Day 22 – July 9: To Tippy Dam (Manistee County)

by Jeff

38 miles

We slept in, lounged over breakfast, went swimming, visited with the Rumneys, and ate a hearty lunch of pasta. None of us wanted to leave; it was such a peaceful and fun place to be. We finally hit the road at 3:00pm.

Thank you Rumney family, for your wonderful hospitality!

Thank you Rumney family, for your wonderful hospitality!

We decided to change our route the night before, after Jeff read more details about the trip between Sleeping Bear Dunes and our next campground reservation at Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee. Turns out, there are some massive hills on that route along the shoreline. The hills even have names: the “Three Sisters.” When hills have names, you know they’re going to hurt. I believe each of them were climbs over 1000 feet, one of which was over a 2-mile stretch. Our quads were still sore from the climb the day before, so we decided to pass.

We knew we had to be at Jeff’s family reunion near Walhalla the following night, so we drew a line between us and Walhalla and found a campground in the middle: Tippy Dam Recreational Area. Only one significant hill to climb, and only a 38-mile ride. We were off!

The ride was beautiful. We traveled on county roads for the most part, through thick woods and lush prairies. Google maps pulled another fast one on us, taking us up a 600-foot climb only to find out that the road then turned to dirt; we knocked on the door of a nearby house and were set straight as to how to get back onto pavement. Later that day, Google recommended taking another trail, but when we saw that it was dirt and loose gravel, we took a pass.

It seems like our best time of riding is in the evening: the air is cool, the sun isn’t in our eyes, and we tend to talk a lot more. We celebrated our trip by sharing our highlights from the last couple of days and eating the last of our Mackinac Island fudge. As twilight came, we saw several deer in the fields around us. So cool.

We arrived at Tippy Dam Recreational Area just as darkness fell. The kids are all experts by now when it comes to setting up camp, so the tent and sleeping areas were put together in 25 minutes. We ate some quick sandwiches for dinner, including Caleb’s peanut butter and pickle creation. Shortly afterwards, everyone happily went to bed.

Tomorrow, we finally reach a long awaited break: our 5-day Koch family Reunion!

Day 21 – July 8 (Part Two): To Sleeping Bear Dunes. Drenched

by Jeff

32 miles

Once the bike was fixed, it was time to get back on the road! Our destination: Honor, Michigan, to visit some old friends who used to live in Marquette, Tom and Jonnine Rumney. Hey, it’s only 32 miles, right?  Not a problem!

After regathering at the laundromat, then eating a quick lunch, we finally started weaving our way through the town of Traverse City at around 2:00. We biked through the Cherry Festival along the Traverse Area Recreation Trail (TART), a fully paved bikeway that was just awesome. Like I said before, Traverse City is a great place for recreation! Because of the Cherry Festival, there were rides, booths, games, and all kinds of activity downtown. We didn’t have time to stop, unfortunately, but it was really cool to see.

Then, it was time to leave town. Okay, one thing we didn’t realize is that Traverse City is kind of located in a bowl. Meaning: leaving town, going west, there’s no way but up. Cedar Run Road will forever be burned in our minds as the road that nearly killed us. For three miles, we did nothing but climb. Well, we did a few other things, like gasping for breath, mild cursing, standing around, and walking our bikes, but overall, it was misery. Maybe we could have done it alright without pulling heavy trailers, but all of the weight we were pulling made our quads burn like crazy. What a momentum killer–we still had almost 30 miles to go.

Finally, the climbing came to an end. And, the nice thing is that what goes up, must come down. The rest of the ride was mostly flat, or downhill. Hooray! Our spirits lifted, and we began to gain more confidence.

Then came the rain. It rained while we were at the bike shop/laundromat, but then it stopped. We thought, perhaps we’re in the clear! Yeah, not so much. About halfway to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, the clouds got really dark.  I began to wonder which of the nice family farms we were passing might take us in. Literally, while thinking those thoughts, we came upon a significant downhill–and the raindrops began to fall. In 15 seconds, it was a DELUGE. Rain was pelting us, hitting our faces and making it difficult to see – it even took our breath away. We were going fast, downhill, in buckets of rain, and I kept thinking about wet, slippery brakes, imagining a train wreck at the bottom of the hill (Lots of praying, again!). Miraculously, we all made it down safely, and took cover in a random driveway under some trees. We were drenched. David was whimpering a little, as was Caleb. I was like, C’mon, buck up, we’ll make it through this!  Hmm, empathy? Not one of my strengths.

Then we heard a shout: the property owners were at the door and they called us to come inside. Sweet mercy! We filed in, took off our shoes, and that’s how we met Kelly and Gary. So grateful for the kindness of strangers–the hospitality we have experienced on this trip has blown us all away! We got to know them a little, and within 30 minutes, the rain had stopped, so we started to make our way again.

Just as we were to remount our bikes, our friends Dave and Sharon Buck surprised us by stopping by! They tracked us down to make sure we survived the storm, and offered to take pictures of us as we rode along. What sweet people!  Thanks to them, you can see how we’re set up on our bikes:

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Everybody is shown here except for Cora, who is on her own road bike, with no trailer. (Lucky!)

As we continued to the Sleeping Bear Dunes, Google maps, which usually does a great job of showing the best bike routes, brought us to a dirt road. Yes, it might be the shortest route, but from experience, dirt roads are a slow, painful way for us to go. Moments after we arrived at the intersection, and as we were looking at alternative routes, a car drove up. It turned out to be two women, going out to eat on this Friday night. The passenger, Cathy, leaned out of the window, and the following conversation took place:

Cathy: “Are you lost? Can I help you?”

Us: “Actually, we are trying to figure out if we have to take this road, or can go around”

Cathy: “You don’t want that road! It is up and down the whole way for 2 miles.  You’ll be walking most of it. Where are you going?”

Us: “Honor.”

Cathy: “What?!? That’s another 15 miles! Are you crazy? I have a truck, we’ll go get it.  You can put all your **** in the back and we’ll take you there.”

The Driver: “yeah, I can fit three people in here”

Us: “Wow, that’s really kind!  We’ll be okay, we just need a way to get back to a paved road to Honor.”

—- the conversation continued with Cathy and her friend reluctantly giving us the navigational information while trying to convince us to give up on biking and take the ride instead.  They were concerned that the weather would turn again, or that some other other catastrophe might befall us. We learned that Cathy is a retired teacher: “I’m just concerned about the kids…” They only let us continue on our way after Cathy gave us her cell phone number and extracted a promise to call for help if anything happened.

We took Cathy’s detour, adding just a couple of miles to our journey, and passed through some incredibly beautiful country. The forests and water around Sleeping Bear Dunes are very scenic, and did I mention that we were still going downhill? During the last 10 miles of our ride, we were practically giddy, enjoying the ride, racing each other, and clipping along at a great pace. One mile from our destination, we saw a car pull over: it was our host, Tom! He was a little concerned, and then assured us that pizza was on its way. To add more motivation for us, he said the last person to arrive wouldn’t get any pizza. Okay, we knew it was a joke, but still… you should’ve seen Lydia pedal during that last stretch!

Our stay with the Rumney’s was amazingly refreshing. Papa J’s pizza, (in Honor), is seriously some of the best pizza ini Michigan. We ate a lot. Tom and Jonnine’s son Dave was there as well, and Dave’s wife Kelly was my classmate in high school. It was so great to see them and spend time catching up. The Rumney’s live on Big Platte Lake, an ideal swimming lake for our kids – the water was about 3-4 feet deep for about 50 yards from shore. Another highlight for our kids: they had dogs. And my kids love dogs. The dogs probably didn’t get a moment’s peace the entire evening, but I didn’t see them complaining. Bellies full, bodies washed, we all slept great that night on mattresses.

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Puppy love

Tomorrow: We head south!

Day 21 – July 8 (Part One): Torched

by Jeff

I woke up this morning with one thought on my mind: can the bike be repaired?  As many of you know, there’s nothing like desperation to improve one’s prayer life. The great thing is, the Lord is fine with that… regardless of our circumstances, in good or bad, He welcomes us to come to Him with our needs, our joys, and anything that’s on our heart or mind. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6)

Rain was threatening in the morning, so, having learned our lesson in Petoskey, we packed up quickly and were ready to head out by 9:30am. Well done crew!  Dave and Sharon Buck came by our campsite with all the best breakfast foods:  an abundance of yogurt, fruit, and that most healthy and delicious of all cereals: Cap’n Crunch with Crunchberries. I, along with the rest of my family,  hope there are Crunchberries in heaven.

While the rest of the family ate the amazing buffet laid before them, Dave and I loaded up the crippled tandem and headed to Einstein Cycles less than a mile away. I had called them the day before to let them know our issues, and Dan (one of the mechanics) suggested we get the bike there when they opened at 10:00am. When Dan saw it, he gave a low whistle and said, this is going to take some work. But he was optimistic, and so Dave and I returned to the campsite to finish breakfast.

An hour passed. Then another half hour… and no word from the bike shop. I was getting nervous. I called, and Dan told me that his manager had to run out to get a blow torch… something about bending metal is easier when you have a torch.  *Gulp.  Okay, sounds, um, good!  The derailleur hanger, which is the mount for the mechanism that moves the chain up and down the various gears, was bent in a couple of different ways. Translation: the steel, which isn’t supposed to bend very much, can break when a lot of pressure is applied. Hence, a torch would make the metal more malleable, allowing the metal to be bent, but it would also leave it more brittle. More praying…

After breakfast, we decided to divide and conquer: Angela took the kids and biked to the laundromat with all of our dirty, smelly clothes, while Dave Buck took me, Cora, and Caleb back to Einstein Cycles. Einstein’s is a fabulous bike shop, by the way. It even has a coffee shop attached to it, so that’s where we waited while the bike’s outcome was being determined. As soon as I got there, it started hailing–like crazy hail–and I was soooo glad that we packed up when we did.  I checked with Angela to make sure they had made it inside before the hail hit – they had (barely!).  In the words of Hannibal from the A-Team: I love it when a plan comes together.

So, we waited in the coffee shop. Finally, at 12:45 in the afternoon, Dan came over. And… he was able to fix everything! He bent everything back into shape, installed a new derailleur, new chain, and adjusted everything.  Not only that, but he tightened my headset, which is the steering element of the bike–it was quite loose, and I wasn’t sure how to do that job on this strange tandem bike. What a guy! I can’t heap enough praise on this shop and the professionalism & kindness that I experienced there. Here’s what Dan wrote on the receipt, among the itemized list of things they did:

Labor 1 hour: Surgery on very bent derailleur hanger and dropout

Labor 1 hour: Lots of surgery, very delicate, careful surgery with a propane torch.

Ha ha. Love the humor. It was an expensive repair, but they also gave a significant discount. Like I said, these guys were generous and awesome. And I picked up a correct size master link chain for the next time the chain breaks!

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See the black parts? Those were yellow, pre-propane torch. Time for a new paint job…

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The mechanics at Einstein Cycles. Dan’s on the right, he masterfully put my bike back together. Thanks Dan!

Time to get back on the road! More to come in Part Two!

 

 

Day 20 – July 7: To Traverse City. Disaster

(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?

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.”

Uh-oh.

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!”

Hooray!!

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!

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.

Day 19 – July 6: To Charlevoix, Michigan. Wet!

Written by Jeff

25 miles

First, the good news: the fever broke during the night, and I felt fine in the morning. A 12-hour flu… Wow, when does that happen?

Second, the bad news: we weren’t as smart as our neighbors, who woke up early, packed up, and escaped the rain that started around 8:00 AM. Sometimes it’s just hard to get out of bed, you know? Even when you’re sleeping on the ground. So, yeah, we got wet. The rain lasted until 10:00 AM, and it made breaking camp slow and painful. Angela took that opportunity to pity herself and stand in the rain, looking around, trying unsuccessfully to figure out how to dry out kitchen items with wet towels. Waterproof bins are less effective when they aren’t closed before it rains. There’s nothing like rain to dampen everyone’s mood and look for ways to blame one another for their miserableness.  Probably not the best way to start a day that includes a 39 mile bike trip.

