Monday, August 31, 2009

Day 56 Sunday 8-30-09 Webbwood to South Baymouth, ON

Day 56 Sunday 8-30-09
Webbwood to South Baymouth, ON
78 Miles
2650 total miles

Today was one of those days that is made for cycling. Temps maybe a little cool at around 58-62 but high lofty cumulus puffs scattered across the sky, the sun shining brightly, and a tail-wind pushing me from the N/NW. Some incredible overlooks here on Manitoulin Island which has some heights at least 500 ft above lake Huron's level which is at 580 ft. above sea level. The island is the world's largest freshwater island and is home to 4 "First Nation" settlements, one of which, Shequiandah, claims to be the oldest settlement on Manitoulin at 9,500 years old. The landscape here is rolling, with a lot of limestone outcroppings. There are also large freshwater lakes scattered across the island. The island is a sacred place for the Anishinaabeg who have lived here and traveled to and from here for thousands of years. Dinner was at Carol and Earl's Restaurant and filled me to the gills, topped off with some of the highly recommended home-made pies. Blueberry for me! Tomorrow morning I sail for Tobermory on the M.S. Chi-Cheemaun (the Big Canoe). The crossing will take me to the tip of the Bruce Peninsula where I will ride towards Barrie.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day 55 Saturday 8-29-09 Lake Lauzon to Webbwood, ON

Day 55 Saturday 8-29-09
Lake Lauzon to Webbwood, ON
47 Miles
2572 total miles

The winds did not abate, the rain did not let up all day. After sitting in the campsite until around noon, waiting for the weather to break, which was in the forecast, I decided to get on the bike and start riding again. Very unseasonably cold weather, wind blowing out of the NE and driving rain into my face. Very challenging conditions, on top of which is the unrelenting traffic of the Transcanadian #17. The backblast from the wake of a couple of transports (that's what they call big trucks here in Canada) pushed me off the narrow paved shoulder onto the soft shoulder. Fortunately, I chose a straight line and slowed down enough to regain the highway pavement. When I reached Massey around 6 p.m., soaked like a drowned rat, I found both of the motels in town to be completely full due to the once-annual-last-weekend-in-August fair. Don't ask me what the people were doing at the fair in the downpour and cold-- enjoying themselves, I suppose. I got back onto the bike and sloshed my way towards the promise of a fabled motel in Webbwood, 16 km down the road. Upon reaching Webbwood, I found the last motel room in town, as the fair overflow had come their way as well. Mine was a special room, with a broken heater which I fixed( I stripped and reconnected the burnt wire with exposed hanging wire) and a standing lamp with bare bulb in the bathroom. Hey, I was grateful to have any (heated!) room at all and shelter from the storm to dry my things out. An added bonus: the lady at the motel let me use her dryer to speed up the process. I think by morning I had eliminated at least 5 pounds of water weight! I watched some Quebecois TV station, which I found practically incomprehensible, the accent is so strong. I guess I will need to get used to it and train my ear to the sounds. There was , however, a very good reportage of a legendary "horse-man", Jean-Baptiste Beland 1904-1996, who lived a charmed life and was a man who acted like a horse, pulled a carriage, neighed, whinnied, stamped his feet, ran everywhere, slept in stables, and made his living in carnivals and by transporting passengers in his "charette." He was something of a legend among his Quebec brethren and was genuinely accepted and included for who he was and what he did in society. I wish that we could find more places for people with differences in our society.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Day 54 Friday 8-28-09 Bruce Mines to Lake Lauzon, ON

Day 54 Friday 8-28-09
Bruce Mines to Lake Lauzon, ON
52 Miles
2527 total miles

Headwinds blowing out of the E-SE slowed me down as a change in weather is coming off Lake Huron. Passed along the "north channel" and through the Mississauga First Nation,Blind River and to the small RV resort at Lake Lauzon where the neighboring "Pelletier" clan of Sudbury and S.S.M. took me into their family reunion and feasted me with a delicious dinner of BBQ chicken and other goodies. I was relieved to not be eating noodles tonight, which was my plan, if I wasn't able to find a Friday night fish fry, which seem to abound in Great Lakes country. No such thing going on in Lake Lauzon-- something better instead! They told me a little bit about their family-- this was a reunion of 4 sisters, their children and spouses, totaling only 17 members. I say "only", because in relation to overall size of their family, this is a small gathering. They told me about their grandmother, matriarch of the family, and mother of 18 children who recently passed away at the age of 92. Well over 200 descendants were at the funeral, including some great-grandchildren. Got to bed at a reasonable time, and the rain finally came. It rained pretty hard all night and still into morning, as of this writing. I will need to get back on the bike and start riding again, but want to wait for the weather to break a bit more before heading eastward. The next 4 days forecast shows improving weather-- sunny days-- and I will try and make up for lost time today in the upcoming ride, but for the present moment, the mizzerale drizzable continual.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 53 Thursday 8-27-09 Sault Sainte Marie, MI to Bruce Mines, ON

Day 53 Thursday 8-27-09
Sault Sainte Marie, MI to Bruce Mines, ON
50 Miles
2475 total miles

