Sunday, July 01, 2018

The Touring Series: Speed Touring

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 rejoin the three touring cyclists as they leave Peshtigo, Wisconsin and head for the U.P. of Michigan........
After lunch, we headed out again on our final bit of riding in Wisconsin. Now we were in an urban area and traffic was loud and the roads were busy. Totally unlike our morning ride, shrouded in mists and ultra peaceful. The highway we found ourselves on was the straightest way into Marinette, but it was not a lot of fun!

Troy was on a mission to put in miles, so stops were limited to direction finding through the city. The city had some pretty cool historical sites and buildings, but we didn't linger around long enough to find out anything about them. Flying over a bridge, we left Wisconsin and entered Menominee, Michigan. Now going through the city at a high pace, I turned to see Steve lagging behind a bit. No way to get Troy's attention here. It was too loud and too busy. I just turned back around, shifted up a gear, and pedaled away. Hoping Steve would hang on, I didn't look back. Troy was up the road, and I didn't want to lose contact with him.

We were hard along the lake now. Green Bay was huge and it seemed as if I was looking out on the ocean. Not a lot of time could be spent gawking though. The road turned away from the lake for a bit as it curved around the last bit of town and then we were on a two lane road headed along the northern shoreline. Troy had mercifully stopped for a brief moment to gather us all up again.

Now we had been going at a fairly steady pace all week, but I figured we had not gone over 12 miles at a crack in one sitting without stopping. That was about to change. Troy pointed to the map where it said Cedar River. "See that? We're not stopping until we get there!", Troy declared with some authority. Some amazed protest from Steve was not heard by Troy, as he was already clipped in and starting up the road before Steve finished his sentence. I shrugged and started off in pursuit. I assumed Steve did likewise.

The road was busy with traffic, so we were obliged to ride in single file along the narrow paved shoulder. It was okay, because we were out of harms way on the shoulder, that is until it got narrower, busted up, and then disappeared all together. Now I was a bit nervous, and you know, fear is a great motivator! I was flying now right on Troy's rear tire. This stretch of road seemed to take forever, and soon I just became aware of my breathing. The rhythm of it. The hum of the tires on the pavement was mesmerizing. The monotony was only broken up by the occasional driveway scattered with gravel that we would swerve out to avoid, if traffic wasn't an obstruction to that.
A super-rare shot from Cedar River Michigan of our bikes. Mine was the chrome one.
I don't know how I did it, but I maintained the furious pace set by Troy all the way into Cedar River, which turned out to be just a spot in the road for a restaurant and resort. We parked our bikes to rest up and refresh ourselves a bit. The sun was out, but it wasn't all that hot. It was hazy, sort of dreamlike. We took turns running in to use the bathroom and to grab some grub. I looked at Steve and asked how far that stretch was. He replied that it was about 25 miles. Wow! We just cracked off 25 miles in one shot. I was amazed. But we weren't finished yet. Troy wouldn't be happy until we reached Escanaba. I suppose I agreed, because there really wasn't anything else between Cedar River and Escanaba anyway!

Back to the grind! We were soon running at the same fast pace, cranking out miles underneath us. Racing to beat the setting sun. We crossed over into the Eastern time zone, which was a first for me. No time to celebrate though. Head back down and hammer! The rest of the afternoon was a blur. I just wanted it to end. Would we get to Escanaba before sun set? I wasn't so sure we would.

Finally we gained the outskirts of the city. We spied a sidewalk opposite of us as the road went to four lanes and traffic picked up tremendously. The sidewalk was smooth, almost new, if it wasn't new. It was like riding on glass compared to the rough road into the city we had ridden all afternoon. We hadn't stopped coming from Cedar City but once, so we were famished from our hard efforts. The first order of business- Food! Troy and I spied a Taco Bell several blocks ahead of us. The decision was made! I think I ordered everything on the menu, and scarfed it down gladly!

While we ate our grub, I noticed that it was cool, windy, but most of all, the twilight seemed to last forever here. The sun didn't seem to want to set. I figured out later I was just seeing the effects of being further north than I was used to. Anyway, it seemed weird up there that way.

Finally we were rolling again wondering where we would be spending our night. Suddenly we realized we were going by some enormous fairgrounds. We saw a sign that declared the U.P. State Fair was going to be opening in about a week. Hmm......... Could we poach a spot here to sleep? We pulled in and soon came across some folks in an R.V. sitting in lawn chairs. We talked to them and learned that the folks in the U.P. do not think they belong to Michigan or Wisconsin, so they have their own "State Fair". They figured we would be okay to tent it overnight, but waved us off in another direction. We took no notice of that, and went around the corner of a large building that had an opening to the east. We went in to see that it was a big show barn for judging livestock. It had just been spread with about four inches of fresh wood chips Nice and comfy. Steve then spied some folks coming out of a smaller building with towels. A shower house? We figured it was open for help that was there setting things up for the fair.

Well, we squatted right there, found the showers and took a nice long hot one, and repaired back to the cool blackness of the interior of the show barn. It was now getting dark outside. No one had come around to check on us, so we pulled our bikes in as far as we could from the door, laid out our sleeping bags on the wood chips, and fell asleep for the night.

I was beat. We did well over a hundred miles that day. I was amazed later that we had hammered away all afternoon like we did, putting in well over half the mileage of the day in two big stretches. Amazing!

This was the hardest day of riding we had done the entire week. Speeds were crazy high for loaded touring and Troy was not having any of this "slowing down". He was Hell bent for leather and wasn't about to let this goal of reaching Canada slip away without a fight.

I suppose on any other day or in a different time we would have been taking back roads, but since we were pressed for time, Troy put us on the most direct route which was a busy, broken up, two lane highway. It was the worst for being friendly and having any conversations.. In fact, we didn't have any conversing, except at Cedar River and then at the end, in Escanaba. Otherwise it was total head down, all business riding.

Steve never made a pip about it, which was odd, but he probably hated the road we were on as much as I, and wanted to get it over with as soon as possible. Whatever the reason, it was Troy, myself, and Steve in third wheel all afternoon.

Stay tuned for Day Seven: Mutiny!

No comments: