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A Perfect Late February Weekend on the Bike… In MICHIGAN?! Indeed.

In all the years I’ve been cycling and running, we’ve never had a decent weekend in February for outdoor activities. My weekday riding buddy, Chuck and I rolled out Friday afternoon for an easy and fun 25 miles at an average pace around 17-mph if memory serves (memory did serve, 16.9 or 27 km/h). It was a little on the chilly side and I was slightly under-dressed, but the sun was shining and it was fantastic getting outside for a spin.

Saturday was about as good as I could have hoped for. We’d received some rain the night before and, due to temps right at freezing, it took forever to dry out. The sun started breaking through the clouds about an hour before we left and it dried out quickly. Our first three miles were a little damp, but thereafter it was fantastic cycling conditions – and we were fast for the 35-1/2 mile route. This early in the spring, with all of that winter garb on, I’m hoping for 18-1/2 for an average. At 18-1/2 in the cool weather, that translates well for Tuesday nights in another couple of months. I’ve still had a smile on my face three days later over the fact that we did 20.

Sunday Funday was fantastic. We had rain in the forecast, to start between 11 & noon, so we rolled out at 9. It was cloudy, breezy and a little on the chilly side, but I didn’t want to be out in the rain, either. My wife wanted the tandem, so that’s what we took. Thankfully, when I put it up for the winter, I’d put the bike through a fairly extensive winterization process so it operated flawlessly and silently.

We rolled out with a target of around 16 to 17-mph and I had no desire to break it – I was tired from Friday and Saturday’s rides. The going was easy and I was amazed at how easy we were rolling heading west. Last I saw the weather, we’d have a tailwind coming home and we’d be fighting it on the way out. Two miles in I saw a flag in someone’s front yard, and it was not good. We were being pushed. Most of the return leg was going to be dead into an ugly southeasterly headwind. By the time we hit our right turn to head south, we had built up almost a 19-mph average… and we set about giving it all back.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression this was, in any way, bad. It wasn’t. My wife and I matched up excellently well so we simply took the pace as it came. The ride was enjoyable and exceptional…

Until about six minutes after it started misting with eight miles to go.

It was just a stray drop at first, just cold enough to jolt you. Then the drops grew more frequent until it was a straight-up mist. With temps a few above freezing, I expected to be colder but the extra work of the tandem (and my Funkier winter jacket) kept me warm. We kept a consistent, decent pace all the way home. And just like that, we were at the driveway, 28 miles and some change at 16.8-mph. Honestly, it was one of those “it’s still better than the trainer” rides. Not much better, though. Also, thankfully, I never bothered taking the mud guards off the tandem. The bike wasn’t exactly sparkly when I got it home, but it wasn’t gnarly by any stretch, either.

A fine February weekend on the bike. Three days and 88 miles. It was a great start to the new season.

Cycling with Friends: Part 177 Interlochen to Mission Point Michigan – A 67 Mile Destination Ride

Mission Point is among the most beautiful rides in Michigan. The 67 mile ride isn’t all awesome, you spend the first ten getting to the awesome, but riding up the Mission Point peninsula simply can’t be beat… with a decent hill or two thrown in for fun on the way home. The ride starts at Interlochen State Park – a phenomenal full service campground for a hub-and-spoke cycling adventure – and with all the posts I’m devoting to this series, you’ll be able to fill a week with fantastic rides from that campground when this is over.

For this day’s adventure, we’re heading from Interlochen into Traverse City for a brief stop at a beach with a restroom. After a quick stop, it’s on to the peninsula where the beautiful scenery is jawdropping. Follow the shoreline north before looping back around to head home (or opt for a right on 37 – Center Road and add on another 10 miles to run up to the lighthouse at Mission Point). Stop for lunch at mile 39 (or 49 if you did the lighthouse) at the Peninsula Cafe (their wraps are fantastic).

From there, it’s time to head for home, and a sandwich at Bud’s or a full meal at Hofbrau (if you really want to eat big, Hofbrau. If you prefer a lighter, but wonderful dinner, Bud’s is fantastic.

The Route on Ride with GPS is (here)
On Endomondo, click (here)
On Strava, Click (here)

If 67 miles just isn’t enough, click (here) for the 83 mile long route on Strava

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Cycling with Friends: Part 147 Bucket List Ride Through Harbor Springs, Michigan

No salt, no teeth… It’s not for the weak-hearted, though!  The water is CHILLY – even in August.

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The ride from Petosky State Park, through Harbor Springs, to the Tunnel of Trees into Cross Village and back is one of the most amazing rides in Michigan.  52-ish miles of the best Michigan has to offer.  If you ever find yourself in a camping mood, you can stay right at Petoskey State Park and ride right from there.  If you’re not into camping, try a hotel in Petoskey, or better, rent a house in Harbor Springs.  Pick a time between mid-June and the end of August for your best shot at phenomenal weather.

