Today was our introduction to the state of Michigan, as we rode from Ludington, the port where the S.S. Badger docks, to the Rockwell Lake Lodge, a resort/conference center owned by Hillsdale College (more about that later) and located a few miles outside of the small town of Luther (population about 400). Our ride was just a shade under 54 miles, with a surprising amount of total climb (about 1,500 feet).
I have to say that I was underwhelmed. Maybe (probably) I've been spoiled by the scenery to date, and recently crossing Wisconsin, with its picturesque dairy farms lining every road, is likely responsible. Because the roads in Michigan today were pretty darn good -- relatively isolated, relatively traffic-free and, with one unfortunate 4 mile exception, fully-paved. But the vistas didn't do much for me. There were a lot of woods, not quite forests in my book, but there was no unifying theme or feel to what we were passing through. Large fields with no crops or livestock. Mobile homes in one spot, one level ranch houses in another -- a lot with messy yards, or items in the driveway for sale. Very few people in evidence. Even when riding past lakes, with tons of vacation/weekend cottages -- or maybe even year-round homes -- and an array of boats at the various docks -- where was everyone on a Friday in August? Where were the kids? It was kind of weird. For me, what was telling is that I took only a handful of pictures. Nothing really captured my eye.
Now I'm not ready to disparage the entire state of Michigan on the basis of a one-day ride through a sparsely-populated stretch -- a stretch, by the way, that definitely seemed less well-to-do than what we experienced in Wisconsin and, before that, Minnesota. Perhaps happenstance of the very limited scope of our routes, but perhaps reflective of the struggles of Detroit and the domestic car industry.
No struggles, however, apparent at Rockwell. For the second night in a row, we're staying at pretty deluxe digs. Rockwell is perched on the edge of Rockwell Lake, has only 10 guest rooms, each with fireplace, sitting area and private deck, and serves dinner by advance notice only (you need to choose from their menu of two or three entrees, which change each day, at least 48 hours in advance so they can buy the right amount of fresh food). No alcohol, but you're allowed to bring your own, so Bob and I bought a good bottle of red in Ludington and, wrapped in Bob's REI "multimat" strapped to the Arkel rackpack on the back of his bike, carefully carried it with us the whole day.Ironically, while stopping in the town of Luther on the way to Rockwell, we ran into two cyclists who were on an Adventure Cycling supported tour across the United States -- Bob and Kris. What was impressive about them is that Bob is 72 and Kris -- well, we weren't rude enough to ask her age, but it probably started with a 6. They began their ride a week after us, from Anacortes, WA, and I must say, they looked like they were still going pretty strong. Yes, they don't have to carry their own luggage, but, on the other hand, they are camping out most nights -- so the two kind of balance out in my view. It was both inspirational and a bit shaming (he's 72 and I'm complaining on my blog about my Achilles tendon?).
Hillsdale College (I never heard of it either), by the way, is a small liberal arts college, with a student body of about 1,400, that is extraordinarily conservative. It's web home page proudly touts that it is independent and takes no federal or state subsidies whatsoever, and it regularly sponsors lectures and seminars that could come out of a right-wing think tank. Check it out for yourself, if you're interested (http://www.hillsdale.edu/about/default.asp). Stephen, you needn't apply.
Tomorrow is a new day -- hopefully it will be warmer (I can't believe I'm saying that after Montana, but it never broke out of the 60s today) -- and hopefully I'll be more receptive to the charms that I'm confident Michigan will ultimately offer.
Here are today's route and metrics: