Sunday, April 12, 2009

Riding to Leland via Cedar and Schomberg Road

I was thinking of heading to Glen Arbor yesterday and I bailed. Ended up short, going to Cedar instead.

Fact is though I've been wanting to get that metric century under my belt early this season, so I climbed back on the Schwinn fixie and pushed off towards Leland...the long way.

Bicyclists in these parts all know Schomberg Road in Leelanau County. It's a notorious nine mile stretch of road heading north out of Cedar. Straight roads are funny things. They can wreak havoc on your good sense. This road seems unimposing...for the first mile or so.

Then it just keeps coming at you, hill after hill after hill. Granted, each uphill push comes with a nice downhill complement, but you know how it is with fixed gear bikes. You're working pretty hard going downhill as well as uphill.

The early spring scenery is spectacular today, and that makes it all more tolerable. At the crest of each hill the horizon seems to open up a little more, providing some hope that Leland will be just around the next corner.

Well, it's Easter Sunday and the whole town of Leland is shut down except for all the brunchers at the Bluebird Restaurant. Critical error on my part.... I didn't bring much food and had expected to reward myself with some kind of chow here. Oops. So I down my one apple, and a few power-cubes, chug some water and off I go.

Working my way towards Lake Leelanau Drive on M-22 the wind hits me hard in the face and I hunker down again. Finally turning southward things get comfortable and the scenery is glorious. The north end of Lake Leelanau is packed with ice, and the white surface is blinding as I look across.

By the time I cross County 204 in Lake Leelanau, I'm feeling the bonk. I know if I don't get some food I'll just drag myself home. But it IS Easter, and nothing seems open. I point the wheel south and keep rolling.

Then an Omen. Manna falling from heaven. Or more precisely, a sandwich from Joe, really. As I crest the hill at Donner Road, there in the center of the two lanes, lying between the two yellow lines is a ham and cheese sandwich. I'm not kidding. It's perfectly wrapped in plastic, and it's from NJ's Indian store in Lake Leelanau. On the wrapper, along with the "made-on" date, is written in big letters the name JOE, in thick magic marker. Poor Joe must have placed it on top of his car. While turning off 641 onto Donner Road it looks like it slid off, safely face-up in the middle of the road.

Now some of you would ask why I wouldn't just leave that sandwich sitting in the middle of the road? Well, I'm a do gooder, and that was too much litter in the middle of the road...and I was hungry! And, yes, I ate it. And it was good. Thanks Joe! I owe you one.

Here's the trip map:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Early Season Lighthouse Run

Dennis is heading to the Detroit velodrome tomorrow morning to practice again on the track. Too early for me, so I decide to go on a solo jaunt out to the lighthouse. Another first assault for the season.

As soon as I get a block from home the wind hits me in the face and it's cold! I decide to push on and deal with it. I heat up pretty fast and then hunker down into the wind that is coming straight out of the north.... exactly where I'm heading. It's a stand-up wind too. Gotta be 15 to 20 MPH. The wind roars through my helmet, a deafening companion. But heck, it's a gorgeous crystal blue northern Michigan day.

As East Shore Drive opens up, it reveals Lake Michigan at its bluest. Sapphire is a good reference here. The wind is whipping up the surf, and I think to myself I wouldn't want to be on a boat today. All this makes the ride tolerable, and more than that, enjoyable.

There's no sitting up, riding no-hands today though. I'm in full tuck as much as I can stand, and my legs are grinding forward. I'm making a conscious decision to slowly increase my gear inches on the fixie this season. Starting with my comfortable 42 x 15, I've now moved to 42 x 14. That's about 82 gear inches. I plan to jump up to a 52 x 17 within the next month.

As I crest Smokey Hollow hill for the first time this year, the view of Lake Michigan stretching out in the distance is as delightful as ever. It beckons us all for the season ahead. And the reward of climbing from the south is the 45 MPH decent in Old Mission. What a blast!

Here's a video of the ride:

Approaching the lighthouse, I see that the gate is locked tight and there's still a lot of snow in there. But tradition is hard to beat so I stop for a minute.

Just long enough to catch a chill facing unprotected now into the charging north wind.

I saddle back up and suddenly things are quiet with the wind to my back. That's a relief. I negotiate my way over to Seven Hills Road and once again I'm reminded of why we all love riding the peninsula. Cherry trees to my right, grape vines to my left, and the long stretch of road undulating towards the horizon. These are indeed seven hills, not bad, just enough to wake you up and provide a good early season test of the legs.

So that's it today. Here's the map.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Ride to Sutton's Bay April 8th, 2009

Dennis and I picked up "gear-head" rider Brian Beauchamp and took a trip out towards Sutton's Bay today. We want to hit the TART trail and see if the snow has cleared. It doesn't take long for us to run into enough snow to challenge our skinny little tires, and then after Cherry Bend Road, enough to turn us back and hit the roads.

Here's a short synopsis video of the ride set to some Pink Floyd.

We all know Dennis is a strong rider, so I figured we'd be putting the hurt to our friend Brian. But Brian, riding his Cannondale geared bike, is also a strong rider and holds his own doing some damage to us on the hills... up and down.

We take Leelanau County Road 633 from where it tees with Cherry Bend, climbing the familiar and subtle hill that starts it off. Once on top, it's a fun set of rollers that help us make it through all the bare farmland, and cherry orchards. The fields are still covered with small blotches of snow. And every now and then, where the road narrows and the trees shade the tarmac, snow creeps out onto the roadway reaching out at our 700c tires.

On the way back we choose to head out towards Lee Point, a gorgeous little spit of land that helps make up the bay that settlers named after named Sutton. A quick climb up reveals upon looking back, a killer view of the bay and rest of Lake Michigan in the distance. Not to be missed if you ride out this way.

While leaving Lee Point Road and entering M-22, I accelerate and in the process lose Dennis off my shoulder. By the time I look back he's gone. I wait until Brian shows up and just assume Dennis is with him. Oops. We tinker around waiting but he doesn't show up. I get on the cell and leave him a message with our intended route and we plod up Shady Lane hill. (Dennis had been having some problems with his seat after spending some time on the Velodrome in Detroit last week.)

By this time it is about 8:00 PM and the Sun is setting on our right, just at this moment the field to our left opens up revealing the full moon rising. This is why we ride here. It's simply gorgeous any time of year.

As Brian and I make our way across 633 heading home I suggest that if Dennis is on M-22 he may in fact catch up to us. And as we jump off the TART Trail at M-72, there in the distance is a flicker of red. Yup, it's Dennis. He managed somehow to beat us home. Well, that's just Dennis. Probably pissed him off that I left him behind and that charged him up to crank up the RPMs. I've learned too well to never underestimate the cycling prowess of this man. He's a friggin' god.

So that's it. Watch the video. And get on your damn bike!

Here's the Trimble Allsport GPS trip map of the journey.