It's a new year and time once again to give a new look to this blog. New graphics and colors. Same bike writer!

This blog is created not only to track my own progress on my biking journey but it is intended to also assist others who have either osteo or rheumatoid arthritis or both like I do. I hope as you read about the progress I have made that it gives you inspiration and hope that you can overcome the dibilitating effects of these conditions.

If your doctor agrees that you should be capable of expanding your limits read on and don't be afraid, just listen to your body and give it challenges. Biking is a great non-impact form of exercise and greatly enhances flexibility and range of motion.

It's not a substitute for Doctor visits, taking your meds or otherwise getting off your health plan but it auguments what your Doctor does for you and can give you a better quality of life. Go for it!

Saturday, June 29, 2013


It sure does not feel like I have been over-training, I've taken rest days in fact I had several days off a week ago for a short out of town trip accompanied by sporadic rain days here and there, so I'm not sure what ails me but I've lost my oomph.  Legs feel like lead, it's hard to make the cranks go round and generally speaking I have little energy for riding.  On Thursday I went out for a little bit of hill practice at Island Lake.  What a s-l-o-w go it was out of the chute.  I actually felt a bit nauseous for the first mile.  By mile 7 I was happily cranking and hard too, but it was short lived, about 2-3 miles, and it was back to feeling difficult.  I finished my route but it was so-so and not would I would call a strong finish.  I certainly felt much better the last half of the ride than the first half.   Could be mental fatigue is accompanying this too.   Whatever it is I'm going to wait it out and at some point this will pass.  If not, it might be off to the Doc.  Come to think of it I have a general check up appointment in a couple of weeks.  Good timing.

I spent a brief time riding Friday and today, just for very short errands around town.  On Friday It was actually fun to be out with no specific biking goal, my task was to pass out event flyers for the 4th of July activities starting this weekend through the holiday.  I had ample opportunity to chat with several people out and about in town and it was very nice to catch up with some folks I haven't seen in a while and have no time schedule.   Today's ride had me piddling about in preparations for the 5 & 10 K run and Splash n Dash that is sponsored by the Kiwanis Club I belong to.    Registration is at the Middle School which is about a half mile from home, after the racer go out there isn't much to do but prepare for the Splash n Dash that'll take place on their return.  A short pedal back home to open the gates to the private lakefront that is used for it, ensure that the pontoon knows when the dashers are almost ready to leave and there was the short jaunt back to the school for my water bottle, left on the registration table.  Back to my post and when the splashers were finished I pedaled back to the finish line to clap and cheer for the participants.  We had a good turnout with over 180 runners/dashers and splashers.  I had the privilege of passing out medals and trophies and that is fun!

So I couple of semi-rest days and tomorrow is a short 10 mile fun ride for the kickoff for the Fall Tour de Livingston.  A few years ago they started to kick off an early registration for the event with a short ride at the Howell Balloon-fest.  6:45 am the riders will depart from the lawn of the courthouse, travel to the Howell High School where the balloons do a "fly-in"  balloonist are given a bean bag to drop on a target on the ground so several come swooping in low for a grand show of balloons.  After the fly-in the riders depart for a mini tour around Howell.  I'm taking Andrew with me as he accompanied me the last time I participated.  Should be more fun and a great way to pass time in this slump.
Below are a few photos from the TdL kick-off ride a couple or years ago


Balloons filling the morning sky, getting ready to fly-in

Target time!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Me And Max

Max is my friend's Lisa and Dennis' little guy.  He lives on a lake and gets to tube and water ski but doesn't get to bike ride a lot. I've been promising Max a bike ride and today I made good on it.  We've had a period of hot weather and in Michigan that often means unstable weather, I rode early this morning before the heat and wanted to take another little ride in the evening and it seemed like a perfect time to ride with Max.  We were intending to head out to Independence Lake for a couple of turns around the path there but as soon as we had loaded up his bike in the trunk and mine on my bike rack I heard a crack of thunder.  We headed out anyway thinking that it would blow by.  I noticed that the sky to the south toward Ann Arbor was clear and looked fair.  To the west where Independence Lake was it looked okay but a bit dark.  We did pass through a downpour but sure enough it was dry by the time I reached Ann Arbor and Brandemere Park for a little jaunt on the Border to Border trail, just a mere 15 minute car ride south of home.  

