Saturday, July 31, 2010

AAN Day 41 - London to Brantford, ONT

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 68.3 miles Average Speed: 15.8 mph
Vertical: 1489 feet Depart: 8:37 AM Arrive: 1:21 PM
Calories: 4514

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

The start to today's story is right in the parking lot. A number of the folks took the opportunity to go to the local bicycle shop and buy Canada maple leaf jerseys. Of course, we assembled them and took a shot of them all decked out in the new finery.

Once we got on the road, it was a perfect day for cycling. It was about 60 degrees on departure, and stayed overcast the whole day. It was maybe mid 70s when I got in. It did drizzle just a little after I was safely in. As usual, we were on back roads with the typical farms. This shows both a farm, and the type of sky we were dealing with.

Our first SAG was in a nice little town park in the town of Springford. This was followed by a series of small towns, including Otterville, Oakland, and Mt Pleasant. I took a shot of this old church, I believe in Otterville, but it might have been Oakland. It dates to 1887.

I saw about three churches with this type of steeple. I think maybe they were trying to build a fort instead. This one was after I arrived in Brantford. Other than that, I did not see anything very remarkable. I rode on my own, and tried to use the shorter ride as somewhat of a rolling recovery day. I did some pretty intense miles yesterday with the speedsters, and needed a break.
Tomorrow, we will be crossing back into the USA at Niagara Falls.

Friday, July 30, 2010

AAN Day 40 - Port Huron, MI to London, Ontario

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 88.0 Average Speed: 16.5 mph
Vertical: 1843 feet Depart: 7:20 AM Arrive: 1:44 PM
Calories: 6337

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today was a wonderful day on the bike. It started with a little more logistics than usual. We usually load luggage and leave when we are ready. Today, however, they were closing the bridge over the St Clair into Ontario specially for us, so we had to all form up and get ready to depart en masse. Here you see the troops ready to go in the hotel parking lot.

We proceeded smoothly across the bridge. The Canadian customs agent mostly wanted to know if we had any firearms, and no one did, so we were on our way. Of course, we had to stop immediately so everyone could get the "Welcome to Ontario" shots out of the way.

We had a native of Sarnia, Ontario (the town immediately across the bridge in Ontario) with us (Jeff Douglas), who set up a meeting with his 85 year old mom, and a detour to a nice park with great views of Lake Huron. Here you can see a number of the riders enjoying the view.

One of the things this did is have virtually everyone riding in a group for the first time for over the first ten miles. I took this shot of the folks in front of me riding along. The whole thing added about 8 miles to our day, but I certainly enjoyed it. After things broke up, I wound up riding at a very fast pace with half our thoroughbred team of Jeff, Joe, and Alex. They took me a good chunk of the way to the first SAG. It was fun, but if I rode like that every day, I would be in the van half the time exhausted.

After the SAG, as chance would have it, I met Toronto Mark along the road with his wife and parents. After introductions, he said let's ride together. We were quickly joined by the remaining thoroughbred member, Dave, and I was off at high speed once again. We went about 10 more miles before we fell apart. Dave and I then went on the BJ's deli in the town of Delaware, where we got a wonderful lunch. We were soon joined by the other thoroughbreds, Mark's wife and parents, staff Jeff, and by the time I left, others were coming in.
I rode the final 20 miles on my own, having done all the fast riding I could handle. I took a picture of an Ontario farm, to show that they grow corn just like MI, WI, MN, and SD. They also had soy bean fields as well.
All in all, the first day in Ontario was a fine time.


Thursday, July 29, 2010

AAN Day 39 - Birch Run to Port Huron, MI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 87.7 miles Average Speed: 16.5 mph
Vertical: 1474 feet Depart: 7:03 AM Arrive: 12:52 PM
Calories: 5900

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today was a great day to be on the bike! It was probably just in the high 50s when we departed, and was still only 72 when we arrived. Much more the way I like it than the 82 at departure we had yesterday. The route took us on the usual country roads. I came across the first vineyard I have seen in Michigan. I am told we have wineries in every state, but haven't always seen the evidence.

