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July 28 – August 1

Iron River, Michigan; Hardwood, MI; Rapid River, MI; Indian Lake State Park, MI; Little Hog Island State Park, MI

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We crossed into Michigan on July 28, straight into the Upper Pennisula, or U.P. as they refer to it. 

Before reaching Michigan, we had one last ride on a trail in Wisconsin (free of charge) on the Heart of Vilas County Bike Trail.  A great trail that brought smiles to everyone especially after we got our bearings and were no longer looking for missing trail markers and signs.  They said they will be up in two weeks.

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Still rocking the Maple Leaf in Escanaba

Upon arriving in Iron River we discovered we were sharing an entire campground with volunteer firefighters from all over the U. P. engaged in not just one, but two parades that very night, and a firefighters competition the next day.  Let’s just say we were lucky to get out of there with some sleep.

Our next stop brought us to Hardwood, MI where the campground was what is referred to as “primitive”.  That means a pit-toilet and a water pump.  The good news was this site is on the shore of a lake on the east branch of the Sturgeon River so Sallie and I went for a swim to help clean up after the day.  For me this includes cold shaving in the lake.  That’s not pleasant, but it is better than cold shaving in the frigid waters of the water pump.

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Ryan Conaughty arrived to join us at this site and a swim.  We had great fun hearing his always entertaining stories of his adventures since we last saw him in Fargo.  Toward sunset Ryan and I took a few minutes to go down to the lake to watch the sunset.  He was quite moved by the view and spoke of the beauty we are so privilaged to see when we set out on our tours.

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I have to confess that the hours I keep prevent me from seeing too many sunsets until later in the year when the days get shorter or we get close to the eastern edge of a time zone.  Its not like I’m not paying attention though, I spend my day checking the sights, sounds, and smells of the land and I am forever gazing at the enormous display of stars when I rise at night.  Sallie and I get up at 5:30am and getting to bed before sunset is pretty much mandatory for us.

Ryan runs on a different schedule.  He can sleep in until some time after we’ve already left camp.  He once said, “The later I sleep, the more rest I get.”  Can’t argue with that.

He sees more sunsets than I and maybe I should take more time for these.

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Sallie and I will dedicate that day’s ride to Ty Herring of Fernandina Beach, Florida.  Ty will be undergoing some important surgery that day.  May the physician’s hands be skilled, the healing fast, and perfect function return quickly.

Keep looking up Ty!

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July 27

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Please make note of the mailbox bracket above.  This is a particular design we started seeing as soon as we got into Wisconsin and we’ve only seen this in Wisconsin.  Note the angled pivot point on the right-hand side of the photo.  This is genius!  

If anything were to strike this mailbox it pivots with the blow!  Not only that, but after pivoting, because of the angle of the pivot point, it will return to center automatically.  Brilliant!

Now because kids everywhere like to play “Mailbox Baseball” and hit mailboxes with a bat as they careen by in the bed of a pick-up, I’m not sure this is much of a defense against a particularly heavy Louisville Slugger.

However…this being Wisconsin, maybe such a device could very well preserve a mailbox when struck by an outside rear-view mirror when a participant of a meat raffle who may have consumed too many Leinenkugels (Wisconsin beer) cannot stay between the lines on the roadway. 

Now, the Northwoods folk may say those mailboxes are like that because they get hit by errant snowplows, but keep in mind Wisconsin remains the only state in the nation that first offense Operating Under the Influence (OWI as it is referred to here) is not a criminal charge. 

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Up North

July 24 – July 27
Hayward, WI, near Glidden, WI, and near Boulder Junction, WI

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I’m in my tent and it is 11:00am.  This is a first.  Of all the days Sallie and I have touring, this is the first day ever we’ve been confined to tents due to rain.  It’s a soaker outside and it keeps stopping only to start again.  I do have friends here though.  Three daddy long legs have arranged ambush sites for insects to eat in a target-rich environment.  The mosquitoes found us three days ago and they won’t let go.  Word is out. 

Sallie is reminded of the day in REI when her eye fell onto a one-person tent.  It looked light, small, and compact.  It was cute.  I had her sit in it.  Then suggested to her that it is raining outside, you have to be in there all day.  She caught on.  We each have roomy (but light) two-person tents.

We are in North Central Wisconsin.  An area the locals call the Northwoods (all one word).  Or they just refer to it as “Up North”.  The riding is generally excellent with nice rolling terrain mainly through forests without too much active farmland.  We have a guide.

Meet Peter Bock.

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Peter is a retired sixteen-year member of the Wisconsin State Assembly, who lives in Madison, WI.  Most importantly, Peter is a part-time winter resident of Florida and a fellow member of the North Florida Bicycle Club.  Peter rides his bike every day and is well known on the island on which we live.

Peter has been communicating with Sallie and arranged to come up north to ride with us arriving on the evening of the 25th in order to take us out to dinner.  The next day, he met us on the road for Second Breakfast (!) and pedaled with us for nearly 40 miles as we made our way from Butternut to Mercer along several lakes and waterways including just north of the Turtle Flambeau Flowage. 

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Peter kept us informed about the land we were riding through as we kept looking for an open restaurant so we’d have a stopping point and he could turn around and go back to his car. Since we were “Up North”, there were a number of restaurants, but most were closed.  Because we were in the Northwoods (or Wisconsin in general) there were quite a few taverns as well, but as with the restaurant’s, times are a little harder up here and they were closed as well.

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Finally, we made our way in to Mercer and we had a stopping point.  Peter joined us for a milkshake as we ordered lunch and then took his leave, but not before sharing with us some secret phrases that are guaranteed to keep us out of any jam should we have difficulty in Wisconsin.  I shall not share these but will tell yu the general category has to do with the Green Bay Packers. 

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Peter identified these birds we’ve been seeing as Sandhill Cranes. I knew them to be a migratory bird that comes through parts of Wyoming, but I’d not seen one before.

Meet Pete:

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We encountered this fellow as we were riding along County Road FF.  Pete is west bound and has been on the road from Bar Harbor for 27 days.  He’s running about 75 miles a day solo headed to Anacortes.

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Peter rode a total of 75 miles that day, the second half of the ride was into the wind.  A most impressive showing from a genuinely warm and impresssive fellow.  Thank you Peter and we’ll see you on the Island in December!

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July 22 and 23
Bunyan, Wisconsin; Cumberland, Wisconsin
Look Out Cheeseheads Here We Are

The last night in Dalbo, we shared space in the Bunkhouse with a father and daghter team, Norm and Amy.  They are from Michigan and North Carolina, respectively.  The two are on the Northern Tier headed for Bar Harbor with some deadlines involved, so they are averaging about 70 miles per day.

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Meanwhile, after pushing out of Dalbo, we entered Wisconsin crossing the St. Croix River near St. Croix Falls.

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Unlike Minnesota’s hundreds of miles of trails, we rode the Gandy Dancer Trail for about six miles or so ONLY after paying a user fee of $5 per bicycle.  The good news is I can never be accused of not paying taxes to ride my bike ever again.  I have the receipt.

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Sallie on the Gandy Dancer Trail. $5 and it's not even paved.

Finally, we capped off our night at a campground near Bunyan, WI where we went to the campground’s tavern to get some dinner.  The place was packed to the rafters with folks engaged in a meat raffle.  That was a first for me.  We had pizza and watched large sums of money exchange hands for everybody in the place to take chances to win packages of meat that seemed to be procured from a local grocery. 

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Rolling hills and corn fields welcome us in the Dairy State

The next day turned out to be a short one as we got into Cumberland after only about 25 miles and the locals were cautioning us about proceeding on as a storm was coming that was getting severe warnings.  We holed up in Cumberland for the day and we’ll hit it again tomorrow.  By the way, this storm is supposed to flush out the hot humid weather the area has been getting.  That’s good because I don’t think these snow machine and ice fishing Packer fans around here go for that stuff.

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