We did find reason to be grateful when we saw some of the other sites which had 4 or more inches of standing water in them.  At least our site was on higher ground!

We finally managed to pull out of our site at 12:48 pm.  We were able to take a bike path, Little Traverse Wheelway, for a good deal of the day.  What a beautiful path! It winds along the lakeshore all the way through the town of Petoskey and continues on until Charlevoix. We stopped for lunch at a spot overlooking Lake Michigan and set out our wet things along the wooden fence. it looked like a yard sale–shirts, sleeping bags, towels, tarp… it was all hanging out to dry (sorry for the eyesore, Petoskey!) In their new obsession with finding Petoskey stones, poor Caleb sliced his toe on a rock while wading in the lake. At first sight, it looked a lot worse than it was because of all of the blood on his foot (Emergency room?!? Oh, no!) A little pressure and a couple of band-aids later, he was good to go.

By 7:00 we finally arrived at a grocery store in Charlevoix  grabbed what we needed for dinner. We had hoped to make it another 19 miles to Eastport, Michigan, but we decided to cut our losses and camp at a campground just a few more miles away, at Fisherman’s Island State Park.

Fisherman’s Island was another instance of God’s provision for us. It’s a primitive campground (no electric or showers) on a lovely beach. As soon as camp was set up & dinner started, we all went to the beach to wash up and see the sunset. We were not disappointed.

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The happy couple… You’d never know that 30 minutes later Angela would be crying because dinner was overcooked. 🙂 Just keeping it real…

Petoskey stones were found. Children were cleaned. All the misery of our day’s rough start was washed away in the pure waters of Lake Michigan. Of course, new challenges presented themselves, too: sand clung tenaciously to Caleb’s and David’s bodies, and we had no showers. Dinner (Tri-tip Teriyaki) was overcooked and the rice was burned. Nothing on our clothesline actually dried because the sun had gone down by the time we hung the clothes. And we feebly tried to clean up after dinner in the dark, with a hand pump…

At dinner, we discussed how we could work better together as a family to get packed up.  Difficult days like this help motivate us toward more structure and engagement from everyone. We split up responsibilities and made teams for kitchen cleanup, packing the tent, etc., and generally resolved to get out earlier the next day. Sleep, as always, came easily for everyone, as we are generally exhausted each day.

Day 18 – July 5: To Petosky State Park. Hills!

written by Jeff

30 miles

After a day of playing in the water, enjoying fantastic food, and two nights sleeping in beds at the Leonard family cottage at Mullett Lake, nobody wanted to leave. It was a slice of paradise during our journey. We finally got moving after a filling breakfast of pancakes, prepared by Angela’s uncle Paul, and hit the road around 10:15 AM.

Hills, hills, hills!  Northwest Michigan has a lot of hills! As a result, the trip around Mullett Lake to Indian River was  slow going.  Poor Elise, who was feeling sick and vomited in the morning, spent the day on the front of the tandem trying her best to rest.  We stopped in Indian River for a few supplies (we always need ice!) and then hit the McDonald’s for a bathroom break and Diet Coke (Mom and Dad need a way to keep going).

A few more miles got us as far as Burt Lake State Park – a beautiful setting for our picnic lunch. Elise took that chance to rest up. Most of the route was along a busier road, so we just did our best to finish up the trip to the bike path that started in Alanson.  We LOVE bike paths, especially PAVED paths! This was a beautiful ride, and we arrived at the the state park in Petosky around 5:30, with plenty of time to set up camp and get dinner while we still had daylight.

Angela’s best friend from high school (Taipei American School) was staying nearby, so she made the time to come out and see us for an hour and then ended up spending some of that time taking Angela and Elise to the grocery store for the missing ingredients for dinner.  What a blast to see her… and ride in a car to get groceries!

