Miles: 92.6

Total Elevation Gain (ft): 1283.3

Weather: Sunny, Mild

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 29 (12 Birds, 3 Skunk, 3 Raccoons, 11 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 0

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 0

"Yahweh zen exG cazmzmm bfHbvfzjdnz," is the gibberish I saw sprawled out on my iPhone as I pulled it from my jersey pocket at the end of today's ride.  Despite keeping it in a Ziplock sandwich bag as I ride, the sweaty moisture that seeps into my pockets creates a tactile atmosphere that penetrates my prophylactic design. That's why I see pocket dials I've made and random apps that run my battery down at times. 

It's odd that this digital Sanskrit began with "Yahweh zen," since I'd been listening to Christopher Hitchens read his fascinating opus "God Is Not Great" while I ticked off the miles today.  The book is chiefly about sacerdotal despotism and posits that Western religious "free will" is a Hobson's choice.  Hitchens doesn't simplify it to the Hobson dilemma, that's my take.  Essentially, the horse we are given to ride is Jesus.  

My pentecostal friends will point out that such a random event on my phone is a warning sign.  An intervention from their "correct" denominational monotheistic God to knock off entertaining heresy. Ho hum. 

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Too bad he doesn't side with Toronto.

Riding along quaint coastal towns of Lake Erie reveals larger Canada's repellant cleanliness. It surpasses the work done by Disney's oppressed Fantasyland janitors. The rare sight of litter appears to be accidental along the squeaky-clean coast filled with flag-flying sailboats and houses.  Amongst the freakishly sterile surroundings are polite locals going about their business so as not to disturb anyone else. 

Americans are known to comment about politeness and cleanliness when they cross the border and its understandable. Slow movement on the bike intensifies the contrast between our accustomed urban and suburban blight with Canada's well manicured environment.  Another victory for democratic socialism?

They take recycling seriously here too.  It's easy to find bottle receptacles on nearly any street without a bunch of smelly vagrants with shopping carts sorting their aluminum lucre.  Peter Ustinov once described Toronto as “New York run by the Swiss,” and while its been a while since I've visited, I attest this to be true.

I had a pleasant day with pleasant stops amongst pleasant people at pleasant cafes, gas stations and ice cream shops. It makes me wonder how I'll handle my first encounter with an angry New Yorker.

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Ah, the McHomard. Beautiful swill.

I quite enjoyed the McDonald's "McHomard" sandwich ordered for breakfast in Wallaceburg.  "McHomard"  is Canadian French for "McLobster."  I expected it to be some fried whey protein, nitrate abomination but was surprised to see it was full of real sea roach.  Very yummy.

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Port Stanley. Touristy, the way I like it.

I ended up in Port Stanley and took a room at an inn. The proprietor, woman in her early sixties has toured the world on bike.  We spent time looking at her photo albums of trips that make my effort look like a cake walk: Tashkent to Beijing; Ethiopia and Eritrea on mountain bike; Capetown to Istanbul. I'm not a hero worshipper, but I paused to put her in my cranial pantheon of truly great people. 


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Coastal Erie at night.
 
 

Miles:  49.6

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  345.7

Weather: Sunny, Mild

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 44 (2 Possum, 1 Raccoon, 2 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 0

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 0

My favorite thing about Canadians is their adorably lilting accents, even if they happen to be evil incarnate or find themselves in tremendous pain.  I've not experienced any unpleasantness whatsoever, but I imagine this idea to be true. 

The uber-friendly people I converse with along the coast of Lake Erie don't complain much, buy they do find three things annoying and they'll let you know "aboowt" it--the Québécois, tax amnesty for the First Nations and the perennial disappointment of Mapleleaf hockey. 

As to the whole dual-language (English and French) nightmare that afflicts the culture here, I told my acquaintances Peggy and Lynne, over a Tim Horton's coffee, "If English was good enough for Jesus, then by God it's good enough for me!"

I lifted my statement from Texas Governor Miriam Ferguson, spoken in reference to the use of bilingualism in Texas schools.  I figured it was roughly analogous. 

