Day 55: Fairport, NY to Pulaski, NY

Evan Malinchock

The ideal way to start a day is with stuffing your face with cookies and calling it breakfast, I'm certain Phil Gaimon would agree with my choice to eat 3 mini cookie bars for this day. Bright and early Brian and I climbed out of our cozy beds at the Ferriter’s house to the already blistering heat and suffocating humidity. After winding our way through twisty flat roads we hit our first hills since what feels like Montana or Eastern North Dakota. 

The maps warned us about hills east of Lake Ontario, but it seemed like as we skirted around the lake we were in constant battle with gravity. The hills were absurdly steep and the perfect length so there was no hope of finding a rhythm, or carrying speed into the climb after descending down a previous hill. We eventually pulled into a restaurant for lunch where we decided today would be the perfect day to push 100 miles to the town of Pulaski. 

Today was not a perfect day to push 100 miles. 

When we stepped out we got hit with a wave of heat, that I only made worse by checking the temperature on my phone. Weather Underground (the most reputable weather app) said that it was 98° but the humidity made it feel like it was just shy of 106°. Along with heat warnings there was also massive dark clouds chasing us for 25 miles into the town of Oswego, where we stopped to refill water and rest for a few minutes. 

Thunderstorm chasing us into Oswego

Thunderstorm chasing us into Oswego

We hopped on our bikes to slog out another 20 miles to Pulaski, where we met up with Jack again. Thankfully Jack saved us from camping outside by offering up his motel room's floor for Brian and I to set up our sleeping pads and bags. 

After sharing a filling meal together we all went grocery shopping together, which was followed by an early bedtime for all. Brian and I were tuckered out from the century and Jack was preparing for an early morning escape to beat a huge storm that was heading our way.

“Car left(?)”

“Car left(?)”

Day 54: Lockport, NY to Fairport, NY

Brian Richardson

The Erie Canal is a 363 mile long, man-made waterway that runs from Buffalo to Albany. There is a bike trail that runs alongside it for the entire length; we hopped on it in Lockport and rode it for 75 miles into Fairport today.

The trail alternates surfaces between pavement and crushed limestone. The paved sections are faster, but are also riddled with cracks and bumps from tree roots growing underneath. The limestone slows you down a little bit, but it is much smoother than the average gravel road. The only real downside to the limestone is the clouds of dust that cover you and your bike in a fine, light grey film.

The Erie Canal

The Erie Canal

After having to navigate the madness that was Niagara Falls yesterday, it was a nice mental break to ride along one single, straight path all day. We had no complicated directions and no impatient drivers to deal with. Every ten or so miles, the canal runs through a town where you have the option to cross a bridge and go fill up on water or buy food.

Around midday, I ran into another bike tourer riding west on the trail. He told me his name was Mark and that he was headed to Bar Harbor. I gave him my name and told him he was going the wrong way. Apparently he had dropped one of his biking gloves and was pedaling back to get it. His wife Judy, he said, was waiting for him further down the trail. I ran into Judy about a mile later and we exchanged our stories. She and Mark started riding from Lander, Wyoming and have the same final destination as us. Lander was one of the towns we stayed in during my cross-county trip in 2015. I even have a sticker on my bike from Gannet Peak, their local bike shop! During Mark and Judy’s ride, which is called “Craw4Awareness,” they are promoting PTSD awareness in veteran and first responder communities. You can find them on Facebook and Instagram at “Craw4Awareness.”

Judy and I on the Canal Trail. Notice her Gannet Peak water bottle and my sticker!

Judy and I on the Canal Trail. Notice her Gannet Peak water bottle and my sticker!

Today was another hot one, with temperatures around 90 and little shade to be found along the canal. By the time we reached Fairport, we were sweaty and tired very glad to have a place to stay here. My girlfriend’s aunt and uncle, Barb and Dave, heard about our trip and reached out to offer their house for tonight. We were able to shower, do laundry, scrub the limestone dust off our drive trains, and sit down for a wonderful meal with our wonderful hosts. Thanks Barb and Dave!

Day 53: Welland, ON to Lockport, NY

Brian Richardson

We decided to keep our mileage today on the shorter side (“short” meaning 69 miles) for two reasons: we had a long day yesterday and we had to pass through Niagara Falls and over the border back into the US today.

