Sunday, June 24, 2018

The Touring Series: Approaching The Big Lake

A Guitar Ted Productions Series
 Welcome to "The Touring Series". This series is a re-posting of a story I told here on this blog in 2008. The story is about what I named the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour". This was a fully loaded, self-supported bicycle tour from just Northeast of Waterloo, Iowa starting in a little village named Dewar and the goal was to get to Sault Ste. Marie, Canada in one week's time. The plan called for us to be picked up there and taken home by car.

  As mentioned, cameras, smart phones, and the like did not exist for us in 1994, so images will be few. There are some though, and I will sprinkle those in when they are relevant. I will also sprinkle in any modern images of places we visited when applicable and when I can find images that convey the same look as 1995. 

We join the "Beg, Borrow, and Bastard Tour" as it embarks from Gillett, Wisconsin to begin Day Six.......
As Troy, Steve, and I got our things packed we looked at the maps and decided that we would need to get East in as straight a direction as possible. That meant hopping on to the State highway that ran straight east after leaving town on the northern end. We got geared up and set off in a thickening fog on a cool morning.

After setting off down the road from Gillett, it was obvious that our choice was a rather sketchy one. Even though we had our "blinkies" on, the fog was so thick that we didn't see cars coming from the other direction until they were nearly on top of us. We all knew what that meant, even though we hadn't communicated about it. We were nearly invisible to cars!

Well, we hadn't gone down the road far, in pretty constant traffic, when we heard the unmistakable sound of an air horn being applied from behind us. The driver didn't just toot it either. He was laying on it, and it was getting louder and louder from behind us. First Troy bailed off the road, then Steve shortly after. I contemplated holding my ground, but with the deafening noise of the air horn seemingly right in my ear, I thought better of it and steered for the ditch. Good thing too. A huge dump truck went by in a blur right down the white line where we were riding just moments before.

Well, that had us pretty shook up. We gathered ourselves up, and pulled out the map to find some sort of way out of the death trap we had found ourselves in. There was a little discussion and then it was decided to go to a county road leading northwards off the highway not more than a half a mile up the road. It wasn't to Troy's liking, since we didn't take the time to figure out where to go after the turn, but Steve and I were insistent that we get off the busy highway as soon as possible, then we could talk. Troy wanted a plan laid out so we wouldn't have to stop, but our desires won out.

Once we found the northward road, the moods changed dramatically, and the quietness of the back road was a welcome reprieve from the mayhem of the highway. We found a straight road east not far from us, so we headed out in search of it and the next town up the road. Once we got rolling we found the fog lifting, but it was very calm and cool this morning. Eventually we rolled up to an intersection and a town just across from it.

It was a little town called Lena and as we rolled through we caught a waft of fresh pastries. That was a siren call to stop. Even Troy fell to its power and thought getting something to eat would be a great idea. We all were very pleased with our purchases and devoured them accordingly. It wasn't long before we were back in the saddle again heading eastwards for a turn northwards towards Peshtigo, where we hoped to be before noon.

After anxiously looking for what we thought was our turn, we stopped right in the middle of the road and consulted the map. I don't think we had encountered a car since leaving the highway out of Gillett, so we all felt confident in stopping right there in the road. We were all confused, because we felt that our mileage was enough to have carried us eastward to the turn off, and very near Lake Michigan, but we couldn't see anything. The fog was to blame partly, as it wasn't right on the ground anymore, but caused enough haziness as to make sighting anything around us very difficult. Suddenly, as if the veil had been lifted from our eyes, what we thought was a field of grass in the distance in front of us was finally seen for what it was- Lake Superior!

We now knew where we were. The turn was found, and we headed northwards to a highway and our final run in to Peshtigo. It was about 11:30 am and we were looking for a bite to eat. We found a small cafe, where there was a waitress that struck me as being sad, with far away eyes, but I really had no other reason to mark her out. Something about that look in her eyes. Anyway.......

We got on our way after much delay. Troy was very anxious to put in some miles towards our Canadian destination. Time was running out, with only one more day to go for the tour. Troy wasn't going to let this slip away without a fight. I thought I knew what that meant, but I was in for a surprise or two!

After all these years this is one of the days from that 1994 tour I often am reminded of. That foggy morning was super sketchy! Traffic was heavy on a narrow, two lane highway on a Friday morning. I imagine we escaped by the skin of our teeth that morning, but what was really crazy was that Steve and I had to practically argue with Troy to get him to not go back to that madness again.

Ironically the peaceful morning stop for pastries was met with gladness by Troy and the vast difference in feel to that point from earlier made it seem that these two memories happened on different days now.

Then the mirage-like appearance of the Lake, Michigan, was amazing. That is something that seemed magical and I won't soon forget that day just because of that. Then the slog into Peshtigo was reminiscent of our departure from Gillett. Many cars, stressful, no fun at all.

Lunch was a respite, we lingered a while in that small cafe. I still can see that waitresses eyes......

Next Week: Speed Touring


Rjl33 said...

I believe that your geography or memory needs work. Peshtigo is at least 125 miles from Lake Superior; unless you have Lake Superior and Lake Michigan confused. Thank you for your daily writing about cycling. Your feelings about the Black Mountain Cycles cross frame convinced me to buy last year, and I could not be happier with the decision.

Guitar Ted said...

@Rjl33- Ha1 You are correct, of course. I changed everything to reflect this. Thanks!

Robert Ellis said...

And you found "a girl, with far away eyes.." "And if your downright disgusted, And life ain't worth a dime, Get a girl with far away eyes."