Kickapoo/Paint Creek

August 6-8

We checked into site #75, in the Illini loop of Kickapoo State Recreation Area (SRA) in Illinois, after stopping at a really nice grocery store en route to pick up some dinner entrees. Possibly due to the difficulty of keeping the water pipes from freezing in winter, none of the sites have water, although many have electricity. There are also sections where tent camping and/or unserviced RV camping is the norm. Cell service at the site is okay—we had two bars of Verizon LTE. The bath houses are clean and sufficient.

KickapooCampingDetail2173
Camping area map: detail from a larger, elderly map. That’s I-74 west and east on the right.

As is usual when we have stayed at Kickapoo in times past, an individual of the local deer population greeted us.

Deer2181

We enjoyed the company of this very interesting tree in our site, too. If we’d been staying longer, we probably would have used it to hang a hammock to lounge about some.

Tree2178

Instead of lounging, however, we set off on our bicycles to explore more of the park area than we’d ever had time to do in the past. This is a really huge recreational area, with hiking and mountain biking trails, and so many ponds and lakes I think one might get lost.

PondsEverywhere2170

At the turn of the century, the area was a surface mining operation. We tried to ride to a mine “shaft” designated on the map, but it was gated—even though we rode around the gate, we stopped at a dilapidated old wooden bridge that had way too many saplings growing on it for comfortable crossing. The entire SRA is 2,842 acres, with 22 deep water ponds (221 acres of water) along the Vermillion River. The state purchased nearly 1,300 acres of the mining operation in 1939 from United Electric Coal Co. Most of the purchase price was raised from Danville, IL residents at the time. So if you’re a water or fishing enthusiast, it’s a great place to visit. Check it out here.

There is a ton of infrastructure around, but on a Monday, we encountered only enough vehicles to count on two hands; and we saw only a few individuals and families taking advantage of the vast amounts of fishing and paddling (most of the waterways are designated electric motors only) opportunities available. Maybe things are different on the weekends, but overall we found the place quiet and sedate. Surprisingly, there were very few printed materials available to folks who might want to know more about the trails, the history, or the amenities. Without actually riding on any of the “trails,” most of them appeared to be rugged, mountain-bike-only trails.

JackCycling2168

The park stretches on both sides of the I-74 corridor, with roadways going over and under the highway.

Interstate74FrKick2172
I thought it odd that there was no safety structure along this overpass, keeping folks from pitching themselves or objects off the bridge . . . 

Here is a map of the whole shebang, that I’ve cut into two halves so it’s not so huge:

KickapooMapTopHalf5.5MG2175KickapooMapLargeBottomHalf5.0MB2175

Our ride took us over all of the roadways designated in white, plus a few that don’t seem to be on any maps at all. The roadways and some of the put-in areas for boats and fishing were somewhat unkempt and in need of some TLC, but its an old park, after all. We took our time and tootled about for a couple of hours. It was pretty hot and muggy.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 1:25
  • Stopped time = 1 hour
  • Distance = 12.3 miles

After our exertions, we treated ourselves to another grilled salmon dinner—this time eating delicious wild sockeye, with grilled squash and Uncle Ben’s Wild Rice. Yum.

MondayNightDinner2576

We headed to Ohio the next morning, to Paint Creek State Park (near Bainbridge, OH), where it began to rain and refused to stop the entire time we were there. We also moved from central time to eastern time, and started the adjustment to misplacing an hour somewhere along the way.

Our site (#125) was the same one we’ve stayed at before, because so many of the sites are elevated (nice and level) parking areas where both sides of the “lawn” areas fall off sharply from the site, making erecting an awning difficult if not impossible. While #125 is rather sandwiched among other sites, the one to our “face” was empty this time, and with the rain keeping us indoors anyway, it was not a problem.

The bath house is fine, but augmented with a couple of toilet-only structures, and there’s a laundry, but no dish washing station. And the sites are all either unserviced or electric-only.

Since it was raining steadily, and since we stayed indoors the whole time, the lack of tremendous amenities was not a problem (check the link above to our prior, 2017 stop here to see more of the lay of the land). We have, however, thoroughly enjoyed a long bit of in-campground cycling in the past.

