Sunday, September 28, 2008


And it’s done! Yesterday I completed the ride, biking 52 miles to Des Moines. The weather was warm and full of the fall. Fittingly, there was a final set of challenges. There was a moderate afternoon wind from the west. I biked on Hwy 163 to Monroe, with busy traffic and no paved shoulder. Then I discovered there are many hills west of Monroe through Runnels. Finally, I took a wrong turn into Runnels and another in south east Des Moines.

Today seemed so familiar. The biking felt routine. I can't say I felt jubilant or exuberant, yet today was a celebration and a deep profound feeling of joy. With great satisfaction, I spent time reviewing the tour and all the events that have occurred. And it was as though the angels appeared one last time. They seemed to be present for the time it took too climb one hill. It was as though they were on fire or made of burnished bronze. I questioned the significance of the visage and received no answer.

I biked 3,873 miles over 49 days averaging 79 miles a day.
I have feelings of accomplishment, satisfaction, completion and joy. I truly have a renewed spirit. I have learned and grown. Have I changed in any fundamental way? I don’t think so, but I have been enriched by the experience and deepened as a person. I had wanted to do this right after college, but instead I happily married. I’m very glad I needed to wait as I shared the experience with Mary. And now that I’m older the experience has been richer. I’ll write more about that some time later.

Having had the opportunity for the ride has been a privilege. Physically, I started in good health. Then my broken bones healed in such a way that they didn’t cause pain and didn’t preclude completing it. Vocationally, I had the full support of Pine Rest leadership and all the Iowa staff, and was able to take the days needed. Finally, I had the full support of my wife, children, family and friends.

I have truly been blessed.

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:29-31

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Home at Last

And we’re finally home. There are quite a few hills between Marengo and Pella and we pushed into a gentle westerly breeze, so it truly was a leg burning, lung busting day. I thought this would be an uneventful 68 miles. By now I should know better. I must be a slow learner

The most dangerous roads of the entire trip were within 10 miles of Pella. Close to Peoria, IA, on the road from New Sharon, there is a stretch of asphalt with a crack in the middle of the lane about 200 feet long. It was once tarred, but the tar has dried and it too is cracked. Water has eroded the crack so that it’s now 2-3 inches wide and goes through to the gravel below. Although I was leading, I didn’t notice it as my mind was beginning to wander thinking about home and work. Ron pointed it out to and commented on its dangerousness. I agreed. Then a water eroded sink hole suddenly loomed directly in front of me. Without thinking or warning Ron, I swerved to the left, hitting the side of his front tire with my rear tire. Ron briefly lost control and ran off the road. Fortunately he recovered without flipping off or falling over. Many years ago, I did wipe him out. He’s forgiven me he hasn’t forgotten it. He still teases me. After this incident I said he better stop biking with me because the next time I might kill him.

And then we got Pella. Just east of Vermeer Mfg, we ran the four way stop sign with the flashing red light. Immediately we were pulled over by a Marion County Deputy Sheriff. His lights were flashing. We didn’t se him so he used his siren to get our attention. As he came walking toward us, I prepared to explain that I was just so eager to get home after a 3,800 mile ride and after all I checked both ways before running the light. He met us with a big grin. Apparently the staff at the Pella Clinic called the Sheriff requesting he help play a practical joke on us. He thought it was a great idea and this was the outcome. Now the deputy, Matt B, wanted to return the favor so we developed a story. He called the clinic, saying he’d found us but he startled us with the siren causing us to run into each other and crash. One of us said his collar bone hurt and the EMTs were taking us to the ER to get checked out. Then he asked if there was somebody who could come get our bikes. They almost fell for it. It was great fun. What goes around comes around.

Probably Saturday, I'll complete the last 50 miles to Des Moines. I'm really looking forward to it. I compare it to last last day of the Tour de France; celebratory and largely symbolic.

The days are shorter. I saw soy beans being harvested. Milkweed pods are drying and opening. I’ve seen (and avoided) lots of fuzzy caterpillars on the road. It’s time to be home. It’s great to be home.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

RAGBRAI Traditions

For whatever reason, both MapQuest and Google Maps failed to give accurate distances on what became a short but windy 58 mile day. We left at sunrise to avoid most of the wind. As you can see from the picture of pond algae the wind was strong enough to push it all to the north end. Most of the day we went west or south. Oh well. In terms of the weather, for long distance biking, it’s best to say “It is what it is.”

