Trifecta Complete

Heading east, we come to the spot on the highway where we have to make a choice – turn south to head across the Mackinaw Bridge, or continue east toward the unknown.  The steering wheel tugs briefly in John’s hands, but he wrestles it away from the southern turn.  We’re still in the UP, baby!

We press on, stopping for supplies.  Exiting the store, I notice clouds building up on the horizon. 20141019_122311 Oh, this can’t be good.  They look like snow clouds to my experienced eyes!

We pause at one of the many roadside parks to get our first good glimpse of Lake Huron – the last of the Great Lakes we’ll see on this trip.  Looks cold – no surprise.20141019_133224Our goal is Detour, the easternmost spot in the UP, unless you count Drummond Island (which I’m not).  We find an excellent campsite in the Detour State Forest Campground, about six miles west of Detour. 20141019_165748 As usual, the campground is deserted.  Clean vault toilets, water pumps, but no trash collection.  The dumpsters have been removed (or, perhaps they were never even there).  We’ve got our own private lake shoreline.  Beautiful.20141019_16113820141019_165529 We even find two big boxes of cut-up wood to augment our dwindling campfire supply.  We relax, get a great fire going, and actually get dinner made before the rain begins.

By noon the following day, things have cleared up to a mere drizzle, so we head off on our bikes to explore Detour.  There’s a beautiful State Harbor,20141020_134927 a view with a shipwreck, 20141020_150913and a very unusual project gone wrong.

While riding along a street with homes that afforded an occasional glimpse of the shoreline, we spot a driveway with an enormous chopped-off freighter backed into it. 20141020_141610 This is actually between two other (normal) homes.  Most curious.  We find out later that the owner purchased this, with the intention of turning it into his home.  After paying $80,000 to have it towed and moored to its site, he began sanding the hull.  That, apparently, is when he ran out of money.  So, there it sits, awaiting for the owner to refresh his cash flow so he can continue working.  I can hardly imagine the horror his neighbors experience every time they drive by.  Yikes!

We stop in to the Detour Village Inn, looking for a munchie and a beer to fortify ourselves for the ride back to camp.  We see a fat ol’ yellow lab sitting outside the bar.  Inside are a young female bartender, one customer, and the elderly owner.  Betty, the lab, is the owner’s dog.  She comes in for a game of fetch – inside the bar.  The bartender is making our french fries, and playing fetch by throwing an old tennis ball across the bar for Betty, taking it from her mouth, and throwing it again!  Pretty gross, actually, but we’re dog folks so we don’t remark on the impropriety of this whole scene.  Betty apparently is an institution in the bar – the owner told me that he thought she was having a stroke a few weeks ago.  Rolling her eyes, and stretching her tongue out in a very awkward way.  Turns out that one of the bar’s breakfast customers had given her a pancake off their plate, and she had maple syrup on her whiskers that she was trying to lick off.  That’s the UP for ya!

On the way back to camp, we cycled through the Detour Botanical Garden, a lovely spot where individuals and groups have staked out small plots and planted them as they wish. 20141020_15072620141020_151008 It was charming.  John fell in love with this new Bell helmet.20141020_150639We’re in no hurry the next morning to leave.  We want to check out the International Dark Sky Park in Emmet County, then roll into Wilderness State Park for a few nights.  We cross the Bridge, with me driving.  I’m sweating bullets – the metal grid beneath the tires is swaying the Firetruck/Fireball slightly side to side, and I’m nervous as a cat.  When we finally reach the southern end of the Bridge, my fingers are clenched around the steering wheel in a death grip.  Bridge driving – check!

Not much to see at the Dark Sky Park.  A motor pathway has info on our solar system.20141021_12004020141021_120505 We make a mental note to schedule a return trip with a friend who owns a powerful telescope.  There’s a terrific viewing area out into the darkness of Lake Michigan.

