Biking in the Mid-West -Fall 2011
September 6 -28, 2011
We began our fifth biking/sightseeing sojourn on Tuesday, September 6th after much indecision regarding the weather. Tropical storm, Lee was making its way slowly north. We were watching the weather maps and listening to forecasts. By ten o'clock, we had finished packing, so I decided if we headed west far enough maybe the rain will have passed by the time we reached our first destination or shortly afterward. Our first trail destination was north of Nashville near Clarksville, Tennessee on the Cumberland River. Tennessee has only a few rail trails and all of them are short. The one I chose was the Cumberland River Bicentennial Trail, beginning at Lock A near Cheatham Lake and going south to Ashland City, a bedroom community of Nashville.
From Abingdon to Knoxville there was no rain. The sun even came out, but from Knoxville through Nashville it was raining. The good thing is that just as we pulled into our campsite, it stopped completely. We put the canopy over the pod and out over the galley and eating area -just in case. The “pod” for those who don't know, is the camping rig I built on the design of the teardrop campers of the 40's and 50's. It has a sleeping compartment and a galley (cooking area) in the outside rear. The sleeping quarters is 75” long by 58” wide by 45” high. Total length is eleven feet.
Rhonda made a fine supper of meatball stroganoff with noodles, along with garden peas and a small portion of leftovers from the fridge. We strolled around the Corp of Engineers campground, checked out the start of the trail and read by the galley light until it was time to retire to the inside.
Wednesday morning was overcast and I was out on the trail after a good breakfast. The first two miles was unpaved, but in good condition. The rest was paved and ran along the Cumberland river for six and a half miles to a park outside of Ashland City. Rhonda met me there and we were off to Mammoth Cave Railroad Bike and Hike Trail. Again, Kentucky only has a few bike trails. The one at Mammoth Cave is nine miles long and was originally used to transport tourist to the park visitor center from Park City. Some of the original rail bed was taken over by the park entrance road, so the trail is only partially a rail trail thus there are more sharp curves and some little hills. We visited an information center in Park City and picnicked out of the van. After lunch, we headed back up I-65 toward Paduka, Kentucky to the next rail trail town of Vienna, Illinios. As we drew near, Rhonda took on her task as campground locator and GPS operator.
The campground we found in the Woodall's Directory was in the Shawnee National Forest located about twelve miles east of town. It was called Glendale Lake and we used the Federal Golden Age Passport to get a non-electric site for the half price rate of six dollars. There was only one other site occupied and not in sight of ours. We sat outside after supper until the propane lantern began to attract too many bugs.
The next morning were off to the western end of the Tunnel Hill Trail which was at the Barkhausen Wetlands Center, in Cypress. The southern Illinois trail is a gem of a route, with 23 trestle bridges (including one that is 450 feet long), several ghost towns, a beautiful park, a comfortable trail head in Vienna Station and, of course, its namesake a tunnel—an impressive corridor that once measured 800-feet-long until a collapse in 1929 shortened it by some 300 feet. The first railroad tracks laid on this corridor caused such a stir that in 1870, local farmers, anticipating shipment-ready crops, planted orchards even before the line's tunnel was complete. In 1991 the original corridor of 47.5 miles was donated to the state, and just 10 years later, it was opened to the public as a multi-use trail. The trail was hard packed crushed limestone in great condition. I met up with Rhonda in Vienna to pick up some lunch. Nine miles beyond Vienna, the trail went through the short tunnel, thus the name of the trail. At Stonefort, I had ridden thirty-three miles and was ready to end the days ride.
The Stonefort General Store and Cafe had a sign out front that said they had bologna salad sandwiches. We were intrigued to see what it was and how it would taste. It was made like ham salad, but with bologna. We bought one for $2.49 and sort of split it, being that Rhonda wasn't that big a fan of bologna (except fried for breakfast), she ate only a couple of bites.
We were back at Glendale Lake well before supper, so we read and took a walk along the lake. The night before, Rhonda had trouble getting a good spray from the shower head, so I took my bag of basic tools over to the bathhouse and dismantled the head and cleaned out some particles of trash. It then work fine.