The State Park is another boating haven, with the reservoir created when Paint Creek was impounded providing power boat and jet ski entertainment, as well as more sedate fishing, canoeing/kayaking, and swimming opportunities. There are also hiking trails and a few Mountain biking trails, plus a disc golf course (and an archery range), but few cycling options other than the campground roadways. The park office offers wifi, but otherwise, cell service (Verizon) is non-existent.

We started a jigsaw puzzle we’d purchased in Michigan at the Sleeping Bear Dunes gift shop, featuring pretty Michigan rocks in the shape of the state. It was fun but very challenging.

JigsawBox2200

To the patter of rain on the roof, we got about a third of it put together on our nook table before calling it a day at 12:30A in the EST, where we felt it was still 11:30 CST.

The next day, we continued putting the puzzle together through breakfast and lunch, and finished around 2 in the afternoon. We didn’t want to get it partway done and have to undo all our work before our departure on Wednesday, August 8, so we kept at it. And it kept raining.

For our evening’s entertainment, we watched the third of the three movies we’d brought along: Three Billboards Outside of Ebbing, MO. We found it to be a tight, unsettling story very well told, with just enough ambiguity to provoke lots of thought. Troubling, overall—leaves you wondering what you might have done in a similar situation. Well worth the look-see.

Still damp, we left for Grindstone Federal Campground in the Mt. Rogers Recreation area, near Damascus, VA: our final stop along this odyssey, back to Virginia with friends and neighbors for the first time in nearly 6 weeks. What a fun adventure it’s been.

Madison, SW Bicycling Path

August 1 & 2

The first of August was the kickoff of the NABA Convention, and my short work week. We took a bus ride down to Monroe, WI, and toured the Minhas Brewery. They gave us generous portions of their beer to taste, and a nice lunch to boot.

That evening, the Brewmaster’s Dinner was held, and (as usual) it was a splendid affair, with delicious food, including Duck Soup (despite the Marx Brothers jokes flying around the room).

Thursday, August 2, was a bunch of workshops etc. for the beer memorabilia collectors, and my usual “day off” during the Conventions, so I can get out and see some of the local color. 

Naturally, Jack and I took another of the wonderful bike circuits around the city. We saw the sand cranes again, right next to the path near a warehouse, and they didn’t have any issue at all with me stopping and snapping some shots.

This time, we hit the Southwest Path after riding across the long boardwalk near Babcock County Park and hitting the Capital City Trail, still under construction. We crossed the “jetty” between Lake Monona and Monona Bay into the downtown Madison area again, and then, instead of heading east as we’d done the other day, we struck out west, on the Southwest Path. 

SWPathGPSMap2575

Look who we met! Of course, Jack had to take photos of Rugby Badger.

It was a thoroughly wonderful ride. Jack reported it far surpassed the ride he’d taken yesterday which tried to be the same thing, but never quite came together for him. Circling through the countryside, and a small part of the University of Wisconsin area, we finally hit the Cannonball Path, which took us back to the Capital City and thus home. 

At the long boardwalk, I stopped to see if I could possibly capture the length of the structure across the water, and I saw some ducks and turtles. 

These photos don’t do the boardwalk justice, but there simply no place to stand and get a photo of its breadth, without a boat.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride Time = 2:25
  • Stopped Time = 37 minutes
  • Distance = 28.5 miles
  • Average Speed = 11.75MPH

It was a great ride, and we completed my day off with a package meal of pork chops, potatoes, carrots, onions, and celery. It is all packed together in foil and the packets are roasted on the grill (or campfire) and what results is simply delicious.

 

Madison, Wisconsin

July 29, 30 & 31

Said goodbye to Lake Winnebago and hello to Babcock County Park Campground, confusingly, part of the Dane County Park system.

GoodbyeLakeWinnebago1639

At first impression, the Babcock campground was unimpressive. We missed it on the first pass, and it’s right next to a heavily-travelled road, so we saw what we might be in store for as we passed: big rigs chock-a-bock in a small, woody park.