Wilderness State Park, however, was a huge disappointment.  The campground road was so rutted that the Fireball lurched back and forth perilously.  We found the bathrooms locked up for the season, and the water spigots all shut off.  Although we can deal with the closed bathrooms, the lack of fresh water is a big deal for us.  We’re about 300 miles from home.

So, after a quick stop at our favorite Petoskey brewery, we find ourselves home. 20141021_140719 Our neighbors are stunned to see us a week early.  In addition to mowing the grass, they edged the yard!  We may have to leave more often, and put them in charge of the Crankshaw abode.  As I write this, the washing machine is chugging, sunshine is streaming through the window, and the temps are climbing.  Going to be in the 60s this weekend.  Maybe (just maybe), it’s good to be home.

Porkies!

Finally!  Porcupine Mountains State Park is our destination for the next few days. It’s Michigan’s largest (landwise) State Park, and actually has campground in two time zones. Hard to believe that I’ve been a Michigander for over 60 years, and have never been here. Neither has John. We’re excited.

The 45 mile trip from McLain SP to Porcupine Mtn is beautiful. Low traffic. High beauty. Perfect color.  We’re afraid that we’re really getting used to very short travel distances between campgrounds. How are we ever going to make the long trip to Arizona? This is waaay more our style of travel. The fun part of being on the road is definitely NOT the road part, for us.

Since this State Park covers such a big area, we have decided to stay in both campgrounds. Our first stop is Union Bay, on the east end of the park. The campsites there have electric hookups, and there are flush toilets/showers. Some of the most enviable of the campsites are right along the rocky shoreline.  20140927_091439-001But…..ugh. It’s jammed. Small campsites. We are right on top of our neighbors.   But, the tradeoff is that it’s just a short hop to a hike we really want to do – The Escarpment Trail to Lake of the Clouds.20140926_110139This hike travels along a narrow ridge. We love the fact that we can take Jezzy along on the hike. She’s a great hiker, and will cross any bridge or jump any gap at John’s urging. There are many times when I envy her sure-fourfootedness. 20140926_115304We’ve packed a lunch, and find a great vantage point to admire the great views. Scenes of the Lake, and the streams which flow out of it into Lake Superior, were amazing from our heightened vantage point.20140926_133333 It was an easy 4-1/2 mile hike, but so beautiful. We had staged my bike at the hike’s end, so I hopped on and rode back to the Firetruck, parked at the Trailhead. I left my bike there, and drove back to pick up John and Jezzy. We all drove back to the Trailhead, and I jumped back on my bike to ride back to camp. Whew!

Commotion builds to a crescendo in the campground for the weekend, and we formulate plans for the next day. I want to cycle up to Summit Peak and explore that end of the park – John is unenthusiastic. He ultimately opts for a short ride to the Winter Sports complex, where he takes a chair lift ride to the top of the ski hill. Nice views (although no photos). I stick with my plan and head off, uphill and into the wind, to my destination on the opposite end of the park from our campground. It’s beautiful, and a nice ride, but color seems to be a bit past peak, and the views are good, but not jaw-dropping. My photos were all uninspiring.  To call the Porcupines “Mountains” is probably stretching the term a bit, but hey – you gotta work with what you got. We both enjoyed our separate days.

Sunday is our target day to move to the far west end of the Park. It’s 25 miles away, and actually in another Time Zone. There’s a mass exodus of campers, so we lollygag it to our new campground, hoping that more sites will be vacated in the meantime. We pull off the road to explore the Greenstone and Overlooked Falls.20140928_113721 It’s a perfect morning. The Trail and the Falls are beautiful, and we get to see one of the many remote cabins available for rental in this big park. Perched right on the edge of the river near the Greenstone Falls, it’s a rustic but desirable spot for a quiet camping experience.20140928_121909 Remote, pack-in camping is not for everyone, but this sure would be a great place to try it out. We kill a couple of hours on this four-mile hike.20140928_124625Our new campsite in Presque Isle Campground is more to our liking. No facilities, other than a single balky handpump and two sets of pit toilets. Campsites are large, and there are few campers. Peaceful. Quiet. Oh yeah.  We set up our campsite in rain preparation mode, which means setting up our large awning, which provides a bit of additional shelter from storms.20140928_145232 We are perched 100′ above Lake Superior. Curiously, the huge maple trees here are mostly still green. Everywhere else has been full, or slightly-past full color.

