Colored Directional Tour

(Blue Star Highway to Red Arrow Highway)

A former co-worker of mine, Matt Safirt, is relatively new to cycling. We have been chatting about bikes, gear, rides and the sort for quite a while now. Last year he set a 2014 goal to ride from his house in Zeeland, MI to Michigan City, IN, his home-town. I asked if that was something I could ride along for - because I have been contemplating a similar ride from my house to my parents near the Indiana border. Not only do I enjoy a challenge like this, but I was also worried that he was attempting to pull off his first century ride solo.

I left all the planning to Matt - he drove the route about a month beforehand and I had charted some sort of halfway accurate map in GarminConnect to get an idea of elevation and route in case we got lost. We met over lunch once to discuss tools, route and gear - a nerd's stra-tegery in cycling terms.

The week leading up to our departure was full of rain storms and many thunderstorms with rather vicious lightning. Random power-outages throughout West Michigan. The night before our departure was clear, but there were eminent storms on the way. As of 9 pm that night we were still unsure if we could pull off the ride, so I told Matt I'd get up at 3 am and check the radar. He thought I was joking, then realized that I wasn't. I told him this is serious business. (When it comes to deciding whether or not to pull off a major ride like this, weather usually ends up being your last obstacle to overcome. All your planning and anticipation could be tossed in the gutter due to mother nature. So making this call was like-I-said "serious business".) Thank goodness for technology - I could see that the storms were reduced to showers, spotty at best. Falling apart as they crested the shoreline. I texted Matt "Let's do this!"

I chose to ride the new steed, the cyclocross bike, as it has the ability to attach my panniers and rack to it's aluminum frame. The carbon road bike would not allow for that and the mountain bike...we'll it's just too heavy and slow.

Matt picked me up at work 7 am, which was super awesome, for it would save me a lot of driving in having to pick up the car on the way home on Sunday afternoon. (this was a one-way ride with each of us getting rides back with our families on Sunday.) While I was awaiting my chariot, I had to poop, so when I came out of work I saw a suspicious character stealing my bike and jamming it in a van door. It was Matt - we were ready and excited for the adventure to begin.

Once at Matt's house, we began immediately gathering our gear and I powered up the Garmin. Oh, look, I failed to upload the course. Matt "pretty much" knew our route in his head - it was rather easy - but to be safe we stopped at a gas station to get a map just in case. (we both had maps on our cell phones, not sure why we needed a paper one. That didn't hit me until the next day. ha)

After meeting Matt's family and snapping a few photos, we were off on our ride. Riding around Zeeland made me wonder if it was like Iowa. (I've never been there.) Flat roads amongst fields that you can see for miles in any direction from. Our trip over to Holland where we found our way to Blue Star Highway was pretty uneventful. We could see dark gray clouds with rain pouring down from them, but we barely felt a drop ourselves. Some roads were soaked, others completely dry. Most of the day was cloudy, but nice. We usually saw dark gray ahead, but by the time we got there, there was nothing. Mid 60's weather and cloudy all day is perfect riding weather.

Nothing to note until mile 32 when I all of a sudden felt my rear tire swaying underneath me as I pedaled. I looked down and noticed my tire was going soft. It was a super slow leak, but would be flat probably in the next half mile or so. We stopped in a nice grassy area off the side of the road to change the flat. Several neighbors and passers-by stopped to ask if we needed help or tools. We chatted with one guy about bikes quite extensively and he and his son ride pretty often. I was able to change the tube and tire within probably 5-7 minutes or so (which is fast for me), but I swear it took me 15 more minutes to get the wheel and axle back in the frame. I don't know if the disc brake was not seating well or what, but I was quickly getting frustrated and tried remaining calm. We finally get my wheel on and seated and we're off again.

We stopped for lunch in South Haven. Arby's is all we could scrounge up. We were looking for a Subway, but it was too far off our route. The food was much needed - both of us hungry and starting to feel tired. Back on the route, we found that Blue Star Highway is really nice to ride. Some rolling hills, but very flat otherwise. At some points the shoulders were probably 6 feet wide and pavement within 2 or so years new.

We would stop often to fix Matt's helmet (whose strap kept falling apart) and to just catch a breather. Sometimes we had to refill water, which is what we did when we got to St Joseph. While Matt was standing watch over our gear, I went inside to get some water and a Gatorade. When I came out I saw him talking to an elderly lady. (which is not a surprise, Matt can be friends with just about everyone) Later he tells me that she had come upon him and said "Whoa, I didn't see you there." Take note, that Matt was wearing a BRIGHT yellow jersey and had been standing there when she pulled up and parked right in front of him and our bikes. She then says "are you a runner around here?" Matt says "nope, riding bikes" as he points to two bikes right next to him. Dear Lord, lady, you're driving a car!? We let her clear the area and hopefully get miles away from us before leaving that gas station.

