Southampton to Kincardine

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Today’s ride was really quite pretty, and we kept it short, but the overriding theme for the day was wind. The wind was dead against us, and blowing at 20 – 25 kph. So even though we only rode about 50 km, it took us until mid-afternoon to do it.

Before leaving Southampton we took a short detour down to the beach to enjoy the morning scenery, then we headed out of town following a rail trail. The rail trail had a really good, firm surface, it offered a bit of shade, and it kept us off 21 which carries very heavy traffic and has no shoulder.

Our plan was to use the trail for about 20 km but before we had covered half that distance we came to a section where ATVs were also allowed to use the trail. I’m not sure who thought that bicycles and ATVs are compatible users, but it certainly wasn’t me. ATVs had worked up big berms of loose gravel along the trail that made cycling difficult at best, so we quickly switched to Plan B and worked out some minor roads that went in the same general direction.

Along this route we soon came to a stretch of road being repaved. They had our side of the road marked off with cones and were repaving it, forcing us into the oncoming lane. Confusingly, there was no traffic control flag-person so we waited for a couple of pickup trucks coming towards us to pass then we started down the road in the opposing lane. When we were about half-way through the section we met a tractor trailer coming the other way so had to pull off into the weeds to let it go by. I wonder what would have happened if we had been driving a car.

At the next cross-roads we came to a woman holding a “SLOW” sign and while the road ahead was freshly paved and still marked off with cones, she told us we could ride on it. I know “first tracks” is a thing among skiers. Well, we got first tracks on our touring bikes!

The last 12 or 15 km coming into Kincardine had us on a road following along the top of a ridge with farm fields stretching away to either side so there was absolutely nothing to buffer the wind. We were headed straight into its fury and barely making progress in our low gears. A couple of times I thought a sharp gust was actually going to stop me in my tracks,

Once we got into town we stopped at a local pub and had a really great lunch before hunting down a motel room. Then this evening we walked back into downtown for dinner at another pub / restaurant that sits right on the Lake and has nice views from the patio. But we noticed that the Tour de France was on the TV behind the bar so we sat there instead and watched today’s stage. They ride a bit faster than we do, but they don’t carry their own luggage. Wimps!

The wind is going to be in our face again tomorrow, so we have another modest day planned down to Goderich.

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Tobermory to Southampton

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It rained a bit last night. We packed up a wet campsite this morning. Camping is not my favorite thing to do and I am warming up to it. It’s part of the trip and it keeps the total cost down. The campground was operated by Mennonites offered a lot for kids and was beautifully kept.

We expected rain all day on our 65 mile ride to Southampton. We got a few drops here and there along our route. What we did get unfortunately was all day headwinds. He headwinds made this a physically demanding day. The highlight of the day was the Organic Bakery we stumbled across about 20 miles into the ride. We shared a Vegetable Pakora a slice of Strawberry & Apple pie and then went back for a Porgoda, something iike a Pakora and an oatmeal chocolate cookie. Yummy. The baker owner is an artist too. Allen took a couple of pictures. We’ve been cycling most of the trip past fields of bright yellow flowering green stalks, like fields of wheat. I just learned that this is from what Canola oil is made from. Really pretty.

I’m glad that we were smart enough to treat ourselves to a room at the Quality Inn. We ordered our dinner from an Italian place that delivers.


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It’s Jodi,

We saddled up again today after a nice rest day yesterday. We rode the sparsely traffics route 6 40 miles to the a nice lunch at Carol and Earl’s. Carol wasn’t in and we were serve by Flo. It’s a small town. Inside ordering were a what I believe a Menonite family or seven. Menonite is a kind of reform version of Amish. I marveled at how well the children were behaved and no electronic devices to pacify them either.

The ride was pretty today and rolling hills with views of farm land and the Georgian Bay section of the Lake. I had a bit of fun today. At about 20 miles in a women cyclist on a fast bike passed Allen and I like it was easy. I noticed after she was up the road a good bit that she wasn’t gaining on us anymore. I am a good hill climber and decided to show her that she didn’t just pass anyone. I caught her at the top of the hill with my heavy loaded touring bike.