Rainy weather moves in, and bring with it a chill.  Chill turns to serious C-O-L-D!  We delay our morning hike to three nearby waterfalls until it’s slowed to a steady drizzle. Jezzy’s unhappy about being left behind. But I stand my ground on this one – what are we going to do with a stinky, wet, muddy dog in a camper? Better she snooze on the bed and wait for us to return. She’s proved to us many times that her memory is very short. No grudges.

We cross the swinging Bainbridge Bridge, and stroll down to the point where the Presque River meets Lake Superior. Big waves crash on the shore, which is strewn with logs and driftwood from years past. It’s beautiful and wild.20140929_13164320140929_131721 We hike the East Trail, the more primitive side, cross back to the West Superior Trail back to our starting point. Three waterfalls are enroute – each spectacular, yet different. My favorite was probably the Manabezho Falls, where water boiling along the edges has carved perfectly round potholes into the rocky sides.20140929_130720 The current water levels enable us to walk directly out into the river path. 20140929_132853 I’m pretty sure this is not the case when the snowmelt is raising the river levels.   My photos, once again, don’t do justice to the magnificent scenery.  We’re amazed at how close to the edge of the falls we can actually get on the Trail.  There’s significant erosion in many spots.  We wonder how much longer it will be before this is blocked off to everyday foot traffic.20140929_13520520140929_14131920140929_13460520140929_134800This entire area is the largest unlogged hardwood forest left in the entire Midwest.  My photo really doesn’t show how huge this tree is.  It was massive!20140929_141930-001 20140929_143655The giant trees, left untouched for centuries provide a clean forest floor.  It’s wonderful, and, best of all, we don’t have to share this area with anyone!

Reluctantly, we pack up on Tuesday morning to leave. This is our last night (for a few weeks) in the UP.  It’s been a wonderful trip so far, but we are looking forward to moving into Wisconsin and Minnesota (hopefully not MinneSNOWta) to  whatever lies ahead.

A Mixed Bag of Camping

It’s late summer, and the camping bug is biting.  The Fireball sits in the driveway, begging to be hooked up and towed out of the city.  We surrender to the call, and hit the road.

It’s always a temptation to head to our favorite spot, but we resist, grabbing our worn copy of Michigan’s Best Campgrounds (Jim DuFresne, out of print), and pointing the truck north.  We land at Lake Dubonnet State Forest Campground, west of Traverse City.  What a great choice that turned out to be.20140808_155226 Our large campsite let us put the Fireball in the afternoon shade, while keeping our Zamp Solar panel out in full sunshine all day. 20140809_16343420140809_16393320140809_164343 20140807_163719Clean vault toilets, distant neighbors, trails to hike.  Perfect.

We were close to Interlochen Center for the Arts, so we pedaled over to explore one afternoon.  Interlochen students study music, fine arts, film making, and other arts in a gorgeous campus.  The campus is a varied collection of practice rooms, dorms, and open-air performance venues, all enhanced by music drifting through from various locations.  It’s a popular site for summer band camps, and percussion groups were practicing in earnest everywhere.  Naturally, I forgot my camera that day, so I have just one photo to share, which I shot with John’s iphone.  Bummer. photo 1(1) We cruised through Interlochen State Park, with its two enormous campgrounds.  They were jam-packed – not an empty site to be found.  Campers piled on top of each other, vying for a bit of space.  Yikes!  Get me outta here.  Controlled chaos.

