Sunday, May 29, 2011

One Month (AKA Still In Michigan)

Its been one month. I left Burlington Vermont what seems forever ago, but has actually only been about 30 days. I feel far away, and yet I feel like I have barely gone anywhere. As I type this, I have pedaled my bike about 1,700 miles. From the green mountains of Vermont, along the Erie Canal and Mohawk valley of New York, through Niagara falls, along the northern shores of Lake Erie in Ontario Canada, crossed the St Clare river to Michigan, battled weather crossing the dreary midlands of Michigan only to find salvation at lake Michigan. I followed the fabled M 22, vising my first national park, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore. I followed the shores through the wine country of Traverse, along M 199 and the tunnel of tree, to Mackinaw, the end of the lower peninsula. I crossed the 3rd largest suspension bridge to the upper peninsula, and learned what a sparsely populated place it really is. I rode against the winds for two days to find my way to the largest, and my last, great lake, Superior. I visited my second national park, Painted Rocks National Lake shore, and I visited Marquette, the university city in the UP. In all, I have cycled pretty much a 1,000 miles in Michigan alone. As I leave this state that I have come to know for new states, new roads, new adventures, I say farewell to a land that has been both kind and cruel as I have made my way. I have meet many amazing people, not the least of them my fabulous warmshower and couchsurfing hosts. I now venture into Wisconsin and Minnesota. From there...who knows.

The lake shore of Lake Michigan for me began in Manistee, where I spent the night at Orchard Beach State Campground and meet my first bicycle tourers. Two college age kids roaming around Michigan for 10 days. I spotted their nomad from afar, and we spent the rest of the evening talking and watching the sunset. I then got onto the M-22, which has a aura of its own around Michigan. It follows the coastline all the way back to Traverse City. Went up to Platte lake to stay with a warmshower host and then attended my first ever Asparagus Festival in Empire. Asparagus bread, Asparagus beer, and raw asparagus too. Good times. I then entered Sleeping Bear Dune National Lake shore (There are 4 national lake shores and 2 of them are in Michigan). I rode the 7.5 miles of the Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive which has a stop on top of the big dune that towers more than 450 feet, nearly vertical. Then I climbed up a dune and was told it would be a 3 hour hike up and over dunes to get to the lake, so I did just one dune. Spent the night at DH Day campground, and from there continued on the M-22. The road went up and around the peninsula and, spending a night outside Suttons Bay, headed into Traverse City.

Another wonderful night with a warmshower host and I was on my way, following still the Lake Michigan shoreline to the Petosky State Park. Had a roaring fire on a cold night and the next day, despite a 15 mile accidental turn south, rode along the Tunnel of Trees, M-119 to Mackinaw City. I spent the night at the Headlands, an abandoned beach house that has been turned into a public park. Of course, it also seemed to be the home of the worlds most annoying porcupine. Sometime at night, I heard a scratching on my nomad. Bleary eyes and tired, I shone my light and I beheld a porcupine. Well, I shooed him away but he only went into a corner and turned his spiky quilled behind at me. Went back into the tent and tried to forget him. 20 minutes later scratch scratch scratch. Ugggg. Scared him off good only for him to come back an hour later, this time somehow playing with my spokes. Scarred him off so well that he came back an hour later. We repeated this a few times until I suppose at some point I fell asleep or he stopped coming back. Either way, I awoke groggy and grumpy.

That morning I crossed the Mackinaw Bridge. I have now paid $3.50 in tolls since leaving Vermont. After being dropped on the side of the highway, I realized I was finally in the Upper Peninsula, or UP. Got myself some killer maps and started biking, to quickly learn that while the UP is 1/3 the land mass of Michigan, its 3% of the population. Biked for nearly 25 miles without a house, a town, anything. Just wetlands, woods, and the occasional car. This place is vast and empty. Very rugged. Had a good night sleep at the Luce County Park and made my way to Pictured Rocks National Lake shore in Munising and also my first view of Lake Superior. Took a 3 hour boat ride that covered 15 miles of the lake shore, where you can see the various colors and shapes of the eroded soft and hard exposed sandstone. Very beautiful. The next day, I had the pleasure of a steady rain and 40 degrees. Biked 40 miles to Marquette, the largest city in the UP and home to Northern Michigan University. And here I am, couchsurfing for the weekend, taking a day off biking for the first time in over 12 days. I'm at 1,600 miles, and in a few days I will have biked 1,000 miles in Michigan alone.

As the month comes to a close, I can look back to the various weather, the various people, the places and things I have seen. But I am more looking forward to the continued unknown that lays before me. Here are some stats though for the stat keepers:

May 3rd – May 29th: 1,620.7 miles. Longest day 105.98 miles, shortest day 32.20. I have biked for 139 hours, 40 minutes and 45 seconds. I have stayed with 7 warmshower hosts, 2 couchsurfing hosts, one friends family. I have wild (free) camped 11 nights and have paid 3 nights. Two days I did not ride. My fastest speed so far is 36.6 mph. New York took me 7 days to cross, Ontario 2, and I have been in Michigan for 16 days thus far.

As always, keep pedaling.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Attention Mail Senders

I interrupt my Michigan cycling (currently at Burger King in Mackinac City) to announce that I most likely more or less should be in Ashland, Wisconsin in about a week.  So, finish up those letters, get to the store to get some treats, and disguise all that cash in an envelope and send me some general delivery mail:

The Ashland Post Office in Wisconsin:
615 Main Street West
Ashland, WI 54806-1300
(715) 682-4848

To send something general delivery, you need to address it as follows:
Ross Guberman
General Delivery

615 Main Street West
Ashland, WI 54806-9999

Hopefully that works, it should.  Tomorrow morning I take a little van ride and cross the Mackinac Bridge into the Upper Peninsula.  Still Michigan, but it seems like another world.  I'll write a real entry about the rest of my time in Michigan in several days, once I actually get out of Michigan, which again, should be about a week (5-7days)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Ups and downs in Michigan

Elusive wild Michigan Peacock

My Michigan tale begins in Marine City. This is where my blue water ferry deposited me after spending a few days in Ontario. I had a warmshowers all set up for the day, so I spent some time wandering the city after being treated oh so nicely by the border agents. Marine City, as I had and have seen, has been hit by the poor economic times. I have biked through countless small towns that have boarded up stores, for rent signs, or sometimes simply abandoned shops. It's sad in a way to see this death, but it also reminds me of the transient nature of life, and the bloated ego of humans. We care so much about these things we create, we fight and die over them. But they are nothing. They come, they go. The Earth could care less. So as I pass through small town America, sometimes busting, often not, I don’t feel sad but I feel humbled and happy that I am doing what I am doing to see what really matters, the Earth. Though what I have seen for most of my trip is farm land. Lots and lots of farm land.

From Marine City I went north towards Bay City where I camped a night at the Bay City State Park. Like in Ontario, I sadly wasn't able to pay for the pleasure of sleeping on their hallowed ground. I then went to Midland, a city too but more importantly the trail head for the Pere Marquette Rail Trail. The Pere Marquette Rail Trail is a 30 mile paved trail from Midland to Clare. It has tons of signage, 10 foot wide, well maintained pavement, rest areas, bathrooms, even free air along the way for bikes. It's a perfect example of how to take a non functional rail road and make it a multi use recreational path.
Warmshower host Dean wrenchin on a bike

The path ended in the city of Clare. It was a cloudy day, but the jazz was flowing out of a nice coffee joint. A few stores down is the world famous, or so they claim, Cops and Doughnuts. I was compelled to purchase a ½ pound cinnamon roll which ended up fueling me sugar wise for the next several days. It was on this day that I also hit my first 1,000 miles, only two weeks after leaving Burlington. I ended the day at the Pere Marquette State Campground by Sunrise lake. This is where I set up my hammock for the first time. It took some fanagling, but I got in it. The mosquitoes ended the affair rather quickly. From Coleman, where I had stayed the night before, to the camp ground the terrain finally changed. The farms receded and the rolling forests came. It was such a nice change of pace, and my legs were screaming for some real riding.