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Peggy and Lynne at the Tim Hortons, Wallaceburg.

My ride was a flat hug of the coastline along the St. Clair river on my way to the Canadian coast of Lake Erie.  I took a ferry across from Marine City where I was hassled by U.S. Customs agents.  Their incredibly dumb questions reminded me that we are living in the age of the American Stasi. "Why do you need this type if credit card? Is this a weapon? (It was a small black mini pump.)

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My Passport Card...a lighter option than the Full Monty.

After paying a buck to get across the water and happy I wasn't reamed by a cavity search, I rode a few pleasant miles and came upon Tim Hortons. It surely will be the first of hundreds on this stretch through Ontario. More ubiquitous than Dunkin Donuts is in the States, Timmy's can be relied upon 24/7 for mediocre coffee, mediocre pastry and middling WiFi. I love the place. 


A bit of background for those ignorant about this Canadian icon: Tim Horton's  is an multinational doughnut chain co-founded by Tim Horton, a Canadian Hockey player. He died when he lost control of his 1974 Pantera driving 120 mph under the influence of alcohol and pain killers.


The company has brilliantly managed to use it strict Canadian origin, massive franchise expansion, corporate sponsorships and shrewd marketing to make itself more iconic than McDonald's is in the U.S.  It's such a staple, it appears to me that 

Canadians make it their patriotic duty to patronize the place. 

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St. Clair river.

Here's the bad news Canada.  Tim Horton's is not Canadian owned!  Just like we took the 13 Colonies in 1776-1778, us Yanks bought the corporation in 1995.  Tim Horton's is owned by Wendy’s.  Of course, this means that when I buy Tim Hortons, I'm being a patriotic American and a generous one to boot, since I'm injecting the once mighty dollar into a better economy.

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Going really light now. Dumped all but one dry bag and handlebar mount.

I ride rural routes tomorrow, hoping to make it to the very Commonwealth sounding Port Stanley.

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Once again, Michigan doesn't disappoint. Here's a glimpse of Marine City.
 
 

The Motor City is broke. 

By the time bankruptcy rolled around, Detroit was already at its nadir.  It's so bad that declaring the city a hellhole as a national pastime has run its course.  its odd that Detroit gets so much attention in the press.  Extreme  wretchedness and squalor afflicts other manufacturing cities across this country.  Why don't journalists and  political hacks care about Cleveland, or Camden?  They're suffering similar fates.  I hope Detroit finds a way, by hook or by crook, to reemerge from its Sierra Leone standard of living to industrial cosmopolitan greatness it once enjoyed, waving a middle finger at its detractors.  

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Detroit suburbs look like college towns. Very nice.

You'd never know there's a crisis downtown by visiting spots in the greater outlying metropolitan area.  It's clean and bustling in the suburbs.

Compelled by comfort to stay another night with the Moores in Shelby, I found an idyllic atmosphere around 25 Mile Road


Richard took me to a few nice towns. I was particularly impressed by Rochester Hills.  Its New England style downtown didn't exhibit any signs of economic distress and it wasn't an antiseptic strip mall. 


Yeah, yeah...I hear the chorus of folks shouting, "It's all white flight, Republican, Oakland County UMCs up there!"  Mostly true, yes, but still a sign that industry is booming.  It's a marker--hope for Detroit that there is a possibility it can get its act together.  I stand with Kid Rock, Eminem and my pal, Hatch, that it's not over for Motown. 

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Chez Moore Lounge.

My extra day off was fabulous.  I slept in, took a trip to a bike shop and chatted with Mike the mechanic, buzzed off my mat of hair and sat in a hot tub. I convalesced from the stress of doing nothing.


Maddox chose our dinner by wisely suggesting we eat 1/2 lb. burgers at Red Knapp's, a 50's inspired diner.  The food was a gut bomb of deliciousness. I suggest the broccoli cheese bites as a side. They are scrumptiously devoid of any nutritional value. 