Spent the better part of the morning running errands in Soo, making phone calls, changing $, etc. Thor Engblom was right! (at least in this case!) Despite its natural beauty, the north lakes side of Ontario is not a cyclists' paradise. Strong advice to planning a tour in Ontario: an expedition style bike, with mountain bike wheels or a 38 c tire profile is better suited to varying road conditions which are hard on the tires and axles. After the bridge crossing from SSM, MI to SSM, ON I took an alternative route out of town-- Queens Ave. To Provincial 17B, which pretty much follows the St. Mary's river eastward out of the Soo area towards Garden River reservation and onwards to where it rejoins the 17 around Echo Bay. Apart from no shoulder or bike path in SSM, ON, the 17B stretch was very enjoyable and had a wide shoulder and slower traffic. As soon as I joined up with the 17, things were different. The shoulder comes and goes, the trucks and cars travel at a high rate of speed and don't give much leeway. I tried some alternative sideroads which were indicated on the map, and the turned from paved to gravel within a few miles, which had me seeking the highway again. I arrived in Bruce Mines at dusk and located into a chair at the Bavarian Restaurant, which has an excellent German fare on its menu. The food was very good, and they even filled a special request to cook some wax beans I had purchased at a self-serve garden stand on the roadway. Very squeaky on the teeth and a delicious accompaniment to the Jaeger Schnitzel and mug of Haacker Pschorr! Camped at the local municipal campground which was close, easy and had hot showers. $10 Canadian. Pas mal de tout!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Day 52 Newberry to Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday 8/26/09

Day 52 Newberry to Sault Ste. Marie Wednesday 8/26/09 80 miles 2425 total miles Cool temps and crystal clear skies made for a bellwether day for a bike ride. Rode up M123 towards Paradise, through the Hiawatha National Forest to the beach and the Lakeshore road to Point Iroquois lighthouse and museum, where I took the panorama video of the approaches to the upper St. Mary's river fromt he lighthouse tower, Bay Mills, Brimley, and finally Sault Ste. Marie. This was a must-ride route, with very low levels of traffic along some very scenic coastline for almost 30 miles, beautiful beaches and hiking trails abound here.

Day 51 McMillan to Newberry Tues. 8/25/09

Day 51 McMillan to Newberry Tues. 8/25/09 Rest Day
16 miles!
Total Miles 2345 miles

Today was a rain-out. I waited in the Triangle Cafe for hours, nursed my coffee for hours and then decided to hit the road despite the down-pour. I got out of the rain at the Comfort Inn. Dryed out, read and got ready for the next day.
Did not go to Toquahmenon falls, didn't see a moose, didn't go to the beach. Took a hot-tup and went to sleep.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Day 50 Monday 8-24-09 Munising to McMillan

Day 50 Monday 8-24-09
Munising to McMillan, MI
57 Miles
2328 total miles

Duchess the Dog I miss you!

What a beautiful day for a ride. Having arrived late the night before I was late to set up camp, late to eat and late to sleep-- guess what? I was late to get up as well! Left my beautiful beach spot at about noon and went into the town of Munising to do a little shopping, get some lunch and do some blogging, which you read about in the previous post. I finally hit the road out of Munising, headed to my warmshower hosts, Gary and Jan Barrett in McMillan, and knew that if all things went well I would arrive there just before dusk. Just before I reached the beginning of the famous Seney stretch, a 25 mile, flat, straight shot, I experienced another flat tire! Given my situation the previous day, I sought cause for the damage, in order that I not suffer the same fate just a few more miles down the road. The cause appeared to be a snakebite, with 2 small fang perforations next to one another on the sidewall of the tube. Given that I hadn't seen any roadside snakes since North Dakota I deduced a pinched tube, the result of an improper installation the previous day. After using my last spare tube, I mounted again and pushed across the Seney stretch into a mild head/cross-wind and reached Seney cross roads at about 8 p.m. With another 18+ miles to ride. I passed by the Seney National Wildlife Refuge where I was greeted by a pair of sandhill cranes who were so close to me I could nearly reach out and give them a stroke as I passed by. The male, a dark russet back and rich crimson head, cronked back at me as I greeted them. The rest of the ride followed rich pastoral scenes along the Manistique River past farms, forests and homes until I reached the Barrett's on Manistique Lake in McMillan. Gary was there to greet me with his strobes flashing, so I might better find them in their wooded location on the dirt road near the end of the county road I had just ridden. Gary had prepared a yaki soba noodle dish which was exquisite and Jan helped me out with laundry, warm shower was taken, great conversation and stories about some of Gary's past tours before I turned into a very comfortable bed somewhere around midnight. Morning soon arrived and was received by a wonderful breakfast and strong coffee! They pick their own berries and make their own jam have a great summer garden out of which came tasty string beans. Jan sent me off with a slice of her coconut cake and a beautiful greeting card with a photo of a sandhill crane she had taken. Much appreciated, Jan and Gary. Thanks for the great stay and take care until next time! I hope to make Sault-St. Marie by nightfall, although it's close to 80 miles and the weather calls for showers. Hope I can waltz between the raindrops!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 49 Sunday 8/23/09 Marquette to Munising, MI

Day 49 Sunday 8/23/09 Marquette to Munising, MI
40 miles
2271 Trip miles

Lazy day, late start. 2 flat tires. A beautiful ride along the lake with moderate headwinds. Had a great lunch at The Rubaiyat in Marquette where wonderful things middle eastern are prepared. The beet salad is exceptional!