Probably because we’re back in Iowa, several of the days’ activities seemed associated with RAGBRAI traditions. The Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa is a week long ride across the state of about 10,000 people. I’ve completed five of them. I’ve included a picture Ron and Mary are taking our version of a sag stop. On RAGBRAI, this would be in a town. We would have purchased food from a local vendor before returning to our support vehicle to swap stories of the morning. There’s a picture of me walking out of a corn field, another RAGBRAI tradition practiced by many. Finally, we had a couple miles of gravel. This seems to happen at least once a year on RAGBRAI. For the Renewing Spirits Bicycle Tour, this means I’ve ridden on Interstate highway, four lane roads, and two lane roads and now gravel.

Tomorrow will be about 67 miles home on familiar roads. Oddly, it doesn’t feel like the end of a journey. This is probably due to being home twice already, once after the accident and again just four weeks ago. It’s as though I should stop in, take care of a few things, and leave for yet another section of the ride.

Paradoxically, I can’t wait for tomorrow morning. I think I’ll be like a horse headed to the barn. I’ll gladly let Ron draft off me the whole way. Rain is coming this evening. The weather radar shows a narrow but intense red band north to south across the entire state. Tomorrow the temperature is to be in the mid to upper seventies with little to no wind, perfect conditions for a leg burning, lung busting finish.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Just Plain Fun

From Savannah, IL to Anamosa IA, today was 69 miles of just plain fun. Anamosa has a state penitentiary and we should have been locked up because this much fun should be criminal. Yesterday we learned the bridge crossing the Mississippi River at Savannah was closed for repairs. Mary needed to make a 40 mile detour. Ron and I crossed on the “ferry” you see in the picture. The “ferry” clearly doesn’t meet the United States Coast Guard criteria. The operator markets the service as “voluntary” for a suggested $3.00 “donation.” Even so, he once had a sign on the pontoon boat suggesting the donation. The Coast Guard learned about it and told him to remove it.

My repaired, valiant, but wounded rear wheel finally gave out today. Ever since hitting a sink hole while leaving Wyoming, the rim has had a small flat spot. On smooth roads I could feel it like a mild bump. Some rough roads in Wisconsin and again this morning caused a few spokes to loosen and it started to wobble from side to side. It went bump, bump, wobble, wobble. Like the old Corvair, it was no longer safe at any speed. So I replaced it with Marty’s rear wheel. What an improvement. I was reluctant to make the change as his gear cluster is tighter which means climbing hills is harder. Fortunately the hills in Iowa aren’t as steep as the hills in Wisconsin. Also, today we had a little assistance from the wind. All in all this meant today was just plain fun. We went racing up the hills and roaring down them. They couldn’t slow us down. After the challenging hills of Wisconsin, it felt as though we conquered them at least for a day.

It’s a little difficult to comprehend we’ll be home in two days. It feels surreal. I need to and want to return to work first thing Thursday morning. On Saturday I plan to complete the last 55 or so miles to Des Moines. Then comes jury duty and who knows what else. Mary too will return to a full schedule. I want to spend some time discerning the significance of the ride, but we’ll both be pulled into a vortex of important activities that will limit the opportunity for reflection. I’m grateful that Mary and I both have blogs as journals and hundreds of pictures. For now, I’m going to savor the days that are left and return fully and wholeheartedly to my grounded life.


Of today’s 86 miles, the first 75 were hills. Up and down. Up and down. There were many beautiful vistas winding along the tops of ridges between valleys. After starting near Dodgeville we passed through Mineral Point, Darlington, Shulsburg, Galena and Hanover IL before ending at the Mississippi Palisades State Park near Savannah.

More significant than the ride were the memories associated with this region. After graduate school, my first employment 28 years ago was in Darlington. I was the Lafayette County Coordinator of Services for Developmentally Disabled Adults or some such title. The building in which I worked no longer exists and neither does the agency which has been absorbed by some others. It wasn’t a good job. But this is where we adopted our daughter, Rachel. A co-worker connected us to her birth mom and the rest is history. We lived in Darlington just 18 months before I joined Pine Rest. It’s as though God put us there to adopt Rachel and then opened another door. Mary and I both remarked on the many core memories and formative experiences we have connected to the town and area. God was good to us then as he continues to be now.