Our first SAG was early in the ride (only 26 miles in) at an artesian well site. The water was good for drinking, and it was a nice spot. We had the usual assortment of small towns, including Millington, Brown City, and Yale. The second SAG was at a nice park in Yale. The following picture is about as typical as the scenes from today get. The Michigan farm with either soybeans or corn, a barn, and a few trees to boot.

One of the things we have seen is a lot of campaign signs. As I was coming in to Port Huron, I found this one. I didn't even know Jim Downey had a Michigan residence, and here he is running for the court. I couldn't resist documenting this. I wonder if it is a relative.
We ran along Lakeshore Drive for several miles, catching frequent glimpses of Lake Huron. I took a little detour at the end to get a good look at the Blue Water Bridge over the St Clair River into Ontario. We will make our way there tomorrow. The shot is looking under the bridge towards Lake Huron.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

AAN Day 38 - Mt Pleasant to Birch Run, MI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 76.2 miles Average Speed: 17.6 mph
Vertical: 727 feet Depart: 7:37 AM Arrive: 12:31 PM
Calories: 5491

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

There is really not a lot to say about today. As one of the riders said as we were unloading, today was mainly about getting from point A to point B. I took a grand total of 2 pictures, both of which will be seen here.
We woke with a little concern about the weather. Depending on who you listened to, there was from a 30% to a 60% chance of rain for the day. A few sprinkles fell while we were still in the parking lot, but that turned out to be it for the day. It was 81 degrees and 95% humidity at the start, and probably stayed about that (maybe warmed a little) for the duration. As a result, I had a little sweat trickling down on my glasses, but overall, it wasn't that bad.
We had the usual morning line up to load the luggage truck (shown here). After that, we had a quick morning rap (only one so far, we usually do it the night before) and were on the way.

The one photo I took on the road was while I was riding, and I obviously was a little off kilter, but the idea was to show a Michigan farm, with what do you know, soybeans. We also passed a fair amount of corn today as well. Some of the folks think the farms in Michigan are not as well maintained as Minnesota and Wisconsin. There certainly have been a number badly in need of paint. The scale today was a little larger than yesterday as well.

At any rate, with the wind at my back for most of the last 50 miles, I made very good time, and stopped at Culver's for lunch (with my usual banana shake) before arriving at the motel. We unloaded at 1:00, which is pretty early for us, and I expect everyone will be in early, so a good day overall.

For Sara and Jeannie (and any one else who likes) here is a link to the TRIP ITINERARY.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

AAN Day 37 - Ludington to Mt Pleasant, MI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 113.1 miles Average Speed: 16.0 mph
Vertical: 3033 feet Depart: 6:32 AM Arrive: 2:10 PM
Calories: 7526

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today got off to an early start, with the change last evening to Eastern time. With the ferry's late arrival, and the time change, it seemed like a short night. The good news is we still felt the effect of Lake Michigan, which made the starting temperature very pleasant. We made our way out of town and out along some nice rural roads to the first SAG about 29 miles into the ride. Here we had a field by the SAG, and this one across the road that my agricultural experts tell me is asparagus. It makes a very interesting crop. You will also note that the fields are typically surrounded by woods, which makes the whole area very nice.

I quickly came to the little town of Biteville, and found this cute little Biteville Community Church. I also came across what looked like a one room schoolhouse earlier, but didn't stop to record it.
We also passed by several small to medium sized lakes. Many had woods along the road, but this had a cleared area to get a reasonable picture. I saw more lakes in Michigan today than in all of Minnesota.
The second SAG was just before the town of Big Rapids, which is the home of Ferris State. I believe Tim Glover from the Cross Country Challenge was at Ferris State, but I didn't realize it until too late to act. We were often on nice wooded road like you see here. I think my friend Jon Bradford can be proud of the impression his home turf has made so far.

