Connie and Dale
There’s a website I’ve long known about and have attempted to use on several occasions: Warmshowers.org. Conceived and designed by fellow bicyclists, the idea behind it is a bicyclist is headed through your town, and you’ve got a spot on the floor for them to bunk, you can register here to let the traveler know. The traveler can find you, chat and back and forth, and maybe save that person a hotel room.
My problem with using it is I change plans every single day that I ride. For example, I’m writing this on the fifth day of this trip. I bet I’ve changed my plans ten times since committing to ride this . . . and I just committed to it six days ago.
I’m loathe to inconvenience anyone. I can’t stand it when I can’t commit to someone a place and time. I don’t want anyone to plan things around me . . . when I’ve no clue when I can arrive. Anytime I’m on the bike, and especially on this particular trip, I’m at the mercy of weather, wind, my body aches, construction, detours; the list is endless. A five mile detour / wrong turn on my part will delay me anywhere from a half to a full hour.
I understand Warmshower hosts are bicyclists themselves. They’ve all done long rides and they know uncertainty is part of the game. Conversely (perversely?) I don’t mind waiting for someone . . . I just can’t bear to inconvenience anyone else.
Sidebar: For years my friends have complained that I’m a horrible correspondent. They’ll write, tell me what’s going on with their lives, the people that mean the most to them, and update me on the world from their perspective. I love reading those emails. But I can’t bring myself to bore the shit out of someone with what I view as my boring-ass life. “Hey, Ray, how’s it going?” “Fine. Overworked. Underloved.” Guarantee you every single friend of mine has heard that exact response from me. My way of thinking is if something is wrong in my life, there’s no a soul who can fix it. Why burden, or, rather, inconvenience a friend with my troubles?
When I was making reservations for Saturday night at Fireside, I remembered Warm Showers and thought, “What the hell. It’s only a holiday weekend. I’m only giving the host 24 hours notice. Could I impose any further?”
Presque Isle is right at 80 to 85 miles to Mackinaw City, where 23 meets its end. (The video below features a pretty good impression of my maniacal laugh over the thought of 23’s end):
As feared, the first two days of riding left me incredibly sore. 82 miles the first day. 62 the second. I wasn’t sure I had another 85 mile day in me for Sunday.
Instead, I compromised with myself. I planned to stop in Cheboygan. It’s 15 miles from Mackinaw, but I reasoned that 70 miles for the day was probably doable.
On Warm Showers I found three different Cheboygan hosts. One wasn’t active, one was out of town, but the third, Connie and Dale, were quick to respond and say, “Come on!” They were hosting two other riders on Sunday, yet told me they had plenty of room.
This is from their Warm Showers profile:
After retiring from our education jobs, my husband and I began taking self supported bicycle, canoeing and kayaking tours. We are not smokers, do not have pets, are omnivores, do not have allergies and live on Lake Huron. We spend February-April as volunteers in a state park in Florida, not so much to escape snow but rather to enjoy a different experience.
Connie and I emailed / texted each other several times, trying to get our schedules to sync. They were going to be at an arts show at 40 Mile Point Lighthouse on Sunday. Connie suggested that we meet there.
Unfortunately, the lighthouse was a lot closer to me than I expected. I reached it pretty early in the day. Plus, I’d only ridden about 35 miles at that point. It was a gorgeous day (as you can tell from the pictures above) and it seemed like a waste to hang around an “art show” when the goal of this trip was to get to Mackinaw.
Mackinaw was 50 miles away. I was feeling pretty strong. At that point, I felt I could get there. My body wasn’t complaining too much. (Well, my butt was still being a pain in the ass.) I texted Connie and left her a voice mail telling her that I’d already arrived at the lighthouse, but I’d decided to continue on. Depending on where they lived / how long it took me to get to Mackinaw, I’d let them know if I was going to come back to their home.
I continued north on 23. About three or four miles away from the lighthouse I saw the first other bicyclist since I’d started the trip. I waved at him as he was heading south. A mile or so behind him was a woman. I again waved. But she asked, “Are you Ray?” It was Connie.
I crossed the road to introduce myself. She explained that she’d had a flat and was trying to catch up with Dale. Whom I assume was the guy I’d first waved as he rode by. I told her what I was doing: riding on to Mackinaw. We talked about where her home was. It was on the south side of Cheboygan, nearly 30 miles from Mackinaw. I told her it was very doubtful I’d have the strength to get to Mackinaw and then ride 30 miles back. I thanked her for her hospitality and her willingness to put me up for the night. We shook hands and said our goodbyes.
As I crossed over from Presque Isle county into Cheboygan county, I was greeted by one of these ubiquitous signs:
Thanks again, Connie and Dale, for trying to make it all work out!