My bike ride to the beach
REACHING THE MID WEST
Luce Line Trail, a bike path leading into the Twin Cities metropolitan area followed an old railroad route. The biggest problem is, it didn't go all the way. Ends in a sprawling suburb, still a few miles shy of Minneapolis.
BAD BIKING IN SUBURBAN SPRAWL
Suburban sprawl is among the worse terrain to bicycle in. All the main roads are narrow and clogged with hurrying traffic. The freeway has a shoulder but it is not legal for bikes. Side roads are dead end. It seems impossible to navigate through suburban sprawl.
GOOD BIKING IN CITY ITSELF
As soon as I got into Minneapolis proper, the situation improved dramatically. There are busy main streets, but one does not have to use them. Quiet residential streets go through, unlike in the suburbs.
City planning seems to be better in the city than in the suburbs.
I like higher density development where apartments, homes, city parks and services can be in walking distance. Having all the houses spread out on acre lots, as is done in many suburban areas, just forces people to rely on their cars too much.
Minnesota has been called "land of 10,000 lakes." I wonder if there is a lake called "Another Lake." One keeps seeing another lake.
Many lakes are inside the Twin Cities. There are systems of parks and bike paths braiding all through the city. I spent two days exploring Twin Cities using this system of green ways.
BELLINGHAM HAS NO MONOPOLY ON GOOD OR BAD
For big cities, Minneapolis and Saint Paul have relaxed atmospheres. I would even venture to say they seemed more livable than Bellingham! Admittedly, I was there in the Summer, winter might be a different story. The Twin Cities have lots of bike paths, by comparison, many Bellingham streets are lousy.
Bellingham is growing real fast so traffic is
bad and housing is becoming unaffordable. Bellingham's streets
housing units are hard pressed to keep up with its growth. The
Cities are bigger than Bellingham, but they have been large for a
period of time. Their infrastructures have had a chance to catch
Minneapolis has a big sculpture garden with works by many artists. I guessed which artist did one sculpture. It looks like, FOR HANDEL, a sculpture on the Western Washington University Campus, here in Bellingham by the same artist. A few other works looked familiar.
Yet another lake.
At several spots on this trip, children discovered my odd looking bike and peppered me with questions such as, "Where are you from?" "Aren't you afraid your legs are going to blow up?" "Has anybody else done this before?" "Can I get your autograph?" I assured them that I knew many people who had gone across America on a bicycle. One child in Wisconsin was so impressed that she asked, "Can I touch you?" She touched me like I was some sacred stone.
Home of America's first rural zoning ordinance. They had sprawl problems back in the 1930s as well. With people spread out all over the countryside, it was getting harder to provide services. Just running school buses to all those out-of-the-way places, gathering kids, was getting so costly that it was breaking budgets during the depression. The zoning ordinance restricted development in some hard-to-reach county areas. Clustered development was encouraged so that services, such as school buses, could be provided more efficiently. This was seen as a way to save government money during the depression. We still need to learn that lesson.
ALONG INLAND SEAS
STATE OF MICHIGAN
Good advice seen on this billboard in a tombstone sales yard I passed in Michigan Peninsula. Sign said "DRIVE CAREFULLY WE CAN WAIT"
One of the goals of my trip was to see the Great Lakes. I'm used to Lake Whatcom, near Bellingham. One can see across it. Lake Superior is another world. A lake so large that ships have been lost out on the lake. One can stand at the shore on a sunny day and still see large breakers crashing to shore from a storm that is out in the lake beyond the horizon.
I kept meeting local residents that thought Michigan's upper peninsula was one of the last unspoiled areas on Earth. Green forests, rolling mountains (yes there are some in the Midwest) and lake shores make the peninsula special. Lower Michigan, south of the Mackinaw Bridge, was described as toxic. It reminded me of the provincial attitude of some people, here in the Northwest. In actuality, I found both good and bad in each region.
To get from Upper to Lower Michigan one must cross the longest suspension bridge in the world, the Mackinaw Bridge. Michigan does not allow bicycles on interstate freeways and the Mackinaw is a freeway. No need to worry, a transportation department truck takes bicycles and pedestrians across.
I anticipated this problem before I left so I wrote to the state highway department for information. Highway and campground information, I got from each state before leaving, was a great help.
In Lower Michigan, I parked near a tall tower and walked up the dirt road to its base. It was a transmitter. The operator saw my bike, as he went to get his mail, and thought I might have broken down. Instead my interest in radio brought me to this stop.
He invited me into the transmitter building to look around. It was radio heaven.
NEARING THE MOTOR CITY - DETROIT
Roads got worse, closer to Detroit. Instead of a paved shoulder, they used loose gravel. These type of roads are terrible for bicycling. Also traffic was getting thicker.
