Ludington, Mi. To Garlets Corners, Mi.: Grey Day Ahead - Headlong Into The Petri Dish - CycleBlaze

September 10, 2020

Ludington, Mi. To Garlets Corners, Mi.: Grey Day Ahead

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Last night, and again this morning, we decided to do some Coffee Maker cooking. It’s Margaret’s favorite thing to do on a bike tour, because it reminds her of backpacking. Basically, coffee maker meals are accomplished by using hot water from the in-room coffee machine as the only device to prepare your food and beverage. Last night we poured its hot water into the pouch full of freeze dried backpacking food (Fettucini Alfredo, allegedly) and this morning used it to make the old standby oatmeal and Starbucks instant coffee. I also brought along plenty of my favorite flavoring agents for oatmeal and coffee ... Mr. White and Mr. Brown.

Coffe Maker Cooking, With Our Sugary Friends, Mr. White and Mr. Brown
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Margaret Says There’s Nothing Like A Good Cuppa Joe
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It had rained much of the night but ceased by the time we got out of bed around 7:30 (Michigan Time, 6:30 Wisconsin time). Shockingly, we were outside the motel packed and ready to rumble by 9:30. We are notorious for being laggards in the morning. On the bikes we meandered though the streets of Ludington (High School nickname the Orioles! I would have laid big money on them having a nautical nickname. An opportunity lost for Ludington, I say) and easily found our way into the countryside.

On Schedule
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Eight miles into the ride I hear an odd, rhythmic sound that seems to match the cadence of my wheel. *tick* *tick* *tick* A holler to Marg pulled us to the roadside and to my dismay I find a tack stuck in my rear tire. I can see little water bubbles from the wet road forming as the air slowly leaks out around the tack head.

The Saddest Biker In Michigan
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Jacquie GaudetAre those rims tubeless ready? If so, have you converted them yet? I love riding tubeless!
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8 months ago
Mike JamisonThey are tubeless ready but we haven't quite gotten the courage to go that route ... mostly an "old dog, new tricks" problem.But we are right on the verge of having gravel bike frames delivered and our LBS will be building them, so we may take the plunge with them. But, you are a fan? Could you share your experience and any pro/con observations?
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8 months ago

Well, shit, man. You always go into a long tour expecting a flat. If you have none, bonus for you, but it’s always best to assume you’ll need to change a tube or two along the way. But seriously ... eight miles into the ride? It threw a little shade into the day for sure. I thought I’d be able to pull the tack out with my fingernails, but wow, it was well and truly stuck. I grabbed our needle-nosed pliers and gave a yank, but still no luck. Good lord, was this thing coated with super glue? I applied Herculean Level strength and slowly pulled out the tack ... which wound up actually being a roofing nail. Honestly, what dark combination of physics and bad Juju flips an inch long roofing nail into the position to puncture your tire? “Man,” said Margaret, “You have the worst luck with flats.” She set about helping me get the rear wheel (always the rear wheel that flats!) off and mending the damage. I have to admit, it felt like much of the air was leaking from the Balloon of Joy right then.

Good Lord. Evil Little Bastard.
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As we were focused on all this we hear a voice behind us ... “Hey, is everything OK?” ... and turn to around to see a touring cyclist stopped to check on us. Turns out our visitor was Mike, who had started his ride in Farmer City, Illinois about 10 days ago. He is on his way up and over the top of Lake Michigan, then riding down the Mississippi River Trail to Mobile, Alabama and maybe over to Florida and to Key West if he has the time. He’s planning 10 weeks on the road. What a great guy! He’d been working the last three years as a logistics manager for a company in Los Angeles but was recently laid off because of Covid. With a healthy severance package in his pocket he decided to do this ride. His very own Summer of George! The three of us had a great 15 minute chat while I fixed the flat.

Old Mike and our new friend Young Mike. A great guy!
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So, as Margaret later said, “From sorrow comes joy.” Had I not flatted we’d never had met another person from the touring tribe. It was a little sprinkle of magic and made the flat almost exhilarating.