At this point Matt and I are getting pretty tired. We had been fighting a headwind ever since Saugatuck - Matt with no more max than a 40 mile ride under his belt in one sitting and me piloting what must have been a 50 lb bike with gear. Neck, back and shoulders are now feeling it. Sun is now coming out and the air is getting thick and humid.

From south of St Joseph, we now pick up Red Arrow Highway. Boy, what a treat. Four lanes of no-shoulder road (okay, maybe there is 2" of paved shoulder) and pot holes and frost heaves abound. We were dieing a slow painful death by rattling and shaking - trying not to swerve too far into traffic. It was also at this point that idiots on the road made themselves known. Up to this point, people had passed us with plenty of space to spare, now it was like we were trying to ride just outside of Chicago.

I had told Matt that the 60-70 mile range on a ride like this is the turning point. You usually feel really terrible, but the end is in sight. Once you go numb to the pain, you just need to keep pedaling and watching the miles peel away.

I could tell Matt was getting tired. I was getting there myself too. But we were getting closer and closer. I kept giving him encouragement and counting down the miles every 10 or so.

Soon we were squinting ahead looking for the Indiana state border sign. We see it! We stop to take some pictures then we're on our way with less than 10 miles to go.

Matt pulled through - very tired, but he did it. He made his goal he set last year and I was happy to be there and be a part of it. I made him ride with me to the other end of the parking lot so we could get 104 miles exactly. He wasn't super excited about it, but he did it anyways. ha!

I was nervous about how Matt would ride as I had never ridden with him before. Turns out we ride very similar and were a good match for a long tour like this. Nice to catch up on various things with him again. Hopefully we meet up again to do some other crazy ride somewhere. I spent the rest of the weekend at my parents house on the lake, playing in the water with the kids and chatting with the parents. What a fun weekend!

I have taken 3 vacation days this year to do nothing but ride bikes. I can say, none of them have failed to disappoint. Hmmm...could there be a common thread there? Riding bikes....no work, no worries?

I can't wait for retirement (only 25+ more years)!

Two dudes, two bikes, one mission.

Our "Directionals".

Happily changing a flat.

Well, wasn't that a pain in the ass!?

Matt, obviously having a good time with my misfortune. ha

Our bikes at the St Joe gas station - where the old lady didn't see Matt or our bikes even though she parked right in front of them/us.

This was right off the highway. Great view!

Funny guys.

Only once have I been happy to see an Indiana state border. This was the day. Otherwise, Indiana Sucks.

The heat and exhaustion might be making me a little delirious. Oh no, wait, that's just regular me.

Finish line! 104 miles exactly.


Morley to Canadian Lakes to Big Rapids Loop

Took the day off yesterday to get in another sweet-ass ride on with perfect weather. It was Marissa's last day of school, so after the festivities there, I packed up my gear and headed to Morley. I wanted more miles in order to prep for my next BIG adventure (secret), but had to be back in time to pick up Nick at the sitters. Running out of seat-time in the upcoming schedule.

I plotted the course the night before using Garmin Connect. Just random roads. Taking the cross bike I knew (and was excited for) the fact that I would end up on a decent amount of gravel roads - which I did.

As I was stuffing my jersey pockets with energy gels, a Honey Stinger (magic) waffle and my phone, etc, I realized that I left my ID, credit cards, cash and other items at home. Now twenty-five minutes away. Dammit! I was to now decide to abandon the route and play it safe to just ride up the rail trail and back. What a waste of a day. A day of exploration. Not going to ruin it, I'm proceeding as planned.

So, for the first first five miles of so I was thinking nothing except what bad things might happen without ID and a cash source. The worry consumed me. I had to talk myself out of it as it was no longer a relaxing, adventurous ride.

Once on the way to "freeing my mind", I reached the Canadian Lakes area. Wow, I have never been there before. What a beautiful area of lakes, homes, beaches and blue skies. I will have to visit there again. Now, headed west out of that area, my next turn led me to a "Seasonal Road". For those of you that may remember from Night Shift, the words "Seasonal Road" in native English translate into "Bullshit Sand". My excitement for this unexpected adventure, dwindled after about a mile of trying to ride narrow cyclocross tires through sand. On the bike, swerving. Bailing. Walking. Clipping in to coast for about 20 feet. Swerving, clipping out. I was in a low-lying area rich with mosquitoes that could have probably carried me off had I not been securely holding onto my bike. They were stealing my blood right through my spandex they were so hungry. I had to keep moving as they were in my (almost non-existant) slipstream behind me. A cloudy mass of random flying parasites being baffled by my breeze.