Dawn joins the Bike Loud Crew

Dawn joins the Bike Loud Crew

Dawn, our wonderful warm showers host from last night rode the first 5 miles with us into Port Colborne. She got us headed in the right direction towards Fort Erie, where the Niagara River meets Lake Erie. From there, we turned North and followed a beautiful road that paralleled the river. I tried to savor the views, but there was a headwind coming in from over the water and I was more than a little tired from yesterday’s big miles. As Evan put it, we were both feeling pretty “bonky.”

bonky (adj): fatigued and low on energy after depleting one’s glycogen stores, prone to bonking

Evan drains lactic acid from his legs after lunch

Evan drains lactic acid from his legs after lunch

In between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, on the border of the United States and Canada, a powerful torrent, 85,000 cubic feet per second, shoots down into the water below. The source is just upstream: an over-hydrated biker who just found a bathroom after getting stuck in the customs line on the Rainbow Bridge for twenty minutes. Nearby, of course, is Niagara Falls.

I had never been before, so I was glad to have a chance to finally see the Falls, but the riding in that area was some of the most stressful we’ve faced all summer. The bike path was teeming with aimlessly wandering pedestrians, all holding melting ice cream cones in one hand and trying to take pictures with the other. At the center of all the commotion was the main viewing area. There was a crowd here that looked like something from World War Z. People were clambering over each other to try and get the best view. Evan and I pushed our way to the railing to admire the Falls for all of 20 seconds, then fought our way back out and headed for the Rainbow Bridge.

Evan fights his way through the crowd to get a glimpse of Niagara Falls

Evan fights his way through the crowd to get a glimpse of Niagara Falls

The bridge took us out of Ontario and into New York. Shortly after crossing over, we received a classic New York welcome: a slew of expletives shouted from a passing driver that roughly translated to “Please get off the road.”

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Tonight, we’re camped out behind the Wide Waters Drive-in Restaurant in Lockport, NY. It feels good to be back in the States and we’re looking forward to some nice biking along the Erie Canal over the next few days.

Evan drains lactic acid from his legs after dinner

Evan drains lactic acid from his legs after dinner

Day 52: Port Stanley, ON to Welland, ON

Evan Malinchock

Very few cyclists have ever woken up and said to themselves, "let's bike 120 miles today and feel great about it!" It's really nothing that you can plan for. The day began like any post break day, we woke up in comfortable beds and slogged out some mileage before breakfast. It was then after we stepped out of breakfast that everything about our day changed. 

The winds are more imperative to how far you can go than elevation gain or loss or even temperature. Today we were gifted with powerful tailwinds that propelled us to our lunch destination that we originally chose to be our final destination for the day. It was here that we decided to turn our 70 mile day into a century, ending in Dunnville. 

We had another 30 miles of stunningly smooth roads, with a powerful tailwind, and gorgeous views of waving grain fields lined with massive ancient oak trees and wind turbines. This is the kind of biking that inspires you to ride more than you plan to. The day was still young when we reached Dunnville when we decided to make one final push for a Warmshowers host in Welland, ON. 

Riding through a wind farm

Riding through a wind farm

After more stunning riding we arrived at the Elliott's house, where we were greeted with a block party! The neighborhood gave us a very warm welcome that we have come to expect from Canada. 

Aptly named

Aptly named

The mileage today on paper seems staggering, but in reality if we didn't have the hosts that we did in Welland I would be happy to continue on this magical day.

Day 51: Break Day in Port Stanley, ON

Brian Richardson

Port Stanley is a beautiful harbor town situated on the North shore of Lake Erie, at the mouth of Kettle Creek. There is a draw bridge in the city’s center that crosses over the creek and has to lift up several times a day to let boats pass underneath. The town is big enough to have plenty of things to do and small enough that you can walk pretty much anywhere.

Kettle Creek, Port Stanley, ON

Kettle Creek, Port Stanley, ON

The only thing I needed to accomplish today was do a load of laundry, and this proved to be somewhat of a challenge. According to Google Maps, there is no laundromat in Port Stanley, but I asked around and found out that that is not the case. I gathered our dirty clothes and walked a half mile over to the address I was given. The “laundromat” was a shed with two washers, two dryers, and no detergent. I went down a few more blocks to an inn to ask where I could find laundry detergent within walking distance. The receptionist disappeared into the supply closet for a second and came back out with a little cup of Cascade for me (this is what I mean when I say everyone we’ve met in Canada has been nice).

Port Stanley laundromat

Port Stanley laundromat

Once I had my detergent, I returned to the washing machine, took out my wallet, and realized that I had no Canadian coins to pay with. I went back outside and down the block to a sandwich store to ask about where I could exchange some currency (I couldn’t go back to the inn with another silly question). The cashier was happy to trade Canadian coins for my American dollars. She asked if I wanted a toonie or two loonies. I had no idea what those words meant so I just said “yes” and took whatever she handed me. It turns out those are the names for one and two-dollar coins.

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I took my loonies back to the laundry shed and started the washing machine. While waiting for the clothes, I walked down to the beach and along the pier to a lighthouse. I sat for a while and watched boats come and go under the bridge.

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I transferred the clothes and then found out that the dryers only accepted American quarters, so I went back to the sandwich shop and traded my loonies back for quarters. While the clothes dried, I worked on a New York Times crossword puzzle that I borrowed from Alex in Petoskey. Crosswords are my guilty pleasure and they really make for a great break-day activity. In the afternoon, I walked around the downtown area, took a nap, and finished my book. All in all, it was a pretty good day.

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Day 50: Wallaceburg, ON to Port Stanley, ON

Evan Malinchock

The heat was an evident part of the day even before I got rolling. I woke up later and told Brian to run along to the next town’s Tim Hortons to wait for me inside. I felt like I was packing up in a humid swamp during a heat wave, but I was in the exact opposite location, in a city park in Canada. As I got on my bike to ride ten miles to a Tim Hortons I listened to Google maps, which decided to take me down an extremely sandy and loose gravel road. As I rolled into the breakfast break I looked like a mess, dripping sweat and covered in white limestone sand.

After a filling “Beyond meat” Canadian bacon biscuit I felt revitalized enough to bang out the mileage into a break day eve. My family was kind enough to get us a room at an inn in Port Stanley as the weather looked super hot today and tomorrow.

Classic bike trip tan lines

Classic bike trip tan lines

Just after lunch Brian and I ran into another Chapel Hill-ianite, Jack who was a soon to be senior at DA! He was biking across America and has been following our blogs for the past few weeks and finally caught up to us after starting a little later than us. It was so wonderful to hear about someone else's experiences on the road that were so similar to my own. We joked about towns and signs that were notable along the way, and things that each party might have missed. Even after we pulled into Port Stanley, we sat down with Jack to share a dinner at the hotel.

Dinner with Jack

Dinner with Jack

Break day eve is always the best day on a trip, with looking forward to nothingness being the only thing you have to do it's terribly relaxing.

Day 49: Brown City, MI to Wallaceburg, ON

Brian Richardson

Compared to yesterday, the temperature today was higher and the winds were stronger. For the most part, we were on busier roads with bumpier surfaces and the scenery was not spectacular. None of this mattered though, because we had the Canadian border in our sights.

By the time we finished breakfast in Yale, it was already 84 degrees outside. Each town we passed through had one of those scrolling electric signs with messages like “Welcome to Marine City ... 95 degrees  ... Have a great summer!” The heat reminded me of my bike trip in 2015, when we took a more Southern route through states like Kansas and Missouri. I’ve grown used to the cooler temperatures of the Northern Tier this summer, so today this heat was a shock to my system.

After 68 miles, we arrived in Algonac, a small town by the St. Clair River with a gargantuan American flag flying above the shore. There we boarded a ferry to cross the river to Walpole Island, Ontario. We were greeted on the Western shore by a more modestly sized Canadian flag and a customs officer who spent more time chatting with us about our trip and wishing us good luck than looking at our passports.

Algonac, MI

Algonac, MI

Ferry from Algonac, MI to Walpole, ON

Ferry from Algonac, MI to Walpole, ON

We’ve been looking forward to this border crossing for a long time now, and it has definitely lived up to the hype. Here are some of our favorite parts of being in Canada:

  1. The units: As soon as we crossed the border, the temperature dropped from 94 degrees F to a crisp 29 degrees C. Additionally, the 13 kilometers from Walpole Island to our destination of Wallaceburg took us less than half an hour. Back in the states, 13 miles would have taken us more than twice that time.

  2. The wind: The headwind we had all day became a tailwind after we got off the ferry and turned Northeast.

  3. The people: I know it’s a stereotype that all Canadians are nice, but every single person we’ve met here today has been genuinely kind and helpful. When we arrived in Wallaceburg, we asked at the police station if we could camp anywhere in town. The police officer had never heard that kind of request before, and yet she had no problem securing us a place to stay in the park.

Day 48: Midland, MI to Brown City, MI

Evan Malinchock

The morning was like any other, Brian and I woke at the crack of dawn to roll out of our warmshowers hosts home. We soaked up the chilly morning air knowing full and well that today was going to be one of the hottest of the trip so far.

Pothole left!

Pothole left!

After a mile or two I still felt the lag in my legs that typically disappears after a mile or two of soft pedaling. For another twenty miles I chugged my way into Bay City (our desired breakfast stop) in discontent knowing the rigor of the day ahead of me. It was here that I loaded up on calories, water, and the all important caffeine to get me through the day. Once we left city limits the sun seemed to intensify and the wind seemed to blow in our face just enough to make the biking hard and the breeze not refreshing in the least bit. The day was going to be a slog.

After a quick lunch in the plastic lawn chairs that were for sale in the shade of the Dollar General, we hit the road for a 30 mile finish in Brown City. On the outskirts of Brown City we ran into a massive haunted Mansion, the Bruce Haunted Mansion, to see a face staring back at us through the main second story window. After seeing this figure run off, a pasty white bald headed boy poked out through the front door and gave us the stink eye until we left the premises, we definitely didn't need to be asked twice.

Bruce Haunted Mansion

Bruce Haunted Mansion

Once we rolled into town, before we could even get out of our chamois we pulled into a Mexican restaurant where Brian and I feasted on burritos the size of both of our heads combined. It was safe to say that we left clean plates for the kitchen to clean. Over dinner there was talk of how excited we were for Canada tomorrow and our break day two days from now. We are unbelievably excited for this massive milestone in our bike ride.

Day 47: Reed City, MI to Midland, MI

Brian Richardson

It was a crisp 55 degrees this morning, cool enough to perk me up for the first hour of biking into Evart. We rode on the Pere Marquette Trail, an old rails-to-trails bike path that parallels HW 10. There were no cars or hills, and we got to see lots of wildlife. In the first 15 miles I saw several of Michigan’s famous black squirrels, a couple of chipmunks, five deer (including a doe and her two fauns), and no fewer than ten rabbits.

We stayed on the Pere Marquette for the entire 70 miles into Midland. It passes through towns at regular intervals and it has well-made signs that make it easy to navigate. It is, in fact, a part of the rails-to-trails hall of fame.

Evan rides the Pere Marquette

Evan rides the Pere Marquette

Saturday was the first day of the 2019 Tour de France, which will continue for the next three weeks before ending in Paris. It coincides almost exactly with this three-week stretch of our ride from Petoskey to Bar Harbor. I’m not usually an avid follower of cycling but I’ve really enjoyed keeping up with it while on the bike trip.

Yesterday was stage 2 of the Tour: the team time trial. Each team raced a 16.5 mile course around Brussels in a tight draft line, averaging speeds of up to 35 mph. Evan and I were nowhere near that fast today, but it was fun to pretend that we were racing through Brussels, especially with my new aerobars that I borrowed from Wes’ bike.

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Today felt more productive than the past few days did since we were actually traveling East. From Mackinac to Reed City our route had taken us South-Southwest, the opposite direction as Bar Harbor. Now we’re back on track and ready to cross into Ontario in just a few more days!

Day 46: Traverse City, MI to Reed City, MI

Evan Malinchock

Among ways to wake up, I think one of the best ways that you could awake is to an adorable puppy licking your face. Our gracious hosts made us coffee and treats for breakfast and we were on the road before I even had a chance to fully awaken myself!

I believe there are 3 times you wake up in a day on a bike trip, when your eyes are pried open by a dog, or the sun, or some sprinkler spraying your face. Secondly is the first coffee of the day that gets you up and moving. Finally you are awoken by a climb, and today we had a real eye-opener that was reminiscent of those passes seen in Washington. It was a long (roughly 4 mile) climb at a sharp Michigan-style grade that had us gasping for air and finally awake in the crisp morning air.

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We temporarily joined a bike race outside of Traverse City

We temporarily joined a bike race outside of Traverse City

The remainder of the day was calm and flat, and we eventually picked up a bike trail to the town of Cadillac (30 miles from our destination of Reed City) for lunch and to watch the women's world cup in a brew pub! The entire bar was fixated on the TV in this small divey town in middle America. Whenever our women would do well or score we all broke out in cheers or if worse things happened a sprinkling of jeers would fall across the bar. After we won the bar erupted in applause and we left the bar to hit the bike trail and finish the day up.

Once in Reed City, Brian and I found a town park with showers and everything a smelly cyclist could need. Then we went to a dollar General to pick up dinner and almost immediately fell asleep after our hodge podge meal!

Day 45: Petoskey, MI to Traverse City, MI

Brian Richardson

We got back on our biking schedule today with a classic 6:30 wake up. Wes and the Broz’s were nice enough to get up with us to see us off, and Alex even made us a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and toasted English muffins. I felt a little strange getting back on my bike, for a couple of reasons:

Firstly, this was our first day riding without Wes. Wes has been an integral part of this trip-as the oldest member, he really looked out for us-and it definitely feels different to ride without him. Luckily, he has been grooming us for the past few weeks to prepare us to continue on by ourselves. Before we rolled out, we divided up some of his equipment: I took his electrical tape, Leatherman tool, chain lube, and aerobars, and Evan took his duct tape, water bottle, and functional pannier clips. We also have to pick up some of Wes’ daily responsibilities: searching for places to sleep, keeping us safe on the roads (“No sketchy riding!” is a favorite quote of his), and whining just enough to keep us from pushing our mileage too high.

Secondly, I hadn’t pedaled a single stroke in the previous 64 hours. This was by far the longest we’d gone without biking in the last six weeks. It felt like the part of The Odyssey when the hero Odysseus and his crew sail to Cape Malea and eat the lotus flower. The flower makes them fall into a blissful trance, lose track of their goal to sail home from Troy, and spend many days lounging around. We had fallen into our own blissful trance in Petoskey, and it was hard to leave behind, but once we were a few miles out of town, I felt like I was back in bike trip mode.

We rode 82 miles along US Bicycle Route 35, which is made up of bike trails and back roads that zig-zag along HW 31. The meandering of Route 35 adds some extra mileage and climbing, but it kept us away from traffic and made for safer and more pleasant biking. It rained for most of the day, but it was only a light drizzle-not enough to warrant a rain jacket.

There are a lot of nice people out there

There are a lot of nice people out there

Evan rides a bike trail into Traverse City

Evan rides a bike trail into Traverse City

In Traverse City, we found some wonderful Warm Showers hosts, Bob and Laura, who offered showers, laundry, and a place to sleep on their living room floor. We walked into downtown Traverse City, a beautiful area that is friendly to bikers and pedestrians, where the National Cherry Festival was going on. We sampled cherry jams, cherry chutneys, cherry salsa, cherry fudge, chocolate covered cherries, and pretty much anything else you could think of.

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On our walk back to the house, some of Bob and Laura’s neighbors asked us about our matching Be Loud! Sophie shirts. They invited us inside and we talked with them about our ride and our fundraising efforts. It turns out that they are an avid biking family, and that one of their kids survived cancer as a teenager. They were very familiar with the particular dilemma faced by adolescents and young adults seeking cancer treatment in a system that divides patients into two categories, children and adults, neither one of which is appropriate for their needs. Our conversation was a powerful reminder to me of the importance of the work of Be Loud!.

We joined Bob and Laura, along with Laura’s cousin, for a wonderful home-cooked dinner. We sat around the table and enjoyed a lengthy conversation on topics that ranged from bike-touring to the 2020 election. These are some of my favorites moments of this trip, when we sit down for a meal with people who were previously strangers to us and end up feeling like a part of their family.

Day 43: Break Day in Petoskey (part I)

Brian Richardson

We’re in Petoskey, MI, taking our double break day with our friend Alex from scouts. The Broz family was kind enough to let a couple of smelly bikers post up at their home for three whole nights, and for that we are very grateful.

Our day began with the usual break day maintenance: washing the bikes, tightening cables, cleaning and lubing chains, etc. We’ve put about 2700 in this trip, and now is the time when our bikes could start to have problems if we don’t take good care of them.

In the afternoon, we went to the Lake Michigan beach in Petoskey State Park. We swam, lounged on the beach, and took turns tubing out on the water. In a previous blog post, I talked about having ‘type 2 fun,’ which is miserable while it’s happening, but fun in retrospect. Our day at the beach was type 1 fun, which means it was just plain enjoyable.

Throughout the day, Alex smoked a beef brisket that we had for dinner, along with a delicious array of home cooked foods made by his family. Afterwards, we walked into downtown Petoskey to watch the 4th of July parade and see Alex’s cousin play drums with the famous Petoskey High School marching band. To top it off, we had ice cream at Murdick’s and walked down to the breakwall to jump into Little Traverse Bay.

The Petoskey marching band

The Petoskey marching band

The sun doesn’t go down until 9:30, so it’s not likely that I’ll be awake for the fireworks tonight. With all that we did today, I feel as tired as I would after an 80 mile day. But that’s okay because we have another zero day tomorrow!

Diving into Lake Michigan

Diving into Lake Michigan

Day 42: Mackinaw City, MI to Petoskey, MI

Wes Malinchock

I couldn't have asked for a better last day of biking today. Unfortunately, after our double break day here in Petoskey I will be flying back to North Carolina to start preparing for my new job in Raleigh. Although I am a little sad to leave the trip (I'm sure I'll miss the freedom of the road when I'm working my 9 to 5) I am not disappointed that I will not be finishing with Evan and Brian. I have already biked across the country once and the real reason I came out here was to experience the day to day of bike touring, not for the bragging rights of completing another cross country bike ride. Petoskey felt like a fitting place to stop because it was a long term goal for us and we are staying with friends here who are generous enough to assist me in getting home. This has been planned for a while now, and I am really glad that I was able to enjoy such a great day of biking for my "last day".

We decided to sleep in a little bit this morning and woke up to beautiful weather in Mackinaw City, Michigan. We headed into town for breakfast at a restaurant that specializes in pancakes where we got some of the best pancakes of the trip (and I have had a lot over the course of the last few weeks). After we had our fill, we left town for the eastern shore of Lake Michigan which we would be riding all day as we headed south to Petoskey. Along the way we missed a turn and ended up riding 8 "bonus miles" down a gravel road and back again to our missed turn in the Michigan State Wilderness Park. It was a pretty ride, but having done some major miles over the last 3 days my legs were not happy about this little excursion.

Blueberry (left) and pumpkin cream (right) pancakes at The Pancake Chef in Mackinaw City

Blueberry (left) and pumpkin cream (right) pancakes at The Pancake Chef in Mackinaw City

After we were back on track we rode the "Tunnel of Trees" along the coast for the rest of the day. This stretch of State Road 119 is a gorgeous winding road through a dense forest. It was so much fun racing through the trees, ocassionally getting glimpses of the beautiful Lake Michigan. However, as the day went on we could all feel the hard work we had done in the past 3 days taking its toll on our bodies. By the end of the day, our leg muscles were burning from exhaustion and I could feel my body burning through calories like crazy. I was getting hungry enough to stop for a snack every hour or so. Brian had mentioned something about having to increase your caloric intake as your ramp up your milage like we had been doing, but I never really felt it's full effect until today.

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Tunnel of Trees

Tunnel of Trees

We ended the day on the shores of Lake Michigan where we met our friend Alex as he was getting back from water skiing. I ceremoniously dipped my front tire in the lake, signifying that my trip was complete and then we all jumped in the water. I really could not have asked for a better day, and I know that these next two days of rest are extremely well earned after today. We have been pushing really hard to get to this point and have done a great job, I have no doubt that this ambitious attitude and great riding will continue for the rest of the trip!

Wes dips his tire in Lake Michigan

Wes dips his tire in Lake Michigan

Day 41: Manistique, MI to Mackinaw City, MI

Evan Malinchock

Waking up in the fog is something dream like, the world around you seems muffled and the air seems thick. The cars on the road in front of my tent appeared to be forming in the air and dissipating just as quickly. I was shaken out of my stupor by Brian reminding me that we had to bike 90 miles today.

Fog over the Manistique Bridge

Fog over the Manistique Bridge

After packing up an absolutely drenched tent we hit the road and stopped to eat a bike loud 19 trademark, the grocery store breakfast. Between stuffing my mouth with a bagel and cream cheese and washing it down with coffee I took some time to appreciate the moment. This bike trip has been everything I ever wanted and more and I was so fortunate to be here in this moment, no matter how benigne it may be.

After miles of unremarkable biking in gloomy foggy and overcast weather we stopped for lunch at a classic yooper (the name that upper peninsula people go by) restaurant. Wes and I stuffed ourselves with pasties, handheld meat and potato pies. The pasties were delicious and it seemed like the second we finished them off the sun came out brighter and hotter than ever.

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After another 45 miles of putzing along Lake Michigan we pulled into St Ignace. It was here we caught a ferry across Lake Huron's crystal clear waters to Mackinac Island (pronounced Macki-NAW, don't ask me why). There we caught another ferry to Mackinaw City on the mainland. Mackinac Island seemed like a bizzare world to us dirtbag cyclists. There are no cars, so it seemed like every single inch of sidewalk was taken up by bikes. The houses, mansions, and stores, seemed like they were pulled directly out of Disney World, and the rolling hills in the background were as picturesque as the rest.

Wes enjoys the view from the ferry

Wes enjoys the view from the ferry

Evan on Mackinac Island

Evan on Mackinac Island

After a short walk down Main Street we hopped on a ferry that brought us back to the lesser picturesque rv park that we're camping in now. The day was one of massive scenery changes.

Day 40: Felch, MI to Manistique, MI

Brian Richardson

We made it through our second of three big days in row across the UP. I was particularly worried about today since we had 100 miles to do and the forecast was calling for thunderstorms for most of the day. But when we woke up at 5:30 (one hour early to get a jump on the time change just down the road), the sun was out. I had envisioned this three-day push to be nothing but long, grueling hours in the saddle, but the riding today was pleasant and enjoyable.

Once we turned onto HW 69, the rolling hills got much more gradual. I felt fine doing 27 miles before stopping for a quick breakfast in Perronville. 15 more miles got us to Escanaba, where we had our first view of Lake Michigan. We stopped at a bike shop there to top off our tires with a floor pump and to buy enough chamois butter to get us to Petoskey. We followed the coast of Lake Michigan for another hour or so before having lunch in Rapid River. At Rapid River, the route put us back on HW 2, the same road that took us through Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Lake Michigan

Lake Michigan

We checked the weather forecast at lunch and saw that a big storm was supposed to hit in the afternoon, so we ate quickly and got back on the road. There’s nothing like the sight of approaching storm clouds to add some spice to the last few miles of the day. We didn’t stop once for the next 40 miles into Manistique.