We set off and before the first mile mark we were at the dirt bike park and Max took a ride down the mini mogul track.  Methinks he loved it because he headed right back after finishing the first round.  I asked him to slow down for a photo and instead he requested a video.

Traveling along we came to playground equipment and being all boy and all kid there was the requisite stop to jump, climb and play.

A bit later down the trail we saw this single deer nibbling leaves for dinner across the river from the island we were on.

It was a pleasant but quite humid evening and the breeze from  pedaling felt great.  Max had a really good time and said so on the way home three times at least "That was really fun!"

Getting youngsters exposed to bike riding and the adventure that is inherent in bicycling is fun for a grownup too!  I am an explorer at heart, sometimes I think exploring is more the draw than bicycling itself and I love to share that with kids because it comes so natural to them.
Deer spotted from Island Park across the river

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Exploring The Southern Reaches Of The Huron River

My longest ride yet this year, just a tad over 25 miles was spent exploring a trio of Metroparks that are near to the end of the Huron River.  Another eight to ten miles and I'd have been at Lake Erie.  My ride started at the northern entrance to Lower Huron Metropark, headed south onto a 3 1/2 mile connector path to Willow Metropark and lastly into Oakwoods Metropark.   Typical of other Metroparks in the Huron-Clinton Metropark system it was filled with amenities for the outdoor enthusiast or families out to enjoy the great outdoors.  Plenty of places to picnic, shelters, comfort stations with running water, playground equipment, golf courses and trails, both paved for bikes, pedestrians, skaters and soft trails for foot traffic only that offer a bit more quiet and solitude.  Both Lower Huron and Willow Metroparks had nice water parks for kids to enjoy.   A link to the metropark website with maps and loads of information can be found here.

At a fishing pier at the trailhead

I crossed no less than a half dozen bridges, quite possibly many more , I didn't count them, the river winds even more than the path.  The trails crossed the river or ran alongside of it and if you didn't see it, you knew it was very close by.  Many places to wet a line or launch a canoe or kayak and several fishing docks and platforms.  If you don't have a watercraft there were ponds with boat rentals and paddle-boats if you prefer to pedal on the water.

Each park was unique from the others with things offered and the nature of the terrain.  The Lower Huron Metropark is more densely wooded with more climbs that are steep but mostly short.  It's similar to Kensington but doesn't circle a lake, Kensington has longer climbs and one monster hill, these were short and steep with none standing out as a biggie.  Willow Metropark had more rolling hills and the climbs softened and the trail opened up more to meadows.  There was a unique train crossing that forced you through a wooden gate system where you had no choice but to walk your bike through it.  This was right at the entrance to the Village of New Boston and while I was passing through a crew was paining it.  On the other side was a small cemetery with only three marked graves that I could see.  It was tiny and right alongside the path. It was called Nowland and the sign had an Indian head on it.  The sign was just far enough away that I couldn't read it and if the painters hadn't been right there I might have snuck under the split rail fence to read it.    I could make out that it had a historical registry number on it but that's all.

Village of New Boston

Kowland Cemetery 

There was a large pond and trailhead parking pretty much in the middle of Willow.  The path came to a fork at the pond and you could take the high or low road, I chose the high road on the trip out and the low road on the trip back, on the trip back it ran right alongside the river and was very scenic and pretty.  Parts of the trail in this park, particularly where it turned into a connector to Oakwoods  and ran right alongside of the I-275 trail.  I've been toying with riding that trail because I recall it being built when I was much younger and it was the first bike trail I ever knew of.  However it does run right alongside a very busy interstate highway and I'm not sure I'd like all the noise from the traffic.  It was very noticeable while riding on the section that paralleled it.  Although the sights and scents are very much like the parks at home, one thing that really stood out about sounds was that Lower Huron and Willow are not far from Detroit Metro Airport and I'm no longer used to seeing planes that are low in the sky, large and so loud that you can hear them.  Out where I live, it's so far from a major airport that jumbo jets are mere silver slivers in the sky and soundless.  The only planes we have are either pontoon seaplanes on the lakes or tiny aircraft that land on small grass landing strips.
Washago Pond