For a full mile I had the Garmin tell me I was off course or not moving at all. Argh. Shut up! Swatting at mosquitoes. I was now lost - hoping that this road came out somewhere. After about 2 miles I spotted an old, old, barely painted sign that said "Private Road, Keep Out". Woah. Really, I come all the way back here and I have to turn around? NO WAY I'm going back in there with those bugs. I've probably already contracted West Nile, what next? Rabies from that scurrying raccoon I saw?

I eventually came out to better roads after walking/riding/swearing at the last three miles. Got back on course and headed off to Big Rapids via rail trail. Met some people new to the trail and gave them some advice to where to ride (pavement). Got to my usual turn around point - tressel bridge. At this point I was starving-hungry and almost out of water. Wow, money sure is a nice convenience to have when you need something. I got some free water at the gas station bathroom (yuck), chomped the magic waffle and headed out.

It was getting hot, I was starving and all I could do was think about downing an ice-cold Coke once I got a hold of my money!

All in all, it was an adventure. Was kinda pissed about the Seasonal Road, but then again, I can laugh at it now...Night Shift is in two months. I have nothing to be pissed about quite yet.

I learned two things on this ride:
1) The cross bike will likely not being ridden for that ride because of the seasonal roads and single-track as part of the course.
2) Riding a bike is WAY more efficient than pushing one.

 Seasonal Road in all its glory!

 More garbage sand.

Ruts and bullshit. Terr'ble.

I can't figure this one out. I think this is the "road" that Garmin said I could take NorthWest. Ummm, no. It's not even a road - just a section of....nothing. What the hell!? This makes the Seasonal Road look like an Amish highway.

I love this old train depot just east of Big Rapids on the rail trail. There is a trail staging area here.

Great swamp between Stanwood and Morley. I think I stop here almost every ride through here. Look at the bright greens and blues. Fantastic!

BayShore Half Marathon Spectating

May 24 - I was once again on the spectating side of the BayShore Marathon event(s) in Traverse City. Totally fine with me. I ran the 10K three years ago and as I like to advertise, it was my race running debut and my retirement. Running is dumb.

Anyways, as long as my wife wants to run and kill herself, I will watch. Especially from the seat of a bicycle and without any kids in tow.

We had a nice relaxing weekend away (2 days/nights) as the MIL watched the kids at our home.

Patti's race wasn't all that she was hoping. Knee trouble really put her down, she walked most of the race. As it was such a beautiful day, she still had a great positive attitude and was just happy to be participating.

As for my ride, it was a chilly start, but quickly warmed up as the sun crested the Bay. In all, I crossed the penninsula 4 times (brutal). Steep uphills and sweeping decents in and out of spectators and vehicles. (watch out for the cops and pretend to behave)

To the last spectator checkpoint before the finish, Center Road was closed to all traffic. It was a blissful 3+ miles of decent between 30-35mph with two full lanes to myself. No one in sight. So great! Considering the miles I packed on just the day before, this ride was nice. I chatted with a fellow rider also watching his wife. As long as you're not a true "roadie", bikers are really cool.

Sun coming up - near 6:50am. Mile 1 checkpoint - waiting patiently for runners.

Cherry Blossoms!

Funny Sign.

Patti running. In pain, but running nonetheless.

"Scenic Overlook" on closed Center Road. I had to stop to see why a sign was necessary. Wow!

This was our view from our STELLAR $89/night Condo. We got lucky with this one. Everything else cheap was booked. Many of the only vacancies were charging $150-$220/night. We're coming back to this one for sure! (Iceman?)

My view Sunday Morning.

Cannon Cross

May 23 - Took the day off before Patti's half marathon in Traverse City at Bayshore. I love this route. It was a perfect morning. Dropped off Nick to the babysitters and Marissa at school and immediately set up my bike and gear down the road from her school for the Cannon Cross route. Picture day.

Sweet Curved Road near a pond.

Aww, c'mon!

Apple Blossoms!

Sweet old barn near a Bed & Breakfast in Lowell.

My Reward: Sitting trail-side at Rockford Brewing in the sun with a Belgian Ale and eating a Club hoagie from Vitale's. Chatted with a guy fresh off of Peace Corps in Africa for a few years. He was looking for work and riding bikes. As we were chatting in the sun, eating and drinking with not a care he said "Boy, if unemployment was always like this, I'm not sure why anyone would work." I hear ya brother!