[Ed.: Around the Writing Studio and Bait Shop we’re betting that Joanne and Tom roll into Blue Heaven about 2:00 on Tuesday. Best of all, they’ll still be speaking to each other. Tired, though.]
Day 37: Mesick, Michigan 68 miles
We have the best kids in the world. A little while after we checked into our motel this afternoon, a knock came at the door and it was Lindsey and Tyler! With Dozer, Abbey, Sammy and Dylan! That was a van full of animal! What a great surprise. We knew Tyler was headed up with the animals, and expected him to meet us for dinner tomorrow night in Traverse City. We did not expect them tonight, and not here in the middle of nowhere. We did not expect Lindsey at all, although I had harbored a secret hope that she might find a way to be here when we rolled into Blue Heaven. I was trying not to let myself think about it so I wouldn’t be disappointed when she wasn’t there. Now we can look forward to having dinner with both of them tomorrow, and they’ll both be there when we arrive! It was great to have our kids here -we went to dinner, along with our friends Connie and Dick, who met us on their way back to the lake from Chicago. They knew nothing of the kids’ plans so they were surprised to find them here. The kids had to do some sleuth work, as we are somewhat of a moving target. We are not at Caberfae tonight as planned, having gone another 15 miles. But we always try to text the kids to let them know we’re in and safe. Tonight I could not resist the Bucksnort Saloon – the name was just a siren call. We stopped in for a beer and sent the kids a text and the picture. So they knew where to start looking for us. Since I talk to people everywhere I go and they know half my life story by the time I leave, the lady at the Bucksnort knew where we were staying and directed the kids here. I think we are the only guests at the optimistically named Manistee Crossings Family Resort, which is actually a run-down-sort-of-renovated 12 unit motel. The owners immediately gave Lindsey our room number (what ever happened to privacy?!), and here we were. Everyone has gone on to Torch Lake, and Tom and I are here by ourselves at 8:30 at night, trying to pass the time. It felt a little odd not to be going with them, but we have a job to finish.
Actually, passing the time may not be an issue. I’m getting sleepy and may have to finish this in the morning.
The ride today was tremendous, better than we could have hoped. The bicycle shop owner in Ludington suggested roads that he knew would be paved, which got us the first half of the day, and we chose the rest by map, Google, and GPS. They were wonderful roads and we had them almost to ourselves. The hills we expected never materialized. It was mostly flat until 40 miles, and then only a few rollers. We made a fortuitous decision when we came inland today, as that made much of the ride to the east with the stiff west wind at our backs. Even when we were headed north we felt a slight push. Sunday traffic was minimal. I think the bad weather kept a lot of people home.
We decided to take advantage of all of those factors and went further than we had planned. This will make tomorrow’s ride very short, probably 35 to 40 miles.
The weather was cold, starting out at about 54 degrees, so all those extra clothes we’ve been carrying came in handy. It threatened rain all day, with thick, low clouds, but actually only rained lightly several times for short intervals. Just enough to insure we stayed damp. But it was a beautiful ride. The damp and that glowy ambient light makes everything greener and kind of mysterious. The other picture is just down a small side road (“Seasonal Road – not plowed by the Mason County Road Commission”).
A good part of our ride was through the Manistee National Forest. There are several wonderful rivers crisscrossing this area and we passed any number of canoe liveries and outdoor outfitters. We saw more deer today than the rest of the trip put together. We did not see any bear, but think there must be some, as we saw a sign with a picture of a baby bear in a tree, warning us not to cut “den” trees.
I am finishing this in the morning, and it is 45 degrees outside at 7:45. We are lazing around to give it time to warm up. The sun is out (Yay!) So it shouldn’t take long. Then we are off to Traverse City! We plan to stop on our way in to see our friend Betty Jo Hudson, who is at the rehab center rehabbing her brand new knee. Then we will pedal downtown to the waterfront, and hopefully to the Island View Cottages. Dinner tonight with the kids and our good friend Babs Young.
