Tuesday, July 10, 2007
Bike Trip Tuesday #5-Going the Extra Mile in Michigan
We'd enjoyed our visit in Canada and now it was back to the USA. Christy's parents had recently moved to Michigan so they were our first stop. They had put out signs and balloons to welcome us. I still remember her mom running down the driveway to hug her and welcome us all when we arrived. After meeting the family it was really obvious to see where Christy's naturally bubbly personality had come from. Her mom and dad and brother were just sweet, hospitable people who could not do enough for all of us. They indulged us in every way they could.
By the time we had reached Michigan we had covered around 1000 miles as a unified group and were really feeling like a single unit. We decided to make matching t-shirts to show visually that we were all one group. We cut stencils and spent all night in Christy's parent's garage hand painting the shirts. Extreme fatigue set in and we were overcome with great silliness that led to the formation of the 'Caveman Dogbashers Club.' The name designated the way we often smelled after pedalling in the hot sun and the need to fend off aggressive dogs with bike pumps when the dogs decided to give chase. A special pocket insignia was designed and added to the t-shirts that obviously fit so very well.
I really have to say the good folks of Michigan were consistently among the most generous and welcoming. As I mentioned, we spent a lot of nights sleeping on church floors. In Alpena we had a hard time finding a church and when we asked the last one, the pastor (the guy on the motorcycle) said he'd need to call his trustees and check with them before giving an answer. He responded by saying no we could not stay in the church building because the one trustee owned a local motel and he wanted to provide 3 rooms free of charge to us. We were astonished by the generosity. The lady at the bottom of the picture was someone we met a few night later. The church we asked that night said they'd let us stay in the private school affiliated with the church so we could have access to a locker room with showers. This lady was given the key to let us in and out. She offered to bring us all pizza at her own expense that night. I had already cooked and knew darned well how much food our group could eat and since she was a single mom working for a private school I knew she couldn't have too much extra cash on hand so I declined for the group. When the group got wind of that I thought they'd lynch me. Note to self: never deny hungry cyclists the opportunity for free pizza. She saved my neck my bringing us the makings for ice cream sundaes instead and the next morning at 6am bringing us all bread she had baked that was still warm. Again, I was just astonished at the incredible kindness and selfless service to us.
We eventually made it to the top of the lower peninsula and decided to take a day trip to Mackinac Island, which allows no motor vehicles except emergency vehicles. We had not planned to spend the night on the island but part of the group missed the last ferry back due to a misunderstanding. We had nothing with us except the bicycles and a few bucks for the day. The accommodations on the island are not exactly cheap. Greg and Mr. Lime had the brilliant idea to ask a gardener at the governor's mansion if we could sleep on the mansion porch. The request was met with stunned silence at the audacity and then hearty laughter. We found no churches. Then someone contacted the Lion's Club. The fellow there was happy to let us sleep in the building and found our dilemma a bit amusing. He thought it was even funnier that our sleeping arrangements would be as depicted in this picture. The red thing is some dusty old stage curtain we found and the blanket was one long huge thing we all fit under. There wasn't really a lot of sleeping that night but there also wasn't any hanky panky. It was just more or less a night of dusty, musty discomfort, but we were grateful for the guy who let us use the floor.
Finally, as we travelled though Michigan we kept seeing signs for 'pasties.' Initially I thought the fine people of MI must be a bit progressive in their thinking to so openly sell the sequined, tasseled nipple adornments favored by strippers but I was laughingly corrected in pronunciation. It wasn't PAY-stee. It was PAH-stee. Pasties are a meat pie that are quite popular locally. Once that misunderstanding was cleared up we decided we had to taste some. We asked around for the name of the best Mom & Pop place to serve them and were directed to 'Ruth's Pasties.' We were quite disappointed to arrive just after they had closed. The owners, in the picture, asked about our group since they saw several of us wearing our new shirts. When we explained how we had come to Michigan and how we'd been referred to her she said she was re-opening just for us. They cooked us pasties and we ate until we were near to bursting. Good eating!
I must say, (and it's not just because I have several Michigan readers who also have distinguished themselves as one fine and caring lot of people) if these various folks are any indication of the true culture of Michigan I think it would be a fine place to call home.