Thursday, July 29, 2010

Day 39: Birch Run, MI, to Port Huron, MI

Today's Mileage: 87
Average Speed: 15.0 mph
Max Speed: 29.7 mph
Moving Time: 5:49

Since the last 10 days of this tour will begin their countdown tomorrow, it's time for me to start scaling back what I eat. After August 9, I will no longer be burning an extra 2000-4000 calories a day.

Margot has determined that she burns approximately 40 calories per mile. She is older than I am [Side Note: Can you believe this woman is 50? (Side Note to the Side Note: Not that 50 is old by any means, but she makes it look damn good)]. We are about the same height, but she is in better shape and cycling condition than I am; however, assuming that I burn calories in roughly the same range, my heart monitor and calorie counter under-recorded thousands of calories through Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming and South Dakota! It died somewhere between Sioux Falls and Worthington and probably just needs a new battery, which I have no motivation to make an effort to replace, especially if it's jipping my stats.

Margot's calculations estimate that I burn 400 calories every 10 miles or 4000 calories for every 100. This is great news for me! Cycling into Sioux Falls from Mitchell, my heart monitor recorded a calorie burn of 1995 over the 72-mile trek. If I use the 40-calories-per-mile equation, I burned 2880 calories during that ride. I like Margot's math better!

I began scaling back my food consumption today, which is a tricky process since proper fueling is still extremely important over these long distances. I am unable to eat large meals during breakfast and lunch so that wasn't too difficult. The heavy, satiated feeling does not sit well with me on the bicycle. But I had to make a conscious effort to control my snacking choices and portions at each SAG stop. And I need to stop the mindless shoveling of food into my mouth at dinner. I've also decided to cut back to just one dessert each night and make a valid attempt to not eat dessert at all. We'll see how that goes.

In comparison to some of the overwhelmingly striking terrain we've seen over the past month, the last few days of riding have not been visually spectacular. Many cyclists are beginning to put their heads down and pound out the miles through most of this flat farmland, but if I can prevent myself from zoning out on white and yellow traffic lines, there is still quite a bit of beauty to behold.


I love the country roads with evenly spaced, old trees lining the street. I love passing through small forest groves with delicate rays of sunshine poking through lightly waving leaves. I love the artistic value of decrepit barns against the blue, green and yellow backdrops.

I love rolling along a back road, chasing the shadows of clouds, watching the ribbons of sunlight and shadow pass over you and slide up the road, enveloping the adjacent fields and the other cyclists ahead. That's not something you can always see when you're pedaling under dense tree cover, climbing rocky mountain passes, or zipping along the bottom of a canyon. And then there's Lake Huron. It's turquoise. It's an odd thing to be cycling in the Midwest and suddenly pedal into the Caribbean.


There are a few things I don't like about Michigan. Just when I was beginning to praise eastern Michigan's smooth roads this morning, the even pavement dimpled into uncomfortable dips and cracks.

I've been nicknaming various road conditions along the route. Thumper Roads are the ones with the rhythmic, irritating thump ... thump ... thump. Sometimes it's thump-thump ... thump-thump ... thump-thump. Then, there's the Dried Up Salt Lake Roads with craggy surfaces. Or the Rattle Roads that make your entire bicycle clank for miles. Waffle Roads are not a good place to grit your teeth if you value a chipless smile. Gravel and dirt roads vary in their levels of ride-ability and comfort. But I'm nearly convinced that prolonged exposure to chip seal will drive you criminally insane. There are Holy Roads, and I do not call them that because of their deep relationship with God. And then there are the roads I love but less frequently find along the route - the Butter Roads, smooth like butter.

Beyond eastern Michigan's roads, there are the drivers who ride on them who are even worse. I wasn't sure if they were purposely crowding us off the road until the profanity started. One driver yelled at Sandy, Andrew and I as we pedaled immediately adjacent the white line: "Clear the f***ing road!"

I looked to my right. There was nowhere to go. No shoulder. Only loose gravel and dirt. Where did he expect us to go? Not only was he inconsiderate, but he was ignorant of the law and the equal privilege of cyclists to use the road. In an area that is so intolerant of cyclists, I am surprised that we rolled across these words spray-painted on the pavement.


After taking photos, Todd said to Sandy, "It's sort of fortuitous that you rolled up as I was stopping to take a picture of it."

A lot of moments on this trip feel as if they were written.

Later, I learned that obscenities were screamed at other cyclists along today's route. Beth had a discussion at lunch with a waiter who cycles in Port Huron regularly, and he said [and I paraphrase] that if he wears casual clothing on his bicycle, then drivers likely assume that he had his car impounded because of a DWI and that's his only form of transportation so he needs a break. If he's in cycling attire, then he has free time to enjoy himself instead of working ... and people in eastern Michigan don't like it if you don't have to work your ass off at two to three different jobs and you have time to relax or enjoy extracurricular activities.

I thought of Beth and the waiter's conversation when I was in an elevator at our hotel this evening and one of the housekeepers frowningly said in response to a question regarding the length of this tour, "Wow. You people have 50 days to kill?"

Even though Beth's waiter was not referring to us specifically, I would contend - for the sake of argument - that the majority of the people on this tour are not from the super wealthy ranks of upperclass America. Many of us made countless sacrifices to be in a place with 50 days to kill. Some spent years planning this tour, striving for a time in their life when such a feat would be possible.

The Cumberland Times-News featured Beth in a recent article about our cycling tour.

"Everybody has their own story for doing this trip," [Beth] Laber said. "It really touches your heart to see people fulfilling their dreams and are not afraid to give it a try. People realize life is worth living and not just hoarding money and stuff. You gotta take a chance and go out there and do something different. The scope of this is overwhelming."

You can't expect anything less than overwhelming from a bike ride that takes 50 days.

More images from Birch Run to Port Huron:










Ellen DeGeneres' quest for world domination
is mere hours from conquering Canada!

Click here to view my entire photo album of Day 39 [TBA].

The Ride Leader's Official Report:
Across America North:

1 comment:

Monique said...

Some people are just rude, plain & simple.