Got up at 7 am and packed my entire kit in a flash. Turns out anger is a powerful motivator and I’m able to snap out of the lethargic fog that has clouded the last few days. Fuck this nonsense. I bid adieus to the pair of rad cats that had been kind and distant hosts during these two days and strut straight out the door with my two panniers in my hands. I loaded up my bike and cruised down the road to McDonald’s (TAKE THAT RAS TRENT) and ate two sausage biscuits and a large milky sugar coffee while scribbling in my notebook and checking my messages. The man working the counter swoops in when I finish my second sandwich and clears my tray and asks me if I need anything else. After being semi invisible for two days in a house full of people, I’m shocked by his kindness. But there is no time for more biscuits, the sun is up and I need to get some miles under my wheels.
There is a bike path right behind the restaurant and the combination of a sausage filled belly and quiet bike path mellows my anger into smooth pedal energy. Autumn colors were in full burst and the air was crisp and I am reminded that NOTHING is more beautiful then Lake Superior in early autumn. These are some of the easiest miles since the Minnesota North Shore and I’m so thankful for the hours of peaceful riding.
Mid morning, I stop at a gas station next to the trail and get an bottle of iced coffee and mix it with turmeric and black pepper hoping that it will help my inflammation. Even with all the shaking, it doesn’t really dissolve and the taste was earthly and bitter, but it can’t be worse than all the ibuprofen I’ve crunching down like candy. My knees are still quite swollen and retaining fluid and what they really need is for me to STOP BIKING which isn’t going to happen until I hit Duluth. Oh god, Duluth. Is it still there? After all this time?
More beautiful miles than back on Highway 41 near Ishpeming and I see a pasty restaurant pop up on my Google Maps and know where I’m going to get my lunch. Pastys are a regional culinary darling, leftover from the European settlers who worked in the iron mines. It is a glorious calorie bomb with many variations but the classic is beef and potatoes, a hearty stew tucked into a lard crust pocket. Oh, and it is pronounced PAH-STY not PAE-STY, as the latter is the name for nipple coverings. I was explained this difference when I was a kid visiting this here UP and I felt such a dumb shame for not knowing how to pronounce words. Anyways, I get a beef pasty and cold coke and listen to tasty small town gossip being slung by the people behind the counter while working my way through this monstrosity. I charge my phone, battery depleted from the morning fall colors photo shoot.
I consider getting another one to go but my panniers are packed tight with groceries and it’s too big to tuck into my fanny pack, so I have to go without. I get back onto the highway and discover another bike trail near this small town which is absolutely gorgeous, it winds through golden trees and provides so many great vistas, I’m just beauty drunk.
Unfortunately, like most smaller town bike trails built for tourism, the trail ends abruptly in the middle of the woods. I double back to the fork in the trail and take the other path but this just leads to a cute lake with a picnic area and although it was a lovely detour, I really need to get moving.
It is late afternoon and in an hour, some ominous clouds roll in and dark is creeping in quick. I’m biking towards L’Anise, hoping to find a cheap motel to crash in since I don’t know if I’ll have time to make it to the campground in Baraga. The highway arrives at the lakeshore again and I’m zooming down another hilly decent into town, the dramatic view of the lake almost a cliche at this point. Yet my heart still winks every time we repeat this grand revel and shout of prayers as I grip my handlebars and hope that I don’t flinch as the chain screams and whirs as I fly towards the bottom of the hill.
I spot another shitty motel right off the highway before L’Anise but there is a phone number posted up on the front office door and when I call it, no one picks up. I quickly scan to see if there is any sign of people but all is quiet. Tourist season is done and the mood in these towns has already shifted towards preparing for long winter. I hustle on towards the campground in Baraga, where there are a few RVs but no attendant. I’ve found that most state campgrounds in Michigan to be fairly expensive with minimal amenities, but this one at least features a newish bathroom with showers, although it is not heated and it is far too cold at night now to get intentionally wet.
I set up my tent quick as the clouds continue to build and cook up a bowl of ramen with fresh ginger and jalapeños, some warming spice to keep the heat in my fingers and toes. As I slurp down noodles, I review all my provisions for the next few days and mentally plan out the next few meals in my head. There is a chill in the wind and I feel the brevity of the season deep in my bones. I find my cheap gloves towards the bottom of the bag and place them in my fanny pack. Soon the rain really starts to sputter so I grab a bag of gummis and head into my tent for another episode of Two Dope Queens, the giggles of these women providing a human warmth as I snuggle deep into the sleeping bag. I’m happy to be alone again in my tent, far away from puffy headed teenagers and doorless rooms.
DISTANCE RIDDEN: 75 miles
SONG OF THE DAY: “Take Me With You” by Prince