With the bridge behind us, we ride over a hill and drop down into St. Ignace. The small bay is on our right, with a row of waterfront businesses and hotels between the road and the water. We
|Life is good in camp.|
We find our regular breakfast spot, Bentley’s BML Cafe, a local landmark, and it appears little has changed in the 8 years since Steve, my son and I last ate here. (In fact, it probably hasn’t changed since before the bridge was built!) The dining room is long and narrow, with a service counter the length of one wall, with tables and seating for about twice what you think the room could hold. We are lucky to be seated right away in a booth, and place our order for second breakfast/first lunch.
|Positive Mental Outlook!|
I can’t say enough about the being able to ride with a friend that I can share so many laughs with after almost 40 years. And the experience of riding with my brother for an afternoon, and sharing M119 with him, will always make this one special.
I had wondered about touring without two of my regular companions, an Eclipse handlebar bag and a ready camera. I know it meant a lighter, faster bike, but I traded that for fewer pictures. While an iPhone has a pretty good camera, it is not a camera in my sense of the word. I have taken some good pictures with it, but even with the latest feature changes, it does not offer the same readiness. And when I pull a camera up to my face and use a viewfinder, I just take better pictures, most of the time.
It's nice to know I still enjoy sleeping in a tent. Maybe worse weather would have changed my thoughts on that, but I was always comfortable and rested in the morning. I hope I can look forward to many more nights of camping.
|Did I mention the food?|
It was also fun to tour with a GPS (the Wahoo Elemnt Bolt). I like having navigation and the extra data is fun too. I don’t feel I obsess to much on it, and looking back on the route, elevation and temperature data has been fun while writing this. And besides, Steve always had his mapbook out if I had any questions; (I had mine packed, I just never pulled it out).
I was very happy with my bike; no flats, no mechanicals, it was a joy to ride. The same for my riding clothing; everything worked and packed nicely. I have come a long way from the days of relying on a wool sweater and a garbage bag because nothing was available or worked. And no more suspenders, but I do prefer bib shorts.
We wrap-up a breakfast of shared stories and laughs and head back out to our bikes. We have a few miles of riding to a St. Ignace school campus where we rejoin our baggage. From there, the first leg or our journey home is back across the bridge to the Mackinac City. After a shower at the local high school, we help load our bags and bikes into one the rented sag cars, and a the driver is going to drop us off before he heads back to Lansing.
We are dropped off a mile west of the bridge at the Mackinac City high school, which is buzzing with DALMAC activity. Baggage for almost 500 riders is now scattered across a grassy lot near a picnic shelter behind the school. A couple of hundred bikes and riders are already checked in The now empty baggage trucks are lined up, and riders are walking the bikes their bikes to the crew of loaders, who hang each bikes upright, securing the the wheels with zip ties the the steel frame of the box trucks.
Inside the school, we are able to buy a simple lunch from a band booster mom, and then we relax at picnic table. It is early afternoon, and we will be hanging out for a couple of hours, since some of the last riders or doing a long day to finish either the 5 Day west route. It has turned into a beautiful sunny afternoon, and I am down to just a T-shirt.
|The bike loading crew hangs my Domane.|
While waiting, Steve and I are chatting with the ride director, Joel Wickham, and a couple of committee chairs. One is in charge of meals, and interested in comments on the highs, (Central Lake’s barbeque) and the lows, (Pellston overcooked oatmeal). We also hear from some ambitious riders, who having raced up to cross the bridge, took the St. Ignace ferry across to Mackinac Island, rode around the island, and then got on the Mackinac City ferry.
I can see the wheels turning in the Joel's head on hearing this. I have to admit, it would be nice to have a few more Mackinaw City experiences once up here, and I file possibility that away for my next time.
At one point, Steve and I get tagged for errand, as the bike check in crew needs some more zip ties. After a quick drive to the downtown tourist strip, we find a full hardware store above one of the tourist shops. It is kind of a surprise, but when you realize this on the edge of huge outdoor area and just off a small harbor, it alls makes sense.
|It looks square from here.|
By 5 pm, things are winding down and ready roll out We distribute the last of the box lunches on the buses, and finish loading the tables and administrative supplies from check-in into the baggage trucks and the directors van. Steve is riding back with Joel, and we will catch up back at MSU. I climb into the cab with my driver. He has been doing this same task, driving back a baggage truck, for almost 20 years. With a last check with the director, we hit the road.
It is a half mile back to I-75, and then we are on interstate almost all the way back. We are on the road less than an hour, and we are passed by each of the tour busses; but then pass them again when they pull over for the big rest stop at Claire. The sun finally sets south of Claire, and we then pass through another string of towns before finally hitting Lansing. My five days of riding north, is now all rewound by 5 hours of driving, in this case non-stop.
We pull into the parking lot, the fourth baggage truck to arrive. Three loads of bikes are now laid out on the grassing medians of the parking lot, and a crew of about a dozen volunteers is waiting to unload this truck. Working under a pair of portable flood lights rented just for this, the door is rolled up, the ramp is pulled, and using side cutters, the the bikes are methodically cut down, and handed to volunteers at the top of a ramp, and we form a human conveyor belt. It took over an hour to load truck with 70 plus bikes, but we have them unloaded in less than 15 minutes. I was asked if I had ever handled this many bikes before, and I have to explain, yes (besides DALMAC), twice a year for 5 years, working bike sales for a shop in Indianapolis.
|Thanks to Steve and Maria, many more miles ahead!|
The three of us enjoy a light breakfast in their kitchen. Maria is pleased to hear we had safe and dry ride. Steve is going to rest his ankle for a few days. (It turns out to be fine after some rest, a little bit of overuse, go figure!)
At breakfast, Maria mentions riding DALMAC next year; It would be fun to ride with the 2 of them again, but I will probably skip a year at least, but know I will be back sooner than 8 years. I would like to end up with at least 4 more, since 10 is nice round number. I especially want to make DALMAC 2024, and I also want to try the ride around the island after crossing the bridge. It’s fun to look ahead, and recall riding a few days ago with that couple in their mid-70’; I have a lot riding to look forward to.
We finish our breakfast and I am soon on my way home, another 4 hours in the car ahead of me. I have an early start, and get a call from Linda checking on my progress. If I am home by 1 PM, she asks, would I like to get the tandem out for ride to lunch? But only, she says, if I am interested in getting back on a bike.
I make the drive non-stop. We had a fun ride to lunch.
|Not all those who wander are lost.|