Happy Anniversary to us!  We celebrated with ice cream at Moomers.  Cow Tracks/Key Lime for me – Butter Pecan/Orange Dark Chocolate for John.  A great stop on a hot day, and fun way to mark our six years together.  We befriended Chas, a big St. Bernard, who seemed to love us more for the possibility of getting a lick of our ice cream, than for getting an ear rub.wpid-20140808_133556.jpg

Time to move on.  We consulted a map, and decided to head for Fisherman’s Island SP, just south of Charlevoix, on Lake Michigan.  Score!  Bingo!  Rustic camping means fewer campers.  Again, we lucked out and found a huge shady site. We could hear the waves lapping on the shore, although the water wasn’t visible from our site.  Peaceful.  Wonderful.20140813_083148 In my view, this is one of the best places EVER to camp.  We had miles of shoreline to wander – tons of Petoskey stones and granite of every color begging to be picked up. 20140811_103644 I remember, as a kid, always having a jar of beautiful stones in water to admire.  Must be I’m reverting back to my childhood, as looking at this collection makes me happy.wpid-20140817_091524.jpgA day of rain posed no problem.20140811_143634One bad thing did happen here – our refrigerator crapped out.  Somehow, the door had swung open during our trip over a very bumpy gravel road.  Although the light was on, it no longer cooled.  We turned it off, thinking that it just needed to rest/reset.  Nope.  After three days, we still had nothing. John’s research and phone calls seemed to offer us two options – a $400 compressor and three hours of RV dealer labor ($110/hr), or a replacement refrigerator for about $700.  Hmmmmm, let’s think about that for about a minute.  He ordered a new Norcold fridge – shipped to the house in three days.

We did head out to dinner with some Grand Rapids friends who had been tandem mountain bike racing in the Upper Penninsula.  They are fearless on the trail, and did well in the 50 mile Oar to Shore race.  At dinner, John ordered a mac & cheese SANDWICH.  Of course, when offered the option of adding bacon to the stack, he said yes.  Oh, and throw in some avocado as well.  Heart attack on a plate!wpid-20140810_191136.jpgLots of beautiful sightseeing in the Charlevoix area.  It’s a treat.20140810_18313820140810_18253520140810_204205We packed up and headed toward Torch Lake, where a friend had rented a cottage for the week.  Driveway camping!  A real shower!  Beer!  Detroit Tiger baseball on TV!  Life suddenly looks good again.  It’s unseasonably cold, with big winds.  Too windy for a campfire, and too cold for a pontoon boat ride.  We settle in, like only good old friends can do, with beer, wine, brats, and conversation.  Ahhhhh.  Morning brings a long walk with Jezzy, corned beef hash and eggs, gallons of coffee, and bloody marys.  It also brings the startling discovery that our refrigerator has rumbled to life.  Crap!  Yea?  We’ve already got a new one in transit.

We head home.  I want to return new fridge, John wants to install.  It arrives, and (as anticipated), it’s a different interior configuration.  To me, the new design is stupid.  It’s got a huge shelf in the door, which juts into the interior space.wpid-20140817_102259.jpg A useless freezer takes up a full third of the interior space. The temperature control is located in the back of the unit, so to see or change the setting, one needs to unload the top shelf. wpid-20140817_100919.jpg wpid-20140817_100754.jpgThere’s an annoying blue interior light.  The whole design is just lame.  But, John’s already got it installed, so it appears that I’ve lost this battle. Bonus is that it’s extremely quiet, and supposed to be more energy efficient.  Less draw on the solar, which we like.  We were happy to have thought of taking the old broken one to Goodwill for recycling.  Now that it’s still functional, it will probably wind up in the garage with all our other crap.  Arrrggh!

One more thing…..my garden hasn’t done well at all this summer.  Cool days and a less than optimum spot for my tomatoes make for a sad crop.  However, I had high hopes for two big tomatoes, which were beginning to ripen as we left.  First thing when we got home, I rushed to check their progress, sighting their ruby globes from a distance.  Dang!  Here’s the entire crop from six tomato plants.20140814_19515520140814_195144 They’ll be going to the plant dump tomorrow.

