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Tales from the Log of the Ruptured Duck

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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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.
 
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oldyaker

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Aug 26, 2003
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Good tale Jack... it’s just a shame an ole fart like you has to pedal his arse all over the state! ;-)
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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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.
 
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Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
YOEMAN SERVICE
The Ruptured Duck serves more purposes than just enjoyable recreation. Though, God knows, that would be sufficient. It can serve a pedestrian purpose such as running errands too. Yesterday, I rode it to a doctor's appointment. A couple miles down, and a couple more on the way back. Burned some calories, and, according to my Fitbit, burned some fat too.

Saving a few cups of gasoline is a only small advantage, but a step in a good direction. And, short hops like that are harder on an engine than longer trips. The internal combustion engine produces water when it hasn't warmed up. And the oil doesn't get hot enough to evaporate off the water. Internal rusting occurs then.

So, the Duck can do good things for both me and my little Toyota.
 
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Kayak Jack

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SCOUTING TRAILS
In a couple of days, I plan to scout some more of Michigan's "rails to trails". Hopefully, for another bicycle trip or two this fall. Or, more trips in the spring.

To see where I plan to scout, look at the back of your left hand, and follow my travels there. Hold up your hand in front of you, fingers held together, thumb tucked in. Look at the third (middle) and forth fingers, the northern edge of my scouting will be the knuckles just below your fingernails. The southern end will be on the middle joints of those fingers. That rectangle, oriented north to south, has a couple of major, long distance trail systems, and some smaller local ones.

At the end of the week, I should have a preliminary report.
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
SCOUTING ON THE KNUCKLES

As it turned out, I ran into an old friend. That rerouted the trip some. But, I did get a look at the White Pine Trail in the neat, little town of Cedar Springs. (Now, there's a Midwest-town name as picturesque as town names are out West!). As many towns do, they "celebrate" the trail's passage through Cedar Springs.

Many towns still retain the old, brown, sandstone structures that once served as train depots. Other towns had simpler, wooden structures. Most of the wooden buildings are already gone. Most of the rest of them ought to be. In Cedar Springs, it's gone. A nice parking lot is there now. The trail is paved in town, hard packed dirt outside of town. Nearby the trail, are several restaurants.

Throughout the Midwest is a chain of businesses named Meijer's. They entered my hometown of Okemos in the 50s. In the early part of the 20th century, Fredric W. Meijer started a grocery business. He grew it into a large chain that exists today. A philanthropist, he gave back to his community. His home community was Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Meijer Museum reigns in Grand Rapids. Spread out across the state are various Fredric W. Meijer memorial bike trails. His foundation donated monies to "fix up" the trails.

The underlying land of most trails came from railroads going out of business, and land titles reverted to the Michigan Department of Transportation. They recognized the inherent value of these long corridors that interlaced the mitten state. A few parcels were sold off, but almost all of it is now recognizable as "linear parks". I.E. Rails to Trails. On many of these trails, are F.W. Meijer's influence. For safety, all crossings of roads, farm lanes, and lrivate drives ate clearly marked. Old, crumbling RR bridges were replaced with new, wooden bridges. Park benches are scattered along many of the trails. In towns, there is usually a dedicated parking lot for the trail.

The more that I explore these trails, the more I like them. PEOPLE USE THEM! There are usually paths from nearby houses out to a trail. Well worn paths that are trod at least several times a week. In some towns, kids walk or bike the trail going to and from school. I've also seen people use trails on shopping trips. Moms walk baby carriages along them. Lovers hold hands walking along them. Olde fartes get so involved talking as they walk that they don't hear bike bells or even tooting horns!