We drove to Harrisburg the next morning to complete the 55.6 mile trail by riding back to Stonefort. Rhonda stopped to pick up some chain lube before meeting me. After the ride and loading the bike, we set the GPS for Joliet, Illinois southwest of Chicago and arrived just before five o'clock. We first thought about stopping at a campground, but it was still almost an hours drive to the trail starting point I wanted to ride next. We hit the area right at rush hour on Friday afternoon and it definitely was busy. After checking into a America's Best Value about five or six blocks from the mid point of the trail in an area near Wheaton in Glen Elyn neighborhood, we drove around to familiarize ourselves with the area for the next day's ride. We found an oriental restaurant near the motel and ate a delicious and plentiful supper.
The Illinois Prairie Path (IPP) is one of the country's first rail-trail conversions. It consists of five connected trail segments with three main branches that converge at Volunteer Park in Wheaton. The 61-mile trail follows the historic path of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin electric railroad. Beginning in 1902, the railroad provided passenger service from western suburbs into downtown Chicago. With the railroad in decline, many routes were transferred to bus service. The completion of the Eisenhower Expressway in 1955 spelled the end for this once mighty railroad: by 1959, passenger and freight service on the line were finished. A letter to the editor by noted naturalist May Apartheid Watts in the Chicago Tribune in September 1963 argued for the novel idea of converting the abandoned corridor into a "footpath." That letter sparked the efforts of a determined group of Chicagoans and ultimately gave rise to the unprecedented conversion of railroad to public trail.
Saturday, I rode the trail from Maywood to Wheaton and then from Aurora to Wheaton with Rhonda doing the shuttling (boy do we depend on that little GPS). Along the way I came across a group conducting a soap box derby. Since I had never seen one in person, I stopped and watched a number of the heats before proceeding on. When I arrived back in Wheaton Rhonda had checked out the farmer's market, Trader Joes, a bookstore and saw a Texas Barbecue place. I said that sounded good and we headed that way. The smell, as we entered the door, was so wonderful. I told the manager that they needed to be piping it out onto the street. It definitely would be a draw. We had pulled pork with sauce on the side along with pickles and a very small corn bread muffin.
I rested in the van after lunch in a shady spot before riding a five mile segment tied the next day's ride together. I had ridden thirty-one miles before lunch and the rest felt good. Rhonda dropped me at the motel after I completed the short connector. I ran a tub of hot water and soaked mostly my legs and posterior. We had leftovers from the evening before along with some canned fruit. Near the motel was an ice cream shop called Oberweis Dairy. We tried their apple strudel ice cream and it was absolutely scrumptious.
Sunday morning I ate a big breakfast at McDonald's and we drove to Geneva. We found the trail easily along the Fox River and I made the ride to Elgin; meeting Rhonda biking toward me five miles from the end. Before meeting her, I came by a fire station in the town of West Chicago where one of the firemen was playing (practicing for a parade) Amazing Grace on the bagpipes. From there we head to New Glarus, Wisconsin to camp and start the Sugar River trail the next day.
New Glarus was an interesting little town founded by Swiss settlers in 1845. The town had three or four festivals a year celebrating their heritage. When we arrived in town, one of the festivals was underway. We walked around the little village and visited a number of the shops. Most of the buildings and businesses were Swiss or Bavarian style. Several specialized in breads, cheeses, and sausages. The New Glarus Woods State park was right outside of town. It was a bare bones campground. There were no showers. The guide book said “nearby” but that was in town at a fitness center that closed at noon on Sunday. We were relegated to taking a bird bath from a small plastic bucket with water heated on our camp stove.
The next morning after breakfast I started the twenty-three mile trail in town and Rhonda met me in Bodhead. From there we drove to the Glacial Drumlin trail head east of Madison in Cottage Grove after stopping at an Arby's for lunch. The trail was 52.3 miles long, so I wanted to get some of that reduced for the next day, so I rode 15 miles to Lake City. As the trail neared the pickup point, outside of town it bordered a large lake with very nice vacation cottages all the shore. I finished the day with 38 miles. It is common on a rail-trail to be reminded of railroading history; it is quite another experience to be taken back thousands of years and witness the effects of ancient ice flows on the landscape. This is the case with the 52-mile Glacial Drumlin State Trail, particularly at its western end. As gigantic sheets of ice bore down on this area, they created wetlands, ponds and rivers, as well as hundreds of low, cigar-shaped hills called drumlins. This landscape was a challenge for the railroad builders, since bridges had to be built over the extensive wetlands, but many of the wood pilings sank in the deep muck and created often dangerous passage for trains.