Hopefully, by the time another blog post is due, I’ll be over this.  Maybe I’ll just spend more time gazing at my stone jar, absorbing the good vibes that emanate from that.  ;-)

End of rant.

 

Caroline and Judy’s Big Adventure

It was quite a week.  Going into it, Caroline and I knew that we would laugh hard, make a few (well, several actually) wrong turns, ride hard, and push ourselves physically.  All true.

As I’ve mentioned before, my best cycling experiences have all been with Caroline.  We’ve ridden in New Zealand and Spain, and lots of other fun places.  She’s got far more touring experience than I, having ridden cross-country twice.  She’s a camper from way-back, and has cool matching stuff.  Her bike looks tidy and compact – I looked more like Judy Clampett – mismatched panniers, and stuff bungy-corded onto my bike rack.20140602_075013 A few days, there were bike clothes attached – drying in the breeze as we pedaled down the road.  Although it looks like I was carrying a huge amount of stuff, I really didn’t have anything that we didn’t use in five days (except one pair of long pants that I didn’t wear).  I was happy to have packed right.  The bulk on my bike came from carrying our cooking gear – pots are bulky!  Spatulas, spices, food all take up a lot of space.  In addition, my tent and sleeping bag/pad had to be on top of the bike rack.  Caroline’s stuff squishes up small enough to go into a pannier – not mine.

Anyway, off we go……

Day 1 (Monday) – 62 miles

We immediately don’t get off to a great start.  Caroline’s neighbors’ house burned to the ground on Sunday night, and she was up half the night watching the action (everyone’s ok).  But, that turned our 7:30am start into a 9:30am start.  We loaded up with a big breakfast with John and Greg, and wobbled down the road – getting used to our unfamiliar loads.  We had planned a 60ish mile ride heading south to Rose’s Retreat in Grand Junction. (note:  DON’T GO THERE!!!  JUST DON’T!).  Interestingly enough, a big storm was moving in, so we had a huge headwind all day.  There’s an old cyclist’s saying, “Hills make you strong.  The wind makes you mean”.  We were two mean, ugly cyclists that day.  Topping that off, our route (prepared with bicycling maps from Michigan DOT) took us down a very ugly stretch of State Highway with a one-foot shoulder and screaming trucks!  In the wind and rain, it was very unpleasant, and not a little terrifying.  At one point, we did have to seek shelter when the sky just opened up.  This was after about seven hours of cycling already.

After riding forever, we finally reached our destination.20140602_173631 This was an odd spot – I had spoken to the owner who gave me a code to unlock a box containing a key to open a padlock on the gate.  Are you still with me?  We decided to just wheel our bikes around the gate, onto a sandy two-track.  Past a few run-down cabins and an overflowing dumpster, a couple of kids toys lying around, and thick, thick woods surrounding the dwindling path.  We saw one other occupied campsite.  After unsuccessfully trying to find a site that would give us enough space for our two tiny tents, we decided to make camp near one of the cabins which had enough clear space for us. P1020109

Only then did we check out the bathroom – HORROR!  20140603_082450

Let me tell you, I really needed a shower, or I would not have gone in there.  Nasty.

It was already getting near dusk.  Mosquitoville!  We doused ourselves with bug juice and cracked open a beer (for me), and wine (for Caroline).  I had small lunch-type cooler strapped to my bike that first day which held two cold beers, chicken, and wine. Once we got our balky backpacker stove going, we dined in style – rice with chicken & peppers and wine.  Citrus shortbread cookies for dessert.  We were exhausted.  Driven into our tents by the mosquitos, and the overall creepiness of our camp.  Dreading the thought of having to get out of the tent in the middle of the night for….well, you know what.

We survived the night.  Chowed down on oatmeal with cranberries/honey and coffee in the morning, and bid a happy goodbye to Rose’s Retreats.  We won’t be back.  Ever.