You can find the route on Endomondo by clicking (here)

You can fin the route on Strava by clicking (here)

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2019 DALMAC; Day One of Our Epic Bike Tour

I had been anticipating the first day of DALMAC, the Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw City tour, like an eight-year-old looks forward to Christmas morning… on Christmas eve. I hardly slept, had my gear packed days early, my trusty 5200 tuned, perfect, and ready to roll with a brand new chain, new rubber, new brake and shift cables… the camper was squared away and packed – I’d even built a new bike rack for the camper top Monday evening.  I was about to spend some of the most enjoyable time I spend all year long with my wife and friends, doing nothing more than my favorite things to do…

At 6 a.m., we were off to Lansing.

In a rare fluke, the Weather Channel said we had four rain-free days of cycling ahead. We had a chance of showers at our first destination, but that wasn’t going to hit till well after we’d arrived in town. The next three days were clear and sunny, but cool. I can do cool and sunny with a smile on my face.

Day one we had a barely there breeze from the west to start. Considering we had a lot of west to knock out early, we didn’t wait around to smell the roses. The group got smashed to pieces in the State’s Capital by stop lights. I was in the second, largest group. Three had rushed a yellow light and were up the road a ways, and we had a fairly large contingent a couple of minutes behind us. We caught the three up the road and decided to take it easy to the first rural town – we’d get out of the Capital City’s traffic, then pull over and wait at the first party store/gas station we came to. Just an hour in and we had about half of our headwind miles knocked out and we were regrouped.

Once together, though, it was a rude awakening. We had a double pace line, ten in each line, and after my first pull up front, I tapped out, rolled back… and just two bikes back a hole had opened up. There were seven riders on my side alone who wanted to suck wheel and only three willing to do any work. The other side was no better.  23 miles into a 377 mile ride and I was beside myself.  It was going to be a loooooooonnnnnng weekend.

Shortly thereafter, one of my buddies who could pull took two who wouldn’t and headed up the road on the short route. The rest of us were in for 100 miles of fun. We had six horses in the sixteen or seventeen left.

I noticed a problem, which is rare form for me once I get to going because I get “cycling brain” – a little fuzzy, the calculator just takes a little longer to spit out the answer.  Those who ride a lot will know exactly what I mean. Part of the problem was definitely those who wouldn’t pull through, but I saw we had a huge problem up front – and that’s where the problem started.  If the pace is too fast or too hard on the hills, no wonder so few would pull through – they were afraid to lose their draft.

Pace line cycling, without consistency, turns into a cluster f*** so fast your head will spin. If you’ve got people charging up hills or half-wheeling, it turns the back into slop. If you’ve got ten people who won’t pull, they get strung out and start to yo-yo. They’re actually working 10 to 20% harder than the people up front just to stay in contact. We actually had one rare occurrence where two half-wheeler’s ended up side-by-side and up front at the same time.

If you’ve never seen what one half-wheeler can do to a pace line, it’s comical. Two next to each other is a rare catastrophe. The pace went from 21-mph into the wind, up to 28 within a minute and the two up front were entirely oblivious to what they were doing. One would pull ahead a half-length, then the other would pull ahead a half-length, then the other, and so on. One was a woman with a hell of an engine and an inferiority complex. The other, a guy from her home town, I couldn’t peg, though I’d put money on the fact he wasn’t going to let her half-wheel him. Anyway, I finally said something – it was going to be horrific if that $#!+ didn’t get sorted and in a hurry.

We stopped for lunch (!) at mile 50 in Ionia, and I was absolutely stoked for the rest. It’d turned into a rough morning with a whole bunch of headwind eaten, but our luck was about to change as we fired down our last bite of Subway. Just six miles of headwind remained for the day. The rest was just cross headwind.

Folks, it was sunny, breezy, and warm. Arm warmers were in back pockets and we were crunching out the miles, the only plus to being one of six willing to work was that there was a draft in the front four. Back of that, it was a mess. I tried going back there a few times but ended up jumping gaps to get back up to the front again.

The next 49 miles were a blur. I can’t remember much of what went on but there wasn’t much pretty about it. There were mistakes all over the place, which led to frayed nerves, which led to irritation as those nerves were lit up like a Christmas tree with a fair amount of headwind and wheel sucking. The folks up front were pissed those at the back wouldn’t help, and those at the back were pissed because the pace was too hard and inconsistent up front.

On the other hand, on reflection, I actually maintained a fair attitude through it all, though I had a tendency to bark orders to a couple of hammers in particular, but I was still cracking jokes 80 miles in.  The group broke up shortly after as several of us decided to take a shortcut to get out of some headwind.