After dinner, the adults retired to the garage.  Well, not exactly a garage, per se. Calling such luxury space a "garage" would be palpably fraudulent. It's a lounge as nice as any hidden side street joint in the Florida Keys. Rich calls it his "man cave," but his wife and neighbor, both female, seemed to be regulars.  We had a few drinks and played Tiki Toss.  Robin and I peppered the atmosphere with our frenetically charged conversation about movies, music and people with self-worth issues. 

This yet unnamed private club is equipped with a large flat screen television, immaculate cabinetry, all manner of tools, a sofa and mid-century modern Arthur Umanoff chairs.  Its accented by a stained and polished concrete floor.  Atmospherically comforting, I was relaxed until Rich exposed to the digital dopamine of the Sonos system. 

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Mike the mechanic.

Sonos is a hardware and software music platform.  It's like iTunes on steroids with wireless digital tentacles. Basically, you can send separate streams of music to specific locations in the house.  Pandora in the kitchen? Check.  Spotify in the bedroom? Hair band playlist in the basement?  Liberace's greatest hits in the guest bathroom? Check, check and check. 


Rich installed the Sonos app on my iPhone and he might as well have put a gun in my hand.  Robin and I began to compete for the alpha status as house DJ by picking the best lounge songs. The app lets you interrupt whatever is playing with whatever you choose or you can put things in queue.  Think of 10 million juke boxes in the palm of your hand.  Like ferrets on crack, we'd listen to a song for thirty seconds and say, "Uh huh, this is good, but have you heard this?! Or this?! Or this?!"

Collectively we heard soothing noise, but very few melodies and it was stupendous.  I could play such a game for days on end.  Who has time to listen to an entire opus when there are lifetimes of soundbites to indulge?

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I covet thy music.

I have to get on tomorrow. " Keep moving," I tell myself as I violate the last commandment in the Decalogue. I do covet this place, but not in a purely material way. Come to think of it, I think covetousness is a good thing if it leads to imitation and, ultimately, emulation of worthy things.  Rich and Robin live well and the affection that reverberates is just accented by the accoutrements of their home.  I'm gonna make such an argument to Katy as I campaign for Sonos this Christmas. 

My sincerest gratitude to the Moores for making my stop in Shelby one of the highlights of the trip.  I hope we do half as well when they come to Bend for a visit. 


Tomorrow Canada:  Poutine, Alouettes "Football," Tim Hortons and friendly people that make Minnesotans, and my friend Theresa, blush.

 
 
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My fine hosts, Richard and Robbyn. I wanna move into their basement.

Miles:  108

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  1525.7

Weather: Mostly Sunny, Mild

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 44 (6 Birds, 3 Possum, 3 Frogs, 3 Turtles, 8 Raccoons, 21 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 1

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 0

The carnage on the road continues.  

Central Michigan's rodents don't fare well along county roads.  Too much forest, too many cars.  As I pass the twisted remains of someone's furry mom or dad, I say a little prayer for each one of them and smell their evaporating essence.  This got me thinking about the olfactory menu drummed up by the pavement day after day. 

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Crazy lady feeding the fowl in Bay City, MI. She seemed normal until she started telling me the name of every one of these birds and their progeny, unseen in the photo.

Here's a list, in order of prevalence, of the stuff I've been smelling over the past seven weeks:

-Good quality hay curing in the mow. 

-Freshly turned rich soil. 

-Liquid manure slurry from factory hogs. 

-Steaming cattle manure. 

-Rain on hot asphalt. 

-Sweet putridity of rotting animal flesh. 

-Dank sweat soaked cycling jerseys. 

-Viscous perspiration and sunscreen resin. 

-Faint Pine Sol and bleach from long ago filthy toilet cleaning

-Gasoline

-Urine turned syrup in filthy truck stop restrooms. 

There's more, I'm certain, but these are smells etched in my memory. 

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Maddox, showing me how much cooler his shark helmet is compared to mine.

