30.7 mi / 11.3 mi / 930 ft. climbing
Home: Pokagon State Park Campground
With our three-week time limit in 2014, we had to optimize every inch of the route, but there tends to be an inverse relationship between efficient roads and pleasant-to-ride-on roads. Now with a bit more flexibility (and with heavier-than-expected traffic on our route yesterday), we were able to switch off of our 2014 route to a slightly-less-direct path across empty farm roads.
Which is another extreme contrast between Baja and the American Midwest: while we had a single paved road to ride on for nearly 1000 miles in Mexico, here there is a grid of (mostly) paved roads to choose from. In this lake-filled area it’s not nearly as complete and regular as some areas of the Great Plains, and it can easily be broken by small rivers, but I was able to plot a route that kept us almost car-free without adding too much extra mileage.
So even though Rett and I are both unusually-acclimated for touring cyclists to heavy traffic, and despite the far-better-than-we-feared drivers on the highway, it still makes for a far more-relaxing and enjoyable day of riding when we essentially have the roads to ourselves. A bit of a lesson there for my future routing plans, though I also don’t want us to get so mentally-dependent on empty roads that it becomes impossible for us to tolerate heavier traffic when we need to.
We had light northwest winds giving us a mild push, and perfect low-70s temperatures (it was actually a bit chilly leaving our motel in the morning!), so that just added to the relaxing day of bike touring. By the second half we hit some mid-sized lakes surrounded by modest “lake houses” (waterfront property isn’t quite as exciting here as it is on the West Coast!), and then were hit with some shockingly steep hills before we could loop back into Pokagon State Park.
Pokagon is so big that we still had a significant amount of up-and-down riding to do after paying our $2/person entrance fee (ugh!) and before we reached the campground. The Midwest doesn’t have hiker/biker campsites like the West Coast State Parks do, so here we always need to be worried about running into a full campground. That’s why we delayed our re-start of this phase until after the Memorial Day weekend, because finding campsites on weekends is very difficult. But on weekdays (like today), the campgrounds are nearly empty, especially if there is a non-electric section (in contrast to West Coast parks, which have much less of a weekday/weekend dichotomy), so the only concern becomes picking the “best” of the many available spots.
Our short riding day meant that we had time and energy to take a walk around the park (note to selves: stay in the 100 Loop if we ever come back in an RV!) and down to the water of the big lake the the park is oriented on, though the crowds of camp-kids discouraged us from actually taking a dip in that water.
We made up a Carbonara-style dinner, got recommendations from a German native about his favorite places to bike tour in Europe (France is #1, a mention for Hungary, and “stay away from Germany, it’s no good for bike touring!”), and then fended off some DGAF raccoons as night fell (at least they alerted us that this was another “bring the food bag into the tent” night!)