Storm clouds above HW 2

Storm clouds above HW 2

When we arrived, we called the local campground and found out that they were fully booked. Our next move was to go to the visitors center, where we met another former Eagle Scout working there who said we could spend the night right here. As soon as we set up our tents, the sky opened up and we huddled up on the covered porch of the visitors center. For the moment, we are trapped here and unable to get anywhere for dinner, but I feel very lucky to have some protection from the torrential rain.

Manistique, MI, pre-storm

Manistique, MI, pre-storm

Manistique, MI, peri-storm

Manistique, MI, peri-storm

Manistique, MI, post-storm

Manistique, MI, post-storm

Day 39: Conover, WI to Felch, MI

Wes Malinchock

Today was really the first day of our final push into the long awaited Petoskey double break day. Last night we decided that we really wanted to make our July 3rd date, so we would need to do 3 long days more than 90 miles each, instead of taking 4 normal days across the Upper Penninsula (or the "U.P." as we now know the locals call it). We consider these days to be pretty big days because we have a lot more miles planned than we would typically like to do, and today definitely felt like a big day.

We woke up to a great breakfast at our Warm Showers host's house, and as soon as we were fueled up and ready to roll the rain started. It kept up until we reached the Michigan border, but didn't bother us too much. This surprised me because last time we got rained on it took a huge mental toll on me. However, today we could see clear skies off in the distance as we biked toward them and I knew that we had many more miles ahead of us so there was no time for complaining. What was really bad were the mosquitos that seemed to swarm in the morning rain. We needed to keep rolling or else our legs would be covered with them in a matter of seconds.

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We crossed into Michigan and began to hit some pretty big hills. Wisconsin had some nice rollers, but to me some of these Michigan hills felt like walls. They slowed us down a bit, but I think we are finally starting to get to the point where our endurance is pretty high and we can pretty much bike over anything given enough time. Later in the day the hills mellowed out as we started to ride some more major roads and the sun even came out! We rolled into the tiny town of Felch with just under 7 hours of saddle time today. Now we have plenty of time to rest up before we get up tomorrow and do it all again!

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Day 38: Butternut, WI to Conover, WI

Evan Malinchock

Waking up in Butternut was one of the easier nights as I planned ahead and woke up 15 minutes before Wes and Brian so I can get my moaning and groaning out of the way before they get up. After a short ride to the local diner and another pancake breakfast we were well on our way to our warmshowers host’s house.

Evan and Wes enjoy some shade in Manitowash

Evan and Wes enjoy some shade in Manitowash

The riding was through beautiful forests and bogs that were extremely reminiscent of those in the 100 mile wilderness of Maine, but instead of ravenous blackflies it was the mosquitoes that made it feel like we were constantly under attack. The closer to the Upper Peninsula that we got, the steeper and larger the hills seemed to get. I began to find myself reaching for lower and lower gear ranges up climbs that looked like they should have taken me a few seconds on my road bike at home.

After reaching Manitowish Waters, WI we hopped on some bike trails and began to experience unrelenting heat for the remainder of the day! The remaining 40 miles of riding felt as if we were in an oven with temperature gauges reading 94° through the afternoon.

Mercifully we arrived at the Benson household where we spent the afternoon swimming in the lake that Dan and Barb lived on, showering, and feasting on homemade black bean burgers and corn on the cob. The Benson's told us about their son, Brian who did a similar bike trip to Portland and back a few years prior and how life changing it was to him and them! After dinner Wes and Brian went for a boat ride as I hung back to tend to a persisting upset stomach that has been bothering me the past few days, and catch up on a little rest. The kindness and hospitality that the Benson's showed us was second to none and we were so fortunate to have met them and exchanged stories with them, and we honestly could not thank them enough for the time we had in their home.

We took an interesting road to get to the Benson’s house

We took an interesting road to get to the Benson’s house

Looking forward we have three massive 90+ mile days in a row in blistering heat on the "U.P." but for now we are in a wonderful place surrounded by wonderful people and we could not be more fortunate!

Watching the sunset on Lake Buckanabon

Watching the sunset on Lake Buckanabon

Day 37: Stone Lake, WI to Butternut, WI

Brian Richardson

We woke up at the usual 6:30 this morning and biked 18 miles before breakfast. The three of us agreed that this is the perfect distance for a pre-breakfast ride. It’s long enough to make a dent in the day’s mileage and to work up an appetite, but not so long that you run out of energy and fall into a calorie deficit.

