SIGH. WE’RE BACK FROM OUR FINAL TRIP UP NORTH for the year, and the camper is back in the driveway until next spring. But the weather is still fine for a bike ride, which I did this evening to help warm up for this weekend (see the end of this post). So while I’m in the mood, time for a final look back at the August “500 at 50” bike trip. Without further lead-in, here are three things I really liked about the trip:
1. The small towns. The weekend rides in May that took me through 50 towns was a lot of fun, and I managed to visit over 30 on this trip. Some I’d been to before (such as Eaton Rapids, Mason, Charlotte, Mesick), some were new (including Portland (shown below), DeWitt, Alma, Reed City, Rockford) and some I’ve driven through many times but got to see a new side from the bike (Farwell, Cadillac, East Lansing).
While I got strange looks in some places (sorry, Stanwood, I don’t feel the need to visit you again soon), by far the majority of my experiences were great. Life, and the outlook on life, really is different in small towns, at least around here. For example, I finally got used to the idea that no one was going to steal my bike if I left it outside unlocked. It’s hard to find a decent organic wrap, however.
2. The people I met and their stories. It was important to me not just to get from Point A to Point B every day, but to have the time to stop at places and talk to people. Starting conversations with total strangers isn’t easy for me, and I’m sure I missed opportunities along the way, but I met many people and made new friends, and maybe even a few new readers. (One can hope.)
Some of my favorite moments can be found in earlier posts on the May trips and the August trip; meeting the Australian traveling couple in Union City, talking fitness with the barista in Eaton Rapids, the Civil War camp in Jonesville, chatting with relay runners on the White Pines Trail. (Just enter any of the key words in the “Search My Site” box to locate the posts.)
3. Freedom. I had a plan on where I would end each day, and a general idea of how to get there, but other than that the trip was mine to make. I had no duties other than to ride, and no deadlines other than the sunset. Other than that, I could stop where and when I wanted. And eating? The only thing I had to worry about was that I got enough calories.
But of course there were also some things that weren’t so great:
1. “Yap! Yap! Yap!
For some reason the last two days of the trip home took me past every dog in mid-Michigan, and they all had to let the world know I had entered their territory. (Maybe they don’t get all that much excitement.) Normally I like dogs just fine, but there was something about getting continually yapped at that got on my nerves.
2. Getting buzzed by vehicles. Pickup trucks were the most common offenders. Is it being in a pickup that makes you think you don’t need to make room for uppity cyclists, or the nature of people who tend to drive pickups? Oh, how I fantasized about what I’d do if I had force field powers.
3. Cemeteries. Along with the antique shop, hardware store, pizza place, and bar guaranteed to be on every town’s main street, I couldn’t escape passing one of these every few miles. I know they have to be located somewhere, it was just a bit creepy to keep coming across them, no matter what type of road I was on.
Final Thoughts (Mainly because I don’t want to end on a photo of a cemetery)
What a great experience!
What’s the next bike goal? Not sure. I’m still finding it hard to believe that something I started training for in 2007 is now over and done with. But for now, it’s back to running and Aikido for a while, and trying to actually achieve my writing and cooking goals before the year is out.
Got to go. Getting ready for three days of Peace, Love, and Running starting this Friday. Yep, it’s the Run Woodstock weekend, in which I will run in 4 events, including a 50K, and just hang out with other ultramilers. Stories and photos to come, I promise.