Day 19 – South Haven to Jackson

"Just keep your shadow in front of you.." I kept telling myself this as I rode into the evening from Marshall to Jackson with no map. Eastward was all that mattered.

Eleven hours earlier I rolled my loaded bike out of my room at the Sand Castle Inn, took one last look at Lake Michigan, and found the Kal-Haven trailhead, two blocks away.

The Kal-Haven is paved in South Haven and follows the twisting Kalamazoo River. Soon thereafter it straightens out and the surface turns to crushed gravel. Running thirty three miles to Kalamazoo, this rail-to-trail is well traveled. I passed dozens of cyclists, including a couple from Port Huron who drove to Kalamazoo yesterday morning, then rode the trail to South Haven. After spending the night there, they were riding back to their car in Kalamazoo today.

The trail is well marked and there are numerous water pumps, picnic tables, and outhouses along the way. There was even one campsite with several fire rings especially for cyclists.

At the terminus of the Kal-Haven trail I jumped on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. On the trail map this looked like best way to get me through K'zoo eastbound. This trail is paved, in great shape, and fast. Once in the city though, it became disjointed and I wound up riding streets.

On the industrial eastern fringe of Kalamazoo, a good Samaritan named Chuck gave me great directions on secondary roads to Battle Creek.

The Battle Creek to Marshal leg was accomplished on Michigan Ave. the whole way. A straight shot, but with lots of traffic and no shade. As I rolled in to Marshall at 5:00 p.m. and 90 miles on the meter, my body felt strong, but my brain thought maybe it was time for a break.

I laid in the shade of the city circle and snoozed for exactly three fifteen minute increments. The town clock made sure of it. Then fifteen minutes of Yoga and I was rolling again. But just to the historic Stagecoach Inn for a bite. My diet today consisted of chocolate milk, walnuts, and a greasy piece of cheese that hasn't seen refrigeration since I bought it in Northport last week. I needed a change. A basket and a half of sweet potato fries did the trick. And soaking up some air conditioning felt mighty fine.

When I finally left Marshal at 7:00 it was still quite hot. Having no map, I remembered that many of the roads out here have letter names or mile names. I road north a bit then hopped on H drive and kept my shadow in front of me as I passed 21 Mile Rd., 22 Mile Rd….

I hoped to make it to the western edge of the Waterloo Recreation Area and camp my last night out. But it was dark when I arrived in Jackson, so I decided to once again get a hotel room for the night.

After 127 miles, I could have easily kept riding many more hours. The cool night air keeps this air cooled engine happy! I wonder how far I would have ridden if I'd left South Haven at 6:00 a.m. and if I'd cut short the stop in Marshal?

Tomorrow I'll ride familiar roads through Chelsea and Dexter before taking Huron River Drive into Ann Arbor for a late lunch. Then I'll head off on the dirt roads to the north and HOME!

I'd love to have you join me for part of the ride or lunch. Let me know!

In Peace, Jim

Asana of the day:
Ardha Matseyandrasan (Half Lord of the Fishes)

Day 19 mileage: 127.71
Maximum speed: 36.0
Total trip mileage: 1377

Song suck in my head:
I'm Going Home by Ten Years After (Live at Woodstock)

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Day 20 – Jackson to Brighton

There are two beautiful ladies waiting for me at home. And though it's now been three weeks since I've laid eyes on either of these lovely creatures, I wanted my last day on the road to linger.

Once I cleared Jackson eastbound in cool morning air, I called loved ones while rolling along quiet country lanes. I was then drawn to stop in the shade of grand Sugar Maples and chant the Three Refuges while looking upon a stand of dark green Norway Spruce set against the deep blue western sky.

The town of Grass Lake rolled up quickly. It's been a few years since I've been here and I was surprised at how well place cleans up. Rolling past the local diner, I noticed a familiar blue pickup truck parked in front. I stopped in for a quick visit with good buddy Ol' Danny Hovater.

Earlier I thought I'd stop in Chelsea for a good cup of coffee, but as the roads became more familiar I rolled right through. Dexter passed quickly and I entered Huron River Drive, the classic route for local cyclists and one I've pedaled hundreds of times.

I happily rolled this sun dappled asphalt ribbon winding through the cool woods, enjoying views of the river, as I approached my birthplace of Ann Arbor.

Soon I was riding north away from the river and into downtown floating up the steep climbs on Main and then Fourth streets.

I pulled up in front of home away from home Cafe Verde and was soon greeted by several friends including Deb and Sudo, both fellow cyclists. It felt comfortable to relax here and chat under the umbrella of one of the outdoor tables.

After sitting for a good, long time I was feeling the pull of home, only 18 miles away to the north. But first, a nap. I spread my beadroll in the shade at a nearby park and relaxed and snoozed for over an hour.

It was late afternoon when I set off on my usual, backroads way home. The long steep climb to the top of Sunset St. ranks right up there as one of the most challenging of my trip. Then a nice long coast down Newport Rd. before crossing the Huron north and another steep climb. This time up dirt Maple Rd.

As I strained up the last 100 feet of the grade in my granny gear, a flash of red caught my eye and I watched a young woman on a cyclocross bike hurtle past on Stein Rd. I wanted to meet this powerful fast rider and I poured on the coals. She was moving fast and it took all I had to close the gap as we skimmed over the dirt at 20 mph before I finally pulled along her side.

"Hey Jimmy!" My cousin Wendy, wearing her Team Kenda uniform astride her titanium bike, was surprised to see me as she rode home after work at her day job on an organic farm. "What's with all the gear?" It was nice riding together as I shared the story of my travels. But soon it was time for me to split off her route home, toward my home just 6 miles to the north.

Rounding the final curve, I stopped in the road in front of my house and quietly observed my local body of water,  South Ore Creek. Three muskrat dove for dinner as a duckling paddled nearby. Feeling gratitude for living in such beautiful surroundings, I snapped a few more photos before turning the bike up the final climb. Up my driveway. Home.

And my ladies. Kit Kat, the aloof one, walked right out the door past me as I first entered. Her displeasure at my absence was clear. Quickly Hershey appeared and immediately began circling me, rubbing her furry body against my shins. As soon I was settled she slid into my lap, purring contentment.

I intended to take one more sunset photo tonight, but I forgot that it gets dark a little earlier here inland than on the Lakes. When I arrived at Sunset Ridge, overlooking my local Maltby Lake, the sun had already slipped behind the trees, soft orange and pink hues of clouds and sky reflecting on the water.

This has been the journey of a lifetime. And a reflection of my life! What now? Settle in for a while. Enjoy time with my kids. Reconnect with friends. Work on my new Yoga business. Explore the natural beauty right here around me. Within me. Be still.

I'll keep this log active. Over the next week I'll post more stories of this journey. And over the months and years ahead I'll share more of my life.

Thank you for coming along on the ride! Jim

Asana of the day:
Uttanasana (Standing nose to knee)

Day 20 mileage: 67.36
Maximum speed: 34.9
Total trip mileage: 1,444!

Song stuck in my head:
The Distance by Cake

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