After lunch we hopped on the ferry it was really big and really nice. The ride was beautiful and calm. The lake is so big you really think that you are at sea. I chatted for two hours with a motor cyclist from Oregon what sitting on deck.

We are camping at the Tobermory Village Campground. Canned soup for dinner.

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We did nothing today. Well, not quite nothing. We ate. We did take a walk to the market to buy snacks for the road tomorrow. But basically we did nothing.

Jodi spent some time down by the water sketching. I took advantage of the good WiFi here and caught up on a bunch of YouTube videos and watched a couple of movies on Netflix. But that was about it for activity.

It reminds me of the zero days I used to take during y thru-hike. When your standard day-to-day mode is movement, spending the occasional day just staying still feels luxurious.

But tomorrow we’ll be back on the road. We plan to get the 1:30 ferry from South Baymouth to Tobermory. Hopefully we’ll be in South Baymouth plenty early so we can get some lunch before the 2+ hour ferry ride.

Espanola to Little Current

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We had planned to take a day off in Espanola but the motel we were in was not at all comfortable and it was a rather boring location. And when we got up in the morning and checked the forecast the incoming thunderstorms weren’t predicted to arive until mid-afternoon.

All that being so, we decided to make a half day dash south to the town of Little Current on Manitoulin Island. It was a rather pretty ride, with constant elevation changes and views of forests, ponds, and various bays of Lake Huron. We made good time and were here by noon.

After riding the length of the short main street we puled up at the Anchor Inn to have lunch on their outdoor deck. We did ask our waitress about the lodging options in town and after lunch rode up the street to the one place we hadn’t passed on our way in, only to discover it was not yet open for the season.

So we came back to the Anchor Inn and ended up renting a little suite right over the bar. It’s a really nice accommodation and the bar really wasn’t that noisy. We’ve rented it for two nights and will be finally taking a day off here.

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Blind River to Espanola

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I’m sitting outside our room at the Queensway Motel and a grotesquely fat guy wearing nothing but a bathing suit is sitting in front of his room 4 or 5 rooms down. From the cans on the table next to him I’d guess he’s working on the second half of his twelve-pack, and he’s talking on the phone rather loudly. “Two strippers! I had two strippers!” Then he says that he’l be home tomorrow and he’s not sure what his ETA is.

So does that mean he was calling home? Who at home is he telling about these strippers? His wife? His kids? Well, that’s what was occupying my mind over the last couple of minutes.

But enough of our fine friend, this is a blog about cycling and other fun adventures so let’s get back to that. I woke up fairly early this morning and, itching to get on the road, I prompted Jodi to get up and get ready. In a few minutes we were down the street at the Tim Hortons for coffee and a breakfast sandwich.

Once fueled up we hit the Trans-Canada headed east. We were able to divert off the highway for a bit here and there, but the bulk of today’s ride was riding the white line at the edge of speeding traffic. At one point we were passed by three semis in a row, less than a meter from our left elbows, as they went by at 100 kph. With the bow wave of wind they push in front of themselves and the suction behind as they pass, we got roughed up a good bit. If there had been a fourth truck I think I might have lost control.

In contrast, for the last 30k or so we got to turn off Rt 17 (and good riddance to you!) and follow the Lee Valley Road into Espanola. Lee Valley was quiet, moderately scenic, mostly paved, and lightly trafficked. A good way to end the day.

The clouds are rolling in as I type and there are supposed to be thunderstorms during the day tomorrow and a steady rain tomorrow night into Saturday morning, so we’re going to take tomorrow off. We’ve been riding every day for 12 days straight, so a rest day is long overdue anyway.

From here we’re turning south to head to Manitoulin Island and then the ferry to Tobermory. If the wind is from the north as predicted on Saturday, we should make good time.
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Therasson to Blind River

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It’s Jodi,

We haven’t taken a day off since we started our trip 11 days ago. We’ve cycled 11 days straight. That is a record. We are trying to stay ahead of bad weather and hope to take a day off on Friday. Tomorrow we cycle 60 odd miles East to Espanola. I am writing sitting on rivers edge just outside the door of our motel room. It’s a magnificent evening and it’s magic hour for those in the video business. Today we cycled 38 not easy miles. Like yesterday we stayed mostly off the Trans Canadian Highway. We took back roads through gorgeous farm country. Many of the farms were Amish. One way you can tell an Amish farm is that there is no public service running to the farm houses. We also saw Amish women working in the fields. We rode past two Amish buggies one driven by a young women and the other horse driven buggy held a family. The roads were mostly empty of cars. There is a price to pay when staying off the main roads and venturing into the idyllic country side, like yesterday we traveled through hilly countryside and through gravel and dirt roads. It’s worth it though! On the final 16 miles we did go on the highway. We paralleled the river and for most of that ride we had a handlebars wide shoulder on which we were passed fairly close by several 18 wheelers.

