Monthly Archives: August 2016

Day 48 – August 3: Home!

by Jeff

63 miles

Angela woke at 5:30 to the voices of LaToya and Louis discussing raccoons.  She looked up to see LaToya at the door of the tent watching the culprits hanging around the cooler.  She was trying to determine whether or not they had actually gotten into it or not.  She unzipped the door and all but one of the masked bandits dispersed.  Angela headed out with a “Git!” and stomped over to the cooler.  The leader only wandered off about ten feet, but it was enough for her to see that their nimble little fingers had indeed unzipped the cooler and they’d been fighting over the day’s lunch meat and cheese!  She yelled at the remaining raccoon and it skittered up the tree, then poked it’s head around the trunk as if to say, “I’m still here…”

After a short, but fabulous night’s rest in my own bed, I drove back with Elise and Cora to the campground by 8:30AM. We threw everything into the van to go back to Chicago: tent, sleeping bags, the rest of our clothes, etc… and only kept one bike trailer, the first aid kit, and the cooler with our lunch. We were traveling light today!  LaToya’s family, however, were traveling with all our gear tucked into every nook and cranny around them. Hopefully some of it worked well as comfy pillows for the ride home.

Before we got too far, we wanted to get a couple broken spokes fixed on my bike. So, we rode a few miles to Chesterton Bicycle Station, a great bike shop just off of the South Shore stop in Chesterton. The owner took at look at the bike, said he could do it that morning, and suggested we peruse the nearby shops while we waited. So, off we went! And the first store we found: a used bookstore.  Brittany promptly sat down with a book, and we didn’t see her again for an hour. The rest of us went to a park across the street, and Caleb and David made up a game involving little round seeds that they found. I think it was a game like marbles, but I’m still not sure.

The kids playing a game like marbles... except using seed pods to shoot :)

The kids playing a game like marbles… except using seed pods to shoot 🙂

We were soon on our way… with just 60 more miles to go. It was such a beautiful ride–there are amazing bike paths through northwest Indiana and into Illinois, including the Prairie Duneland Trail, the Oak Savannah Trail, and the Erie Lackawanna Trail. All asphalt paths, taking us through Gary, Hammond, and many more communities. Since I was the only one with a bike trailer, we cruised along pretty quickly. Our typical speed with trailers was 10-11mph; without the trailers, we were clipping along at 12-15 mph. It was so much fun!

At almost the exact halfway point, we reached the Cabela’s superstore in Hammond, IN. We grabbed some lunch meat and cheese from the Wal-mart across the street, then ate sandwiches underneath a pine tree in the Cabela’s parking lot. We had to take a look inside, and were amazed by all there was to see: a massive freshwater aquarium, mounted animals of every type, a trout stream, and every type of camping, fishing, and hunting accessory you could think of. We were entertained for at least an hour.

Back on the bike paths for the second half, we soon found ourselves going through Wolf Lake Memorial Park–on a causeway through a beautiful natural area within a quarter of a mile of the Chicago Skyway. Awesome!

Our friend, Brian Parache, is an avid cyclist, so we invited him to ride with us along the last part of our trip; he biked down from Soldier Field and met us with about 20 miles to go, in Calumet Park. It was so fun to have him travel with us! From that point, we met up with familiar sights and the kids began to call out, “this is where Mommy’s chain came off and we saw the huge boat!” and other mishaps from our practice trip. Excitement built as the kids realized we’d travelled this route before, and we could certainly do it again, but faster!

Our group continued on, finally hitting the bike path along Lakeshore drive and we knew we were getting close. The sun set just as we approached the Shedd Aquarium. We stopped for a few minutes to sit on the grass, share a few memories from the trip for which we were thankful to the Lord, and pray as a family. It was special to take that moment to celebrate the accomplishment of our trip, and give praise and thanks to the Lord for making it happen.

We missed you, Chicago!

