Day 13 – Onward to Lake Michigan

(Sam takes over the narrative at this point.) September 5, 2008

First caboose of the day

First caboose of the day

Today we are headed to Muskegon for a rendezvous with Marie and the ferry across the lake the next day. We packed up our stuff from the cabin, ate the cheese roll-ups, donuts, cookie, turnovers and muffins for breakfast we had bought the night before. Yesterday’s rain had stopped, the roads were dry, our gear was mostly dry, although our feet were still wet. We rode to Saranac, where we were stuck at a convenience store for breakfast number two. We stopped to study Saranac station and a Grand Trunk caboose.

'Hills' in western michigan

'Hills' in western michigan

We got on Route 21 and headed west for Grand Rapids. Route 21 was pretty dull, traffic was heavy, but the road conditions weren’t too bad. Riding through the city of Lowell, we encountered what we referred to as JAASM, “Just Another American Strip Mall”. It seemed like we could have been just about anywhere in the country riding through this undistinctive part of Michigan. Shortly after Lowell we encountered some of the longer hills we had climbed since leaving Eastern New York state twelve days before.

All you can eat, look out!

All you can eat, look out!

Our plan was to ride straight into Grand Rapids. Our usual practice is to avoid cities if at all possible, but we decided to see what Grand Rapids was like. We were pleasantly surprised to ride in on mostly residential streets without the JAASM that we expected. We found an all you can eat Chinese buffet in the center of town, and proceeded to replace the lost calories of the morning.

Quiet farm counrty

Quiet farm counrty

We had some information about a rail trail that went from just west of Grand Rapids up to Muskegon, our destination for the day. Unfortunately, our information did not include how to find the trail heads for this trail. So we wandered around a bit through beautiful farm country northwest of Muskegon. We stopped at a farm stand, where we had some of the best peaches we had ever had. They (the farmers, not the peaches) were able to give us directions to the rail trail. As seemed common with many of these trails, there was little signage directing you from the main roads to the trail heads.

Rest stop on a the rail trail

Rest stop on a the rail trail

What we found was a beautiful, quiet, fairly straight, smoothly paved rail trail. There were very few people out on the trail until we got closer to Muskegon. The trail went through the center of several small towns, where one enterprising ice cream store put up signs directing trail users to their goodies. Here we found that the soft-serve was self-serve, something we weren’t used to. We encountered one eastbound cyclist pulling a trailer; it looked like he was out for a long tour, but we didn’t stop to talk. Near the end of the trail we slowly overtook a cyclist riding a department store bike in jeans and sneakers. He commented that he was quite surprised to be overtaken by us, apparently he rarely met anyone faster than he on the rail trail. He managed to stick with us until the end of the trail. I was about to give him some pointers, like spinning faster in a lower gear, but he turned around and headed back.

The entrance to Muskegon was unimpressive, industrial, commercial landscapes with rush hour traffic. The city was much more sprawled out than it appeared on the map and we had some difficulty finding a hotel. We wanted something near the ferry terminal, and explored the bikepath south of the ferry terminal for some distance before getting some information about hotels north of the ferry terminal. We proceeded back up the bikepath, which was clearly more of a recreational trail than a path meant for serious travel. It had beautiful curving boardwalks through the marshes along the shore of Muskegon Bay, but was not meant for traveling quickly.

We found the Muskegon Harbor Hotel, which allowed us to bring our bicycles and trailer in the lobby, up the elevator and into our room. We called Marie who was right on schedule and told her how to find us. We had dinner that night in the hotel restaurant with Marie, a happy reunion. Nate took advantage of power and wireless to catch up on some of his communications. The hot showers were appreciated.

Muskegon Harbor Hotel, not a mini cabin

Muskegon Harbor Hotel, not a mini cabin

Stats:
Miles: about 80
Avg Spd: not recorded
Hours of rolling time: not recorded
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 0
Trains: 0, but two cabooses on display
Roadkill: many
West-East Cross Country Cyclists: 1?
Serious cyclist: 1
Hours of Rain: 0
Minutes Dad spent thinking about work: 0
Deer: 3
Plates of Chinese all you can eat buffet Nate ate: 4

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