Interesting note: In the two days since leaving Sault St. Marie we have been into two towns. While the scenary is beautiful and pristine, it is certainly evident that these are difficult places to make a living.

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Today was a brutal day. After working our way out of Sault Ste Marie we biked kilometer after kilometer of quiet back roads with plenty of hills, way too little pavement and lots of loose gravel, and absolutely no place to get food or drinks. I bonked badly and after finally coming upon the Little Rapids General Store and downing a couple of Gatorades and some snacks, we limped into Thessalon and got a room at the Carolyn Beach motel.

That’s all for today.

*Bonk: In endurance sports such as *cycling* and running, hitting the wall or the *bonk* describes a condition caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles, which manifests itself by sudden fatigue and loss of energy.
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We are happily ensconced at the Velorution Bike Shop, which offers their own little free campsite and access to their restroom, shower, and WiFi for touring cyclists.

Okay, you want to know how we got here. It was pleasant, and really simple and quiet. We left the campground this morning, rode through downtown St Ignace stopping along the way for a hearty breakfast, then got on the Mackinac Trail which I think was the main route across the UP here until I-75 came along and got all the traffic.

So the road was super quiet and we just rode along peacefully through the Hiawatha National Forest with a couple of little crossroad towns along the way to provide convenient store stops for snacks and drinks along the way. Once we got to Sault Ste Marie, MI (there’s one on each side of the border) we rode past the “No Bicycles” sign at the highway entrance, paid our toll, and continued on across the bridge to Canada. From there it was just a couple of miles… okay, we’re in Canada so it was just a few kilometers to reach the bike shop. One of the clerks here gave us a quick tour of the facilities they offer for overnight guests. We picked a spot to set up our tent, cut through the next door Walmart parking lot to a comfortable lunch place, did a bit of shopping at Walmart, and are now back hanging at the bike shop using their WiFI to post this blog.

I have a slow leak in my rear tire so as soon as I finish this I need to go out and pull that off the bike and change the tube.

Oh, for about 13 1/2 miles today my GPS was not recording so the mileage in the graph below is understated.

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As soon as I saw light coming in the window of our motel room this morning — which out here is about an hour later than at home — I was up and boiling water on our little camp stove so we could have tea and oatmeal. We decided not to wait around for the motel’s continental breakfast, but rather to get as early a start as we could in order to get some miles in before the wind picked up.

There’s a bike path that runs along the shore of Lake Huron through town and for several miles beyond, and it turned out to be surprisingly scenic and fun to ride. It was quite chilly but the air was calm so we made good time.

Soon enough the bike path ended and we rode some miles on M23, the main state road along the shore, before turning west and inland on more minor roads. At first we were on a nice quiet paved road but eventually the pavement ended and we were jostling down a dirt road. The surface was fairly firm but we spent a lot of time moving back and forth laterally on the road looking for the sweet spot with the smoothest ride.

At one point the route we had worked out last night and loaded into the GP units directed us to turn north onto another dirt road, but this one was “unimproved” and far too soft for out touring bikes so we kept heading west and improvised a route that would eventually get us back on our planned route.
About 30 miles into the day I was really surprised to see a bunch of cars pulled up to what looked like a cafe at the intersection of two roads. Alas, it was a bar and we could see through the window that all the chairs were up on tables so they obviously weren’t open, but Jodi went in anyway and came back out to point to another building a bit down the cross road and told me she had learned that was the golf course restaurant and they served breakfast. Yah!
After packing in a good breakfast we set off again and worked ur way northwest until we intercepted the rail trail which we followed for 20 miles or so right into downtown Mackinaw City, just a couple of blocks from the access to the bridge.
To cross the bridge with a bicycle you call the Bridge Authority and they come pick you up at a pull off just at the last entrance ramp before the bridge and drive you across the bridge. This service costs $5 per bicycle.
Once across the bridge we cycled up to the first exit and from there it was just around the corner to the grocery store and then the entrance to Straits State Park. 
I walked into the office fully expecting to be told they were full and be turned away, and to have to argue with the clerk and educate him or her to the rule regarding touring cyclists, but he cheerily said “Yes,  I actually have two sites, and besides I’m not allowed to turn away cyclists.”

