Saturday, July 31, 2010

Day 41 – London to Brantford, Ontario

Today: 68 miles, 1558 feet of climb
Cumulative: 3068 miles, 99925 feet of climb
Remaining: Approx. 636 miles, 21810 feet of climb

Riders pose with their new Canada jerseys. I love mine, which Toronto Mark and Susan got for me.

Another great day on our cross country ride. The remaining days and miles are dwindling now, and everyone is starting to think about the last day and trip home. I’m looking forward to seeing Karen and being home. But I haven’t spent much time thinking about all the preparations required for the last day. With 42 days of not having to make any decisions behind me, why start now when I can wait until next week to worry about it?

The Geldings, soon after we started this morning.

Our ride today was rather uneventful. Or as Toronto Mark would say, “…dull as dishwater.” We passed through several small towns (Springford, Otterville, Oakland, and Mt. Pleasant) on our way to Brantford. We headed mostly to the east, with about 20 turns and a jog to the north when entering Brantford. Again we were mostly on farms roads until the outskirts of town. The day was overcast and gray with a small headwind. But the roads were again flat. The rain held off until we were finished at the hotel. Temperatures were in the 60’s, and I was cold most of the day, especially when restarting after the days only SAG stop. It has been a relatively cool crossing, so I’m probably in for a shock when I get back to Georgia. There was one detour for road construction that added 1.8 miles to our daily mileage.

This picture is here for no reason other than Baltimore Mark will copy it and upload it to his blog.

Brantford is the birthplace of Wayne Gretzky and Alexander Graham Bell. It is called The Telephone City as Bell made his first distant phone call from Brantford. The population is just over 90,000.

This picture was taken late in the morning. That is our "The Box" truck ahead on the right side of the road.

I mentioned we only had one SAG stop today, but it was a good one. Susan (Toronto Mark’s wife), visited the stop and brought some of her world famous biscotti. She was kind enough to give me the recipe and I’ll be attempting to make them soon after I’m home. We also had some leftover butter tarts and they were equally good.

I was surprised to see tobacco being grown here. I thought it was a southern crop.

Today, The Geldings reassembled at luggage load. Baltimore Mark, Toronto Mark, Jeff, Dave and I rode together for the first 25 miles with Alex accompanying us until she and Jeff stopped at a store. After the SAG it was just the remaining four of us for the last 34 miles of the day. I’m not sure any of us was motivated to ride fast, and we didn’t, yet we still wound up at the hotel fairly early. Some of our rooms weren’t ready yet, nor was the luggage available, so it was time for a quick trip to Subway for a sandwich.

This picture of Baltimore Mark, Joe, and Dave was taken by Toronto Mark

Tomorrow, we will individually cross back into the USA at Niagara Falls at the end of the days ride. Then, we will have our last off day on Monday before riding through New York, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

Here is something you never see anymore.  Payphones?

Today’s route:

Friday, July 30, 2010

Day 40 – Port Huron, MI to London, Ontario

Today: 86 miles, 1616 feet of climb
Cumulative: 3000 miles, 98367 feet of climb
Remaining: Approx. 702 miles, 23060 feet of climb

We’re now in Canada for three days and two nights. Tiger Tail ice cream, Butter Tarts, Nanaimo Bars, shawarma, loonies and toonies. Many new things to see and try today. And I've reached the 3000 mile mark.

After breakfast and load, everyone assembled for a mass start up the Blue Water Bridge

Yesterday we were briefed by Mike Munk about the procedures for today’s entry into Canada. And 50 people actually followed instructions this morning. Breakfast was at 6:00AM followed by load at 6:45. Riders and staff had to be ready for a photo at 7:05 with a scheduled departure at 7:20. Everyone, including the truck and two vans, got into formation and headed up the Blue Water Bridge at the appointed time when given the signal. Officials actually stopped traffic and closed the bridge for us to ride over and enter Canada. A brief stop at customs, and we were in Canada.

