Posts Tagged ‘Northwestern University’

Day 12 – Crime Scene Detour

January 11, 2009

On this particular morning, we didn’t have food at the cabin for breakfast, so we got packed up and headed out, looking for a breakfast place. This often consisted of a convenience store, and this day was no exception. A breakfast roll, a sausage in a blanket, and PowerBars comprised my repast.

More rough riding in Michigan

More rough riding in Michigan

We consulted our map, and rode out on Seymore Road, which we soon nicknamed Seymour Holes Road, as it was probably the worst maintained paved road we had ridden yet. But the traffic wasn’t too bad, so we weren’t miserable. After about 8 miles, Seymore Holes Road intersected Route 21, which we turned onto. Route 21 was a smoother road, and we blasted on through Ovid and Shepardsville.

Blasting along on Rt 21

Blasting along a quiet Michigan road

We stopped at an Applebees in Corrunna for lunch, a restaurant we had never been to before. Our waiter was incredibly pushy! “Can I start you off with an appetizer? May I suggest our Mozzarella sticks, for $3.99, or perhaps a delicious soup for $4.99?” It was not the kind of restaurant experience we had hoped for. We ate anyway.

Back in the saddle, it soon began to rain. Rain similar to the day before, quickly drenching us. We pulled off the road, and took meager shelter under a shagbark hickory tree, and watched the 42 wheeler tractor trailers go by, spraying up huge geysers of stinging cold wet mist from under their wheels.

Ice Cream and a pink Mustang

Ice Cream and a pink Mustang

Once the road was dry enough to ride on again, we set out once more, a little slower now, as parts of the road were still wet. The 42 wheelers still went by, but the mist they sprayed up wasn’t quite as brutal as it had been during the rain. We pedaled on to St. John, where we stopped to visit a model railroad museum, which turned out to be closed, but we also found an ice cream shop, with a pink Ford Mustang on the roof.

The road we were traveling on soon came to a detour around a two car accident that was a felony crime scene. The police were using surveying equipment to determine which direction the two cars had come from, and the traffic cops wouldn’t let us through and wouldn’t tell us where the detour went. We assumed it was a pretty long detour, as most roads around here had few intersections. Also, there was near certainty that the detour would take us on dirt roads, which we were trying to avoid at all costs. So we headed on the detour, and once out of sight of the cops, traipsed through the edge of a agricultural field, avoiding the crops planted near our feet. Coming back out on to the road past the cops, we found that we would have to pass the cops on the other side of the detour. Fortunately, they gave us no trouble. We pedaled on.

We stopped in the town of Fowler, at yet another convenience store. It began to rain, so I plugged in, and uploaded a blog page, and some photos. A woman asked us about our trip, and it turned out she had just finished a 300 mile bike ride, and was able to reccmmend us another state park to spend the night. She was so interested in our trip, that Dad and I were sure she would offer to let us pitch our tent in their yard. She did not offer, so we bought dinner, and headed on our way to Ionia State Park.

Another mini cabin

Another mini cabin

The road was smooth, with minimal traffic, but it soon began to rain. We decided to continue to ride, and soon we came to the gates of Ionia State Park. Then there was the rough two mile road in to the ranger station, past a peaceful lake, and through some terrible potholes. We stopped at the ranger station, but the ranger was out. We’d called ahead and reserved a cabin, so we just headed in, past many more RVs than we had seen the previous night. Again, it rained.

Dinner consisted of the tortillas, bologna, turkey, ham and cheddar we bought at the store in Fowler. We watched another movie, blogged and slept.

Miles: 105
Avg Spd: 17.8
Mechanicals: 0
Roadkill/ mile: 0.3
Serious cyclist: 0
Hours of Rain: 3
Miles of highway with shoulder: 12
Minutes Dad spent thinking about work: 0
Hours of rolling time: unrecorded

Day 11 – Calling GOOG 411 again.

January 11, 2009
Tent site behind church

Tent site behind church

We awoke behind the church, and ate crumbly donuts while we broke camp. As we wheeled our bikes through the lawn, I noticed that my rear tire was entirely flat. The tube was replaced with a patch tube, but both the new one and the old one leaked. Then, we realized that our patch kit was pretty old, and wasn’t working properly. We had no more spare tires, and all our patchable flats weren’t patchable with the equipment we had. We tried calling GOOG411 and the Yellow Pages to find bike shops, and I found a few in the area that might be open around 10.