So we are in a very comfortable site here in the park. It’s full but much calmer and quieter than I expected on a holiday weekend.

If all goes well tomorrow we will ride over the International Bridge into Sault Ste Marie, Ontario, and will sleep in Canada.

Oh! At one point today I looked at my GPS and it told me it was 9205 miles to the next turn! Let’s see, 9205 miles at 12 miles per hour…  I just don’t think I’m going to make it before lunch!

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Alpena to Rogers City

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We had a certain sense of urgency today as we needed to get to the bike shop in Rogers City in time to have Jodi’s bike looked at before they closed at 4 pm. That being so, we were all packed and ready to go by 7:30 when the motel served their continental breakfast. As continental breakfasts go, this one was pretty sparse so it didn’t take us long and we were on the road a bit after 8:00.

We soon worked our way out of town and onto the North Eastern State Trail, which is a rail trail paved with crushed limestone that heads northwest from Alpena. Rail trails tend to be flat and straight and can get tedious after a while, and this one was no exception. But it went through trees quite a lot and that went far to shield us from the head winds that plagued us so much yesterday, and also kept my fair skin out of the sun as an extra bonus. And we did enjoy a couple of nice wildlife sightings. At one point we stopped to admire a group of 9 hawks circling as they hunted some farm fields, and 4 or 5 times we scared up a deer.

The route we planned using Google Maps had us using the North Eastern State Trail until just northwest of Posen, then turning north onto another trail. Unfortunately that other trail didn’t actually exist on the ground, but it was a simple enough matter to plot a new route using roads. The down side is that now we were out in the open and exposed to the full force of the headwind, but we still managed to make it into Rogers City by early afternoon and get Jodi’s bike checked out.

It turns out that her derailleur is fine; it just needed to be adjusted correctly. I also had a minor adjustment done to my bike and we had both chains lubed. Hopefully we’re both in good shape now.

We’re staying at a motel a few blocks down from the bike shop, and we have the patio door open to enjoy the fresh breeze blowing off the lake. The sound of the waves on the shore is hypnotically relaxing.

We’re going to try to get to Mackinaw City tomorrow, or even across the bridge to St Ignace. The entrance to the bridge is about 60 miles from here. That’s a perfectly doable distance, except that the wind is still going to be in our faces tomorrow. Yes, this is getting rather tedious! Our plan is NOT to wait around for the continental breakfast tomorrow, bur to get up early, boil some water for tea and oatmeal, then hit the road and get in some miles while the air is calm.

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Harrisville to Alpena

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It’s Jodi again. I’m laying on a comfortable bed at the Black Bear Lodge in Alpena, MI. We are happy to be here. We cycled just over 30 miles today and we are now two days behind our predicted schedule. We don’t have to keep to a schedule though. Most cycling folks might think that 30 miles is nothing. Firstly we had to wait out some rain and we did so while enjoying a large breakfast. The rain finished when we finished. Not so lucky though, the wind picked up big time, powering out of the North as we headed into it. Today we saw our first hills in the first 15 miles. I like hills. I only have use of about 4 gears too. Tomorrow I should have my new derailleur and with it have my bike fully functional again. After the hills the headwinds became vicious and required a big effort. We were lucky to hit 10 miles an hour on the flats. We saw our first touring cyclist going the other way, he was flying. Maybe one day we will get a nice tailwind too. I took a few pictures today. I’ve never seen so many types of evergreens. So many look like perfectly shaped Christmas trees. Also, I noticed these snapdragons along the way.
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Au Gres to Harrisville