We have a little shorter ride tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Monday, July 26, 2010

AAN Day 36 - Manitowoc, WI to Ludington, MI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 9.97 miles Average Speed: 9.8 mph
Vertical: minimal Depart: 9:13 AM Central Time Arrive: 7:43 PM Eastern
Calories: 713

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today was effectively billed as a day off, and it really was, although much longer and more interesting. We were on our own for breakfast, but Tom Zack and I met John and Teresa at 6 at Perkins for a nice breakfast. We loaded the luggage at 9:00, and were told to meet at the boat dock at noon. We rode down there, and then decided to look around. A number of us visited the maritime museum on the waterfront. Manitowoc has quite a history in shipbuilding and fishing. They built a total of 28 WW II subs there. A highlight of our museum visit was a tour of the Cobia, one of these WW II subs. It had a crew of 82, which believe me, made for tight quarters.

We then made our way back to the departure area, where Mike told us that departure was an hour later than in previous years, and they had not adjusted for it. At this point, we all just hung around waiting for the ferry to arrive, and in due time, it did, as this picture will attest. It took a while to unload all the cars, trucks, and foot passengers and get us on board, but we left roughly on schedule around 2 Central time.

People used the roughly 4 hour crossing for a variety of activities, but my favorite was my friend Don Yost enjoying the sunshine on the forward deck. Others watched a slide show of Mike's pictures, read, played cards, and just generally killed time.

At the forecast arrival time, we approached the harbor in Ludington, MI. Once we were at the dock, we gathered our bikes and headed out.

Of course, the first order of business was to stop at the "Welcome to Michigan" sign, where I captured Tom on arrival. Since we all got there roughly together, I could have captured many others, but we moved on quickly. After a quick stop at KFC, we arrived at the motel, to ready for our longest remaining ride, 113 miles tomorrow.

I usually feature some of the riders on off days, but since we got in late, I will just show a photo of 3 of our 4 youngest riders, Katie Spears (30, an executive assistant at a media magazine in NYC), Alex Steussy-Williams (college student just back from Argentina), and Matt Louis (a high school senior). They were heading down the pier to greet the Badger, our ride across the Lake.
See how the ride goes tomorrow.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

AAN Day 35 - Fond du Lac to Manitowoc, WI

Daily Statistics:
53.3 (+about 3) miles Average Speed: 14.9 mph
Vertical: 1528 feet Depart: 8:32 AM Arrive: 12:34 PM
Calories: 3272

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

I will start today's blog with a wrap up of the activities of last evening. After dinner and rap, we held the ride T-shirt swap. It is a very fun event. The participants begin by telling the story of the T-shirt they are entering. It is largely where it is from, and why it represents something unique and important to them. Here is Carol Tovar telling her story.

When all the stories have been told, all the shirts were on display. Each participant drew a number after they entered the shirt.

Then, in order, each person could pick the shirt they wanted. The first person obviously gets to pick any shirt from the floor, but succeeding players can pick either from the floor, or a shirt which has already been chosen. If they take a shirt from someone, that person then picks another shirt, but cannot take the one just taken from them. If a shirt has been picked three times, it is out of play (the final selectee gets it). Here is John stealing a shirt which had been taken. I wound up with a nice shirt from Iowa, and my Falcon Field shirt had two guys vying for it, and it went to Don Yost.