Another possibility was that I might need a new wheel for me, but I couldn’t ride to the bike shop, if it was even open yet. Eventually, we decided that I would ride Dad’s Seven to the bike shop, and get CO2, food, a good patch kit, and four tubes. I rode, because I could get to the bike shop and back faster. When I arrived at the bike shop, low and behold, it didn’t open til noon on Wednesdays. Ugh. I asked a liquor store clerk if he knew of any other bike shops in town. Surprisingly, he did, and told me how to get there. That one was also closed, but opened at 10 am, so I got breakfast at the 7 11, and waited for the store to open.

Fixing flats in the church parking lot

Fixing flats in the church parking lot

When it opened, I got the parts, and got some food for Dad, and rode back at a quick pace. Upon arrival, we sat in the cool shade of the church, and ate the remaining breakfast. We put one of the new tubes in, and with our sore fingers forced the tire back on the wheel. When we went to pump it up, we discovered that the CO2 cartridges I had purchased were too big. The hand pump was used instead, and the pressure held. Hooray!

Rough riding in michigan

Rough riding in michigan

We rode on through Michigan, on Romeo Road, which had lots of traffic, and was pretty narrow. The map we had wasn’t very helpful, because many of the roads in this part of Michigan are dirt. However, this map didn’t show which were paved, and which were dirt. Also, many roads are straight for miles, and overlap section lines on the map. So, we had planned to take one route, but in fact we had chosen to ride on section lines, not roads. One of these section lines actually went through a lake, which didn’t work. We ended up going on many dirt roads, and I broke another spoke on one of these. We decided to fix it when we got to the campground. Further on, we came to a section of road that had been recently re-graveled. It was impossible to ride with our narrow tires. This was our one walking section of the whole trip.

At lunch, we reached Lake Orion, and had lunch at a nice little cafe, and got some food for dinner. We gave our CO2 cartridges to a bike shop, and asked about road recommendations. We were recommended to go south, and ride there. The clerk said that Michigan has the nation’s worst roads, and they don’t have much budget to fix them up. I spent a while blogging, and then we biked on, toward Holly State Park.

Michigan State Park Mini Cabin

Michigan State Park Mini Cabin

When we got to the state park, and rode up to the ranger station. We talked to the ranger about the pricing for the camping, and found out that the tent sites were $25, and they also had mini cabins for $45. We thought about how nice a mini cabin would be, to have a roof over our head, some space to move around, and be able to charge our devices. After we paid for the cabin, we went outside to pick up our bikes, and it started to drizzle. The drizzle quickly became a downpour, at times coming down so hard it nearly felt like hail. When we got to the mini cabin half a mile later, we were drenched. I was glad to have a plastic box to keep our sleeping bags and some clothes dry.

After it stopped raining, I went to the bathrooms to do some laundry, and then it started raining again while I was laundering. I waited for it to stop, and then went back to have dinner at the cabin. After dinner, we watched a movie, I blogged, and we slept.

Nate drying out in Mini Cabin

Nate drying out in mini cabin

Miles: 45 Nate / 35 Sam
Avg Spd: 17.8
Mechanicals: 2
Roadkill/ mile: 3
Serious cyclist: 0
Hours of Rain: 0.2
Miles of highway with shoulder: 2
Minutes Dad spent thinking about work: 0
Hours of rolling time: 3 hours, 20 mins
Hours of waking time: 16 hours.
Points on buck we followed along the road: 4

Day 6 – Our longest day yet!

September 2, 2008

So, a few people have asked about the bunnies. The reason we saw so many in those first few days is that we were riding on the bike path, and they didn’t seem to get much traffic. And yes, all the bunnies in the bunny count are alive. Also, in regard to the roadkill count, they stink so much its hard not to count them, if that makes sense. You can see bigger versions of these photos and more at my Flickr Bike To School Album.

The house where we spent the last 34 hours.

The house where we spent the last 34 hours.

