It is nice to be back in Michigan, even more so just the great lakes area. The scenery is the best, and I’ve had a lot of opportunities to visit friends and have others ride along. There are a lot of rails to trails routes in the area too, so that helps in avoiding a lot of the automobile traffic. I made it from Madison to Michigan City, IN primarily on bike paths, with just a couple stretches of roadways and some downtown streets in the bigger cities. That being said, I have really enjoyed riding into Milwaukee and Chicago. I don’t think the trip to Chicago could have been any better! I was able to meet Nate, who is a firefighter friend of mine from the Town of Madison. He rode with me 30 or 40 miles, and set up a lunch at his fire station in Pleasant Prairie. After that we crossed into Illinois, and I was able to follow paths all the way through Evanston (Northwestern University) and onto the Lakeshore Path that hugs the coastline of Lake Michigan. It was an incredible sight to finally be able to see the Chicago skyscrapers in the distance, and as I approached they just got bigger and bigger. I am a sucker for big cities and their skylines, so getting to ride sandwiched between Lake Michigan on my left and the Chicago skyline on my right made for a pretty memorable bike trip.
The Chicago Fire Department also stepped up big time and really represented the camaraderie of the fire service well. I was actually having trouble securing a place to stay in Chicago, and thankfully the Milwaukee firefighters’ local contacted the Chicago local, and literally the day before I rode to Chicago I got a call from a chief. He said he’d be happy to help out with lodging, and that I could stay in any firehouse in the city. How generous. When we made the arrangements at Engine 13 by Navy Pier, I was greeted by over thirty firefighters standing outside the bay doors. They really did a great job taking care of me. I enjoyed talking with them and hearing more about the CFD.
There is just so much to write about with this trip, I know that there is no way I can do it all justice with this blog. I’ve skipped entire portions, and basically the entire leg from Denver to the Midwest. There were so many great people and stories from those parts of the trip that I can’t just leave them out, but on the other hand I don’t have to time to detail everything the way should be. Even the two days I spent in Madison were just so jam packed, it’ll take a while to get it all written out. But I’ll do my best, please bear with me!
I am writing this post from my Aunt’s house in Plainwell, MI. I have 35 miles to go to Grand Rapids, and I am actually riding with an old friend of my dad’s, Greg Good. It’s so great to have other people to ride with, and it’s so neat that Greg has been willing to ride the whole day with me. I’ve been learning a ton of stories about my dad from his days in Kalamazoo, and it all makes for great conversation as we travel. Last night I stayed in Oshtemo, MI, which is a fire department my dad formerly worked for. It’s cool to hear these old stories about things he was doing in the fire service back on that department. Everyone in Oshtemo was extremely friendly and kind, and I’d like to say thanks to the firefighters who were willing to stay up and listen to my stories from the road. One firefighter shared some of his groceries and cooked me breakfast, which I am very appreciative of. It was also great to be able to watch baseball with some other Tigers fans!
Before Oshtemo I rode from Chicago to St. Joseph, MI with two terrific riders who are firefighters out of Elkhart, IN. These guys were fast. I have never gone so fast in my life. And they were fun too. We had a lot of laughs and joking (and a couple of flats) throughout the trip despite pouring rain. We called it our Michigan Monsoon. They rode 92 miles with me, and we covered the distance in no time. I’ll have to write more about that day of riding later, but it was an absolute blast. There was one point in the trip where we were drafting off each other and following in a line. Your sight is reduced when you ride like this, so you’ve really got to rely on the rider ahead of you to point out potholes and other road debris. There was one giant hole that Jeremy swerved away from, and I was able to barely follow him and avoid it. “Good God!” he said. “That was a deep pot hole. I think that one went straight to hell” I don’t know why but that cracked me up. I couldn’t stop laughing for the next 5 miles. Even now I still smile about it as I write.
Alright, we are off to finish the ride. The weather is nice, so it should go well.