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Tales from the Log of the Ruptured Duck

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
13,075
78
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
A BICYCLE TRIP In Michigan - From Cadillac Through Reed City to Lake


One of the trails in Michigan is the White Pine Trail. It runs N'ly from Grand Rapids, to the Mackinaw Straits in between the upper and lower peninsulas of the Great Lake State. That strait is also where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet. Though spelled as "Mackinac" on the map, only greenhorns pronounce it as "Mackinack". Natives call it correctly as Mackinaw, after the standby winter coat to wear in the north woods in cold weather. The leg of the White Pine that we rode stretches S'ly from Cadillac to Reed City.

Day 1 Wednesday: On 14 Aug 2019, Charlie and I rendezvoused for breakfast in Ithaca, my Mom's home town. We've found that Subways are a good place to eat. Further north, we stopped at Jay's Sporting Goods, where Charlie bought a compact fishing rod. There's a spot along the trail where he used to fish as a kid. He hopes to rekindle a memory or two.

Next stop was the trail head at the old RR depot in Reed City. We left Charlie's truck there, and loaded both bikes and our gear into my RAV-4, and headed north to Cadillac. There, we checked into the Hampton Inn, and walked over to a Mexican Cantina to enjoy a margarita. On the way to Maggie's Tavern for supper, we drove around some to scout out the trail, and where to park my car in the morning. Supper at Maggie's was just as I remembered - and accompanied by beer and popcorn.

Day 2 Thursday: After a great breakfast in the motel, we departed Cadillac, heading S'ly along the old Mackinaw Trail. When we hit Tustin a few miles south, there's a new museum, restaurant, and a gift shop available. I bought a souvenir tee shirt for each of us, and we had coffee at the restaurant. Breakfast smelled pretty good, so we had toast and eggs along with the coffee. The town is having a celebration in a few days - Tustin Daze - and they're selling raffle tickets. We both bought some (I didn't win anything). Turned out that, while meeting and talking with the guy selling tickets, he used to do business with my Dad in the late 50s!

The trail along here is gently rolling, within the 3% grade that railroads historically have constructed. All along the trail, are areas after area that are suitable for camping. On this trip, we are staying in motels along the way, but have already determined that to be a mistake. The clean hotels are expensive, and the cheap ones are either dirty,or have gone out of business! AARRGGHH!! When we rode into the burg of Leroy, where Charlie had reserved us a room at the motel, we found it to be dirty a d a bit nasty. Though we managed to stay overnight without problems, we emerged determined to never - ever - return. We'll carry tents and gear if a trip is overnight.

Day 3 Friday: Weather is a bit chilly this morning, so we pit on our rain gear. Wearing shorts, both of us were chilly without it. An hour or so layer,it had warmed up and we stowed the rain gear. Not far down the trail today, we stopped in Ashton to visit with Charlie's aunt and uncle. Nearby, we visited the graves of Charlie's Mom and Dad. Sobering.

Riding along, we confirmed two things. (1) We both want to do more bike trips. And (2) any overnight trips will be with camp gear. Along here was the old fishing spot that Charlie sought. But, it was so overgrown that he just sighed, and climbed back onto his bike.

We arrived in Reed City, dissembled the bikes, and loaded everything i to Charlie's truck. We drive backtracked north to get my car in Cadillac. On the way, we again stopped in Tustin, a town we came to enjoy a lot. Lunch and ice cream set it off nicely.

No motels were available handily. We learned an object lesson. Trying to get the telephone number of the front desk at many motels can be difficult. Booking agencies, all speaking with foreign accents, have insinuated themselves into the Google system. They tell you, of course, that "this is the last room available", wanting you to believe that the high price is justified. Another reason why camping is in our biking future. We finally got around it, but the booking agencies are a real pain in the neck! We had to drive another 40 miles round trip to get a nice place. However, in the evenings we would sip a shot or two of scotch, and enjoy a cigar to celebrate making it through another day. Life can be good.

Day 4, Saturday 17 Aug 2019: Driving back to Reed City from Big Rapids, we next moved the truck to Evart - out next stop - and drive my car back to Reed City. Riding the trail to Evart was easy. This is the Pere Marquett trail that runs east-west across much of Michigan. I like this trail even better than the White Pine. Whereas White Pine had 3% grades, Pere Marquette had about 1% grades. The underlying terrain was the same, gently undulating prairie, but had been graded to a much tighter specification. Probably, it wad all done by hand with pick and shovel, with maybe a mule and a slip scraper sometimes.

