To fuel our voyeurism, several of us went to the NW 'Burbs of Chitown to attend the 8th annual vintage bike ride. The weather was awesome and since it's in Illinois we knew the route would be "flat as a pancake" and the wind "is always at your back." So 5 of us swallowed some of that Kool-aid and made the three hour trip. It was warmer at the start this year than last, so we had that going for us.
Gathering at Crystal Lake park, we had about 30 minutes or so to reunite and compare equipment.
I was riding my Hillborne so I qualified as the "faux vintage" entrant to the event.
Out on the road everybody maintained a conversational pace. The wind and terrain, lived up to the advance billing (at least for the first part).
It was one of the more pleasant days I have had on a bike this year. The ride to the midpoint came almost too quickly and we had another chance to drool over each others equipment and tell stories about the Craigs List or E-bay finds, and the ones that got away.
The ride back was a little more like a normal mid-western day.
The wind was ornery and the group spread out over a few miles to deal with it, each in our own fashion.
It was just one of those "gear down comfortably and wait" sort of winds.
Not a real fight just an annoyance.
But it all ended with lunch at an authentic Mexican restaurant
where the fish and shrimp tacos are an annual luxury.
We all sat around in the sun outside and relaxed with our lunch and bike talked.
While there was a plethora of Brooks and other leather saddles,
this hand made beauty was the most impressive,
I want to see what brands show up next year.
On the way back to the car, I found my first glance of real spring,
During last week's trip, I was able to try out my latest toy.
The Vargo Wood Stove promises to be a very useful way to remove some excess weight.
It is a tiny titanium contraption which folds up to fit in that little nylon envelope you see.
Standing, it forms a typical "tepee" campfire configuration out of the built in windscreen. They say you can cook using nothing but twigs.
According to the proponents of this device,
what you see in this photo will be fuel enough for dinner.
After picking up a bit around the table, I had a fair amount to fill and refill it.
People claim you should use only small twigs, smaller than your little finger,
and be sure to leave enough room for airflow.
I thought a pine cone would be something to try. It wasn't worth it.
Stick to the hardwood twigs; if it breaks, it's good, if it bends, it's bad.
The flame lights easily with a match. I used a little wad of dryer lint for tinder, but it wasn't really necessary.
The stove can get very hot and burn very quickly.
The door on the side allows the addition of more wood and modulation of the air flow.
It cooks amazingly well. Two things of note: it is small, so larger cook sets will be unstable,
and it was designed to sit on the ground. When using it on a table,
place it on a piece of metal like the stainless steel plate I used.
There are great advantages to this stove. It does not require one to carry fuel, that provides a great weight and environmental advantage. There will be some places, deserts and mountains above the tree line, where the stove will not be practical or, in some cases, legal, but I can see it as my most commonly used stove.
I think any serious backpacker or cycle tourist should consider one,
There is not a corn stalk, a row of beans or a leaf on a tree
to distract the wind from sweeping these prairies.
I rode to the lake shore through the rolling farmland we use for local club and charity rides.
Going directly southwest I was plodding along for miles at a time
on my granny ring, to keep a 20-30mph wind from beating me.
What should have been less than a 4 hour ride to Dowagiace for lunch, turned into 7.
I found that, although I stopped frequently to
relax, there were no services at all in this 45 mile stretch of farmland.
The birds have come back, the plants are dubious and taking a more conservative route.
There were still, as always, moments to enjoy on the side of the road.
Here is a fantasy garden to die for, on the road to little old Dowagiac.
The story today is one of one pedal stroke after another waiting for the wind to subside.
It did during the last 15 miles, but I was whipped and the 70+ mile journey which would normally take 6 hours, lasted 9. The Warren Dunes State Park was deserted except for a couple from Frankenmouth who had driven over for the weekend. I went to sleep right away and slept late in the morning.
Friday was beautiful and conditions were perfect.
The route I took along the Red Arrow Highway or M63, has a new designation.
This portion running from New Buffalo to St. Joseph, Mi. has been adopted as part of US BikeRoute 35.
It was a good choice, the road has light, local traffic except for the part in St. Joseph which can be a bit dicey, but once past that it is very pleasant. For the most part USBR follows the coastline. After St. Joe, the Red Arrow turns east to Kalamazoo,
but the bike route picks up Blue Star Highway to continue along the coast.
Where you are likely to see any oddity hidden back in the forests.
While following the coast, the view of the lake in this portion is obscured by the forested dunes and residences along the lake shore. Many areas,
like Hager Shores, are high bluffs looking over the lake from several hundred feet in the air. The view can be spectacular, but the residents have bought it and keep it to themselves along this stretch, except for one or two public vistas along the way. There is no loss of personal satisfaction along the route, and I purposely took the 40 miles easy, not only to preserve energy, but to enjoy the serenity and comfort of the landscape along the way. Despite two 45 minute "snack" breaks, I made the trip within the afternoon, set up camp at Van Buren State Park, took a 30 minute ride into town for groceries and
was able to enjoy a little tranquility on the beach after dinner.
The ride home is a little over 50 miles using the Kal-Haven trail. The Kal-Haven rail trail is nice because of the wind break the trees provide and the elimination of any serious climbing. The ride east from the lake is the uphill portion of the route so there is a consistent 1/2-2% grade to work against, but the prevailing winds are following and the ride is usually quite pleasant. Not quite so on Saturday.
I gave it a shot, and there were a few people using the trail, but it was soft, very slow
and tiring. Although cloudy, the wind was good, the temps comfortable but the trail was like wading through a bucket of mud in the dry places.
Then there was this stuff. Oh, yeah, remember? There were several places with a couple of inches of ice and snow as well as standing water over the mud. Yuk. I endured 10 miles and bailed out to take the hard roads. I really didn't pick a route, but followed my nose, conditions were good, I am familiar with the lay of the land and meandered through the forested country side toward Kalamazoo.
This interesting little replicar caught my eye (how would it not) off in the middle of the countryside.
I realized that even on the secondary county roads, mixed between asphalt and gravel, with little or no traffic, one can see what a carcentric society we have developed.
Along with the interesting toy, there were a total of 7 other cars parked there, any one of which was worth more than the home itself. Another life invested in depreciation? Oh well!
Other people's values shouldn't be criticized by an obvious eccentric like myself. I just pedaled my aching ass around until I reached the county line. I took the county line road, Van-Kal Ave, back to civilization and found my way home. I found my son had been kind enough to leave me some pizza in the fridge.
I propped up my feet with a beer and said Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
My ass was sore, my legs tired, but the first trip was in the bank, the next will be easier.