Not long after the Tahoe adventure another adventure was in order. Tim and I made the trip to Michigan's Upper Pennisula to see my parents. It was a good time visiting with family. Despite growing up there, I always find new adventures especially with Tim. I was planning to bring my road bike but Delta wanted $200 each way. Boo. Thumbs down Delta, Boo . Fed Ex and UPS wanted almost as much. I think this is ridiculous. The typical cyclist plus bike and bike case weighs less than the average passenger. Luckily there is a bike shop with rentals 60 miles from my parents house. They didn't have a road bike that would fit me but they did have some super nice mountain bikes for both Tim and I. Whew, adventure on!
Some said we brought the rain with us. That is not true. Although, I did hear Tim say "bring it on." in reference to the rain and mountain biking. It is so fun to mountain bike in different parts of the county. The terrain is so different. In California, the challenge is the big rocks and ledges. In Northern Michigan, it's the little tree roots that grow across the trail. They look innocent but they are wet and slippery. I call myself a lazy logger. I tend to just mow over things using my big fat fork and fat front wheel. On the slippery logs you really do have to pick up the front wheel. I may have learned the hard way. There may have been a well deserved "I told you so" from the spousal unit.
The North Country Trail goes all the way to New York. Mostly, it's used by hunters to access deer blinds in the fall. Tim and I came across a group of hikers. Tim said hello, he was prepared to be very friendly as it's the culture of the Upper Penninsula. The hikers smiled and said we were illegal. "You're Illegal. " They kept saying it. Their chests puffed up with pride and smug. "Bikes are illegal." I could tell it gave them great joy to reprimand us. They told us we could be ticketed. I wanted to say "I doubt it." They professed to be working hard to heighten the awareness of how damaging mountain bikes were. I wanted to say good luck. Clearly they were not locals. They were not true blooded "Yoopers" as nobody local would care. Yoopers mind their own business. "Yoopers" are also polite, which was why I managed to bite my tongue. What they didn't know is the Forest rangers are the only other people I have ever seen on the trail. They have never threatened me with a ticket. They smile and say hello. That's the U.P. way. I wanted to tell them that the those in authority didn't care. I had a feeling I would just get those in authority in trouble. Not worth it.
These people had too much smug for a town with no smog. They would be better served driving to the Detroit area and throwing paint on fur coats or something. Tim wasn't as annoyed as me. He promised them the next time we used the trails we would do so on foot.
The next day we returned to the trail. We hoped to encounter the group again. It would have felt very smug to fly by them on foot. We didn't. By golly, we had the entire trail to ourselves.
The hills were short and steep. A bit too steep and sandy to clear on a bike. Even for Tim on a carbon, hard tailed 29er, with gears. On that note, I had a dual suspension alluminum bike. Interesting Tim was rented the lighter, faster bike. I'm guessing the bike shop didn't want to risk him getting chicked.
Running was fine, you could make it up the hills and a few seconds later you got to fly down the other side. I love mountain biking, but I have a new found appreciation for not pushing, dragging my bike up things. I also love, love, love trail running.
Our bike adventures were far from finished though.
In case you are wondering that is an uprooted tree Tim's very muddy bike is leaning on. On Labor Day, we headed to Drummond Island for a very laborious bike ride. I had never been to Drummond Island and my curiosity was peeked. It's only an hour from where I grew up but a million more times as rural. It is close to Canada. Apparently in the winter there is a "one of a kind" mountain bike race it goes across the ice to Canada and back.
We found trails maps on-line for an extensive dirt bike and jeep trails. I didn't give much respect to the word "proposed" dirt bike trail when looking at the map. I developed great respect for the word "proposed" as Tim and I attempted to follow the signs for the dirt bike trail. Indeed the signs marked the trail but the trail had yet to be cleared. Not much pedalling could be done there. We didn't really want to ride anything as pedestrian as a jeep trail, but there wasn't much other choice. Pedestrian wasn't really the correct choice of words to use in describing the jeep trail anyway. See with the rain and the "busy Labor Day weekend use" the trail was a bit....destroyed .
I rode through or around about a million those pond sized mud puddles. At first, I was afraid to ride through them as the water came up above the crank. Tim told me to keep pedaling. I did and it was actually fairly easy riding as the bottom was firm. I got kind of confident and my spirits were high. I remember thinking you can't let a little mud get you down. It might have even thought I was kind of cool. About mud puddle #1069 things were different. My front tire started sinking in some soft stuff. I kept pedalling but the bike didn't move forward. I clipped out and put my feet down in the mud in the nick of time. My feet were submerged in mud. The front tire was stuck pretty and Tim had to help me pull my bike out. I could laugh a bit as I hadn't fallen over in the mud yet. I no longer felt confident riding through the mud puddles. Mud lakes really. I revised my tactic to riding on the narrow section between the mud lakes and the forest. The problem was I was riding slowly and I didn't have enough power to push the branches out of the way. At best they would slap may hands, arms, and face like switches. Worse, they would catch on my brakes. They would apply the brakes and twist my handle bars. Guess what happened when the brakes were on and the handle bars twisted? Somebody had a slow motion, twisting fall into a mud puddle. It was so like "PIG FELL IN THE MUD." It would have been funny had there not been 7922 mud puddles that loomed ahead. This is when the realization that there was no good way occurred. "There is no good way" The girl on the orange bike cracked. If she had her pink bike it might have been different. Tim tried to encourage her by saying that this was good practice for some stage race in the rain forest of Costa Rica. At that point she decided there couldn't be anything worse that riding through the mud for a week straight. In fact she yelled "Why can't we just be normal? Why can't we go on a normal vacation and ride Alp D'Huez ?" Ok, so normal will never be part of the equation.
It didn't seem like the ride would ever end, but it did. The mud is washed washed off now so I guess it's time to laugh about. Mud aside, exploring a remote section of a remote island is really pretty cool. We wanted an adventure and we got what we wanted. We can't wait until the next Upper Penninsula adventure.