The ride from Galena to Savannah is also full of memories, but they aren’t as important, just fun. These are bicycling related. The Tour of the Mississippi River Valley (TOMRV) is an annual two day ride in June that goes from Davenport to Dubuque and back again. It uses different roads each way so the first day is 104 miles and the second day is 86. I’ve ridden it 12 or 13 times along with about 1,300 of my closest friends. Actually, I’ve ridden it with Don, Ron, Mary and my nephew Dustin. Tonight’s camp site is a SAG stop on TOMRV. I’m strongly considering riding it again next summer, so if any of you want to join me for a strenuous, picturesque ride along and up and down the bluffs of the Mississippi, let me know.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Into the Hills

Eighty two miles brought us out of the relatively flat and lovely eastern and central Wisconsin into the quite hilly and equally or more lovely southwestern Wisconsin. This is the drift less area, meaning it wasn’t leveled by glaciers. Our first 42 miles went well. We met Mary for lunch near Oregon, WI, then the land and weather changed. We had a small head wind. The temperature warmed. And we had hills. There were at least four long hills that my experience tells me were at least a six percent grade. A portion of one was more. With about 15 to 20 miles to go, I was quite tired, so Ron pulled me in. I drafted behind him, sitting on his rear wheel. It was a welcome break. Finally he too became tired, so we took a water break. We guessed we had up to 5 miles to go. Back on the road we went about a quarter mile around a curve and thereit was, Tom’s Campground near Dodgeville, WI. There was one last tortuous climb up to the camper and the days work was done. I'm tired, but it was good to be challenged again before the end of the ride. We’ll have more of the same tomorrow as we bike south into Illinois to the Mississippi Palisades Campground just north of Savannah, IL.

I’ve attached a few classic pictures. These are a farm duck pond, a small working dairy farm and a classic green tractor and bailer.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Section IV: Starting in Milwaukee

After site seeing in Salem (see Mary’s blog), traveling to Chicago and spending two days with my brother Phil and his family, and then spending the night with Ron, his wife, their son and daughter in law, today we began the final section of the tour. This morning we (Ron, Mary and I) drove to the Lake Ferry dock in Milwaukee and began biking west. At least today, Milwaukee was a peaceful city. There was a designated bike lane most of the way to the suburbs. After that it got a little confusing.

Wisconsin has many paved roads, but almost none of them are straight. We started with plan A, which was to follow county road D to C to C1 to 106 and arrive at the campground at Hebron. We lost D in Waukesha. However, we biked over an overpass and saw a bike path below us. It was the Glacier Drumlin State Trail. So we switched to plan B, and road the trail for a dozen miles or so. It took us directly to C and we were back on our route. This is the kettle moraine section of Wisconsin and is very lovely. A moraine is an area of dumped glacial debris and the kettles are small ponds formed in areas of melted ice. Other than a 10-20 mile an hour head wind, it was a nice 48 mile beginning to the last small section of the ride.

Once again, it’s very nice to spend a few days biking with a friend. This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed biking alone, because I have. I think many of the blessings I’ve experienced on the ride have been due to its solitary nature. I can’t say time goes faster or slower with a companion or that the ride is easier or harder. It’s just a nice change. As with my brother in law Don, Ron and I have shared many life and biking experiences together. Biking together is familiar and comfortable. Welcome Ron.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Atlantic Arrival

On this ride, it seems no day is predictable, probably due to regularly entering new and unfamiliar territory. The final 66 miles of Section III from Fitchburg to Salem was no exception. The start was delayed as it rained all morning. The weather radar showed the state covered with green interspersed with large patches yellow. Eager to get going and tired of waiting we finally just left. Fortunately it was a warm rain. The traffic gave me plenty of room. I hope this was due to my fluorescent lime rain jacket and flashing LED light, but it may be they were thinking I must be crazy to be biking in a downpour. The rain stopped around noon but it remained cloudy.

Quite a few of the drain covers in Massachusetts aren’t bike safe. They’re the old kind with the metal bars parallel to the road and no cross bars to stop a bike wheel from dropping in. This meant the primary concern for the day was deciding what to do with puddles. It was difficult to see into them. Rather than take a chance, I skirted most of them. The entire ride was through suburbs. Each had it’s own character from old and rich to newer and middle class and even a marginal slum in Beverly.