My Warm Showers,.org host, Nancy returned from her weekend camping at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore and decided to accompany me out of town for a few miles. She was very patient as I endured 2 falt tires, the first of the entire trip. A little whimsical side-diversion at Lakenenland, a roadside attraction/sculpture garden, where I met the artist Tom Lakenen, who is an iron worker by trade and artist by night and vacations! and enjoyed some outdoor music and hot dogs before finishing the ride to Munising Tourist Park just in time for a fabulous sunset. A little pricey for a rustic tent site,but the showers /bathrooms are brand new and there is a separate area on the beach for tents away from the RV park. My only complaint is the road noise nearby. Great smoked Whitefish bagel for breakfast and PC time at the Falling Rock Cafe and Bookstore, a locals' gathering spot, in Munising

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 48 Saturday 8-22 Baraga to Marquette, MI

Day 48 Saturday 8-22
Baraga to Marquette, MI
73 Miles
2232 total miles

I left Baraga around noon, after packing nearly every object back into my bags after collecting them from all over the room where they were spread out drying. Baraga is at the base of the Keewenah peninsula at the bottom of a very sheltered bay which gives it a great sheltered position on Lake Superior. Its neighbor , L'Anse, is home to a ceiling tile factory and a big hill climb up and away from the lake. I was shocked as II read the road signs leaving town that it was 71 miles to Marquette. I had been told by some automobile assisted locals that the distance was 50 miles. This was going to seriously impact on my schedule for the day. No dallying around now, as I had to make some serious distance in the daylight that remained. The ride took me through some of the highest terrain in Michigan, past the high-ground "peaks" which range 1800-1900 ft above sea level (about 1200 ft above lake level)... There were lots of uphills and downhills, more uphills for the first 40 miles and lots of uninterrupted trees. About 30 miles into the ride I stopped at the Cozy Bar where I had a late lunch and worked the remainder of the afternoon digesting the gut-bomb I ingested. Nice people at the bar who helped me out with some local knowledge on the road construction zone ahead, which I was able to navigate without much trouble after their advice. In Ishpeming, 15 miles west of Marquette, I stopped briefly at the National Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame, which was closed for the day and at the Jasper Ridge Brew pub where they poured me a great brown ale, which was just enough to give me the courage to ride the remaing distance into Marquette. The temps are cool, in the mid- 50's, but the sun finally made an appearance at the end of the day and should be around for all of tomorrow if we can believe the forecast. The last 10 miles of the ride into Marquette were almost all a gradual downhill down to the lake. I rode past the Northern Michigan University campus on my way into town on Wright Street, where all the students have returned for the academic year. My host is away for the evening, but her mother is home and was a gracious reception committee along with her 2 dogs and cat. After the best combination of soap, hot water and applied friction, I felt somewhat rejuvenated, but hungry, nevertheless, and was directed to go downtown to find a place to eat. Marquette has an established "oldtown" which consists of the waterfront area and a few business blocks. The buildings are late 1800's/early 1900's, mostly stone and well maintained for the most part. There are a coule of pubs worth visiting: the Northland Pub at the Landmark Inn which has a later-night kitchen open until midnight. And The Vierling, whose kitchen closes at 10, but which brews its own beer and is an establishment in its own right, having been in its present location sicne 1883.

Day 45-46 Wednesday-Thursday 8/19-20/09 Saxon, WI to Ontonagon, MI

Day 45-46 Wednesday-Thursday 8/19-20/09 Saxon, WI to Ontonagon, MI 73 Miles 2109 total miles A late start into headwinds and some rolling hills as I moved the first 25 miles out of Wisconsin and pushed into the Gogebic Iron Range "mountains" of northwest Michigan slowed me down a bit. These same mountains slowed a whole bunch of investors down in the 1880's when iron ore was first discovered here and over 50 mines popped up overnight. The stock market went crazy with speculation and some stocks soared over 1,200 percent before the crash of 1887 which pretty much wiped out all the gains and mining transferred to more productive claims of the more well-known Iron Range of Minnesota , northwest of Duluth. Sound familiar to any recent events? I knew I had somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 miles to make it to the east bank of the Big Cranberry River on the shoreline of Lake Superior where a ski patrol colleague of mine, Mark Saurer and his wife, Kristie, have a place on the shore. As I rolled across the state line I passed through the towns of Ironwood, and Bessemer, and after turning off Route 2 onto MI 28 at Wakefield the stretch of road turned to forest encroaching on road which went on for about 16 miles before the little town of Bergland and another turn, north this time, onto MI 64 and a steady stretch of uninhabited road for another 12 miles to White Pine and another 6 to Silver City at the Superior Beach. The lake was flat calm and mirror smooth with very still air and a slight drizzle just coming on. The last 6 mile push to Mark's place was easy pedaling as the pavement is still fresh from new construction. Mark and Chinook have been a great hosts here, and I decided to sit out some rainy weather with them and help put some felt on the garage roof before the rains came. We made a dump run and then went to Roxy's bar in Ontonagon for a beer and burgers named after favorite dead dogs while my clothing dried (melted!) at the local laundromat. Ontonagan is home to a Smurfit-Stone pulp mill that has onoy recently re-opened after a dormant shut-down and was formerly home to several copper mines, all now closed down. In many ways this part of the country reminds me of the north woods sections of Maine-- large tracts of timber land, small economically challenged towns, and hard working people who would rather be working than not but are challenged to find jobs in traditional natural resources based industries and don't have many other alternatives if they remain here. Mark tells me that the hunting season and the winter snowmobile tourist season are stronger and better for business than the summer season. Cold though. The rain continued through the afternoon and into the evening hours. The rain part of the storm is supposed to subside tomorrow and the winds, now already blowing strong off the lake from the north reaching 25 m.p.h. That's a big difference from the flat calm of yesterday! Waves are already rolling in a couple of feet high and may get as big as 6 feet by morning. We are at a point in the lake with the wind coming out of the N/NE the waves have time to build amplitude over several hundred miles of travel. I will assess in the morning whether I will head out-- it might make for some tough pedaling, but I need to keep making progress if I want to keep on track for the Maine coast by September 15.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Day 47 Friday 8/21/09 Ontonagon to Baraga, MI