We missed you, Chicago! (Brian is on the far left)

The rest of the trip was a blur; we were moving quickly (even after 63 miles!) and finally pedaled back into our garage around 9:30pm. We were exhausted, but exuberant. Brian’s mom, Julie, had come to our home beforehand and cooked a huge meal of tacos for us. It… was… awesome. What a night to complete our dream trip! We made it!

Day 47 – August 2: To Indiana Dunes State Park

by Jeff

34 miles

Leaving Warren Dunes State Park, we traveled along another fairly busy highway much of the day: the Red Arrow HIghway.. Until age 11, I lived just across the Indiana border, only 5 miles away from New Buffalo… and today’s journey took through an area where I had a lot of memories. We left the highway at one point to begin riding along the lakefront–again, we saw so many huge, beautiful houses on the beachfront (and a lot of Illinois plates in the driveways!). Growing up, when my family wanted to go to the beach, we would go to the New Buffalo City Beach–so on our ride, we had to make a stop to swim there. It was magnificent, especially since the temperature was in the high 80s. From there, we picked up the route along Highway 12–a busy road, indeed. At one point, a woman rolled down her window to shout at us, “This is not a bike path!” Yeah, we knew that, but there wasn’t any other way to get to where we needed to go…!

Shortly after that incident, Elise crashed when she hit some loose gravel at the bottom of a hill. It looked just awful, but she came through with just a few scrapes. It was painful, but we were grateful that it wasn’t so much worse!

We got off of the highway at our first opportunity, and began to ride along the beachfront. The homes were in communities named Michiana Shores, Long Beach, Grand Beach, etc… and they were packed closely together. Lots of gorgeous homes, as well as beautiful views of the lake. Coming into Michigan City, we stopped at the Armory for the National Guard–my father used to work as a fisheries biologist for the Indiana DNR, which had an office in that building. He passed away 16 years ago, so my kids don’t know much about him; it was a neat opportunity to tell my children about his passion for the environment, fish, and all the fishing we used to do. When you have nothing but time, you begin talking about things you may never have talked about before… and that became a pretty special part of this whole trip.

After Michigan City, our route took us back onto Highway 12. Ugh… this was miserable: not much shoulder, and a lot heavier traffic. At one point, a driver pulled over and said he could barely see us in the shade of the trees. He then opened his trunk and gave Jeff a bright fluorescent green vest with reflective tape. Honestly, I felt a little stung by his rebuke, but it was also really thoughtful and helpful.

Two flats on the way delayed our arrival at Indiana Dunes State Park, but it didn’t keep us from swimming as soon as we could. It was going to be our last opportunity this trip to take a dip in Lake Michigan, so the kids and I cooled off.  It was glorious!


Woo-hoo! We made it to Indiana Dunes!

We had some special visitors that night: our friend Latoya drove our van to the park (from Chicago) and brought her family to camp with us that night–some of her kids had never before camped (yeah!). Dinner was simple, yet plentiful: brats, Italian sausage, and hot dogs. Our plan was this: the next day we had 63 miles to bike.  We couldn’t possibly make that distance with all the weight we were pulling, so we decided to drive everything we wouldn’t need back to Chicago. So, while dinner was being prepared, I loaded our van with most of our gear: tons of kitchen stuff, the bike trailers, clothes, etc… anything that would not be used in the tent that night. When darkness fell, Elise, Cora, and I piled into the van and drove back to Chicago, to sleep in our beds for the first time in 47 days. And, it was amazing! I unloaded our van first, so I didn’t get to sleep until 1:30AM, but the bed was absolutely heavenly. Even though we would get up at 6:00AM to drive back to Indiana Dunes, then bike 63 miles… it was absolutely worth it.

Only one more day to go to complete the adventure!

Day 46 – August 1: To Warren Dunes State Park

38 miles

By Jeff

Only 3 more days until we get home! Thoughts like those were beginning to dominate our minds and conversations.  We can do this!

