ADVENTURE BY BIKE®
NOTE: Today's guest blogger is Chris Duerkop, a copywriter from our parent company's marketing department. Enjoy. -Kid
Waking The Sleeping Bear
The S.S. Badger pulled into dock in Ludington, Michigan at about 7:30 pm—that’s about when I started to panic. In the shadow of the 410-foot-long, 7-story-tall behemoth, the largest car ferry ever to sail Lake Michigan, I’d spread out piles of gear (clothes, cookware, tent, sleeping pad and so on). I had to change, get everything strapped to the bike (a borrowed Salsa Vaya)…and find a place to sleep.
The S.S. Badger docked in Ludington, MI...
With bungees holding down loose clothes, wide-eyed and pedaling frantically, I biked the scant eight or so miles north to Ludington State Park as the sun set over the sand dunes that separated the road from Lake Michigan. After dealings with barely competent Michigan DNR park rangers, I set up camp in the dark, gathered wood, started a meager fire, and found the only food I had: a warm Miller High Life. That first sip gave me a brief moment of relaxation. Tending to the fire, I sat down—on the barely less than full can, soaking my shorts and eliminating the one beer I had. Then it started to rain.
That set the tone for my first excursion into the world on a bike-trip, not only my first time bike-camping for more than one night, but also my first time going it alone.
A Series of Firsts
Michigan and I have history. My parents, both teachers, were very good about taking an annual summer vacation each year. When I was eight, we (my folks, brother and myself) did a loop around Lake Michigan. It would be the first time I mixed biking with vacationing. I was the proud new owner of my first bike, a Murray with neon decals and spoke beads.
I think those shorts were from a pirate Halloween costume…
I couldn’t help but draw parallels between that experience and my current one. People often talk about wanting to “feel like a kid again.” I don’t have that urge, but I realize that the Murray afforded me an independence I’d never experienced before. My brother was still in the stroller, so Mom and Dad were limited in their speed of travel, but not me. I could go off by myself, come back and check-in, and go off again. It’s the independence and time alone that I enjoyed then and I cherish now.
But with isolation comes its own risk. Pedaling ahead of my folks during that first Michigan trip, I found myself going too fast down a decline. Being so long ago, I can’t exactly remember how it happened, but I do know that I left the bike somewhere in mid-air and landed, face-first on asphalt. Subsequent pictures from the trip show a scabbed, pouty face.
I still wear bandanas that way...
Getting Over It
When I had that crash, despite my perceived independence, my parents caught up and helped me out. In this case, if things went bad I had nobody to turn to. The next couple of days gave me a harsh reality check: heavy, aggressive traffic on roads without a shoulder, plenty of rain, wind gusts of up to 30 mph, 1,000-foot climbs, weak knees and inflamed Achilles’. The lesson came pretty quick—suck it up—and grab a 6-pack before you get to the campground.
Campground in Manistee National Forest. Thirty sites and I was the only camper...
Sleeping Bear Dunes
On day three I entered the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, more than 35 miles of protected Lake Michigan shoreline managed by the National Park Service. My first stop was the Dune Climb, the same gigantic dune I’d climbed as an 8-year-old. That proved to be one of the best moments of the trip. I didn’t quite have the legs to go up and down several times like I did back then, but I did enjoy the view from the top.
The Dune Climb from the bottom...
An overnight stay at D.H. Day Campground in Glen Haven, by far the best campground on the trip, gave me some sort of new resolve, because the next day, I pedaled the most miles of any day of the trip. I also had the best weather and the best vistas of the trip. It seemed to be a reward for the previous days.
Point Betsie Lighthouse...
Just outside of Frankfort, looking over Betsie Lake...
Best riding of the trip: Lakeshore Road between Onekama and Manistee...
Different Folks, One Tool
I saw plenty of other cyclists on the trip. There were the token old touring guys. You know the type, black tights, yellow reflective jacket, eyeglass mirrors and a cranky look on their face. Those guys were going farther than I for sure. I ran into a couple in a café who were on their way to a hotel 20 miles away, and that was their entire trip. I eavesdropped on a pair talking about doing a 150-mile charity ride. And after seeing and hearing from those folks I asked myself the question, “What the hell am I doing?” It wasn’t a vacation (too much work for that). It wasn’t a tour (not enough miles). It wasn’t a camping trip (I gave myself a hotel treat in Traverse City). It was different from all those folks, but using the same tool. The whole point for any of us? Just to get out there.
I learned a lot for it being such a short trip. I can think of plenty that I’ll change for next time. And there will be a next time. I have to give a big thanks to Salsa for introducing me to a new way to get out there. -Chris
The last 20 miles...
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