Day 47 Friday 8/21/09
Ontonagon to Baraga, MI
50 Miles
2159 total miles

The hard winds and drizzle blowing 20-30 mph out of the north across Superior continued through late morning when I realized that the storm might not break as early as predicted and it would soon be time to go if I wanted to make any progress at all today. I struck out for Baraga to the east and collected many raindrops along the way. This is the wettest I have gotten so far and even the raincovers on my panniers were saturated, in fact they had each collected pools of water which was hanging in sagging bags from the rear, probably adding a few extra pounds to the load. I decided to stay the night at the Ojibway Casino hotel in Baraga to dry out and unpacked everything to make sure I got everything as dry as possible. I also learned from the book I'm reading, "The People Called the Chippewa" by Gerald Vizenor, that Baraga is named after an Austrian Catholic missionary Frederic Baraga, who built a church and house on Madeline Island in the 1800's but was a great interrupter of indigenous culture in his zeal to Christianize the locals. He later became a bishop for his efforts. If you ask around, not too many locals know that history. Vizenor gives some sobering statistics regarding the percentages of land still in native hands out of the original lands that were designated as reservations. In some cases it is less than 8% of the original landmass. So over time, the already bad deal these tribes/bands received became worse through private sales to timber and mining concerns and other opportunists. The reservation casino/ hotel phenomenon is another story. I have passed through several reservations during my trip, not all of which have these enterprises. Apart from the night I would have spent on the Bad River reservation, I haven't visited any of these casinos.This operation is clean and modern, with comfortable rooms and nice amenities-- they even have an arcade and bowling alley for the kids. My only complaint is the cigarette smoke which travels throughout even the non-smoking sections of the hotel. I met some locals at the bar who were amazed about my trip, one of whom told me to expect the local TV station in Marquette to stop me as I rolled into town there tomorrow! I might fly under the radar and take an alternate route!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 44 Tuesday 8/18/09 Herbster, WI to Saxon, WI

Day 44 Tuesday 8/18/09
Herbster, WI to Saxon, WI
73 Miles
2036 total miles

Started the day with some coffee on the beach which I shared with some camping neighbors who needed a morning boost as much as I did! Headed east along 13 to the little village of Cornucopia which is home to the Fish Lipps Café which serves up a great omelet and also boasts of the northernmost Post Office in Wisconsin. Who knows if it will remain so with the upcoming consolidation and planned disappearance of over 1400 PO's around the country? The big news in Wisconsin today isn't Obama's health care concessions, but rather Brett Favre's plans to join the Vikings for $12-14 million. Perhaps there's still hope for my contract! From Cornucopia, I wound my way around the Bayfield peninsula, past the Red Cliff Ojibway reservation and into picturesque Bayfield where I found Tom Hart's world-famous Bayfield Bike Route, bicycle shop extraordinaire. Tom and his assistant Joey were extremely helpful In giving my bike a much-needed tune-up, chain clean and adjustment, which served me in good stead for the rest of the day's ride. I wished I could have stayed longer and explored Bayfield longer, but needed to make some time before reaching Ontonagon, still more than 110 miles away. I shall return someday Bayfield! I arrived in Ashland, WI around 7 p.m. and found that I still really needed to keep riding so that I would reach my intended destination the next day. I pushed into the Bad River Ojibway reservation and thought I might be able to find some camping there or barring that, a room in the casino hotel. I arrived there at around 8 p.m.. and gathering night fall only to find that the hotel was full and no camping was available, so I pushed on another dozen miles to the campground at the top of long Birch Hill which I reached after dark, exhausted but satisfied to find an open bar where I enjoyed some cold ones before pitching the tent for the night.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Day 43 Monday 8/17/09 Saginaw, MN to Herbster, WI