Leaving Van Buren State Park, we jumped onto the Blue Star Highway (Hwy 63), not ideal for biking, but it had a wide shoulder to accommodate bikers.  Our route took us along the shore, through the communities of Lake Michigan Beach, Benton Harbor, and St. Joseph.  We passed by Whirlpool’s world headquarters, just north of Benton Harbor; it was interesting to see the massive building on the east side of the highway, and the land on the west side was a massive field all the way down to Lake Michigan. What a nice view for those with offices on the west side of the building!

Benton Harbor and St. Joseph are older communities, rich in history, made evident by some of the architecture we saw. We stopped in the St. Joseph Public Library to fill water bottles and use the restrooms… but we almost lost a few of our kids. If you know our kids, you know that they can’t resist a good book. Libraries are dangerous places for our family.

At one point, we needed to fix a flat tire, so we pulled into the parking lot of a wealth management business. The owner, Brett Dodds (, a cyclist himself, came out to give us a hand and invited us to use restrooms, get water or a soda, anything we needed.  Again, the Lord showed His graciousness through Brett’s hospitality. We arrived at Warren Dunes State Park around 6:00pm, and after setting up camp our friends Sue and Jerry brought us an amazing meal of tacos and watermelon. I met Sue over 20 years ago while raising support in the Upper Peninsula, and she has been a source of great encouragement ever since then. Ever wonder what it might look like when a horde of locusts finds food? That’s about the same picture as what happens when our kids eat food on this trip…

Day 45 – July 31: To Van Buren State Park

46 miles

by Jeff

We got a few more quizzical looks in the morning (“why is there a tent in the playground area??”), but after getting breakfast and packing up our campsite, we started our journey toward Van Buren State Park in South Haven. We hadn’t realized this before, but apparently there is no way to cross Lake Macatawa by land except by a bridge on the far eastern side of the lake. And… we were camped on the western side. Bummer! That meant 6 miles added to our route, as you can see from the map below. Ugh!

Screen Shot 2016-08-10 at 3.36.54 PM

Yep, that’s Lake Macatawa… and it’s a loooong way around!

The ride along the Lake was beautiful, as we went through the communities of Saugatuck, Douglas, and South Haven. Riding along the lakefront of these towns was a huge treat, as we were able to admire the shops, boats, and attractions along the waterfront. As you can imagine, we saw a ton of magnificent homes along Lakeshore Drive – we were often amazed at the size and beauty of the homes on Lake Michigan.

We had a couple of bike issues along the way: I had to change a flat tire, and on one of the bike trailers a bolt sheared off that attached the trailer to the bike. Fortunately, we had anticipated that possibility, and had a couple of spare bolts with us. Glad we had more than, since the bolt sheared not only once, but twice on this trip. That meant we needed more spares, so Joshua and I made a quick detour to Menards to make sure that we would be prepared for future occurrences.

We arrived at Van Buren State Park just an hour before the sun set. We quickly set up camp, got dinner cooking, and took off for the beach. An east wind had come in a couple of days before, taking all of the warm water out to the middle of the lake. The water was freezing!  David and Caleb went in up to their knees and were content to splash Joshua and me. Silly boys.
We experienced the kindness of strangers a few times at this campground.  We found grocery stores scarce during the ride and ended up without the milk we needed for our dinner recipe, or for breakfast the next morning. So, what do you do when you’re short on food? Ask around!  A couple across the road from us gave us the ½ cup of milk we needed for our dinner entrée (Texas Pioneer Pie), and the next morning I went biking around the campground, looking for anyone who might be packing up to leave.  I found an RV pulling out, and when asked if they had any milk they weren’t using, they gave us half a gallon. Then our next door neighbor emptied out their larder as they pulled out.  We feasted on cereal, banana bread, apples, and orange juice.  We were grateful since the bananas we had planned on eating were dragged into the trees and eaten by raccoons in the middle of the night, along with an entire bag of delicious chocolate chip cookies (baked for us two days earlier)!  Promises to make more cookies when we got home helped the mood in the camp upon hearing the news of our lost food.