Day 2 (Tuesday) – 52 miles

Another 60ish mile day planned, terminating at Grand Haven State Park, on the shores of Lake Michigan.  We spent a pleasant morning riding on the limestone Kal Haven Trail,20140603_101017 before heading north along the Blue Star Highway.  Got our first glimpse of Lake Michigan – always such a pleasure to see, even though I’ve lived in Michigan for all of my 60+ years. 20140603_115014 We had difficulty getting much energy into our tired legs, but the bright sun and generally pleasant road surface took the sting out of our slow progress.

Along the way, I got disturbing news from John that Jezzy had to have foot surgery.  We discovered an ugly lump on her foot the previous weekend, and he took her into the vet that morning.  She didn’t like the look of it.  In addition, Jezzy has infections in both ears.  Boy, do I feel like UnMom of the Year.  John decided to schedule her surgery for Thursday, checking in with me to make sure that I was okay with having it done while I was away.  Yes/No, but we decided to go ahead with it.  Since she was going to be knocked out for surgery, we decided to have her teeth cleaned as well.  Why not have her hate us for everything all at once?

Back on the road, Caroline and I decide to abandon our Grand Haven plan, and roll into Holland State Park instead.  We were anxious to have a bit more daylight in camp, and also to spend a bit of time in downtown Holland.  Ahhhh – lunch at New Holland Brewing.  We were starved, and enjoyed a beer and giant sandwiches.

It’s Graduation Week!  Tons of new grads all camping out – skates, scooters, skateboards and lots of oogling going on at the State Park.  We channeled our inner teenager selves, and fell into the flow.  What a hoot!  One 5th wheel trailer sported six bikini-clad beauties all sitting on the roof!  Three young studs put up camp across from us with the trunk of their car wide open to let the bass-blasting stereo flow into the beach-y atmosphere.  Pickup trucks loaded with young bodies in the back, cruising the campground.  The biggest tent I have ever seen in my life…..20140603_202651Although this campground isn’t directly on Lake Michigan, it’s right across the street from Lake Macatawa – pretty quiet quiet compared to all the campground ruckus!20140603_200151

Day 3 (Wednesday) – 55 miles

Sadly, we woke to find that some damn critter ate the rest of our shortbread cookies.  We were heartbroken.20140604_062239Breakfast didn’t sound too appealing, so we settled for coffee and a Clif bar before heading off to the north.  We felt a few (tiny) raindrops as we packed up.  We hadn’t even ridden out of the campground when we had to stop and don our raingear.  Bummer!  It didn’t rain particularly hard, just steady.  We were fortunate to be able to ride along the Lakeshore Trail – far enough off the road to protect us from the spray kicked up by cars & trucks on the busy route to Grand Haven.20140604_085956 As we steadily moved northward in the rain, I suddenly let out a big yelp as a poorly designed sprinkler system poured a blast of water directly into my face.  In the rain, I hadn’t seen it coming.  About 10 seconds later, Caroline whooped as the same sprinkler caught her right in the chest.  Hazards of trail riding, I guess.  The coolest thing?  We had a large Barred Owl fly right in front of us, and perch (briefly) in a tree where we could get a good look at him.  Owls are amazing…

First stop was a proper breakfast at Dee-Lite Grill in Grand Haven, about 20 miles into the day.20140604_111133 Loaded hash browns for me, and Eggs Benedict for Caroline.  We poured over our maps, and decided to head for Muskegon State Park for the night.  Still raining.  Make it stop!!  This is my first selfie (probably my last).  It’s a pretty adequate reflection of my general attitude this morning, though…..20140604_111148Although it never quit raining, we had a good ride.  Low-traffic roads and a marvelous Trail around Muskegon made for a pretty good day on the bike. 20140604_12042320140604_13183920140604_131900 We made a grocery stop, then headed toward the Bear Lake Tavern for happy hour before the final push toward camp.  The longest, steepest hill one would want to ride on a bike loaded with gear awaited us.  I was truly crawling up the hill, the bike groaning with the weight of me and my gear.