But when we pulled in and saw our site (#5), on the opposite side of the total 25 site options from those next to the road, we were more pleased. The hosts, Tom and Mary Lou, are very welcoming and helpful and we’re on the side of the small grounds nearest the Yahara River, with a large lawn behind our trailer, and lovely sugar maples keeping things shady everywhere. The fire ring is out in the lawn, and there’s no problem setting up the screen house behind Roomba on the expansive lawn.

There are no gates, although a sign says “no visitors after 10P” which is also quiet hours. So we were a little apprehensive about security. But with the hosts knowing us and our neighbors knowing us (a couple who share long-distance trucking duties when they’re working) we felt easier after we’d all spoken after the first day.

After taking some time with the setup (we also had to fill our water tank on board, as there’s water, but not at the sites, which are all electric), we asked Tom about reaching a cycling path from the campground, and he directed us to a neighborhood nearby. We decided to walk up there a ways to see what we could see after our dinner, and we caught the sun setting over Lake Waubesa, which the Yahara River flows into, and on which we are situated to the east. I had to stand in someone’s driveway to get the shot, as the whole lakefront is “owned,” but it was a nice walk with not only the pretty sunset to see, but really nicely-done homes with flowers in the yards, and a mix of contemporary and more traditional architectures.

SunsetOverLakeWaubesa1643

July 30

Took our bikes into the neighborhood we’d walked last night, but down along the neighborhoods along the lake front, headed north toward the dedicated bike trail that winds up in downtown Madison.

It was a really fun ride, and we passed over what Tom reported is the longest boardwalk in the US, across one of the Lake’s bays. We saw some sand cranes after we moved away from Lake W and toward the urban areas of Madison’s suburbs, but still had a nice dedicated, paved path. Saw a couple of neighbors along the way.

Shortly thereafter, we found the Capital Trail closed for re-paving. A local rode up and offered some work-arounds, and suggested that some folks are still using the leg we needed to get into town, because he’d heard that they hadn’t begun the construction there. So we took a chance, and appreciated his advice, which included how to re-locate the Capital Trail on the other side of the construction.

MapConstruction2562

With a bit of jiggering, we made it into downtown, and found our way to the “Lake Loop” which was not marked on our map, but had indicators painted on the path and sidewalks. One of the primary problems with the map we had was that it did not include any crossing street names, which left us somewhat asea as we negotiated the more urban parts of our ride.

DntnMadison1651
Downtown Madison from the bike path.

We saw one part of the trials or the warmups for the CrossFit competition that is going to consume Madison over the weekend: One of the city’s boat ramps to Lake Monona was closed for folks to swim out to a float where (presumably) their efforts would be timed. We also saw lots of signage and other types of infrastructure for the event being installed by work crews. Our hosts had previously mentioned the CrossFit competition, and said that by Thursday and Friday, the campground would be full of young folks with chiseled bodies either competing in or watching the series of events. 

On our ride, we got a bit off kilter when we decided that a real circumnavigation of Lake Monona would take us back where we started, or nearly so—and we thought there were at least segments of bike path to take us there. But as the clouds darkened and we heard thunder in the distance, we had to rely on Jack’s “spidey sense” to figure out general direction, and our positioning without any references to cross streets. We ended up with a pretty nice round path with a small “tail” on it to get up and back to Babcock Park.

GPSMapRoute2563

BikeStats

  • Ride time = 1:53
  • Stopped time = 56:40
  • Distance = 22.85 mi
  • Average speed = 12MPH

I had some fun taking pictures of a heron that landed on the little river near us (the rain did not hit locally), and we grilled some bratwurst, grilled some veggies and corn, and had rice for dinner.

Heron1656

July 31

We’d arranged (before we left home) with my college roommate and W&M Women’s rugby teammate, Val, to meet her and Jody halfway between their home and our campsite, in Delaplane, WI. About an hour’s drive for each of us, we chose the Waterstreet Brewery’s “Lake District” location (they’re a Milwaukee brewery) for lunch.

