Cross Country Bicycling

And Then Along Came Jones
Tall Thin Jones
Slow Walkin’ Jones
Slow Talkin’ Jones
Along Came Long Lean Lanky Jones

Houghton Lake, Michigan
Winter `72

Mike, not long out of the army, and Denny, an avid outdoorsman
(Carol Sue’s brother), got excited when I told them I was planning a cross country bicycle trip to British Columbia, Canada. I wanted to visit the National Parks, which was my first priority. If I had company, well, the more the merrier. I was still pursuing my goal to become a custodian at CMU, but I was also expanding my search. I wrote letters to 13 universities, asking for information on employment. So far, only two had responded positively, the University of Calgary in Canada and the University of New Mexico in Silver City. I figured since I was going out west anyway, I would stop at universities whenever possible and ask for a job.

Nobody was physically prepared for the bicycle trip. It was
questionable if we could peddle that far. As a kid, I used to bike
around Houghton Lake, 36 miles, so I wasn’t frightened of long
distances, but thousands of miles was still a bit much. Just to
check it out, the three of us bicycled over to West Branch, 50 miles round trip. Even if we only made 50 miles a day that would
eventually get us there. Denny was ready; he figured that less time on the road meant more time trout fishing, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Even though I had never fished for trout, I went out and bought a telescoping fishing rod to carry with me.

May 7, 1972

The sun was out, but it was still jacket weather when we
peddled out of town. The three of us were riding bikes that could
hardly be recognized because they were so loaded down with gear. Just outside of town, Mike’s bike tire blew. We were sitting
alongside the road, contemplating our next move, when Roger and his girlfriend, Debbie, drove up and offered to drive us to Cadillac (fifty miles away). We could get the tire fixed and camp there.  As much as we hated to start our trip by accepting a
ride, it seemed like the only option available. Nobody wanted to go back home, so, from the car window, we enjoyed our nature trip as we swilled down the beers that went along for the ride.

We found a place just outside of Cadillac to set up camp. We
didn’t prepare for the rain though, and it rained all night.
Everything got soaked. The next day, in the rain, Denny and I rode our bikes to town where we got Mike’s tire fixed and dried our sleeping bags at the laundromat. When we arrived back at camp, we put rain flaps over our tents. At that point, we had prepared for everything except the extreme cold that blew in. Mike and Denny froze their asses off. I was cold, but this time around I had a good sleeping bag to hunker down in, and I was glad I did. Outside, in the morning, three inches of snow had fallen. We had to wait for the afternoon sun to melt the snow before we dared get back on the highway.

Biking was good until we turned toward Grand Rapids. The
traffic was congested and the road was so narrow that we rode on the gravel shoulder, getting on the pavement only in between the cars that seemed to travel in packs. At that point, we were tempted to call the whole trip off. Egged on by Denny’s firm belief that once we got out of Michigan the traffic would ease up, we painstakingly carried on. Once we turned toward Ludington, biking became fun again. We found a place to camp and survived another night.

The next day we phoned ahead and found out that the boat
that crossed Lake Michigan left at 7 p.m. There were some really
nice trout streams in the area, and, since we had time to kill, we
were off to catch some trout. We didn’t have much luck, but after I asked permission to fish the stream that went through a fenced in wooded area, things got better. Not that we caught any keepers, its just that the stream was so beautiful. We walked under gorgeous Maple trees that jutted out over the stream. During the hottest part of the day, we couldn’t resist the temptation to jump into the clear pools that earlier hadn’t given up any of their fish. The water was cold and refreshing. Before the day was over, I even managed to catch my first trout.

May 10

When we arrived in Ludington, we found the boat’s departure
time had been moved to 10 p.m. We used the extra time to bike around town where we met a lot of bicycle enthusiasts. Their enthusiasm turned to envy as soon as they heard we were going to Canada and then to the Pacific Ocean. Most of their attention was focused on Denny, however. After all, anybody can go biking, but it only became “really cool” when the biker was also a hippie. Denny cut a very impressive figure with his long blond hair and beard (not to mention his charm). He was obviously enjoying all of that attention too. Mike and I had been there before Denny, and although I may have missed the attention bestowed upon the “transient hippie,” I didn’t miss being identified with the phony ideals connected with hip culture.

We spent so much time in town that we almost missed the
boat. On board, after we settled in, I was so excited I couldn’t
sleep (except for maybe a catnap or two). We arrived in Milwaukee sometime after 4 a.m. Bicycling through the city center on empty streets was really enjoyable. Traveling on a narrow highway, leading out of the city, in the early morning traffic, was not very much fun though.

Once in the country, the rolling green hills and beautiful Wisconsin farms made bicycling enjoyable once again. Passing by the healthiest cattle I’d ever seen, in the greenest pastures I’d ever seen, (not to forget the pungent aromas), it was an incredible experience. I didn’t know farms could be so beautiful. I guess that’s why they call Wisconsin the Dairy State. We were beside ourselves, biking on such a fantastic highway with little or no traffic. That night we camped at a wayside that was hardly used. It was chilly, but not cold.


About bwinwnbwi

About me: Marvin Gaye’s song, "What’s Going On" was playing on the jukebox when I went up to the counter and bought another cup of coffee. When I got back, the painting on the wall next to where I was sitting jumped out at me, the same way it had done many times before. On it was written a diatribe on creativity. It was the quote at the bottom, though, that brought me back to this seat time after time. The quote had to do with infinity; it went something like this: Think of yourself as being in that place where infinity comes together in a point; where the infinite past and the infinite future meet, where you are at right now. The quote was attributed to Hermann Hesse, but I didn’t remember reading it in any of the books that I had read by him, so I went out and bought Hesse’s last novel, Magister Ludi. I haven’t found the quote yet, but I haven't tired of looking for it either.
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