While Angela and Elise worked on dinner, Jeff took the rest of the kids to the beach on Lake Michigan.  Petoskey State Park has a beautiful beach, and the kids were thrilled to ride the waves and look for Petoskey stones.  Actually, looking for Petoskey stones became an obsession for a few of the kids over the next few days… nothing like carrying ROCKS around when you’re biking (Ugh!).

We also had a visit that evening from our friends Jim and Jennifer Argeropoulos. Jeff and Jim went to high school together in Marquette, and were both involved in the same Boy Scout troop in Marquette. It was awesome to see them, along with 5 of their 6 kids… and they brought ice cream cones!!! Strangely enough, in our communication we didn’t end up telling them which campsite was ours… but they figured there wouldn’t be too many campsites with a bunch of bike trailers and no car.  They were right!

Dinner that evening was Chicken with dumplings, as prepared in our 12-inch dutch oven (that weighs something like 50 pounds).  We are eating well this trip, and continue to enjoy cooking in that massive piece of metal that we’re lugging around. The kids know better than to slack off at camp, otherwise they may be carrying around that beast in their own trailer the next day.

At the end of the day, I went to bed early (around 9:00) because I wasn’t feeling well. I was feeling terrible, and a fever was coming on. I wrapped up in warm clothes and shivered in my sleeping bag in the 70-degree weather, hoping the fever would go away by morning. Otherwise, we might get thrown quite a bit off schedule!

Days 16 & 17: Rest on Mullett Lake

by Jeff

Our stay at Straits State Park in St. Ignace was largely uneventful. Since our last two campgrounds did not have any showers, everyone was grateful to get clean again (well, maybe Caleb & David didn’t care). As much as possible, we have reserved our campsites close to playgrounds, so that David and Caleb would be able to hang out there while everyone else worked on the tent, dinner, water, etc. At Straits State Park, the playground was pretty much our back door, so the boys were plenty occupied.

We broke camp at 9am and were on the road by 11; our first stop was the Mackinac Bridge. To get there, we took a very short gravel path between our campground and the welcome center, where we were able to pedal another 50 yards to get to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, next to the tollbooths. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately!) bicyclists and pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge. So, for a total of $30, the Mackinac Bridge Authority loaded up our family, 5 bikes (plus 2 trail-a-bikes), and 4 trailers and shuttled us across the 5-mile span. It was so cool. David and Caleb named it as one of the best parts of the day, though I’m not sure if it’s because of the bridge or that they were able to travel in a car…

 

Here's all our gear, all loaded up for transport across the Mackinac Bridge

Here’s all our gear, all loaded up for transport across the Mackinac Bridge

In Mackinaw City, we re-assembled our gear and went into town with two missions: 1) Pick up a spare tire for the tandem, as we’re more concerned about wear; and 2) Buy some fudge. For some reason, the kids didn’t want to go with me to the hardware store to buy the tire; they all wanted to choose the fudge. They loved the samples, of course, and came back with not 2 packages, but 5 packages of fudge (“Dad, it was buy 3, get 2 free!”) Yum, I’m not complaining.

There was a bike trail out of Mackinaw City—an old railroad that had been converted into a hard-packed gravel path—so we took that for 16 miles to Cheboygan. Okay, when you’re pulling heavy trailers behind you, it’s pretty slow going; it seems like gravel absorbs all of your momentum. There was some grumbling, and we often questioned whether we should take the neighboring highway, but we chose the slower path for reasons of safety and shade.

Our next stop was to be a Laundromat, since we had very few clean clothes remaining.. There is one in the same parking lot as Wal-mart, and several other stores, so we quickly dumped our clothes into a 50-pound washer and ate “lunch” (yes, at 4pm). David loved the Laundromat. He was fascinated by the washer and dryer, and couldn’t wait to tell the others about how it went ‘round and ‘round. Hilarious.