ValHoldsCourt1666

It was a wonderful reunion, although something came up and Jody was unable to join us. The last time we were in Wisconsin, we had linked up with them at their lovely home in Racine, and since then, Val has retired and she showed us photos of her garden, which has matured and possibly doubled in size since we saw it in person.

We had a decent meal, but it was the catching up talk that was the main dish. We had a truly wonderful time.

After our meal, we returned to camp and I began to get myself ready for starting work on the morrow, at the NABA Convention, held at the Madison Crown Plaza in town.

High Cliff State Park, WI

July 28

High Cliff State Park is a lovely place, although their maps are quite confusing. But along with the water sports, for which most of our neighbors were there, campers will find lots and lots of walking/hiking/biking trails to enjoy. 

 

Site2Setup1616

Being in the woods, and having a relaxing day on our hands, I tried to photograph a couple of our insect neighbors.

Spider1623Butterfly1632

 

We had thought to take a ride, touring the paved roads and taking “every left turn” so we wouldn’t miss anything, but then remembered my bike chain.

Jack dug out the serious bicycle maintenance tool kit he carries in the truck, and with a couple of pairs of pliers, he fixed it right up. When we tried to find the bent link, it was impossible to discern from the others. 

I greased up both chains and took a test ride to see how the fix would work, and voila! Back in bike business. So we began by exploring our loops, and found what would be the perfect site for next time we’re in the neighborhood: #109 on the electric loop. It has good space between it and both its neighbors, is beautifully shady, and has a multi-use (unpaved) trail off its back.

We rode that trail through the woods and although we had many roots and rocks to avoid, it was fine, until we joined up with the horse trail.

WoodsTrail1637

That part was choppy and rutted, and mostly came out of the trees and through hot, sunny, buggy open meadows. Between the mosquitoes and the chopped up terrain, I thought I would lose my mind and my fillings.

Still, we persevered, hoping that the “Overlook Trail” would take us to an overlook where we could see precisely how high these High Cliffs are above Lake Winnebago. But no. There was no overlook available, until we (mistakenly) rode our bikes onto a part of the Red Bird Trail that discouraged bicycle use, and there were short paths toward rocky outcroppings, but there was hardly any view at all due to the thick tree growth from below. In the image at the top of this post, you can see Lake Winnebago through a small window I was able to catch along the Red Bird. Jack actually walked up to one of the edges, but I could not go that close without some sort of barrier keeping my vertigo from tumbling be over the edge.

So we rode back as the sky darkened and threatened, but we only had to deal with sprinkles. 

Bike Stats:

  • Ride time = 56 minutes
  • Distance = 7.3 miles
  • Average speed = 7.8MPH

Every day our battery charged, but we continue to feel there is a problem either with the monitor, or some of the other wiring that sends solar gain into the battery because it seemed that the charge did not last as long as it should, given the sunlight and the relatively small draw (refrigerator, primarily) on the resource. The cross-breeze was such that we only had the vent fan running at the hottest part of the day, when the sun was full on the solar panels. 

That is something we’re going to have to continue to research and test.

After a simple meal of grilled hamburgers and chips, we called it a day and readied ourselves for the trip to Madison, WI, only a 3-ish hour drive southwest.

Rooster1635

 

Ferry Across Lake Michigan

July 26-27

We got up at a leisurely pace after our exertions of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, because it was a mere hop-skip to our one-nighter near Luddington (where we were scheduled to catch the SS Badger ferry to Wisconsin). 

SSBadgerSign1575

The Mason County Campground was actually quite nice, and although many sites are “RV Park” style, right next to one another, our site (#4) had some space between both of our nearest neighbors. 

The bath house was up a small hill, with a main “entry hall” to get to both the men’s and the women’s areas—clean and tidy and roomy.

We had some small trouble getting Roomba level without unhitching—and since we had to leave by 7:30-ish to be in line for the ferry no later than 8 (but it was only a 15-minute drive), we definitely did NOT want to unhitch. Likewise, our setup was minimal, and we unpacked next to nothing.

