Monday, August 20, 2012

Day 66:, wait...Lapeer, Michigan

So, readers of yesterday's post (which, in reality, was put up this morning) will already know that, at the last second, for a myriad of reasons explained in that post, we switched today's destination from Flint to Lapeer (both in Michigan).

Boy, was that a good call. It was a great day of riding.

There were a bunch of factors, I think, that made it so. First, and most obvious, was the weather. After some early morning fog, the sun came out, and, for the first time in days, I was able to start riding without wearing arm warmers. Being the middle of August, you want to be able to do that!

Also, the wind was light and variable, but most of the time it was a bit of a help, not a hindrance.

But the biggest factor was the route. Given the last second change, I relied entirely on Google Maps (as implemented by Katy Ekey's "Run.Bike.Route." program for Android Tablets, which she specifically revised to reflect some of my feedback/requests -- thanks, Katy!). Google did a great job, routing on three different bike paths (all paved), numerous low traffic back roads and, when a bigger road was necessary (e.g., Route 15), on ones with great shoulders.

And the routing, in turn, made the day great because it provided a huge variety of contrasts in both the roads/paths and the scenery.

However, the day started off with a miserable two-mile stretch, Wilder Road, from our hotel on the outskirts of Bay City to Bay City itself. Four lanes, fast, and no shoulder. Unfortunately, there was no way to avoid that as a start to the day (and I'm certainly not going to mention that Bob and I had already ridden about a mile of the same stretch last night, in the dark, to get to dinner -- but, if I did mention it, I would add that we had pretty good lights and got excellent steaks).

But once that two miles was done, I was on a Rail Trail winding along the Saginaw River through the middle of Bay City. The trail was not in great shape pavement-wise -- it reminded me a lot of some of New York's paths -- but it was simply delightful in terms of seeing the waterfront and the adjacent parks. It also incorporated a bunch of neat wooden piers/jetties jutting out into the river that you could ride on (and I did).

The trail was only about 6 miles long, and after that, I was thrown out onto the bigger Route 15, heading Southeast, for about 10 miles, but the traffic was reasonably light and (as I said) the shoulder excellent. But then I began stepping down, alongside Route 15, on back roads that first went South, then East. These were terrific, empty rural roads, plowing through farms and fields, and, although they added distance (e.g., I was taking the two legs of a right triangle, instead of the hypotenuse), they represented much more of what I was hoping to see and ride in Michigan.

The last step South was on dirt (uh-oh), but I was pretty sure that it was taking me to a bike path that would be paved. It did and it was. And I had a lovely stretch on that path for several miles, due East, until rejoining Route 15 and riding it into the small town of Vassar.

Now, up to this point, Bob and I had ridden pretty much the same route (although he did it about an hour earlier and much faster). But out of Vassar he detoured more directly South on Route 15, to Davison, where he had located a bike shop that could replace his patched up and barely holding together rear tire. I continued on a Southeast path, to the town of Millington, where I picked up the trailhead for the 10 mile Southern Links Trailway, through Otter Lake and into Columbiaville.

Now this was a bike path. Smooth and empty, it took me through forests, wetlands, marshes, fields, bogs and more. Great scenery, and I hardly even noticed that by the time I reached its end, I had already logged 52 miles for the day
I still had a final 11 miles to ride to get to Lapeer, but, again, Google came through with lovely and scenic back roads. All except for the last mile or so, which was a busy four lane road, with no shoulder, necessary to ride to get through the center of Lapeer to our hotel on its outskirts (kind of an ironic bookend to the day's start). I admit, I gave up on competing with all the cars for lane space and simply rode on the sidewalk for the mile (which is what I should have done in the morning).

Here are today's route and metrics -- an excellent 63 miles!


1 comment:

  1. Good move steering clear of Flint. Boomer bike riders with goofy helmets and skintight shorts -- well, I dunno how that all goes over there.
    All this Michigan talk. Remember the Simon & Garfunkel song, "America"? "It took me four days to hitch-hike from Saginaw"; "Michigan seems like a dream to me now" -- as it will to you, in a few days.