As far as today's ride went, it was a pretty easy day. It would have been very easy if the wind had been out of the west instead of the east. It wasn't a real bad headwind, but a tailwind is always better. We had the usual Wisconsin farms, but went by one of the larger wind farms we have seen. Here it is as I ride with Mark Weisbarth from Toronto.
The other significant sighting of the day was our first glimpse of Lake Michigan as we turned north about 9 miles from the end. We will of course see a lot more of the lake as we cross by ferry tomorrow.
As you can see, I was in early, even with the late start, so with another rest day effectively tomorrow (we ride 3 or 4 miles to the ferry, and 3 or 4 miles off the ferry), I should be ready for the final push.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

AAN Day 34 - Wisconsin Dells to Fond du Lac, WI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 83.9 miles Average Speed: 15.6 mph
Vertical: 2181 feet Depart: 7:02 AM Arrive: 12:45 PM
Calories: 5533

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today started ominously. It had rained all night, and was still drizzling when we walked over to Denny's for our Grand Slam breakfast. Fortunately, by the time we loaded, the rain disappeared, and although it threatened for much of the ride, it never came back. All we got was reduced temperatures and a nice overcast, which I can certainly take any time. Even at arrival in Fond du Lac, the temperature sign read 78.
As usual, we spent the day largely on back county roads, with minimal traffic and lots of nice surroundings. There was some water as we left Wisconsin Dells, but nothing too photogenic. We came to Buffalo Lake between Packwaukee and Montello, and, because it was Saturday morning, a number of folks were out fishing, as you can see here.

Our first SAG stop was at a very nice spot in Montello. There was a small pond with geese and small waterfalls. I think it is all artificial, but it was still a nice spot for a break.

I have been feeling I should show my brother, John Paul, a few of the old churches along the way, but have not been doing so. Here is a Catholic church in Princeton, but it could have been one of the Lutheran or Baptist ones I saw from the same era. This is obviously how folks then thought a church should look.

I also took this shot of a typical Wisconsin farm along the way in to town. The farms here have been generally smaller, with a lot more trees in evidence everywhere. Every farm house is in a small stand of trees, and the fields are also often surrounded by a stand of trees.

I took a bike path, which was mostly a dirt road for about 7 of the last 10 miles to the hotel. It was OK, but with the recent rains, a ton of dirt stuck to my tires and bike, and took a lot of work to get off when I got in. It stuck like dried cement. At any rate, once the bike and I were cleaned up, a group of us rewarded ourselves with a trip to Gilley's for ice cream. Here you can see the car hop girl taking orders from the group. All in all, it was not a very tough day on the road, as the riding was good, and the conditions excellent.

Tomorrow should be a short day into our ferry stop!

Friday, July 23, 2010

AAN Day 33 - La Crosse to Wisconsin Dells, WI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 92.1 miles Average Speed: 14.4 mph
Vertical: 2580 feet Depart: 7:06 AM Arrive: 2:31 PM
Calories: 6191

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today was a most interesting day. We got on the road with a threat of rain (30% in forecast), but got a few drops and that was it. I rode the first two SAGs with Tom Zack. The ride to the first took us through some small towns (West Salem, West Jefferson, and Bangor). There was really nothing special in any of them. I did take a shot coming into I believe Bangor, just to show the change in the way the land is.

We arrived in Sparta at 27 miles of travel. You can see from this picture of Matt (son of tandem team) and Teresa (1st grade teacher) that Sparta fashions itself the bicycle capital of America. I am not sure why they believe they merit that distinction, but this picture does show the start of 34 miles on the Elroy-Sparta bicycle path, one of the first big rails-to-trails projects.
The trail was a nice change of pace from the roads. I took this shot in a section fairly typical of the trail. It was nicely wooded, and the surface was pretty packed. It was a little slick in spots, from the recent rains. I stood and pedaled a couple of times, and generally would spin out, due to lack of rear wheel traction. You can see Steve and Tom cycling along the trail.

One of the interesting features of the trail was the three old railroad tunnels we went through. The first was the longest, at 3810 feet, or roughly 3/4 of a mile. You had to dismount and walk your bikes, and it was very dark in there. We had our trusty $1 Wal Mart flashlights, which were marginally enough to get us through. We definitely saw the light at the end of the tunnel (eventually). The other two were about 1/3 of a mile each. They were finished in 1873. The sign on the second said it cost $75K. A dollar went a lot farther in those days. Here is some of our folks, plus another couple, at the end of the third tunnel.

After the trail, the last 30 miles were just long. One tough hill and a bunch of rollers into town. If I get ambitious after rap, I may go check the dells.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

AAN Day 32 - Rochester, MN to La Crosse, WI

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 90.6 miles Average Speed: 13.6 mph
Vertical: 3488 feet Depart: 7:06 AM Arrive: 2:12 PM
Calories: 5643

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today started out very interestingly. As we went to breakfast, it was raining. When we loaded, there was a slight lull, and we headed out on the route. VERY quickly, it started to absolutely pour. On top of that, we had a nasty headwind which had the flags flying straight out and then some. Nevertheless, we continued on. The good news was that it wasn't that cold. I didn't even put on a jacket. Most folks had on all kinds of jackets, leggings, shower caps on the helmet, and who knows what else. I did leave my camera and phone in the luggage, because everything I had was getting soaked. As a result, the couple of pictures are courtesy of the Swiss boys, who came along at just the right time.
There really wasn't much new on the early route anyway. More corn and soybeans, although at a generally smaller scale. When we got to the small town of Rushford, we were routed onto a very nice bike path along the Root River for about 15 miles into the small town of Houston (MN, not the other one in TX). It was a very nice change of pace from the roads. Coming into that point we had dealt with a bunch of demanding rollers for about 10 miles, making the bike path even nicer.
After the second SAG, we were back on county roads (with a steady drizzle for about an hour or more), with a tough climb up Hallel Hill about 73 miles into the ride. We then sailed along a nice ridge road most of the rest of the way to town. Of course, the first of the two big milestones of the day was the welcome to Wisconsin. I am including the version with Daniel and Bruno, as they were kind enough to share with me.

The second big milestone came less than a mile later, when we crossed the mighty Mississippi River. Again, the shot is courtesy of my Swiss friend. From the Mississippi, it was only 3 or 4 miles to the motel. I had to spend a little time getting the dirt off the bike, and I was a mess myself. I don't think the socks I wore will ever be the same.

Tomorrow should be a fun day, weather permitting. We spend 34 miles on the Elroy Sparta Rails to Trails Route. It includes 3 tunnels of up to about 3/4 mile long. Apparently, we have to walk the tunnels, and I will put my dollar Wal Mart flashlight to work.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

AAN Day 31 - Mankato to Rochester, MN

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 101.4 miles Average Speed: 15.2 mph
Vertical: 3036 feet Depart: 6:37 AM Arrive: 1:52 PM
Calories: 6579

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today began with a tough start. We left the motel, and immediately had a very steep climb. I am told we hit at least 12% grades. Fortunately, it didn't last for long, and we got established on the route. About halfway to the first SAG, the tandem came along with Tom Zack, Don Yost, and Alison Tims in tow, so I jumped on and let them pull me to the first SAG. It made it pretty nice. The first SAG was across the road from one of the 10,000 Minnesota lakes, shown below. Not a great shot, but you get the idea.

I headed out on my own for the second SAG, once again back in endless farmland, mostly corn. I was doing pretty well, and got to the SAG just a moment before the tandem crew. They would have caught me if it had been any farther. I went in a got a sub at the store at the SAG, as it was already lunch time. The building by the SAG had this nice mural of old cars, and folks were posing with their bicycles in front of it. I just took the plain vanilla shot myself. This was in the little town of Concord.

It was getting pretty warm, and the route had a bunch of rollers on the way into town. If you haven't seen enough already, here is a shot of some farms and CORN fields about 10 miles outside of Rochester. When we got to town, they routed us the last 5 miles or so on a bike path along a river. It was probably very nice, but I was tired and just wanted to get in.

Tomorrow it is on to Wisconsin.