Oakwoods Metropark is a misnomer, it is here that the landscape really flattens out and you ride in the midst of marshland and lowlands.  There is an occasional stand of trees but mostly you are out in the open with no escape from the sun. I did notice that the occasional tree or grouping of trees were hardwoods and saw the tell-tale green nuts on the ground, indicating hickory trees present.  The biggest claim to fame for this park is the Nature Center and an equestrian staging area.  The region is where these lowlands become the delta that typifies a major river emptying into a larger body of water, in this case it would be the Huron into Lake Erie.  Today was about 10 degrees F hotter than it's been in several days and since this open part of my ride was at the furthest point out  and near the turnaround, I was beginning to feel a bit cooked.  Fortunately it was a short 3 1/2 mile segment.   I was looking forward to the Nature Center on the grounds at the end of the park.  It was not air conditioned in there but it was in a wooded section and did have vending machines with cold drinks so I could refill my water bottle and get a Gatorade. I freshened up in the restrooms and I pulled the same trick I did on the Falling Waters trail and that was that the bottom 1/4 of my water bottle had become too hot to drink but it still felt cool when I dumped it over my head.  Wet hair was nice and cool on the ride back.
The open marshland of the delta before Lake Erie
No escaping the sun

A foot trail adjacent to the nature center 

Huron River overlook

The Watershed

Nature Center

My hybrid cruiser/mountain bike is great on the gravel roads, bike paths and occasional roads that I ride on and serves me well for the 8-15 mile rides that I normally do along with being my errand bike.  If 20-30 mile rides are in my future, a new bike is too.  It just takes too long to ride those distances with my current bike.  If I keep up longer rides I may have to look for a touring bike or a modified road bike with flat bars and relaxed geometry.  True road bikes are not in my future, I rode them as a teenager but with joint issues and both osteo and rheumatoid arthritis I need a more upright riding positing and a relaxed versus aggressive geometry bike.  For the time being that idea will have to be on hold.

Monument at the Trailhead of Lower Huron Metropark

Monday, June 17, 2013

Indian Springs, Another New Trail

I was itching for another new trail and opted for Indian Springs near Clarkston, Michigan.  The Metropark is situated in the thick of another of Michigan's lakes area with lakes surrounding the park.  The park itself is somewhat of a giant swamp, though my ride saw only little bits of areas with standing water.  There are gentle rolling hills and densely wooded sections of the trail.  The paved trail is just over 8 miles but the last section of it is a 2 mile loop and I circled the loop twice.  I considered a third loop but there was a large dark thunderhead that showered on me for a few brief seconds as I was completing the second loop and I hightailed it back towards the trailhead because I'd left my car windows half way down.

It quit raining shortly and I barely got wet, most of the showers were while I was in a dense wood section.  It was a good warm up ride after my mini getaway up north and this was my first opportunity to ride in many days.  That combined with today's temps being high in comparison to what we've been having and I just returned from a Upper Peninsula trip where the temps were unseasonably cool even for up there.  To give an idea of what the difference in latitude represents, we had lilacs blooming in early May around Mother's Day.  Lilacs were just now in bloom up there for Father's Day so they are about a month behind us, weatherwise.

My short excursion north was for a conference for the school board of the Charter Academy that I serve on.  Our authorizing agent is Lake Superior State University and they are located at the tip top of Michigan's Upper Peninsula at Sault St. Marie on the US side.  There is a sister city across the waterway that separates us from Canada in that region.  This region is where Lake Superior goes into the St. Mary's River and that empties into Lake Huron.  The Soo locks, as they are known,  are located there and our group had a dinner boat cruise tour of the locks and passage through them.  Last year when I went up for the conference I visited the visitors center for the Soo Locks and learned all about their construction.  It is a modern engineering feat and has opened up an important inland waterway on the Great Lakes for commerce worldwide.  While we toured the locks by boat this time we passed a Chinese freighter.  Iron ore is mined out of Iron Mountain and copper from Copper Harbor, the iron ore is brought to a huge steel mill at Sault St. Marie for processing and production.  The 40,000 pound bales of coiled steel are loaded onto freighters bound all over the globe.  A freighter needs 6 days for going from Lake Superior through the St. Mary's River into Lake Huron, then through the Detroit River into Lake Erie, up the Erie Canal and through the St. Lawrence Seaway out into the open ocean of the Atlantic.

