Everyone was fairly freaked about the weather forecast – I was, and I was fully prepared. The forecast had improved, though mildly, to show showers in the morning in our northern destination of Boyne City, then showers later in the afternoon in the town we were departing from; Lake City. Well, any budding weather aficionado will tell you this means a line of storms descending from north to south – the line of storms, typically, will extend from the southwest to the northeast across the mitten as it drops down. We were supposed to ride through it between 20 & 40 miles into the 99 mile route.
However, if you know the topography, right at that zone are a bunch of hills and valleys… and a long study of the radar futures showed the storm had the chance of splitting in two at the hills… exactly at the time we should be riding through.
I had a vest laid out, just to be sure I wouldn’t need it. I helped my wife, with whom I’d snuggled all night long as if we were newlyweds, pack up the camper before heading in for breakfast at 6:30. I headed to the back of the line and saw, much to my shock and chagrin, a motherf***er in white shorts. I stared aghast.
“WHITE SHORTS? TODAY? Are you f***ing kidding me?!” I exclaimed.
The jackass just smiled. One guy just ruined our chances of getting out of this one dry. Not a chance a guy in white shorts is getting through a 4% chance of rain dry, let alone what we were facing! A female friend of his laughed, “Yeah, he just wears those nasty things on this tour because his wife isn’t here”.
We rolled out to sketchy skies to the north, but a mild to fair temperature. It was quite wonderful, actually… though ominous. Most of the jovial banter was missing as riders envisioned vests and water resistant jackets. I kept the faith, though. The storm would split… and I was feeling pretty spectacular, anyway. I took the front and cranked the pace up – looking down at the computer a few times, seeing “25-mph” in the current speed window.
We had periods of sun, then some thicker clouds, but all seemed quiet on the northwestern front… until it wasn’t. The ugly clouds started to gather and it was looking really sketchy. While we were at the famed “pie stop” at a local church, Chuck got word from his wife that it was raining not far up ahead in Kalkaska…
We took our time eating our pieces of pie. I didn’t lose hope, though. Between the trees, every once in a while, it looked like I could see the storm splitting… and as we neared Kalkaska we could see the drying remnants of the rain on the road. But no raindrops. And just like that, the clouds started to break up again. We hammered it for lunch at the local Subway in Bellaire.
The photo above was take heading north with Torch Lake on our left – Mike was up front, though his monster pulls were limited to no more than a few miles at a time by day three. You can see the last vestiges of the earlier rain on the otherwise dry road…
We Moses’ed the rain. The storm split in two in the hills, just as predicted, and we rode right up the middle of the split without getting hit by a drop. It was quite the jovial mood as we climbed into Bellaire and could see blue sky to the north. Lunch was extra good.
After lunch, we have to climb out of Bellaire on a series of low grade but loooooooong hills. They wear on you after a bit, especially knowing you’ve got the climb to the wall to look forward to in about 20 miles. This year, though, we we dodged a rainstorm and had settled on easy-pedaling the “up” sections and saving the hammering for the flats and downhills. We had a wonderful rhythm going.
That’s Sue up front, with the clouds left behind.
We pulled into East Jordan with a fair mood about us and sunny skies (most manhole covers and storm grates for city sewer systems in the US are forged in East Jordan at the local foundry). Talk centered around dodging the storm bullet and the few of our group who were going to do the wall had a soda in preparation. The vast majority of the group was doing the mile-longer bypass, but I was meeting Jess on the wall and I wanted Jonathan to be able to do the full route with the wall for his first. Chuck, Doug, Chad and Phill went with us.
And my wife, the love of my life, as had been the case all weekend long, was there to record our ascent. She’d walked, in her road shoes and cleats, quite a way down the hill to get the best shots of us coming up because she’s awesome. I PR’d the wall this year, even though I’m fatter than normal (around 185 pounds) because my wife and I have spent so much time on the tandem together. For the first time in the five times I’ve climbed the wall, I barely struggled. I was astonished I did so well, even passing Chuck on the way up… Phill was a minute behind us. I’m always the last one up the hill! Well, not this year.
The ride into Boyne City was awesome and I spent a lot of time talking with my wife as we rolled over the rollers to town. We pulled into the high school parking lot with smiles on our faces and a good bit of satisfaction over a ride well ridden. 99 Miles with an 18.9-mph average… and more good times than a fella could shake a stick at.