I Have Arrived. I Am Home. In The Here. In The Now.

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Take Grand River, then turn left on Trumbull. I never would have guessed you could get here from there on just two roads.

On most of Grand River traveling east from Brighton I was a solitary cyclist in a sea of cars. Not particularly unpleasant, just rather impersonal. Vehicular vigilance set to High.

The part of the ride I imagined to be the scariest was actually the friendliest. Entering The City I sailed down the wide boulevard, surprised by the lack of motor vehicle traffic. This area of decaying buildings was alive with people walking, cycling, and sitting at bus stops and in front of store fronts. I was greeted by many smiles, waves, and shouts of encouragement. “Nice bike!”

Turning left on Trumbull, I quickly spotted the prayer flags adorning the entrance of the Still Point Zen Buddhist Temple, my home for the night.

I was warmly welcomed by Temple residents and Dharma Students. And after a quick, cold shower I was put to work arranging flowers and setting them on the altar for tomorrow morning’s meditation service. Ahhh…

Deep bow to my old pal Koho Vince Anila. He’s a rabid cyclist (Currently away in West Virginia for a race.) and also happens to be the priest at the Still Point. Upon hearing of my plan, he graciously offered me a room at the Temple for my first night.

Day 1 mileage: 55.6
Total mileage: 55.6

Stillness

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On my ride to The Big D yesterday I considered spending an extra day at Still Point for a personal one day silent retreat. I already planned to attend all the services today, which would put me on the road well after noon. And on my second day of riding I hope to clear Port Huron in order to find a campsite. A big day in the saddle. Awaking at 3:30 again this morning solidified this idea.

The ring of the moktok was welcoming after a little fitful sleep just before daybreak. I joined a small handful of Temple residents and members for Yebul, Homage to the Buddhas. I excused myself at the beginning of the hour long meditation sitting and found more relief from the previous two weeks of lumbar and hip trauma in my Yoga practice. I joined the sitting meditation a half hour later.

Next was the half hour Family Service, geared for young children. We started with a rock meditation. Each child (Including me!) took several rocks from a bright red basket. We placed the rocks on one side of our mat, then picked each one up, held it in that hand, transfered it to our other hand, held it, then placed it on the opposite side of our mat. The process was then repeated until the rocks were back on their original side of the mat. During this time the rest of the adults sat in meditation.

It was with great presence that I watched the first little girl draw her stones from the basket with much delight. Suddenly my tears flowed with the realization that I have not always been so present with my own children.

A wonderful book, STEPS AND STONES, An Ahn’s Anger Story was read next.

The final service this morning consisted of two sittings, a reading from the Dhammapada, and a wonderful dharma talk by Anzen, a Still Point Dharma Teacher who did a fine job leading all services today. Her talk got me thinking about my relationship with stress. (See lumbar and hip trauma above.)

Now I stay in Mouna, noble silence until tomorrow morning. Peace, Jim

Day 2 mileage: 0
Total mileage: 56

Asana (Yoga pose) of the day: Balasana – Child’s Pose (Modified) I rolled up a fleece blanket and pressed it to my lower abdomen, just above my hip bones. As I folded over the blanket and into the pose of the child, I felt several lumbar vertebrae decompress. Ahhhh….

Contemplation from this morning’s family service:
(One round of maum chanting.)
My mind is Love
(One round of maum chanting.)
My mind is Peace
(One round of maum chanting.)
My mind is Wisdom
(One round of maum chanting.)
My mind is Buddha
(One round of maum chanting.)
My mind is Stillness
(One round of maum chanting.)

Day 15 – Leland to Elberta

The Leelanau Peninsula is magical. I'm glad I gave myself plenty of time up there. I was out of my lakeside camp in the cedars and in the town of Leland early this morning. Seated outside at a cafe, breakfast consisted of an Americano supplemented with salami and goat cheese purchased in Northport the day before. I studied maps and read a few more chapters of The Girl With The Glass Feet as the town woke up. Dozens of cyclists rolled past, either solo, or as part of Sunday morning group rides.

Cycling Mecca up here. Grand views from mostly wide, smooth shoulders of M-22 following the coast. About as close to Heaven on Earth as you can get, I imagine. Too bad for the cars.

The previous day I wondered, "Where's everyone going? And what's the hurry?" as I moved in a much slower space, every moment feeling like I was right where I wanted to be.

Today I realized how noisy cars are. I mean all cars, not just ones with loud exhausts. When I was alone on these thickly forested roads, the woods came alive with the songs of birds and trees. The songs were always quickly deadened to my ears by the approaching sound of four tires with wide contact patches gripping hot tarmac. Gleaming grills punching gaping holes through soft air, striving for the next place to stop.

Breathing and smiling, with every stroke of the pedal, I was happy right where I was. Just this. Just now.

An iced coffee in Glen Arbor. Swimming and washing jerseys in Lake Michigan at the crowded beach in Empire.

Continuing south, I was met with the smiling face of Timmo. He got a lift from friend Robert and joined me for the final miles of the day on his Waterford road bike. After riding solo for two weeks, this felt nice and comfortable.

Tonight Timmo sleeps in his tent on the beach, 10 feet from the water. I've hung my hammock between two cedars halfway up the steep bluff of this surreal beach forest.

Tomorrow Timmo will ride with me to Manistee before tracking back home. I continue south.

Breathing and smiling, Jim

Asana of the day:
Trikosan (Triangle)

Day 15 mileage: 67.79
Maximum speed: 33.1
Total trip mileage: 996

Song stuck in my head:
Ain't No Telling by Jimi Hendrix

Day 16 – Elberta to Mears

I'm being torn in half. I roll down the west coast of the Mitten, the northwoods whispering, "Come back". Home pulls hard from the south.

Timmo rode to Manistee with me, starting from our camps on the Elberta beach and straight up the wall of a road to the town of Elberta. This good morning climb was a few hundred yards long and steep. Climbing out of the saddle on my heavily laden bike, my tires broke grip with the pavement several times.

After breakfast in Elberta we immediately set off up a winding mile plus long climb. The first of many between here and Arcadia, all with equally long, winding descents. Wheeee!

These roads were mostly wooded and pleasantly shaded. And when Lake Michigan was visible, the views from the high dune forest bluffs were breathtaking.

The long, serpentine descent into Arcadia was fast and fun, challenging us with multiple high speed S curves.

Then things changed. The land flattened. Space widened from the protective shade of close forest to wide vistas of gently rolling farm fields. I felt exposed.

Manistee was a shock to my system.  Instead of riding in to the city on the "pretty" route we rode straight in on M-22, here a gritty highway, not the forest scented path I knew to the north. The air here was not as soft, but had a distinct harshness. I noticed a tightness in my belly. My lungs less at ease, shying away from inhaling deeply.

It was a pleasant surprise to run into Robert at the grocer. He had arrived a little while before us, ready to give Timmo a lift back to Traverse City. After we shared two quarts of local chocolate milk, drunk straight out of glass bottles, we said our farewells and parted company.

It was tempting to stay right there and hide from the midday heat at the beach, but I needed to roll. The miles piled up slow and easy. And for the first time during this mostly solitary adventure, I felt lonely.

When I arrived in Ludington late afternoon, I was baked. At the city beach I hung gear, still wet from last night's heavy dew, to dry. I sprawled on the cool grass in the shade of a grand maple. Then I was drawn to the cool, clear water of The Lake. After an hour long break, I was ready to ride into the cooler evening air.

I rolled through Pentwater, stopping just long enough on Longbridge Road to snap a photo of the sun setting behind Pentwater Lake. I hung my hammock between two elegantly curved cedars reaching out and up over yet another white sand Lake Michigan beach as the last crimson clouds faded to deep purple.

Tomorrow marks my last day of following the shoreline, before turning left the following day. I don't know how far I'll get, I just know I'll breath in every moment with gratitude.

Smitten with the Mitten, Jim

Asana of the day:
Savasana (Corpse pose)

Day 16 mileage: 98.31
Maximum speed: 36.9
Total trip mileage: 1095

Song stuck in my head:
Helpless by Neil Young

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Day 17 – Mears to Macatawa

The devil of dark thought appeared
Oily black stain spreading across my mind
How could he show his ugly face now
In this light journey
I invite him to ride next to me
Offering fruit and sips from my water bottle
Loving kindness to dispel hate
But today he sees my weakend state
And is not so easily dissolved in my resolve
Spear of fear jabs tender heart
His tenacity on this of all days
Brings me to tears of rage
Shifting gears I turn the cranks in anger
Exercise
Exorcise
I churn the cranks of anger

I imagined this last day and night on the coast would be quietly joyous, with perhaps a little melancholy. Bathing in The Lake and breaking camp early, I found myself laughing aloud as I passed effortlessly through the cool air.

Seven miles later in Silver Lake I lingered much longer than expected, wishing for even more time to write, then frustrated with technology's technicalities while logging the post of the previous day. I finally rolled out of town at noon.

The next forty miles to Whitehall came fast and furious. I rode with aggression. And on the old country lanes I experienced a range of strong emotions. Finally in this sparse space tears streamed and dissipated in warm, dry wind. Riding stronger with each mile, I rolled in to town after just two hours and 15 minutes.

More technology frustrations plus a trip to the grocer to replenish a dwindling food supply again kept me off the bike too long.

Frustration and other strong emotions affected me. I felt out of sorts. Lost. And for the first time this trip I found myself off course. Several times. Blowing past turns and not realizing it until miles after the fact. Backtracking. Rerouting. But as long as I was moving on the bike, these misdirections weren't bothersome. Just more miles. And with each passing mile I got stronger.

Still following the Shoreline Tour route I spent much of the day on roads with nice names like Lakeshore and Shoreline. But their namesake lie hidden by homes and industry. Unlike the rest of the journey, I only caught a few brief glimpses of The Lake all day. I kept churning. Yearning.

Riding through Muskegon was disorienting, like riding through any big city is for me. I sailed in to Holland with darkness setting in and found my way to the next Shoreline Drive. Sights set for Saugatuk State Park.

But to get there would require riding the Blue highway at night. Even with a powerful LED headlight and two LED taillights, I didn't like my chances out there. For the first night this trip, I resorted to Plan B.

Tonight my camp is a generic hotel a few miles from The Lake. Not what I envisioned for my last night before turning east.

So I've decided to treat myself with a little more lake time tomorrow. Coffee in Saugatuk. A nice long swim at the expansive, white sand beach in South Haven.

I'll then turn eastward on the Kal-Haven trail to Kalamazoo. Not knowing my route from there, I'll thread my way home, road by road, town by town, breath by breath.

Peace, Jim

Asana of the day:
Balasana  (Child's pose)

Day 17 mileage: 117.26
Maximum speed: 32.6
Total trip mileage: 1212

Song stuck in my head:
Hurt covered by Johnny Cash

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Day 18 – Macatawa to South Haven

What a difference a day can make! After my first solid night's sleep in days, I happily pedaled south out of Holland. It turns out I could have easily made it to Saugatuk State Park last night on the brand new bike path I found myself on this morning. It may have even been closer than backtracking to the nearest hotel with a room available.

I felt cheery as I explored Saugatuk from the saddle of my trusty Nobilette. And as I made the 25 mile ride on quiet backroads to South Haven, I once again was laughing aloud with the beauty of it all. I sensed The Lake was near.

I was treated to more views of Lake Michigan in the last five miles to South Haven than I experienced all day yesterday. I even discovered a high bluff overlooking the water reminiscent of those near Elberta.

My plan was to take a quick dip, then head east toward home. But as I've said, "No itinerary, no set agenda, no attachments." So when I arrived at the beach I immediately decided to stay. I rode to familiar Sand Castle Inn and booked a room for the night.

With joy I slowed down and enjoyed this quaint town and its magnificent shore.

Well rested, I'll begin the journey home early tomorrow on the Kal-Haven trail.

Gratefully, Jim

Asana of the day:
Padmasana (Lotus)

Day 18 mileage: 37.16
Maximum speed: 24.8
Total trip mileage: 1249

Song stuck in my head:
Eight Miles High covered by Hüsker Dü

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