(An aside: I am listening as I type this to Regina Spektor. She's good and writes really well. What she is singing about now is about loving yourself, and from there loving someone else, fully. And if that doesn't work out, you pick up your pieces and love yourself again, and work to love someone else again. There are many ups and downs, not just terrain wise, but in my head and heart as I bike. For these next four months, at least, I will more or less be alone as I travel. At times, this isn't a factor. Other times, it's hard. At times, my heart aches for what, and more importantly, whom, I have chosen to leave behind to venture into this unknown. I am supported by them as I travel, but that doesn't stop me from missing them. The people I meet along the way, the wonderful warmshower hosts, all of these people help fill the little voids in my heart, and help propel me forward. We all have our own issues, our own dark clouds that hang above us. And sometimes it pours, and it doesn’t seem like it will end. I can bike each day with a heavy heart for my friends and my family, for the life I ended to begin this one. Instead, and it's not always easy, I use the love and memories I have to help me even when its pouring to be able to look into the rain, and smile. This is winded and long, but its not just about the bike. I am 32 years old. Unsure of the direction I am heading, of the paths that I will trod down. I am trying to live a free and open life, at least for a while, to see where the road may take me. As always, thanks for coming along for the ride.)

Finally, after nearly a week in Michigan, I found the oft spoken of western coast. And it is all they said and more. I have left the barren, wasted farmlands and have entered the magnificent rolling hills, forests and woods, sweeping views of the Lake Michigan coast line, and I have even entered, officially, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lake shore. I have camped in two states parks, Manistee Forest and Orchard Beach, and as I sit next to Platte Lake, I look forward to my dune hike tomorrow. Its a 1,024ft sand dune that takes HOURS to hike up. Amazing.
Sunset over Lake Michigan

So I made it east to west. Now I will follow this little peninsula for a bit till I curve around towards Traverse city, then head north again towards the 12th largest suspension bridge, the Mackinaw and begin my upper peninsula bike ride.As always, check out my picasa web albums ( as I keep adding more pictures.  Till then....

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

All About Ontario

In hindsight, if I add up the time it took at customs getting into and out of Canada, it comes close to the amount of time I actually spent in Canada. I crossed out of America and into America's funny looking top hat (Canada) via Rainbow Bridge at the fabled Niagara Falls. For the pleasure of biking on the side of the bridge I paid 50 cents. The first question I was asked, “What are you doing in Canada?”. This was a trick question, or so I made it out to be. I answered, “I'm biking across the country!” I assumed this would wow the guy, I’d get knighted and be on my way. Nope. He replied “Which country?” I forgot Canada was another country. I also forgot for my entire time in Ontario that they don’t speak French, but instead a form of American English. I was always surprised when I spoke to someone. Always. They let me in.

And that first night was spent with yet another amazing warmshower host, a close 15 miles from the border. Every warmshower host I have stayed with has been fabulous. This time was no exception. I was shown the country side, got a glimpse of Toronto, the local wineries, the poor Port Robertson whose bridge got taken out and now have a little ferry, all followed by a vegan curry. Amazing.

Day 2 started with a nice ride on a paved bike path following a canal towards Port Colborne. From there, I got my first view of Lake Erie and even dipped a toe in it's icy waters. I followed the lakes shoreline more or less the rest of the day. I made it to Port Dover, where, it seems they have a little tradition. A while ago, a few motorcyclists got together and rode down to Port Dover. From those humble beginnings, now over 200,000 motorcyclists show up in Port Dover every Friday the 13th. I was there on Wednesday but already bikers where coming in. I even shared a nice camping area with a few of them. I feel bad for them having a motor do all the work, but hey, whatever floats your boat I suppose. They were all nice people and pretty stoked about my trip.

Leaving Dover as more motorcyclists came in, I continued along the Erie shoreline, watching dark storm clouds bubble over the lake and off in the northern distances, but it was sunny over me. I stopped paying attention and before I knew it, I had cycled 105 miles are was near falling asleep in the saddle. Bypassed what could have been one of the sweetest looking places to camp, only to find the Clearville camp ground. Horribly, the ranger station was closed and wouldn't open till the next morning when I would (certainly) already be gone, so I wasn’t able to pay. But that next morning I paid for it in another way, the entire world was encased in fog...

Yes, it seemed all of Ontario was enveloped in the thickest fog I have ever seen. I could barely see more than 30 feet in front of me and I sure hoped the cars behind me could see me. The fog stayed around most of the day, slowly lifting as I neared the St. Clair river which separates the United States from its rowdy neighbor, Canada. I took the blue water ferry, so named for the blue waters, across to Marine City, Michigan. For this I paid $1.00. After 17 hours of the border dude puzzling over my nomad and feeling certain that I was somehow smuggling many guns and alcohol into America, I was granted entry into the country who issued my passport. Thanks.