Then came a very big discovery: there was a Dollar Tree store in the same parking lot. The Dollar Tree is special because EVERYTHING in the store is $1 or less. It is now my kids’ favorite store in the world. When Joshua found out about it, he actually ran to the store. The big purchase for us: sunglasses for everyone. Oh, yeah. Not only will we be able to stop squinting, but we’re gonna look so cool.

It was getting late, and our final destination was Mullett Lake, where Angela’s uncle owns a cottage. This cottage was first owned by her Grandparents, and it’s a place where she used to spend part of every summer as a kid. It was still 14 miles away, and it was getting late (6:30pm), so her uncle offered to come and pick up some of our gear with his pickup. We loaded our trailers into his truck—as well as the youngest 3 kids–and rode the last dozen miles free and unfettered. It was amazing! The gravel path that we had been struggling on became like an expressway. We had no idea the trailers were slowing us down so much—we were laughing and passing each other, barreling down this trail at speeds we had not seen for a long time. It was a huge highlight of the day.

Once at the cottage, our hosts Paul and Laurie totally spoiled us. We tweaked our original plans so that we could stay an extra day at the cottage, and we’re so glad we did. We ate heartily, slept in beds until the late morning, napped, and played in the water all day. We even watched TV for the first time in 16 days: we had to watch the movie Independence Day. We went for a boat ride, played games, built sandcastles, had some water fights, saw a couple of beautiful sunsets, enjoyed the various fireworks around the lake, and even lit some sparklers with the kids. We couldn’t be more thankful to Paul and Laurie; the rest has been amazing… and getting back on the bikes is going to be a little bit of a shock to the system.

Watching the sunset together at Mullett Lake

Watching the sunset together at Mullett Lake

Our family with our hosts at Mullett Lake, Paul and Laurie

Our family with our hosts at Mullett Lake, Paul and Laurie

Unfortunately, as I write this in the early of hours of July 5, Elise has woken up with a stomachache, and she vomited as well. Fortunately, only 30 miles today, and she can ride in the cushy seat on the tandem (more work for me, but that’s fine). Hope she feels better soon… we’ll see what the day holds!

Our destination today: Petoskey State Park!

Day 15: Our last day in the U.P.!

as written by Jeff

First, I’m sorry I haven’t written more down for our blog. Data coverage these last few days has been very sketchy, so we haven’t been able to post here. However, Brittany has been writing every day, and every page will be posted here, in the order it was written.

Second, we have completed nearly 1/2 of our mileage! We have traveled about 560 miles of our 1200 total… it’s truly incredible!  I’m so proud of my wife and kids for their perseverance and great attitudes!

Today we woke up in the beautiful–and rustic–Hog Island state forest campground. We were camped next to a beach on the northern short of Lake Michigan, and besides getting down to the 40s last night, it was a great stay. We got everything packed by 10am and were on the road shortly afterward… it’s amazing to see how routine some of the tasks have become: packing up bags each morning, taking down the tent, packing the bike trailers… the kids know what to do now, and they **usually** pitch in pretty well. Of course, we definitely have a lot of “moments” when things don’t go the way I just described…

Our trip today was 36 miles or so, our last mileage in the Upper Peninsula. We traveled along U.S. 2, and we saw so much of Lake Michigan along the way. At one point we stopped, took off our shoes, and played on the beach. That was definitely the highlight for most of us!

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The beach along US-2 was gorgeous… I’ve always wanted to stop here to wade in the water, or take a swim!

One thing I’ve been wanting to share is the experience I am having with Caleb riding behind me. Caleb is, well, a talker, to say the least.  And he has questions about EVERYTHING, but especially about the natural world. We’ve actually nicknamed him “Radagast,” after the Brown wizard in Lord of the Rings who associates with all natural things. When we stop, even for a minute, he is off the bike picking flowers, catching grasshoppers, or looking for other interesting creatures. And then when he is on the bike, the questions never cease. This would not usually be a problem, of course, except that I can’t hear whatever words he says when a car passes me on the highway. So, for example, he may ask, “Daddy, do frogs eat moths?” But all I hear is “Daddy, do fr… [zoom] …sloths?  So I say, “Sorry, Caleb, I didn’t hear you… could you repeat that?” Okay, attempt 2: “Daddy, do [zoom… zoom…] socks?  Very confused, I ask him to repeat again… and this goes on and on and on. Because U.S. 2 is a busy highway on Fourth of July weekend, and Caleb always seems to time his questions perfectly with the next car passing by. Agghh!

