Day 48: The day of much work and much reward

Day 48, 7/31, Petoskey State Park, MI to Traverse City, MI: 93.2 miles, 4,379 ft elevation gain, 11.1mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,932.2 miles (71.5 mile daily average), 122,310 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

One day behind schedule.

These two pictures sum up much of the biking part of the day:


Except change Breezeway to Wind Tunnel and Steep Hill to Series of Steep Rolling Hills Lasting for 40 Miles. 

The day started out nicely with a dedicated bike path taking us five miles into the town of Petoskey. Petoskey is another touristy town with cute shops, cafes, etc. There was a coffee shop that looked like it came straight out of Brooklyn (Dripworks) that we would have stopped at, except we were hoping to make it to Interlochen, 100 miles away, and wanted to leave enough time to explore Traverse City. I’d like to come back to the northeastern coast of Lake Michigan eventually, though, without such a strict schedule. Had we not used up all of those rest days in Glacier, I would have liked to spend a few days exploring this area because it’s absolutely gorgeous and the water is the perfect temperature for swimming. Why have I never heard about this area before? I think the people who regularly vacation here want to keep it a secret. It’s just perfect here. 

 We climbed a large hill out of Petoskey onto a gravelly paved road leading to Wallon Lake, another tourist town on a turquoise lake. We were setting a slow pace this morning. It was hilly and the hills were quite steep, but I think we also saw how nice it could be to ride bikes slowly when we visited Mackinac Island and sort of subconsciously adopted that slow pace. We decided that we’d probably only make it to Traverse City tonight, 20 miles short of our goal, but the annual film festival was happening this weekend, so campsites and hotels were pretty well booked. We contacted three warm showers hosts in hopes that one of them would accept a last-minute request. 

We carried on to Boyne City, guided by some handy arrows for a local biking event that perfectly matched the circuitous ACA route, to eat breakfast. As an aside, ACA’s route through this region is wacky and it seems inefficient. The maps say this is because they’re trying to keep us on paved roads, but I have to believe there’s a better way. It seems like they’re aiming for the hilliest bits of the state, too!

      We got some local chocolate milk and snacks at the food coop in Boyne City, then sat in a lovely park by the water to eat. This chocolate milk was not quite as good as Crystal Farms or Dairigold, but better than any others we’ve tried. 

    We pushed on, slowly, toward Torch Lake. The hills got worse and so did the headwind. This was some of the tougher riding we’ve done recently and I was more tempted than ever to hitchhike. Enough complaining, though. It was hard work, but we made it through. 

Between each of these tourist towns are a bunch of farms and economically depressed farm towns, much like what we saw further west. It’s strange to see such different lifestyles in such close proximity. From multimillion dollar second homes with multimillion dollar yachts docked out front in Harbor Springs to corn fields and abandoned, crumbling buildings in East Jordan. I suppose this isn’t an uncommon phenomenon,  but it’s interesting to experience it on a bike. 

    Torch Lake is a long, narrow, turquoise lake, and it was spectacular. We got some nice views for the first half mile that we traced the lake, then we stopped at a little baked goods stand called Sami’s Sweets in front of a beautiful lakefront home being run by a pre-teen girl named Sami. Sami is quite the entrepreneur: she had rocky road cookies, chocolate chip cookies, and cupcakes for sale and was even selling a small cookbook that she had professionally printed and bound. All of her goods had stickers with a custom, professionally printed logo, and she had an army of younger kids helping her work the stand (who were quick to tell me that they were not being paid for their labor).  I wish I had that initiative at her age! And the business sense to not pay her employees – genius! We bought one of each thing and the kids’ moms offered to refill out water bottles, a service we are always grateful to receive. 

Another man stopped to buy a cupcake and asked us why we chose the route we chose instead of the more direct route to Traverse City on the other side of the lake. We told him we were following the ACA maps and that we expected this side to be more scenic. He shrugged and said, “yeah, well, you’ve got Alden coming up and that’s one of the more picturesque places you’ll see.” We assumed he was just inured to the beauty and that the rest of the road would still be pretty nice, so we decided not to backtrack toward the shortcut. 

