Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Blazing Saddles

Last night was what you might call an experience. The sort that people would probably refer to as “character building”. Having met the owner of the hotel at 4.30pm to get into our room, we were not best impressed with the state of it. Still, at least the owner had shown us his loaded gun while we were checking in to reassure us that we, and the bikes, would be safe in his establishment…at which point Anthony switched his muscle reflex mode onto “ultra fast-twitch”!

It was one of those places where the more you looked, touched and experienced, the more uncomfortable you started to feel. We won’t go into details, save to confirm that the silk sleeping sock made another appearance and that we woke this morning to find a spider on the ceiling near the bathroom (we weren’t really surprised since there was a whole family of them just outside the door to our room). It was lowering itself down, Little Miss Muffet style, and then shooting back up again with alarming speed. Kat kept her beady little eye on it throughout observing the age-old cyclists’ proverb: “a watched spider never crawls into your pannier”. Oh, and it would be remiss of us not to mention that we were woken up at 7am this morning with the not so gentle sound of a tarmac machine right outside our window, mending cracks in the car park… like that was the most urgent thing that needed fixing in the whole place?

Anyway, the whole experience had us pondering over breakfast about the complexities of finding suitable accommodation on this trip. When it’s raining outside, or it’s a ridiculously hot, humid and mosquito-ridden evening, we count our blessings for whatever roof we have over our heads, nodding at each other and saying “better than a tent”. But the truth is that we take quite a lot for granted, and get all squirmy when even the basics are not present.

As cyclists, our needs are a little different to your average tourist. At times, we have taken the estate agent’s view that the three key factors are location, location and location, but that’s not really the whole story. For us, an ideal location means: being within walking distance of a restaurant which cooks hot food from scratch using fresh ingredients; a gas station or grocery store to buy the gallon of water we consume every day; and of course somewhere not too far off the cycling route. On rest days, we need a Laundromat (always), a bike shop (often) and a post office (sometimes). But on top of that, it’s essential for us to know that we can either take our bikes into our room or keep them secure somewhere else on the property; and also that we can get a decent WiFi signal or other internet connection in our room for blog-posting and the myriad of other things for which we rely on the lap top. And of course, we’re on a budget, so we need to get all of the above for a bargain price!

We’ve been pretty lucky so far, and we identified a number of places on the trip that would definitely go in our Top 10. Last night we’ll definitely place in the Top 2 Worst Places, but you can’t win them all.

On the positive side, we had a fabulous, hearty breakfast this morning at the Cedar Street Café and Coffee House, an absolute gem of place. We had lovely chats with a couple from Pennsylvania as we let our eggs and bacon settle, and also with Scott and Pacific who were on vacation in the area. And, as we were putting our helmets and gloves on outside, we were caught by Sheryl, a Manistique local, who was interested in our trip and told us a bit more about the town. Hi to all of you guys!

With full tummies and our spirits lifted, we rocketed the 45 miles from Manistique, MI to Naubinway, MI in a little over 3 hours. We’re now in a café just round the corner from our motel in order to get WiFi access to post our blogs. We’ve managed to pack away a bowl of meatball soup and an extra large salad in the process…yum. Hurrah for the Michigan Cafes!!

Us x


  1. Hello you too. Wow, I can't believe how far you have come and how little you have to go. What next? Have just discovered how to be a follower (although have been secretly following all along). Good luck for the rest of it-looking forward to a catch up hopefully in the not too distant future. Much love Karen x

  2. Awesome ride. To Lake Superior, then back down. Now that's the way to travel.

    Sounds like it wasn't the best place you stayed at, but you can find good places in that area. They are simple, 1950s style motels, very basic, but loads more character than your basic econo/motel 6/fairfield/doubletree. So on the one hand, it's actually a good thing the chains haven't wiped out the mom & pop hotels, but you do have to look around a little. Same with the food. I'll have to admit, the lone starbucks on Mackinac Island actually serves hot chocolate the right way (with milk), crazy how the little things are important, but how hard is it to make hot chocolate?

    I'm not sure what it is about the cuisine in much of the States, there is, to use Pirsig's term in "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance", a certain lack of "quality", if I understood the book. Certainly deserves some longer puzzling and writing.

    Not sure which way you're headed, but there are some nice towns (Charlevoix, Petoskey), with actually pretty decent food. Have fun!