These wood-planked bridges now provide great viewpoints for the wetlands, where a host of wildlife thrives. You may spot large sandhill cranes, graceful birds with bright red caps on their heads, or hear spring peepers and a chorus of frogs announcing their presence. We had a little trouble finding the Bark River campground listed in Woodall's camping guide, but eventually arrived and setup. It was a private facility with mostly permanent residents. It wasn't great, but they had an internet connection and fair shower facilities.
The next morning I drove to the town of Waukesha just west of Milwaukee and rode the 38 miles back to Lake City. The trail was not very interesting except for the small towns. Like the Sugar River trail, it was mostly tree lined with lots of corn fields or bog areas on the sides. Rhonda had met me in the little town of Sullivan. When we finished lunch, I headed back out on the trail and Rhonda decided to check out a large outlet mall we had seen on the interstate. She planned to call in an hour to see how I was holding out. The long day before, the miles around Wheaton and the miles I was putting in on this trail was showing up with some soreness in my posterior. Rhonda called as I was doing a mile and a half road ride around a section that was still on private property. With only 6.3 miles remaining, I advised her that I could make it in thirty to forty minutes.
The next trail on the list was the Wild Goose Trail which ran from Clymen south of Juneau to Fond de Lac. We found a nice private campground named the Playful Goose in Horicon, a little ways up from Juneau. There were a lot of campsites available. We picked one down along the bank of the Rock River. After setting up, we drove around town to see what was there. One thing stood out, the big John Deere plant in town was obviously the main employer. We identified the location of the laundry mat and several other locations we wanted to investigate the next day. I had decided that my back side needed a days rest, so we were going to do laundry and look around some more.
Horicon is locate on the southern tip of the Horicon Marsh. Horicon Marsh is a marsh located in northern Dodge and southern Fond du Lac counties of Wisconsin. It is the site of both a federal and state wildlife refuse. The extinct glacial lake is the largest freshwater cattail marsh in the United States. When Europeans first arrived in the area, they named the marsh "The Great Marsh of the Winnebagos". The first permanent modern settlement along the marsh was the town of Horicon. In 1846, a dam was built to power the town's first sawmill. The dam held the water in the marsh, causing the water level to rise by nine feet. The "marsh" was called Lake Horicon, and was, at the time, called the largest man-made lake in the world. In 1869, the dam was torn down by order of the State Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of landowners whose land had been flooded. The area became a marsh once more. In 1883, two sportsmen's clubs reported huge flocks of geese in the marsh, and stated that 500,000 ducks hatched annually, and 30,000 muskrats and mink were trapped in the southern half of the marsh. Both birds and hunters flocked to the area, and the local duck population was devastated. From 1910 to 1914, an attempt was made to drain the marsh and convert it into farmland; these attempts failed, and afterwards the land was widely considered to be useless. In 1927, the Wisconsin State Legislature, after pressure from conservationists beginning in 1921, passed the Horicon Marsh Wildlife Refuge Bill, providing for the construction of a dam to raise the water to normal levels and for the acquisition of the land by the government. During the 1940s, the US Fish and Wildlife Service bought the northern portions of the marsh.
The next morning after breakfast we headed to the laundry mat which had an internet connection (wifi). The facility was one of the neatest and cleanest we've ever been in. The lady proprietor was very nice and told us she and her husband had recently bought it and were making improvements. Our next stop was the Lutheran Thrift shop. It was the largest and most organized of any thrift store we've ever been in (and we've been in a few coast to coast). I found several very good music CDs and Rhonda got some bowls for the pod. There was a small meat market back where the road turned toward the campground. They had a great selection and great prices. We bought several polish sausages and two stuffed pork chops.