Michigan's bike trails are good for us. Thank you, to all the folks who helped to get them there.
 

oldsparkey

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Aug 25, 2003
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Florida has lots of the Rails to Trails for bikes , skateboards or any thing else including walking. Some of the old railroad tracks that were not used for wheeled transportation became the Florida Trail ( Florida National Secenic Trail ) . The Florida Trail is a backpacking , camping , hiking trail with encompasses sections of the Rails to Trails. It covers the whole state from Big Cypress to the Alabama Border over 1,300 miles threw the state. The sections that are the Rails to Trails you can ride a bike on but the rest of the Florida trail is only hiking.
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
The trails are a bit reminescent of older days. Traveling through and with Mother Nature restores the soul.

I haven't yet seen any hikers here, but there probably are on some of the trails. Something that I notice is, that people who are involved in "human powered sports" like pedaling, paddling, hiking, etc., are usually better to get along with than some folks in other pastimes. Having to expend energy, tends to separate the flyspecks from the pepper. Not all good folks gravitate toward these type sports. But, the folks who do, are generally nicer.

I'd also like to say they're more handsome, and better looking too. But, after looking around some, well, that just wouldn't be altogether honest now, would it? ;-)
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
This morning, I met a couple of buddies for breakfast. It being a crisp, sunny, autimn day - I unlimbered the Duck, and rode to the restaurant. Perfect timing. After breakfast and tall tales, I rode to the grocery store. On the way home, my path meandered through two parks, and along the right of way of the old interurban train route.

Pedaling around areas is a great way to visit neighborhoods and towns. It's a pleasant way to seek out those critical distributors of coffee, apple pie, ice cream, eggs and bacon, etc. Being a retiree with some time and money, makes it even more fun than when I was a kid.
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
FREDRICK MEIJER HEARTLAND TRAIL - One Segment

Friday mornkng. 7am insude. 32 degrees oitside. Charlie and I have been planning this ride for a month now. It's brisk out there. "Up-n-at'em, Jack. The bike's all ready and loaded."

As I pulled into the Park and Ride lot, Charlie was just backing his truck into a parking spot. We transferred his bike and gear to my little RAV-4, and headed out to the Wheel Inn Restaurant in St. Johns. Eggs, American fries, pancakes, sausage, and COFFEE. Burp!

Today, we have our sights set on a segment of trail about 9-10 miles long. Fortunately, there's a little town (30-40 souls) in the middle of that stretch. The whole trail is about 40-50 miles long, I think. Today, we parked in Elwell, and rode east toward the beginning of the trail. This trail is paved!

As we approached the SW'ly side of rhe town of Alma, the Heartland trail ended, and a local trail started. We rode another mile and entered the campus of Alma College. Ahead was a coffeeshop. Predictably, my bike again exhibited that steering malfunction that it does whenever it's nearby a place where there's coffee, ice cream, apple pie, hambugers, etc. How does it know?

A half an hour later, we went 3 blocks further to a bike shop - our first one of the day. Actually, it was good that we did stop here. I found a luggage rack tnat will fit onto the front end of my bike. That will give me two more saddle bags for camp gear. I may not have to pull the trailer?

Now, we ride the 5 miles back to the car. By parking in the middle of our planned ride, instead of on one end or the other, we had more options. We could have ended the ride right then and there. But instead, we rode on west another 5 miles toward the (only slightly larger) little town of Riverdale. Along the way, one of our rest stops was highlighted with some hot tea that I'd brought along in a couple of 1 pint thermoses - my silver bullets. Swift running streams crossed the trail at about 1 1/2 mile intervals, and we were next to one of them. The weather had warmed, it was a clear, sunny, brisk fall day. Absolutely perfect. The prettiest time of the year.

And then we rode to Riverdale These little towns hale from the mid 1800s, when the dense forests were being cleared, logged off, and rich farming lands were being opened up. The old buildings once served to house and feed lumberjacks. Today, a few bikers like us, and some overweight locals were there. A late lunch of hamburgers and fries capped it off.

On the final 5 miles riding back to the car, we met a 6 person string of riders. The whole fam-damily was out for a ride. During the day on the trail, we met probably 4-5 walkers, and 8-10 riders. The beautiful weather brings them out. They get out of the house and blow the stink off.

