Monday, July 8, 2013

Northwest Tour Day 2: Old Mission Peninsula

In case you missed my last post, I am reporting on a five day bike tour I did in June. It was my first bike tour, and I had an excellent time. If you want to catch up on the background, check out Northwest Tour Day 1

I had a good first night in the tent. It was chilly (in the 40s), but the combination of my doubled up sleeping bags and my heater kept me cozy.  I was awakened by the sounds of cyclists preparing to leave early for their Day 2 routes. Our campsite mate, Mike, used to be a very hard core runner (3 hrs and change for a marathon) but had taken up cycling when his knees decided they didn’t want to run anymore. He attacked the cycling with the same intensity that he had with his running. He was one of those hundred-mile-a-day-every-day guys, and they liked to get an early start.

Leslie and I rolled out of our tents just about the time that he was rolling out on the road. Leslie and I wandered off to the breakfast tent to fuel up and discuss our route. The route choices for the day were all centered around a trip into Traverse City and out the peninsula. The 100 mile people would ride from the campground, which involved tackling the big hills leading back to the campground on the trip home, as well as several other hills on the trip itself. Something Leslie and I could both agree on was that those were not in our future.

We opted instead to drive down to the high school in Traverse City, ride up to the lighthouse, and stop for lunch at one of Leslie’s favorite spots on the way back.  I was excited because the first half of the ride would be on the Bayshore course, which I had run several times. I also had never been to the lighthouse at the end of the peninsula. It sounded like a great day.

The only fly in the great day ointment was the temperature. We had been hoping for sunny warm days for the tour, but it was chilly and somewhat breezy. We debated over what to wear, loaded up the bikes, and headed out. When we got to the high school to unload, two things were apparent right away: several other people had gone for the avoid-the-big-hills choice and we were both under-dressed. We ransacked the back of Leslie’s car looking for anything to throw on. I ended up with Leslie’s emergency long sleeve tech shirt under my cycling shirt. It saved my life because the breeze was chilly as we headed out.

I soon forgot that as I enjoyed the views on the ride, as the road wound through beautiful neighborhoods, with the occasional glimpse of the bay:

We made the turn at the top of the peninsula and passed the start line for the half marathon, which was the farthest up the peninsula I had been. It was fun but a little odd to see the area without the pre-half marathon hustle and bustle. I was in new and unchartered territory. We soon came to our first stop of the day, a really neat old general store that looked like something out of Petticoat Junction. After a short rest and a granola bar, we pressed on toward the lighthouse.

The road went inland through horse pastures, orchards, and hops farms. Thank goodness I had Leslie as a tour guide because I would have had no idea what was growing in those fields with the strange trellises. We also passed a really cool old schoolhouse. 

Now I just want to say that if you have never been past the start of the half marathon at Bayshore, you need to know that it gets a little hilly out there – not huge hills like out by the campground but enough to remind me that I had not done very much training for this 5 day endeavor. Finally we made the lighthouse at the top of the peninsula, which was also our halfway point at right around 20 miles.

As we headed back, our thoughts turned to lunch. Leslie had a favorite restaurant out there called the Jolly Pumpkin, which is famous for its artisan ales.  (Anyone who knows Leslie won’t be surprised by this little bit of information.) It was a pretty lumpy ride, but we finally made it. What a neat old place!

Over an extremely yummy lunch, Leslie told me a few ghost stories about the old building to keep me entertained. It was during this lunch stop that I made two important observations regarding cycling versus running. The first and most important is that male cyclists, in their spandex shorts, are way more fun to look at than male runners in their baggy running shorts (sorry all my male running friends). An additional benefit of cycling is the brightly colored jerseys. If you get caught checking out the guys in the tight cycling shorts, you can always follow up with “What a neat jersey? I was just trying to read what it says there on the back?”

The second important observation is that both cycling and running require Body Glide, just in different places. Yes for the first time in my cycling career, I was developing a saddle sore. And when they named it “sore,” they weren’t kidding. On top of that, about two miles into the last leg of our ride, my quads started to lock up and burn. At this point, Leslie kept pedaling away from me a bit, but I think it was mostly so that she didn’t have to listen to me whine for the last few miles of the ride. Soon, though, we were back at the high school. We loaded up the bikes and headed back to the campground. Day 2 in the books: 39 miles.

So you would think we might have gone back to the campground to rest, but no. We were off to drive the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive at Sleeping Bear Dunes which has really spectacular scenic views. If you aren’t familiar with the dunes at Lake Michigan, you really should check this out: 

Of course we had to pose for a photo:

As we were walking down the path from the dune, we had a really cool wildlife encounter. A porcupine came out of the bushes and crossed the trail in front of us. He was just a few feet away, so like a couple of dopes we started calling it like a dog.  It did the sensible thing and waddled off into the bushes. Of course, I was all for chasing him until Leslie (always the practical one) says, “I wish I could remember how far they can shoot their quills.” Okay, maybe chasing it into the bushes is not a good idea. Still, it was pretty cool to see it so close.

As we were heading back to the campground, Leslie explained to me that a key element of touring is eating enough to keep your energy up. I am all in for that! We ended our day with a stop back in Glen Arbor for one of the best peanut butter milk shakes I have ever had.  While we ate we planned the ride for Day 3, our longest yet. It was a great end to the day! 

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