Day 46 Wallon Lake to Cadillac Michigan
A pretty day at last, but a narrow shoulder on US 131
I did another short day, about 85 miles with 1500 feet of climbing and an average speed barely over 12 mph. It was pretty today, the first pretty day since the day I rode to Iron River. The difference was lower humidity and no haze to spoil the view. It was also quite windy with a strong wind out of the west for most of the day. It was 15 mph or so and gusty which meant I could do no more than about 9 mph riding into it and 11 mph riding southwest. Fortunately, much of the southern part of this route goes through forest which makes a good windbreak. It took me 7 hours to do 85 miles instead of the eight or more hours it would have taken without those windbreaks. It was also much easier and more pleasant to ride the narrow shoulders I had for most of the day without having to fight a crosswind.
Riding, except for the wind and the traffic, was nice today. The weather was good, the hills were, mostly, gentle, and the shoulder was, mostly, adequate. Their inadequacy resulted from too much traffic and meant my attention needed to be on the traffic most of the day. The shoulder was usually just wide enough for my bags to clear the white line. When traffic was passing from both directions, and that was a lot of the time, there was little room for error. When that traffic was big trucks in both directions, there was almost no room for error. Those trucks would pass me with a foot of clearance for my bags.
The edge of the shoulder dropped off an inch or so into sand and gravel, so there was also no tolerance for error in that direction. If my wheel went off the edge, I would not have been able to get it back up without moving the whole bike off and coming back on a fairly sharp angle. I only had to get off the paved shoulder once, for two wide load trucks carrying some kind of large tanks, but I always had to be aware of that edge as well as the white line.
Leaving - the shoulder shrunk!
It was really pleasant to head out this morning without the oppressive humidity of the past week. I don't think I dripped sweat on my bike at all today, despite having a couple of moderate climbs! Life is more comfortable when my body's cooling system can use evaporative cooling. I rode, over a few hills, to Boyne Falls where I had breakfast at Betty's. Betty's was recommended by the folks at the motel. I had a short stack of pancakes and bowl of oatmeal with raisins and brown sugar. Those pancakes were almost crepes and they were great. I was a happy camper after that breakfast, but I spoiled it at lunch.
Much of today's route parallels the railroad, so slopes are gentle
But there are a couple of places where the road goes over ridges
After Boyne Falls, the road parallels the railroad tracks most of the time. When it departs from the tracks, it gets hilly, and the longest of those hills climbs several hundred feet at a three or four percent grade. While I was cranking up that hill, I was thinking about the hills that I climbed yesterday, the steepest of which was near eight percent. It doesn't take much energy to propel a bicycle at slow speeds on a flat surface. I'd guess only few watts. Bicycles are marvelously efficient devices, but, when climbing a hill, the bicyclist has to provide the energy to lift his body and the bicycle up the vertical change. If you and your (loaded) bicycle weigh 250 pounds, and you climb at 2500 feet an hour, that figures out to almost 200 watts of energy that your body has to provide. Yesterday's eight percent grade at four mph, required about 100 watts. That is a whole lot more than the few watts needed for slow flat riding!
Ah, you say, I'll just slow down! Well, climbing 2500 feet an hour is, roughly, going up a ten percent grade at 5 mph. Maybe you can slow down to 2.5 mph. Then you only need 100 watts power output, but most folks can't sustain 100 watts either. So what can you do? Walking gets you down to two mph, not much help, so you push a short while, rest, and repeat till you get to the top. That can take a very long time if you are climbing thousands of feet! There is no easy answer to this problem, but getting your body into better shape means that it can sustain a higher power output for a longer time. I can do something like 100 watts for an hour, and that means I can climb eight percent grades at about 4 mph on my loaded bike or about 5.5 mph on my unloaded bike. On the first day of this tour, I pushed my loaded bike up a twenty percent grade and I had to stop and rest every hundred feet or so. Now I could probably do it without stopping because, having been riding hard for more than a month, I'm in better shape. The fact that I have lost ten pounds would also help!
An irrigation system alongside the road - a windy spot
Windbreaks along the road - much nicer riding today
The other factor in bicycling power output is energy needed to push your bicycle and your body though the air. That is a lot more complicated to calculate, but today's wind, as a headwind, limited me to about nine mph. I can ride up a two percent grade at about that speed and I'd be putting out about, lets see, if 10% at five mph is 200, then, very roughly, twice the speed and one fifth the slope would mean about 2/5th of 200 watts and that is 80 watts. Probably a fairly good estimate of how much work it was taking me to crank directly into that wind. If I had to that all day, I would be one tired bicyclist tonight. At least hills have a top, but headwinds sometimes blow all day long.
Today's lunch mistake was stopping at McD's in Mancelona. I should have snacked there and rode on to Kalaska which has a Subway. Instead I had a grilled chicken meal at McD's and immediately regretted it. Then I rode on to Kalaska where I rushed to the bathroom at the Subway, and then got a Sub to take with me and eat, after my digestive system had recovered a bit.
US 131 between Kalaska and South Boardman - not good
US 131 between Kalaska and South Boardman was in bad shape. The shoulder was rough and had potholes, and crews were doing patches similar to those I experienced in Saskatchewan, with oil and lose rock. There was lots of traffic. I had my only adrenaline jag of the tour as fought to control my bike on a rough, partially sand covered, shoulder just before the road crossed Rainy River. I was going about 20 mph downhill, there was a strong crosswind, and there was a guardrail because of the river. A semi passed me and things got very squirmy as the wind from the truck buffeted me in the strong cross wind on the rough surface with the loose sand. That was probably the scariest moment of this tour. I also spent lot of time, on that section, riding in dust clouds as trucks pulled over to safely pass me, and put their wheel in the fresh gravel/sand that the repair crews were putting down.
The road between South Boardman and Walton
When I stopped at the Marathon Sation in South Boardman, I had a nice visit with one of the guys running it, a peaceful second lunch eating my sub, and, when I left, the pleasure of discovering a wide smooth shoulder that lasted for the next ten miles or so. Not only was the road the best, the traffic was less, and the forest was quite nice, almost park like. That was a great ride!
Coming into Manton
The hill south of Manton
When MI 113 joins US 131 at Fife Lake, the wide shoulder goes away - it is the county line - and the traffic increases a lot. So much for the great ride, back to getting on down the road. I stopped in Manton for dessert, then rode on to Cadillac. This was fairly hilly and there was a lot of traffic. I rode all the way through Cadillac - getting a couple supporting honks and waves riding through the long 'strip' that is most of Cadillac. At the south end I passed through the real town - kind of nice - and then stopped at a Chinese restaurant in a mall for an excellent dinner buffet. As I was finishing my (second) plate, a fellow came over and wanted to talk about touring. He is leaving for a supported tour up the west coast of the LP next week and then is doing a supported MTB tour in the UP. We looked at my map and considered the possibilities for finding place to stay within the next twenty miles south of here, and decided they were pretty slim. That gave us more time to visit, then I rode south a few blocks and stopped for the night at the southernmost motel in Cadillac.