So we leveled left-to-right, but the front-to-back was too high in the front (on the hitch), so we tried to sleep in our bed with our heads the opposite direction from our normal, so our heads would be higher than our feet.

We didn’t even want to cook and have to clean up, so we found a pizza shop with delivery service to the campground, and ate our pizza with beer around 7:30P.

MancinosPizza1571

Not much sleep was enjoyed, unfortunately. Jack was unable to stretch fully out, being wrong-way-to, and having gotten used to dangling his feet over the bed’s edge during some of the sleep phases. I had trouble freeing my hot feet from the sheets when they were where my head usually is.

But part of it might have been anticipating the ferry—the most disconcerting part of which is that we knew someone other than ourselves would be driving Roomba aboard. Jack worried that the task would fall to a 17-year-old whose summer job was to get the vehicles on the ferry—and we’d been told that the trailers are all backed onto the boat, to boot.

While the campground owner assured us that they do this all the time, and not to worry, that none of the summer kids would be backing Roomba into his slot on the vehicle deck, we still worried. And, of course, as is usual with me, I was worried about seasickness.

In the end, it was a bit stressful, watching the older fellow, who had obviously backed trailers most of his life, reverse our camper onto the boat—happily, we were at the dock early enough that Roomba was the first aboard (and the last off, of course) so there wasn’t anything our backer had to avoid to get him situated.

I’d dutifully taken my Dramamine an hour before we got underway at 9, and I also stayed as much as possible on the deck, although it began pelting with rain shortly after we’d cast off. I nevertheless had some time to take pix of the harbor at Luddington. One fellow out in the water fishing brought in an enormous fish, which a fellow next to me said was a salmon.

When the rain started, we tried to get to a place where I might be able to see the horizon, and face forward, which always helps ease my nausea. But while I could face forward at a table, it got hot and stuffy with everyone else on the boat also out of the rain, which is not at all good for nausea.

It finally stopped raining, however, and I took my rain gear and my growing headache outside, where I shivered in the seriously gusting winds for a while on the bow deck. Eventually, Jack came to fetch me for a seat on the (mostly) leeward side, where plastic chairs were available for some to sit beneath the life boats. The fresh air was glorious, and when the sun came back out, we both felt drowsy, even though the lifeboat we sat under was dripping water from one of the underside drain holes.

After 3 or 4 hours we began to come into Manitowoc Harbor, which was a pretty place. Jack had watched a video about the process, and without using any extra “side jet engines” (whatever they’re called), the ferry pilot did a 180 using his rudder and anchor to swing the back end of the SS Badger around to offload the passengers and cargo. It was pretty amazing.

It was not long, although a bit chaotic with everyone awaiting their vehicles, before Roomba came driving out of the Badger’s maw. We hopped in and headed to our stop for the night: High Cliff State Park in Wisconsin, on a high cliff overlooking Lake Winnebago. 

HighCliffStParkSite2-1617

We checked in and set up for a two-night stay in lovely woods without power, but with what we believed would be a decent amount of solar gain during the day. We were both so tired, we found it difficult to function. It was a pizza leftovers night (thanks, Mancino’s!) and we hit the hay very early with no agenda for the morrow.

 

Sleeping Bear Dunes Park

July 25

According to legend, a mother bear and her two cubs swam from Wisconsin, across Lake Michigan to what is now Sleeping Bear Dunes, Michigan. In the indigenous telling of the story, the bears risked the journey in hopes of food, because they were starving. 

Tragically, after many days of swimming, the cubs grew weary and slipped beneath the waves. The distraught mother bear continued to the shore, pulled herself from the water, and lay exhausted on the beach gazing at the spot where her cubs perished. 

Sympathizing with her loss, the Great Spirit Manitou raised the two cubs from the depths of the lake and created North and South Manitou Islands. The mother bear became a great sand dune and even today, she keeps watch over her two cubs.

Sleeping Bear Dunes is now a long, narrow National Lakeshore Park in Michigan, along the shore of Lake Michigan, taking in Sleeping Bear Bay, and then Good Harbor Bay at the park’s north. The Philip A. Hart Visitor Center is a “must” to fully enjoy this extraordinary park. It’s a great launch to help you decide what to see and do in the park.