Pretty flat ride on roads with decent shoulders.  I was getting close to Detroit and arranged a visit with my friend Richard and his family.  It was a wise choice.  These people are the most pleasant hosts. They gave me the VIP treatment in their well appointed home. It was an absolute contrast to the Hanoi Hilton I "slept" in a couple of days ago.

After a heavenly shower in an apartment sized bathroom, Rich and Robbyn fed me a steak. Maddox, their charming son, gave me a tour of the toy collection--A bright kid, he should be a plastic dinosaur docent.  Even the dog, Dudley, showed me some love after he warmed up. 

My mother-in-law accommodations were fit for a spoiled Saudi Prince.  I secretly hoped that it would rain so that is be "trapped" here a while. The gods smiled upon me as the thunder clapped late into the night.

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I'm fond of this picture because it was important for Maddox to suit up for me. He's got shoulder pads, helmet and a mouthguard, yet he's so tough he plays in flip flops. I think the Rainbow Warriors at UH will be calling soon.
 
 

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Dow Chemical has contributed to 96 Superfund toxic waste sites.  One of these, a former uranium processing plant is particularly disturbing. From 1951 to 1975, Dow managed the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons production facility.  It produced plutonium triggers for hydrogen bombs. 


In the 1960's a "rare event" occurred where some stuff  blew up and caused a bit of "collateral damage."   Americans know this is the price we pay for "freedom," but Dow and its lawyers had to be persuaded for over 30 years to share in this liberty debt. A federal judge made the company reluctantly cough up a billion dollars for their goof. 

Of course, I didn't talk about any of this to the good folks in Midland, MI where Dow is headquarters.   It's the largest employer in town and has remained an economic juggernaut in good times and bad. The weary people of Michigan don't want to listen to a crank point out other Dow flubs:  Agent Orange, Napalm, Silicone Breast Implants, Nemagon and the brazen move to buy Union Carbide at a discount after the Bhopal disaster. 


We've gotta take the good with the bad. After all, Dow is a leader in manufacturing GMOs and they invented styrofoam! Imagine a world without that stuff.  A nightmare.  

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Mickey, Sondi, Tyler and Bill at the Bicycle HQ. The best stop in all of Midland.

Just past a Chemical Bank branch, I found Bicycle HQ.  Its a nice shop with an incredible assortment of bikes ranging from trikes to high end recumbents.  It's been going strong since 1986 and one of the owners, Sondi took time to take my picture and asked about my journey.  Her mechanic, Mickey, was affable and gave me the best lunch recommendation.   If anyone makes it to Bay City, check out the Espresso Express.  

I took a rest day because I felt a bit sick this morning and I have a long haul to suburban Detroit to meet up with Rich Moore--perhaps my most laid back, easygoing friend in North America. I think he might even possess one micron more Zen than San Francisco's Snappy Tom. For the few of you that know Snappy, you know this is an incredible feat for a successful Motor City salesman.


Farewell Midland!  Good luck with "better living through chemistry."


 
 

Miles: 87.5

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  1456.7

Weather: Rainy, Cool

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 53 (7 Birds, 2 Deer, 1 Rabbit, 3 Turtles, 21 Raccoons, 19 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 1

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 0

Central Michigan is really hard on raccoons. 

I counted 21 of these unfortunate little bandits as roadkill victims on a short stretch of Hwy 10.  I'm pretty sure several more fell into my "Unknown" category.  They must thrive in the dense forest that makes up this part of the state. 

The body count dropped to zero once I diverted onto the Pere Marquette Rail Trail, a mostly uninhibited 40 mile stretch of asphalt.  A couple of guys training for triathlons passed me by on their sterling TT bikes.  I wondered how fast they'd go if forced upon my steel rig with bungie hobo bags attached.  


This gave me an idea for a race:  A Tri or combined sport effort where the participants were allowed a budget of only 100 dollars for all of their gear.  In order to avoid any advantage where someone might benefit from used equipment, the participants would be required to buy new gear and provide proof of purchase to race organizers.  Orbea Ordus gleaned from Craigslist or Argon 18s sold by jilted lovers at garage would be banned.  