After a breakfast of hot seven grains, we hit the road at 8:00. We cruised down the nice long gentle hill we had climbed 34 hours before. Rain hit shortly after we made the turn on to the canal path. Our rain gear came out of our packs, but then the weather cleared up. Of course. The wet stone dust was actually easier to ride on than the dry, since the narrow wheels plow through the dust when dry, but the rain had compacted the dust, and it didn’t stick to our tires. Around Rochester, the surface changed to pavement, which allowed us to increase our speed a few mph.

Dad, biking along the canal

Dad, biking along the canal

Near Greece, we headed north, to ride along Lake Ontario. Along the way, we stopped at a farm stand, where we supported a girl making money for college by buying a pepper and four peaches. We watched a older couple drive in, but only on a section of gravel, not the “dirty” part of the driveway. The lady got out, walking very carefully, so as not to dirty her blindingly white shoes. We thought it was funny, because he seemed like he didn’t want to get the car dirty, so he made her walk around instead.

A tree with tons of bulbous growths.

A tree with tons of bulbous growths.

Up near the lake, we encountered the Lake Ontario State Parkway. It was a straight highway, had no view of the lake, and we had a headwind. However, it was divided, and had no commercial trucks and minimal traffic. There were several state parks along the parkway, which seemed to be the only reason the parkway was there at all.

We pulled into the Hamlin Beach State Park, and didn’t have to pay an entrance fee, since we were on bicycles. The snack bar where we ate was about one mile from the main gate, but was situated nicely under a stand of beeches. There was a great view of the lake, and there was a group of children playing on the park, running around, laughing, enjoying the day. Beneath our feet, the ground had a dappled texture, since it had recently rained.

The farmstand where we supported a girl going to college.

The farmstand where we supported a girl going to college.

Back on the road, we decided to turn off the Parkway, and ride along Lake Shore Road, which was actually right next to the lake, didn’t have much wind, and we saw no cars. It was what we were hoping the Parkway was going to be.

Fortunately, the Parkway didn’t go on for ever. It ended, and we got onto Route 18 West, which still followed the contour of the lake, but was set back from the lake a ways. It did tend to become straight at times, sometimes for twenty minutes or so.

On one of these stretches, we stopped at another farm stand. They had the biggest blackberries we have ever seen. The woman running the stand let us sample one, and boy was it sweet. They were nearly the size of ping-pong balls!

Back on Route 18, we plowed along for miles, making good time. We pushed our average higher and higher, and watched the miles accumulate. There really wasn’t anything else to look at. It was kind of amazing to watch our average climb over 16.0 mph after more than 100 miles that day.

Dinner that night was at an ice cream stand, which also served burgers and hot dogs. As we were finishing our portions, a cyclist drove up. He lived across the road, and had seen our bikes from the road, and decided to see where we were going, and where we were from. He asked if we needed any parts or repairs. We didn’t, and we told him about our plan to ride across Ontario, and he helped us plan our route. He produced a map book of Ontario, and sketched out a good route. Ontario was his home province, so he had a good idea of which towns and roads to go through, and which to avoid. He was a great help!

Lunch at the State Park.

Lunch at the State Park.

However, night was approaching fast, and we got back on the road quickly. We headed for Fort Niagara State Park, and shortly got on the Robert J. Moses State Parkway. When we first got on this Parkway, it seemed like a scene out of a post-apocalyptic thriller. The highway was deserted. Grass was growing up from between the concrete road surface. Wide, sharp edged cracks and wheel-eating frost heaves were common. I was sure zombies were going to start running out onto the road, clamoring for our flesh.

We rode for fifteen minutes before we saw a car. The riding was awful. We were sure we were going to flat, and the sun was right on the horizon. At one point, we were riding sort of side by side, and a trench appeared that ran nearly across the whole road. We both headed for the “nice” part. It was nearly too narrow for both of us, but we didn’t have an accident.

Mercifully, the State Park appeared, and the road surface changed once again. However, it seemed that we had misread the state map, and Fort Niagara closed at sunset, and didn’t allow camping. They did have 24 hour bathrooms, so we found a secluded area of the park, and waited until it was pitch dark, and then setup the tent. Since we were under trees, we didn’t bother putting up the rain fly. We didn’t get wet, or get woken up in the night by a grumpy park warden.


