Archive for July, 2012

Home through mid-Michigan

Wednesday, 25th July 2012; 1:43 pm

Shortly after leaving camp this morning, on a short ride along the Pine River, I chanced across an antique gas station. It’s a fascinating look back into history. It’s located on what’s now a little-used route for residences and small farms along the river, which I’m guessing was more “important” before the highway system developed. The building is just a small wooden structure, with a pump out front. The last price charged was 43 and 8/10 cents per gallon; this would place it around 1970 when it was last selling gas.


Shortly after this I set out on farm roads, which stretched on and on and on. They aren’t unpleasant to ride on; I vastly prefer them to busy highways. They can be relaxing and even scenic in their own way. But after 20 miles without turning, they can get a little… old. The good news is that you don’t need weather radar in farm country: just look out to the horizon and you can see whatever might be coming your way. I had some storms get close, and got a few drops here and there, but again (this time by blind luck) found a hole in the front.

The ride was mostly uneventful. I rode through Greenville and Belding, mostly because those are two nearby cities/villages that… I’ve just never been to. Greenville’s been hard-hit by the closure of the Electrolux refrigerator plant there some years ago, then by the bankruptcy of a solar-panel manufacturing facility. But at least so far the city isn’t falling into ruins.

On my previous ride, my plan to ride out of town on Grand River Drive was thwarted by a race taking place there that day. So I chose to end this ride by coming through in the opposite direction. I picked it up at Lowell, switched to autopilot and rode home. Everything’s just as I left it (well, a couple plants need watering), and I now prepare to return to my life as usual.

Noisy neighbors

Wednesday, 25th July 2012; 7:10 am

The other campers in my part of the campground had a generator going when I arrived, but I didn’t worry because of course they’d turn it off before night. And they did. Then a little after 10, when I was completely dark and I couldn’t relocate… they turned it on. And left it on all night. I was tired so I fell asleep quickly enough, but when I woke up a few times in the middle of the night… it wasn’t so easy. This morning I left a simple note for them explaining the problem.

There’s a huge storm system moving in across… the UP. 🙂 Glad I’m not there today. There’s also a line of rain that’s going to cross my path some time this morning. So I’ll gear up when it gets close and hope for a gap.

I have 120 miles to go today. But since I have no sightseeing planned, it should take less than the 6 hours that might otherwise take. I should be home for lunch.


Reflections on 2012

Tuesday, 24th July 2012; 9:44 pm

The trip’s not over, so this is a little premature, but there isn’t much to do here at the campground, and I’m too tired to go anywhere, so… a few thoughts about how it went.

I brought some new gear this time. The tent (Sierra Designs Light Year 1) is new this year (it also went to Indiana earlier I the summer), an update of the one that went missing last year. It is just slightly roomier than the old one, which I appreciate. I can actually sit up in it. 🙂 I’m not sold on some of the other design changes, but there are no show-stoppers.

The good camera (Fujifilm Finepix HS20EXR) is new this year too. The bulk and weight is a little more of a pain to carry around (as if my bag weren’t heavy enough already), but it’s performed well. The autofocus is frustratingly hit-or-miss (my kingdom for full manual focus!), and the exposure makes some odd choices, but it’s pretty easy to override the exposure, so that’s not a major problem. It lasted until today on a single set of lithium batteries (I brought spares). None of the pictures posted on the blog so far are from that camera; they’re all from my iPhone, which does pretty well for snapshots.

Last year I brought my Nook, in case I got stuck anywhere I the rain without Internet. It came in handy instead when I got stuck in a Motel 6 with only TV. I brought it this year for the same reason as last year, but I haven’t used it. Which doesn’t mean it was a mistake; I haven’t needed most of the stuff in the first-aid kit either.

The air mattress – taking its first trip ever this past week – was a smart purchase. I really should have gotten it right after last year’s spine surgery. I’ve slept better this year than with the foam pad, and haven’t had any problems with my nerves being pinched. I’m not crazy about the waterbed-ness of it, but I like being able to sleep in more positions without it hurting. I kinda wish I’d gotten the wider version, though; if I lie flat on my back, my arms fall off the sides, which feels awkward.

I think the Frogg Toggs rainsuit may have seen its last ride. I’ve had them for 10 years, and they’re starting to wear and rip in a few places.

The scooter is far from new. It’s going to be close to 17,000 miles when we get home. It amazes me how well he’s held up… Getting the same gas mileage and going even a little faster than he did the first couple years. If you want a good scooter: buy Genuine.

I’m not new either. But I’m definitely in better shape than last year, and also more fit than the previous two years. I’ve put on a bit of weight in the past several years, and it was showing in the level of physical endurance, flexibility, and just the ability to climb a sand dune without gasping for breath. I’ve been working seriously on that this year. I still have a ways to go (another 20 pounds off would be good), but I’ve gotten better.

Most of the route I took this year was “leftovers”: counties I didn’t choose to ride through on previous trips. But they really shouldn’t have been. Today, for example, was great, and the ride north was pretty cool too. And the remaining counties in the UP should be good as well.

Aside from the rain on the way to Petoskey and the wind yesterday at the Straits, the weather has been cooperative. That’s about as good as one can hope for. There’s a chance of rain tomorrow, but if I get wet… I can fix that when I get home.