We left the campsite early with our bikes on the Honda, and got maps and advice from the nice folks at the VC, as well as purchasing a few gifties for ourselves and friends.

We set off on what would be quite an adventure, after every bit of an hour’s drive from Kalkaska Campground to Empire, where the VC is, along Rt. 72 all the way. Unfortunately this route takes you through Travers City, although that was not the problem at 10A that it was at 5P. So we parked at the Bar Lake parking area (off Voice Rd., south of the “Dune Climb” and about a mile from the VC) and began riding at about 11 AM.

WoodsyTrail1567

We’d been warned that there was some “serious climbing” to be done at the outset of the trail, before getting to the Dune Climb. The person at the VC said there were some 12% climbs. The signs we saw along the roller part of the trail indicated only one 11%, 2@10%, and the rest 8 and 7%. It wasn’t any kind of a big deal. I had to laugh at a couple of the signs that said “Steep Grade Ahead” and it was less than our driveway through the pasture. In other words, NOT steep.

But for some folks, families especially, that would be good info to know before you started. At the end of our ride, a fellow driving through the parking lot as we loaded our bikes back onto the truck asked how we did on the “steep parts.” He was a little younger than we, and he said his buddy who was older, was intimidated by the descriptions. We tried to ease his mind, because he obviously thought his buddy could manage the rolling part. So the folks at the VC aren’t doing a great favor to a lot of folks who are more serious riders.

In any case, the first leg to the actual Sleeping Bear Dunes, where there is a large parking lot and scads of folks enduring the very long and sandy hike up the steep hill to the top, was quite a fun ride. Shady and lovely, good pavement, not terribly many other riders or walkers, it was a great start to a long ride.

The dune hike was pretty awesome to see, however. We did NOT attempt it, but wondered what the view was like from up there. We saw one person who was actually on all fours trying to get up one of the hills.

After passing the Dune Climb, we enjoyed relatively flat cycling to Glen Haven. It says it’s an historic village, but other than the cannery and an old boat, we didn’t see much to get excited about. It used to be a fishing port, since it’s right on Sleeping Bear Bay.

We rode down to the maritime museum, but it was closed. En route, we passed a group of plain aire painters, and stopped to take a few pix. Only one of the painters had been there long enough to have some work on his easel.

There was parking and a pit stop available there, but we pushed on to our next “segment” goal, Glen Arbor, where we thought we’d catch a bite to eat.

When we got there, however, it was just 11:30A, and neither of us was hungry yet. Besides, the place was trammelled by tourists. Glen Arbor is also the site of a bike, canoe, rafting/tubing, and kayak livery, and a generous plenty of restaurants and gift shops. 

We had a bit of trouble finding the route through/around Glen Arbor, as our maps left us confused and flailing. Following some cycling route signs instead of the “heritage trail” signs, we pedaled along some backroads with less traffic than in town; a nice residential section with quiet roads, mostly.

EntrywayFlowers1560

Finally, we found not only the return of the dedicated bike route, but also the put-in for the canoe/kayak livery. It’s next to the parking area called the Crystal River Trailhead, and the livery put-in is Crystal River, called thus because you can see straight through the water to the bottom. The float from there to Glen Arbor looked like it would be a fun something to do next time we’re in the area.

Map2548
Our paper maps did not indicate anything like what we found at the END of our trek through the residential roads.

After the Port Oneida trailhead, we found a shady cemetery in the middle of farm country. It was a great place to pause for water, and a fellow who’d been riding a bike and dragging a burly trailer, apparently full of English Sheepdog, was resting in the shade and throwing sticks for the dog. 

Next along the path we found a wetland (possibly Narada Lake) with (maybe?) swans paddling around (if anyone can tell what kind of water birds they were from the pics below, please drop me a line). The bike path crossed the wetland via a wide, well-built boardwalk.

