Day 34. Mt. Pleasant to Birch Run Michigan. After yesterday's big 113 mile ride, we were all looking forward to a shorter day today. It's not that yesterday's ride was so tough, but it was about as un-tough as 113 miles can be, which is to say that it was semi-tough. It was quasi-tough. I can't believe I am saying that. Yesterday's ride of 113 miles was un-tough. Damn, I am quite the dude, aren't I?
I'll take all of your collective silence to indicate that you feel I am not quite the dude.
Anyway, today's forecast was for thunderstorms en route to Birch Run Michigan, and while we didn't have 113 miles to ride, we did have 76 miles to go, and I really didn't want to get caught in the rain. So, I hightailed it out of Mt. Pleasant and with the help of Jeff and Joe we zipped to the first SAG at the 40 mile mark in just over 2 hours. The weather was actually sunny at that point, but I didn't trust it so I lingered at the SAG for about 30 seconds, refilled my water bottles, and headed to Birch Run, albeit at a more leisurely pace on my own.
On the way Joe effortlessly caught up to me right as we approached a street called Schroeder Drive. Joe's last name is Schroeder, and so we had to stop. In fact, this is the second Schroeder Dr. he has seen on this trip (the first being the day we left Astoria Oregon). Among the Geldings, Joe has seen 2 streets with his last name, Baltimore Mark Koltz found a Koltz Lane, Jeff Douglas found the entire town of Douglas South Dakota, and before we hit the Atlantic, Dave Sullivan will have ridden his bike up Sullivan Hill. Not me. There are no Weisbarth Streets where we've ridden. No Mt. Weisbarth to summit. Life can be cruelly unfair, can't it?
Anyway, today's ride was pretty uneventful. The scenery has turned an Ontario-like boring. Even the Michigan farms are blah. But every so often, as we're riding along, we get this wafting scent that is incredible. ABB tour leader Mike says it is honeysuckle and it smells incredible. Perfume-y, but not in an overpowering way. You wouldn't smell that if you were touring central Michigan by car. By the way, check out a map of Michigan. Yesterday and today we have ridden 2/3rds of the way across it. We'll cross into Canada in less than 2 days. Unreal.
Anyway, our unofficial tour guide through Michigan is Ann Arbor resident and senior Gelding Dave Sullivan. Dave lives within an hour's drive of where we are tonight and is pretty familiar with all of Michigan. It was interesting coming into Ludington on the ferry with him a couple of days ago. He was showing me these amazing sand dunes along the Michigan coast that kind of looked like the White Cliffs of Dover from where we were on Lake Michigan. He also
said there was a big casino in Mt. Pleasant less than a mile from our motel last night. Normally I would go, but I was so exhausted from not having slept the night before that I hit my bed around 8:30 PM last night and was gone by 9:30. That's me, Mr. Late Night.
As I said, today's ride was pretty uneventful until we got to the outskirts of Birch Run. Jeff, Joe, and I said we were hungry and Dave suggested a place called Tony's Restaurant. It was directly on the route to our motel (like less than half a mile away). It was very busy. Dave said it was the kind of restaurant that gave you like a pound of bacon when you ordered bacon and eggs for breakfast. Big portions apparently.
I know this blog is supposed to focus on the cycling and the bike ride itself, but Tony's restaurant was something to behold. As we walked in, Dave quietly said to me, "this is an experience". I didn't know what he meant, but in we went. A lady at the door waiting for a table said "never been here before – HAH – you may want to share for lunch". Nice lady. Good words of warning. Unfortunately, we ignored them.
It seems Tony's Restaurant is to bacon what the Carnegie Deli is to pastrami. Legendary purveyors of bacon, in portions that are, in a word, comical. No more government research is needed to determine the root of America's obesity problem. America's obesity problem starts and ends at Tony's Restaurant in Birch Run Michigan. This is the kind of place featured on that Food Networ
k show Drive-ins, Diners, and Dives hosted by Guy Fieri.
Oh, and by the way, I learned that Dave wasn't kidding when he said that you get a pound of bacon when you order bacon and eggs for breakfast (Vancer – eat your heart out):
Joe ordered a BLT and a I ordered a turkey club. Jeff and Dave ordered Reubens. Here is photographic proof that the Carnegie Deli in NY better watch out for Tony's. Their rep as "big portion capitol of America" is under attack. I ate most (but not all) of my Turkey Club. We shared onion rings and then watched and gasped in horror as the table next to us ordered a sundae for dessert. I asked the girls at the table to put their hands next to the sundae so we could have perspective in the picture. Oh my – was that huge! And, as the next picture shows, not a drop went to waste. Un-by-god-believable.
Oh yeah – the picture to the left of the sundae above is the bacon leftover from Joe's sandwich that he couldn't/didn't fit into his sandwich. That's right Vancer, that's the remainder of the bacon in his massive sandwich. And remember, we are hungry boys and neither Joe nor I lack any appetite. I have never seen anything like this. When they brought Joe's lunch to the table we were laughing so hard that it took 2 minutes for us to catch our collective breaths.
It's funny what happens on a trip like this. You expect to be wowed by monuments, terrain, natural beauty, etc. You expect to meet interesting/scary characters and we have. We've been challenged. We've been scared. We've been exhausted. We've been exhilarated. We've been rained on. We've been windblown. We've been sleeted at. We've been hailed on. We've been baked. All of these have been memorable experiences.
However, I'm sure that 20 years from now, one of the easiest memories I'll be able to conjure up will be Dave's quiet words of warning as we entered Tony's ("this is an experience") and our collective hysteria as we saw the food being served.
FYI – the DQ Blizzard, milk shake and Snickers count is static (I surely hope so) today:
6 milk shakes
Now on to today's mail:
Charlie from Asheville writes : "Oh please! Mr. Spear makes me sound like a crusty old senior citizen - which I am (but don't like being reminded of!). Mark, I have truly enjoyed your wonderful blog - ditto for Frances. Suspect you and I may share a humor gene? [Hmm, would my kids agree? Probably not!] Your insight and perspectives have added dramatically to seeing (and feeling) your journey from the level of the road. Bravo! As for Katie... she just shares the stubborn gene! Look forward to your dip in the Atlantic and a 50 day retrospective!!." Thanks for the note. I think I've witnessed that stubborn gene you referred to in your daughter. I don't know if she told you, but I gave her a nickname early in the trip. She is now Katie Scarlett after Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With the Wind. Not only is it a cool nickname (which she asked me for when she learned about my wife's nickname), but she really reminds me of that character. Stubborn, tough, willful, all in a good way. In Casper, my wife and I bought her the novel Gone With the Wind for her to read on this trip. I'm looking forward to hopefully meeting you soon. By the way, in a strange coincidence, my 91-year old father loves your daughter's blog. She is a terrific writer. Lyrical and funny all at the same time. You would be (and I'm sure are) very proud of her on this trip. It's a tough job riding across the country and she's doing great.