Category Archives: “500 at 50” Bike Trip

Posts about my 6-day, 600-mile bike trip from Ann Arbor to our campground near Glen Arbor and back.

So, What Did We Do In Boston Last Week?

We’re back from five days in Boston (plus one in Manchester, NH) where we did a lot of touristy stuff and I snuck in a marathon. More on that to come, but I’m a bit rushed getting ready for Trail Marathon this weekend, so here are some quick highlights from our trip.

(Note for the TL;DR crowd: If you get the chance, do it. Go to Boston, run the marathon (or cheer someone on), and make time to take in some of the area’s 400-year history. If you want more details, read on!)

Location, location, location

We stayed at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge, across the Charles River from downtown Boston and about a 5K away from the Expo and finish line. We enjoyed our stay there and we’d recommend it to anyone traveling to Boston.

Need to walk or run? Step out the back door and onto a paved path that runs along the river for miles. Watch university sailing clubs and crew shells practicing with the Boston skyline in the background. Or go the other way and run through several pretty parks on your way to:

The Navy Yard – USS Constitution and Cassin Young

 

Nowhere else in the world, as far as I know, can you walk on board a warship that’s been in continuous service since 1797. Old Ironsides was in drydock undergoing repairs, but still open to the public. It’s crewed by active duty Navy personnel, some in period costume and some in modern uniforms, who give lectures and performances on and below decks.

The Cassin Young is a WWII destroyer berthed behind the Constitution. It too was open, with retired Navy sailors giving tours. It’s less well known, but equally deserving our respect, serving in the war and surviving two kamikaze attacks. By visiting both we got a sense of what things have changed in warships (armor, weaponry, food) and which have not (living space). But perspective came from some visiting submariners, who walked through the tiny crew’s quarters, marveling, “So much space here!”

Freedom Trail and Freedom Tours

If you’re walking in downtown Boston, you may see a line of red bricks running down the middle of the sidewalk in many places. These red bricks mark the Freedom Trail, which runs from Boston Common to the Bunker Hill Memorial and to the Navy Yard, through parks and historic neighborhoods along the way.

You can walk part of the trail with a tour guide in period costume, who will take you to several historic buildings and one of the first graveyards in Boston, whose remains include Samuel Adams and Paul Revere, among others. You’ll also hear tales about early Boston, from the patriotic to the gruesome. For instance: what question did native Bostonians ask suspected spies during the War of 1812? And what did they build on top of the old hanging ground on Boston Common? (*)

Boston Harbor Tour

This is a 90-minute narrated boat tour of a good part of Boston Harbor. We passed by modern art museums on the waterfront, went by several islands each with its own story, and saw the really unusually shaped buildings that process the waste that keep the harbor clean. The top deck of the boat is open, which would have been great except it was chilly that day, so we went down into the lower deck and looked out the windows. Touristy? You bet. Worth it? Absolutely. I’d do it again.

Confession: I forgot what this building is. But it was fascinating at the time!

Food

While Boston is full of great restaurants, anyone visiting should not fail to visit one in particular: Legal Sea Foods. The clam chowder is so highly regarded it’s now served at every Presidential inauguration. The first time I went there was during the Big Dig, when roads were torn up everywhere and the wharf was nearly impossible to get to. But I did, and sat outside at sunset sipping a cappuccino and watching the fishing boats come in. Today I-93 runs under the city rather than above it, the harbor is clean, and the restaurant is as good as I remembered. Save up for lunch or dinner there, even if you’re don’t particularly like seafood. You’ll like it there.

And don’t forget the dessert!

And Then There Was Chocolate

We flew home from Manchester, New Hampshire, avoiding the crush at Logan Airport and happening across one of the best chocolatiers in the country. I’m going to save that story for another time. It’s worth its own post.

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Coming soon: what was it like to run Boston for the first time? All will be revealed. Stay tuned!

(*) I just might give you the answers in an upcoming post.

2012 – The Fitness at 50 Year in Review

IT’S STILL A BIT HARD TO BELIEVE that 2012, my “year of being 50” is over and done with, even as full a year as it was.

As a forward-looking guy, I’m more interested in what I’m doing and learning now, and training for events to come. But readers who joined me during the year (thank you, thank you!) may not be fully aware of everything I’d planned for, and did, during 2012. So, in a nutshell, here’s what I’d set for myself to accomplish last year, and how it worked out.

