Monday, September 19, 2016


     Unlike the District of Columbia D.C., the abbreviation for the Upper Peninsula is UP (without the periods).  Longtime readers of the blog or my books Bicycle Journeys with Jerry or Gotta Go! know that my "thing" is taking vacations which include cycling.   Usually it is strictly a bike tour of some sort, either with a tour company (like VeloView or  Black Bear Adventures), or something that I put together myself.  Occasionally it is in conjunction with other touristy activities which are mainly touring with some cycling thrown in.  This is one of those.
     I've said it many times before, I "go" places but Marilane is the real tourist.  She expressed an interest in seeing the UP and even found me a century (100 mile) bike ride.  The fact that the Door County Century is located in Wisconsin didn't slow us up a bit, since it is either on the way to or from the UP.  She did her "thing" of researching what all was available to see and we mapped out a route to take.  If she were going by herself, it would be by air and rental car.
     With 1500+ miles to cover, we took it easy with stops in Little Rock, AR, Springfield, IL, and Cadillac, MI.  Our first tourist stop was the well-advertised Mackinac Island.  Only a few hours from Cadillac, we figured an early start would give us a whole day of exploring.  What we overlooked was that on Labor Day about 40,000 people walk over the five-mile long bridge. If we had left Cadillac earlier we might have eaked through before all traffic was stopped, but as it was, we stopped at the Mackinaw City end of the bridge.  For almost an hour.  Finally, at eleven o'clock, traffic began moving.  Keep in mind that folks started walking over one lane of this bridge at 7am.  As we inched our way up and over, Lake Michigan on the left and Lake Huron on the right, the one lane was full of people -really from one end of the bridge to the other.  Even though the official start time ended at 11am, there were still late-comers beginning their walk.  A serendipitous happening.
     The other end of the bridge is the city of St. Ignace.  In St. Ignace is a reputed pasty place.  First we located our hotel, then plugged in the address to find our pasty (yes, they have vegetarian, but not vegan).  Now is a good time to get off-track a bit and give a shout out to WAZE.  Our son and son-in-law touted it to us when we were in Georgia, so we down-loaded the app.  The first thing it did was cut about a hundred miles off our route from Little Rock to Springfield and put us on a brand new road with no traffic.  I'm impressed.  On this day, it routed us around the still-congested bridge traffic to our pasty place.  Also an explanation, of sorts, as to why we wanted to try a pasty in the first place. We are great fans of Lillian Jackson Braun and her Cat Who books.  In many of them she refers to pastys, and while she never says the setting is the UP, we are pretty sure that is her reference.  Now that we have tried them, all I can say is they are pretty bland, but filling.
     After lunch we attended the Ojibwa Museum, a very interesting place.  Among new things we learned was how they get the birch bark to make a canoe.  We checked into the hotel, I rested, Marilane went exploring.  Later we walked along their boardwalk/trail along the lake, bought fudge (because that is what you do when here), and strolled back to the hotel.  We had a balcony overlooking Lake Huron.  Quite peaceful.  Great sunrise.


The next morning we took the ferry to Mackinac Island.  No automobiles of any sort are allowed here.  We disembarked and immediately made our way a few blocks to book a carriage ride.  I've done carriage rides in Central Park and Acadia National Park.  They do the best they can with what the've got, but it was pretty boring.  Another thing the island is known for is it's fudge.  We purchased Murdick's last night and Joann's today.   Joanns wins easily.  We also found a decent restaurant for lunch, getting inside and hiding from the brief shower that came blowing in.  When she started the research, Marilane originally wanted to skip Mackinac.  Well, we've been here.  To be fair, we didn't pay the extra to see the Grand Hotel.
The coffee (and breakfast for that matter) at the hotel was below par, but at the other end of the parking lot was Java Joe's.  Great.  What the write up on my link says is right on.  We had a nice chat with the owner, a Peace Corps volunteer and civil rights activist when he was young.  Then we hit the road.
  First stop was Sault Saint Marie and the Soo Locks.  This is where the big ships move between Lake Superior and Lake Huron.  I've seen and been through locks before but these are famous so I didn't want to come this far and not see them.  Managed to see one ship as it finished exiting.  They have a nice viewing area, but other than that ho-hum.  It would be awhile before the next ship, so we didn't wait around.
Our drive to Curtis was circuitous, visiting the Tahquamenon Falls, both upper and lower, then out to Whitefish Point and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum.  Our take-away from the museum was that, not counting the Edmund Fitzgerald, most of the shipwrecks were because the captain did something stupid.
We finally made it to Curtis and the Chamberlin's Ole Forest Inn.  This was an interesting place, in that you had to schlep your bags through the restaurant to the stairs to the rooms above.  Their porch looking out over Manistique Lake rates an A+, and we had breakfast the next morning doing just that.

