Note: This blog is split into weekly segments. Links to the other weeks:  FAQ   Week 1    Week 2   Week 3


Final Stats
26 days on the road
5 non-riding days
21 riding days, averaging ~52 miles per day.
Cost: Just over $5,000
$2,400 on motels and $1,350 on dinners. (Ah, so that's why people camp.)


Epilog

We have been home for a couple of days and I thought I would share a few final thoughts on the trip before my mind went completely in another direction.

In some respect the trip around the lake was a lot like running my first marathon years ago. When we started the distance seemed unimaginably long but we humans have an uncanny ability to get into a routine. Touring, like running long distances, provides the time to truly let your mind wander. There were times that were stressful and others that were almost effortless. One thing is for sure the process takes a person totally out of your everyday life and gives you an all-consuming focus. Short term we always knew that day’s destination and long term was to make it home. Rarely in life are things so clear.

I’ve run six marathons, five by myself and one with my two kids. The one with the kids was the slowest and the most fun because it was social. We didn’t care about the time we only cared that everyone finished and everyone was OK. I think either Cindy or I could have made the lake tour by our self but it was so much better together.

There is a measure of luck in doing a twenty-six day bike ride. No matter how careful you are you’re still on a lot of busy streets with little or no shoulders at times and you have to hope that the drivers give you the space. In general I have to say the drivers on our tour were very courteous. You also have to realize that your wellbeing often depends on your bike holding together. There are times when you are zooming down hills at almost thirty miles per hour and a failure could be a serious problem. As luck would have it we traveled over eleven hundred miles with all kinds of road conditions and only had one flat and a few minor bike problems, which we got fixed in Green Bay early into the trip.

Over the days we saw dozens of deer, a wolf, lots of black squirrels, chipmunks, all kinds of birds and a wide variety of road kill the most interesting of which were the porcupines in the UP. We loved the quiet beauty of the forests, the neat dairy farms of Wisconsin, the fruit orchards and rolling hills of Michigan and especially the majestic expanse of Lake Michigan.

I have thought about whether I would ever take a trip like this again and I think the answer is yes but not this year. I think I’ll just move on and enjoy the memory.

Dave


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Day 26: Saturday - June 27, 2009
Munster, Indiana, to Villa Park, Illinois
50.03 miles (Cumulative: 1,104.15 miles)
Route: Zigzagging north and west through Chicago's southern and southwestern suburbs to Bemis Woods, then the Salt Creek Greenway Trail.
Terrain: Flat except for overpasses and a few hills in Hickory Hills and Willow Springs.
Weather: About 70 degrees at the start, 78 at the end. Sunny. No wind until the last half, then from the south at less than 5 mph.

Aulwurm Drive right before it disappears over a ledge.

Home at last OMG we’re home at last. We hit the tape at 2 PM. I could not help but think of the day we left because of the contrast. We left in a cool drizzle where we could see our breath and returned in a hot sun where the air conditioning felt good.

Our ride today was urban from Munster to Villa Park with lots of busy roads and no shoulders. In general there were no problems except the time where our route said take Jackson, which becomes Rolls, which turns and becomes Aulwurm Drive and there was a barricade that said “road closed”. The bike route map had the road, MapMyRide had had the road, and the Garmin had the road so we went on the road past the barricades. When the grass is growing through the cracks in the road and the "road" is only five feet wide we should have known there was a problem. I finally got to the point where the road had caved in and there was a 20 foot drop, oops time to go to plan B. This was the second time in 1100 miles that the road had been washed out. If you’re thinking about riding around the lake keep that in mind.

I will write an epilog after I have had a time to rest and reflect but what a trip. It was Cindy’s trip that I hooked on to and it was a blast. Thanks Cindy.


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Day 25: Friday - June 26, 2009
Michigan City to Munster, Indiana
48.26 miles (Cumulative: 1,054.12 miles)
Route: Lakeshore Dr., Rte. 12, Beverly Dr., more Rte. 12, Waverly Rd. Parts of three bike trails: Prairie Duneland (10 miles), Old Savannah (6 miles), Erie Lackawana (1.5 miles) and some connecting streets. Five more miles on various streets into Munster.
Terrain: Mostly flat.
Weather: 72 degrees at the start, upper 80s at the end. Mostly sunny. No wind until the last 5 miles, then from the north at 5 mph.

Dave in the woodlands on the south edge of the Indiana Dunes.

Today’s ride was kind of bittersweet. I know we are both looking forward to getting home tomorrow but the 5 or 6 hours of riding each day has become our routine and something that I look forward to each morning. I know one thing we will have to change when we get home is our eating habits. When I exercise this much I attack each meal like I’m going to the electric chair tomorrow.

I was thinking today how much fun and freedom bikes have given me over the years. I actually remember the first time I rode a two wheel bike. I was 6 or 7 years old and lived on Avers Avenue in Chicago. I didn’t have a bike but my friend Tony had a 20 inch Schwinn that he let me practice on until I got my balance. Not long after that my family moved to the suburbs and I got my first bike. In grade school I rode my bike everywhere. Kids were given a lot more latitude (freedom) in the 50’s than they are today so we explored all of DuPage County and beyond.

Like many kids, the day that I got my drivers license was the last day that I rode a bicycle for the next 30 years. Now that I’m in my 60’s I am back to a similar relationship with bikes that I had in grade school. They liberate me.


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Day 24: Thursday - June 25, 2009
Michigan City, Indiana
0 miles (Cumulative: 1,005.86 miles)
Cindy and Dave wading in the lake.

We spent a couple of hours today on the computer with the Map My Ride website, mapping our last two days. Much of the route was familiar to me from my working years. I used to regularly visit South Holland and Munster to help reps make sales. Once we got near Hinsdale I felt like the old saddle horse who got sight of the barn, no more naps were required.

It looks like about 100 miles between Michigan City and home so we are going to split it in half and take 2 days.

We took a walk this morning to visit some friends and then down to the beach. After almost a month riding around the lake it is actually the first time we walked in the lake - it felt great. Notice the funny suntans on our legs.

Our plan is to check out the sunset tonight from the beach, that is if I can stay up late enough.

 

 

 


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Day 23: Wednesday - June 24, 2009
St. Joseph, Michigan, to Michigan City, Indiana
37.55 miles (Cumulative: 1,005.86 miles)
Route: M63, Red Arrow Hwy., some country roads that were marked as Backroads Bikeways, more on Red Arrow Hwy., Lakeshore Rd., Marquette Dr. Whittaker St., Rte. 12.
Terrain: Some undulating, some flat, occasional small hills.
Weather: 75 degrees at the start, 90 degrees at the end. Sunny and humid. Infrequent very light west breeze off the lake.

View from our lunch perch.

When we hopped on our bikes this morning, for the first time in awhile, I felt like we were heading home. We were actually going to stay with our friends the Floradays in Michigan City, Indiana, and spend a day and a half figuring out how to get through the south side of Chicago and then north back to our home.

There were parts of our ride today where the lake was in sight. The temperature was hot and the humidity was high and when we looked out across the lake there was no horizon. The lake and the sky were one, a beautiful blue gray vista. We found the coolest lunch spot on the north side of New Buffalo. It was a covered table about 100 ft. above the lake with a great view. For the last week we have been having an apple for lunch, a much more satisfying snack than those health bars.

The two momentous events today were we hit the 1000 mile mark and crossed into the fourth state of our trip. The next major milestone will be pulling into our driveway at home.

 

 


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Day 22: Tuesday - June 23, 2009
Saugatuck to St. Joseph, Michigan
47.00 miles (Cumulative: 968.31 miles)
Route: Blue Star Hwy., Lakeshore Dr., more on Blue Star Hwy., M63.
Terrain: Undulating with occasional mildly hilly areas.
Weather: Mid 70s at the start, high 80s at the end. Sunny and humid. Occasional miniscule breeze from the SW.

Sunset on Silver beach, St. Joseph, Michigan.

This will be our last night in the beautiful state of Michigan. We are staying overnight in the town of St. Joseph which is near the bottom of the lake. A fun part of bicycle touring is meeting and talking to people along the way. Almost to a person people have been amazed that we are riding all the way around Lake Michigan. When we tell them that we are riding around the lake the most common response is you mean Lake (fill in a local lake name) and we say no Lake Michigan. The other response that is funny happens in the evening when we are out of bike clothes. People assume when we say we are biking around the lake that we are motorcycling. I guess we don’t fit the correct stereotype.

It has always interested me that most people who live near one of the prettiest and pristine bodies of water in the world rarely if ever enjoy it other than to turn on the tap for a glass of water.

We are looking forward to the last leg. It should be about 3 more riding days.

 

 


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Day 21: Monday - June 22, 2009
Muskegon to Saugatuck, Michigan
60.18 miles (Cumulative: 921.31 miles)
Route: Many different roads and streets each for a mile or less, with a bike path in the middle along Lakeshore Ave. (17 miles) and then 5+ more miles into Holland.
Terrain: Flat or undulating with some easy rolling hills along Lakeshore Ave.
Weather: Low 70s at the start, mid 80s at the end. Sunny. Occasional light breeze from the SE.

View of the Grand Haven harbor entrance.

Leaving Muskegon was like riding through the city after the neutron bomb. The majority of folks on the road were drivers ed cars filled with a teacher and three sixteen year olds. We tried to stay as far away from them as possible. The neighboring suburbs to the south are beautiful with manicured lawns and nice homes.

After leaving Muskegon we traveled south along some busy roads but most had paved bike paths that ran along side the road. Today’s ride was mostly in the woods. We were close to the lake but it was out of sight most of the time.

The hardest part of today ride was the heat. We have been trying to ride 50 to 60 miles per day and today’s 60 miles was a push. We stopped at a Best Western just inside the Saugatuck city limits. We are missing the downtown, which is a bummer, but the price of motel rooms has doubled even on the outskirts of town. I think the price is a combination of being “in season” and getting into the Chicago summer home effect.

We think we might ride a few 30 to 40 mile days to catch our breath and smell the roses.


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