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I’m writing this the day after since we had no connectivity last night, and for the life of me I can’t remember much about the day! I do know it was a rather pleasant day. The weather was warm and sunny and the wind was sort of behind us for a change. But I just don’t remember any details. Oh, we were aiming for Harrisville State Park but the forecast called for us to be waking up to heavy downpours in the morning so decided to get a motel instead. The motel turned out to be a dark and dreary, nasty little place and I found it the opposite of comfortable. I’d have rather camped in the rain. Oh well, such is the touring life!
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~~ Allen Freeman Sent from my cell phone; please forgive any fat-fingered typos

We thoroughly enjoyed our nice hotel room last night and I almost managed another 10 hour slumber, but soon enough it was time to get up. After taking advantage of the free continental breakfast we headed back to the room and started getting organized for the day.

Jodi has been having problems with the shifting on her rear derailleur so we decided to google the closest bike shop and we left our bags in the room and headed back over the Saginaw River to Jack’s Bicycle Shop. What a comfy, cool little bike shop this is! I could have easily spent the day hanging out there. The mechanic spent a good 20 or 30 minutes working on the derailleur trying to get it into adjustment, and in the process discovered that the B screw is messed up and is not holding its adjustment.

In short, Jodi needs a new derailleur. Unfortunately they did not have any long cage 9-speed derailleurs, but they did call a shop a few days ahead along our route, up in Rogers City, and explained our problem. That shop is looking for a derailleur that will work and will hopefully be able to replace Jodi’s derailleur when we get there on Friday or Saturday.

What with our little bike shop expedition, it was pushing noon by the time we finally set of from Bay City. It’s amazing how quickly we were out of the city and into the rural countryside. I suppose countryside is a bit of a misnomer as it’s actually farm after farm after farm, with houses mixed in here and there.

We rode mostly quiet back roads with very little traffic. Me being me I was greatly concerned that “Oh man, it’s after noon. Where are we going to eat?!” But eventually the road we were on crossed Rt 13 and there at the cross-roads was Sporty’s, sort of a biker bar with a bunch of Harleys and pick-up trucks in the parking lot, and we went in and sat at the bar and ordered lunch. Jodi thoroughly enjoyed the hot wings she ordered, and I put away a great burger served with homemade chips. When we finally left Sporty’s, we rode about another 2 hours to reach this city park that has a campground. It’s a really nice, quiet place, the weather is absolutely ideal, and there’s live music over at the pavilion 40 or 50 yards from our site.


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Jodi wanted me to share this photo. It’s actually from yesterday, when it was hot and sunny, rather than from cold and gray today.

Port Austin to Bay City

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There’s really not a lot to say about today. We knew it was going to be chilly and windy and wet today, and indeed it was. Yesterday was a pretty tough ride in the heat and I was pretty whipped by the time we arrived in Port Austin. I actually slept 10 hours last night, and I could easily have slept another hour or two but instead we got up and went down the street for breakfast. Once breakfast was over we went back to our motel room and got dressed for the weather, put our panniers on our bikes and hit the road. We had two possible destinations in mind. The first was a county park campground in Sebewaing and the second was Bay City, and which destination we ended up at was pretty much completely contingent on the winds today. If the winds had continued out of the west as they have been for the last couple of days, we would have only made it to Sebewaing, but with the change in weather the wind had backed around to the north so while we had some interesting riding on the westbound bits with an absolutely roaring wind from our right, it did help us a bit on the southwestern and southbound bits. Being wet and gray and chilly we didn’t dawdle or stop much, and we didn’t take any photos. We just rode, ate, drank, and rode some more. We did at one point se a bird, which Jodi thinks is a pelican, take off from a wetland just feet from our bikes as we rode by.
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Wind in our face

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This is Jodi. It’s my first ever blog post: We left our camp site at Forester County Park at 8:00am and headed north, northwest The road Rte 25 this far is mostly flat with a very little traffic and a wide well kept shoulder. Flat can be deceiving , as we use the same muscles all day. Here is Allen’s breakfast at Port Hope about 24 miles into our ride. Allen just ate a candy bar at the Store. Our day started with gentle oblique headwinds out of the north. The last 12 or so miles we headed due west right into a strong wind as we made our Port Austin destination at 50 miles. We are staying at a motel tonight. We are hoping for a tailwind tomorrow as we head South to Bay City 68 miles. ?