50 miles was about as close to Detroit as I wanted to get. I crossed into Canada on the Blue Water Bridge from Port Huron, MI.
People kept telling me also, "don't go near Detroit." The Motor City's latest fad was "CAR JACKING." This is where a gang runs up to a car stopped at the red light. They point a gun at the driver and steal the car. According to radio talk shows, from Detroit, there were several car jackings per day. This was 1991. I hear things are better now.
People in one small town, I went through, had
the funeral for a 23-year-old woman who had brought her new car to the
state fair in Detroit. She was attacked in the fair's parking lot
and would not give up her car. They shot her. They kept
the small towns and rural areas were safe, but avoid Detroit,
if one has an expensive car.
WHERE BICYCLING IS A NOVELTY
At a park near Sandusky, Michigan, some people asked where I was from. When I said I had biked from Washington, they were impressed. Washington, Michigan, is about 30 miles away. Then I said, "I mean the state of Washington, where Seattle is." They were really impressed.
I pulled into a campground on Lake Huron and ask what the fee would be. When the campground attendant learned where I had bicycled from he said, "hey the fee's on me." "If you ride a bike that far, you deserve a free night."
Buildings in Woodstock, Ontario were so ornate I thought it was a theater or tourist town. At a near by campground I asked a ranger what attraction led to Woodstock's creation. She listed a bunch of factories such as a GM parts warehouse and a place that makes tanker truck seals. It's a factory town. The ornate buildings and beautiful homes are just the way things were built back then.
THE 'WHOLE PICTURE' AND TRANSIT
Getting so close to Toronto, I couldn't pass up seeing that city, but bicycling in Toronto traffic was not my ambition. The smart thing to do was to store my bike in a safe spot for two nights and take a bus into Toronto for the day. The city library in Brantford, Ontario should help me piece it all together, so I thought. Finding a place to stay, possibly a motel, and figuring out which buses to catch shouldn't be too hard.
The librarians in Brantford didn't have schedules for any buses except right in Brantford. I decided to ride on and see if I could get a clearer picture down the road.
Next I happened to go by the Airport for Hamiltion, Ontario. They should have lots of transit information there? No such luck. All they had were plane schedules.
It's a case of people being too specialized. They all know their own little area, but I needed the broader picture pieced together.
A tourist information center in Downtown Hamiltion should have all the information, but I got there after it had closed.
Next I tried calling Toronto's bus information. They knew all about Toronto's system, but they didn't know schedules for Hamiltion buses which would be needed to connect me to the Toronto buses.
Finally, when I was about to give up on the whole idea, I stopped at a pizza parlor to ask if there was a campground or motel nearby. They directed me to Confederation Park campground.
When I checked into the campground, someone mapped out my way to Toronto. It was a mile walk to a Hamiltion bus stop. Then I took a Hamiltion bus to the downtown terminal where I caught the bus for Toronto. Easy enough.
They found a storage closet, at campground headquarters, for my bike.
After figuring all this out, I realized I still hadn't eaten. It was getting dark and the nearest store was several miles away. No worry, the ranger ordered a pizza for me. The pizza was delivered to my tent.
Toronto's CN Tower. The tallest free-standing structure in the world. There are some towers that are taller, but they are skinny steel antennas held up by guy wires. Of all places, I think Poland has the tallest tower with guy wires. It is a TV tower near Warsaw. Toronto's CN tower is the tallest free-standing structure in the world. It stands with out guy wires. Also has a TV antenna, but observation decks and a restaurant make it the tallest habitable tower.
Cycling through grape fields between Hamiltion and Niagara Falls. The sweet smell of grapes was so prevalent I felt like drinking the air.
Off to the side of the road were two smashed-up cars - quite a fender-bender, with police all around. I saw someone in tears. I was thankful for the slower, less stressful pace of the bike.
At a much slower pace the bicycle can stay out of most traffic patterns. There is less chance of me harming another person on my bike than there would be if I were behind the wheel of a two ton car going at 60 MPH.
My motivation for cycling is not just concern for the environment or a wish to see the country better. My nerves are too sensitive to handle the stress of driving.
NEW YORK STATE
A middle school kid wondered why I had all that stuff on my bike when I asked if she knew how to get to Fort Niagara State Park. She said, "Are you for real?" "It's ten miles away." "You're going to ride a bicycle all that way?" Then I explained I had started clear out in Washington State. She could hardly believe it and said, "You must be joking." Finally she was (sort of) convinced and was able to direct me there.
Castle at Ft. Niagara was built in 1726 by the French. Later used by the British to fight Americans in the Revolutionary war. Most of the rest of its life went into service as an American fort. In 1963, the military turned it over to the New York state park system.
