It has been a while since I've done a blog entry. That's because I'm in the middle of the most arduous leg of the journey - Minneapolis to Kingston, 1700km, in 12 days. I have had no time for anything but pedaling, sleeping, and an occasional meal. Tonight I reached Sault Ste Marie, the halfway point, and re-entered Canada. I'm gonna try to fill you in on all the details of the past few days:
I was supposed to be ready to leave Minneapolis early in the morning. Of course I am slow as shit, so I didn't get out of town until 6pm. It wasn't really my fault, I suppose. As I was trying to clean up at the gallery people kept bringing bikes in. I couldn't say no, so I got stuck there way longer than I hoped. I had a bowl of pho on my way out of town and made it as far as Somerset (just across the Wisconsin border) before setting up camp. I rode until about 11pm, mostly out of panic about losing time, which was my first night ride of the whole trip.
The day started off fine - I got up early (OK - 10am is early for some people) and had a decent ride. It soon got hot - really hot. By 1pm it was about 36 celcius and 60% humidity. I stripped down to just my shorts, gloves, helmet and shoes, and enjoyed the strong crosswind coming from the north as best I could. Early in the afternoon, around 2pm, I ran into Shawn and Matt at a rest stop. They are biking from Anacortes, Washington to Boston. We rode together as far as Bloomer where they planned to stay the night.
It was only 4pm when we got there and I couldn't afford to stop so early so I carried on without them as far as Cornell. All the while a hideous thunderstorm was right on my tail (though not nearly as bad as the ones I encountered on the prairies) so when I stopped I got a motel for the night and rode out the weather. I only made 80 miles (sorry for the antiquated American units) but the lightning and wind prohibited me from making any more progress.
Knowing I was way behind where I should be I determined to ride all the way to Antigo - 110 miles!!! Needless to say, this day was mostly a blur to me. I rode from 10am until about 11pm into a slight headwind. I didn't stop long anywhere, but can attest to the amazing beauty of Wisconsin State Highway 64. There were forests thick and tall, hills and twists and turns, and corn as high as an elephant's eye. Shawn and Matt caught up with me at one point while I was stopping for water, and although I wanted to ride with them I felt I couldn't afford to wait while they watered and ate. They were taking a different route after Antigo anyways, so that's the last I'll see of them. It would be nice to have a biking buddy or two, but impossible at this point due to my schedule.
I arrived in Antigo well after dark in the midst of some sort of weird Americana coincidence. There were stock car races which were audible from about 10 miles outside of town, a baseball tournament which ended in a huge fireworks show (never been a fan of fireworks - blowing stuff up just isn't my cup of tea), and a powwow attended by Indians from all over the midwest. I found a place to camp and set my alarm for early.
Again I had to have a massive day of riding. Marinette, on the Wisconsin/Michigan border was 78 miles away, and I wanted to get past that. At that point anything less than 85 miles a day was losing ground. I got up earlier than I ever have (8am) and rode all day again. Part way through the day I began to notice a serious tenderness and burning sensation all over my back and shoulders. Apparently, riding shirtless two days before (for the first time all summer) was a bad idea because I've got a major sunburn. By sunset my back is so itchy I can't help but scratch it, but so sore that when I do scratch I only replace itch with pain. Argh! I've NEVER in my life had a sunburn anything like this. But the ride was excellent - no wind to speak of and cooler temperatures than the previous days. I did my longest single, uninterrupted ride of the tour on this day - 71km from Mountain to Marinette nonstop. But my determination faltered after I reached Lake Michigan.
I followed Highway 35 north along the lakeshore and stopped several times to dip my feet in the water and take some pictures. It astonishes me how this lake persists. What keeps all the water from spilling out? It's just sand keeping it all in!
I camped within earshot of the lake - I was able to hear waves lapping the shore all night long. But I didn't sleep well, because a large mammal kept me awake most of the night. I thought it was a bear going for my food, as I heard something thrashing around where I had hung my Lucky Charms and Twizzlers. But when the sun came up in morning my stash was still there. Must have been another deer masquerading as a black bear.
The path north and east of Marinette hugs the shore of Lake Michigan. For most of this day I was distracted and tempted by sandy beaches and beautiful vistas. Aside from that, not much of note happened until I reached Gulliver, my camp site for the night. I got the low down from some locals about an abandoned resort near tiny Lake Gulliver. I was able to camp within 10 metres of the shore on a perfect little piece of grass. The spot was so ideal that I found it hard to sleep - the reflection of the full moon on the water was astonishing, to say the least. I set my alarm for 7am.
I got up at 9:30, tired and sore, with 107 miles to go to the border. I had a little splash around in the lake before I left and discovered these frighteningly large bird tracks in the sand.
Again, most of this day was a blur. I rode through two big sections of Hiawatha National Forest where I was sure a bear was gonna jump out of the bushes and take me down (incidentally, I've taken to sleeping with either my chain whip or my pedal wrench by my side, in the event of unwanted visitors of any species) but nothing of note happened. I made really good time - must've had an imperceptible tailwind with me the whole time. Got to the Sault by 7pm, found my way across the International Bridge and got hooked up at the hostel in town. Have to stay in the city tonight because I've got a bunch of errands to run in the morning.
That's halfway to Kingston, and, I am proud to say, 500 miles in the past five days!!!