Day 43 Monday 8/17/09
Saginaw, MN to Herbster, WI
78 Miles
1963 total miles

Today was a great ride all the way around-- I got a little off course in the Duluth area and missed my turn for the less urban route, but enjoyed the one I took nevertheless! Riding down into the St. Louis river valley was enjoyable as I descended down to lake level at the St. Louis bay at the south end of Lake Superior near Fond du Lac. The river corssing was quite dramatic and the wind was blowing pretty strong and constant on the high span of the Route 2 bridge crossing, with a panoramic view of all of Duluth, the high bluffs abover the lake, the river, and Superior, Wisconsin on the other side. Riding through parts of Duluth and Superior weren't too great, with road damage and traffic creating the need to be attentive. However, once I started getting past the east side of Superior, things got much better. There is a bike path which leaves the Superior are, the Osaugie trail, which goes all of 62 miles along the old railroad grade to Ashland on the other side of the peninsula. I rode along it for a few miles befofre the Wisconsin Route 13 turnoff and it was enjoyable for the most part, although typical of many bike path projects, there were someneglected sections. It seems to be often the case that a well-intentioned project gets initial funding, gets paved, then is forgotten. Sections get torn up, in this path's case, there are 4 wheeler tracks running parallel to the path and so gravel gets kicked up intot the bike path. Also lots of frost heaves in some sections. Once I turned on to WI Rt. 13, though, the going was really smooth. A good shoulder, nice tailwinds, and for the most part, gradual grades. I was somewhat taken aback at the Rt. 2 to Rt. 13 turn, as I noted the sign-post said 74 miles to Bayfield, which I had earlier thought would be my deistination for today. I misjudged the distance and, in fact, realized in mid-afternoon I would not be able to reach it as I had earlier planned. In the end, it worked out perfectly fine--I reached Herbster around 7 p.m. Which is home to a municipal campground right on the beach of the south Lake Superior shoreline. Look a bath in the refreshing lake -- brrrr-- and ate dinner on the beach while watching a marvelous sunset and churning storms over the lake. Met a visiting cyclist, Mark, from the Twin Cities, who will ride the peninsula over the next 3 days. We may ride together in the morning if our schedules coincide. IU will also be stopping in Bayfield at the Bayfield Bike Route bicycle shop to clean my chain and make some adjustments.

Day 42 Sunday 8/16/09 Grand Rapids to Saginaw, MN

Day 42 Sunday 8/16/09
Grand Rapids to Saginaw, MN
64 Miles
1885 total miles

Hunkered down in a motel room and sat out a torrential rain in beautiful Grand Rapids, MN... The rain poured hard until noon and then the clouds slowly lifted , but never much more than a couple of hundred feet ceiling the rest of the afternoon. When I first thought about this trip, I never thought about certain inevitabilities, sore butt, numb hands and fingers were in the idea book , but I had forgotten about unleashed dogs. I have had a few close encounters of the dog kind, but none so close as today's racer chaser on the Fond du Lac reservation. Good thing I saw and heard this fellow coming from a distance away. I was near the end of my day, somewhere around the 55 mile mark and on a near flat to gradual downslope (thankfully) when this guy broke away from his front yard. He was easily a couple of hundred yards away when he started and I couldn't believe how quickly he closed the gap. It was some kind of herding dog, black and white, and his ears were laid back as he bulleted towards me on on a converging path at a perfect pursuit angle. He could have been a guided missile for the trajectory he took nearly intercepted me. My defense? As soon as I heard him I geared down and started spinning as fast as I could and stepped up a couple of gears as quickly as I could click them off. He entered the highway from the opposite side, crossed the opposite breakdown and travel lanes and came up alongside me in the eastbound travel lane as I was in the eastbound shoulder. I can still hear the click of his toenails and he yipped as he strained to reach me. I had enough presence of mind to reach for my pepper spray canister as I screamed at him and was ready to pull it on him when he ran out of juice and peeled away, just as I started to gain speed. Yup, pepper spray. I also have a small compressed air boat horn taped to my top tube as another alternative, but I knew that that wasn't going to work on this determined dog. So... Moral of the story.. If you are planning on a cross-country bike tour, plan on meeting some not-so-friendly dogs along the way. Trying to outrun a dog on a loaded touring bike is not always easy, and depends greatly on circumstances: the terrain, the speed you are travelling when the dog comes after you and the amount of forward warning that you get. I have become very vigilant and try to assess the danger as soon as I hear the dog. I have had a couple though who have appeared out of nowhere, smart ones, hiding behind a bush or whatever, and who pop out to surprise you at the last second. Fortunately all of those stalkers have been too slow to get to me , but this one today was a reminder that next time I might be riding up a hill when the dog begins the chase-- so in that case it might be a better choice to dismount and confront the animal with mace if the lack of a moving target isn't enough to dissuade it.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Day 41 Saturday 8/15/09 Cass Lake to Grand Rapids, MN

Day 41 Saturday 8/15/09
Cass Lake to Grand Rapids, MN
57 Miles
1821 total miles

After 2 very relaxing days in Cass Lake it was time to hit the road again. The weather was very heavy and overcast, but at least the clouds gave some cover and the temps weren't as high. I rode through the Leech Lake Reservation and Chippewa National Forest and met another rider, Kevin Smith, of St. Cloud, who is in training for a ride of his own, down the Mississippi this coming September. We rode together from the town of Ball Club ( yes there is such a place!) to Deer River where we stopped for lunch. Not long after lunch, Kevin's crank fell off and he stopped for repairs and I kept going. The sky got very dark and a torrent came down. I took shelter under a gas station canopy for a while and waited out the storm. Heading east out of deer river, route 2 is all torn up for construction and I switched over into the construction area to get away from the 2way traffic and no shoulder on the eastbound lanes. With the exception of frequent piles of dirt in my way, sany surfaces, and mud, it worked pretty well and I was able to ride most of the remaining ride to Grand Rapids without fear of getting crushed by a semi truck. Once in Grand Rapids, I instantly knew that this was a paper mill town-- and the air was really heavy, just getting ready to burst open again. With the hopes of getting osme quick shopping done and continuing for another 20 miles or so before camping for the night, I headed into the grocery store, and just as I concluded my shopping the sky opened up again-- very wet! I decided against sloshing through the rain and opted for a cheap motel room tonight, with the complete luxury of fridge, TV and microwave. Ahh civliziation! Tomorrow it is supposed to rain some more, showers mostly, and I have to make up some lost time and distance if I want to make it to the UP of Michigan and a host there by next Wednesday night.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Day 38 Mentor to Cass Lake, MN 8/12/09

Day 38 Mentor to Cass Lake, MN 8/12/09

81 miles
1764 total miles

Today was mid way point, at least as far as miles go, I am halfway to my Maine destination. As proof of that attainment, I crossed the Mighty Mississippi today, on the segment of its headwaters where it flows out of Lake Itasca to Lake Bemidji. I rode as far as my sister-in-law Sherry's house in Cass Lake on the Leech Lake Ojibwe Reservation. Sherry has an excellent home on 42 acres in the woods next to a small pond at the end of a long sandy driveway. Ahh privacy! Planning on staying here for a rest day and some good cooking, wild rice and some reading down-time with a good new book by Gerald Vizenor, "The People Named the Chippewa" which recounts narrative histories of some of the local people.

Day 37 Turtle River State Park, ND to Mentor, MN 8/10/09

Day 37 Turtle River State Park, ND to Mentor, MN 8/10/09
72 miles
1683 total miles

Passed through Grand Forks, ND and East Grand Forks, MN on my way to little Mentor. I regret having to pass up the hospitality of member Phil Huck in Crookston, as I needed to make more miles in order to reach Cass Lake tomorrow night. Ronnie, a construction worker camping out in the Mentor City Park gave me my best gift of the day, an ice cold Busch Light beer as I rolled into the campground at 9 p.m!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Day 36 Devil's Lake to Turtle River State Park, ND

Day 36 Devil's Lake to Turtle River State Park, ND
72 Miles
1610 total miles

Today was another fine day for riding, a little warmer than the day before, with some more beautiful scenery here in the northeast part of the state. There are more trees here and large, but shallow, lakes on the prairie, which are home to countless migratory nesting birds. The noisy terns frequently join me as I pass through their areas, peeping and squawking along with me for a 1/2 mile or more before relenting to their nests. Lots of canvasbacks, red-heads and other ducks, white pelicans , geese and countless other waterfowl find there summer homes here. A sad moment occurred when I came across a recently killed raptor, a red-tailed hawk, who flew too close to the highway and was left dead beside the road. My heart goes out to the bird-people.

I finished the day at the mosquito infested Turtle River State Park. As usual, the RV people get the premium camp spots-- on higher ground,away from the mosquitoes and the tenters are relegated to the lower swampy areas. While at the campsite, I met an interesting lady, Marya Hart, who is a composer and songwriter.
She and her collaborator Laurie Flanagan have recently staged their new musical "20 Days to find a Wife" a play about a lighthouse keeper in door county who is given 20 days, by his boss, to find a wife or to lose his job which played at the History Theatre in Minneapolis. Thanks for the wine and have a great trip west, Marya. May you find new inspiration for music along the way.

Day 35 Rugby to Devil's Lake, ND 8/09/09

Day 35 Rugby to Devil's Lake, ND
70 miles
1538 total miles

An enjoyable, peaceful ride across a sunny prarie-- the clouds are billowy and higher, with intermittent sun. Not too much traffic today and overall good riding conditions.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Day 34 Saturday 8/8/09 Minot to Rugby, ND

Day 34 Saturday 8/8/09
Minot to Rugby, ND
70 Miles
1473 total miles

I am now at the center of the universe... Or at least the geographical center of North America in Rugby, ND. Today's ride went well, starting fog and mist in the Souris (Mouse) Valley, and mostly calm and cool, if not damp, conditions and climbing up onto the prairie north of Velva, where I encountered a new wind farm, one of many I have seen popping up all over the windy west. This one has a power purchase agreement with XcelEnergy and was developed by Acciona, which is, I believe, a Spanish wind developer concern. Siting for these wind farms out here on the prairie is determined by a couple of important factors, among others these being the most important: wind, and proximity to the power grid. In this wind farm's case, the development was situated right next to an available transmission line, thereby minimizing the connection costs to the developer. Over the long run, these kinds of readily available sites will be harder to come by and the more difficult projects will involve the challenges of establishing new power transmission corridors-- every player in the wind development industry in a particular region will, of course, wish to have those lines installed the closest to their projects, in order to keep their connection costs down. And there is also the issue of obtaining the easement rights from landowners who may only indirectly benefit from wind development in their area. All a very large set of issues for local, regional and national regulators, utilities and developers to sort out, but the long term benefits are too great to be ignored. The establishment of distributed generation will be a significant component to making the overall energy portfolio of the future. No one source will meet all the demand, and it will be a combination of all these resources and new technologies coming online that will make it happen.

I was really amazed to hear, for example, the new drilling technology that is being employed in the Bakken formation around the Stanley area to reach the oil that is trapped in the rock there... The wells are sunk 2 miles deep, down to the oil containing layer, then the drill articulates somehow and bores horizontally through the layer for another 2 miles! This tends to loosen the surrounding rock and allows for oil seepage into the well. Remarkable!

