Saturday, August 23, 2014

The rest of vacation

Because our last adventure with Jill's cousins went so well, we decided to bring even more family along for this year's Northern Michigan vacation.  Beth arranged a gigantic vrbo cabin near the top of the Boyne Mountain ski resort (the hill fascinated me.  It's a giant sand dune.  As in, you cannot find a rock bigger than your hand anywhere on the hill.  Sand, sand, and more sand.).  We filled all 8 rooms of the place, including the master bedroom with the taxidermed wolf.

By the way, I'm still struggling to take enough pictures.  Below is a shot of the flower girls from Calvin and Kim's wedding in July.  We had a great time, and the kids just loved being flower girls.

 There is a small lake at the bottom of the hill with a nice beach.  The lake floor is very flat near the beach, so all the kids could walk into it as far as they dared and splash around.  We spent a lot less time here than I thought we would because there were a couple of rather chilly days during the week.  On perhaps the nicest day, we visited Petoskey State Park on Lake Michigan.  The water was frightfully cold.  I could only take short, force breaths for the first minute and a half after wading in.  Eventually, I felt fine enough to stay in the water for about 15 minutes.  Then back to the towel.  We looked for Petoskey stones in the sand, but didnt' find any stellar examples.
 We thank Uncle David for encouraging Janny to eat some food at nearly every meal.  Perhaps as a result of this, her hair is growing faster now.  She might have even gained an ounce or two.  Playing with Ricky and Enoch wore the kids out every day.  Below, Beth was supposed to rear the whole Wizard of Oz story to Janny.  Janny stayed awake for the first 70 pages.

Thanks to the presence of grandparents and other givers, our generation got to have some fun adventures without the kids on the vacation.  On several mornings, coach Brent led us through some tennis drills, and then we played a set or so.  Jill and I really enjoyed this, so the tennis rackets might get dusted off a few times before winter sets in.  

The biking around Boyne was just great.  The Boyne ski hill is about 500 feet tall, and the road to our cabin wound around and up and down it.  I also rode back from Harbor Spings to our cabin along some nice dirt roads.  And I rode a good bit more than I could handle of the single track mtb trails at the resort.  There are lots of jarring roots and some very steep short climbs that weren't suitable for either my bike or skills.

Finally, the TCBC softball came to an abrupt end.  Because of numerous rainouts early in the season, the semifinal game happened while I was in Michigan (as was Matt, our left fielder).  Apparently, the team staged a comeback from an 8-0 deficit, only to lose at the end.  I was a bit sad to miss the game, but had too much fun on vacation to regret it.  We'll try again next year, and plan the vacation during the regular season.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What we (okay, I) did for summer vacation, part 1

We're back from the big family summer vacation.

Because of a minor scheduling conflict, my vacation started a day earlier than the rest of the family's. Hmmm, what to do on a day off without any obligations? If you said ride my bike a long distance, you're right.

 I chose to do my big ride of the year toward the confluence of the Vermillion and Wabash Rivers, or Cayuga, Indiana. I rode towards Homer Lake and veered south towards Fairmount and Georgetown.

After leaving home around 7:15, I got to Georgetown at 10am with two choices for a second breakfast: McDownalds or Casey's. I chose McD. I meant to get a sausage and egg biscuit, but the meal # I actually ordered was a truly disgusting "steak mushroom muffin". As a hungry person, I ate it anyway and headed out.

 The bluff just west of the Vermillion River was the best riding of the day. The gravel road went up and down steep (for this region) hills with a view of the valley about 100 or so feet below. I crossed the Vermillion on the covered bridge (blocked to car traffic). The only way I knew to get across the Wabash River was to ride the shoulder of Highway 63 to recross the Vermillion and then take 234. Somehow 63 has a decent amount of traffic on Thursday mornings.

I followed the flat, sandy road along the east side of the Wabash up towards Perrysville. I didn't want to ride on Highway 32 out of Perrysville, so I took a gravel road detour and ended up back on it near Danville. At this point I didn't know the roads, so I stayed on it all the way to downtown Danville. I had studied maps for several days prior to the trip but decided to not print any out (and I don't use a gps). My general approach was to head in the right direction (my compass came in handy a few times on the way back) toward the towns that I had memorized while avoiding the "major" highways. In every county outside of Champaign, this means riding on numerous gravel roads. They add to the adventure, but slow progress (despite my stupendous Boulder Bicycle with 35 mm Panaracer Pasela tires).

 I got stuck behind a long train on the main road in downtown Danville (what other big towns have a rail line that blocks the main street?????), which gave me time to realize that it was lunch time. I settled on Penn Station east coast subs!, which I had never frequented. My 8" philly cheese was fine, but not good enough for a return visit.

 After lunch I headed towards Kickapoo state park, initially thinking I would ride parallel to i-74 back home. But that road is straight and flat, so I turned south towards the hilly, gravel roads south of Danville.

 While on the way, I found the path to the Great Vermillion Rail Bridge. I hesitated before deciding to follow the path since I was still about 30 miles from home, but when adventure calls, sometimes you have to answer. Because of the remaining rocks of the rail bed, no plants grow in the middle but branches from trees and bushes on either side of the bed form a hobbit tunnel about 3 feet tall. I pushed my bike about 200 yards through the branch tunnel before deciding to stash it and continue on without it. Many cobwebs in the face later, I walked out onto the Bridge. It was glorious, just like the pictures I had seen (except that now I could see the drop to the ground far below. Since I hate to make Jill angry (she told me to never walk on it, which I took to mean that I shouldn't walk all the way across it), I only walked out a few tens of feet before heading back to my bike and the open road.

 I ran out of water at Homer Lake, but decided to not detour the whole 1 mile out of the way to refill my bottles in the park. This was a poor choice, and I struggled for the last 5 miles home and felt wiped out when I arrived.

 I rode somewhere around 130 miles in around 9 total hours. I'm pretty happy with that pace. If I bring more food with me (and water.  I brought only 2 bottles, next time I'll take 3) and avoid exciting detours like rail-less bridge walking, I can reduce the time a bit.

I felt fine until the end of the ride. I should have eaten a bit more food and refilled my water bottles. In my mind, I've been thinking that 40 years old is the age when I should switch from racing short distances to endurance riding. I'm on schedule.

I didn't bring a camera.  Which is a bit sad for the blog, but now you can use your imagination (or click the link to see photos of the Bridge).