For my brother John Paul (and anyone else who might like it) I am providing a link to the complete itinerary of the ride:


Tuesday, July 20, 2010

AAN Day 30 - Worthington to Mankato, MN

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 101.3 miles Average Speed: 17.2 mph
Vertical: 1430 feet Depart: 6:08 AM Arrive: 12:41 PM
Calories: 7043

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

Today was a pretty easy day on the road overall. We got a nice early start to overcast skies. This helped keep the temperature down, without having the rain we had yesterday. The picture below gives you an idea of how it looked about 10 miles out of Worthington.

I started out riding on my own, and stayed that way through the 2nd SAG. After the 1st SAG, we left Minnesota 60 for a series of county farm roads. They were all in very good shape, and made for great riding. There was very little traffic. The scope of the farms here is amazing. The corn and soybean fields seem to go on forever. Hopefully, this next shot gives you an idea of how big the fields are.
The 2nd SAG was in the town of Madelia, and one of the buildings there had this nice mural commemorating the end of the James gang, with the capture of the Younger brothers, on Sep 21, 1876. I seem to have cut off the very right side, which had the Younger with their guns as well. Apparently, this was 8 miles from Madelia.

About midway to the 3rd SAG, the speedy group caught me, and I jumped on for 10 miles or so. This brought my speed up to 22 mph or so while I was with them. Unfortunately, about 2 miles from the 3rd SAG, Mark from Toronto, who was in back, caught a rock and went head over heels over the handlebars at about 24 mph. He was a little scraped up, but not too bad. His bike seat is a little warped, and will probably have to be replaced. He was able to ride in to the hotel, so nothing too bad. It did shake everybody up, though. I have had a couple of those myself, so I know how he feels. He will probably be a little sore in the morning.
After that, we all proceeded into Mankato. The hotel is right down town for a change, so it should be a good stop.

Monday, July 19, 2010

AAN Day 29 - Sioux Falls, SD to Worthington, MN

Daily Statistics:
Mileage: 70.1 miles Average Speed: 13.8 mph
Vertical: 1605 feet Depart: 7:11 AM Arrive: 12:41 PM
Calories: 4310

Link to Garmin ROUTE DATA

The day started out nicely, but we very quickly (probably withing the first 3 or 4 miles) had the skies start raining on us. It never got real bad, but was a very steady drizzle for quite a while. We were on and off a bicycle path to arrive at Falls Park in Sioux Falls. The plan was to be on the path virtually the whole way to the falls, but construction on the path had us on a number of detours. We eventually arrived at the falls, and as you can see, they are very nice. You will also note some of our riders in the picture in their rain gear. I stayed in my shirt sleeves, and was very comfortable. I will take a little rain any day if it keeps the temperature down, and this worked great. We were probably in the 60s most of the day.

We exited the bike path at about 10 miles, and went over a series of nasty railroad tracks. At the first one, I saw both Mark Klotz and Beth Laber take spills. I hope nobody else did. The angles and the wetness made them pretty treacherous. Neither was hurt to speak of, and both were back on the road after shaking it off. We reached the Minnesota state line, where I took the obligatory "Welcome" photo.

The remainder of the trip was pretty uneventful. We got on county road 4 and stayed there the rest of the way to Worthington. The terrain was long slow rollers, with a lot of farms, mostly corn and soybeans. They don't have the big irrigation rigs we saw farther west, so must get more rain. This picture shows a small wind farm (they really should have big ones) with corn and hay in the foreground. Fairly typical of the day.

I will close with this picture of an American flag at the cemetery. You will note that it is blowing precisely the wrong way. I am on the road directly across from it. I saw some that were even more straight out, but not so convenient for a shot. As Steve D says, the wind is always your friend, either because it is helping, or it is giving you a good workout. I will take the help, but some days it doesn't work out.

The other good news is that we had to split into two motels for the first time. I am with the smaller group, and when I got in, my luggage was waiting. Normally, I am in for an hour or two before I get so lucky.