Yard sign for a local election: Rob Outhouse for sheriff.
My trip across U.S.A. was easier than when the pioneers tried it in covered wagons before there were bank machines!
For money, I withdrew from my savings account at ATMs along the way. Traveler's checks were a back up system in areas where few bank machines could be found.
Live bank tellers are still useful, especially if they have extra time. After I took care of some banking business a teller took interest in my trip. She had extra time so she took a pencil and carefully drew a map for me. This got me around Rochester, New York, with great ease.
ALONG THE ERIE CANAL
Bike path along Erie Canal east of Syracuse. Miles of peaceful riding.
This trip did not have an end goal. I just wanted to see how far east I could get in about 9 weeks of reasonable pace. The trip itself was the goal.
My ideal of "having the trip be the goal" began to break down when I realized how close to the Atlantic I was getting. Just three more days, added to my vacation, would give me enough time to get there.
I called my boss to arrange another week leave of absence. He said there would be no problem. Then I heard him exclaim over his shoulder to another person in the room, "He's in New York!"
OLD AND CRAPPY
At a modern convenience store I asked the young clerk if the buildings across the street were actually built in 1781. They had that date on them, but it might have been an address, rather than being when the the building was built. With a slight laugh she said, "I wouldn't be surprised." "They look pretty crappy to me." To her they were just a bunch of ugly old buildings.
THE LAST MILES
STATE OF VERMONT
It's going fast now, and the states are getting smaller. Cycling through Brattleboro Vermont, there was a wonderful cafe with natural foods and a woman in a loud tie dye shirt. So many memories, my book only scratches the surface.
I heard a horrible story about the original Massachusetts Bay Colony. The Calvinist religion was very strict - so strict it's leaders would not allow preachers from the Quaker colony of Pennsylvania to preach in their district. Quakers had a different perspective, and Calvinists must have thought there was only one "right way."
When a Quaker was caught preaching in the calvinist colony, he was deported. If caught again he could get a terrible punishment, holes drilled in the tong.
Like fundamentalists in the Middle East.
I like to say, "no ONE WAY religion has a monopoly on GOD." "GOD is for everyone."
New England has lots of stone walls that were built around farmyards in the 1600s and 1700s. Many of these walls run through deep woods. Why build a wall through thick forest?
It wasn't a forest when the wall was built. Back then, that piece of land was farmed and the wall was built around the farmyard. Later farming stopped and forest grew back. The wall remains, so now it goes through forest.
Old industrial buildings along the shores of the Merrimack River in Haverhill, Massachusetts. Some say America's industrialization was born along the Merrimack.
Believe it or not, I'm near Boston!
The Atlantic Ocean at Salisbury Beach, Massachusetts. I can now say I bicycled across America.
It took three days and nights to get back to the West Coast on AMTRAK. The train provided a shipping carton for my bike so I could check it in the baggage car as luggage. It took about a day to dismantle my bike, box up my stuff, send cards to about 75 friends letting them know where I ended up and get ready for a train ride back.
Granite Falls, MN. Mile 2163.
Hutcheson, MN. Mile 2240.
Minneapolis, MN. 2312.
Artistic foot bridge in sculpture garden park near downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota.
An Amazon bookstore
William O'Brien State Park near St. Croix, MN. Mile 2369.
Bruce, WI. Mile 2458.
The Outpost C.G. near Rienlander Tomahok Junction, WI. Mile 2544.
Anvil Lake, WI. mile 2612.
Van Ripper State Park, MI. Mile 2709.
Bay Furnace C.G. Mile 2785.
Lake McMillan, MI. Mile 2861.
St. Ignace, MI. Mile 2931.
Near Atlanta, MI. Mile 3000.
Rifle River C.G. Mile 3081.
Bay City, MI. Mile 3147.
Point Sanilac, MI. Mile 3238.
Reece's Corner, Ontario. Mile 3305.
Woodstock, ONT. Mile 3392.
Hamilton, ONT. Mile 3472.
Downtown Toronto, Ontario with the CN Tower reflected in the windows.
Fort Niagara. Mile 3552.
North of Lockport, NY. Mile 3620.
East of Rochester, NY. Mile 3693.
Syracuse, NY. Mile 3769.
Bridgewater, NY. Mile 3834.
Brodalbin Junction, NY. Mile 3919.
Bennington, VT. Mile 3995.
Near Keene, NH. Mile 4043.
Motel in Nashua, NH. Mile 4111.
Salisbury Beach, MA. Atlantic Ocean. Mile 4159.
Sunrise over the Atlantic
Salisbury Beach Massachusetts; the end of a long journey.
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