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After coffee and a bit of breakfast at Bonnie’s house, Jodi and I did the bits of last-minute organizing that always seem to need to be done, strapped our panniers to the bikes, and set off. Bonnie asked me if I knew where I was going and I pointed east and said “I’m going east to the lake then I’m going to turn left and keep the lake on my right.” She made it a bit easier for me and told me which street to turn onto so we could get to the lake with a traffic light to cross the one major road between here and there. We stopped at a local park on the lake front to get our first up close view and to touch the water. A useless yet important gesture. Port Huron is a beautiful town and we really enjoyed cruising through the streets early on a Sunday morning. The yards all seem to be full of flowers. Soon enough we were out on M25, the state road that follows the shore. There was a good bit of traffic, including lots and lots of RVs moving up and down the lake, but we had a wide, clean shoulder to ourselves and the drivers here arevery polite. So different from Boston! After stops for breakfast and lunch, we arrived at the campground in the early afternoon and spent the rest of the day trying to relax. It was oppressively hot, and Jodi wasn’t feeling her best. Maybe a bit dehydrated. Maybe something she ate didn’t agree. But eventually she was comfortably asleep.

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A Long Drive


Jodi and I left Quincy about a quarter past 5 on Saturday morning, and arrived in Port Huron at about 7:45 pm. In between we drove about 700 miles, stopped for a couple of meals, crossed the international border twice, and had the car repaired. It sounds like quite a day, yet it was really a very pleasant drive and we mostly enjoyed it. Our Warmshowers host Bonnie welcomed us into her home and provided us with our own little suite for the night. We were bone weary tired so after chatting for a few minutes we excused ourselves and crashed for the night.

Saturday Warm-Up Ride

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Here’s a quick Saturday morning ride Jodi and I did this morning. We rode to the Dedham Diner, had breakfast, then rode home. Food is a great motivator!

We’ve got a week before we leave on this year’s tour. That’s plenty of time to get in shape, right? default icon 20160618.gpx

On The Road Again

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Jodi and I haven’t been on a bike tour since 2012, for a variety of reasons. But we’re going to remedy that this summer. Come June 25 we will be in the car, bikes on the roof, headed to Port Huron, Michigan. We will be leaving our car parked in the yard of a kind Warmshowers host there, and on Sunday we will head out on our bikes to circumnavigate Lake Huron. This will be the third of the 5 Great Lakes we’ve cycled around, after Lake Ontario and Lake Erie. The total distance looks to be a bit shy of 1,000 miles so we expect the trip to take about 3 weeks. In the past I’ve tried to coax Jodi into adding her perspective to the blog but it was always to no avail. This year she says she is going to try her hand at blogging, so you can look forward to a bit of her writing to relieve the sameness of my missives.

Look Before Opening!

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Look Before Opening!, Roland Davies, 1950s, DC (30 x 20″), The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

Disappearing Diners


From the time I first started bicycle touring back in the mid-90s, my modus operandi has always been to eat a small breakfast in camp when I wake up, then ride 10 or 15 miles until I come to a town and stop at the local diner for a big breakfast. Breakfast is about the cheapest meal you can buy on the road, and it’s a great way to get to talk to the locals.

But over the last few years I’ve noticed that fewer and fewer of these diners exist anymore. On this years trip we several times rode all day looking unsuccessfully for a place to eat. On the second day of our trip we rode clear across southern New Hampshire looking for breakfast. We actually passed two diners, both of which were out of business. We didn’t find a place to eat until lunch time, 47 miles later. We had similar experiences on several days of the trip.

My first thought was that diners have been replaced by McDonalds, but these little towns don’t have a McDonalds, or anything else apparently. My current theory, based on absolutely nothing but conjecture, is that most people who live in small towns don’t really live in small towns anymore. They sleep there, but every day they get up and drive to a larger town for work, and stop at the fast food place in that larger town on the way to work.

But whatever the reason for their disappearance is, the lack of diners has complicated the logistics of bike touring, and has also removed one of the most pleasurable elements of it.