Monday, November 16, 2015

2015: The un-ridden tour

So after wrapping up my ride from Missouri to Indiana, the next next step in my connect the dots campaign was a ride to Michigan.  Effectively, I only needed to ride from the Ft. Wayne area to my childhood home in Brooklyn to connect those miles, however, I wanted start the ride from our driveway in Carmel.   My 40th high school reunion was coming up in 2015, and that would be the perfect timing.  Throughout the fall and winter, that next tour was in the back of my mind.
1979 -with Mom at the farm near Brooklyn, MI.

I thought about gear changes, a different bike (something more gravel friendly, probably the Trek 920), a few changes in electronics, and a schedule that was not quite as aggressive (60 to 75 miles per day).  I would have the vacation time, a plan for the new bike and confidence it would all fall into place.

There would be a some variations on the route to consider.  One option was to go straight north (the Indiana USBR option), and along the way “touch” rides in Northern Indiana and southwest Michigan, plus enjoy an night’s camping near Lake Michigan.  Or there was the northeast route, following the Wabash to Ft. Wayne, then the across from Coldwater, riding near US 12, or maybe up the Indiana/Ohio border.

Whatever the route, I would end up home in Brooklyn.  From there my connected dots would go from my grandparents’ in Toledo (1975), to Lansing and DALMAC (`74, 75, 79, `08 & `09), and then from Detour Village (solo in `77 & `79) in the eastern UP, across the Soo into Canada (`79) and all the way to Green Bay, Wisconsin (Linda and I on the tandem, `83).  All told, I have over 20,000 “Michigan” miles, from the years before I left in 1980, and the biking trips since.
1983 - Leaving the farm, headed for the UP.

But one other important part of the trip, would be again ride up to the house and to see Mom. Before leaving home, my longest multi-day ride and many weekend had started from home.  I moved to Lansing in the fall 1978, and the following spring I had ridden home for a weekend, when this picture was taken, Mom and I, with my touring bike, in the front yard.

Mom had been the reliable enabler of all my early biking, starting with running me around to the few bike shops near home, where I purchased the limited gear I could afford.  She dropped me off at many of the first rides I attended before I could drive myself.  And most important of all, for signing off on me riding my first DALMAC adventure, even though I was little less responsible than I should have been in keeping touch while on the road.

This picture was just a few weeks before I met Linda, the summer that what would be the “peak” of my single bike touring.  That same summer I would ride a week-long trip in Michigan’s UP, a weekend trip with Linda, and another DALMAC. I was using my home-made front bags on a British made Karrimor rack, my Svea stove and cook kit, and my 1 & ½ man A-frame tent.  The only miracle fabric I wore was wool, and the chamois in cycling shorts was still leather.  My shoes for touring were canvas and rubber Beta Bikers, and I was still wearing tube socks. I had stopped packing jeans, but still rode with a rugby shirt.

I assume that Dad took the picture, and in looking back that is very special.  Dad had helped me get my first SLR camera in time for my `74 DALMAC. I used that same camera to shoot pictures for my high school yearbook (Dad had shot pictures for his high school yearbook with an Argus C3, which I used before my SLR). It was thanks to Dad, and others, that I usually shot slide film.  During the summer of 1979 I was shooting black and white for a number of projects, including photos for the early Michigan (Bicycle) League newsletter.   We lost Dad in 2012; he couldn’t take the picture, but I knew we could stage it, and I would make sure Mom had both the old and new pictures on her iPad.  She had thousands of picture of family and friends, and added new ones almost every day.

In any case, I went through winter thinking about the plan.  I contacted classmates about my high school reunion, learning the date was set in late August.  That was a tight schedule with with work, but with the late Labor Day, there was no conflict.  The last detail would be getting home by car, but that could wait until all the details were set.

But then some life got in the way.  In May, both Linda and my employment situation changed with little warning, and suddenly everything was up in the air.  We were on the emotional roller coaster of resumes, applications, interviews and rejection.  We both found peace in riding, but no firm plans could be made.  As days turned into weeks, and the the weeks into months, other plans and trips fell victim to the uncertainty.

And then in late July, the never expected call was the biggest blow of all.  A traffic accident took Mom from us too soon.  Thankfully my sister, her twin brother, and my sister’s daughter came away with minor physical injuries, but my entire family was shocked and saddened by news that came in such an unexpected way.  The one anchor for us all that just a few days before their 60th wedding anniversary, Mom and Dad were together again.

Another riding season now winds down, and the un-ridden tour falls into place as something delayed, but not lost.  A summer of tragedy, disappointments and change puts everything in perspective.  Across the years and miles, the memories will still connect, though not always along the path we had planned.

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