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Where do you spend the winter months training?
On the Road - The Journey Begins
Day 1: Milwaukee, WI -> Maple River Campground, Pewamo, MI
Distance: 87.67 miles
Time: 5 hours 53 minutes
Average Speed: 14.9mph
Much to my relief, everything went flawlessly on the first day. There were a few unexpected events and things to consider for future days, but going only five miles further than planned can count as a successful day.
The weather could not have been much more ideal. Sunny skies and dormant flags made for a simple ride where the only limiting factor would be my fitness. When doing a trial back in Wisconsin the week before, I had been convinced that 12 mph would be my speed but I was pushing a faster pace than expected. This was most likely due to the favorable weather, but I also managed to shed a few pounds in my trailer the night before.
I find riding with a loaded trailer very similar to being on the trainer. If you are not pushing the pedals, you are not going much of anywhere. There is much less coasting with a touring bike loaded with fifty pounds. This made the day long and consistent.
The ferry on the first Wednesday morning proved highly anti-climactic. As the ship sailed off in the early morning, Milwaukee fading into dim shapes on the skyline behind and the sunrise guiding the ship east, I realized my adventure had arrived. Yet the two hour ride quickly turned into a nap time and disembarking in Muskegon, MI was uneventful. Between the ferry and the time change, I did not clip in until 10 a.m. I lost valuable riding time and with the longest day of my tour on the doorstep, I was concerned with the late start.
Michigan riding brought out two surprises. The rolling hills proved more difficult than expected, forcing me to focus on carrying momentum even in the late hours of riding when my focus was fading towards the hot shower ahead. Also, unexpected turns onto gravel roads were more prevalent than I anticipated. A touring bike may be sturdier than road or triathlon bikes, but I was not about to roll the dice on how many miles this gravel went on for. These mild changes in navigation were small hindrances, but something to look out for in the coming days.
Finishing day one at a campsite, I had ample time to get a meal of ramen noodles, oatmeal and a spoonful of peanut butter as well as other chores that come with the campground life.
Day 2: Pewamo, MI -> Flint, MI
Distance: 56.43 miles
Time: 3 hours, 53 minutes
Average speed: 14.5 mph
I got off to a somewhat late start after enjoying another shower and meal of oats with peanut butter. Packing up camp was a bit difficult in the morning dew but I was happy that it wasn’t rain. My legs felt fresh and I was looking forward to a much easier day on the saddle.
I took a total of three roads the entire 60 miles. I was ever more appreciative of the gridded roads that made up the Midwest. Navigation was made easy and without any wind, the day looked promising even though the weather looked ill. Stopping for a traditional gas station breakfast early in the morning, I hit halfway before noon and was looking forward to getting in early.
The first flat tire of my trip occurred somewhere in the first hour of my day. I felt the drag of a flat but looking down, I couldn’t see what the issue was. It wasn’t until I rolled into a gas station that I realized my trailer tire behind that big yellow bag wasn’t pulling its weight. Without a spare tube for that tiny wheel, I brought out the patch kit and sat on the curb of a rural gas station entertaining curious but quiet looks from the few locals passing by.
Despite the rain forecast, I lucked out again and thought maybe there was some truth to the story that if you have rain gear in your pack, you won’t need it. I was 20 miles west of Flint when a curious man asked about my route. Mentioning Flint, he asked if I was carrying a gun with very stern eyebrows. I knew Flint was notoriously dangerous, but this affirmation made me uneasy.
Yet rolling into Flint proved to be the most personable and cycling-friendly area of Michigan I had seen thus far. Despite that fact, I was not about to go out on a run through this town I have never been through before. My next day includes the unpredictable international border crossing and the beginning of my Canadian leg. Although I had plenty of friendly waves and very few angry honks on the roads of Michigan, I was ready for seeing some new license plates.