That afternoon, I decided to ride about ten miles of the trail so I could reduce the miles for the next day. Rhonda dropped me off north of town Horicon and I rode through Juneau to the southern end of the trail near Clymen. I initially planned to meet Rhonda in Juneau, but when I arrived where Rhonda was parked she was not at the van. I figured she had gone to one of the stores. I found something to write a note to tell here I was going to ride on four or five miles to the end at Clyman. As it turned out, Rhonda got back in the van on the passenger side and did not see the note on the drivers side door. I waited at the trail end for sometime and finally got her on the phone. She had a little trouble finding me and when we find found each other, she was quite irritated maybe even real mad. I told I was sorry and I had left a note. I should have waited and discussed it in person, but I figured that we really weren't on any tight schedule so what was the issue. We had to decided if we were going to head home because of the incident or continue on with our planned trip. But I was wrong and we got over it in a day or two.
There was frost on the pod and grass when we got up, so we decided to eat breakfast at a cafe in town. The plates of food they brought out were huge. We got a take out box for the hash browns and four link sausages. The name of the restaurant was Crabbies. Rhonda dropped me off where I had started the day before going south. Now I headed north for 23 miles to Fond de Lac. It was not a highly developed trail and even rough in a few spots, but for the most part a decent trail. At one point there was a half mile detour that I initially missed because it was not marked for bikes. We split a pizza at a convenience mart/gas station in Fond de Lac and rode over to see the lighthouse on the southern of Lake Winnebago.
Later, we headed north after finding a listing for the High Cliffs State Park on the east side of the lake. It had very nice wooded sites and was not crowded at all. We had a nice campfire from wood I collected from downed limbs from a storm two weeks earlier. Another camper loaned me his ax to split the wood and I found enough dry twigs to get the unseasoned wood going. While were eating, a raccoon came up near the table and tried to abscond with some we had left unattended. From the cliffs along the edge of the campground, we could see the lights of Appleton along the north shore of the lake.
I was dropped off the next morning at the southern end of the 26 mile Fox River Trail and Rhonda headed to the other end in Green Bay. It was a much better built and maintained trail than the Wild Goose. Twenty miles was crushed stone and six miles was paved. Rhonda met me in De Pere and we rode back to where she had parked. From De Pere into Green Bay, there were some very impressive homes on the right and the river on the left. Many of the large and elegant homes had beautiful landscaping all the way down to the trail and some carried the landscaping from the trail to the river. Others had tall fencing preventing any view of their backyards.
In Green Bay we, asked a trail user where their might be a good place to eat close by and they suggested the restaurant at the Clarion Hotel. They said that on Fridays they had a good seafood buffet at a reasonable price. We headed down the waterfront bikeway to the rear patio area of the hotel's restaurant entrance. The lunch buffet was good, not great, and the price was very reasonable. It was a nice change from sandwiches and beanie weenies out of the van. We rode around the immediate area of the hotel after lunch, before returning to the van. Rhonda had seen an ad for Cooks Corner, the nation's largest kitchen store, so we headed over to see if it measured up to the billing. It was a very nice store but fell a little short of what was anticipated. The only thing I remember buying was some sample bags of specialty Amish popcorn. Our last stop before leaving town was a quick visit to Lambeau Field the home of the Green Bay packers since 1957.
There were no more trails on the schedule for the next couple of days. We drove north on US 41 along the western shore of Lake Michigan and stopped at John W. Wells State Park. It was an extremely neat and clean park right on the shore of the lake. It was partly cloudy with a good breeze blowing off the lake, but had selected a nice protected site. Saturday morning we set our sights on a town on the map that was on Lake Superior. We arrived in Munising after lunch and immediately drove down to the harbor area. We found that there was tour company running boat tours on the lake to the Picture Rocks National Lake Shore. I went down to the pier to ask how much was the tour and went back to confer with Rhonda. I had seen the Picture Rocks on the cover of the Michigan tourism magazine and felt it would be a good tour despite the pricey ticket cost. While making the boat assignments, they asked if we wanted the boat with the bluegrass band and of course, we said yes. It was a great boat tour that lasted three hours. The water in Lake Superior was a beautiful blueish green much like that of the Caribbean. The rocks and cliffs along the shore were unusual and very beautiful, especially as it got later in the afternoon and the sun's light emphasized the colors and the music was good also. In one area, we watched a number of kayakers paddling around the formation and under the arches along the shore.