Completing Section III is very satisfying but I don’t have a strong reaction. I’m eager to return to the familiar Midwest and completing Section IV on known roads with a good friend, but it will be a few days before it happens. First Mary and I will spend a day sight seeing in Salem. Then we’ll drive to Chicago to visit my brother Phil and his wife Pam. The van needs to be serviced and the camper tail lights need to be checked. Finally, we’ll pick up Ron in Wheaton area and travel to Milwaukee for the last few miles. (It’s interesting how my definition of a “few miles” has changed. The “last few miles” will be around 390 miles)

The theme for Section III has been faithfulness. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20. Contemplating on this simple, profound statement has been comforting no matter what unpredictable situation we’ve encountered. The theme song has been Pressing On: “Well I’m pressing on to the higher calling of my Lord.”

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Massachusetts Pictures


Again it rained overnight. It’s so nice to wake up during the night and listen to the rain, knowing that we’re warm and dry in the camper. The rain stopped by morning and I left on a 73 mile trip with wet roads and fog. There were slugs and snails on the road with a chorus of tree frogs in the background. The road conditions varied widely. Hwy 112 north to 2A was very good. Hwy 2A varied from a very nice paved shoulder to no shoulder and ruts in the asphalt. Today we transitioned out of the Berkshires and into a region with old worn out industrial communities such as Fitchburg where we’re staying tonight. It seems every town has at least one old closed brick factory for sale or lease. Many of the homes along the main roads were inexpensively built in the 20’s and 30’s. People are no longer investing in maintenance of improvements. All of this interspersed with beautiful old homes and churches, apple orchards and farm stands, stands of maple trees and evergreens, and still mill ponds reflecting the sky and trees. I think the biggest differences are no mountains and a denser population.

There’s a 40% chance of rain tomorrow. Even so, I plan to make every attempt to bike the last 63 miles to Salem and the Atlantic Ocean. Due to the convoluted roads Mary and I have mapped an indirect route. We take 2A to 110 to 225 to 62 which will take us to Beverly, MA just north of Salem. Then we’ll cross the Essex Bridge into Salem. I know I’m going to feel very satisfied. It will be a prelude to the satisfaction of completing Section IV.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Biking in the Berkshires

We’re now in the beautiful Berkshire Mountains. The first 39 miles, out of a 73 mile total, were like yesterday. High traffic. High stress. Highway 20 out of Albany to Pittsfield, Massachusetts was the pits. First I had to walk over the Hudson River and there wasn't a biking or waling lane. Then shoulder was narrow and very rough. I used the brakes going down most hills. But after Pittsfield, Hwy 9 was beautiful and also great biking. It’s fun being back in the mountains one last time. I’ve been told the mountains in the east are shorter and steeper than those in the west. I agree they’re shorter, but I’m not certain they’re steeper. It could be I just handle them better.

Tonight we’re camping in the D.A.R. State Park. I’m not certain why the Daughter’s of the American Revolution need their own state park, but they have one. It’s so quiet compared to camping beside the interstate last night. If the rain stops as predicted, I’m looking forward to another lovely ride tomorrow. Due to lodging arrangements, tomorrow’s ride will be about 56 miles. That leaves 80 miles into Salem. There is no direct route into Salem. I’ll bike for a while and Mary will drive. Then we’ll meet and get coordinated for the next section. Depending on the hills, we may or may not make it to the Atlantic that day.

Signs to ponder:
On a grocery store: No food allowed.
On the road: Elderly crossing.
Reduced salt area. (Can roads have hypertension?)

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Most of today’s 75 mile ride called for concentration. First it was biking in the fog e.g. past this Indian Castle Church built in 1769. Then it was biking through an industrial area east of Fultonville where there were several rock crushing businesses and one that made cement blocks, all of which required the services of many dump trucks. Finally from Schenectady on to the edge of Albany it was heavy traffic. In some places there was a narrow bike lane in others just a sign telling vehicles to share the road with the bicyclists. I concentrated on the bike lane to avoid sharp objects and another flat tire. I listened with concentration to vehicles approaching from behind while I was in the bike lane. I concentrated on missing bike lane obstacles by pulling onto the road. Then I again concentrated on vehicles approaching from behind. I concentrated while passing parked vehicles to avoid a suddenly opened door. Finally, I had to concentrate in looking for signs posting the bike route. In many ways this felt more challenging than biking 100 miles.