Anyway, here are a few questions that I have been able to discern in the last few days:

“Is one-eighth one-half of one-quarter?”

“What do slugs eat?”

“Are grasshoppers protein?”

“Do birds eat moths?”

Caleb will definitely need to look into the biological sciences as he gets older.

Traffic was crazy on US-2, as folks from the Lower Peninsula arrived in droves for the July 4 weekend!

Traffic was crazy on US-2, as folks from the Lower Peninsula arrived in droves for the July 4 weekend!

Well, on with the rest of the day. On the way we stopped at a store and picked up some Mackinac Island fudge, and we explored the Cut River Bridge–basically a bridge that spans a 157-foot gorge.  We arrived in St. Ignace around 4pm. Man, this town has some pretty stinkin’ big hills–we had to dismount our bikes to walk up a couple of them.

We got to Straits State Park at 5:00 and the kids and I set up the tent while Angela picked up food for Pioneer Pie–some of the yummiest food you’ll ever eat out of a dutch oven. We visited the beach while the Pioneer Pie was cooking, and took the bridge picture there–the kids were amazed at how huge it was. What a treat to be able to experience this with them.

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Tomorrow we head to the cottage on Mullet Lake where Angela used to visit her grandparents during the summer, a lot of special memories there. I will blog more about our trip while we take a day to rest there (only our 2nd day off of riding!).

Stay tuned, more to come!

 

 

Day 14: God’s provision – again

as written by Jeff

We woke up at one State Forest campground – Lake Milakokia – and ended our day at another one – Hog Island. These campgrounds are rustic – they don’t have electricity or showers, and only pit toilets – but they are in wonderful settings.

It rained last night, and this morning we praised God that we did not experience a repeat of the Day 8 flood. Our tent did great, in fact, and everyone was dry when they woke up. Hooray! Breakfast was a hearty pancakes and eggs, and then on the road at 11am, to meet Jeff’s friends Dan and Debbie Whitmer at our next destination.  Only 27 miles?  No sweat!

On the way I noticed a lot of “For Sale” signs for property in the Upper Peninsula. Makes me wonder if the economy downstate has affected people’s ability to own property here as well, or if property just doesn’t move very quickly here. At any rate, if you’re looking for waterfront property, the Upper Peninsula sure seems to have an abundance available. You may know that I grew up in rural Indiana until I was 12 years old, and a part of me longs for that kind of life again. But one thing that I’ve been contemplating a lot during this trip is the fact that as a follower of Christ, my life is not my own; I belong to Jesus, and therefore I really want to let Him make the decisions for where we will live and what we will do. It really is in surrendering – not claiming – my rights and desires where I will truly experience real life. That’s been my experience so far, and I trust it will continue to be so.

My prayer, in fact, for this entire trip has been that we would experience God in new and fresh ways. And we really have–especially in the case of every mechanical crisis we’ve experienced. First with the front fork, then with the new tire for our trailer; both were cases where just the right people were available, at just the right times. We don’t have a “sag wagon,” so this whole trip is an experience of living by faith; at any moment something can go terribly wrong, and we could just be stuck.

Well, that something happened again today. Just 5 miles from our destination, after leaving a beautiful scenic overlook of Lake Michigan, Angela’s trailer got a flat. No problem, I thought. Just swap an inner tube, and we have plenty. Oops.  I was wrong.

I had failed to check the tread on the tires of her Burley trailer in any recent inspection, and when I saw the state it was in, I went into a bit of a panic.  The tube failed because the tire was worn through!  We had plenty of extra tubes, but we hadn’t thought to bring extra tires… This trailer had been hauling close to 100 pounds of goods, for over 500 miles, and the miles had taken a toll. I tried using duct tape on the inside, but I knew that might not last at all, so I was really in a pickle. Can’t tow a trailer with only one tire!