We go through customs and then enter Canada

Today’s ride started with a tour of Sarnia and its park system by Jeff, who was raised there. Next we got to meet Jeff’s mom, who still lives in Sarnia and who brought some Canadian treats for us. At our SAG stop we got to try butter tarts and Nanaimo bars.

Katie, Jeff's mom, and Jeff on the left.  Joe on the Canadian side of the Blue Water Bridge on the right.

Butter tarts are similar to small pecan pies except the filling is creamier and thinner. And the crust is fresh and flaky. Nanaimo bars have a layer of yellow custard between a base of cocoa, graham crackers and coconut on the bottom, and smooth chocolate icing on the top. Both were excellent and should be sampled if you are in Canada. For me, the butter tarts were the best.

A butter tart on the left. A Nanaimo bar on the right.

After touring Sarnia we headed eastward into the Canadian countryside the rest of the morning. We passed many small farms raising a variety of crops, including corn. To me, the area had a bit of a New England flair. Small towns were spaced every dozen miles or so. All houses had well manicured lawns with tended flower beds in every front yard. No strip shopping centers to be seen. The small towns all seemed to be vibrant. It was a very nice day to be out on a bicycle. The weather was sunny but cool with low humidity. People were tending to their yards. Women were pushing baby strollers down the street. And men were getting in their cars for a commute to their job.

Our view this morning

In the late morning three people were at the side of the road waving and greeting us as we came by. It was Toronto Mark’s wife Susan, and both of his parents. They met us in the town of Delaware at BJ’s Deli where I had a homemade chicken salad sandwich on freshly baked bread. Very tasty. This was followed by Tiger Tail ice cream. This is a creamy orange ice cream with a drizzle of licorice mixed in with the ice cream. It may not sound very good, but it was delicious.

Jeff (ABB), Jeff, and Alex during lunch

I rode the morning miles mostly with Jeff and Alex. In the afternoon I rode with Toronto Mark. After lunch we had 25 miles to ride on more country roads where we skirted London to the south in order to keep off busy roads. With a population of about 450,000 London is one of the larger cities we visit on the cross country ride. But we were still out in the country two and a half miles from the hotel.

A Day 40 afternoon view

The ABB dinner was not that good, so we settled for shawarma afterwards. Shawarma is similar to a gyro, except the sauce and ingredients are slightly different.

Riding over the bridge. Taken by Toronto Mark.

Tomorrow we head for Brantford, about 66 miles away. It will be a shorter and easier day than today, so in the morning we get to sleep in a bit. Then, it is on to Niagara Falls on Sunday. The days are going by fast and the Atlantic Ocean is getting close, relative to what we’ve already accomplished.

Today’s route:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 39 – Birch Run to Port Huron, MI

Today: 89 miles, 1347 feet of climb
Cumulative: 2914 miles, 96751 feet of climb
Remaining: Approx. 783 miles, 24,560 feet of climb

Jeff and Joe at the Blue Water Bridge. Sarnia, Ontario Canada is behind us

Before I talk about today’s ride, I have to go back to yesterday. You may remember several of us went to Tony’s for lunch and I had an $8.49 BLT that wound up having a pound of cooked bacon on it. I’ve since been asked several questions about that meal, and the aftermath. So let me answer those questions before moving on:

Q: Was the BLT sandwich good?
A: It was delicious. For a while, anyway. Eating it was an adventure in itself. First I had to find the bottom of the plate. Then I had to find the tomatoes. They were on the bottom of the sandwich under the lettuce and complemented the bacon very well. Then I had to figure out a way to pick up the sandwich and bite into it. Those things accomplished, ultimately I was a failure. I couldn’t eat the whole thing. I left bacon on my plate. I wouldn’t be surprised if my bacon loving friends (and you know who you are) never talk to me again.

Q: How many pieces of bacon did you eat?
A: I’m not telling. But it was more than I’ve ever eaten in one sitting and more than I’ll ever eat again.