At breakfast in Rugby, on Sunday morning, I was approached by a local gentleman, Archie Lindseth, a retired farmer. He was waiting for his son and daughter-in-law to arrive for breakfast and so we chatted a while and also had a chance to talk with son Chuck, when he arrived. Chuck's a farmer south of town here and not too sure about the wind development in the area. We talked about energy portfolios and the different available resources. Chuck is in the nuclear corner as being the most energy efficient, but when we began talking about the long term risks associated with the storage and disposal of the waste the conversation halted. These are difficult topics for many to discuss, and conversations can quickly deteriorate into strongly held opinions without the benefit of facts and support. They often aren't rational, but I am struck by activist Joanna Macy's comments about the deep feeling of authority one feels when faced with inter generational challenges, as we are stewards of this planet, only here for a very short while in it's keeping. We must derive our authority from the knowledge that we know it is right to preserve species, even life as we know it, and in the case of nuclear poisons with half-lives of tens of thousands of years, demand the answers to hard questions about treatment and storage.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Day 32-33 Thursday-Friday 8/6-7/09 Stanley to SE of Minot, ND

Day 32-33 Thursday-Friday 8/6-7/09
Stanley to SE of Minot, ND
67 Miles
1403 total miles

Beat my way against wind and rain all day today heading slowly towards Minot. There's a stalled front here and even though the weather is coming up out of the soutwest from Wyoming and Montana, it is creating counter-rotational airflows which blow out of the southeast. It was a lot of effort and I probably achieved a 7-8 mph average for the time I was in the saddle. I stopped briefly in Minot to pick up a new tire and camping fuel and then rpceeded down the road, 10 miles southeast on HIghway 52, to the farm of relatives of one of my "out-laws". Bill and Marilyn Goheen were ever the patient and gracious hosts, receiving me at almost 9 p.m. They are aunt and uncle to my sister in-law Sherry Ellefson, and were wonderful hosts. As an added bonus, Sherry's mom was also visiting and I was able to get to know her a little bit. Bill is now retired from farming and real estate, and he and Marilyn enjoy their solitude on their lovely spread in the country, keeping 4 llamas, 2 alpacas and 4 goats. Even those will soon go, as he and "Ma" wish to simplify things even more. I spent an extra day, working on my bike- installing the new tire, tuning up, cleaning the chain, etc. Then I helped Bill with a few small chores around the pace and he toured me around the spread in his truck. Later that evening he and Marilyn hosted me to dinner at the nearby Cowboy Corner café in Sawyer. Very much appreciated! The weather doesn'tpromise to improve much over the next day or so, as the front is defeintely stalled over this area and the moisture is a fine drizzle or cloud-like mist that has humidity at 100%, thought the temperatures are in the 60's so it's tolerable. I spent some time at the kitchen table withi Bill's road atlases and checked my remaining course and still intend to ride the Michigan UP and then ride along the north shore of Lake Huron and then descend to Manitoulin island and cuct across southern Ontario over to New York and cross somewhere before Cornwall. I still have a little less than 2000 miles to go, so it's time to pick up the pace a bit! I figure about 5 more days to the Bemidji area, then another 5 or so to the UP from here. If I do 65 miles a day from hereon, with rest days every 5 days, I will make it to Maine around September 15th, my initial goal. I can do that!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Day 31 Wednesday 8/5/09 Williston to Stanley, ND

Day 31
Wednesday 8/5/09
Williston to Stanley, ND
73 Miles
1336 total miles

I was very grateful to have a reservation at a motel in Williston as I felt rotten all day as I rode and couldn't eat much at all due to my sick stomach. Jen at the King's Inn in Culbertson let me know that Williston rooms are hard to come by-- the area's economy is booming right now, with oil wells being sunk all over the basin north of Williston, road construction and other projects going on in the area. By the time I got to Williston, I was really beat, felt very weak and exhausted. My sleep was deep, long and unmemorable and I woke up 10 hours later, soaked in sweat, but the chills and fever of the night before were gone, much to my gratitude. I also made a stop in Williston at a cache drop-off , where a host, Phil Huck, left me a care package of homemade granola, soup mix and Congo bars! I very much look forward to having some of these good things while on the road, and already broke into the Congo bars! Thanks for the good thought, Phil, I really appreciate it! The ride out of Williston on Rt. 2 bears due north for a full 12 miles before turning east again. It feels difficult to not be making any eastward progress, especially into a headwind. Otherwise riding conditions today were great-- high scattered clouds, temps in the mid to high 60's and the winds finally turned in my favor about half way through the day. The roads are on average, much safer than those in Montana, as US 2 here is a recently built divided 4 lane highway with a paved shoulder which for many stretches has a full width breakdown lane, complete with a protective rumble strip near the white line. The country here is rolling gradual long ups and downs and much greener than I thought it would be-- and was later told by a local, that this year is unusual after much rain in the area. The farms here seem tidier, more well kept, and the roadsides don't appear to have as much junk and litter next to them. Overall a better aesthetic than much of the blight present in many eastern Montana towns. Made it to Stanley later in the afternoon and found the local municipal campground-- the tent site is apart from the RV camping, in a lot next to the Mountrail County courthouse. Very easy accommodations and showers are available across the street at the RV campsite. $6 a night for the tent site! The food across the street at the Two-Way Steakhouse,was unremarkable, with the mushiest rotten baked potato, slimy fried Walleye, and the waitress was surly-- she seemed like she was being put upon and slapped the dishes on the table, then left without ever chekcing in again. When I had to get up to tell her about the disgusting potato and request an alternative, she rolled her eyes! Some lessons in customer service are due in Stanley. Aftewards at the bar, I had a conversation with one of the workers who is camping at the site here. He confirmed that things are really booming here and that help is hard to come by in Minot, Bismarck and surrounding towns. Stanley is at the center of much of this activity with the oil drilling and lots of people are working 12 and 13 hour days just keeping up.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Day 30 Tuesday 8/4/09 Culbertson, MT to Williston, ND