Day 38: Traverse City, Michigan, 32 miles
We are in Traverse City and checked into the Island View Cottages, unit #9. The picture is taken from the door of our unit. We stayed here on our bicycle trip south last August, and it is a sentimental favorite of mine. It is a remnant of the many “Motor Courts” that dotted this area in my childhood. It is kind of funky and a little run down (the shower is in the wall of the kitchen), but very serviceable, certainly as good as many of the places we have stayed. It is within walking distance of the restaurants on Front Street, and best of all, it has a beach on the west bay. We are sitting there now, in the sun, in lounge chairs. Tom is immune to the charms of this place, but he’s humoring me.
It’s kind of strange – we’re here, where we usually do our errands and everything is so familiar, but we’re sort of NOT here, and acting like we’re from out of town. The kids are in town with the car, running errands, and we’re behaving like visitors!
The ride was good today, although of course there was a lot more traffic than yesterday. Rolling hills and a constant headwind, but we only rode about 32 miles, so it was no big deal. We snuck in the back door of Traverse City without too many traffic issues and went to McDonalds for lunch. Then we headed to the rehab center less than a mile away and spent a pleasant hour and a half visiting with Betty Jo and Babs. Lindsey and Tyler came to visit while we were there.
— finishing this on Tuesday morning–
The kids spent a little time at the beach with us, then we had a wonderful dinner at Amical, one of the many excellent restaurants on Front Street. Babs was there with us, and Lindsey and Tyler, and our good friend and Blue Heaven neighbor Anne LaBrecque. Anne has come all the way from the Detroit area to be here when we arrive! What a great surprise! We only wish our son-in-law Mike could be here. He is home in Knoxville with cross country coaching commitments and finishing up his PhD, so he couldn’t come with Lindsey.
This is the day we have looked forward to for so long. We will see Torch Lake today! We will arrive home today, actually having done this crazy thing! This is the day that I thought would never come! On the third day out, the day from hell that ended at the Bates Motel in Metumpka, Alabama, this day seemed as far away as the moon. But now Alabama, and that very difficult first week, seem far away, and here we are.
I’ve known all along that today would be bittersweet. It is the culmination of years of dreaming and a year of hard planning and preparation. It is unlikely that Tom and I will ever do anything like this again. I may never achieve this level of cycling endurance again, and I will have to stop eating like a teenaged boy! But I am much less morose than I expected to be. Things have been happening so fast, and it has been so wonderful to be with our friends and family. We are headed home, to Torch Lake and Blue Heaven, our favorite place in the world. We have a summer ahead of us to enjoy being there with all of our Torch Lake friends. (Our friend Chris Seward calls it summer camp for adults.). There will be other adventures and projects in our future, we just don’t know yet what they will be. We have everything for which to be grateful.
Day 39: Blue Heaven!
[Ed.: I don’t have Joanne’s last entry yet, but she and Tom are definitely safely at home. Just in time, too–it’s raining out there. Babs says she has some photos of their arrival, and I’ll post those when I get them. I hear that there were some stories on the morning and evening TV news from Traverse City, so a lot of you have probably seen it all already. What an accomplishment!]
OK, here you go:
Day 39: Blue Heaven–Torch Lake, Michigan 39 miles
We’re here! Yay!!
I apologize if this last post seems kind of scattered. I’m feeling kind of scattered myself, suspended between life on the road and life here. I’m trying to take things slowly. Tom, on the other hand, has hit the ground running and is halfway through an impressive to-do list.
I spent the morning lazing around at the cabin, in front of the fire. It was cool and rainy, and that’s always an excuse for a fire, since we have no heat. I was surrounded by dogs (and dozens of boxes to be unpacked, but it will all get done eventually). It’s now afternoon, warm and sunny, so I’m in a bathing suit on the beach, watching Tom and Tyler put the dock in the water. They say you know you’re in Michigan if you wear a ski parka and a bathing suit in the same day! We’ll be back in jeans and sweatshirts before nightfall (which isn’t until about 9:30 at this latitude).