Our destination for Sunday was the Mackinaw Straits, Mackinaw City, and Petoskey State Park, and the Little Traverse Wheelway. We checked our map and camping directory and found a campground in the Hiawatha National Forest at Caudwell Lake. There was a sign directing us to another one, but when we got there we found it had been closed. It is very aggravating when a forest service facility is closed and they don't bother to cover or take down the sign or put up up a closed sign. It caused us to drive ten to twelve miles out of our way. The Caudwell Lake facility was very nice and like most forest service campgrounds, there were no hook ups or showers. There was nice restrooms and a central water source. Sunday morning we stopped at a small restaurant before reaching the bridge over the straits and bought a couple of pasties (meat pies), a specialty of many of the Great Lake states.
A pasty (sometimes known in the United States as a pastie or British pasty)is a baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall, the westernmost county in England. It is made by placing uncooked filling typically of meat and vegetables, on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular food item. In some areas of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, pasties are a significant tourist attraction, including an annual Pasty Fest in Calumet, Michigan in late June. Pasties in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan have a particularly unusual history, as a small influx of Finnish immigrants followed the Cornish miners in 1864. These Finns (and many other ethnic groups) adopted the pasty for use in the Copper Country copper mines. About 30 years later, a much larger flood of Finnish immigrants found their countrymen baking pasties. The pasty has become strongly associated with Finnish culture in this area, and in the culturally similar Iron Range in northern Minnesota.
Up the road a short distance we stopped at a McDonald's to access their wifi to check emails. A mini van pulled in and parked while we were there and it had a rack on the back containing a black bear that was gutted and packed with bags of ice. It no doubt created interest from those going into McDonald's, especially the children.
We crossed the Macinac Bridge and stopped at the historic fort built by the French at the site of the Colonial Michilimachinac Park. The bridge is the longest suspension bridge (between achorages) in North America. It carries Interstate 75 from St. Ignace to Machanaw City and connects lower Michigan to the UP. There was a toll of $5.25 for the five mile bridge.
We headed on down to Petoskey State Park to camp and ride the Little Traverse Wheelway. We got a site and rode the bike up to Harbor Springs from the park. Along the way we spotted a wooden box just off the trail that looked like an animal cage with a sign that said you could view some rare red bats. When we looked in we saw two red bats (of the baseball type) – gotcha. On the return trip, I found some apples under a tree along the trail and I collected a few and put them in my handle bar bag on the bike. We parked the bikes at the site when we returned and took a walk down to the beach. I discovered that the state stone is the Petoskey stone.
It is a rock and fossil, often pebble shaped, that is composed of a fossilzed rugose coral. They are often found in the shoreline rocks of Lake Michigan. The name comes from the Ottawa Indian chief, Chief Pet-O-sega. The city of Petoskey, Michigan, is also named after him and for the center of the area where the stones are found. I found a small one, but not particularly a good example of some I had seen in a gift shop. I got interested in finding some more of better quality. When we returned to our site, we saw that a squirrel had chewed up my handle bar bag to get at the apples inside. The damage almost made it unusable.
It started to rain during the night so it was good that we had put the nylon fly that provides a protection for most of the pod and out behind over the cooking area. It rained all morning and into the afternoon, a problem since the pod only provides for reclining unless one wants to sit outside under the fly. Most of the time that would be breezy, damp and chilly, so we decided to make a visit to downtown Petoskey to the library to use the internet for emails and Skype (phone throught the computer). The town was very tourist oriented with lots of unique shops, antiques and galleries. I only got in a short bike ride.
Tuesday morning, I headed out to finish the LTW. Rhonda dropped me off down by the harbor where I had ridden to the day before. The trail started off on a wooden boardwalk, but soon turned to asphalt. I rode by Bay Harbor with the trail sandwiched between Lake Michigan Shoreline and US 31 on the way to Charlevoix for a total of 26.7 miles. We left Charlevoix, traveling down US 31 to Traverse City to ride the Leelanau Trail. Before arriving in town, we stopped at a small lake side park and had lunch. Later, as we rode along the street next to Grand Tranverse Bay, Rhonda pointed out a guy being pulled on a wheeled sled by a couple of huskies. We guessed that he might be training for dog sledding in the winter. We drove up to Sutton's Bay, twenty miles north up the west side of the bay and I biked the fifteen miles back to Traverse City. Along the way I passed a huge apple orchard where workers were harvesting the fruit in large wooden containers.