Q: How did you feel afterward?
A: Like I was having a coronary with close to a pound of bacon in my stomach. And very thirsty too. When I arrived at the hotel I had a 16 ounce iced tea followed by a 16 ounce water followed by two 32 ounce drinks with dinner. Dinner was a salad, without bacon bits. But I am recovered after today’s 89 miles and 5456 calories burned.

This morning's scenery after leaving the Birch Run area

Moving on, Day 39 was another beautiful day for riding. Cool temperatures and clear skies greeted us this morning. I had a small cut in my front tire that I just noticed this morning. So I had to replace the tire first thing. That made it 3300 miles on the front tire since I bought it, which is pretty good mileage. My back tire was purchased in Casper and has only 1500 miles on it, so I hope it lasts a bit longer. I probably shouldn’t say this, and will most certainly regret it, but I have not had any flat tires on this ride. I also didn’t have one on the BRAG spring ride, AMBA or BRAG, so that makes it over 4500 miles since my last puncture on April 1. I think I'm one of only three people on the ride without a puncture. There, I've said it anyway.

Left on Yale Road, at the T. Jeff and Alex in front of me.

Our ride today was due east with a few jogs to the south. I didn’t notice much of a wind. Certainly not a tailwind, but the roads were flat and we were headed in the right direction. Again we saw many farms except for the beginning and end of the day when we were in the suburbs of Birch Run or Port Huron.

I thought this house was kind of neat

I started the ride with Jeff, Alex, Dave, Toronto Mark, and Baltimore Mark. We stayed together until the first SAG at 26 miles. We started off separately leaving the first SAG, but reformed within several miles and stayed together again until we got to the second SAG at 62 miles. Then, Toronto Mark left SAG2 ahead of us while Baltimore Mark left behind us. So the remainder of the day was spent riding with Alex, Jeff, and Dave.

At SAG 1 we got our water from an Artesian well

At mile 78 we reached Lakeshore Drive and Lake Huron, where we made a right turn towards Port Huron. Jeff, Alex, and I stopped at a beach along the lake to check it out. The water is very blue and the area is referred to as Blue Water.

Lake Huron

Next we rode to a park at the St. Clair River under the Blue Water Bridge which separates the USA and Canada. We’ll be crossing this bridge into Canada tomorrow. At the end of the days ride, everyone headed to the Quality Inn to check in, shower, and get ready for rap and dinner.

Joe at Lake Huron.  Alex went for a swim.

Tomorrow we enter Canada for three days and two nights. It should be a fun day. The city of Sarnia is on the other side of the bridge and Jeff’s mother lives there. We are supposed to be getting some tasty treats in the morning. Butter tarts.

Another picture of the bridge we cross into Canada tomorrow

Finally, I’d like to thank those of you who have sent me cards, letters, or emails recently. Linda, Scott, Sara, Debbie, John, Rita, Bob, and of course Karen, thanks for your thoughts. (I hope I haven’t left anyone out.)

Jeff. And his rubbish.

Today’s route:

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Day 38 – Mt. Pleasant to Birch Run, MI

Today: 74 miles, 533 feet of climb
Cumulative: 2825 miles, 95404 feet of climb

A second Schroeder Road sighting

Today was highlighted by flat and fast roads, a tailwind for most of the morning, a second Schroeder Road sighting, and a big lunch at Tony’s.

The morning ride soon after we leave the hotel

With a 50% chance of rain in Flint at midday, we tried to get moving as soon as we could to avoid being out in the rain if possible. With a wind from the southwest, we were able to cover the distance at an average of 18.4mph with no difficulty at all. Just call it a 74 mile “rolling rest day”. And the rain held off for us.

This picture was taken near the SAG at 39 miles

Our route actually started out with 16 miles into the wind in a southerly direction. Then, we turned east and were able to pick up the pace to get to the vicinity of hotel by noon time. The roads were very flat. I don’t remember a single hill and 533 feet of climb for 74 miles, is virtually nothing at all. We passed more farms growing corn, soybeans, and sugar beets (the latter according to Dave).

