LMB is excited to again be posting regular blog entries from Michigan Upper Peninsula (MUP) Bicycle Tour rider, Ralph Hennen. Please check back often to read about MUP adventure and see photos of the sights found only in the U.P.!
Ralph has worked as a contract photographer since he was 17 years old. He photographed architecture, art, fashion, fitness, food, landscapes, portraiture, special projects, sports, travel and many others. He has shown in various New York City galleries and other places in the country. He has traveled around the world from the Arctic to the Far East photographing.
In the past 10 years Ralph has added blog writing and photo critiques to his activities. He writes a private food blog specifically tailored for executive use in New York City. He also writes restaurant and food critique for places in the City.
July 12 and 13
I arrived at Paradise, MI, in the early afternoon. As I hadn't seen in internet in two long days, I made my way to the public library next to the school to suck down the free Wi-Fi that had been blessedly working. When I had my fix of the world-wide-web, I grabbed whomever I could to hit the Berry Patch Bakery, a pie place famous far and wide for their daily limited pie treats. Today's were blueberry, rhubarb, and cherry. I missed this experience last year because the place closes at 5:00 p.m., or when they run out of pie, whichever comes first. The secret of these pies: the crusts were a work of art worthy of a pie museum. The waitress was feisty and served my good friend Frank and me in a room by ourselves – I guess she wanted to keep our ruckus banter out of the ears of the customers who might not quite understand our life-long game of rhetoric. She, however, had no problem holding her own in the midst of the sparing volley of wit and quip between Frank and I.
Paradise School, who hosted our campsite, had 26 students attending this past year. That's 26 students, K through 12, in the whole building!! Last year it was 46 students. This is a very remote town in the U.P., and the district is always thinking of ways to drum up students. They hope to, at least, keep their basketball team that they have today.
In a group of cyclists one could make a lot of money running bets on the weather. In today's case the house would have won. At the Paradise School, as a dinner of pasties (pronounced pass-tees, and they will correct you.) was served, riders talked about the weather reports from their various news sources. Rain starting at 7:00 p.m. and running through next day was on the lips of most. But after dinner, the sky cleared, the temperature began to drop a bit, and the evening weather couldn't be beat.
At 6:30 p.m., a school bus pulled up to take all who wanted to go to Whitefish Point Lighthouse Park. This park sits on a point in Lake Superior with sandy beaches and ocean-like (but unsalted) Great Lakes scenery. The Museum for the Edmond Fitzgerald is there and covers the details of the life and sinking of the ship and her crew. There are several buildings on the museum campus including a lighthouse. Back at the campsite, those who skipped the lighthouse outing were treated to a local music festival that featured some good hometown performers playing nostalgic tunes.
By sundown, everyone was back to the school campground, turning into zombies and heading for their tents like the night of the living dead. Sunrise was bright clear and reasonable temperatures. At breakfast, the coffee addicts, including myself, were beginning to shake at the table where they local boys were lifting a keg of coffee mis-labeled "Gatorade". During breakfast, I started a conversation with a couple I didn't know. As the conversation proceeded we discovered we'd both worked for Pepsi Cola in years past though at different ends of the organization – I'll spare you the details of that.
After breakfast the scramble began to hit the road: directly into a freshening headwind. Well, ya can't have everything. Turning off the main route onto the shore route the winds eased and so did the traffic. The first SAG stop was at a beach on the Lake – beautiful, clear water (very tempting to take off all nonessentials and jump in the lake).
The next stop: Iroquois Lighthouse, an amazing antique lighthouse looking out over the bay onto the Lake. The lighthouse is still in use and the light keeper happened to be on the lawn. When asked what was the worst storm he experienced there, he said he and his wife had just taken the position in the past 3 months so he had not experienced a winter here. He looked somewhat old than 65 so I guessed the job was not as risky as it might have been in years gone by.
The next stop was the Dancing Crane, an odd log cabin store with a 21st Century coffee bar. I had a triple iced espresso with almond milk. I had to go back for seconds. They had essence oils, soaps and candles of sweet grass, and some sort of compote to repel black flies, mosquitos, and any other pest that might otherwise suck the blood from one's defenseless body. I took the bait and bought some. I haven't had an intrusive fly, bug, blood sucking, or stinging insect since. However, my white socks are turning black where I placed the goo. The other thing I couldn't resist was a fresh Dancing Crane grilled bratwurst with mustard – one of my favorite things – slung on the fire by the husband of the owner and coffee-marm. Yum. It met my every expectation.
The next leg was a blistering 88 degrees hot. But all made it to Lake Superior State University where we pitched tents, enjoyed great shower facilities, and air conditioned building with couches, TVs, and a good chef. This is the most civilization that we've had all week.
Tomorrow is our layover day, when riders can have a break to have fun and frolic in Sault Saint Marie, MI. Options include a boat trip of the locks, kayaking in the St. Mary's River, biking on a couple islands in the river, drinking beer on the park lawn watch large ships go through the locks upfront and personal.
OK, the bets are on for tonight: 11:00 p.m. warning of winds and rain so strong it may require us to leave our tents and take refuge in the cool, clean, air conditioned inside of the college student center. I'm watching the thunderheads from over Canada at the moment, but I'm guess it will go north. Stay tuned for tomorrow's weather report from the previous night!