On the drive home, we stopped at our second bike shop of the day. Here, I bought a new kickstand. Not a common one that sticks out to the side. This one mounts up under the frame where the old one does. But does not stick out at a single prong at a sideways angle. Instead, it has two legs - similar to a heavy duty wishbone - that tucks up around the rear tire. When kicked down, they are positioned straight down, spread about 6" wide, and hold the bike straight upright. I'll get it mounted and try it out.

As Charlie and i parted, both of us had big, Chessie cat grins on our faces. This is a day we both will look back upon, in years to come. And smile another Chessie cat grin. Sierra Hotel! (An Air Force expression.)
 
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Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
ABORT EARLY - Avoid The Rush

We'd planned a ride today, but high winds changed our minds. 15-25 mph, with higher gusts. AARRGGHH!!
So, on Friday we'll meet at the coffeeshop that is near the middle of a (reportedly) 3.7 mile trail. The deli is next door to the coffeeshop. With the ice cream store just 2 doors away.

I may have to give up riding the Ruptured Duck for exercize - weight gain is a distinct hazard!
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
WHAT A KICKSTAND SHOULD BE

Take a look ar the Sunlite Pro line of kickstands. I have a Sunlite PRO 700 stand. Others are a Sunlite PRO ii. These are a center stand. The bike stands upright rather than leaning over, snd then falling. The stand drops straight down, and is a doubke leg - a wishbone. This holds the bike straight up - like it should be.

Amazon and eBay has these, and your local bikeshop may too.
 
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Kayak Jack

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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
BIKE TRAILS COME IN ALL SIZES

Lovingly, I plot out long trails. I mark parking spots, land marks, ice cream parlors, good eats, and points of interest, etc. For now - long trails are those measured in double digits, often requiring more than one day or one trip to cover. These usually travel in lines that connect a series of small towns.

Here in the Great Lakes area, most of those stops in smalltowns were at grain elevators. As farmers brought in thejr harvests, the elevators tested and graded them, and offered to purchase . Grain bins and silos filled, and one day a train came olong and carried the grains along to the next steps of the marketing process.

A few of these small towns are truly tiny - maybe 25-50 souls. Others are larger - maybe harboring a small college, one or two manufactures, etc. A population of, say, 3,000 - 5,000 souls. These towns often have a lot of trails. When the trails are overlaid on the city map, it looks like a spiderweb. They conect all kinds of important points - work and employment, shopping, class rooms, and of course realy important places like ice cream and coffee shops!

A small town near me has a trail that's just a bit under 4 miles. The southern part of it follows an old right of way (ROW) used by an inter-urban rail line. Its northern half follows along the Sycamore Creek. Most of the trail is through shady areas; we have lots of trees around here. Bikers, walkers, moms pushing baby strollers, lovers holding hands, gaggles of teens, etc. all enjoy the trail.

Near the middle of the trail is the business district of town. Coffeeshop, deli, ice cream, a department store straight out of the 50s, a drug store out of the 50s, and more. Mayberry RFD, with a hometown trail right up the middle.

Long trails are for journeys. Short trails are destinations.
 

Kayak Jack

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Aug 26, 2003
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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
DARN! ANOTHER TRIP ABORTED

Four of us had gathered for breakfast last week. We've been paddling and camping together now for about 25 years. Each of us has been pulled out of problems by each of us. We've shared lots of camp sites, lots of scotch, and lots of cigars. This day, we were planning another trip.

"I'm thinking of a two, maybe three day trip starting at Paddle Brave canoe livery on the south branch of the Au Sable. Wanna come along?" Charlie has laid out several trips starting at Paddle Brave. Part of each one includes stopping off at the old, Durant mansion. Readers may recsll W.C. Durant whose company used to build automobiles.

"Well, Monday is Sharon's birthday. So, I'm able to begin on Tuesday. If we canoed on the Grand River here locally, it would save a day of driving back and forth to the Au Sable." Bud's idea made sense.