We thought we’d be riding all the way to the Good Harbor Bay endpoint (according to our paper map) but we had discovered at the cemetery, that part of the trail was blocked out with paint from the signage. We’d heard there was a part of the trail that was under construction or development, so we figured the Park Service didn’t want anyone to go up there—anyone who didn’t want to ride along Rt. 22 and Rt. 651 to get there, anyway. So we figured we’d continue until Bohemian Road, which dead-headed at the western-most beach of Good Harbor Bay, and call it a turn-around point. By that time, we had about 22 miles on our trip.

So we reversed our direction and re-traced our ride back toward the car.

AsterHillside1534
Back at the cemetery, the light was right to see a hillside covered in the pretty purple asters we’d been seeing everywhere along the ride, across Rt. 22 from us.

The swans were gone by the time we re-crossed the boardwalk, and we made it back to Glen Arbor for a spot of lunch at around 1:30, stupidly thinking that a lot of the lunch set would be done by then. But there were still lines out the doors of the most attractive places to eat.

There weren’t many folks at a country store type place where you could get a hot dog at the back and carry it out front to eat. On the side of this place was a Leinenkugel’s sign—I’ve no clue if it was old or not.

LeinnysSign1562

We found another place, however, with a shady terrace and there weren’t many folks there. Steeling ourselves for a bad meal or slow service (since few folks seemed to be eating there), we had a quite nice shrimp taco meal with restorative Pepsi and lots of cold water. It was actually quite fine. I wish we’d remembered the name of the place—someone’s bar and grill, we think. Anyway, it was a great meal stop and charged our batteries for the ride back to the car.

Not far out of Glen Arbor, my bike slipped its chain for the second time of the day (very unusual for my bike, but not a rough loss). When I got it back on, the derailleurs began going crazy. I was not trying to shift but the chain kept leaping from the different sprockets in the back and the two chain rings at the front.

I stopped to see what the problem was, and found one of my chain links to be seriously bent sideways, taking quite a few of the following links into its slant. This link and those following were hitting both derailleurs and forcing the chain to leap from gear to gear. It was the damndest thing and neither of us have a clue how it could have happened. Our best guess is that a stone had lodged itself in between the gear cassette in the back and when the chain hit it, somehow it bent. But that’s only a guess. 

These pix (above) were taken after Jack pried it back into alignment a little with the only tool he had with him.

This happened at mile 38, 3 riding hours into the trek. We had calculated that the endpoint of the ride would be 44-45 miles. So I limped along, keeping the rear cassette in the middle (around 4 or 5), although with Jack’s temporary “fix” (bending it back closer to straight) I was able to use the front gears, switching from the small ring to the larger one—but even then I was down from 20 gears to 2.

At every trail head, we thought about just leaving me behind with Jack heading to the car to come pick me up—the chain braking altogether was a real possibility, and that option was available to us, if that had happened. But it didn’t.

And I took things gently and did some “cross-training” (walking up hills) on the 11% grade, and one of the 10%, easing up all the other grades in gear 14.

BlueFlowers1555
Cross-training = time to stop and smell (photograph) the flowers.

Actually, I was surprised when we made it back to the car, because it didn’t seem all that far. I lost some “average speed” stats, but overall, the injury to my bike was pretty insignificant, if annoying. In fact, by the time I was circling the parking lot, most of the chain-slippage that I’d endured for most of the ride (sometimes it would slip out of 4 and then back in; sometimes it would slip from 4 to 5 and then back to 4) appeared to have abated.

We drove through rush hour Travers City (not recommended) and got back to the campsite by around 6, re-heated the poultry stew on the stovetop, and called it an excellent day.

Bike Stats:

  • Ride Time = 3:52
  • Stopped time = 2:30
  • Distance = 45.5 mi
  • Average speed = 11.75MPH

 

Kalkaska, Travers City, Michigan

July 23-24

Enjoyed an uneventful border crossing not long after leaving The Pinery, where Ontario’s Sarnia turns into Michigan’s Port Huron across the border bridge. We asked the guidance lady in the Honda to take us all the way to Kalkasa, MI via a less-interstate-slightly-longer route (we’ve named her Mo, short for Miss Obvious Woman, as she tells us there’s traffic when we’re sweating it out in a construction zone going 4MPH; and when we’re Cadillacking right along she tells us the traffic is light. Doh). So it was actually a lovely drive with only I-75 as the speedy-but-boring part. We listened to more of the book we’d started on our way to The Pinery.