Tomorrow we move on to Massachusetts. We’ve been pondering how to cross the state. Other than biking on the interstate, which is illegal, there are no direct east to west highways. We asked at a bike shop and our best route selection was confirmed. We will cross northern Massachusetts on Hwy 2. This will mean more climbing, but we’ve been told it’s very scenic and that the road has a small shoulder.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

105 Miles and another Flat Tire!

It wasn’t supposed to be a 105 mile day, but we experienced destination creep. According to the biking map, Montezuma to Rome was barely 70 miles and I wanted at least 75. Orisanky was the right distance but had no campgrounds and neither did Utica further on. We found an option in Frankfort, but when Mary got there, it was closed as in no longer operating. The next town was Herkimer, which has a beautiful KOA. She called me to explain the situation. I was feeling good so I said OK, on to Herkimer. I rarely check my bike computer, so I had no idea of the distance until I arrived. It was a beautiful day with the temperature in the mid 60’s and very little wind. My computer said I spent six and a half hours peddling 105 miles.

Meanwhile I also had my fourth flat tire in seven days. This one was in Utica and the culprit was a rusty wood screw. Fortunately, the tire can still be used. So far, across the east I’ve seen bicyclist sign (peach pits, apple cores and banana peels) but no bicyclists. As I was pumping up the replacement tube, Mike came by on a tadpole recumbent pulling a Bob. He had a better pump than mine and I greatly appreciated his assistance. By the way, a tadpole recumbent has three wheels with two in the front. A Bob is one of the best brands of single wheel trailers for bicycles.

By one rural house, I was startled by domestic turkeys. They were standing beside the road making comments on what they observed. They reminded me of the turkeys my brother-in-law Darrel once had on the farm. They were semi tame and highly social and would gather around him while he worked, making comments like the birds I saw today. If he laughed they’d all gobble as though they were laughing too. Then he started telling them jokes and laughing. They gobbled in response as though they were in on the joke and thought it was very funny. I laughed just remembering it.

Herkimer is the source of the semi precious Herkimer diamond. Once again we’re camped by a stream. Probably 20 kayakers have gone past this evening.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

New York Pictures

These are pictures of a dairy farm across a wider spot on the Eerie Canal, Route 5 which is the bicycle route I'm following and an illustration of the wide biking shoulder which is almost a lane of its own.

Rain Delay

The beginning of this 80 mile day was delayed first by rain and later by yet another flat tire. Mary got lost in Rochester. I got lost in Rochester. The map gave one route. The map detail for Rochester gave a different one. I stopped to ask directions from a sheriff. He was a stout young man with a very strong hand shake. I learned he’s been a sheriff for three years and it’s his day job. His real love is farming. He had a dairy farm with his father until three years ago. When he became a sheriff they sold the dairy cows. Now they raise belted Galloway cattle, a breed raised by Winston Churchill, that dates back to the 1600’s. They have two coats of hair which means they have less fat. They also like the grass in this area of New York. I learned quite a bit and could have learned more with more time.

While reentering the highway, I hit the brakes to wait for a semi resulting in triangular sliver of granite puncturing the new tire and tube. It was a slow leak and didn’t reveal itself until I was on the bike path beside the Eerie Canal. I was able to fix it and ride to meet Mary at a set of canal locks. That makes three flats in 5 days. Two of the tires are reusable, I just don’t trust them. One has several small nicks and the wire puncture. The cut from the granite sliver in the new one is right in the tread, and is large enough to pick up a piece of gravel repeating the same problem.

Mary’s right. This morning I continued my low mood from yesterday. Pastor Lester McClelland at the Spencerport Wesleyan Church reminded me of the verse, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go." Joshua 1:9. This was very helpful. Later while biking I had an image of warrior guardian angels. This too was helpful and my mood lifted. The day went well and the gray clouds and rain also lifted.

Road kill addition: one large snapping turtle.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Biking Out of Buffalo

Other than having another flat tire, it was a good 77 mile ride. I started at the Peace Bridge in Buffalo, planning to take the bike path north and I promptly got lost. I just went north for 6-7 miles and then asked for directions. Turns out by then I was within a block of the bike path. I asked for directions once more to confirm that I was proceeding properly. Then I went north on Hwy 429 and west on Hwy 31. Hwy 31 is GREAT for biking. It was built with a four to eight foot shoulder designated for bikers. For biking, it’s designated as Route 5 and it has many little oval green signs with a bicycle and Route 5 on them. Every change in direction is shown with arrows. There’s quite a bit of traffic, but as I’ve said before, I’ll take a good shoulder on a busy rode over no shoulder on a lightly traveled rode.

This part of the route parallels the Eerie Canal, which I’ve never seen before. Obviously it’s quite flat. I had a nice tail wind all day. Unfortunately, about 7 miles out of camp, I had a flat tire. I replaced the tube and the second tube was defective. So I called Mary. I could have replaced the tube again and rode in, but by then I was too deflated and I couldn’t talk myself into it, so Mary drove me back to the camper. Tomorrow she will need to drive me back to the starting point. The culprit was a piece of wire that had embedded itself in the tire and worked its way through to the tube. I had just ridden 2 very rough miles where the asphalt had been ground down to cement in preparation of repaving. I think the extra bumping hastened the tube puncturing, but it would have happened eventually. There were quite a few nicks in the tire, so I replaced it too.

Mary’s friend Rosa wrote on her blog that she’s praying we finish strong. She’s right. There are twelve biking days left, six out east, five into Pella and one from Pella to Des Moines that I'll complete on some Saturday. I’m starting to think about our home and I’m very often thinking about work and church. I have responsibilities that are waiting for me. In fact some have been postponed. I’m eager to return to them. So today I prayed for perseverance. TodayI was delayed by a flat tire. Tomorrow there’s an eighty percent chance I’ll be delayed by thunder storms. I need to bike another 4-5 more good days and the Atlantic will be in sight. Then my friend Ron Z plans to bike the final Milwaukee to Pella section which will be very good.

Granite must be readily available here, probably from New Hampshire? Many towns have granite instead of cement curbs.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Back in the USSA

To paraphrase the Beatles, its back in the USSA today.

It was a very nice 50 mile ride this morning on a day cut short by rain. The first 25 miles followed the Lake Eerie shoreline, which provided two lovely and one interesting picture. The second 25 miles to the Peace Bridge was on a bike trail. Mary and I decided before leaving Canada we really should stop at a Tim Horton’s coffee shop. It was good, but not as good as Smokey Row in Pella.

It started to rain just as we arrived at the Peace Bridge. Originally, I had wanted to bike another 25 miles, but a quick check of the radar told us it was going to rain most of the afternoon. We couldn’t find a place to camp, so we’re in a motel for the night.

According to Google, it will be about 474 miles from Buffalo, NY to Salem, MA. Add the 355 miles from Milwaukee to Pella and I’ve got about 830 miles left. This will be about 12 days.

Work Day

After two days full of interest, today was an 85 mile work day. I simply biked from Port Burwell to Dunnville. There were no exceptional events. I had no observations that are worth reporting. I practiced staying in the moment to forestall wondering how much further to the camper. It was just a work day, which was quite satisfying.

Overnight Gustav dropped large amounts of rain in the area, leaving puddles along the entire route. It was still drizzling in the morning which delayed my start from 7:00 a.m. to around 8:30 a.m. Even then it was grey and drizzly until early afternoon. Over time, I was wet with perspiration inside my rain jacket and got a little chilled, so I stopped in Simco for warm McDonald’s junk food instead of my usual bagel sandwich and apple. I stood eating out by the street to catch Mary. Although I was successful, I think it would have been easier to spend a little on roaming charges and have called her instead. After warming up in the van, I set out to complete the ride. The drizzle stopped shortly thereafter and I comfortably completed the last 40 miles.

Tomorrow we arrive at the Peace Bridge on the Niagara River and cross into Buffalo, New York. Just when I’ve learned to say “Aye” and “Oot”, “We’re oot of here, aye?”