Finally, some cycling.  The first of three planned rides, forty-five miles from Curtis to Grand Marais.  So far we had excellent weather, both on the drive up to Michigan and while here.  Today was no exception.  I had no map, but there were only three turns, two of which were in Curtis.  The appeal in the UP is on the lake shores.  The middle is pretty much rural and wooded, and on this ride devoid of anything scenic.  But I had a great, smooth road shoulder, minimal traffic, super weather, so had a flat, peaceful ride into Grand Marais.  Marilane said she would give me an hour's headstart, so I anticipated seeing her around an hour and a half into the ride.  As it turned out, she spent most of the morning on the porch enjoying the solitude and the lake.  As I decended the hill into Grand Marais, she passed me.  Perfect timing.  Grand Marais is very small and was just a pick-up point on our way to Munising.  It is noted for it's sand dunes, but neither of us had much interest.
     I intended to take the scenic route along Lake Superior to Munising but when I turned and found it to be a gravel road, changed my mind.  Again in Munising we had a balcony overlooking the lake.  Our plan was to take the sunset cruise to the Pictured Rocks, so we trekked on over to pick up our tickets before finding a place to eat.  They informed us that the waves were the 2-4 foot variety and it would be rough.  Ok, we can do that (Marilane would love it, Jerry less so).  As it turned out, by the time we set out, the waves were 6+ feet and forty-five minutes into the trip, before we hit the really big waves, our boat turned around.  Money was fully refunded, so we had a nice hour and a half boat ride for free.
     Finding places to eat that can keep me on my plant-based diet is very challenging.  In Munising, the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore was up to the task.  This is a cool place and highly recommended.  I donated a book to them, after perusing their sport section and not finding any on cycling.
     My second ride involved driving to Marquette and cycling back to Munising while Marilane checked in with Weight Watchers and had a mani/pedi at The Studio Design Team.  As you can tell by the fact that I made it a link, she highly recommends it.  The forecast called for rain about 1:30pm, but I'd be done by then.  We arrived in Marquette and I had a pit stop at McDonalds.  This was several miles before my planned departure, but after seeing the road had heavy traffic and no shoulder into town, decided I'd leave from here.  Once again, I had a wide, smooth shoulder but this time a few hills were on the route.  I also had the wind more or less at my back and Lake Superior on my left.

 It was an uneventful ride.  Marilane, on the other hand, spent an inordinant amount of time at the salon, and had no time for exploring Marquette.  I had finished my thirty-five mile ride and cleaned up before she left Marquette.
 With rain in the forecast, we decided to drive out to the Pictured Rocks rather than take the cruise.  Our first stop was at Castle Rock.  It was interesting, but the best way to experience this phenomena was by boat.  We noticed that the lake was now smooth as glass, so decided to give the cruise another chance.  As it turned out, our timing couldn't have been better.  Marilane got the last two available tickets to the afternoon cruise on the catamaran.  This is a much bigger, faster boat and downright luxurious compared to what we were in yesterday.  Seeing how the minerals in the water seeping over the rocks creates murals is pretty spectacular.  The only downside to this cruise is because the boat is so wide, in order to give everyone a photo op, they go slow and stop both on the outbound and inbound treks.  We had the starboard side, so took our photos on the way out and were pretty much bored on the way back.  But taking the bigger boat was much the better deal.  We missed the sunset cruise, but I calculated that cruise would have been completed by sunset anyway, so figured we didn't miss much.
     My third cycling foray was to be forty-five miles from Munising to Manistique, getting picked up, a quick run through Manistique and see Lake Michigan, then drive to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for a century ride.  The forecasted rain finally arrived, not just a drizzle.  So, we changed plans, kept the bike in the car and drove through it.  The driving route skipped Manistique but takes you south along Green Bay and at the bottom through the town of Green Bay and back up the Door County peninsula.  The rain had stopped by then and we arrived in Sturgeon Bay first at packet pickup, then to our B&B.  Once again, WAZE guided us quickly and surely to our destinations.
     The White Lace Inn is located in the historic district, so is central to downtown.  This is a small downtown, we are only talking about a few blocks.  An added bonus, when we looked up the location of the Catholic Church we found that it was half a block away.  I napped and Marilane went exploring, followed by church.  The next morning I was out at 5:45am therefore missed the excellent breakfast that was served at 8:00am.  By then I had done thirty miles on my bike.  Full story in a separate post.
     After riding, pasta lunch, and a nap, we wandered up and down main street and found a nice restaurant for dinner.  The next morning we packed the car for our return then sat down for breakfast.  A sumptious breakfast and plant-based diet are not compatible.  I had oatmeal and fruit.
     In looking at the map last night, it occurred to me that I had made a serious error in routing our return.  I can't for the life of me remember why I took us to Quincy, Illinois for the first night.  It is several hundred miles out of the way.  Long story short, we put WAZE on the job and Marilane on the phone cancelling our reservations.  We made it to Farmington, Missouri and the next day were back in Little Rock in time for an afternoon tour of the Clinton Library.  This was our third presidential library.  The next day we arrived home.