After having pancakes and oatmeal at a casino in the Lac Courte Oreilles Reservation, we biked into the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Park. We left the wide open farms and dairies of western Wisconsin and entered a more densely wooded area. On either side of us, row after row of pines and spruces grew above a lush bed of ferns and wildflowers.

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When I rounded one of the bends, I saw Evan up ahead on the side of the road, fixing something on his bike. It turns out that one of the screws on his back rack had fallen out and another had snapped from bearing the extra weight. We did not have any replacement screws, so he wrapped it up as best as he could with duct tape and prayed that it would hold until we could find a hardware store. Not one mile later, we took a turn onto Service Road 7, a “Rustic Byway” according to the sign. The next 5 miles were riddled with potholes and debris. It is a true testament to Evan’s ingenuity and to the strength of duct tape that his rack made it out without any more problems.

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We stopped for lunch at a cafe in Clam Lake, where we met two locals named Tim and Crystal. After talking with us for a bit, they picked up our lunch tab and made a generous donation to our fundraiser!

At 2pm, the quarterfinals World Cup match between the US and France started playing on TV at the cafe. We had made decent time in the morning, so we decided to hang out and watch the game. At halftime, the score was 1-0, and we were confident the Americans could hold their lead, so we pedaled on to Glidden. There we found a hardware store where we got some screws for Evan and learned that the US ended up winning 2-1!

Tonight we are camped out in the small and pleasant town of Butternut (population 345). Our maps didn’t list any camping available, but a quick call the city hall secured us a place to pitch our tents at the local fairgrounds.

Butternut, WI

Butternut, WI

Day 36: Break Day in Stone Lake, WI

Wes Malinchock

It was a pretty mellow break day as far as break days go. We were able to sleep in and get a nice, easy start to the morning. I was finally forced out of my tent when it started to get warm outside and my rain fly began to trap the heat from the sun, turning my tent into a sauna.

The afternoon called for rain and we decided to head down the street to a coffee shop, The Whistle Punk, to wait it out inside. We spent most of the day there and were able to catch up with family (a lot of people out here recently have told us to call our mothers) and enjoyed some Wisconsin brats and great coffee. As I write this we are enjoying a beautiful sunset over Stone Lake, the second cleanest lake in Wisconsin, and being eaten alive by mosquitos.

In my head I think this was really more of a teaser break day. In 6 days we plan on being in Petoskey, Michigan to meet up with one of our friends and take a well deserved double break day. It has been a long term goal of ours since Washington, and it will feel great to finally make it. Even though we have technically broken the halfway point of the trip already, I think that we will really feel like we are at the tipping point when we make it there. It was a good chance to rest our legs and get out of the rain for the day, but I feel ready to take on tomorrow and start our final push!

At the biker bunkhouse a few days ago we crossed paths with another group of cyclists headed east to west. One of them has created a web app at www.tourbook.cc where you can visualize your bike tours if you log them daily via Strava like we do. I have set up an account for myself there, and you can view our trip HERE daily as we make progress!

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Day 35: Cumberland, WI to Stone Lake, WI

Evan Malinchock

Break days are somewhat holy to our bike trip. Time almost doesn't exist in the traditional sense, instead we measure time and distance until we no longer have to bike. I'm saying this so when we all unanimously decided to forfeit our break day this morning for another early wake up with another 50 miles it meant something about this trip, who we are as riders, and the experiences we've picked up on the road.

After finding out that the forecast has only worsened for Thursday, we all groaned as we saddled up. None of the groans were as loud as mine when I reached for my wallet only for it to have been lost (or forgotten) at a Family Dollar the day before. This held me up an extra thirty minutes as Wes and Brian enjoyed fresh pastries and coffee at the local co-op down the street.

After downing some coffee and a cream croissant we hit the road on a slightly altered route that took us on some of the most fun twisty and windy back roads that Wisconsin had to offer. We rode through tunnels of trees along lonely lakes for miles to pop out at the small town of Stone Lake.

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Stone Lake was never even a consideration to us, being 14 miles outside of our intended destination of Hayward. But this charming little town reeled us in at Marie's Hideaway, a bar and grill with some amazing grub and even better service. The folks at Marie's (mainly their hilarious and generous owner, Frank) offered up a patch of land behind the restaurant to camp in and then told us dinner was on the house! After which they suggested we head down to the lake a block behind our now campsite, to enjoy the 2nd cleanest lake in all of Wisconsin.

Frank and the Bike Loud crew after dinner at Marie’s

Frank and the Bike Loud crew after dinner at Marie’s

After the much needed baths and nourishing foods Frank joined us for a few photos and told us to make a campfire our by our tents to cap the night off. We have been so fortunate to have met the kind souls that have given us so much out of the kindness of their hearts. I just want to say that their generosity is not going unnoticed and that I hope I can even dream to pay it forward in my lifetime.