The scenery along the Pere Marquette, E'ly of Reed City, is nice. We're paralleling the Muskegon River. We've paddled the Muskegon; now we're pedaling it. All of the trail surfaces are mostly hard packed dirt, with fine-screened stone thinly spread. In towns, the trails are paved. We ride at 10-12mph on dirt where we weren't going either uphill or upwind. Sometimes, we rode about 8mph. Rest stops every hour or so kept us fresh.

Evart is an old lumbering town. In WWI, a local boy, Joe Guyton, went to war. Turned out, the fellow was the first American killed on German soil. He's buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery east of town. When you ride through the small towns that populate our countryside, there are new opportunities to get acquainted with those who have gone before.

Day 5, Sunday: We prepositioned the truck about 17 miles E'ly of Evart, in the village of Lake, and drove back to Evart. Continuing our ride, we picked up another rider. He's a local who makes the ride every once in a while.

Concluding our trip in Lake, we drove back to Evart for my car, and parted ways, each going a separate route.

On my way home, I stopped for ice cream. Life is good.
 

Kayak Jack

Well-Known Member
Aug 26, 2003
13,075
78
81
Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
FROM ST JOHNS (ALMOST) TO FOWLER

Using the back of your left hand as a map of Michigan, I rode the Ruptured Duck across part of it today. Hold up your left hand, fingers together, thumb tucked in. US-127 runs northerly up the middle of your hand, from your wrist to about the middle knuckle of your middle finger. Come up that line about 1 1/2" from your wrist line. That point would be the town of St Johns. State highway 21 runs east-west through there, from Grand Rapids easterly clear to Flint. An old RR line parallels it. That abandoned RR right of way is now a bike trail.

The old depot building is still there, in St Johns. It houses several activities, but was closed and locked this morning. A few stray folks were out and around when the Duck and I pulled out of town at 09:18. Not early, but still seemingly sleepy anyway.

The trail is paved where it runs through towns. In between, it is HARD packed dirt with fine screened stone on top. I chose to start riding W'ly, into the wind, hoping for a break on the return trip. This part of the state is flat, fertile, and farmed. Predominantly German, the folk around here are dead serious about farming. North and south of St Johns, the soil is mucky, great for growing peppermint. They simmer down a lot of peppermint oil every year. East and west of town, the soil supports corn, wheat, soy beans, and oats.

I made a rest stop about 3 miles out, stopping at a road crossing. I'd put my leather gloves down next to a sign post, sat down, on them, and leaned back. I'd drunk some water, and was chewing on a clover blossom, when a car pulled up alongside my signpost. "We're just checking on ya. Are you OK?" Two ladies in a SUV were smiling down.
"Yeah, I'm fine, thanks for asking. Very thoughtful of of you."

We talked a bit, and they told me about a nice bench a half mile down the trail. "It's in memory of my grandma", the younger one said. "They put it there so folks could enjoy viewing their woods."
"Thanks. I'll honor her memory as I pass by."
And I did, too. Nice view.

Well, I'd intended to ride clear to Fowler and back, an 18 mile trip. But, 3 miles shy of Fowler I realized that I was tireder than I had expected to be. Seeing as discretion is the better part of valor, I reversed course. Turned out to be a good idea. Would've been even better had I turned a mile or two earlier. Rest stops came along more often on the return trip. That tailwind wasn't as strong as I'd hoped for. Sitting or standing around a bit every couple of miles, I had opportunity to look more closely.

"Native grasses" is a term that land appraisers use sometimes to describe weeds. The native grasses that I saw this morning included some honest to God grass, knot weeds, clover, wild carrot, wild strawberry plants ( no berries), wild raspberries (again, no berries), chicory, bull thistles, dandelion, etc. Trees along the way included black walnut, cottonwood, maple, oak, wild cherry, etc. it all reminded me of when I was a kid, roaming the fields, streams, and woods.

Finally, the houses started getting thicker, a water tower was visible, and the trsil was paved. Nearly there! Back at the depot, there were now other cars parked in addition to mine. An older couple strolled back, the man helping along the lady. She may have had a stroke, and needed assistance. A couple of ladies - all togged out in brand new canvas bush hats - were commencing a walk. I dissembled the Duck, folded her, and tucked her into the back of my RAV-4. Off to home and lunch.