Saturday, September 12, 2009
I began this trip with the idea of rounding up the forces of nature (tour de force or tour de nature) that we in the Midwest have a reciprocal relationship with. The lake could be considered the center piece of these forces, formed by glaciers and affected by civilization. I wanted to catalogue the powers of nature. For a random book on the Great Lakes, try "The Living Great Lakes," by Jerry Dennis. It was interesting, but not great. Along with the lake, we have wind, rain, sun, geothermal, dams, seasons. etc.... All of these forces are part of our lives.
Leading up to the trip, I plucked knowledge and tools from wherever I came across them. It was an "ecological," preparation, where I synthesized all the tips, tricks, hardware, and well wishes that I could. I got books from the Chicago Public Library with Tara (which I have been meaning to return.) I learned that Adam Clark had made the trip around the lake in 14 days (clockwise, or counter-clockwise I don't know. Thanks for inspiration Adam.) Mike Morell and co. are taking a counter-clockwise route as this is being written. I had the bike run over that I was going to use for the trip, but I ended up using my Cannondale Silk Road (a semi-worthy aluminum touring bike with a front steel fork shock that was locked the entire time. The check is in the mail to replenish my bike fund.) I got panniers from RRB in Kenilworth (thanks Ron.) I had the trailer for a couple years that I got at Yojimbo's (thanks Marcus and Brean.) I got the legs from my mom and dad. I had made several trips to the Indiana Dunes in the past.
There were no major problemsn. I didn't even lose my cell phone or wallet. No bike problems or layover while the shop fixed bike.
The first leg of my trip was about 65 miles, from Winnetka to the Indiana Dunes "Dunewoods" campground. I cut through Scary Gary instead of taking the longer bike path route.
Food was one part of the trip that I didn't want to slack on. I wanted to eat comfortably and as independently as possible, with novel ingrediants and dishes that melded with the season. I think I scored an 8 out of 10 with some good hints on improvement.
First off, my timing was great. Everything good was in season. Local produce was my mantra. I was very lucky with this. Blueberries... I stopped at orchards to pick my own produce many times on the trip. The blueberries tasted great. I decided to pick the darkest, richest ones that would otherwise spoil on the way to my plate at home. They were way too good. Raspberries.... Raspberries were in season as well. Cherries too. When you pick raspberries they come straight off away from the stem. Blackberries, which I also picked, need to be pried off with your thumb and index finger at a right angle. I missed strawberry season. I carried my days supply in a nice cooler bag that fit just snugly into my side rear pannier. It's funny how some items always prove to be useful in different situations.
Head 'em up and move 'em out. Some places that seem to be headed in the right direction.
Trillium Haven - I found out about Trillium Haven in Grand Haven at a their farmer's market. The seller had organic produce. They told me about Michael's 400 acre, energy self-sufficient farm just outside of Fennville. This is somewhere I'd like to tarry at for a while on my way back to Grand Rapids.
Word of mouth.
Someone told me that Holland is working with micro-algae biofuel.
There are wind farms here and there with no rhyme or reason.
More food. Pan-sized breakfast cakes.
Around Holland, I found Kestling maple orchard. No one was selling syrup as the sign promised, but I rounded some up in Ludington at a health food store. It came in a standard glass bottle in the shape of a maple leaf.
Also at the health food store I began to put somewhere on my mental register that I had to make pancakes. I packed in some buckwheat pancake mix and I had the maple syrup. Then I went about my business, tracing a route out of Ludington to Manistee National Forest. I had to checkerboard my way northwest to get to the entrance of the park. The mechanic at the shop rattled off a few street names and hopelessly traced a route out with his finger. It was not a huge problem, but next time I'll remember. Just remember to get on Angle street 'cause it goes at an angle to where you wanna git.
Seem like I'm forgetting my pan-sized breakfast cakes. I am. But just when you think that, "it'll never happen," I duck into a ranch house driveway with signs for two dollars for a dozen eggs. Eggs... Syrup... Mix.... Still not registering. As I pass the time with some conversation with Sarah, I completely forget about pancakes. I learn about her part-husky dog that can run ahead of a bike on a leash. Her goat parades around the pen with the hair on his back legs that look like knickers. The chickens start a racket. "By the way, I have a liter of goat's milk if you want it. I drink it because I'm lactose intolerant. I don't pasteurize it." Bingo. Pancakes are made possible. They were gooooooood.
p.s. Later on, I fell into the vice of taking shots from the maple syrup bottle.
Manistee. The summit of my trip.
The first night, I tried camping without a tent. Just my bag, a pillow and a mat. It was really niiiiice. Second night I was treated to some whooping large bird. It was like a short gobble and then an ascending whoop. The laughing coyote pups were also charming and invigorating to listen to.
Farmer's Markets. Perfect timing.
Every town I landed in had a farmer's market going on. Also, all the fruit was in season. Raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, and cherries. I only bought cartons when I didn't have time to pick my own. I picked the super ripe ones that you can't buy at the supermarket because they will spoil to soon. That's what I think.
Buy a fixed gear and tour with that.
Build a bamboo trailer or one made out of parts salvaged from the ReBuilding Exchange in Brighton (Chicago.)
Thankyous to follow.
Thankyou so much for your Grand reception and thrilling evening. Your bed, breakfast and concert was great. Grand Rapids was my favorite stop on the tour.
I continued my "swath" through Southwest Michigan eating local produce along the way. I have a knack for landing in towns when they have their farmers' markets. I did have one breakfast out and two doughnuts. I took the chance to pick blueberries, raspberries and blackberries. I also had a lime phosphate at a drugstore in Martin.
Could you thank Faloud et al again for me. I didn't find a restaurant quite like it anywhere else in Michigan. If you have the chance, I'd check out "Chicago Diner" in Boy's Town, "Soul Vegetarian," on 75th and Indiana in Chatham, and/or "Uru Swati," on Devon on the north side.
If you could put me up again, I might make another bike trip to Grand Rapids before the summer is through. You are welcome to stay at my parents' house or my girlfriend's place in Logan Square.
Though it's difficult to say, I think I did about 750 miles total.
Hope all is well and Grand Rapids is rockin out,
p.s. You could even pass this on to Faloud.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
I've made it to Chicago. The trip was great. Not epic, or an odyssee, but great. I saw some great vistas and made friends along the way. Of course, I would like to share this experience with anyone who would join me. Another person might have ideas I didn't think of.
I will make my way back to Grand Rapids, most definitely. Sam, a great musician. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but I didn't plan that. I feel welcome there. Check out Commute Bike Shop and Mary Catrib's restaurant.