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Old 11-14-08, 09:57 PM
cabana 4 life
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it all started months ago. I had gotten a good deal on a Surly Long Haul Trucker and always wanted to tour, but never thought I would be able to afford the bike and all the gear. After getting the bike I decided I was going to ride from Chicago to Muskegon, Michigan to surprise my parents. From there I was going to take a ferry across Lake Michigan to Milwaukee, and then ride back down to Chicago. I stared buying the things I decided I needed. I got a nice Jannd Expedition rear rack, a Tubus low rider front rack, and really great set of hand made panniers from Swift Industries. I thought about getting a new tent, but they're sooo super expensive, and the one I had I was kinda attached to. I gave it some TLC- I waterproofed the rain fly and sealed all the seems making it totally waterproof again. For weeks I planned and waited, and finally the day came.
It was Monday and time to go. I woke at 6:00 A.M. ( to tell the truth I barley slept because of the excitement). By 6:30 A.M. I was riding through the city, on my way out of town. Not even two miles into the trip and I had my first casualty. The magnet for the cadence on my computer fell off without me noticing...oh well. The morning was great! Riding along Lake Michigan with the sun rising over the lake, I was happy as could be. I was nervous about going through Hammond and Gary but it proved to be nothing to worry about. From there it was smooth sailing all the way to Michigan City. Once there, I was right at the lake again. The wind picked up and it started to rain. I was 60 miles in and knew I needed some more miles if I was going to make it to my parents in two days, so I put on my rain gear and headed south. Another 30 miles in the pouring rain. I needed to be done. Semi's were blowing by me, covering me with spray on top of the pouring rain. It was pretty crappy. I found a state park, pulled in, and started to set up my tent. I got it up pretty fast, but it got a little wet inside. No big deal- I got inside and to my horror it started to leak on me. I put my rain jacket over the leak and it kinda helped. The panniers were sweet and kept all my clothes dry, but because my tent was so wet, most everything got wet when I set it down. I took a long hot shower and ate a pb&j sandwich. I had planned on cooking veggie brats over the fire, but that wasn't going to happen in the monsoon that was going on outside. It was getting cold. Yeah, September... I thought I would be swimming in the lake, but instead I was shivering in my wet ass tent. I was a little worried
because it was going to get a lot colder and I didn't bring a sleeping pad. All my clothes were wet and my sleeping bag was damp. I got pretty bummed and just passed out. Got woke up an hour later by the ranger. He wasn't around when I got there, so I had to pay him $25.00 for my site! Give me a brake! I did ask him for some cardboard- an old hobo trick I learned from Derek. It makes a great sleeping pad and I really needed it. He said he'd see what he could do. I didn't expect much. I decided to not feel sorry for myself and went out in the rain to see if I could come up with a plan. I went into the bathroom and realized it was warm and dry. They had hand dryers, so I spent the next few hours trying to dry some of my clothes, and text people to keep my spirits up. Eventually I went back to my wet ass tent passed out. I woke up at six, packed up all my stuff, and got on the road.
It was cold- 48 degrees to be exact. 16 miles later I was in St. Jospeh trying to eat a bagel, but was feeling crappy and frozen. Called my dad and told him what I was doing and he said if I needed a ride him and my mom would come get me, but I had my pride and my friend Brandon telling me I could do it. 24 miles later, into a head wind with rain starting to fall, and all the extra weight from the rain soaked gear, I gave up. I called my mom and she came and got me. I realized I was still a long way from home and would've needed to camp another night, but all my **** was so soaked with no sun to dry it out. I was bummed to say the least. We drove my route home, and I still would have had 60 miles to go.
I'm now rested and armed with a brand new Mountain Hardware tent that's super duper water proof and really nice. I also picked up a few other things and I'm going to tackle part two of the trip Sunday. It's 90 miles from Milwakee to Chicago. I could do it in a day but that would take all the fun out of it! I'm going to do 40 miles Sunday and the rest Monday. I'll write part two when I get back. Wish me luck..seems I need it!