I see a field of Chinese Wal-Mart bikes mounted by athletic wunderkinds in knockoff Chuck Taylors and Speedo Fastskin fakes. A glorious competition of hyper-testosterone fueled men and women bitching about their split times and poor performance due to mechanical challenges.  Of course, this fantasy is motivated by my jealousy. Yet, I think such a race would still command quite a few entrants. 

was mostly an uneventful day riding in the rain, listening to audio books about Monte Carlo simulations and how success in business is largely governed by wildly exuberant randomness.  Don't tell this to Ariana Huffington or your rich neighbor with the bigger house and BMW, by the way. 

Sketchy motels are taking a toll on my hai. It resembles a matted Brillo pad.  Cheap dives only supply a tiny bar of soap that they probably stole or stockpiled from other crappy motels and these shards of lye have served as my shampoo and conditioner.  When I get a chance, I'm just gonna cut it all off like Ashton Kutcher's abused ex-wife, G.I. Jane. It might suit me in the heat. 

I treated myself to an early 80's inspired Best Western.  Its convention center with burgundy and green decor and brassy fern bar without the ferns is charming. I can see the ghosts of important Motor City men in power ties enjoying some seminar here.  The place is clean and the fish tank in the lobby is soothing.  I'm typing this entry with fat fingers on my phone, sitting next to a content plecostomus. 

Dinner options were limited, so I had the chicken parmesan sandwich, sans bread, at Gimmicks bar in a nearby bowling alley.  I asked Stephanie, my friendly server, why breaded stuff needs more bread. She shrugged and asked what kind of fries I wanted on the side.  I think this trip will cure me of eating so much of the American diet. Like a smoker bent on quitting by lighting up 16 packs in a day, my limited meal options made exclusively in fryers is going to turn me vegan or "freegan."

I'm toying with meeting up with Richard Moore, fun loving brother of my roommate in college, by making a detour to suburban Detroit. Perhaps, if I act un-heroically and feeble, Rich will pick me up in one of his large vehicles. He is a Motor City businessman, after all.

 
 

Miles: 68.6

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  1469.8

Weather: Sunny, Hot

Hillbilly Insults: 1

Roadkill: 16 (1 Chucken, 3 Frogs, 1 Turtle, 3 Raccoons, 8 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 0

Mean Dogs Chasing: 1

Animal Rescue: 0

My thirty dollar motel room in Le Roy, MI is just an afterthought attached to a bar. It smells of sulphur, New York subway piss and mold.  It's not worthy of a guard shack at a Romanian gulag, but it's my home for the night.  Ah, how I pine for my fifty dollar palace at the Vista Villa! Hoping not to step on used condoms buried in the foul recesses of the filthy shag carpet.

The terrain was nice today. A few farms, but mostly tree lined roads through the Nordhouse Dunes Wilderness within the Manistee National Forest.  This stretch through the center of the state is dotted with very small towns that cater to weekend fishermen.

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Nordhouse dunes at dusk.

I'd forgotten about the Michigan Militia survivalist nuts until I stopped for a rest in the town of Free Soil.  The main strip of this place was the most blatantly arrogant and distasteful display of dumb patriotism I've seen in a very long time.  I counted 23 flags on six houses and one store. Three flags were POW/MIA, two were Confederate and one was plain white with a crucifix in the middle of it. A right-wing radio fantasy theme park!


I did a double take when a black lawn jockey caught my eye.  I went back to snap a picture of "The Faithful Groomsman."  I worked fast because I suspect the hounds around here are trained to smell "Jew Blood."  I quietly entered a little gas station, bought a soda and got out of town.  I worked all winter in Augusta, GA and not once did I find anything as overtly racist and dopey as the dreck on display here. I put on the headphones and turned up the Public Enemy--"...I smell a riot comin' on!"

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All I could mutter was, "Can you believe this shit?" I whispered so I wouldn't be chased out of town by hooded men on horses. I didn't find the "Holocaust Never Happened" museum nearby.

It'll take a few days, but I don't think I'll see such displays when I cross the border in Ontario.  I can't imagine a Chipewyan lawn dwarf on a Canadian farmstead.

 
 

Well before web streaming and BitTorrent piracy, I would bargain hunt for movies on DVD.  The goal was to pluck cinematic gold from digital dung heaps in unorganized Wal-Mart bins, used record store collections and pawn shops.  I'd attempt to scour long and hard enough to find titles costing ten dollars or less that werr worthy of an Indie film festival. I came across great stuff: Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Repo Man, The Beast. A public demanding formulaic Hollywood crap over creativity, plot and character development made it easy for me.


Similarly, but much more difficult, I've been trying to find lodging under fifty dollars in the cities and towns I end up in. I don't seek out offers to stay with strangers and accept only if affirmatively prodded. I mailed home my tent and sleeping bag yesterday to dump more weight. It's a credit card tour the rest of the way.  Addituonally, Katy's going to join me for the final push and I don't want to subject her to insects and unknown hosts. 

I've failed to find a place that doesn't reek of mildew and sweat for under 50 bucks until today.  In one shanty, I slept in my sleeping bag on top of the mattress as a buffer between me and bedbugs/roaches.  Alas, I stumbled upon the Villa Vista this morning and I have a tiny immaculate room. The older couple running the place let me check in at 9.30 a.m. and I slept like the Chessie kitten all day long.

It's evening now and I decided to see the latest scary movie, "The Conjuring."  One reviewer says, "All the contorting girls and pea-soup vomit in the world can hardly compete with a blood-stained sheet and a well-placed doll."    If that's true, I'll be up all night wondering when that waterlogged Japanese horror archetype is going to crawl out of the flatscreen in my room. It'll help me get an early start tomorrow!

(Note: I'm posting this after I've seen the film. The only conjuring going on is the theft of my ten bucks! This movie is only scary if you grew up with ridiculous Catholic superstition and if you believe in witches. Thanks for nothing Hollywood. If you want to make a scary movie, focus on a creepy priest and the millions put into covering up his pedophilia. Oh wait a sec, I'm confusing reality with improbable gore fantasy.)

Last night on the deck of the ferry under the stars, I began to peacefully doze off.  It was as close to getting back to the womb as I can recall. Tonight, I expect fright will negate all that calm.  Life's a roller-coaster.

 
 
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My carnival pals.

Miles: 78.4 (Part 1)

Miles: 56.3 (Part 2)

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  3156.6

Weather: Sunny, Hot

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 19 (6 Birds, 2 Turtles, 1 Raccoons, 3 Skunks, 7 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 1

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 1 (Turtle)

Two! Two!! Two days in one!!!

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Mennonites are cool hitchhikers.

"And like my dog was on the back of the bike trailer freaking out and we were like, you know, dude, no way, no fucking way we are gonna take this 40 mile detour-- with 200 pounds of gear back through fucking nowhere North Dakota!  Like a truck, we needed a truck. You know, like, to haul all our crap because I didn't care the road was closed to us. So, this dude outta nowhere comes up and knocks on a giant truck behind us and saved out ass. Made the guy haul us up the road," exclaimed Michael whom I met through Forrest, the tattoo artist in Mantiwoc, WI. 


Michael was weaving his tale on a neighborhood street in Manitowac. His audience of five had his full attention. It turns out that Michael is a touring enthusiast. After I was introduced and explained what I was doing, we both started lamenting about North Dakota. Michael knew all about it.


An idle mind is the Devil's playground and as I clocked distance in the heat, I told myself I could go slow, make the 120+ miles and have plenty of time to get across the water.  So, I forged ahead to Manitowoc.  Twenty miles outside the city (I'd underestimated the distance), , I had a slow leak in the rear tire and couldn't find the culprit. I was on the side of the road, bike upside down, tube out, tire in hand, and an enthusiastic group of three youngish guys whom had done some touring stopped with a truck and offered to get me near downtown.  I was tired and took them up on the offer.