Biking in Gustav

I think I was misinformed in North Branch. The rain two nights ago was just a shower. Today, all day, for 107 miles, I truly did bike in the remnants of Hurricane Gustav. There was no rain, but there was lots of wind. It blew all day with gusts up to 40 mph. It started sometime after midnight and it’s still blowing this evening. Tonight we’re at an Ontario Provincial Campground right beside Port Burwell and Lake Eerie. The wind is strong enough the sea gulls have grounded themselves on the beach. Lake Eerie is a giant frothing latte. The day too was eerie.
Gustav rarely blew directly at me, or the mileage would have been much shorter. Most of the time the wind continuously and gustily pushed me from the right, but for one 29 mile stretch from Morpeth to Wallacetown it was directly behind me. What fun. With little effort I could sustain 25 – 27 mph. The last time I had a ride like this was on a tandem in 1998 on the Register’s Annual Great Bike Ride Across Iowa (RAGBRAI) with my son Jeff.

After no dog action for five and a half states, I’ve now encountered dogs three days in a row. Today it was a pair of guard Rottweiler’s beside a country acreage. I had pulled past and stopped to take a drink and read my map. I heard something and looked back to the right. There they were on the edge of the property, perfectly matched and beautiful, wearing identical stainless steel choker chains and eager ominous expressions, waiting for me to make the wrong move. I quietly and quickly put my items away and safely left. That’s enough dogs for now.

I saw a large weeping willow that reminded me of Old Man Willow from the Lord of the Rings.

Currants are sold at the local fruit stands.

Among other crops, this is tobacco country. It’s presently being harvested and is curing in aptly named smoked barns which you can smell for a mile or so.

This is the day that the Lord has made. Let’s rejoice and be glad in it.

Into Canada

While the 84 miles of terrain continue to be flat, it was an interesting day ending in Wallaceburg, Ontario. Several times clouds gathered, threatening rain and then dispersed. I think they were getting organized and weren’t yet ready to perform. The clouds are gathering again, but we’ve safely arrived at our evening’s destination, the camper is up and we’re ready for a reasonable rain. During last night’s rain I discovered there’s a pinhole puncture in the canvas over my bed which caused a slow drip on my chest. This will need to be patched.

For just the second time, I was chased by a dog with the first time being yesterday. Yesterday’s dog was a territorial terrier with an attitude. Looking neither right nor left, he crossed a busy road to tell me to move on. I don’t know how many times this will work for him but on this occasion he seemed pleased with himself. Today’s dog was a big, galumphing black lab with a big smile. He stayed on the property on his side of the road and struck up a conversation. It seemed as though he asked quite a few questions, got to the end of the property and bid farewell.

I punctured and blew my rear tire about 25 miles into the ride. I don’t know what I hit, but it had an immediate effect ripping through the Kevlar in the tread and sidewall. Clunk. Bang. Pish. Bumpa, bumpa. Mary was just leaving North Branch and met me in Yale, where I replaced the tire.

We crossed into Canada at Marine City on a small ferry. It was our minivan and camper, a car and a motorcycle, all on the port side of the ferry, which was also listing gently to port. However, they also carry semis that aren’t balanced, so the listing must be within the ferry’s tolerance level. The semi in the picture is being carried by the same ferry. The Canadian customs officer was professional with a hint of boredom. The Adventure Cycling map sends many people across the border here. Also, 100 or so Sea to Sea CRC cyclists crossed here a couple weeks ago.

Originally we had planned to stay at Port Lambton, but our lodging fell through. While checking options last night, I noticed a Christian Reformed Church in Wallaceburg, just 9 miles further. I called and got an answering machine. I looked for a pastor’s name but couldn’t find one. However, Google said there’s a Christian school in Wallaceburg. The secretary said the principal is a church elder. He said of course, so here we are. Thank you Wallaceburg CRC!

I’m looking for signs of the theme for what Mary and I are calling RSBT Part III. Part I’s theme was enjoying the beauty. Part II was staying in the moment.. I have an idea on what might be the part three theme, but it’s too soon to say.

Road kill addition: wood chuck.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Observations and Conversations

Today was a flat 87 mile ride from Carson City to North Branch. The seasons are slowly changing. The soy bean fields are half yellow. Some of the sumac is red. Some of the early or distressed maple trees are turning. The morning was in farm country. Now it’s mixed farms and lakes.