2012 – The Setup

The idea to do something special at age 50 began in 2007 as a “500 at 50” bike trip, in which I would ride from home to our campground near the Sleeping Bear Dunes and back (500 miles) in the summer of 2012. As I continued to train and get in better shape, however, I thought of other things I could do to celebrate being 50, and gradually the plan developed for all the 50-related goals in 2012 – including creating a blog to tell the story.

In addition to the bike trip and a total running/cycling goal of 2,500 miles (50×50), I set monthly targets in the various activities and hobbies I pursue.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

With such a great coach, success was a near guarantee.

Calisthenics (January):  I kicked off 2012 with a modest goal of 50 pushups per day in January, and despite getting a cold a couple of weeks in, made the goal. A good start!

Cooking (February & March) – This part didn’t work out so well. My initial goal was to cook 50 new recipes in February. I didn’t get near that number, even when I extended it to March. A key certification effort at work meant I didn’t have the time or energy to get there. On the plus side, I created or found some recipes that became family favorites. Later in the year I tried out a few new truffle flavors, too. My experience with durian in December was less pleasant, but a learning experience nonetheless.

Of course, these are all "calorie-free" - since I don't sell them, all the calories are free.

Of course, these are all “calorie-free” – since I don’t sell them, all the calories are free.

ReverseHandThrowAikido (April, July) – Goal: attend 50 classes in one month. I chose April because the big push at work was over, and it wouldn’t be too hot in the dojo (our school doesn’t believe in air conditioning). By attending my regular Rec & Ed classes and getting in lots of extra training at the main dojo, I wound up with 55 for the month. We celebrated by doing 55 pushups at the end of the final class.

Bokken - KamaeIn July my goal was buki (wooden weapons) practice in increasing sets of 50. So at the end of the month I was doing 200 sword strikes per day. I think I improved my technique as a result, although I’ve been told it takes 1,000 strikes per day to get really good.

Cycling (May, August) – The August “500 at 50” bike trip was the main event, but I wanted to get some serious BIS (butt-in-saddle) time before then. I decided on some all-weekend rides in May, with the goal of visiting 50 small towns during the month. Town #50 was Honor, which I reached during our Memorial Day weekend trip up north.

Doing my part to save lives!

Doing my part to save lives! (Breast cancer walk fundraiser in Clinton.)

Daughters - the best welcoming committee!

Daughters – the best welcoming committee! (Arrival at the campground.)

The August 500-mile trip wound up being 600 miles due to back roads (and getting lost a couple of times), and despite some unexpected detours and riding an entire day in the rain, made it there and back on schedule, meeting a number of wonderful people and eating a lot of cookies and scones along the way. You can read about it here.

NaNoWriMo 2012 Winner CertificateWriting (November) – November was National Novel Writing Month (fondly known among writers as NaNoWriMo), whose annual challenge is to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month (how convenient!). I selected a story idea that had been bouncing around in my head for a couple of years, and finally put electrons to it. I got over the 50,000 word mark with a day to spare. Now comes the fun part – completing it, then edit, revise, and repeat.

Mile 19 - State Street - croppedRunning (year round) – Wow. When did I turn into a runner? My count shows 20 races from December 2011 to December 2012, with age group awards in 12 of them, a PR (personal record) in every distance, and a finish under 20:00 in a 5K, something I’d been working toward for two years. I also set a distance PR by running a 50K (31.2 miles) ultramarathon at Run Woodstock in September (and did something else for the first time that you can read about here). And you couldn’t ask for better support than my coach, Marie, and the wonderful folks who run with PR Fitness.

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. (I'm the last row, far right.)

The PR Fitness teams at the Crim 10-mile. I’m in the back row, far right. Marie is center, bib #2875.

You may have noticed that not every month is covered. June was the Dexter-Ann Arbor half marathon and the Ann Arbor Marathon, so I figured that was enough to go on. October I just couldn’t think of anything, so I let it go. (That was the best part of this whole thing. My year, my rules!)

So, have I set goals for 2013? Yes – and no. Details to follow.

Bike Trip Wrap-up, and Preparing to Peace Out, Man

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).

