(The one when I really mess up my bike)
written by Jeff
(52 miles) 46 miles
We had a long way to travel today, so taking our discussion the night before to heart, we were packed and on the road by 10 AM. Woo-hoo! The objective: Traverse City State Park.
Traverse City is one of the most beautiful and recreational-friendly towns in all of Michigan. Located at the southern tip of the Grand Traverse Bay, there are wonderful stretches of shoreline and numerous opportunities to boat, sail, fish, ski… no wonder it’s such a popular destination during the summer.
There is also a week during the summer when the population of the Traverse City area goes from 150,000 to 500,000: the week of the Cherry Festival. Yep, you guessed it, we were arriving there smack dab in the middle of the festival.
Unfortunately, this was the only state park on our entire route where we did not have a reservation. And, as you can imagine, almost every hotel and campground in the Traverse City area was packed full. We might be in for a little trouble…
A month before our trip, when thinking about contingency plans, we discovered that state parks in both Michigan and Wisconsin have “cycle-in” policies: they will not turn away cyclists (who have no other vehicle), but will find someplace for them to camp. It makes sense… if you ride into a state park, and it’s already full, what can you do? Pedal another 20-30 miles to the next campground?
This was our first time trying out the “cycle-in” policy, and we weren’t certain if it would work.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself. Because we had so many miles to travel, we decided to take the most direct route, which also happened to be the busiest: highway 31. Google maps kept trying to divert us onto side roads, but those just added miles to our ride, and we were a determined group. By following 31, we shaved off 6 miles (hence a 52-mile day became a 46-mile one) Stops were short (and therefore the grasshopper-catching was limited). True to form, Caleb and Lydia watered a lot of trees and fields along the way, but they were only quick stops. We stopped for lunch at Friske’s Orchards, where there was a playground, goats to pet, and… a chance to celebrate CORA’s 10th BIRTHDAY! They didn’t have cake at Friske’s, but some yummy cherry donuts seemed to suffice for our celebration.
Our spirits were high. Our bellies were full. There was singing, rejoicing, and high hopes because some friends were planning to bring us dinner tonight—fried chicken. What a great day!
Last summer we were in Ecuador… Maybe next summer we’ll go to the North Pole?
Then, disaster struck.
At 5:45, with just 10 miles to go, Jeff felt a jerk, and then slack in the pedals. Looking down, Jeff saw there was no chain on the tandem. It was laying on the road about 40 yards behind. Hmm, it’s tough to move without a chain. No problem, right? Just before we left, I found a “master link” that can be used to repair a broken chain. Looking at the master link, and looking at the chain, I saw that the length of the link was the right size, but the width was a little greater than the chain. Hmm… such a small difference, what harm could happen? I spliced the chain together, ran it through the gears a moment, and declared it “repaired.” Meanwhile, Angela and all the other kids were now 1-2 miles down the road, as I had assured them that I had it under control.
Cora, Caleb, and I all mounted the tandem and started pedaling. Then, all of a sudden, CRUNCH! Everything locked up, and I knew I had really broken the bike. Sure enough, hanging from my chain was my derailleur, in a few pieces, and the bike frame itself was bent where the back wheel attaches to the bike. Oops. This is bad. Very bad.
As soon as it happened (and after I died a little inside), I texted our friend Dave Buck, who was bringing us dinner. Immediately he came to our rescue, borrowing his son’s pickup truck, and loaded us all up; Cora, Caleb, and me. Although I was still dying inside, kicking myself for stupidly wrecking the bike by using a wrong-sized link, I was also reminding myself that the Lord is in control, and today Dave was His provision for us. Dave took us to the campground, beating the rest of the family, and it was time to see if the “cycle-in” policy was really a thing.
The first thing the person at the front desk said to me, was, “Sorry, we’re full.” Yep, knew that.
Me: “I’ve been told that Michigan state parks have a “cycle-in” policy to let cyclists get a campsite even when the park is full. Is that true here?”
DNR person: “Yeah, some state parks have that, but not ours.”
DNR: “But the ranger is on break right now, and I’ve only been here for a year. Let me check the computer.”
C’mon, please have something…
DNR: “Hmm, look at that. I click here… then cyclist… and that… okay, that will be $20.”
Me: “You mean you have a place for us?
DNR: “Yep! Never seen this before, but we do. It’s telling me to put you on site 1001—and that’s actually back where we used to have a playground. You’re all set!”
That night, we celebrated Cora’s birthday, friendship, God’s provision, and so much else over several boxes of fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, egg salad, cole slaw, root beer floats, and cake. Dave and Sharon Buck totally spoiled us, and they were so much fun to see. Dave and I met more than 23 years ago as I raised support, and it was so much fun to reconnect in person, giving my family the chance to meet and know these amazing people. Part of our dinner was spent doing our birthday tradition of having each Koch share about the things they appreciate about the birthday person, so Cora was showered with praise. We also shared our “highs” and “lows” for the day, of which there were many more highs than lows… but the specter of the ruined bike was in the back of many of our minds. We would find out the next day if it could be repaired!
The bounty provided by Dave and Sharon Buck. Thanks friends!
Dave and Sharon left around dusk, promising to return in the morning with breakfast, and we all went to bed, most of us with full bellies and smiles on our faces.