Afterward, we were off to a state park south of Gaylord to camp and visit a couple we had worked and recreated with in St. John, VI. (In route, we passed a tree that had been drapped with dozen of atheltic shoes, a sign that said it was the site of the world's largest cherry pie, and a guy riding a bike with a cat perched on his head.) We picked out a site near the restroom/bathhouse at the almost empty Oswego Lake State Park. It was a relatively nice park, but was showing its age. Some of the sites showed washing evidence of the rain we had experienced. We called our friend Jim Herman and made an appointment to meet the next morning. It rained overnight and we were up early to have something light to eat before meeting Jim and following him out to his house. We had some eggs and fruit with Jim and Barbara at their home in a nice, remote subdivision on a small lake near the town of Waters.
When we worked with them in the Virgin Islands, we discovered that Jim's grandmother lived on a farm in eastern North Carolina and he often visited them in the summer. They both had retired from teaching school in Novi, a town 30 miles northwest of Detroit and still had a home there. Their daughter and her husband lived and has a business in Traverse City. We went with them to Gaylord to a farmer's market, browsed around a few shops, including a very nice chocolate shop and had lunch at a nice place they frequented downtown. We reminised about the good times we had in the tropics and talked about how our trip was going. It had been raining while we were at the farmer's market and stopped while we were having lunch.
After saying our goodbyes back at their house, we headed south to Claire, where the Pere Marquette Rail trail was located. We investigated the little town, the trail, and located the county park for camping. There were only a few folks camping in the spacious campground. There wasn't any staff around to register or pay. There was a number to call. We called and told them we would be around each evening if someone wanted to come by to collect. I left a note on the pod before we left to ride a section of the trail. At the trail head in town, I rode about ten miles to the town of Coleman, where Rhonda met me and we returned to the Herrick County park.
The next morning, we drove to Midland and found the trail head in downtown Midland at the Tridge, a unique three-way bridge located at the confluence of the Tittabawassee and Chippewa rivers. The Chippewa Trail extends west from the Tridge, traveling 4 miles to the Chippewa Nature Center. There are cultural attractions to be had from the very start. Just off the trail in Midland is the Dow Historical Museum, where you can find information and displays concerning the pioneering chemical experiments of Herbert H. Dow. Another interesting cultural attraction, located just off the trail, is the Bradley House. This restored 1874 home offers visitors a glimpse into the everyday life of an early Midland family.
While I was riding the twenty miles back to Coleman, Rhonda had the oil changed in the car and then when to the laundrymat in Coleman. We had lunch there and then I drove west of Clare to the community of Lake and rode back to just west of town. The trail organization had not gotten the right-a-way or had a good route through town, so there was a two mile gap. We called the number of the Herrick County Recreation Area again the next morning as we were leaving and gave them our credit card information since we had not seen anyone come around to collect. We stopped in Alma and found the Fred Meijer Heartland trail head on the edge of the campus of Alma College. We designated Stanton as a meeting place for lunch and I headed off down the trail. The trail went through a number of small towns, farm land, and several natural areas and game lands, making for a very pleasant ride.
Rhonda and I met at the McDonald's in Stanton which is about thirty-three miles from Alma. We had some dollar menu items and I was on my way to the end of the trail in Greenville. Shortly after I left, I made a quick stop in a small park to use the restroom. About two miles down the trail I checked my bike shirt pouch and realized I did not have my phone. I did not want to add four miles to the ride and I figured someone would have probably pick it up by the time I got back, so I continued on. Outside of Greenville, where the trail turned into a road ride into town, I stopped a man with a highway paving crew and asked if I could use his cell phone to call my wife to see where we could meet. He gladly abliged. Rhonda was waiting at a McDonald's, but we weren't sure where that was in relationship to the end of the trail. There were two trails in town with simular names. I continued through town to where the trail ended near a McDonald's but Rhonda wasn't there and they had not remembered seeing the van and a little camper in the parking lot. I asked one of the employees if there was another McDonald's and they tried to give directions, but I wasn't comprehending. A high school kid on a bike volunteered to lead me over there (about three miles). When I got to that McDonald's, there was no Rhonda. I used their phone and call her to tell her where I was and she set the GPS and arrived a little later. She said she asked someone at the first McDonald's and he gave her the location of another Fred Meijer trail (the wrong one).
