Monday 1st & Tuesday 2nd August – Stages 72 & 73
Monday 1st August – South Haven to La Porte (Stage 72).
It was another 70+ mile day today, so we stuck with our tried & tested routine of getting on the road for 9am. However, one hurdle to overcome was a rather meagre breakfast offering, which when we’re riding for 5 or more hours a day, on multiple days, isn’t ideal preparation for the day ahead! 2 bits of toast & a bagel was all that was on offer, so we agreed to stop at the first opportunity.
It was a challenge getting onto the Van Buren Trail State Park this morning as the trail was being resurfaced & the workers didn’t offer any advice of how long it went on for or where we could re-join it! We were only on this Rail to Trail for about 5 miles, but it was still a beautiful place to ride, once we found our way onto the trail!
As we picked up the Blue Star Highway we briefly passed through the Van Buren State Park & we were hemmed in by woodland.
As you can see from the photos it was an overcast day, but that just meant that when we saw Lake Michigan for the first time today the green-blue water stood our even more than the last couple of days. I had a 2 minute walk from the deserted road to get to this beach, while Sean waited patiently for me to do my thing with my camera.
I try to take as many photos as possible while we’re on the move, but there are times when I need to stop to get the shot I want & Sean’s been patience personified whenever I’ve stopped. Hopefully seeing the photos on these posts make some of the waiting worthwhile!
The Blue Star Highway (Highway M63) is part of the Lake Michigan Circle Tour – a route that takes in the complete coastline of the lake, as well as the designated Highway 10 crossing of Lake Michigan by the SS Badger. We hardly saw any traffic in the first 25 miles of our ride today, so had plenty of time to look out for unusual follies in gardens.
You may be thinking that I said in the first paragraph we would be on the lookout for a stop & here we are 25 miles in, with no mention of coffee & cake. That’s because we were still looking & were feeling very hungry, but up ahead was the town of St Joseph & over the river there was a chance of at least a gas station.
St Joseph had more than a gas station – it had Chocolate Cafe, which specialised in…..delicious chocolate cakes & acceptable coffee. In spite of being starving, this was the only occasion on the adventure where I was unable to eat everything! It was just to rich for me finish, but it was a fine piece of cake.
As we left town via Lakeshore Drive, we saw a huge fountain down by the lake with loads of children playing under what was now a blue sky. We also passed a poignant monument remembering all the people of St Joseph who served in the armed forces & never returned from active duty.
At Lookout Point we had a last view of Lake Michigan for a while as we headed slightly inland.
Heading towards Stevensville we crossed under the Interstate & passed through Shoreham (a reminder of my summer holidays as a schoolboy, as I used to visit a place by the same name in West Sussex when I stayed with my Aunt in Littlehampton). We then skirted the edge of Grand Mere State Park, where we saw 2 other long distance cyclists heading West as we headed East.
At various random points I’ve had “eureka moments” of what a huge adventure we’re on & seeing a sign for Chicago was one of those moments. Others include the first time we crossed a State Line (Washington to Idaho) for the first time after 21 days of cycling, when I had a 5 minute crisis of confidence on our 4 hour climb of Powder River Pass & when we visited Mount Rushmore & I realised we were now more than halfway through out adventure.
We continued to shadow the Interstate, with corn fields on our right, while trees separated us from the cars & lorries to our left. We headed towards Lake Michigan as we approach New Buffalo, heading through woodland that protected us from the sun overhead.
Our final view of Lake Michigan reminded me of the French Riviera with its stunning turquoise water, sandy beaches & distant coastline – it’s hard to believe this is an inland lake! I’ve really enjoyed my two & a half days tracking the USA’s largest body of water that lies entirely within its borders, but I’m also looking forward to seeing more large lakes before the adventure ends!
The eagle-eyed of you will notice that I’m wearing a different jersey in the selfie above & the one below. Well done if you noticed! There’s a simple explanation, the photo below was taken when we left Indiana a few days later! We crossed from Michigan to Indiana on a deserted lane between me taking the first & third photo below, so there wasn’t a “Welcome to Indiana” sign. We did visit Indiana though, honest!!!
Our long, straight road intersected with a long straight railroad track & it wasn’t obvious from the bridge whether the rail or the road would deviate first! La Porte has about 10 to 15 lakes in the near vicinity & we passed a couple of them as we headed to our motel. The day had started under grey cloud, but ended in glorious sunshine – another brilliant day exploring in the saddle!
Stage Stats – 75 miles, 2,057 feet of climbing. Saying goodbye to the Lake & State of Michigan, as we say hello to Indiana.
Tuesday 2nd August – La Porte to Rochester (Stage 73).
A recurring theme as we’ve headed East is the ubiquitous presence of water towers that indicate the name of each town before you reach it. The La Porte example here is one of the better ones that we’ve seen. We made our way across town & within 10 minutes we had found the first of the day’s long, straight, farm roads – we would be on this one for about 11 miles without ever deviating off due South!
For most of the first couple of hours we were between fields of corn & soya beans, so when I saw a single, lonely sunflower I had to stop & capture the moment.
The straight roads, with right angle corners continued for more than 2 hours – this is something you never experience in the the UK & it took until mile 34 for our first non-ninety degree corner! That was just shy of half distance on today’s ride & only 2 miles short of our coffee stop…..
North Judson is home to the Fingerhut Bakery – I looked up a coffee stop in advance to make sure there was one, as we’re on remote roads all day. The bakery has been open for 75 years & on my limited taste test of their apricot & pineapple cakes, they’ll be here for another 75 years! The selection of cakes was out of this world & the people working in the shop had a real passion for what they did.
After I’d eaten 2 cakes Sean literally pushed me out the door before I settled in for the day!
As we joined the North Judson Erie Trail & it was clear that bikes would be welcome! The trail follows the old JK Line Railroad for 9 miles between North Judson & Bass Lake. The good news for us was that we would be cycling the entire 9 miles! Whereas once upon a time the railroad would have demanded right of way, the cycle trail gives way to traffic, so there are gates to slow cyclists down as they approach each of the roads.
As we were cycling along chatting to each other, we startled a huge contingent of birds of prey that were sat quietly on the ground. To this day I don’t know for sure what they were, as they were up in the air before we had a chance to have a good look at them. I shot some video footage of them, but I still can’t work out what they are, although I don know there are a lot of them!
We struck a rich vein of wildlife as no sooner had we left the trail than we spotted 3 deer, as they spotted us. They kindly stayed in place long enough for me to get a photo, then they turned around & pranced off into the distance. This is a sight I’m going to miss as we continue east.
We were still on deserted, straight roads & we couldn’t remember when we last saw a car. All through Wisconsin, Michigan & now Indiana we’ve passed cemeteries on the outskirts of small towns. Some had as few of 5 or 10 headstones, while others like St Anne’s Cemetery outside Monterey had hundreds of memorials & headstones.
We stopped in Monterey to top up our water bottles & enjoy a cooling coke in the air conditioned bar. As we returned to farmland we gave way to an Amish horse-drawn carriage. We were hot on our bikes, but that was nothing compared to how hot it must have been for the people we saw working the fields dressed in traditional clothing.
As we continued towards Rochester on the final long, straight road of the day we passed a couple of examples of the type of houses we’ve been seeing for the last couple of days. The gardens are always pristine & the buildings are also kept in perfect condition.
Stage Stats – 78 miles, 689 feet of climbing. Our fourth day on the trot of cycling over 70 miles. An indication of how our fitness has built over the last 14 weeks.