I went up a day early and used the trip as a recognizance for another trip I am planning with a friend.  We are going to ride from Charlevoix to Mackinaw City, hop the ferry and ride Mackinaw Island.  That ride will get us around the "tip of the mitt." and in the process we will pass through the tunnel of trees along Lake Michigan's eastern shore.  There was spectacular scenery and vistas overlooking the lake.  It should be a fun ride.

Indian Springs Metropark has a lot of amenities including a golf course, spray zone, plenty of play areas and picnic areas and an educational/interactive building and grounds that have walking trails through various areas of swamp (on elevated boardwalks and walkways) and other educational opportunities and kids camps.  The paved bike trail is mostly flattish to slight rolling hills with one significant climb.  The ride starts out with a 3/4 mile descent and you need to climb that to return to the trailhead parking lot.  Right near the beginning of the trail I found this sign.  I listened well and stayed on the trail, only venturing off pavement in closely mowed areas.

Indian Springs is in the northernmost area of the Huron River Watershed and just above the headwaters of the Huron River which meanders along eventually emptying into Lake Erie. .  A watershed is a high area or ridge that usually separates major river systems.   I have lived in the watershed for much of my life and my bicycling takes me to many trails throughout it's mid section.  I have just recently began exploring trails in the upper reaches and hope to explore the trails of the lower reaches of the watershed yet this summer.  Even with having moved some long distances during my life, I have remained within it's borders as it spans over 900 square miles. No wonder it seems like I am always pedaling along next to it's shores, whether I am riding in Milford or 50 miles south in Ann Arbor!  A link to the Huron River Watershed Council can be found here along with a wealth of information about this important waterway.  A link to a map of the geographical area that the watershed covers can be found here and here.  I liked the trail and park so much that I expect that I will be a return visitor. The more time I spend bicycling along the shores of this major river system, the more I am learning about the ecology of the whole region.   As a kid growing up I lived in the Rouge River watershed, another large system that empties into Lake Erie.  A map of the rivers of southeastern Michigan that empty into Lake Erie can be found here

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Making A Tedious Chore Into A Fun Morning

If you have ever had the opportunity to spend time in the waiting area of a auto repair facility you will completely understand what I am about to describe.  The best and cleanest of facilities is inherently boring and tedious.  I was last there to have a tire fixed which turned into a bit more of a repair than I had expected and spent a good two and a half hours with a smart phone as my only amusement.  Let's just say I wasn't amused.  There was a TV blaring banal idiotic daytime television shows and in the big open room there was no escaping the drivel, canned laughter and inane subject material.  It was distracting and annoying.

Fast forward to today, knowing that getting new shocks and struts was going to be a two hour wait and we had delightful weather I loaded up my bike with panniers including a laptop, in case it really got long, and set off to explore downtown Brighton.

What a treat!  It was early morning cool with much of the town still quiet and sleeping.  Working folks had already been off to their commute and the rest of town had yet to become a buzz.  I meandered my way into downtown via a back-behind-busy-Grand-River route that I had discovered some years earlier to avoid the traffic congestion along the main thoroughfare and wound my way through tree lined streets with quaint homes and plenty of flowering shrubs and of course ended up by the mill-pond, smack in the center of downtown.  Poking around the mill-pond and tridge I found a route that ran just behind all of the businesses all the way back to Belle Tire where my car was.  Cool.  I knew there were walkways and paths all around the mill-pond but did not know that it ran all the way down Grand River for the entire length of the pond and connecting downtown proper with all the new businesses sprouted up down the Grand River corridor.  