We pulled into Vestaburg High School and I still had enough in me to complete a loop with Sue and Chuck to make it an even 100 miles for the day.

And we sorted out the day’s problems at dinner. Just as the downpour hit.  It was huge.  I joked about looking for wood to build an ark. My buddy Mike would later call and ask if he could stay with my wife and I in our camper as his tent’s rain-fly had sprung a leak. His stuff was drenched. Day two looked more promising, with the exception of more cross-headwind, because it seemed as though we worked out what needed to be fixed earlier in the day.

It had to be better. All was forgiven and we were laughing again, though. After the rain ended we walked to the ice cream shop on the edge of town and had a few laughs before turning in for the night.  It’s a rare day I sleep that well, but sleep I did. I was exhausted.

To be continued….

2019 One Helluva Ride; That Extra Two Tenths of a Mile Can Kiss It…

I rode the one hundred mile ride through Hell, Michigan they affectionately call “One Helluva Ride” with a bunch of my friends yesterday, and more than a few new friends. It is, typically speaking, the hardest ride of the year. It’s hot as, well, hell, the roads suck, and it’ll beat the snot out of you – especially if you go out too fast, which is easy to do because the first ten to fifteen miles is a negative grade.

Our average speed was north of 23-mph (37-km/h) at the first rest stop. One of the lead guys through that front section (I took a long turn up front, too and I didn’t slow down, either), toward the end of the ride, said he kept looking back and everyone was there, so he figured the pace was good and kept it. For my turn up front, holding 24 to 25-mph didn’t feel so bad, so I held it.

We decided as a group to pull the reigns in after that first rest stop. We needed to slow it down or we’d literally be cooked later on. By the time we hit the second rest stop at 49-ish miles, our average was down to 21.6-mph. Unfortunately, as we pulled into the parking lot, several of the guys were fishing for white flags in their back pocket… One, an incredibly strong dirt rider on a gravel rig, said he’d have phoned it in had we not stopped at the rest area. He was starting to feel a little toasty… it was getting hot.

We were still holding it together at the third rest stop. Our average had dropped to 21-mph, though we’d lost five guys out of our group. I was still feeling pretty good and we only had 23 to go. Unfortunately, that 27 miles between rest stops hammered most everyone else. Four guys were doing better than I was, and a bunch were a lot worse off.

The heat cranked up like a sauna without the steam – it was just hot. Guys started slipping off the back and before we hit 85 miles, our eighteen man group was down to just five. And then they started throwing hills at us. Three of the guys left were mountain goats. They cruised up the hills with relative ease. Then there was Chuck and me. Mountain goats we’re not. I’m still trying to lose my last few pounds from vacation… I’m feeling a bit the fat ass. Jonathan, Vance and Mark tore up this innocuous looking hill and Chuck and I were just behind. Chuck had been dealing with the early stages of cramping, and about halfway up that hill, the hammer dropped on me. I went from, “meh” to “oh, $#!+” in one hill. I’m thinking, “what the hell, this hill is no big deal, what is going on?!” That’s when Chuck chimed in, “Yep, 7%”. It was one of those deceptive optical illusion hills. You’re dropping down to the baby ring and you’re like, “hey, I should be doing 20 right now”. Trying to keep up on that hill torched me. We only had seven miles to go.

The next three miles were plain ugly. I even thought about getting SAG’ed in for a few seconds. My feet were hot. The one bright side, with the exception of the unrelenting sunshine, was that I’d picked up a new Specialized Jersey – one of those crazy-high priced pro style deals, and it was absolutely amazing how cool it kept my upper body in the intense heat. As I’m suffering along, the performance of that jersey crossed my mind more than once.

I didn’t call SAG, of course. I decided I’d let everyone go if I had to. I was going to take the hills easy, coast down the descents, and hold 20-ish on the flats… and before I knew it, I was still with the front crew, for the most part, and we crossed the 97-mile mark. I relaxed a little bit, “No matter how pooched I am, I can ride three miles”, I thought. We navigated the neighborhoods of Chelsea until we could see the fairgrounds. Chuck with renewed life, said, “If I’m not at a hundred when we hit the parking lot, I’m going to get the extra”. Not me. I rolled into the parking lot with 99.8 miles and I was freaking done. I didn’t even ride my bike to the rack. I got off and walked it.

I’d had enough.

Some watermelon, Gatorade, water, more watermelon, a half a turkey sammich, and a shower later and I was starting to feel okay again. Chuck had driven and I managed to stay awake till we hit my driveway, but I was half asleep when I wheeled my bike into the house. My nap was awesome.