She also said she got a phone call before I called and when it rang she thought it was me. When she answered, it was a lady in Stanton at the McDonald's who found my phone in the park. Her and her husband said they would wait for us to come pick it up. From the time she called and the time it would take for us to get back there it would be over an hour. I told her she could leave it with the manger, she said they would wait. We we arrived, they were waiting and would not take a reward.
While in route to Stanton, we had checked in the area and found Ionia State Park. We arrived at the park, we found out there were no camping spots left. It was Friday night and the likelihood of more campers are usually possible. We checked our Woodall's book and found a private resort RV park called Alice springs in Ionia. The office was closed there was again, no way to regiser and pay. The facility appeared to be relatively new. There was not much there except grass and asphalt camping pads, only a few small trees and shrubs. The next morning some staff came in and we were able to pay.
The next trail on the list was the White Pine State Trail that ran from just north of Gran Rapids to Cadillac for 93 miles. The fog was giving way to partly cloudly as we made our way around to Compton Park where the trail started. It was my goal was to ride at least half of it. It was the longest rail trai in the state. It was Saturday and the trail was very busy. When I got to Rockford, just eight miles along, there was street event going on. It was in an attractive, upscale area where the trail went through. I tried to call Rhonda to tell her that she might want to check it out, but she did not have her phone on. We met up for lunch in Howard City at a playground picnic shelter.
After I left I met a guy and his wife who were riding north to meet up with his father who was riding south from Cadillac. He had taken on the goal to ride 80 miles on his eighth birthday. I was still with them when they met him around mile sixty. The trail from Howard City to Morley was in much poorer condition with spotty grass and sandy tracks, making riding less efficient. Rhonda was waiting for me at Morley to check my progress. I was getting tired and my seat was a little sore, but I wanted to get to the fifty mile point in Big rapids which was about fifteen miles away. It was nice to see the paved surface before reaching Big Rapids. Rhonda was waiting at the old train depot on Maple Street. I took some pictures, loaded the bike and we were on our way to our evenings stop at Ozbow County Park.The park park was on a lake with a number of long term campers. When we set up it looked like rain so we put up the fly over the pod and sure enough a shower appeared. We had a good supper under the tarp and a nice hot showers even though they were far from modern facilities.
There was another shower after breakfast as we headed west to the town of Hart where the Hart–Montague Trail began. On the way to the trail, we passed some very large asparagus fields and saw a sign that said that Oceana county was the asparagus capital of the world. In Hart, it took some time to find where the trail started based on the trail guidebook. We finally found where it crossed W. Polk Rd right by Manken Foods. I removed the bike from the bike from the rack, rode back into town to where it officially began and returned to where we parked. I made sure I had my rain gear and headed down the trail as Rhonda headed to Montague. It wasn't long before it started to sprinkle. About halfway, it began to rain harder and it rained until I got to the parking lot in Montague. I got some dry clothes from the van, changed in the restroom, and we headed out to find a place for lunch.
We saw that Holland, Michigan was on the way to Van Buren State park where we planned to camp. We could see where Holland would be quite a tourist spot when the tulips are blooming. Founded by Dutch Calvinists in 1847, the city of Holland, Michigan, is an outpost of Dutch culture and tradition in the midst of the American Midwest, home to dikes, canals and even an authentic Dutch windmill. Proud of its heritage, the city purchased 100,000 tulip bulbs from the Netherlands back in 1927, and these colorful flowers still fill the city's gardens and parks with color annually, just in time for the famous Tulip Time Festival, attended by over half a million people every year. We took in a number shops with beautiful Dutch related items and even saw where they carve the wooden shoes.
From Holland, we headed on to the park and set up in a nice site. It still quite overcast, but dry enough for a hike down a park trail to the shore of Lake Michigan. It was completely undeveloped, but we could hear the hum of a power plant somewhere in the area. We talked with one of our neighbors and was telling them about my plan to ride the Monon Trail which started right in downtown Indianapolis and found out that the man had worked near downtown. He made a suggestion that I be alert to my surroundings for the first ten blocks or so as I rode the trail. We had a lot of fly flapping and pole rattling during the night and awoke to a rainy morning.
