Day 7: End of the line
The weather weenies got one right: at 6:30 this morning it was 44 degrees. A full 16 degrees under my comfort level and only 12 degrees above freezing.
It was time to go home. Just 55 more miles to ride. (Yeah, and 324 more to drive, but there’s several horses that’d be toting my ass on that leg of the journey.)
I started getting my gear together one more time. Packing away clothes. Throwing out pizza I didn’t eat last night. (How did I consume an entire two liter jug of Diet Coke without having to pee every 30 minutes throughout the night?)
I was out the door at 7:30 on the nose. According to the first outdoor display I saw, plus what I was pulling up on my phone, it’d warmed up to 48 degrees.
Honestly, it didn’t feel too bad. Thankfully, once again the wind was mostly at my back. Had it been blowing across my path or at me, I’m sure it would have been a lot colder.
The ride was uneventful. In leaving Tawas City, there was some construction on 23 South which had (1) reduced the traffic to one lane, one direction at a time. Then (2) completely rerouted the southbound traffic.
I wasn’t about to go on a detour to God knows where. All the construction guys were doing was chewing up asphalt on a strip of the road. The “chewer” was then spitting the ground up asphalt into a dump truck. They were moving about 3 miles an hour.
I got honked at by the “chewer” driver for dashing under the flying asphalt. Big deal. Saved me who knows how many re-routed miles?
- Outside of Omer . . .
I ran into an interesting “road block”:
That one I had to get off the road and ride on the sidewalk to get around.
- Of all the places I ate on this trip, the friendliest of the bunch was “B’s Family Restaurant,” in Au Gres. I was riding right by it, it was 9AM, and I was hungry. Seemed like a good place to pay a repeat visit.
As I walked into the place I didn’t pay attention to the marquee sign that’s in the bottom left corner. I had my heart set on breakfast so I wasn’t really interested in anything else they might be serving later on that day.
Oddly enough, when I walked out — completely stuffed for just $10 (that included the drink and the tip) — the marquee sign finally registered. And made my mouth water over “goulash.” I bet I haven’t had goulash since I was a kid. Mama used to make it. Frankly, I couldn’t begin to tell you what’s in it . . . but when she made it, it was great. That much I remember.
- I spent a good chunk of time trying to figure out why the first four days of the ride were such a literal “pain in the ass.” Especially in light of the last three days being virtually pain free. The middle day — Day 4 — was the worst day of them all. That was the day I was stuffing socks in my pants and slathering my cheeks with zinc oxide.
One difference that occurred to me yesterday. I played no music on Day 4. Day 5 (the easiest day of the bunch), Days 6 and 7 I set Winamp to playing country music. Maybe there’s something to that “cry in your beer / she done gone and took my dawg” music? Or is it something as simple as keeping my mind off the pain by singing along with Conway, Merle, Waylon, and Tom T.? Couldn’t tell you. But I did get a kick out of the sign on this guy’s driveway:
- All right, so what the hell did y’all do with gas prices? I was only gone one week and y’all jacked the prices up 25 cents a gallon! Damn good thing I wasn’t gone a month!
- When I did the northbound ride, I got a little uneasy about finding US 23. As I’ve explained, US 23 and I-75 run together until 23 takes off for its nature hike alongside Lake Huron. I would have sworn on a stack of bibles that 23 jutted out at Bay City. But, technically, it was about 25 miles north of Bay City that 23 separated from 75. On that first day I was riding, I assumed I’d missed a sign to pick up 23. I was tooling right along, going north on Michigan 13. I wasn’t too worried about it. North was the direction I was headed. I’d find some cross road at some point and catch back up with 23.
I found 23 about 17 miles into that first day’s ride. I didn’t have to do a thing. 13 ended and 23 picked up. Yay me.
So, naturally, the reverse was true heading southbound. With 17 miles to go, 23 and I parted ways:
- When I go on a more-than-50-mile ride I have this little benchmarks I set for myself. I want to ride X distance in Y time. The most common one I try and meet is getting 20 miles in under 90 minutes. The first four days of the ride I couldn’t even come close. The fifth day, with the wind at my back, believe it or not, I still missed making the first 20 miles in 90 minutes . . . by 4 seconds. (I know, I know. I’m anal about it.) For what it’s worth, it was the “rolling hills” south of Alpena that did me in. In fact, the steepest one of the bunch just happened to occur as I was trying to get to 20 miles. Ah well.
The other benchmark, which requires me leaving early enough to do, is to get to 50 miles by noon. Granted, there’s a lot of leeway in that one. If I leave at 6AM, I only have to average 8.33 MPH to hit it. So I modify it a little bit and say that I have to get 50 miles in 4 hours. That’s 12.5 MPH. Completely doable.
With the wind at my back today, I blew the 20 and 40 mile benchmark out of the water. Did 20 miles in 78 minutes and 40 got crossed 75 minutes later. But because I’d stopped for breakfast, stopped to take some last pictures, there didn’t appear to be any way to get to the 50 mile point by noon. It was going to be close, but the last time I started “cipherin'” . . .
. . . I was going to get to the 50 miles point at 12:04. Damn.
In fact, I intentionally stopped at the Marathon gas station pictured above just to make it impossible for me to make it by noon. I didn’t want to miss it by that much. It would have been a disappointment. Might as well kill some time going to the bathroom and chugging down some power drink. Probably wasted ten minutes.
The wind was definitely in my favor today. Just out of curiosity, I checked the clock once I reached the 47 mile point. The clock was at 11:47. Three miles to go. Thirteen minutes to pull it off. I checked the speedometer. With the wind, I was moving at a fraction better than 15 MPH. 15MPH is a four minute mile. Which means if I could keep up that speed for just 12 minutes . . .
. . . and that very moment is when the wind shifted against me.
I swear, it was like any action movie where the hero is trying to defuse the bomb as the timer clicks down. Let’s cut to the end:
I made it. With one minute to spare. Yee hah again.
Plus, since I’d marked that very spot on my first day, I knew that the 50 mile point was exactly five miles from the car. I was getting close!
Sure enough, five miles later, I pulled up to a beautiful sight:
My car. Right where I’d left it. I took a moment to go into the store where I’d left it and asked for the owner to thank him personally for keeping an eye out on it and letting me park it there in the first place. He wasn’t there, but I did explain to the young lady who was there who I was. I guess the owner guy had spread the word around a little bit, so she knew what I was talking about. I asked her to pass along my sincere thanks to him.
Roughly 470 miles in seven days. With no training or preparedness whatsoever. With a bod that’s so far from being “in shape,” it’s embarrassing. Which means that anyone could have done this ride.
Had a great time, Lake Huron. Thanks for keeping me company this week!