I could live here, if only the coffee shop didn’t close so early.

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.)

Fellow cyclists enjoying the great day outside Zou-Zou’s in Chelsea.

Go Blue!

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.

How many Chocolate Bomb cookies do I need to make it to St. Johns?

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)

That’s the spirit! (I’ll forgive him for assuring me the whole White Pines trail was paved.)

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.

Fitness at 50 Ride, Final Day: Moose Drool, Lemon Mousse, and the JoyBox

THE FINAL DAY OF THE RIDE started out perfect – sunny and not too hot – and pretty much continued that way throughout. With a light ride of “only” 65 miles and traveling on mostly familiar ground, it promised to be a good day. And it was, mostly. Flat, smooth roads and low traffic made the ride itself very pleasant. The overall experience, however, turned out to be a set of alternating ups and downs.

Odd, indeed. When was the last time you saw a sign advertising FRESCA?

The first leg took me back along M-50, which is a fast road but had a decent shoulder. And when I saw the store pictured here, I just had to stop,  if only to find out what “Moose Drool” was and how you could possibly sell it. Turns out it’s a Michigan beer, one of many local brews this store carries. But even if I drank a lot of beer, that name wouldn’t appeal to me much.

Dragons and flying monkeys, on the other hand, I just had to get – for my D&D group, of course. (Click to see the labels better.) FYI, “Dragon’s Milk” is a dark, full flavored beer reminiscent of Guinness.

Eaton Rapids, my first planned stop, meant a mandatory visit to Hamlin Square Coffee for a chocolate chip scone and first-rate cappuccino. The baristas there, Aron and Andrea, recognized me and we shot the breeze awhile. Andrea told me she’s lost over 10 pounds this summer by riding her bike more and changing her diet. Great going, Andrea!

For a reason I forget, Aron mentioned Onondaga. “There are two bars there,” he said, “and all these people talk about going to Onondaga just for the bars.” He didn’t know why. I didn’t think much of it until, back on the road, I saw a sign for Onondaga just two miles south. So I took a detour. It was noon on Sunday, but I could at least look at the bars and maybe ask someone what the fuss was all about.

I’m afraid I didn’t learn much, as the place I entered didn’t live up to its advertising as “friendly”. The bartender/waitress acted like I was an inconvenience and the couple next to me at the bar were interested only in canoodling each other and completely ignored me. I ate a very average BLT and got out of there. (Hint to any bartenders out there: even non-drinking cyclists can be good tippers if you treat them like valued customers.)

I hoped my next stop in Leslie would be better, but  the shops were closed and the streets were deserted. I took a few minutes to ride around anyway, and on one of the back streets I found what remained of a town-wide weekend garage sale. I browsed for a bit and found a book on desserts (naturally) with a recipe for chilled lemon mousse, which is on my list to make. My panniers were stuffed, but somehow I got the book in there. I promised Brittany (shown here holding my bike) I’d let her know how the recipe came out, and I’ll post it here as well when I get the chance to make it.

On to Stockbridge and the Cravingz Cafe, where I’d stopped on Day One. Alas, they had closed an hour earlier. So no coffee until Chelsea – could I survive 13 more miles without it? And would the Gourmet Chocolate Cafe still be open? I texted my wife and daughters just in case; Tori’s reply, “You can do it!” inspired me to tough it out.

Tragedy! The GCC was closed. Fortunately Chelsea’s other cafe, Zou-Zou’s, was still open, and I remembered that it was popular with cyclists. As I’d thought about that morning, I’d spoken with all kinds of people during my trip – except for other cyclists. How’s that for irony? And as it happened, there were several other cyclists hanging out at Zou-Zou’s, and I had fun talking with them.

I rode from Chelsea to Dexter with a local couple, Curt and Joey, who told me about Mr. B’s Joybox Express, a jazz group that raises money for supporting participation of children in arts and athletics. As the picture shows (taken from their website), they travel by bicycle, carrying or towing their instruments – including their piano. Their next big tour is down the Mississippi River.

From Dexter it was a short hop back to our house, where I’d started out two weeks before. A bit anti-climactic, as no one else was home except for our three cats, who were more interested in getting their dinner than in where I’d been. But it was good to be home.

Mission accomplished! 6 1/2 days, 610 miles.