Don's Bike Across America
Astoria, Oregon to Portsmouth, New Hampshire
June 19 to August 7, 2006

Don’s Blog: July 24: Wheels Across the Water

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Question: Does it truly count as a cross country bike ride if you take a ferry over a body of water? Regardless of one’s point of view on that question, that was exactly what the trek called for on this day, in the form of a four-hour ferry ride across Lake Michigan. The trek could have conceivably gone down around the lake and up the other side, but that would have entailed an extra 240 miles, we well as negotiating the city of Chicago. So this was the chosen alternative.

Ostensibly, it was a scheduled “off day,” but in actuality we were required to log 10 miles on the bike, from the hotel in Manitowoc, Wisconsin to the boarding of the ferry, and from disembarking in Ludington, Michigan to the hotel. In between, we could enjoy the fresh air on the deck, or partake of activities down below on the sizeable ship, called “the Badger.” It was also a very old vessel, coal burning and quite slow. We could have cycled faster than the rate of speed we sustained across the lake. Of course, it might have been a little tough to cycle on the water…

The day got off to a reasonably good start, as I “slept in” until after 6:00 a.m. We went out for a leisurely breakfast, and then I went back to the room to do some work. At about 9:30 we loaded our bags on the trek and headed down on the pier, where we visited a maritime museum, featuring the U.S. S. Cobia, a submarine that saw extensive action in World War II. It fired more than 1,300 torpedoes during the war, and was not itself heavily damaged.

We took a tour of the sub, and it was eye-opening. There is so little space; it must have been very difficult conditions in which to live month after month. In addition, the tour guide told us the seaman all smoked heavily. Talk about your second hand smoke! The bunks were tiny and the rest of the quarters equally cramped. Doing guard duty in the surface must have been a real treat, if only to escape the claustrophobic conditions.

There was a long wait to board the ferry. Our cycling group was one of the last to board. They placed our bikes down below with the motor vehicles. I spent most of the time trying to rest, and chatting with some of the other riders. Although the water was not all that rough, I did get bit nauseous during the last couple of hours. I was very happy to see land and to eventually dock in the town of Ludington, Michigan. The trip took four hours, and we added an extra hour entering the Eastern Time Zone. We than cycled the four miles to the hotel. A rest day? Not really. But it will have to do. Tuesday’s ride promises to be very challenging, at 115 miles, out last scheduled distance of more than a century.