(The above is a rare image taken by me using flash. Of Flash. 🙂 )

Last night for 2012

Tuesday, 24th July 2012; 6:26 pm - Location:

It’s remarkably hard to get a bite to eat in this town. I first tried the Sanford Lake Bar & Grill, which is conveniently located on Sanford Lake, just a short distance down the street from the campground. But for some reason (I overheard someone leaving saying it was unusual) it was packed, with lots of people waiting for a seat. Because it’s Taco Night?

Anyway, I consulted the Internet, which suggested an inexpensive place in Sanford proper, about 4 miles away. Which I couldn’t get to because the main road through Sanford is under construction, sending me on a detour around the village to approach from the other side. I suppose Alex’s Railside family restaurant is a more wholesome atmosphere than that tavern. 😉

If you look at the map on the main page right now (it’ll change tomorrow night) you’ll see that the entire Lower Peninsula has been colored in, except for one county, right in the middle. That’s Isabella county, location of Mount Pleasant. I’ll be going through it tomorrow morning. Four years ago when a embarked on my first ride (along the Lake Michigan coast) this seemed like a faraway goal. Now it’s almost here.

Of course there are still eight counties in the western UP I haven’t been to (at least by scooter), so I’m not finished. I’ve mapped that trip out, and it’s definitely doable in a week, though just getting to the UP and back would add probably 3-4 days to it. That’s something to work out in the months to come.


Black Creek State Forest

Tuesday, 24th July 2012; 5:07 pm

Like I said: more farmy.

The last half (third?) of the day’s riding was – as anticipated – less scenic than the rest. In fact as soon as I turned south onto M30 out of Rose City, traffic got a little ugly. It isn’t just the number of vehicles coming up behind, but the number oncoming as well, because the latter limit the ability of the former to pass. Needless to say, I took to the county roads as quickly as I could.

One car that refused to pass me for about a quarter mile eventually turned onto a side road – just the patient sort, it seems – where I briefly glimpsed him startling two deer in the road. I also saw a small herd of wild turkeys, and came within 10 feet of colliding with a crow in flight.

On one of the country roads (the one pictured above, on fact) I met a little black covered buggy driven by a young woman in a turquoise dress. I smiled and nodded; she briefly waved her hand, smiling politely.

A total of 185 miles today, in 9 hours of riding. That includes all time on sightseeing breaks, lunch, refueling, etc. So pretty much in line with my 20 miles-per-hour rule of thumb for how much territory I can cover in road-trip mode.

Black Creek State Forest campground is what I expect a state forest campground to be: quiet and rustic. I have t explored the whole grounds (I just took the first spot that looked amenable) but I only see one other camping party. Unsurprisingly, there is a creek and a forest.


Huron National Forest

Tuesday, 24th July 2012; 1:33 pm

I broke camp at about 8am, and headed south on M33 into Atlanta. Which is much smaller than the one in Georgia. I filled up at exactly 16600 miles, which helps keep track of how far I’ve gone.

From there I took my first diversion off M33, onto a nice wooded road paralleling it (but bendy). But that only lasted so far and I was back on M33. Fortunately the reason there are limited roads to choose from around here is the limited demand for them: traffic was sparse.

After passing through Fairview, I entered Huron National Forest, which was the “destination” for today. And it was a good one. I took a chance on a road running along the Au Sable River, and it paid off. It was a nice wooded, winding ride, and offered access to great views of the river an the various dam ponds along it.

One stop didn’t offer much of a view, but was worth the visit nonetheless. It was in the middle of an area that had been clear cut back in 1995, to allow a new planting of jack pines. The ornithologists reading this already know what this is about: Kirtland’s warbler. This is one of the few places (the others being west of here) where the warbler nests in the spring, and it only does so in stands of youngish jack pines. These used to develop naturally following wildfires, but humans control those now, so we have to simulate them by clear cutting.

At one point when I’d stopped to take pictures, I heard the growl of hawgs coming from around the bend ahead. A herd of a dozen of them roared past, and I gave them the two-fingered low-hand salute that bikers not-so-secretly share. Several returned it, and one waved for me to join them. Which might have been fun (if I could keep up) but I pointed that I was going in the other direction. 🙂

I’d planned two routes for today, one with a shorter (but less interesting) itinerary, in case I was getting tired of all the riding. I started on the longer route, but improvised a little, late in the morning. I was making good time (even with the sightseeing), I was enjoying the day, and i had enough gas, so I extended the route a bit.

It turned out I didn’t have enough oil. That surprised me, because I’d added a pint back at Tahquamenon. Probably the heat (air temp and engine temp) using up more than usual. The “add oil” indicator came on, so I dug out my emergency 3.2oz bottle of 2-stroke oil and put it in the oil reservoir, making a note to keep an eye open for somewhere to buy a full quart. Which I found a mile later (easily close enough to ride with the oil light on). At least now I’m set for the rest of the ride (and then some).

I stopped briefly at Rifle River Rec Area (which I didn’t stay at last night because it’s too far south, and won’t stay at tonight because it’s too far north. Not having a swim suit, canoe, or mountain bike, it had little to offer me today, so I went on into Rose City, where I found the Faull Inn (not a typo) restaurant and bar. The Philly cheese steak sandwich is on special, very large, and yummy.

I’m out of the national forest region now, so the ride will probably get more farmy and less fun. But my concerns that the ride at this point would have descended into anticlimax and just wanting to get home, have not come to pass.

That’ll be tomorrow.