 Mill-pond and tridge in the distance 

Boardwalk and walkway behind Grand River 
 So I wound my way back to downtown, explored the east side of Main Street and neighborhoods over there and eventually made my way back downtown to Lynn's Cafe for a leisurely breakfast.  Before heading out for more exploring I pulled out my laptop and did some scouting for a trip I will be taking this weekend.  I hope to do a bike ride in the Tip of the Mitt later this summer from Charlevoix to Mackinaw Island and I'll be using part of this trip to scout out potential routes and places for food and lodging along the way.  My trip this weekend will be all the way past the tip o' the mitt to the tip top of the UP (upper peninsula of Michigan) for a conference for the Charter School Academy Board that I serve on, that retreat is in Sault St. Marie on the US side.  There is a sister city across the St. Mary's River in Canada.  The St. Mary's River connects Lake Superior to Lake Huron.  If you look at a map of Michigan the lower peninsula is mitten shaped. So us Michiganders refer to our state as the Mitten State.  Youpers (those living in the UP) refer to us as trolls because we live below the bridge.  That would be the Mighty Mac otherwise known as the Mackinaw Bridge, linking the upper and lower peninsulas together.
Brighton has done a fabulous job making a walk-able community
and connecting businesses with downtown  
So before I had done much more exploring the phone rang to let me know my car was ready.  Wow, where did that time go?  I made my way back to Belle Tire, loaded up and was off to Hudson Mills for a few laps.  

Lynn's Cafe

Saturday, June 8, 2013

First Real Mountain Bike Trail & First Wipeout Of The Year

I did it.  I rode a mountain bike trail.  I did half of the Blue Trail at Island Lake State Park.  I am spent.  I have noodles where my arms used to be.

A few things I learned with my new venture;
  1. I have a new found respect, a deep respect for mountain bikers.
  2. To attempt a mountain bike trail you must be adventurous.
  3. To actually ride a mountain bike trail you must be courageous. 
  4. Or young enough to be fearless and believe you are invincible.
  5. To mountain bike on any consistent basis (more than one ride), you must be fit, very fit.
  6. To make it through a trail you must be able to horse and man-handle your bicycle.
  7. You will see some of the most beautiful scenery that you really can't see any other way.
  8. That ridge on the side of a mountain (ok, big hill in Michigan) that always looked so cool and fun and I was dreaming about riding as I pedaled by safely on a wide paved flat road and just couldn't wait to do, it will scare your socks right off your feet. 
I've been planning and dreaming about this ride for weeks now and finally felt up to it.  Wrong.  But I plunged ahead, literally and did it.  I had poured over paper maps, searched the route on map my ride, read everything I could about it and watched a 35 minute video on You Tube that someone who rode this with a helmet cam and posted it,  but nothing really prepares you for the real thing except for, well, the real thing.   
I've rode the park dozens of times and was familiar with most of the landmarks/points of interest and tournouts throughout the park to have an idea of the lay of the land, however I was about to get very up close familiar with it in a way I'd never imagined.  Still, I knew places I could bail out and take the road that runs through the park and focused so much on those before hand that when I got there I thought, "hey, that's a bad mindset, you're talking about bailing before you even give it a try."  That clicked someplace in my brain and the first few times I actually thought I might need to bail out, I stayed with it and just kept saying "one more segment." Until I reached the half way point.  The trail travels the southern side of the park heading west out of the trailhead and ends on pavement near the west end of the park, you have to traverse to the end of the park about a quarter of mile on pavement to pick up the trail again for the northern loop heading back east to the trail-head.   

So a 4.5 mile ride took me just over 1.5 hours.  The pamphlets say that you should allow for 2 hours for the 9 mile trail.  With limited time I knew the next half of the trail would take me at least as long as the first half and I didn't have that kind of time today.  That was a good thing, because my body didn't have that kind of energy in it either.  It was beautiful, gorgeous even, when I had enough time to actually look at the scenery, most of the time I was trying not to wipeout or otherwise kill myself.  

Much of the trail is through dense woods that wind.  If another biker comes up behind you, you usually don't know about it much ahead of time and after they pass they are gone like a deer or bear in the woods.  They just disappear round a bend or get gobbled up by the woods never to be seen again.  

