We made it to downtown where we passed a running race and then the Taste of Chicago. No wonder there were so many people! We passed by the “the bean” and navigated the swarms of people to our hotel. After checking in and bringing all of our stuff to the 33rd floor, we showered and headed out back to Millennium Park. We filmed “the bean” and some other features in the park. After that it was time to eat. We split up and Zach went to get snacks while Kris ordered the famous deep dish pizza from Giordano's. At the hotel we spent the rest of the evening relaxing and getting ready to navigate the rest of the town in the morning.

Tomorrow we will be heading through the city and the suburbs to Illinois Beach State Park to meet Zach's family and camp with them. It will be a great time and we will have a rest day the next day. We survived Gary and downtown Chicago and will make our way towards Wisconsin and Milwaukee.

Day 74 – Chicago to Illinois Beach State Park ~ 56 miles

We woke up at about 9:30 and ate the second half of the pizza that we couldn't finish last night. Still good even though there wasn't a fridge to keep it cold in. After eating and getting ready we slowly brought our things down the elevators to the bottom floor. That was at about 11:30 and we were scheduled to meet people down at the entrance of Navy Pier at Noon. After trying to figure out Chicago's multi level downtown we figured out how to get to Navy Pier. Once we got there, we couldn't find anyone who looked like a person looking for us. After biking around through the crowds, we met Jimmy who biked from inland to meet us and bike with us a ways. He had lots of great questions about bike touring as he was planning a trip as well. Right before we left we met Kathy who also wanted to join us for a little bit.

We headed north along the the bike path and soon noticed that there was a large storm from barreling down on us. We said goodbye to Kathy and then headed on to the end of the path with Jimmy. Right as we said goodbye to him it started to rain. We had to go into the city to continue on the bike route and thats when the lightning and incredible winds started. The lightning was so close at times that we took shelter under a Subway until the storm passed. We headed back into the rain and navigated through the puddles and the city. We kept biking along through the suburbs and stopped in Highland Park to have a late lunch and wait for the next storm system to pass. We made the right call as it didn't hit us and we just had to deal with a sprinkle.

We found a bike path and took that for many miles. Once it started heading west we decided to get off it and head back towards the lake. The road took us past the naval base and a few power plants. Sheridan road was really hard to follow as it ended then started up again a few blocks later but we eventually made it to Illinois Beach State Park. The campground was huge and it took a while to find Zach's family but we finally made it. They had a welcome sign made and we took some pictures. Kris got to meet the whole family. Zach's parents, aunt and uncle, and his other aunt and partner were there. They had everything we needed too, tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, pillows, and sheets. Not to mention the endless amounts of snacks and meals.

They quickly started dinner and we were all soon eating pulled pork and all the fixings. There was a fire ban but luckily they had brought an electric grill because you couldn't even use propane stoves. After dinner we went to the showers and then hung around in the night talking about our trip and the plan for tomorrow.

Tomorrow we will have a rest day and it seems we have some great plans. It is a much needed rest day as we have not had one since July 4th in Petosky.

Day 75 – Illinois Beach State Park ~ Rest Day

We woke up this morning to the family making breakfast. It was going to be a very hot day. It rained this morning but we didn't seem to notice. We had eggs, bacon, muffins, and fruit for breakfast. After breakfast we headed to the Jelly Belly jelly bean factory for a tour. It was fun riding the train and learning about jelly beans and how they were made. At the store afterwards we sampled jelly beans and it was amazing how accurate they were. We even tried some of the gross flavors like rotten egg, barf, centipede, canned dog food, and pencil shavings. Each one was so close that you spit it out right away and almost threw up.

After the tour we headed to a laundry mat to do some much needed laundry. After that was done we headed back to the campsite and headed to the beach to go for a swim. The water was really nice even though there was a store coming in. The southern end of Lake Michigan this year is 10 degrees warmer than normal. The sun soon came out and then we headed back to camp and had a late lunch and went straight into dinner. We had a great steak dinner and then once again sat around and talked about the trip and random conversations came from that. The bigs were terrible and it was so hot so we all soon went to bed.

Tomorrow we are going to finally make it to Wisconsin and Milwaukee. We will be staying with Kris' long time friend Grace in downtown. Hopefully the rain will not hit us tomorrow even though the region needs more that a few inches. Most people have already lost their crops.

Day 76 – Illinois Beach to Downtown Milwaukee ~ 50 miles

We woke up this morning and had another great breakfast of sausage and blueberry pancakes. After breakfast we tore down camp and packed up our gear to head out. After saying some long goodbyes we got in the saddles and headed out of the park. Five miles down the road we entered into Wisconsin and celebrated. We then battled the heat and followed the lakeshore towards Milwaukee. We eventually hit the lakefront trial and headed into downtown. Right before we arrived, Kris' chain went into the spokes and broke off the piece of plastic. It got stuck in the freewheel and turned it into a fixed gear. We looked for a bike shop and found one but the guy was rude and wouldn't so a 2 minute fix until close. He wouldn't even lend us a tool for a quick fix. We headed into downtown and found Grace's apartment. We met her sister and the new baby before she took off. After getting our stuff into the apartment and showering we headed into town to see the sights and get some dinner and of course some beer in Beer City USA.

We went through Bastile Days and checked out the scene. We then went to the Milwaukee ale house and had some great beer and dinner on the river. We then walked along the river and went to an irish pub where we met Grace's friends and some people who wanted to give us advice for our route tomorrow. We played dice which is a popular game played in Milwaukee and then met Grace's boyfriend Nik who is one of the cities Alderman. We then headed to city hall where we interviewed him in his office about great lakes issues. After the interview we went to another pub and spent the rest of the evening there before heading back to Grace's apartment to go to bed.

In the morning we will meet Jon from Sheboygan and he will bring us up to Alex's house where we will spend the night. It will be nice to have someone who knows where to go because the route seems to be confusing and hard to follow tomorrow.

Day 77 – Downtown Milwaukee to Kohler, WI ~ 62 miles

We woke up this morning and got ready for the day. It was so hot outside and we were not looking forward to it. We went down to Bruegers Bagels and had breakfast. We then went out to the lakefront and met Jon in front of the Children's Museum. He and Kris quickly fixed his back tire and then Nik showed up to bike with us as well. We said goodbye to Grace and then headed north out of town. We navigated the twists and turns of the Lakeshore drives and then Nik showed us a secret shortcut that took us through someone's backyard and onto a secret trail. After looking out at the lake near Concordia College we said goodbye to Nik before heading towards Port Washington. In Port Washington we stopped for lunch that Jon picked up for us and then headed down the road and stopped to get some cold drinks for the ride. We soon found the Interurban Trail and headed North where we soon met some other members of the cycle club Fat Kats. We had a good crew going as we headed down the trail. We stopped for poweraids soon after. Jon's temperature gauge on his speedometer was showing over 100 from the pavement temps. We made our way to Sheboygan then Kohler where Kris got his first trailer flat. He made it to Alex's house before it was too late.

At Alex's house we showered up and Kris weighed himself. He has lost 35 pounds since we left on the trip! We then enjoyed a grill out with a bunch of the cycle club and their families talking about mountain biking and racing. We spent the rest of the evening hanging out and cooling off after the extremely hot day.

Tomorrow we are heading to Kewaunee and then Greenbay. We only have a couple of days left in Wisconsin and then we will finally be in the UP. We have 20 days left and cant believe where the time and miles have gone! We will be back in less than 3 weeks and have logged over 4600 miles as of now!

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