Miles: 121.5
Avg Spd: 16.2
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 0
Trains: 0
Roadkill: 0
West-East Cross Country Cyclists: 0
Hours of Rain: 0.5

Day 5 – No Biking

August 30, 2008

Day 5

Rising at 8, we decided to take a day off from cycling, and tour the engineering firm that our friend runs. After, we went to Pittsford for lunch, and had a nice meal right on the Erie Canal, and watched pleasure craft glide up and down the canal.

Arriving back at the house, we both took well needed naps, and blogged and read books. After another healthy dinner, we took in a little more DNC, before I connected to the internet and put up a new post on the blog.


Miles: 0
Avg Spd: 0
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 0
Trains: 0
Roadkill: 0
West-EastCross Country Cyclists: 1
Hours of Rain: 1.5

Day 3 – A Real Century!….A Metric One, That Is

August 29, 2008


America’s Best Inn

Leaving the motel at the crack of 9:00, we didn’t exactly get a early start. We did have our first real breakfast on the road, stopping off at a diner in Herkimer.


The Diner where we ate breakfast

While we waited for Hobo eggs and a breakfast burrito, and I found some WiFi and searched the area for a bike shop. We found one in Herkimer that opened at 10:00, so after breakfast, we rolled on over, and got a couple spare tubes and a new tire for my rear wheel. We broke one tire iron with a steel core, putting the new tire on, and had to buy a new pair. Back on our bikes at 11:00, we continued our journey west.


Inside the diner

We found the canal path quickly enough, and in places, it followed the abandoned canal. At times, the “path” was little more than two ruts, like a truck road. The sections that had water in them had filled up with algae, but were more scenic than the dry flora filled parts.


On the road

Later, after we were shunted back onto Route 31 West, we decided to follow signs for the Erie Canal Village. We had almost decided we had gone too far, but then we saw a sign. Turns out, they were closed. But we got to look around, and the Village had horses, and a stretch of abandoned canal with a passenger boat, albeit with a regular leak, and a tow path to take tourists up and down a short section of canal. We rode along the towpath for a bit, after taking some photos with the Village.

On another stretch of stone dust trail, we encountered many fallen trees, that completely blocked the path. All of these obstacles required a dismount. Bumbling our way through these trees, we came out at Lock 20. A refurbished tugboat was midway through being lowered through the lock, and we got to chatting with the lock keeper. He told us about the lack of funding for the canal system, lock electronics, and he had a one sided discussion about the Tour de France (we haven’t been keeping up).


The Erie Canal Village packet boat, with the bridge in the background.

Hunger started gnawing at our stomachs around 5pm, and we stopped at a local joint advertising “Fresh Seafood Daily.” We leaned our bikes up against the walls, passed the Harley bikers, and entered a dimly lit room with tables and metal chairs. At first glance, it seemed like a normal restaurant, but many customers were eating chicken wings. We sat down, and after waiting a while, a woman came over and asked “Were you hoping to get something to eat?” In fact, we were looking for food. It tuned out, however, that the kitchen closed early on Mondays and Tuesdays, offering only chicken wings after 2pm. This was the second “seafood” restaurant we had encountered that wasn’t serving seafood.

Down the road, we came to a pizza place the woman at the wings shop had recommended. We ordered lasagna, garlic knots, and salads, and went outside to wait. Dad decided to bike around, and try to find a place for us to set up a tent nearby. The Dunkin’ Donuts across the street would be handy for breakfast, and there were a few churches we could pitch a tent behind. He found no convenient places.


I am clobbered by a fallen tree.

While we were eating, a local cyclist drove up in his car, and asked us where we were going and we were from. We told him, and he asked if we had found a place to spend the night. We had not, and he offered to go look for a place; he thought that the local marina had tenting opportunities. Dad and I took him up on the offer, and he drove off, letting us finish our meal. When he came back, he wrote out directions to the marina, told us about a place for breakfast, WiFi, and about his life as a time trials cyclist, until a work related accident prevented him from cycling.

After we finished our dinner, Dad went inside to pay, and the clerk had overheard our conversation about our biking journey, and in passing asked Dad how many miles he had ever bike in one day. “180 miles” came the reply. “Approximately how far is that?” asked the confused sales clerk. As Dad scooted out the door, he shot over his shoulder, “About a few miles less than 190.”


