Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Day 4 - Chicago!

Today's ride was a fitting finale. 90 miles in all (not bad, eh?), and the ride combined elements of everything we had seen so far. The morning started with beautiful and isolated roads with little traffic, then segued to busy and trafficky roads and then completely switched to serene and leafy bike paths. We were on three or four different paths during the course of the day, covering probably about 40 miles of the route. And I was happy to be on them, except when I stopped to stretch, when the mosquitoes descended en masse. Who knew Indiana and Illinois had so many bike paths? Even native Chicagoans on our trip were surprised. I say Indiana because we briefly passed through its northwest corner on our way from Michigan to Illinois (that's for those of you who, unlike my son, Ben, are not geography majors).

And, yes, of course I went swimming again in Lake Michigan when we stopped at about the 80 mile mark so that all 110 of us could ride into Chicago proper together. This time, however, a couple of other good souls joined me (although none had the, ahem, foresight to actually pack a swim suit and camp towel - I long ago learned that biking in wet bike shorts after a swim is the pits).

By the way, for those of you keeping track, this ride turned out to be a Climate Ride fundraising record, with a total of more than $400,000 raised. Yours truly, with your help (and a little matching action), exactly hit my $5,000 target mark. So well done all around! I Challenge Myself will get a nice check shortly.

Thanks again for reading and for your support. I hope to connect with you again when I'm next on the road.

And, of course, here is today's route and a few final photos.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Day 3 - Michigan's Revenge

So I think the gods of Michigan were not so happy with my lukewarm praise of Michigan bike trails in yesterday's blog post. So what did they do? They gave me 30 miles this morning of gorgeous isolated roads with low traffic and pretty darn good scenery. "Take that, Schwed!" I could hear them muttering....

And then they took me to the shore of Lake Michigan for lunch where  among 110 climate riders, I was the only one who decided to go swimming (son of Pete Schwed, for sure). Which, of course, had me bringing up the rear of the pack so I cut off the 15 mile loop at the end of the ride that took folks down to the town of Three Oaks and, instead, cut straight across the top of the loop towards our campsite where, conveniently, I came across Greenbush Brewery on the way. Need I say more? The faster riders were already there even having done the loop, but within the next 2 hours we had more than 60 bikes there, quaffing a wide variety of microbrews. (By the way, this was not on the official climate ride route, but certainly will/should be next year! )

Even with the shortcut it was a 65 mile day, so I don't feel that was too shabby. Especially with a 90 mile ride into Chicago looming for tomorrow (strike ominous chord here).

As usual, here is today's route and a few select photos.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Day 2 - Michigan as Wine Country?

The title says it all. Who knew? We spent a good portion of today's ride traversing rolling hills replete with vines of grapes - many of which were quite bushy (Concords I was later told). Of course, where there are vines, there are likely to be vineyards -- and even tasting rooms. Which Climate Ride did a good job of researching to find one that was really quite elegant - Cody Kestra - dare I say approaching California quality? And apparently this was not all that easy a task to do,  as a lot of the Michigan vineyards only make sweet wines (which would not have been well received by our group).

The only fly in the ointment? The location. The winery was at Mile 75 of today's ride. With 10 miles still to go! Yes, we rode over 85 miles today, and, yes, we rode the last 10 of it having tasted alot of wine.

Of course, before the winery, there was a lot of good riding. I even made peace with an old nemesis: they crushed limestone bike path - one of which we were on for over 20 miles today. It had the benefit of going through endless canopies of trees, which not only were gorgeous, but also provided lovely shade from a fairly hot sun. The trade off between the shade and the surface was an easy one to make.

Still, in all, Michigan is not at the top of my list of bike riding States. Maybe it was because it was Sunday, but on the road we had a lot of traffic and not great shoulders (although I will say that Michigan drivers, as a lot, are pretty good passers). The scenery continues to be pleasant, but really never spectacular. It's rural, but the population density is still high enough that there are a lot of houses all along the road, kind of marring any sense of isolation. To boot, few of the houses feature any particularly distinguished or cohesive architecture - although many do come with pickup trucks in their driveways (mostly Ford 150s) and rusted equipment in their yards.

But - there's a silver lining - after tomorrow, when we head into Indiana briefly and then into Illinois, I'll be able to sing "Michigan seems like a dream to me now..."

Today's lengthy route and, of course, a few photos (including last night's sunset from our camp):