I'm sure moms everywhere would be proud of me for having trust in mankind and remembering my Christian values. Reserve judgment about people. Have faith and all that jazz. It's this attitude that makes doing laundry with carnival workers, chatting with farmers and offering energy bars to hitchhikers such a joy.   


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Forrest and Alissa.

I got plopped on the main suburban drag and started my way downtown with vague directions to the Broken Spoke bike shop.  It was 5:40 p.m. and most local, reputable shops close at 6 p.m., kind of like barber shops.  As I pedaled on a deflated tire, I wasn't seeing the place. So, I ducked in the Sticky Tattoo parlor to ask for directions.  That's when I met Forrest Marsh. He told me where to go but wanted to chat me up. He was genuinely curious about my travels but I was antsy.  I told him I'd be back and he gave me his number probably thinking I'd disappear.


The Broken Spoke is a narrow space with three floors. As I walked up the stair ramp with my bike at 5:55 p.m., I could see the long face on the mechanic shutting down for the day.  Often doing thankless tasks, mechanics have to deal with homeless guys looking for free repairs; ignorant and demanding suburban soccer moms; 'roid monkey Lance wannabes and people that want their rides overhauled in a few hours. At first glance , I bet I looked like a poseur. 

I explained my situation and with just a twinge of reluctance, Ryan took pity on me. Better known as "Possum," Ryan and I hit it off right away talking about winter biking, the Surley Pugsley and old lugged road bikes.  I spent a better part of an hour with Possum as he showed me the parts graveyard on the third floor and his Green Bay Packer homegrown fixie.  


It took the eyes of an expert to find the itsy-bitsy, mouse hair of a wire that had barely protruded through my tire and wore a hole in the inner-tube. 

I thanked Possum and headed back for the tattoo parlor.  I had time to kill and entertained the fleeting thought of getting some ink so that I'd fit in better back home in Bend, OR. I feel square amongst all the ubiquitous hipster moms and dads sporting devils, Bettie Boops and tribal bands on their athletic bodies. The idea passed as Forrest shut down early and we motored for some Thai food in an old converted bank.  

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Yummy White People Thai Food. Tops!

If Forrest is reading this, I apologize for the following description.  I'm sure he's tired of it, but the readers must know that he resembles Seth Rogan, if Seth Rogan was still cool and not so rich.  It isn't his looks so much as his voice and friendly mannerisms.  Forrest is an intelligent guy with a lot of life experience at a young age.  He grew up in Wisconsin and Alaska; went to art school; took a few hitchhiking trips; toured around on bikes and got around Iceland working on farms, kibbutz style.  

After dinner, Forrest took me around the waterfront, to visit his girlfriend Alissa and his pals, the most animated of which was Michael.  Michael reminded me so much of my sister's boyfriend: California friendly, wildly gesticulating and high energy. I was reminded of my advanced age when Michael said, "I'm totally getting into the Gin Blissoms and 90's bands, man! Behind those pop songs is hard assed music!"  He did a little air guitar for effect.

Alissa let me take a shower in her well appointed craftsman style house and I took off for my trip aboard The Badger. It's an old car ferry formerly run by the C&O Railroad.  The Badger is a Wisconsin boat and its sister, The Spartan, sits moored for spare parts on the Michigan side of the Great Lake. At its peak, this car ferry system ran 205,000 rail cars across the water yearly.

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Chessie the Cat. C&O's old mascot advertised the idea that you could sleep like a kitten in a ship cabin.

I found lounge chair on the starboard deck and stared at criss-crossing satellites and  the Milky Way without interference from light pollution.   I fell asleep and dreamt of Kate Winslet and a frozen Leonardo DiCaprio.

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The ferry has a 16 year old beater bike with a wobbly rear wheel to run quick errands.
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The Badger.
 
