Frankfort, Mi. to Ludington, Mi.: Closing the Loop - Headlong Into The Petri Dish - CycleBlaze

September 17, 2020

Frankfort, Mi. to Ludington, Mi.: Closing the Loop

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Normally the last day of any tour tends to become a bit of over-cooked pasta, a mealy apple, a sad march back to reality. It’s the day when you start mentally listing all the stuff you need to do once you get home. Lawns to mow, bills to pay, laundry to be done, boxes to be checked so you can get back to the humdrum routine of “normal life.” Really, who wants to go back to normal life? But your “chimp brain” activates all your anxiety neurons and pretty soon instead of watching the scenery go by you are deep in your head Getting Ready For Life.

Margaret Not Quite Leaping Out Of Bed This Morning
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Today was an exception. It might have been one of the best days of the tour, and was certainly the best final day of any long ride we’ve ever taken.

Mailing Today's Art card
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Going into this event we had the expectation that there would be expansive views of water … Lake Michigan, the various bays, and all the amazing inland lakes. That’s not quite the reality though. You DO catch glimpses of all that water, but it tends to play peek-a-boo with you. Instead of miles-long sections of road with panoramic views of the lake, you’ll catch glimpses, flashes, glimmers of the water. It’s tantalizing. But usually the shoreline is a bit off the road, with trees and other growth between, and often also with those McMansions squatting in the way as well. You can “feel” the water but not often see it.

Thank God For That Sign, Or We Would Not Have Noticed ...
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Today DID gift us some long sections of lake riding, on sinuous back roads that were such a pleasure to be ride. There were also a fair number of little towns with public areas directly on the shore and we took advantage of them all.

But we’ll get back to that in a tick or two …

The last few days we have been incorporating a couple Ibuprofen into our breakfast menu and that has been a fortifying addition. Once you cross the line and become an over-60 cyclist, a pro tip would be to pack the entire pharmacy when you travel. No shame in using medical science to keep you from looking like a cripple on the bike.

Straight out of the blocks the route flung us up and down a series of 10% climbs and descents. If you’re familiar with the cycling app Strava you know about segments … sections of the road which riders have identified as competitive markers. Strava records your time on those segments and ranks you on the “Leader Board” for each segment. It’s fun, although some folks are a bit segment crazy. If the segment is up a beastly hill, Strava uses an algorithm to rank it, if it is worthy of ranking. Much like in the Tour de France, the ratings can range from Category 4 (the easiest, though still tough F-ing climbs) up through Cat. 3, 2, 1 and HC, the toughest climb. In the first 13 miles today the route took us up three Cat 4 climbs, all of which had sections of 10 and 11 per cent grades … steep. The payoff was flying down the other side at 35 MPH. Great way to get the blood flowing.

Riding through the little village of Arcadia we bumped in to two minor mysteries … one a disused building with an outer wall covered with 30-40 paintings on small pieces of driftwood, and then mounted on the wall. They had been there a long time judging from the weathering and chipping of the images. It was a beautiful little “stumble-upon” moment and we stopped for a viewing and a photo-op.

The Ancient Art Wall in Arcadia. There's a Story Here ...
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One of Our Favorite Individual Pieces
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The other was a small sign entering town that said, “Arcadia: Home of Harriett Quimby, First Lady of Aviation.” As we rode by I thought, “huh?” Some Googling revealed a fascinating life story, and a sad end. Harriett Quimby was the first woman in the US to obtain a pilot’s license, in 1911, and in 1912 was the first woman to fly across the English Channel. She was born in Arcadia in 1875 and her family moved to San Francisco in the early 1900’s. Before her flying career, she was a Theater Critic for Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly, wrote screenplays which were made into silent movies, and after becoming an aviatrix was the spokesperson for “Vin Fiz,” a a new grape soda. The bummer ending was learning that while flying in an airshow in Boston, she and her passenger were ejected from their open cockpit airplane when it inexplicably lurched downward and threw them from their seats at 1000 feet of altitude. Big life and a jaw dropping ending, all of which started in this tiny village with a current population of 621 people.

What's The Address of the Rumble Strip Complaint Dept.?
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Leaving Arcadia we were cursing the road commissioner, who somehow decided it was a good idea to place the rumble strips almost in the middle of the shoulder, rather than directly on the white fog line. A doubly boneheaded decision given that this route is designated as an official state bicycle route in Michigan. A few sections became even more dicey because it is approaching the time of year when trees are dropping acorns. There were a few sections where we were threading a needles eye between the encroaching rumble strip on the left and the massed acorn piles on the right. Good chance to work on our bike handling skills.

We encountered the Queen Mother of all lake views today, which made the rumble strips, the acorns, and the sad end of Harriett Quimby bearable. Road signs announced a scenic turnout and as we approached it there was a gorgeous, downhill, unobstructed view of Lake Michigan. Stunning. We took a hard right turn and pulled into the turnoff to find the view was a 180 degrees of the entire lake horizon. You couldn’t even get it all in a single photo. The view gods were making up for the peek-a-boo teaser game they’d been playing all trip with water views. We soaked it in, on a gorgeous sun shiny day.

That's A View
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A bonus was when a couple approached and asked, “Were you two riding the Heritage Trail yesterday?” Well, yeah, we said, that was probably us. They both gave us an excited “You two are doing life right!” affirmation and the woman said she pumped her fist in the air and cheered us on when we rode by on the trail. Great people, from North Carolina. We chewed the fat for 20 minutes and all agreed that taking the byways and seeking out the small/oddball places is the way to see the world. Especially on a bike.

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The rest of the day was a beautiful procession through similar experiences. Views, nice people, interesting sights. The cherry on top of a great ride.

Greatest Lunch Break of the Trip
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More Water Views!!!
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The final treat came within 10 miles of Ludington, where we would be repeating much of the route we had taken out of town eight days earlier. We were going to be on some roads that had a few potholes, some sketchy edges, and perhaps that same roofing nail lurking if it somehow managed to crawl back to the roadside. Imagine our glee in finding that in the last seven days the county had actually repaved about four miles of the worst part of those roads! Seriously! Absolutely fresh tarmac, still steaming.

The Real Michigan Pothole Ice Cream Flavor.
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Marg's Art Card, Mashing Up Edible and Inedible Potholes
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We stayed in a nifty little motel, and were able to find a hole-in-the-wall Thai cuisine restaurant and ate at an outside table. Ice cream cones afterwards, and Margaret’s last art card made the junction between the many potholes we had seen on the backroads, with her newly discovered and favorite ice cream flavor called "Michigan Pothole,” a double chocolate flavor with chocolate chunks big enough to break a spoke if you hit them wrong.

Grizzly Old Dude ... AKA, Moi.
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Tomorrow we get up early, eat breakfast and ride to the ferry for the return to Wisconsin and home. These bike trips are so good. Always a Yin to every Yang. Great weather/Gruesome weather. Beautiful views/dreary views. Easy days/Hard days. The bike is an amazing machine. You go just fast enough to cover an impressive distance in a single day, but slowly enough to understand the gradual changes of the terrain, of the culture, of the people and their attitudes (especially two months before a presidential election, lemme tell you!). It's good to test yourself. See if you can still do the physical part, and more important, if you can still "notice" all the nuances out there.

We'll do some sort of not-so-grand wrap up in a day or two, but thank you all for reading. I've said it before, but if there's no one to tell your story to, there's no story to tell. Thanks for being such lovely listeners.

Today's ride: 63 miles (101 km)
Total: 528 miles (850 km)

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