Day 30 Tuesday 8/4/09 Culbertson, MT to Williston, ND
52 Miles
1261 Total miles

Day 29 Monday 8/3/09 Wolf Point to Culbertson, MT

Day 29 Monday 8/3/09
Wolf Point to Culbertson, MT
53 Miles
1229 total miles

Rode the first 20 miles out of Wolfpoint right into a blasting cold rainstorm, but I had a short goal of visiting some friends in Poplar, whom I had met at the powwow. On the road, I picked up a cross which I had found beside the road which had been left there by Carol Cruise, a right-leg amputee who was walking a perimeter path around the US. Carol had left the cross there with a message to pass it along to "someone to the south". In Poplar, I was the grateful guest of Monica, Leah and Mary Strauser and enjoyed Leah's excellent indian frybread (which I learned how to make-- recipe follows) and hot coffee. Delicious and high energy for the remainder of the ride to Culbertson which had quite a few hills near the end. I also passed the cross along to Mary, and during my visit there, their uncle Lew stopped in for drop-in visit, and who is, as things synchronisticly turn out, a right-leg amputee! We all marvelled at this strange happening and proceeded to eat those pieces of golden frybread!

Leah's Golden Indian Frybread
(recipe makes a lot!-- ~ 25 pieces)

8 cups white flour
1 cup non--fat dry milk
3/4 cup sugar
3 tbsp baking powder
1 tbsp salt

Mix all dry ingredients thoroughly

To this mixture add:
3 tbsp oil
4 cups of WARM water

Mix briefly, leaving lumps in dough, and turn onto well-floured board (several cups of flour) and knead gently, taking care to not over mix or over knead-- dough should be moist and slightly sticky.

Roll dough about 1/2 inch thick

Heat 2 quarts of vegetable oil in dutch oven or deep pot

Cut dough into ~3"x4" rectangles and cut a slit in the center of each one.

Test one piece in the oil to check cooking temp... fry on each side about 2 minutes -- until golden brown. Cook the remaining pieces, no more than 3 at a time, to prevent oil from getting too cool.

Remove from oil and place on drain rack or paper towels.

Eat while hot!

Day 27-28 Saturday 8/1/09 Glasgow to Wolf Point, MT

Day 27 Saturday 8/1/09
Glasgow to Wolf Point, MT
50 Miles
1176 total miles

Late start out of Glasgow and a ride into the "feared territory" of the Ft. Peck Indian Reservation. At least that's the prevailing story I kept hearing from the "Anglo" locals in the neighboring communities as I approached the Rez. "don't stop to camp on the reservation, they'll stab you!" one man said. I stopped in Nashua at the Wagon Wheel for a beer, just at the western border of the reservation to hear the local stories. Not sure I got the complete and unvarnished truth there, not only about the rez, but also about the general affairs in Washington and Montana at large. Seems like the federal highway system has forgotten all about their promise to widen US Rt. 2, a promise made in the 1950's, to a 4 lane divided highway. Seems like the diminishing numbers along the hi-line have everything to do with the replacement of transportation alternatives to the south with interstate 90 getting all of the east-west traffic routed along it. The population lost along the towns of the hi-line don't seem to have anything to do with the improved efficiencies in American farming technologies and to some degree, migrant labor, which have replaced jobs in the once labor intensive farm economy for good. The secondary and tertiary jobs associated with support functions in communities hasn't improved as a result either, and many of these rural communities are a shadow of what they once used to be.

When I arrived in Wolf Point, I checked into the Sherman Hotel, whose accommodations are comfortable and clean enough, even though the purported "non-smoking" room in the "non-smoking" hotel sported an ashtray and book of matches beside the bed, as well as a pile of cig ashes next to Gideon's bible on the shelf below. Was pleased to find that behind the hotel there was the Wadopana (canoe paddle) powwow celebration going on, hosted by the Assinniboine who are river people from the Milk and Missouri valleys. Dancers and singers are here from all over the region to celebrate heritage and fellowship with each other and the gathering is a very generous spirited group. I had several good and warm conversations and was made to feel very welcome here. Delicious Indian soft tacos and other good things to eat and marvelous haunting, powerful singing and colorfully costumed dancers. There is a very strong association of military service veterans from the reservation and a particular returning marine was honored by the many people there after 13 years of service including 2 tours of duty in Iraq. I also learned about many of the challenges facing the broader Indian nation of the Sioux, including alcohol and drug abuse, poverty, gang violence, education issues, depression, and so on. The reservation is a very tough place to grow up and opportunities are few, but the family ties here are very strong and the people genuinely have a sense of caring and supportive community amongst themselves. Blood relationships run deep and powwows create the place for reunions of many of the far-flung extended families among the tribes and settlements.