 

Miles: 103

Total Elevation Gain (ft):  2982.2

Weather: Sunny, Hot

Hillbilly Insults: 0

Roadkill: 20 (8 Birds, 3 Turtles, 3 Raccoons, I Snake, 5 Unknown)

Bugs Swallowed: 3

Mean Dogs Chasing: 0

Animal Rescue: 0

Today's ride was pure yeoman's work.  Wisconsin's beautiful asphalt sizzled under the blazing sun and the 8000% humidity made for a crotch soaking experience--not ideal for saddle sores.  It's also hilly here.  It's not official yet, but this day has to qualify in the top five for total elevation gain.  Despite the challenges, it was a great slog.

I hit the road before 10 a.m. after my morning ointment ritual. That's pretty good for me since I always loiter with the locals. I procrastinate because the worst part of the ride is settling in for the first few miles finding new pressure points to aggravate and struggling with catatonic legs.

I stopped in Cornell after being tipped off that I'd fiind the exotic Wisconsin cheeses I crave at Dylan's Dairy.  It's a little cafe with big taste. I ordered a salad and made a special request to have some aged cheddar and horseradish cheese shredded on top. I was not disappointed. It was going to be a long day, so I ordered a homemade chocolate cherry malt on the side. It was delectable and necessary as I suffered a major caloric and glycemic deficit by day's end. 


40 miles later on 64 Hwy, I took a long pit stop at the Gilman Cenex gas staton. It's the town hub, like so many places I've patronized.  I filled a cup full of my favorite energy drink, cherry Slushpuppy, and sat at a round table with a rotating cast of old farmers.  These guys are all comedians and give me reason to stay, chat and enjoy air conditioning. 


One standout, the 93 year old patriarch of "Hopeless Dairy, Inc." was a kick in the pants. I wish I caught his name.  He was spry, sharp and cantankerous in the most entertaining way.  While we were making fun of the PC gluten free/organo/local movement, I asked what his secret to long life and good health had been. He explained that he just ate seasonally off of the land his whole life:  rabbits, squirrels, fish, beets, carrots and whatever his family grew or raised. He also described fantastic hikes in the woods where he'd disappear for weeks at a time using nothing but rivers for navigation. The local forest is gone now, due to decades of logging.

I had a 60 mile goal, but felt "inspired" to go further since I'd been listening to the audiobook, "The Secret Race" by Dan Coyle and Tyler Hamilton. It's about the euphoric era of pro cycling between 1999 and 2008. Americans were silly with enthusiasm for Lance Armstrong and the Philistines on the U.S. Postal team.  Just like baseball, the fans, the sponsors and the governing bodies looked past he statistically improbable success of these "heroes." Armstrong and his feats were lauded as miracles.


That decade of cycling mania was special for me.  An American tifoso, I attended the 2001 Tour with a press pass arranged by my Reuter's pal, Greg. I had access to the peleton and looked ridiculous with my "Kansas City Post" credentials and Best Buy consumer camera.   It was a time that I was on cloud nine personally and professionally. I later discovered that the Lance Era was also a period marked by an intimate scandal in my own life. The ugly truth of camouflaged doping was a metaphor, of sorts, for a lot of things I naively loved.


So, this fascinating book conjured old anxieties and gave me an artificial adrenaline boost. Fueled by adrenaline, and a wee bit of rage, I chose to ride in the dark to Merrill, WI.  I called on a roach motel and was given horrible instructions that added a mildly annoying few extra miles.

It was after 10 p.m. and the only joint open for food was Wichita, KS-based Pizza Hut. Kansas Pizza is a contradiction, but I didn't care.  I asked if the delivery guy could bring me a lot of ice and a two liter bottle of Diet Pepsi. The friendly gal on the other end of the call obliged and left a nice note on my "pizza" box. I guzzled the brown elixir like a parched dog. I wouldn't dare drink the water from the mildewed sink in my motel bathroom.


Not a bad day. 


Getting close to the ferry for Michigan.  It will be an important milestone, but I'll sure miss this great Wisconsin asphalt.  Smooth and creamy! The baby's bottom of road aggregate.