We arose early and left the campground by 7:15 and stopped at a McDonald's near Benton Harbor. We arrived at the trail in Indianapolis after noon and I started riding the Monon Trail by 12:20. The Monon was one of the hall of fame trails I wanted to check off my list. As the guy back at the campground said, the beginning of the trail did not look like the kind of neighborhood that one would want to linger. I even saw a police patrol officer on a bike and there were emergency call boxes rather frequently spaced along the trail. The further I rode north the better the neighborhoods looked. This was undeniably an urban trail as you can tell from this description from the trail's website.
The Monon Trail is a linear rail-trail that spans Marion County to Hamilton County. The trail "begins" at 10th Street in Indianapolis extending North through Marion County into Hamilton County. The trail passes by commercial and industrial areas then crosses the Fall Creek Trail just before the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Once you pass the fairgrounds you'll see the Indiana School for the Deaf to the North and East of the trail. This is the beginnings of the area that is taking on the name of "SoBro". Broad Ripple Proper picks up around 54th-57th Streets, and Broad Ripple Village between Kessler Blvd and the mighty White River. North of the river you pass Marott Park and Nature Preserve until you cross 75th Street where you'll see the Indiana Blind School to the West. This begins a slight increase in grade of the trail and the approach to the Nora area. There is a stoplight crossing at 86th Street, street crossings at 91st Street and 96th Street. 96th Street has a parking area, restrooms, and water fountain. The next two crossings are 106th and 111th Street. Just North of 111th Street is the Monon Center and Central Park of Carmel-Clay. At 116th Street there is a very convenient tunnel under the road then at Carmel Drive a bridge is in place that travels over the traffic way. The Carmel City Center/Arts & Design District is at 131st or Main Street, Clay Terrace can be accessed by 146th Street, and the trail continues into Westfield, Indiana near 161st Street
We headed out of town south and then across eastern Indiana to Brookville Lake State Park which we found on the map about ninety miles away. This was right on our way to the destination for the next day which was to Corwin, Ohio so I could finish the Little Miami Scenic Trail that I had ridden in the fall of the previous year. The trail ended in Terrace Park outside of Cincinnati. The campground was sparsely inhabited by campers. It appeared to be a very popular lake for fishing and water sports. There was not staff on duty and again no way to register or pay. We had the pick of sites. Some at the park told us that the state had tried to turn the park over to private consessionaires, but it failed. It looks like what they are doing now ain't working to good either. There was a note on the office door that said someone would be in at 10 am. If they thought that I would wait around for two hours, they are wrong. I wrote them a one page note to tell them how they are missing the mark and revenue by not having self-registration like a majority of parks do nationwide.
We were out early heading east into Ohio for the next and final trail on this trip. In 2010, I rode the northern portion of the Little Miami Scenic Trail from outside of Springfield to Corwin. Now I wanted to complete it to Terrace Park (a suburb) of Cincinnati, a distance of thirty two miles (the complete trail is 78 miles). Nearly all of the trail from here to the end follows close to the river. Before reaching the neat little town of Loveland, and after leaving the town of Morrow, I rode under the Jeremiah Morrow Bridge. The bridge, named after a former governor, is the highest bridge in Ohio—a twin deck, arch truss bridge looming 239 feet above the river. In Loveland, I took a break and ate some lunch items I had in my bike bag and took advantage of a bench and a restroom near the shops and cafes. North of Milford, the trail crossed the river on a 2500 ft. bridge and as I approach Terrace Park, I crossed another bridge over US 50. Not far down the trail was a good sized trail parking lot in Avoca where Rhonda was waiting.
From there we made our way through Cincinnati and across the river into Kentucky via I-71/75 and south to London, a two and a half hour drive. We were headed to the Levi Jackson state park, just four miles south of town. When we exited the interstate, I spotted a Golden Coral and immediately the words “pig out” came to mind. After a great meal and a short drive, we arrived at the park and secured a site for the night. After setting up, we had several other campers that were out on a stroll, stop and ask about the pod. The next day we made the final leg of about 240 miles, with about half of it off the interstate for a different and more scenic route home.