Signs pondered:
Reduced House for Sale.
Four Seasons Lounge: Liquor: Family Dining: Steaks – Fish – Walleye.

Mary met me for the late morning break at Montrose in grocery store parking lot. We met Gus, a bread/pastries delivery man. He asked what we were doing and struck up a conversation. He’s an Israeli, Catholic immigrant. We commiserated about mini-van problems. He offered us hot dog buns and a place to camp. Unfortunately, his home is off the route.

Tonight we met Reverend Michael and a retired parishioner, Lorraine from the North Branch United Methodist Church. We discussed church politics, polity and theology and many other topics including a hand blanket ministry for people with Alzheimer’s. We also admired a hand made deer antler purse. Reverend Michael and Lorraine are actively involved in a challenging ministry.

Now we’re in our camper in our first down pour of the entire trip. Someone said it’s due to the remnants of Gustav. I hope it clears by tomorrow. If not, I’ll bike in the rain.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Grand Rapids and Beyond

My typical morning ride was delayed by a delightful Pine Rest reception held at the Postma Conference Center. Included with the continental breakfast and delightful conversations was a roast by my friends and fellow clinic managers Randy J and Scott H. Thanks guys. There was a running slide show from the trip so far. I found myself telling stories associated with the pictures. Along with the blog, they will provide enduring memories.

After the reception, my brother-in-law Don V again rode with me on this 65 mile day. It was hot, sunny and flat. There were many vehicles and a mixture of road qualities. According to the Michigan DOT, all state highways have a minimum 4 foot paved shoulder. This is true, except where they’re falling off. If you’re a biker, do not ride the 15 miles on M21 from Lowell to Ionia, Michigan. Often you have a two foot shoulder, except when you don’t. I’m so thankful Don was with me as, just like yesterday, the cars were more considerate of two bicycles than they are of one.

We met our wives for dinner and then proceeded north on M66 and west on M57 to Carson City. (All these specifics are for a few family members who want more route details.) The terrain was flat farming country. As compared to the west, there are now w many structures dating from the mid 1800’s. Tonight we’re camping at the Carson City United Methodist Church. They have been wonderful hosts and we appreciate their hospitality.

Tomorrow the goal is to bike through the northern edge of Flint to North Branch, Michigan. There we will reconnect with an Adventure Cycling route that will take us through Ontario to Buffalo, New York. The states are smaller here. In these final 1,400 or so miles we will cross portions of five states and one province. In the last 1,000 miles we crossed two and a half states. I like this better. It gives the illusion of rapid progress, while I continue to travel at the same speed.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Musketawa Trail

Greetings from Grand Rapids. The third portion of the ride started today with a 53 mile ride from the Muskegon Lake Ferry landing to a motel near the Pine Rest Campus in Cutlerville, Michigan. I was joined for the day by my brother-in-law Don V. He will also be joining me tomorrow. Having company was a nice change of pace. We shared stories, observations and humor. I noticed again that cars are more considerate of two bicycles than of one. They slowed behind us, pulled further to the left and didn’t cut us off while pulling back into the lane.

The Musketawa trail is a converted paved railroad track. This too was a nice change of pace, but I wouldn’t want to ride it continuously. It’s too flat. We had planned to bike down the west side of Grand Rapids, but we missed our street. Instead we biked downtown taking Division Street South to Cutlerville. On the way we stopped for very good Mexican food at a popular restaurant on the corner of Division and 28th St. I f you ever bike there, the manager will lock your bikes in the storage room. We spent the rest of the afternoon with my daughter and her husband. In addition to a nice meal, we went shopping to restock our small food supplies. Stopping at a grocery store and three gas stations failed to locate a source for block versus cube ice.

While on the bike trail, I ran over a chipmunk. Before I could react, it ran in front of me and I hit it with both tires. We stopped to offer assistance but somehow it got off the trail and out of sight. I’m concerned it might have a broken collarbone, ribs and possibly a hemothorax. I hope it’s not combative with the chipmunk EMT’s. At any rate, its dream of completing the Musketawa Trail has ended for now.

Tomorrow morning there is a reception at Pine Rest. Then Don and I will bike 62 miles to Carson City.

Finally, the wedding for Mary's sister was enjoyable and a true ceremony. Mary has the details