So it was maybe 4-4:30 when we got to Kalkaska—or actually just east of the community/town, and to the Kalkaska RV and Campground, a private concern run by friends of our housesitter, Dennis.

We didn’t have an assigned site, so Gail offered us the choice of 4 she said would probably suit us. It looked like we would be setting up in the rain, so we chose D-19, where one side looked like a pool without water, and there was a decidedly higher place for the trailer. The awning, however, is slightly interrupted by a couple of trees.

But the trees are lovely, the set-up was speedy, we were not too terribly chock-a-block with our neighbors (who apparently only sleep here as they’ve been gone all day), and we have the puddle-to-be (it did not rain significantly) to park the car.

There is a site that we did not choose, however, that might be worth looking at if we’re ever here again: D-8. Gail had offered us D-7, which was low and uneven (someone was in D-8 when we arrived). But the occupants left during our stay, and by getting a better look at it, we’d choose D-8 instead, if it’s available.

We had a quickie meal of BLT sandwiches and chips, and called it a day.

July 24

We got rolling and jumped into the car to head to Travers City because it looked like the skies would open and the rain would again drench everything (it didn’t). We did a bit of online research to help us decide whether to take our bikes into the city or not. With the impending rain and seeing that the only “bike trails” in and around TC that we could find were decidedly urban riding experiences, we elected NOT.

The rain cleared and the day turned sunny and hot (low 80s), and we found a bicycling map at one of the best community visitor centers I’ve ever been to. The folks were friendly and helpful, and we came out with lots and lots of literature about not only Travers City, but Sleeping Bear Dunes and other areas up in this part of the world.

But TC itself was crawling with peeps, and lots and lots of traffic. It is a resort town, after all. I’m sure if we’d taken a stroll down the walk along the bay, we would have seen some nice marinas and beachy areas.

Yacht1498

One of our purposes in driving to TC was grocery shopping, so we found a Lucky’s, which Jack remembered from the NABA trip we’d taken to Indianapolis/Carmel, and it reminded me a lot of Earth Fare—the new grocery in Roanoke. There were a few things we couldn’t find there, however, so we tried to avoid TC traffic and headed back to Kalkaska, where we’d seen a Family Fare store on our way out.

We finished our shopping and were quite hungry when we made it back to camp to fix lunch and prep all the food for our Dutch Oven Dinner of chicken thighs, a turkey breast (!!) and roasting veggies. We’d also gotten some frozen burger patties and some sausage patties that needed flat-packing for the freezer. Jack worked on a few “this-and-thats” around the trailer and truck, and I took up the blog updates again.

The campground is virtually empty and so very quiet! Nice change from The Pinery. The sun is shining and the breeze is just enough to keep the bugs (not that there are many of them) away. Lovely afternoon and evening. We cranked up the Solo Stove, but the rules said all fires had to be in the designated fire pit, so we started it on top (a bit aslant).

SoloFireOnFirepit1506

We found, however, that it was not drawing as well as normal, and the secondary burn that comes of the gasses burning at the top of the Solo was not happening. We weren’t sure why, but the only difference is it’s perch upon the firepit. So we moved it off and it gathered itself and did MUCH better. So if you’ve bought a Solo Fire Place, don’t mount it on a ring or other structure that might block the bottom holes from getting their air inflow.

The Dutch Oven cooking went quite well, with only an hour and a little before the turkey breast made it to 165-ish degrees, with all the veggies included in the pot (shallots, carrots, celery, potatoes). It was delicious, although the breast (which was boneless but had skin, and I cooked on top of the bone-in thighs with lemon slices between and on top) got a bit overcooked. But the pot likker was quite fine, and would make an excellent stew for us tomorrow, with the remaining meat cut up and included (with about a third of a beer to stretch the liquid). Very yum altogether.