Today was a great bicycling day. What made it great? Conversation. I stayed in a charming bed and breakfast in Ludington, Michigan, called “The Inn at Ludington.” Lars, the owner was very friendly. Since they were fully booked, they had two breakfast seatings. I took the early shift and while the food was good, the conversation was even better. Two of the guests had both served in the US military and both were deployed to Vietnam in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was fascinating hearing what the war was like from people who were there.
At the end of breakfast, the skies opened and it rained heavily. It was not good cycling weather, so I did something sensible. I went back to sleep until the weather improved. Around 10 AM the sun came back out, so I got ready to leave the Inn. Just as I stepped outside another heavy rain shower doused the area. My first half-hour of pedaling was cold and wet. Luckily that was it for bad weather. While the skies threatened more rain for most of the day, none happened.
The first twenty miles were from Ludington to Hart, Michigan. The ride went by lake homes and even a giant dam. It was pleasant and the speed limit on some of the roads I took was 25 mph. Both I and the cars were going quite slowly. I was crawling slowly because my legs were very tight and the cars were crawling because of the low speed limit signs. I was concerned I would not pedal all the way to my next hotel in Muskegon, but after 45 minutes my muscles loosened up and I was able to start making steady progress.
I stopped in Hart for lunch but could not find an open shop that made sandwiches. I ended up buying a fried fish sandwich from a warming rack in a Mobil gas station. It was only marginally better than eating nothing. I vowed to eat no more gas station sandwiches.
In the town of Hart my day, which was going well, suddenly got much better. Hart begins a very long bike trail that goes for many miles. I knew there was a trail but didn’t know its conditions or length. The conditions were excellent. It was paved, smooth, maintained and well-marked and it went the 40 miles to my hotel.
At the start of the trail I saw another long-distance cyclist. You can pick them out based on the packs they are carrying. I speed up and met Beau. Beau teaches Spanish to grade school students and was pedaling for two weeks with a friend who needed to make a long stop in Hart. Beau was pedaling on ahead. We had a wonderful conversation about biking, travel and life for over four hours of cycling. Riding with someone made me pedal faster. More importantly it made the entire afternoon slip by relatively effortlessly since I focused on the conversation, instead of my aches and the number of miles left to pedal.
After riding with Beau, I was met at my hotel by Professor Pat Smith, from the University of Michigan. Pat and I have written many research papers together over the last decade. It was wonderful chatting with her and her husband over dinner.
Talking to various people at breakfast, during the ride and at dinner made the day a social and more interesting experience. It was not just about putting on more miles and getting to the east coast. It makes me eager to finish the ride and see and hear face-to-face what is happening in your lives.