The big surprise was pulling into the Lake Michigan Campground of Muskegon State Park.  Rolling alongside the deserted ranger station, I attempted to read the notice posted about site availability/price.  However, I was severely hampered by the thousands of mosquitos which swarmed me.  Truly – thousands!  My unprotected skin was covered.  My flailing arms and slapping hands were ineffective against the mosquito squadron.  Any wonder why there were only two occupied sites in this beautiful campground??P1020114

We rolled through the campground, clouds of mosquitos following.  The really bad news?  I had to unpack nearly my entire bike load to get at my bug dope.  In the meantime, I had grabbed my fleecy pants to pull on over my bike shorts.  My rain hood covered my head and neck.  Rain jacket back on to keep bugs off my arms.  The good news?  Caroline was too busy protecting herself to take any photos of our ridiculous garb.  Once we were able to cover every exposed centimeter of skin with repellent, we calmed down enough to gather firewood – got a roaring blaze which helped keep the critters at bay.  It stopped drizzling, a breeze came up, and the sun helped move some of the bugs away.  Whew.IMG_0753

Next issue?  The bottle of wine we purchased had a cork – we had no corkscrew, and no sturdy knife.  We waited for the other campers to return to their tent and wandered over, looking for a tool we could use for this task.  A sturdy jackknife let me chip away at the cork until I could push down the remains into the wine (to any of you who are appalled at the thought of opening a bottle of wine this way, let me just say that perhaps you have never been as desperate as we were).  The final shove of the cork into the bottle created an outward slosh of (red, of course) wine onto my only long-sleeved shirt!  Oh well….dinner of chicken, mushrooms, peppers, and rice with wine in front of the fire made the trials of the day fade.20140604_190110

Day 4 (Thursday) – 64 miles

Up at sunrise, I wander toward the lake to enjoy the beautiful morning light. 20140605_063031 The mosquitos are awake for their morning feeding, and we fight valiently to protect ourselves.  My body is a mass of mosquito bites – probably more than a hundred.  The worst are my feet and my forehead.  Ugh.

Tonight’s destination is Sandy Beach Campground, a county park on Hardy Pond, the impoundment created by Hardy Dam.  It’s a beautiful day for a ride – cool in the morning (50s), but sunny.  Along the way, we adjust our route a few times, trying to find the most enjoyable route.  Dang – we were so close to having it!  But, we were foiled by both The Google (as I call her), and by the MDOT bicycling maps.  End result – a few extra miles resulting from wrong turns and a long ride down a road terminating into a gravel road, not ridable for us.  But, our average speed was better, so our longest mileage day turned out to be a spectacularly pleasant day on the road.20140605_104642  We got a great campsite under a shady tree with a soft grassy surface.  ahhhhh20140606_065432

Dinner was disappointing.  Stir-friend pork with mushrooms, peppers, and couscous.  Kind of tough.  Sometimes though, quantity can make up for mediocre quality – this may have been one of those days.  We were hungry!  We actually had to purchase firewood, but it was our last night in camp, and fire was a necessity.

Day 5 (Friday)  – 55 miles

Packing up for the final time was quick!  No more worries about keeping stuff cleaned or organized – jam it in the packs (evenly weight-distributed, of course), and go!  We did observe a huge moth on the screen of the camp office though.  He must have been 3-1/2″ long – a Polyphemus Moth.  Its large comb-like antennae aren’t really visible here.  In checking Google, I find that the wingspan of an adult male is 4-6″. 20140606_064221

We knew that today’s ride home would be the hilliest, and we were ready for the challenge.  The first ten miles were highlighted by the excruciating climb away from the Muskegon River up to Hit the Road Joe, home of the best breakfast ever.20140606_08555920140606_085751 (If you go there, have a Kendra’s Sandwich.  Or maybe the Linda’s Sandwich.  Or Eggs Florentine.)  Fortified, we cruised up & down, making steady progress home.  Sailed into Caroline’s driveway around 2pm.