Miles: 71
Avg Spd: 13.2
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 1
Trains: 4

Day 2 – Our First Whole Day In New York

August 27, 2008

“Pitter-patter, pitter-patter” Rain. 1 am, Monday morning. However, it had quit by the time we woke up and got packed up.


Peeking out from our tent on Monday morning.

Out on the road, we rode for almost too long before finding breakfast at a convenience store; “muffins”, “pastries” and coffee.

We wound around, looking for the Canal Path, and eventually found it. It was paved, until we lost the trail, only to find it again in a different place. The map we had from the State Canalway System and the Rand MacNally state road map seemed to differ from the actual trails and roads in real life.



Our “tent site”

Occasionally, the trail surface would change to crushed stone, which wasn’t awful to ride on, especially since the alternative was riding on the state highways with a headwind. There were several long sections with nice mowed sides, the occasional bridge, and frequent farm road crossings.


The tracks near Rotterdam Junction.

At one point, near Rotterdam Junction, we came to a sharp right turn in the trail, and we could see railroad tracks. There were a few jersey barriers blocking the trail from vehicles, but room enough to get bikes through. There, the evidence of a bike path ended. There were no signs, or graded crossing path. We could however, hear a train coming. We had seen a side trail going left off the trail a little way back, and I decided to scope out that trail, while Dad took a photo of the train. I went up the side trail, which quickly turned to a stream bed with medium sized rocks, and Japanese Knotweed growing thick and plentiful on each side. It continued up, steeper than before, and all the while, the train was getting closer. I came out of the Knotweed, to see a railroad bridge, and a train with three Union Pacific engines. This was the train Dad had been hoping to photograph!



After coming a 8 % grade. Ooomph!

I got back to Dad, (my trail had dead-ended at the bridge) and we decided to heft the bikes over the tracks, and check out a similar road on the other side, complete with jersey barriers. Lifting the bob attached to my bike didn’t turn out to be much of a hassle, but it was a two person job.


The road on the other side was the one we were looking for, and we found a place for lunch. “Joey D’s Seafood” read the sign. However, they were sold out of fish! We split a ham grinder instead.


Later on, we found a farm stand where we got some peppers, peaches, and ice cream. The canal path was right across the road from the farm stand, yet there was no sign on the path advertising “Ice Cream, this way” or anything. (It seems like they may be missing out on some business.)



A newspaper article describing Joey D’s Seafood.

Blasting along on the stone dust, we came to some people weeding some bushes by the side of the path. We stopped to thank them for volunteering, and they told us about some places to stay the night. The first place we tried was in Little Falls, on the north side of the canal. However, they wouldn’t let us bring our bikes into our room, and we didn’t want them outside. The next place was in Herkimer, and we got there around 8:30. America’s Best Inn was a motel, with doors to rooms on the ground level, so we were able to push our bikes into our room. We walked to dinner, and had a nice meal at a local cafe, getting back to our room around 9:45. It was a late night.



A possible tenting site, but we decided to motel it that night.


Miles: 92
Avg Spd: 13.6
Mechanicals: 0
Bunnies: 8


About the Ride

August 10, 2008

My name is Nate, and I am planning a bike ride to Northwestern University, in Evanston, IL, where I will be a freshman this fall. I am biking to Evanston from my house in Western Massachusetts with my dad. We will try to ride 100 miles per day, for 10 days, and have a few days for rain and resting. I will pull a small bike trailer, called a Bob, and my dad may also be carrying panniers. My mom will be driving out all of my belongings for the fall, and providing backup for us, in case we need to be bailed out.

Our route is currently under review, but the general plan is to bike from my house, to the Troy, NY area, and then follow the Erie Canal Bike Path, and the New York Bike Route 5, which follows the canal pretty closely. We will follow these routes to Niagara Falls, and then cross into Ontario, and bike through to Michigan, and straight on through to Muskegon, where we will take a ferry to Milwaukee, WI. From there we will bike down to Evanston, and I will go on the Project Wildcat trip.

I hope I’ll be in shape for backpacking!

I will be taking an Asus EEE PC 701 on this trip, so I’ll be able to update this page regularly, and post photos and maybe videos as well.
Comments are welcome!