And only 2 miles from there I had a warmshower welcome, and yet another truly amazing experience. I have met so many awesome people, not just with warmshowers, but everywhere I stop. I'm pleasantly surprised each and every time. So, it seemed what I thought would take me a week, took me 2 ½ days. Maybe since my bike was built in America it isn't used to kilometers and I was able to cover more ground quickly. Either way, here I am back in the good old US of A. I am now cycling westward across the state of Michigan towards its western coast, the Lake Michigan shoreline, which every Michiganer has raved about. I'll let you know. For now, I have been on the road for two weeks, and have nearly cycled 1,000 miles already. Insane.  Also, check out Fietspad, they put up one of my blog entries.

Keep pedaling.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Made it here...

As the song goes, if I can bike it here, I can bike to anywhere, so heres to you, New, York...New York... Anywho, I cycled for one week from Burlington, Vermont to Niagara Falls, NY and crossed into Canada on my one week anniversary. It was about 480 miles, and I biked 6 out of the 7 days. I have been spoiled thus far with the amazing hospitality of everyone, from couchsurfing, warmshowers, friends of family, to strangers. People are constantly amazed at what I at least claim I am doing, cycling around the country. Some say they wished they could too, others simply say good luck. Either way, I feel like everyone is one my side which can't be bad.

Speaking of bad, the weather this past week has been topsy turvey. Rain the first two days, three days of wind, and then warm and sun the rest. I even managed to get sunburned. The rolling landscape has been a good start to get my legs in shape, and I can already feel them being better at pulling the loaded bike uphills then when I started.

My route followed both the Erie Canal and New York State Bicycle Route #5. Most parts of the Erie Canal path are unpaved, so I stayed on the road nearly the whole time. Which was fine, usually. The roads had shoulders and traffic wasn't too bad past Utica. Of course, the shoulders are also where the dirt and debris is so I have already accumulated a drive side nomad flat and two rear tired flats. And I'm riding ultra gatorskins! That's how bad these roads are sometimes.

Chocolate covered frozen banana

Getting to Niagara, and seeing one of the wonders of the world, reminded me of a lot of the reason why I am biking. Its to see the wonders of the world, located in North America at least. And this was no exception. I even did the Maid of the Mist tour, knowing that it was now or never. And it was worth it. The power of the falls is intense, and it was nice to get wet too. You only get to really feel the falls from the boat.

As I have biked this week I wane and wax with nostalgia for Burlington, my friends and family, familiarity too. But then I remember I can call anyone anytime, which is really nice. I can email sometimes, and write letters though those take a long time for me. Biking in North America has its perks, its great to have a long hard day biking but at the end get to hear a friendly voice.
Niagara falls
By the time I post this, I should be in the middle of biking along the northern shores of Lake Erie in Ontario, Canada head towards Michigan. My map gets me as far as Wolf Lake, MI and from there I will head to my first National Park, Sleeping Bear Dunes. I continually upload pictures to my picasa web albums, so here are the New York photos. Feel free to share or whatever :Ross Bike Pics

Well, for now, that’s it. I have repacked a few times and am slowly getting a better system down, but I have too many places to put stuff so many things are always scattered.

Keep Pedaling!  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Low Bridge, Everybody down

And so Binglers and Binglets, here I am. Day 3 of Day 365 on my one year, North America circumvention Bicycle Tour and Discovery Adventure, or NACBTADA for short. My NACBTADA started from the hamlet of Burlington, whence I lived for about a year and a half. So let me keep it real and give some love to my hood. The sunsets in Burlington very likely can't be matched anywhere, nor can the vast multitudes of amazing people. Let me name a few using an Egyptian method of cataloging things:

  • Mark (my senile elderly housemate). Mark is a person who will sing in the highest falsetto no matter who is in the room, or what room he is in. He keeps aflame his childlike qualities, perhaps better than an actual child. His skill set is unique, and ultimately, he is a great friend.
  • Christine (greasy hand girl I rode bikes with). I have met few people as independently strong as Christine, and for her young age, as smart as she is. Yes, she rides a bike embarrassingly too small for her, but that doesn’t matter. Her kindness when it counts makes up for it.
  • Bear (aka Trixie aka God and Lord of the 1488 Manor). I love her like no tomorrow.
  • Joe (Joe). The best and worse thing about Joe is Joe. But that’s whats so great about Joe. And also not so great. Either way, he's a loveable teddy bear who'd flirt with your mother but make you laugh till you cried while he did it.
  • Melissa. To keep this blog short, all I need to say about Melissa is that I have never known, currently don't know, nor will I ever know any person with a heart larger than Melissa. Her unbounded compassion and love is something that will always be a light in my life. Thank you.
Naturally, Burlington has its cast of characters that also make the city fun and strange, but I’m biking and not there so lets move on shall we. But also, while not from Burlington, my family deserves much thanks. While I don't always understand the things they do, as I lead my normal sane life they have never once not supported me in my endeavors, and there isn’t more I could ask for.

I have so far only bike 210 miles. I am now along the Mohawk river (where the Erie canal is) and will follow it to its beginnings at Lake Erie. I have stayed with couchsurfing hosts in Glens Falls, warmshowers hosts in Spanker (which nobody has ever heard of) and Utica, Syracuse and don't know from there.

Three days, two days of rain and wind and one sunny windy day and my legs aren't yet in touring shape. I'll need a few more weeks, and god damn did I pack a lot of heavy things. Hopefully the forecast forecast sun and warmth. I haven’t worn a t-shirt yet!! and I packed 3!!!! I am already making a small list of things to get rid of. First is the stupid u lock I brought. Next, maybe the sleeping bag. Anyway, no crazy stories or adventures yet, just tough cycling to get this whole thing going. So for now, keep pedaling.  Oh, and check out Melissa's blog where she writes all about me:

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Delayed Reaction

I usually react to bigger life events a few days, weeks, or perhaps years after the fact. After college, I went to live in London. The fact that I was moving to London didn't become real until I sat in the airport, not a moment before. When I left everything behind to join the Peace Corps, it didn't hit me until I meet my new Cape Verdean family for the first time. That night I came to the realization that I was living in Cape Verde for the next two years. And so, as I pack, box t-shirts I shan't see again, and say goodbye to friends, animals, and city views that I might not see for a long time again, it still doesn't register that I’m not just going on a noodle bike ride. Nor am I flying to a country to bike tour for a specific time period. Nor am I going a bike tour and returning to my current life. Like others who have absconded to the lure and magic of bike touring for life, I will leave one life behind, and hope to find another in the wind, the small streams I bike by, the looming mountains, the rainy days, the long straight roads that don't end, the ups, the downs, the feeling of life pumping through my constantly churning legs. So I imagine that this realization really wont happen for a few weeks, somewhere near Michigan.

I am excited. I am nervous. I am sad to leave friends I have made and others I have continued. I'm sad to have had struggled through a hardcore Vermont winter and not reap the beautiful summer rewards. Oh well. That's life.

For four months, I'll be biking solo through the north west part of the US, searching out the amazing landscape that has been slowly shaping this land. I'll pass through some towns, maybe some cities. I'll see other bikers, maybe ride with some, or leave some behind. I'll camp, I'll stay with people. I will be at the mercy of the planet, the people, the animals, my own body. I have never, nor will I ever, discover anything that is as magical, inspiring, teaching as the bicycle. And when I meet with Chris in Portland, Oregon, not only with the education continue, but I'll have a companion to learn with and from, and to share, making a new adventure.

The openness of the adventure, of life, of the road all beckons. And I can't wait.

The first week will take me through New York State, at times following the Erie Canal through Amsterdam, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester into Niagara, NY. From there, its across the Rainbow bridge into Canada where I will hug the northern shores of Lake Erie towards Michigan. Not sure how long that will take, probably about another week, so I should hit the US again in mid May. In Michigan I hope to start my National Park tour by visiting Sleeping Bear Dune National Lakeshore on my way towards the northern peninsula. Of course, I'll be trying my dangdest to write as much as I can, but a little foreshadowing at this stage is ok.

For now, maybe one more ride in Vermont, a vegan bar b q, and then a wave goodbye. My first day out will have me leave Vermont, amongst other things, behind. The picture at the start of this entry is my bike with a draft version of my packing, with the trailer and panniers all on there. I already know that I have packed poorly and too much, and realize that the first week will be lugging too much stuff and then I will spend a few days trying to convince myself that even though I think I packed the bare necessities, I didn’t and that I will have to dump some stuff. But all in good time. Once I hit a big mountain, I'll reconsider.