John was home keeping our post-op patient Jezzy calm, so I decided to ride the last 9 miles home instead of waiting for him to fetch me. Not sure actually if he was keeping her quiet, or just pissing her off by wearing her Cone of Shame.photo 2-1photo 1 Oh, I was so smug…..rolling through town with my crap all strapped to my bike!  Arrived home on a bike coated with sand and other assorted road grit, panniers loaded with stinky camp clothes, and a huge smile on my face.

Post Ride

If you cycle, and have never tried touring, please give it a try sometime.  You don’t have to go for a week – just an overnight.  There’s something so pleasing about being self-sufficient on a bicycle.

Caroline and I are already planning (plotting?) our next tour…..

 

 

 

 

Big Winds in Dead Horse

“Be careful,” said the Ranger as we checked into Dead Horse Point State Park, near Moab. “There’s a high wind alert for tonight. 50mph gusts. Also, there are no toilets in the campground, due to construction. But, there are two portajohns.”

“Water?” we asked.

“Not for your trailer, but there is a sink outside the (non-functioning) bathroom you can get drinking water from. Or, you can get water here at the Visitor Center, or use the flush toilets here.” (The VC is about 1/2 mile from the campground).

Perhaps, this was not the best start.

We were lucky to get setup before the wind started to knock us around. It was only 4pm or so – way too early to pack it in and hunker down for the evening. So, John decided to hike back to the Visitor Center to check out the exhibits and the movie (nearly all Visitor Centers have movies of their park, which we love). My job was to take Jezzy for her pre-dinner poop stroll. Heading out to Dead Horse Point seemed like a good choice, since it was only 1.5 miles each way.20140330_162434

Jezzy doesn’t like wind. When it’s windy, she thinks it may lead to thunder, and she HATES thunder (see posts on Thundershirt). But, she needs to learn that she doesn’t get to make ALL the decisions in our household. So, off we go on a trail, which heads out on the east rim of the Canyon, about 2000 feet above the Colorado River.

Every now and then we get pelted by a blast of rain. Dark clouds are rolling in, and the wind is definitely picking up. Jezzy’s not happy. I’m less than joyous myself, but we’re on a mission. 20140330_160629After a mile or so, we are headed to a narrow point on the Canyon rim, where we’re about to head out onto a thin strip of land known as Dead Horse Point. Legend has it that cowboys would round up wild mustangs and corral them at this point, about 30 yards wide. Fencing off the open side with scrub and brush, they would choose the horses they wanted to keep, and leave the unwanted horses on the point, and they would die of thirst.

Below, the Colorado River makes a 180 degree swing. It’s a spectacular viewpoint.
However, as we neared the neck of the point, the wind gusts nearly knocked me off my feet!  Jezzy was wild and frantic, trying to dodge behind me so that I could protect her. Me? I wanted to hide behind her! So, we retreated, without getting to see the famous bend.

Safely home, we battened down and got biffed around by gusts of 55mph. It was wild.20140330_160623 At one point, we headed out into the howling win to help out our tenting neighbor.  His tent had become unmoored from three of its four stakes, and was flailing around wildly – we feared it would become totally unhitched, and fling itself over the canyon wall.  He got it under control, but I’ll bet he’ll be sleeping with red dust in his sleeping bag for years.  Finally, around 2am, things settled down. Quiet prevails again.

In the calm of morning, we look with dismay at the interior of the Fireball.  Every surface is covered with a fine red grit.  Our soft slippers make scratchy noises on the floor, and our coffee cups sound like sandpaper on the tabletop.  We got just enough rain to set the dust into a red cement on the windows.  It’s awful enough that we just had to escape.

We headed out on the Trail again, and this time got to see the famous Dead Horse Point. 20140331_094852It was worth the wait.  We’ll get around to cleaning up some time later today.