Saturday, August 18, 2012

Day 64: The Pere Marquette Trail (Clare, Michigan)

I kind of feel like I owe Michigan an apology after yesterday's post. It will be a tepid apology, as I'm still don't really feel awed by any of the scenery to date, but today's ride, in terms of riding conditions and improved vistas, was a big step up. Really very pleasant (how's that for lukewarm praise?).

Today we rode from last night's Rockwell Lake Lodge, just outside Luther, MI, to Clare, MI, a total of 64 miles. We deliberately got a late start (9 a.m.), because the temperature didn't break past 50 degrees until then. Brrrr. Who thought we'd be longing (kind of) for the heat wave?

Except for about 1/3rd of a mile out of Rockwell Lake, the roads were all paved and in good shape. The plan for the day was to head South, towards Reed City, where we could pick up the trailhead of the Pere Marquette trail, which after a fair bit of research last night, and quite a bit of conflicting web site information, we felt fairly confident would be paved all the way to Clare (39 miles). The first 10 miles of our ride heading towards Reed City were lovely. Completely empty roads, splitting a mature forest on both sides. The next 10 were less so, with more traffic and more human settlement, and the highway sometimes nearby, but still just fine riding.

I even had a unique (for me) dog experience. Now I haven't talked/written much about dogs on this trip, but they are definitely an occupational hazard of bicycling. And, the smaller the road, the more likely, it seems, you are to run into them (I guess the owners are less concerned about their animal being hit by a car?). By and large, our encounters to date, to my surprise, have largely been just setting off large serenades of barking, with most dogs behind fences or on chains. I've had maybe two or three occasions where they've come after me, and I've been trying to out alpha-male them, with a harsh, confident, "Stay. Go home." And that's actually seemed (mostly) to work. But watching Bob in action is a thing to behold. He's the original Dog Whisperer and, I think, has yet to meet a dog he doesn't like. They come running up to him, fierce and barking, and he stops, bends down, and begins muttering all the typical doggy endearments: "good boy, nice doggie" -- and, they love it!

So I've admired this technique from afar, but was certain that the waves of fear that would permeate my smell to dogs would undermine any effort actually to put it into practice for myself. But the perfect occasion arose this morning, with a lovely Labrador bounding out into the road, barking at me non-stop. Without any conscious thought, I went completely and wholeheartedly with the "good boy, nice doggie" approach -- and it actually worked! (at the cost of spending an eternity with him sniffing my crotch). Not sure I'd have the, ahem, balls to do this with a fiercer looking creature, but it sure was eye-opening to this basically non-dog guy (Laura and I have a cat -- Hi Rufus, if you're reading this).

OK, back to the ride. When we got to Reed City, there was an old car show taking over Main Street (I don't think Bob and I have ever come across so many car shows in our lives before this trip - Americans sure do love their cars). It was actually pretty interesting, with an original production run Model T and many other cars, some recognizable from actual memory, on display.

So, heading out of Reed City, we started on the Pere Marquette trail and it was actually pretty excellent. Well paved, including after the initial 4 miles when some web sites suggested it would stop being paved. Pretty much empty of other bikers, strollers, joggers. And very nice scenery. Fields of trees, young and old, bogs with lilly pads, rivers here and there, along with small and large lakes, and a routing that took us through a succession of small towns. It also was wide and open enough not to feel claustrophobic. But having said all that, 39 miles on a bike path gets a little...dull. It's really nice being away from any cars -- and I was reminded of that as the last few miles into Clare were on a largish road (Route 10) with significant traffic -- but I still pretty much prefer empty back roads any time over even a good bike trail.

But we're going back to the trail tomorrow. The first 30 miles, of what should be a 50 mile day or so, will be on the Pere Marquette trail into Midland, Michigan. We'll then spend the final 20 miles on roads, navigating to Bay City, MI, where we'll spend the night.

Here are today's route and metrics:


1 comment:

  1. Engrossing, deftly written text, as usual, but on this post, the photos stole the show. Wonderful understated variety. I forgot what a good photographer you are.