Some Things You Just Gotta Learn the Hard Way: My First Attempt at a Bicycle Tour, Part 2

All rested after 4 days of eating my parents food and watching tooo much tv, it was time for me to head out on the second leg of my journey. I was suppossed to ride to the ferry across Lake Michigan and land in Milwakuee, then ride half way home, camp, and the next day ride into Chicago. I got up early and set out for the ferry. It was raining again- still the leftovers of Hurricane Ike, but I was armed with a really sweet new mountain hardwear jacket (thanx mom and dad!). I gave myself a good amount of time to get to the ferry, but on the way there I didn't have one of my panniers on right and hit big ass bump. It fell off and got a little twisted in my wheel- nothing major, it just took a few minutes to fix.
When I got the the ferry dock I saw the boat and rolled up to see where to go if you bought you tickets online. I was told I was too late! It was 10:03 and because of Homeland Security, they close the boat 15 minutes before departure. Needless to say I was pissed. Three more minutes and the boat was still sitting at the dock. They even commented that the second bike just showed up, so they knew I was coming. They charged me $10.00 to change my ticket to the next day and that was that. I rode home bummed in the rain. My super sweet jacket leaked at one of the seals. It was just a bad day.
I began to think I suck at touring. My girlfriend called and gave me a really good pick me up. She said I just got screwed by the weather and thinks I was doing ok considering the circumstances. It made me feel better.
The next day my phone rang at 6:00 am- it was the damn ferry people. The lake was too rough to go that day so I was stuck again. This did give me time to return the leaky jacket which is still there because they're trying to get another one in my size.
Finally, three days after I was supposed to leave I made it to the boat on time and good to go. As much as I wanted to hate that ferry it was really nice. I ate fruit and yogurt and watched the new Indiana Jones movie on the tv's they have. It was a smooth ride and pretty cool. I honestly recommend it. When the ferry docked it was beautiful. I rode in just my jersey, soaking up the sun. I ate lunch overlooking Lake Michigan and talked with a few nuns who were out for a walk. The route was mostly bike trails- some paved and some lime stone. The map I used was pretty crappy. I got lost more than I wanted to. I rode 60 miles and got to my camp site a little after dark, which kinda sucked.
The old mad who gave me my camp site talked about when he and some friends went on a bike tour. He said they would ride 60 miles a day and after they set up camp they would square dance for an hour. To his credit, they were biking to a square dancing event. I set up camp. I even started a small fire and cooked some veggie sausages...they were AWESOME! I took a hot shower, made some phone calls, and went to sleep.
I woke a few hours later because I heard someone moving one of my panniers. It was under my rainfly, just outside my tent. I unzip my tent to see a raccoon take off with a Ziploc bag that had a few Clif bars, some gel shot, electrolite tabs, recovery drink, motrin, and some muscle relaxers my mom gave me. I could here him running all over in the woods because of the the sound of the morin bottle. He taunted me for about a half hour. He tried to steal my whole pannier, but the rain fly stopped it. He unzipped the pocket on the top of my bag barely enough to get that bag out. He came back a few more times. I scared him off, and I even through my u-lock at him (hey it was 4:30 am and I was tired!).
I woke up the next day to sunshine and warm temps. I packed up and headed out. My legs hurt, but in good way. I rode for awhile and found a sandy beach to eat lunch on and basically discarded my map and just headed south. There were some big ass houses north of Chicago- I'm talking huge, stone, fancy ass ones. I got lost a few times in the small cities, but overall it was ok.
I had a little bout of culture shock when I got into Chicago. All the cars didn't give me the room I was used to. Usually cars moved over a whole lane for me and I almost forgot about how bad people in the city drive. It was only a 50 mile day and I made it home in the afternoon.
I rode a total trip distance of 270 miles. I thought it would be more, but over all I'm happy with my trip. I'm in love with my bike. It was awesome on the trip. And I love my panniers too. I'm going to get a set of front ones so I can balance the weight out more. Now I'm thinking about my next trip. Not sure where I'm going, but I'm hoping it won't be in the rain!

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