We arrived about 3:45 yesterday afternoon, to a wonderful reception from our kids and Blue Heaven friends, and of course our dogs. The kids had made a 35 foot banner welcoming us and listing each night’s city. Babs made sequential signs placed on the road, that said it all – YEA! – YOU’RE HERE – 39 DAYS – 7 STATES – 1688 MILES – 0 FLAT TIRES! It was a wonderful homecoming.
We had already stopped a mile back at Sonny’s Market in Torch Lake village to say hi to Chris and to have our picture taken with the sign. We came in on a great tail wind and it felt like flying. I can say it now without jinxing us – we have had WAY more than our fair share of tail winds on this trip.
The day started with a phone call from the local TV news station – the very nice young reporter had been told of our trip by a friend of ours, and could she come to interview and video us before we took off on our last day? People would love this story! I didn’t run this by Tom, who I knew would think the whole thing was a lot of to-do about nothing. Sure, I said, come on over! And I hung up the phone.
EEK! Now I had to wash my hair! I had to get get my makeup on before she came! (She was early, so we chatted while I finished putting on mascara, etc.) We also chatted while we ate breakfast. She took a video of us talking a little bit about our adventure, and leaving for the day. She met us about 8 miles later to get some video of us riding, and then again at the end of the day to shoot our welcome at Blue Heaven. She missed our actual arrival, so we had to stage a repeat of the hugs and kisses. She told us to watch for the story at 6:00 and a longer version at 11:00.
We missed the 6:00 story as our cable service was activated at about 6:25. Babs has it recorded, so we’ll see it later. The 11:00 version was quite well done. It is amazing how they can take all these disparate snippets and make them into a brief but cohesive whole. Everyone hates the way their own voice sounds, but I was especially shocked at how southern I sounded. The main thing I remember Tom saying on camera was that we got along fine as long as he did everything I told him to do. Those of you who know Tom will have no difficulty picturing him saying that, with that funny smile of his.
If you’re at all interested in seeing our last two minutes of fame, Lindsey is going to include the link where you can see the news clip. [Ed.: There are links to the clip, stills from it, and additional pictures at 39 days, 1688 miles, 7 states and 0 flat tires.]
Apart from the news lady, the ride was as we had expected. I had visualized this last day’s ride so many times, and probably for that very reason, it seemed to just slip by. We had lunch on the deck of the Riverwalk Grill in Elk Rapids, with Lindsey and Tyler, Babs, and Anne LaBrecque. Turns out Anne was the friend who had alerted the news station! Then Anne rode the next hour with us, riding on ahead after that so she could be here when we arrived. She is a very strong rider on a very light bike, so no problem leaving us in her dust. We had our first glimpse of Torch Lake before she left. We had a couple of deer sightings, and we crossed the 45th parallel, which puts us halfway between the equator and the North Pole. It was a beautiful ride along West Torch Lake Drive, we climbed the !#;@#*! hill on Barnes Road, and flew to Blue Heaven on a tail wind and the smooth, wide shoulder on Highway 31.
Anne made a wonderful celebratory dinner for all of us. We toasted with champagne and had a very special evening.
I don’t want to leave all of you. I know these e-mails have been long, sometimes rambling, and full of too much information for some people, but I kept reminding myself that there was always the “delete” button, and nobody HAD to read them. These compiled e-mails and pictures will be our record of the trip.
So many of you have been our rooting section, encouraging us and keeping us company. You’ve wished us tail winds, good weather, and safety. Many of you have been praying for us. Many of you have honored our ride with donations to The Motion Initiative. All of that has been more important to us than we could have known.
I’ve already had final messages from a lot of you who have told me you will miss the daily e-mails. But you won’t miss them nearly as much as I will. I will miss the connection with all of you. Thank you for going on this journey with us!