Here's the tire... can't believe we didn't notice how worn it was

Here’s the tire… can’t believe we didn’t notice how worn it was

It was around 3:00, and the Whitmers were coming to bring us dinner at 4:00. So, I texted them, asking if they knew of any bike shops around. Yeah, right, I thought. This is about as remote a place in the U.P. as you can get. There’s no way there is a bike shop within miles of here.

Miraculously, they texted back immediately and said there was a bike shop near their town of Newberry! So I gave them the tire specs, and they were able to pick up a couple! Later we found out some interesting particulars to this story:

  • If I had texted them 5 minutes later, they would not have been able to help. They were driving into an area with poor coverage, and by the time they came out of it, there would not have been time to make it to the store.
  • The store owner thought at first he did not have any tires that size, except for a used one that barely had any more tread than the one that just failed. But then on their way out, he glanced over at some heavy-duty Kenda 20″ tires and realized they would do the trick. These tires were more expensive, but they also seem practically bullet-proof. Dan and Debbie took them immediately and were on their way.  These were the last two 20″ tires in the store!

So, God showed up again. Once we knew that they could get the tires, I went to the campsite with the kids and started to set up camp. Dan and Debbie picked up Angela and Lydia, with their bikes and gear, in their Tacoma pickup. And they brought us a feast of hamburgers, watermelon, ice cream with strawberries, and chips. We couldn’t wipe the grins from our faces, not only because our bellies were full of awesome food, but also because we knew we had once again dodged a bullet thanks to God’s provision.

It was so great catching up with Dan and Debbie–I knew Debbie when I first joined staff with Cru back in 1992 and lived in Marquette to raise my initial support. She was part of a single’s bible study group that I became quite attached to. She eventually served in overseas missions for 14 years, and on one of her trips home she met Dan, and they married. She is a physical therapist, and Dan works at the Newberry Prison. Anyway, they now have 5 acres in the middle of the U.P. where they raise chickens, ducks, bees, and a large garden that sounds absolutely amazing. The kids were enthralled with the stories about the things they grow and raise, and it’s now a bucket list item for all of us to stop and visit them at their home.

The evening ended with a time to thank God for His provision, some time at the beach, and a gorgeous sunset to remind us of His marvelous beauty.

David, writing his name in the sand

David, writing his name in the sand

Sunset at Hog Island Campground

Sunset at Hog Island Campground

 

 

Day 13 – June 30: To Lake Milokokia

as journaled by Brittany

36 miles

9:53

Departure

14:10

Finished eating lunch in this amazing rest area just off the road we’re biking on. There are restrooms, water, and shady picnic areas. Paradise, really.  Already only 11 miles left for today’s trip, so we’re pumped and ready to get going.

Hopefully, our campsite’s as nice as this rest stop.

17:01

Arrival

19:15

Settled into our campsite just in time as it begins to rain.  Dinner is almost ready, and the group of swimmers and intrepid minnow catchers that went out after the tent was set up – our camp borders the lake – have returned due to leeches.

Yes, leeches.  Cora was the first person we saw one on, and Mommy subsequently called everyone in with panic only slightly audible in her voice. Cora was also the only one with a bigger leech on her – everyone else had smaller ones.

Leeches aside, this camp isn’t nearly as nice as the previous ones we’ve stayed at.  There are no showers, the bathroom appears to just be an outhouse, and there’s only one pump, out by the registration area.

I’m impressed by how fast we got here. Sure, it’s not as early as we could have gotten here, but it’s far earlier than we’ve ever managed.

I really want to thank my grandparents for coming down to our campsite yesterday.  They brought enough food to feed an army, and, wonder of wonders, some of it was even leftover. It was amazing to see you guys, and also to see my Aunt, Uncle, and cousins three days ago. Thanks for coming, we loved seeing you!