In another 15 miles we rode into Free Soil, Michigan, Pop. 144. Although this town has an awesome name, there is a overlay of sadness here. Just south of the village is a memorial to a Michigan State Police Trooper who lost his life at that spot in 2013. I’d forgotten that I had ridden by this location on a solo tour around Lake Michigan five years ago. A sad, sad event. Short version, the trooper pulled over a local person for a routine traffic stop. The guy had a gun and shot the trooper, killing him. Later the shooter was apprehended, only to commit suicide while in custody. Ugh. Ugh. Ugh.

Sad Memorial South Of Free Soil
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Riding through Free Soil we saw a small gas station ahead. We decided to stop to buy some snacks. But, no. Out of business. Perhaps a Covid casualty. Oh well, instead we saw what looked like the public school a block ahead. We’d pull over there for a quick break and some eats.

The Abandoned School Buildings in Free Soil
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More sadness. The original school, a beautiful structure from the early 1900’s was shut down and locked tight. As was the elementary school immediately next door. The old attached gymnasium was also locked up although it was now the community senior center, open two days a week. Peeking through the window we could see the dust covered trophy cases in the entryway of the old high school, and in the large foyer of the gym, I could make out old pictures of basketball teams from the 30’s and 40’s. Trophies for basketball, football, track and field. Later I could google the fact that Free Soil’s High School went defunct in 2007, and the elementary school in 2011.

Fitting Image To Represent The End Of A School
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The shrinking village and surrounding area didn’t have enough kids to support the district, and it died a slow death. It felt like stumbling upon a funeral after everyone paying their respects had gone home. Just the casket holding the dear departed on view was left, forever. There was also a small brick and stone monument in front of the original high school overgrown with weeds. On its top was a plaque paying respect to two men who attended here and passed away long ago, one in the late 50’s and the other the early 60’s. Atop the plaque was a small sundial inscribed, ironically, with: “Count None But Sunny Hours.” I wonder if anyone left in Free Soil remembers these men, or their history. It felt like a another bit of the little town’s fabric fading away.

“Count None But Sunny Hours”
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Margaret and I are both retired educators and there is nothing more sad than seeing a shuttered school. When a small community loses its school, it starts to wither and die, and I’m afraid that is happening in Free Soil. I could look through a window at the end of the elementary hallway and still see the artwork painted on the walls. A little schoolhouse saying Free Soil Elementary founded xxxx (couldn’t make out the year), and some others images I’m sure teachers and students worked on together. It just accentuated the sadness for me. All that’s left is a decaying time capsule.

Margaret’s Art Card Of The Bench
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We left feeling badly for Free Soil, and I’m sorry to say there was no magical counterbalancing moment to that. Sorry, lets’ pick up the emotional tempo a little here shall we?

We trucked along for many miles in the green forests of Michigan. It was soothing. The day was cool, the sky seemed to be trying to rain but could never quite muster the focus to do so.

Rolling Along Through The Grey Day
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Tonight we are staying in a cabin at Peterson Creek Camping & Cabins. It’s a rugged little vacation spot with camp sites, RV spots, and seven rustic cabins that have seen better days on the outside but are clean as a whistle on the inside. $79 a night. I chatted with the young lady who checked us in. She and her husband are the on-site managers, as the place is owned by someone else. They are not paid, but get to live in the small house attached to the office for free. She runs the day-to-day operations, he does upkeep and repair on weekends and after he is done with his day job on weekdays. She didn’t complain but I think they work hard, and they have a three year old son. Smart young woman, but working her ass off.

The Resident Chickens At The Campground
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The Inside Of The Cabin. Old, But Clean.
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There we go! Hmmm ... just re-read this entry and although it sounds a little sad and dark, it was a pleasant day’s ride. All that tragedy and decline around Free Soil made real the pressures on small town and rural America. So many strong, proud little places have fought the good fight but have almost evaporated over the decades. Maybe that’s a good thing about bike touring. You don’t fly over or drive by the real struggles people have, you get a sense of what’s happening “on the ground.”

That’s enough. Thanks for reading!

Today's ride: 59 miles (95 km)
Total: 60 miles (97 km)

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