The detour down some side dirt roads was fun

Jeff, Toronto Mark, and I started together and rode to the day’s only SAG at 39 miles. Jeff had a small mechanical issue at that point, so I rode with Toronto Mark until Dave and Jeff joined us from behind. We did have one detour down a dirt road because a bridge was out, and the detour added to the enjoyment of the ride since it was a very quiet road and close to several farms.

Tony's Restaurant. Birch Run Exit 136

At seven tenths of a mile from the hotel we reached I-75 which definitely made me feel closer to home. At the recommendation of Dave, who knows the area very well, we stopped at Tony’s Restaurant which is basically a large diner. Tony’s specialty is their BLT sandwiches which advertise a pound of bacon. I love BLT’s. After all, bacon is the world’s most perfect food. So I thought to myself “How much bacon can be on a sandwich if it sells for $8.49?” Well… it turns out there is a pound of bacon on the sandwich, AFTER the bacon is cooked. My plate looked like one of those bacon platters you see at a breakfast buffet or on a cruise ship. After I was done eating, there were still 14 pieces of bacon on my plate. I may never eat bacon again. Unfortunately, I had no room for a sundae, which is made with half a gallon of ice cream and stands a foot high.

The sundaes were large too

Tomorrow is our last day in Michigan where we will finish at Port Huron, right across the bridge from Sarnia, Ontario, Canada. Friday morning we will take the Blue Water Bridge across the border for three days of riding in Ontario. Then, we reach Niagara Falls and cross back into New York State with Vermont and New Hampshire to follow. The days are passing quickly and I’m enjoying every day we have left.

It must be a coincidence I spotted a second Schroeder Road and a second Crapo Road on the same day. Or is it?

Hmmmm.... a right on I-75, a left on GA-136, and a right on Steve Tate Highway and I'm home

Today’s route:

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Day 37 – Ludington to Mt. Pleasant, MI

Today: 113 miles, 3061 feet of climb
Cumulative: 2751 miles, 94871 feet of climb

Today was our last century ride of the Bike Ride Across America, 113 miles to Mt. Pleasant. And we only have one ride in the 90’s between here and the Atlantic Ocean. The sky was mostly cloudy in the morning and the clouds looked like they had rain in them. But no rain fell, as the forecast predicted, and the sun came out in the early afternoon for the last 30 miles of our ride. In all, it was a good day for a ride.

We leave Ludington in the early morning

I was feeling rested after yesterday, but not particularly energetic. I started the ride with Dave, Mark K. (Baltimore Mark), Mark W. (Toronto Mark), and Jeff. Baltimore Mark pedaled a bit slower after ten miles. So it was a foursome for the next 50 miles of the ride. Then, we all rode our own pace for about 20 miles until I rejoined Toronto Mark for the last 30+ miles. SAG stops were at 29, 64, and 82 miles, plus we stopped at two stores along the way.

A late morning scene

Our route today was not unusually scenic in comparison to prior days. We meandered to get south of Ludington and then took country and state roads due east to Mt. Pleasant. We passed several lakes along the way. The farms here are smaller and grow a variety of crops. We did see corn, but it was not very high or mature like the fields we saw in South Dakota and Minnesota. Soybeans and asparagus are also grown here, not that I knew what asparagus looked like in a field until someone told me.

This was in the afternoon, about 15 miles from Mt. Pleasant

As the ride starts to wind down I find myself less willing to speed past everything and wanting to not miss anything. That’s what I attribute my lack of energy to today. I could have gone faster, but I didn’t want to. There remain only 12 riding days and less than one thousand miles to the Atlantic. A distance still to respect, but certainly doable.

I'm pretty sure this was Clear Lake.  We saw many small lakes like this.

We have two more nights in Michigan and then will be riding in Ontario for three days before reaching Niagara Falls. I think it will be fun to ride in Canada, though Toronto Mark and Jeff (who is also from Canada) don’t think so.

Would you want to own a house on this street?

Tomorrow we ride to Birch Run, which sounds a lot nicer than saying we’re in the Flint suburbs. We’ve been joking that if the ABB brochure had said we were going to Flint, they would have had fewer takers.

Today’s route: