Ride report Auburn Hills/Detroit over the 4th
A week back from the vacation up in Auburn Hills/Detroit area over the Fourth of July. I thank the users here who helped me out with some route and ride information before I left.
I have to say that the newly installed and in progress MUP's in the area are tremendous. I was lucky enough to be within a short distance of the Clinton River Trail and my son and I rode it out to the Macolm Orchard Trail past Stony Creek Park. I would have loved to have some pics and details of the ride, but a problem with the smart phone kept me from being able to get them without concern for battery life in an unknown area.
The week of the Fourth was extremely hot for that area. We were expecting mid 80's and the temps were in the hundreds for a couple of days while we were there. I would like to preface the rest of the report to say that I am VERY spoiled, being a GA boy, where it comes to roads. I knew absolutely nothing of the conditions to which my unfamiliarity with what weather does to the roads was going to translate into as far as conditions on this ride.
My son and I had gotten a bit of a late start that morning, I broke my glasses while getting ready and had to glue them back together, and also realized I had not properly charged my phone. We knew the weather was going to be hot and had planned a short 30 or so mile ride in order to be back before the heat of the day really set in. We had looked over the map and decided to pick up the Clinton River Trail right off of Opdyke Rd just East of Pontiac. The actually city of Pontiac we had been warned both by users here and hotel staff not to ride. The website details mentioned some recycled asphalt surface, as well as unpaved sections between there and the Macolm Orchard Trail, which is further developed.
The hotel staff mentioned to us that the sidewalks in many areas are actually MUP and were encouraged to watch for, and ride on those, rather than the street surface. This was all well and good in most cases. The paths were easy to find and follow in most cases. The only issue that we found, and what played into some problems later, was that without knowing the area and the nature of the MUP they commonly would come to an end of one or the other side of the street without notice. It forced us to take surface streets a few times, and to have to get off the bike and cross dangerous spots in order to reconnect to the path on the other side of the road, intersection, etc. The surface roads, as I had mentioned, were pretty beaten up towards the margins from weather. It ended up taking us a pretty long time, relatively speaking, to travel any distance off the larger MUP (trails), so we got to the start of the CRT even later than we had anticipated.
The heat of the day was starting to set in by this time and we were both glad to see that the CRT was well shaded and had quite a few restroom and water stations along it's length. We were a bit dismayed to find that the better part of it was not paved, and we were the only road bikes I saw along that section. The surface was still decent and although it slowed our pace considerably we were glad to be in the well shaded path. We continued East and it went though patches of this recycled surface that was mentioned in Rochester Hills (IIRC). There were some pretty sketchy spots along that area at road crossings and intersections that required a sharp eye to follow the poorly marked trail, and would have been very easy to get sidetracked back onto one of the "sidewalk" MUP that led all over around the school and town there. We had planned on making a 13+ MPH pace, and at this point were making about 9, well behind schedule.
The transition out of Rochester Hills and into Shelby Township also marked the end of the Clinton River Trail and the start of the Macolm Orchard Trail. It was paved very nicely, well marked, and fast compared to the previous surface. There were a great deal more bicycles as opposed to joggers along this section. the cycles turned from MTB/Hybrid to road bikes and cruisers. I was quite surprised to see a great deal of older steel framed bikes in really nice condition. The variety of cyclists was quite a cross section of different people, and was pretty interesting in and of itself. The trail headed up and away from the river and out of the shade. The hills and the heat were quite a bit different than the flat rail to trail path we had ridden thus far. At this point we had traveled about 14 miles, but it had taken about two hours with all the stops.
We stopped for a bit and got on Google Maps to take a look at an alternate way back. I had recalled seeing a bike path taking a more direct route back to the hotel through the college. We were in the area of 26th when we started back. I really should have considered how the first couple of miles had been. The "bike path" indicated on the map as the way back was another of the sidewalk/MUP and kept dead ending us into neighborhoods and the middle of a road. We opted to ride on the surface streets for about 10 miles at one point. I have to say that the drivers we encountered were visibly upset with us at being there in some places, but never caused any serious concern. I could see that if there were a three foot passing rule in effect (which I doubted due to the MUP) drivers were certainly not following it. I honest to goodness felt as if I were riding in Paris-Roubaix. I was being beaten to death riding on the road, so we opted to get back on the MUP. This slowed us down terribly again, and the constant curbs, crossings, driveways slowed us back to a crawl again.
When we got to within 5 or so miles of the hotel I had to find a shady spot to pull off. It had gotten really hot out and I was overheating a bit in spite of drinking plenty of water. My son was tired, but fine, also taken by complete unaware about how these roads were actually going to be to ride on. We had no clue what we were up against. I found a nice little spot under some trees and we set down for about 10 minutes to cool and collect, mostly me. We mounted back up and managed to finish the last couple of miles in at a very conservative pace. It turned out that a couple of blocks away from the hotel were a main artery to the site of the Warped Tour concert going on in town that night. It made the last mile very entertaining, and involved quite a bit of walking for safety just due to the sheer volume of traffic.
We ended up back with just at 32 miles in around 4 hours total time. It was 102* when we got back, and a hotel pool has never felt better. Ever. The "more direct" path back turned into a nightmare of surface streets and MUP dead ends and backtracks. Riding a narrow tired road bike anywhere off the larger named MUP's was a huge mistake for a person who didn't know the area. Had I known what I was getting into (or listened to the people who tried to tell me), I would have parked at one of the stops on the big trail(s) and done all my riding there and certainly will do that if I return. Once the improvements are finalized, they are going to be (and really already are) a tremendous resource to the area.