We pedal away from Ludington having spent the morning writing the previous blog. I try not to do much on the bike on a day that I write, but this should be an easy ride. Never underestimate how much energy writing a blog takes. I think I have it dialed in at about a 2,000 Kcal workout so never try to do too much more on a ‘blog day’.
I had chatted to the guys in the bike shop in Ludington, “how’re you finding the route?”. “We love it, it keeps you on the back roads and sends you all over the place to the smallest town” we said cheerfully. “Many find that a problem and don’t feel like they get any where”. He had a point and today you could do as little as 22 miles and we did 45 to get to our camp.
If you look at the Adventure Cycling map on your bar bag you could get disheartened here. It zigs and then zags at an alarming rate. It keeps you on your toes when it comes to navigation and we are glad that we use a map holder on the bars. We have ridden with people with the map in their bag which is a sure recipe for blunders and unhappiness.
Straight away, this side of Lake Michigan has a different feel. You perhaps would not notice it at the speed of a car, but at bike speed it is obvious. The barns here have a different pitch to their roof and the forests here have much more Pine. It even smells a little different. As the light fades at our camp, we find that it sounds different with the insect chorus far rowdier. We are now on a much sandier soil, some of it pure sand and stone, and we put down much of the change to that.
We see our first substantial area of ploughed land. The seasons are changing, the days getting a little shorter to be on the bike before dark. Michigan is well known for its fruit, and here the roadsides have many apple tress and even the occasional orchard. In the morning we pass Loon Lake and the bike along the Manitye River to Luther. It has just a little over 300 people and is typical of our small town travels.
We go into The Loggers Landing and put in our order for second breakfast. The poor girl gets it wrong, for no other reason than I have ordered three breakfasts on account of being particularly peckish. We got talking to John as we ate and a few others at the bar. They all had rural handshakes but then Jack came in. “You have to shake this guy’s hand; he’s a legend, the last of the loggers”. Sure enough Jack had huge hands that were going to have no trouble opening pickle jars any time soon.
“What was it like Jack, being a logger?”, Esther asked. “It hurt all the time, every bit of you hurt”. Jack is 80. We left them to a long afternoon, evening and night of playing music in the wonderful small town bar.
We ended the day at Sandy Beach campground in Hardy Dam at the end of a 72 mile twisting and turning ride with 2,160 ft of climbing. But not before we rode past the outstretched, recently dead corpse of a 5 ft snake. Crickey, I had stopped thinking about them with all the bear preoccupation.
Labor Day weekend was coming up and people were trying to have a good time and just as importantly, justify the cost of an RV, boat, quad bike and fishing gear. They were in the mood to party. Midnight came and Esther asked our fellow campers for some quiet. “Ye’r man the kids are going to bed now”. The screaming of kids was exchanged for the high volume arguments of drunk adults. Esther went and asked again. “I’m from California so I’m loud”, came the answer. We moved the tent at two and lay awake for another hour seething.
Yesterday we rode behind two young boys on their bikes. They were the first ginger kids we had seen for many hundreds of miles. Going East we have now exchanged the Scandinavian names in the graveyards for entirely Irish and Scottish and see our first Irish pub. It is September the 1st and at 4.15 in the afternoon it is 95’f on my meter. We are struggling and pull into a gas station for cold drinks. There on the wall, near the live bait sales stand, is a gallery of local black bear portraits. Some of these go back to the glory days of Polaroid and I wonder how close you would need to be with those old cameras to fill the frame with these beasts. It is an impressive and worrying collection.
People here have a laid back attitude to black bears.”you could take one on if you had to they’re only 200 something pound”. “My dad wrestled a cooler box full of beer of one when he was young”. We are much less jumpy than we were, but we have walked past enough Taxidermy shop windows to have sized up bears, particularly their big and very sharp teeth.
We end the day at Ionia State Park. A wonderful campground almost lost in the woods. There is not a breath of wind and we leave the top off the tent and lie there sweating to watch fire flies for the first time. They are actually beetles, which I did not know and ‘give a particularly vivid and exuberant display as a precursor to approaching thunder storms’, which I also did not know.
The insects got louder and louder as the full ink black of night came on. They are not the mellow and melodic sound of an English dawn chorus. They are more what comes to mind when describing the sound of a dying fridge freezer to a service engineer over the phone. There are unpleasant ‘dry bearing sounds’ and it is loud. The fire flies were spot on. The ground shook, and flash, crack and boom were instantaneous. The storm was overhead and then went away and came back three times. We were terrified.
Now, even more sleep deprived we rode on back to Saranac, and then through Clarksville. I was going very poorly indeed and feeling wretched. My bike computer almost stopped showing any forward progress and I turned it off. Thirty horrible moral sapping miles later we pulled into a motel in Hastings for a night of air-conditioned peace.
One o’clock in the morning and I started to be ill. The reason for my lethargy on the road became all too clear, as by two o’clock I was as ‘sick as a dog’. The heat, humidity and everything has all come together. Esther goes out to the office at 8 and is told “We have no rooms tonight, you have to move”. We phone a B&B that is a mile away and has a room. By 11.30 in the morning I am well enough to walk there slowly.
Adrounie House B&B is perhaps one of the top 20 B&B’s in the USA. That it should be in Hastings and within crawling distance is wonder indeed. Run by Don and April Tubbs it is a Victorian marvel of a house, and I am so very glad to have a little rest here in amongst the collectables and antiques.