     I have cycled in thirty-five of the fifty United States and wanted to include a few more (some of them I have absolutely no interest in).  We have a large National Geographic map of the US on a wall in the computer room with pins representing where I have ridden.  In reviewing it one day I realized that of the four states bordering Texas, I had not cycled in any of them.  That became a priority.  See my June 21, 2016 entry describing the New Mexico ride.  Arkansas and Oklahoma are on the agenda for 2017.  You might have to beat me to do something in Louisiana.  Then my wife called out from the living room....
     Marilane is a real tourist (I go places, but am not really a tourist).  She also likes to escape the summer heat in Texas.   Michigan's Upper Peninsula had been suggested as a great place to visit.  It had the Great Lakes, Painted Rocks, cool weather.  As an added inducement, she found the Door County Century (DCC) which is in Wisconsin, either on the way to or from the UP.  The timing was perfect.  Many of our trips occur for this very reason: the calendar was blank.  I could add pins to two more states.
     One more thing before getting to the century ride.  I planned three 45-mile rides in Michigan: Curtis to Grand Marais, Marquette to Munising, Munising to Manistique.  The first two were quite enjoyable rides on smooth roads with good shoulders.  The third one was rained out (I don't "do" rain; I have rain gear if I get caught out, but will skip a ride if it is raining).  Just as well.  We drove from Munising to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin in the rain.  The White Lace Inn is in the downtown historic section of Sturgeon Bay and only a mile and a half from the start line of the DCC.
     The DCC folks are very clear that this is a ride, not a race.  As such, the start times are from 6am to 10am.  Start whenever you like, just finish by 5pm.  My sleep pattern always has me awake ridiculously early, so I left the inn at 5:45am in the dark.  It was a little funny at the start line, in that there were a few people standing under it conversing.  I noticed the time, 6:02, and started off.  There were a few folks ahead of me, and others behind were clipping in.  No mass start.
     It was now light enough, about twenty minutes before sunrise.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect: 54 degrees, a light wind mostly at our backs, clear.  I wore my tights, base layer, jersey, and wind jacket and was quite comfortable.  Most folks had less clothing, more power to them.  I latched on to a guy, not really on his wheel but our cadence matched and we stayed together about ten miles until I stopped to put my sunglasses on (they were entangled in the map in my pocket, necessitating two hands).
     I rode through the first rest stop, about fifteen miles into the ride, hop-scotching the half-dozen riders who had passed me.  Because of my early start, and slow pace (15 mph), I wasn't passing anyone, but almost always had someone in sight.  The signage for this ride rates A+.  Every turn well marked.  I cruised along enjoying the ride, getting occasional glimpses of Green Bay.  On one stretch of road, with corn on my right and the rising sun at an angle that created a strobe-affect on the sunglasses, I had to stretch out on the aerobars to escape it.  A few minutes, I was sitting up straight for the same reason.  Eventually, I ran out of corn and back into tranquil shade.
     At the second rest stop, I refueled and removed the wind jacket.  The wind was cool and dry and the temperature had moved into the 60s, so tights and base layer stayed in place.  Besides, my pockets were now full so I had no place to stuff them.  When the 70 mile and 100 mile routes split I found myself alone for a few miles.  Eventually some riders passed me.  We still had Green Bay on our left and a smooth shaded road to cycle.
     As we came to Sister Bay, I once again found myself without riders ahead or behind.  No problem, I followed the sign pointing to the right, and the next sign going right, and settled in going south on Hwy 57.  After a mile or so I began to doubt that I had made the correct turn.  But up ahead I saw riders crossing the highway, and when I got there I asked some other riders if this were the 100 mile route.  This they affirmed, so I followed them.  About a mile further and I realized I had seen this scenery about an hour earlier.  Pook, ding-fu!  I turned around and returned to Hwy 57 and stopped to consult the map.  Unfortunately I couldn't discern where I was in regard to the route, but I knew if I stayed south on 57, I would come to the next rest stop.  About a half mile more and I saw riders crossing again.  This time I found the cross street and was back on the route.  I calculated I'd done at least three extra miles.  But the next mileage marker had me down three and a half miles, so apparently I cut off six-plus miles.  Later I found out some local had messed with the signs (sending bad thoughts his way).
     The breeze was now mostly from the front, but really it served more to keep me cool and dry than a hindrance to speed.  The sun was up, the sky clear blue, and now the 50-mile route riders were converging.  Ah, finally some folks who were slower than me.  Truthfully, I do not remember stopping at the Cave Point rest stop.  I must have, to refill my bottle and text Marilane that I would be in at 1:30pm rather than 2:00pm.  My rule of thumb is stopping for no more than five minutes unless completely knackered.
     The next sixteen miles continued with Lake Michigan on my left.  About half mile from the last rest stop another rider finally engaged me in conversation.  After the first pleasantries, we were just getting into a discussion when I turned off and he continued.  Ah well!  I had a mini-Clif bar and topped off the bottle and texted Marilane my arrival time was now 1pm.  While I wasn't going very fast, I wasn't slowing down.  And there weren't any real photo ops, in that I knew the lake was there, but couldn't see it.
     The last five miles were a bit twisty-turny and some riders felt the need to race to the end.
 I just meandered in.  I was tired but not beat to a pulp.  The pasta lunch and free Fat Tire beer, watching the first half of the Packers game (with several hundred Green Bay fans) on a big screen helped ease me back to some semblance of normal.  A long nap back at the B&B helped also.