After a lot more discussion, we couldn't settle. So I finally hauled out a coin. "Heads it's the Grand; tails it's the Au Sable." Flip, catch, lay down - heads. All four of us stared at it, disappointedly. No one wanted that. Picking up the coin, I asked, "Two out of three?" Damn! That flip was a head too.

Nobody really wanted either one of the trips. Silence. Then Bud says, "How about going into the Dead Stream Swamp, where Charlie and I went before?" And we all jumped on that idea. "Great!" We agreed to drive up and put in on 5 November.

All of us have already commenced readying our gear. And then - it snowed yesterday. And it snowed last night too. This morning, when I checked weather, it was full of below freezing temperatures and snow. I don't relish risking a capsize into water that's in the 40s or 50s, and then climbing out into air that's in the 30s. So, reluctantly, I emailed the group and withdrew. One or two followed suit, and the trip is now cancelled. I'd like to make the trip, maybe next year - in September.

Now, the Dead Stream is nothing to play around with. As a kid, I heard a lot of stories about guys going into the Dead Stream - and never coming out. I'd roamed the woods, fields, and streams ever since I was three or four years old, and always came back. But, this was in lower Michigan, replete with farms, fences, and roads. The Dead Stream is in the north woods of Michigan. (A map of our lower peninsula is there ln the back of your left hand. The Dead Stream is near the middle knuckle of your middle finger.). The largest inland lake in Michigan is Houghton Lake. Houghton is fed from the overflow from Higgins Lake about 10 miles to its north. And the overflow from Houghton Lake forms the Muskegon River. The Muskegon exits from the very NW'ly corner of Houghton Lake, and meanders SW'ly to Lake Michigan. That's where the city of Muskegon lies, on Lake Michigan's eastern shore.

The Muskegon River exits into flat land, the bottom of an old, inland sea. Its flowage loops and meanders back and forth twisting and turning all over. If Paul Bunyan and his blue ox Babe were here, we'd hook up Babe to that twisty river. With a few of his mighty tugs Babe would yank that river out straight as a string.

And, as Lilly Tomlin used to say, "and THAT'S the truth!"
 
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Kayak Jack

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Okemos / East Lansing Michigan
GOOGLE MAPS AND BIKES

Oo of the features of Google Maps, is background. "Normal" map has very few features; it's basically a road map. "Terrain" shows a little bit of the terrain. My all-time favorite is the "Satellite Virw". An extra feature is "Bicycle". This shows bike trails, visible only in some of the shrink-and-expand ranges. They show up as a bright, green line in the satellite view, and usually as a thin, dark line in the terrain view. Usualy, a solid line indicates a hard surface, such as concrete or blacktop. A dashed line usualy indicates a dirt surface. On old railroad beds, these are usually hard packed and smooth.

I like to expand out the view to where fields, buildings, etc. are visible, and add trail markers. Say, the trail passes by or near a park, restaurant, icecream store, coffeeshop, etc. I expand out the view, hold a fingertip near the site, and a "Dropoed Pin" note shows up. On my phone, if I touch that, I can then enter a "Label". My labels include "Bike Parking", "Scenic", "Eats", "Coffee", "EOT" (End Of Trail), etc. Whatever is of interest to you, drop a pin and make it into a label. The phone maps work without WIFI, wherever you can receice phone service.. It shows your present location, and what's around you.

This gives hopeful and wistful riders something to do when weather keeps us off the trails. We plan for rides we want to take, plot it out, and then enter it into our calendars as a reminder. We can mark the trails for facilities, sights, features of interest to us. Different riders will select different things. Some bike trails meander around and through towns, near boutiques, farmers' markets, icecream stores, etc. Others strike out cross country past rivers, lakes, farm fields, woodlots, state parks, etc.

Placing labels as markers on your maps serves as reminders of what to watch for. Often, the thing you might want to visit isn't close to a trail. Some interesting things may be a half of a mile, or several miles off. As we expand our range, we expand our horizons - we stretch, and grow.
 
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