There are passages along side of gurgling water, places that go up and up and places that go straight up and also straight down, or nearly so.  I'm not too proud to say there were ample opportunities for me to walk both up and down hills that were either too steep to pedal up or I was too afraid to barrel down the previous hill to gain the momentum needed or just too steep and rugged to go down.  There were logs and plenty of roots, some erosion that caused sudden drops and rocks.  Not boulders like you might get out west but in places there were tops of rocks sticking out.  There were some switchbacks both while ascending and while descending.   There was also a vast wide open area through a meadow and also through a somewhat desolate looking landscape. Wouldn't you know it, that is where I had my wipeout, it was 1.84 miles in and I know that because my speedometer quit working when that happened only I didn't know about it till at the turnaround point.  The trail is well marked in 1/4 mile increments and at the turn I noticed the marker said 4.5 miles and my speedo was stuck on 1.84.  I figured out that the fall disoriented my wireless pickup and fiddled with it and got it working.  Anyway, here I am in the most wide open part of the trail, the singletrack in various places is hard packed dirt, softer dirt or fairly good packed pea gravel and some portions have the dreaded sand.  The trail had opened up and turned gravelly and I hit a soft deep pocket of sand, not more than a couple of yards long but it was enough to take me down.  As the ground came rushing up I noticed my bare hands and thought, crap, I forgot to put my gloves on.  So my landing spot was much more gravelly than what caused the fall.  I lay there stunned for a moment and when I combublated my self again, I picked the gravel out of my hands, knees and legs, picked myself up, brushed off the dust, put my gloves on and away I went.  Much more cautious of the condition of the trail and very wary of loose ground.  Maybe it was the crash but I was more tentative as I progressed.  Most of my ride was very doable for me but the section after Spring Mill Pond wound up a large ridge and down it and that area gave me fits and made me want to quit.  I crossed the paved road again after descending the ridge and knew from my whereabouts and the map that there was only about another half mile to reach the half way point and I pressed on even though part of me wanted to quit and was very glad I continued as the trail passed through more pretty scenery and it was flat enough for me to enjoy my surroundings but rugged enough to appreciate I was traveling a singletrack.  

Time-wise I needed to hoof it back on the paved road.  My body was grateful for that and my spirit was uplifted over my accomplishment, meager that it was.  In reality it was half a trail and a beginner tail at that but for me it was conquering my quest.  It was only 2.5 miles back by road and took me about 25 minutes to return.  A wee bit battered, bloodied and bruised, yet you couldn't wipe the grin from my face and I can't wait to return!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

More Bicycling For A Cause

In this case it was to help support a State Representative, Gretchen Driskell.  Politics being what they are the campaign for re-election is sure to require funds and our current representative is building a base along with a base of support.  I've known Gretchen through my affiliation while being Supervisor of Northfield Township and at that time Gretchen was Mayor of Saline. We served together on a transportation policy board at WATS (Washtenaw Area Transportation Study) and had other occasions to meet over government affairs.  While I am a strong Republican, I have found that Gretchen, a Democrat, to be fiscally conservative, has sound judgment and has practical common sense, a rare commodity in political circles today.  While generally favoring party candidates, it's about the person not the party.

Gretchen held a "Ride with the Rep" event last Saturday at one of my favorite bike trails at Hudson Mills Metropark and I was happy to be a part of the event.  Gretchen is an avid rider, competitor and outdoor enthusiast.  A nice crowd turned out for the event.

Wheels in Motion an Ann Arbor bicycle shop helped out at the event by bringing extra bicycles for those who had no bike and wanted to attend and ride and was also available for quick repairs, air for tires and other such last minute cycling needs and safety checks.  PEAC Programs to Educate All Cyclists was also well represented at the ride and helped to educated the riders on trail riding safety and etiquette, right before we took off for the ride.    I was really hoping to be able to take a spin on the tandem that WIM brought to the event, but I was only able to do a single lap with the riders due to other plans in the afternoon.  I guess I'll just have to wait for another opportunity for that tandem ride!

Gretchen is standing in the front row behind her bike in a black tee

 As you can see from the photos, it's a beautiful park and trail, just north of Dexter and south of Pinckney