Sunday, August 23, 2009

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.
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