That man was right. Nineteen miles of trees and people’s driveways to their lakefront homes. No water views. Alden was beautiful, though, and we ate at a restaurant called Mama’s Country Kitchen because they were having a Friday fish fry! We’ve heard about Friday fish fries since Fargo, but have never been in the right place at the right time to experience one. We each ate seven large pieces of cod, fries, and Ted ate coleslaw. We were stuffed and reluctant to start the second half of our day. After leaving, we stopped to take one last sit by Torch Lake before pushing on. 

 We made our way to state route 72, which was a pretty busy road. Michigan’s larger state routes are actually pretty nice and have nice shoulders for the most part. But Michigan does this annoying thing with the shoulders on its large state routes, at least the ones we’ve ridden: they create passing lanes by sacrificing the shoulder. And cars don’t react by getting into the left lane to pass with care, even when there’s plenty of room to do so. Of course the first time everyone is obedient to the “keep right except to pass” sign is when I’m riding a bike on a two-foot shoulder. 

Our time on 72 was short, though, and we were rewarded with a dedicated bike path that, aside from a short detour, led us all the way into Traverse City, but first to a Culver’s where we loaded up on Concretes, mine much larger than Ted’s. 


   We stopped at a bike shop to pick up a spare tube because Ted’s back tire has been getting a little splashy after a few days, which he thinks might be the result of a poor patch job. The shop had closed over an hour before, but they accidentally left their “Open” sign on and left the door unlocked. We surprised the guys working there when we walked in, but they still rung us up (they had also forgotten to close out the register – these things happen when you start drinking immediately after closing up the shop) and gave us a handy tip about using a dollar bill as a tire boot. 

Then we headed to a wonderful food coop called Oryana that puts the Park Slope food coop to shame. This place was huge and beautiful, and they had an incredible selection of bulk goods and produce, etc. from local farms. We picked up a few things, got a discount for riding our bikes there, and talked to some friendly folks outside. We mainly talked to Marlene and Isaiah Smith, a couple that recently moved from DC to Traverse City after retiring. They were lovely people and they made us want to move to Traverse City!

We then headed to a bar called The Little Fleet, which is a bar with garage doors that open up into an outdoor eating area and a parking lot with a fleet of food trucks. So cool! Our warm showers host for the night works there, so we went to say hi and grab a beer and maybe something to eat before heading to his house to sleep because we were both exhausted. We both got a beer and tacos (blackened whitefish for me, Korean beef for Ted) and hung out on the patio listening to live music. Ted ran into another bike tourist while getting another round of drinks so we chatted with him for a while. Maarten is from Belgium (Hoegaarden, in fact!) and is traveling from Vancouver to Montreal by way of…the Grand Canyon. This wasn’t his original plan, but he and his traveling partner decided to take a 2,000 mile detour to visit the Grand Canyon and the American Rockies. He’s meeting his Dad in Montreal, and they’re going to explore Quebec together. 

       While we were chatting, Pauly, our host, came over to tell us that his friend offered to finish his shift, so he was free to show us around town. He brought us another round of beers, a mix of Bell’s Two-hearted IPA and a Grapefruit IPA. It’s a Little Fleet special, called the “Jason Allen,” named after the bartender who invented it. 

We ended up sitting and chatting with him for a while. He is an instructor pilot when he isn’t bartending, and he’s getting ready for a bicycle trip from Vancouver to Tijuana in the fall. After a while, we headed to another bar with an extensive taplist, where we had our first sour beers of the trip (aside from those New Glarus bombers, one of which Ted is still carrying).

Pauly kept introducing us to friends of his, and next thing we knew the lights were coming on and the bar was closing. This was not the plan, but it was fun. We made it back to Pauly’s apartment, jumped through the shower, and crashed on his futon around 1:30a. 

I don’t think we’re starting at 6:00a tomorrow. 

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