Jackson, MI to Brighton, MI -50 Miles
Last night, I started a new routine of reviewing the next day’s route and looking for any trouble spots ahead. Today’s ride was going to take us along the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail (26 miles). The trailhead at the Jackson end is truly off the beaten path. I looked up the trail to see what type of surface it had. In addition to crushed limestone and paved, I saw the word “ballast”. Ballast? What does that mean? I was imagining it meant the same gravel we’d found on the trail not taken the day before. I looked at the maps and that saw that the trail would eventually cross the highway I was considering as an alternate route. The highway seemed like a better bet compared to an unknown trail surface. We decided to ride on the highway until we reached the trail crossing and then evaluate the situation.
The trail looked OK to us, so we hopped on and were glad we did. It was a nice trail,
There’s a sameness to these trails, so I didn’t take too many pictures.
About half-way along the trail, it changed to pavement -which was great. We’d been a bit worried about riding on unpaved trails at the start of the trip, but after riding on them so far we joked that they were often smoother than some paved trails we’ve been on. Older paved trails get cracks, potholes, and tree roots causing bouncy bumps.
We had lunch at a little trailside park in Stockbridge.
The next town was Pinckney. Someone had used chalk to write various inspiring messages along the trail, I’m assuming for a walking or running event. I pretended that they were especially for me!
We got to a trailhead where we could take a quick rest stop.
Further along the trail passed through an area with tons of little lakes and streams. We usually stop for small breaks every 10-15 miles or so. We saw a bench on the side of the trail just when we were ready – and this view was across the trail from us.
Usually, these trails end at an official trailhead with parking and at least some benches and a restroom, but this trail just dead-ended next to a very busy road. Thus began what might be the worst five miles of riding we’ve ever experienced.
The busy road was adjacent to US-23, which is an expressway. There were service type roads on both sides of US-23. The route had us riding a short distance on the West side, then crossing over to the East side for awhile before connecting to a trail continuing East. I’d booked a hotel located on the West side, though, and wanted to figure out a more direct way to get there.
Looking at the map, I thought – We should just stay on the East side since the road goes right by the hotel. (Famous last thoughts). I even did a Google maps street view of the road and it showed a very nice shoulder…at the points I checked. At the corner where the original route said turn right, we went straight. Not far beyond that point, we lost our safe shoulder. Just to make it more exciting, the edge of the road was all broken bits of paving with large potholes. Wait! Wait! There’s more! It was rush hour. I don’t know what the speed limit was, but traffic was moving pretty fast.
There was a bit of white knuckle riding before I stopped to check the maps to see if there was a way out of the mess we’d gotten into. There wasn’t. We decided to try riding off the edge of the road. The dirt/gravel was like quicksand for our bike tires. Then we started walking. We still had over a mile to our hotel at that point. I told Mike I wasn’t pushing my bike down the road that far! We decided that our only choice was to just ride on the road and go as fast was we could. About 1/2 mile further, the road suddenly opened up to a gigantic shoulder – from famine to feast. Let me tell you, I was thanking Jesus profusely when I saw that shoulder.
I am very grateful that the drivers who were traveling that road at the same time as us were extremely courteous and did give us as much space as they could when they passed us. Whew!
Brighton, MI to Rochester Hills, MI -30 Miles
Today’s route used four trails: the Island Lake Pathway, the Huron Valley Trail, The Michigan Airline Trail and the Clinton River Trail.
We started out having to get back across to the East side of the expressway, entering a shopping area where we could catch the next trail. Luckily, it wasn’t much more than 1/2 mile or so before we got on the trail. The Island Lake Path is in a state recreation area. We biked part of it on the road and part of it on trail. The conditions were good.
A short distance before Wixom, we segued from the Huron Valley Pathway to the Michigan Airline Trail. Wixom looked like it would be the perfect place for a trail break -but it was too early in the day for us. When we had to ride through some city streets, I liked this well-marked trail for bikes and pedestrians.
The Michigan Airline Trail was a very nice trail. It was only about 7 miles total -but in great condition. One of the things I liked was that at many of the crossings they had the pedestrian crossing light system. When we wanted to cross, we hit the button, the flashers started, and cars had to stop for us. It made the crossings a lot easier.
Our last trail of the day was the Clinton River Trail (16 miles). We were back to unpaved conditions.
I’ve already mentioned that we’d started double-checking the routes and making executive decisions day to day. One of the newer issues we’ve become picky about is that we really don’t want to ride through the middle of any busy cities if we can avoid it. When I first mapped the route, I just followed the official maps and didn’t give it much throught. After Kalamazoo and the bits of Battle Creek we rode through, we had had enough of riding in bigger cities.
Today’s route included several miles through downtown Pontiac. I’d used Google Earth to look at the roads involved and decided -nope – but I couldn’t find a good alternate way to get around it. Since Laura was rejoining us today, we decided to have her meet us on the West Side of Pontiac just before the trail entered the city streets and shuttle us to the East side where the trail would be off the streets again.
We were able to give her a rough time we’d be at the meet-up location and she got there about 5 minutes before we did. We loaded up and drove to a restaurant on the other side of Pontiac which was where we’d planned to pick up the trail again. It was lunchtime so we decided to take a lunch break there. While we were eating it began to look like it was going to rain. We checked radar and it did look like something messy was headed our way. We always have our rain gear and we don’t mind riding in the rain on d’aventures -but in this case we were going to be riding on an unpaved trail and we had concerns about how rain would affect trail conditions. We decided that we didn’t want to find out. The bikes were still on the car from the shuttle past Pontiac, so we loaded ourselves up and went to our hotel. We missed about 10 miles. It never did rain.
Our niece who lives close to where we were was able to meet us for dinner. It was fun that we were able to do that.
Shelby Township, MI to Port Huron, MI – 59 Miles
Up until today, the weather had been somewhat OK. We’d been comfortable with either a wind jacket or something slightly warmer. This morning -we had to drag out our warm bike clothes. The tights I wore would have been good for cross-country skiing! I had 3 or 4 layers on top. To make the day even more fun, we had a headwind….ALL day.
We decided to not go back and pick up those missed 10 miles from yesterday because we already had plenty of miles to ride today, so we had Laura shuttle us to where we originally planned to start today and left from there. We rode the MacComb Orchard Trail (24 miles), the last trail on the Great Lake to Lake trail.
A few miles after we got onto the MacComb Orchard Trail, we saw something we’ve never seen on a bike trail before. There were two cops on the side of the trail sitting on quads watching the bikers go by. Not sure if they had a radar gun or not. HA HA. Good thing we were behaving when we passed them.
The picture below is a cute highway overpass on the trail.
This trail was my favorite of the route so far. It was was very well cared for and had lots of options for taking breaks. The informational signs were helpful too.
I liked that the signs would let riders know what was available off the trail. Having spent so many miles on trails, it was nice to see this. Too many times we didn’t want to guess what services might be available when our trail passed the outskirts of a town.
We left the trail before the end because staying on it to the end would take us a few extra miles out of our way. We were able to cut cross-country and still join up with the official route down the road.
When I was planning the Mississippi River trip, I’d gotten it planned as far as Memphis, TN. I told Mike, “We made it to Memphis after all !!”
We rode into Memphis looking for lunch -and found a Subway. As I was buying the sandwiches, I asked the woman behind the counter if there was a small park in the town where we could sit down and eat. She said she didn’t live in Memphis and wasn’t sure. Then she “hollered” to everyone in line and asked. Someone said there was a park about a block further away. As I was walking back to where Mike was waiting outside with our bikes I was facing the street and directly across from where I was standing was a little park! Amazing how you can go to work every day and not notice things!
After Memphis, we had about 15 miles of farmland and not much else. There wasn’t anything along the route -no gas stations, no restaurants…nothing. I was getting desperate for a “rest break” and no relief in sight! The first (and only) business I saw was a driving range and golf store. As we were passing it, I slowed down…thinking…and Mike asked, “Why are you slowing down?” I said, “Do you think they’d let me use their facilities?” We decided it wouldn’t hurt to ask. The lady behind the counter kindly said yes. Whew!! When I came out, I told her that my husband would probably want to come in too, but she shouldn’t let him shop.
Mike came walking out and said…. “I saw a hat I liked.” I answered, “Why not buy it? You have room in your pack.” So he went back in and bought it. Later at the hotel he modeled it for me. Very Florida.
The temperature got even colder as we closed in on Port Huron. Our route was supposed to follow a bike trail along the St. Clair River. The river seemed to create a wind tunnel effect and it was brutal. In spite of being frozen and fighting blustery wind, I was charmed by the river front trail. It was a bit of a sculpture park.
I only took these two pictures because with the tights I was wearing, I had to stop riding to get my phone or camera out -and it felt like I was wrestling with a bear trying to get under all the layers I had on.
We were SO ready to be at our hotel and get warmed up. Our hotel was right by the Blue Water Bridge. We could see the bridge -so close and yet so far!
Around this point, Mike’s E-battery ran out of juice. We ride the bikes very well without the power assist, but in windy conditions, the power assist really helps to equalize the wind’s impact. We changed course to get away from the “wind tunnel” on the riverfront in hope it would be a bit easier. We rode a mile or so on the city roads until we FINALLY reached the hotel.
The Blue Water Bridge connects the USA to Canada. It is a very busy border crossing. We have gone over that bridge tons of time, but have never gotten off the expressway to see Port Huron. From “up there” on the bridge there’s a nice view of the point where Lake Huron meets the St. Clair River.
We planned a rest day in Port Huron. We had two things on the “to do” list. Laundry, and meeting some friends for lunch. On our way to the restaurant they’d suggested, we got caught by the drawbridge. It was a novelty for us, but I’m sure it gets old for the people who live in Port Huron.
We met at a place called The Raven. It is a very funky place with an eclectic vibe that gave a nod to Edgar Allen Poe. We had a great lunch and it was wonderful to catch up with friends and even more wonderful to not have to get back on our bikes afterwards.
Mike volunteered to handle the laundry so Laura and I could snoop around Port Huron a bit. I had assumed that Port Huron, being a port of entry, would have quite an interesting Main Street with lots of shops. We discovered that the main drag wasn’t very lively. There were a few nice shops that we wandered into, but our exploration of downtown Port Huron didn’t take long.
When Laura and I were walking back to the car, we saw the drawbridge going up again. I got an “artsy” picture from a dock area at the side of the river.
The hotel was on the riverfront and nearby were a few more statues and things to see. I was surprised to learn that Thomas Edison lived in Port Huron as a young boy between the ages of 7 and 16. This statue is near the Thomas Edison Depot Museum, which is housed in the original train station that Edison worked in as a train boy of 12. I had to look up what a train boy did – They sold things like newspapers, candy and other small merchandise to the passengers. He eventually learned how to be a telegraph operator and did that as a job for a few years.
On our way out of town the next morning, I took a picture of the Blue Water Maiden. She is a mermaid and meant to signify the abundance of water in the Port Huron area.
Categories: Around the Mitten -Part 2