Category Archives: Michigan

Day 34: Norwalk, Ohio to Cuyahoga Falls (Aug. 1, 2018)

A few days ago I checked into a hotel in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  The desk clerk smiled and asked how far I had traveled.  I said over 2,00 miles from Seattle, Washington.  His reply was  similar to one I had heard from several other people.  He said the trip sounded fascinating but if he tried doing it he would have stopped after about a dozen miles and given up.

To be honest the thought of giving up crossed my mind a couple of times this trip, especially around Missoula, Montana when my legs were like jello.  What prevented me from giving up was you.

I learned from behavioral economics that one simple method of accomplishing a major task is to make a public commitment with verification.  The major task doesn’t have to be cycling across the country.  It can be as simple as losing ten or twenty pounds of weight.

How did you prevent me from giving up?  I made a public commitment by creating this blog.  Forcing myself each night to write about the trip ensures each day I remember that a lot of people were told I was going to complete the trip.  Dropping out in the Rocky Mountain would mean publicly admitting defeat to a large audience.  If I didn’t have the blog then quitting would have been relatively easy since no one would have known.

Verification is important, too.  On the side of the blog is a widget or box that contains information from Strava.  Strava is an app on my phone that every 30 seconds tracks where I am.  Strava uses this to calculate my speed, distance and height climbed.  By keeping Strava on all the time I cannot cheat and call Uber, Lyft or a taxi without a reader noticing.

What is the takeaway?  If you want to do something relatively large then what you need to do is first make a public commitment.  It doesn’t have to be a blog.  Any kind of public commitment works.  Getting up during a family dinner and telling everyone your plan is just as good as tweeting to the entire world.

Then you also need to follow through by ensuring there is some way for people to monitor or watch what you are doing.  For example there is a television show that tracks obese people trying to lose weight.  They periodically bring contestants in to be weighed.  That is an example of monitoring.

Looking at the above paragraphs it all seems so simple. In reality, doing any large project or task is not simple even with the help of behavioral economics plus supportive friends and relatives.

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Today, my son and I pedaled from Norwalk, Ohio to Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio.  The morning was relatively easy.  We spent much of the time on the same bike trail as yesterday.  We saw amusing things like a giant US flag made out of empty beer cans and a giant bird statue.

We ended the morning in Oberlin, Ohio and had some excellent burrito bowls for lunch at a restaurant that looked at the town’s park.  Before leaving Oberlin we stopped at the location where the process for creating aluminum was invented.  The inventor patented his process and went on to create Alcoa.

After lunch the beautiful roads and rail trails started to disappear.  Hills started reappearing as we got closer to Cleveland.  Traffic also became heavier as we went through the suburbs of Cleveland.

We ended the day by cycling through one of the newest national parks in the US; the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.  Getting into the park was quite easy.  The road went straight downhill in a series of hair pin turns.  I used my brakes more getting into the park than I did pedaling down the western mountains.  In the center of the park is part of canal that connected the Ohio river with Lake Erie.  We pedaled along a wonderful trail that traced the canal’s tow path.

Then it was time to leave the park.    The road out of the park was straight up.  It wasn’t exceptionally long but it was one of the most painful climbs I have done this trip.  There was no chance to pull over and walk since the road had no shoulder and there was very heavy traffic.  At the top of the climb I was exceptionally winded and my legs burned for quite a while.  On the positive side, I kept up with my son going up-hill so doing all those mountains earlier in the trip paid off.

Today we are just outside of Akron, Ohio.  Tomorrow we should be in Pennsylvania.  Once I cross the border there will only be three states left to go!

Day 32: Ann Arbor, Michigan to Toledo, Ohio

Quite a lot happened today.  First, TheConversation.com published a piece I wrote about the safety of various activities like bicycling.  You can read the piece they published here or you can read a slightly different version in the post published between Day 31 and Day 32 (the post is here if you cannot find it).

Second, my oldest son, Josh flew out to Michigan to join me for a week of cycling.  This gave me a chance to sleep in and recover a bit from yesterday’s total exhaustion.  I am not fully recharged, but at least I can keep my eyes open.

Josh and his bike made it safely to Michigan, but his hydraulic brakes were locked shut when the bike came out of the box.  Luckily, a great bike shop was open in downtown Ann Arbor and only two blocks away.  Brad, the shop’s bike mechanic, was able to open the brakes and got the bike working like new in no time flat.  That saved the day!  Brad also recommended a great place for breakfast and we dined outside before setting off.

Our goal was Toledo, Ohio, which meant entering another state.  Now there is just Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Maryland to go.

Google Maps did its very best to show my son every type of road surface possible, from new roads to bike trails.  We even did quite a few miles of gravel and hard packed dirt.  At the end of the gravel section my son said “now I know why you are so exhausted.”

We arrived in Toledo around 5:30.  Our hotel faced the local baseball stadium and we picked the perfect night.  The local team, the Toledo Mud Hens (the farm team for Detroit Tigers),  was playing at 7 pm.  Josh picked up two of the cheapest tickets available ($13 each).  They turned out to be right behind home base.  We sat about 10 feet from a half-dozen major league baseball scouts who were watching the game with their own video cameras, radar guns and laptops.

It was a great experience watching minor league baseball up close.  I was tired so we left before the game was over.  That wasn’t a problem since our hotel room looked down on the stadium and we finished watching the game from high above.  Yes, the Mud Hens beat the Louisville Bats, but the Mud Hens led the whole game so it was not unexpected.

Overall, it was another great day on the road and we even managed to pedal about 57 miles.

Day 31: The journey to Ann Arbor

I am exhausted today.  I am not sure how I pedaled the 90 miles from Portland Michigan to Ann Arbor but somehow I got here.

I was exhausted like this once before in southern Michigan.  When I was younger a friend convinced me to come out and do the Wolverine 200 Belle Isle Bicycle Marathon in Detroit.  This marathon was simple.  For about 40 years an island in the middle of the river, next to downtown Detroit, was shut down to all car traffic for one day. 

Bicyclists then pedaled round and round the island in an attempt to do 200 miles in 24 hours.  The first time I tried, I was only able to do about 150 miles.  The second time I did the 200 miles with time to spare.  At the end of the 200 miles I was exhausted.  I got off my bike after hitting the double century goal and fell asleep in the grass by the side of the road.

I am feeling that kind of exhausted.  Two days ago I averaged 13 mph over the day.  Yesterday I averaged 12 mph.  Today, it is down to 11 mph.  That might not seem much but the two miles per hour difference means sitting on the saddle an extra hour.  That extra hour hurts my bottom, a lot, especially on Michigan’s roads, which look like the state’s highway department ran out of money years ago.  I have not seen roads in such poor condition since Montana.

I need a rest day.  The last one was almost two weeks ago in Bismark, North Dakota.   My son, however, is flying out and will be here tomorrow.  He is expecting to go riding with me.  He is also a very strong rider.  We did a 70 mile training trip together just before I started this adventure.  After the 70 mile ride, I laid on my couch and watched a movie.  That was all the energy I had left.  He wasn’t tired.  Instead he went for a four mile run because he wanted a bit more exercise and then went out with friends.

I will try going to bed immediately.  Maybe 10 hours of sleep will help?  I will let you know tomorrow.

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PS:  The big adventure/problem of today was exploding chocolate.  I bought some chocolate bars to eat during today’s ride.  I ate part of them this morning and then stuck the rest back in my pack and forgot about them.  When I got to the hotel I stuck my hand in the backpack and it came out covered in melted chocolate.

When you are exhausted the last thing you want to do is wash chocolate out of your clothes and pick chocolate pieces out of power cords.  It took some time, but I think the biggest part of the mess is cleaned up.  The proof tomorrow is the bug test.  If I cleaned up enough, bugs will not be attracted to me.  If I didn’t clean up enough, I will be a bug magnet.

Day 30: Muskegon to Portland, Michigan

Wow, I pedaled 90 miles and nothing happened today!  After weeks of daily adventures, problems and highlights today was very routine. I left the motel around 9:30 and pedaled about 25 miles on a paved bike trail that ended at the western edge of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Then I pedaled through rich and poor neighborhoods in Grand Rapids.  One minute I was pedaling by homeless people sleeping on top of a low wall.  A few minutes later I was pedaling through a fancy restaurant district, where the patrons were sipping cocktails on outdoor patios.

The eastern edge of Grand Rapids is clearly not a safe place for autos.  While leaving the city I had to dodge three different areas filled with the broken glass, plastic and metal of previous car accidents.

In the late afternoon I stopped for more Gatorade.  Google decided to update my route during the pause and gave me three choices for the final push into Portland, Michigan.  One choice took an extra hour so that one was out.

Of the two remaining, one was very simple (go straight for six miles and then go east for fourteen miles).  The other was Google’s recommended route.  It took many different roads in a step pattern, but supposedly was 7 minutes faster.  I started on the faster step route.  After two miles the pavement stopped and gravel roads began.  I turned around, pedaled back to town and took the simpler route to my hotel.

I am sorry to disappoint readers who expected more excitement today.  Almost any activity can become routine after doing it long enough.

Day 29: Muskegon, Michigan

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.

Day 28: Two thirds of the country done

I am writing this post from Luddington, Michigan, a beach town on the shores of Lake Michigan.  I am now two-thirds of way through the trip!

This morning I was in Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin.  I needed to pedal 57 miles before 1 pm in order to get to the ferry that would take me across the lake.

At home I try to cram as many things into each day as possible and don’t leave much slack in my schedule.  On this bike trip lots of unexpected things have happened so I decided that I needed to leave extra early in case something unforeseen occurred.

I left the window shapes in my motel open so that the rising sun would get me up.  During the night I was treated to a spectacular lightening and thunderstorm that lasted a long time. With the storm came a torrential rain.  I was quite glad the storm was happening while I was safe in the motel.

I was on the road at 6:30 am.  My goal was to be at the ferry by 11 am, which would give me two hours in case anything went wrong.

Fond Du Lac has a large number of bike trails.  The streets had puddles but the bike trails  were dry.  I was pedaling along nicely, making good time on a trail when Google maps told me I needed to get off the bike trail and turn right.  The bike trail ended, however, with a left hand turn.

I decided to peddle along the sidewalk for a few feet and take the first driveway on the right.  There was a puddle at the end of the driveway but I was more concerned with looking for cars driving down the road I was merging onto than splashing through a puddle.

The puddle, however, was not what I expected.  It was actually a huge pothole.  My front tire went into the pothole and I ended up on the ground.  Wow!  That was unexpected.  Luckily, I was going very slowly.

Another bicyclist was there within one minute, asking if I was okay.  I checked the bike.  It looked fine.  I checked myself. I felt okay.  So there was only one thing to do.  Get back on the bike and continue pedaling to the ferry.

I spent a lot of time thinking about why I didn’t have a bike crash for the past 30 years and then crashed twice this trip.  My conclusion is that I am not getting enough rest and pushing myself each day to my physical limit.  Being over-tired and sore is making me sloppy.

The rest of the ride to the ferry was uneventful.  I went past numerous dairy farms, many proudly advertising that they provide milk for “Land o’Lakes” products.

I pulled into the ferry terminal at 11 am, which was two hours before when I needed to be there.  The boat had very nice lounge chairs on the bow.  I took one and then had a long nap in the sun.  The boat ride across Lake Michigan was uneventful.  The lake was calm and peaceful.

Luddington, Michigan seems like a nice town, but I will not have a long time to explore it since tomorrow I am back on the road to complete the last third of the journey.