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Bike Trip - August 18 through 29, 2002

Part A - Western Washtenaw County

In 2002 we went on another biking adventure, this time closer to home - western Washtenaw County (where we live) and the closer parts of Lenawee and Monroe Counties to the south (within 35 miles). We got our usual timely start by making someone a computer for the first two days of the trip. After this we finished putting our bikes together (from parts other people abandoned). Here is Jim bringing home some bikes into his driveway . You can see the house across the street, and his housemate Joel's truck.

Sunday we finally packed up our two tents (Jim snores), camping mats, down bags, propane stove and small wok (with bowl for a cover), small pressure cooker, millet, oatmeal, lentils, dried mushrooms and apricots, and clothes, and LOTS of plastic bags for when it rains as our panniers leak. Jim and Sindi pose with their bikes behind Sindi's apartment ready to go. You can see some of the other bikes that we have collected.

We spent almost two weeks going in a large circle, visiting friends and a few complete strangers, all of whom were incredibly kind to us. I wish to thank, in general, everyone who gave us a place to sleep, cooked food, and garden produce to take with us. We had an unbelievably nice trip and cannot imagine any part of the world that would have been more hospitable. The good-quality dirt roads were nearly car-free, and flat except near Waterloo State Rec Area, the weather was for the most part perfect, and there was a large variety of things to see.

We finally left Sunday evening (Aug 18) to visit Dorothy and Carl Pfitzenmaier on Island Lake Rd. north of Chelsea. Shortly before sunset we declined an invitation to camp in a stranger's yard, and we arrived in their yard just as the sun was setting, in time to pitch our tents before it was pitch dark. We were fed a gourmet vegetarian supper by Dorothy. (Please forgive any fuzzy pictures - our camera is one of the first digital models, Epson PhotoPC, with a cheap flash.)

Monday we were fed homemade pancakes (Jim always remembers our trips by the food) and then played with Dorothy's computer. She can now download and view photos so we also took a few photos. You can see Sindi with the cat and also Carl and Pam and Sindi . Pam is the pony equivalent of 100 human years. We also picked lots of blueberries and had another wonderful vegetarian supper with garden vegetables. Dorothy and Carl grew up in farm country and grow and preserve lots of their own food. They also, despite various health challenges, just built their own large shed during one of the hottest summers on record. They really put us to shame - we cannot ever seem to get our house built.

The first night I learned why you have to be careful not to let the groundcloth extend past the tent (it acts like a bathtub), why you should draw the fly taut (otherwise it touches the uncoated tent roof and rain goes through) and why you should pitch the vestibule when rain is likely (so you can open the tent door and let out the condensation that otherwise collects on the tent roof and rains down.) Down bags make great sponges. In the morning we dried out the tents .

Tuesday around 6:30 we set off for Tantree Farms, south of Chelsea, where Richard Andres and Deb and Arianna (almost a year old) and many helpers are growing organic vegetables under the CSA (community supported agriculture) plan. They distribute about 100 shares of vegetables to people who prepay, which they bring to the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market or have picked up by Chelsea residents. They also sell at the market. We helped weed and picked cucumbers with Tom and took baby photos: Ariana with Deb and with the new Australian sheep dog .

After arriving at 9:30 (in the dark) we pitched our sleeping bags in the new post and beam barn which Richard built for potato storage (bermed lowest level), drying garlic (middle walk-in level) and practicing music (upper level), and joined Michelle, Brendan and Richard etc. in the daily supper feast of local produce. Somehow there always seem to be about 10 people at the farm. We wish it were not a whole day's bike ride away.

We also set up a replacement receiver and CD player (which Jim had fixed for them) and Jim's housemate Joel brought out some speakers for it. The original system that we gave them is somewhere around. We took away a broken amp and two dead VCRs. We skipped the demolition derby at the Chelsea Fair (in which people intentionally smash old cars.)

Jim weeded the grape arbor. He wore long pants and long shirt because he was told there was poison ivy. He is not good at plant identification. For the next two weeks he was very very itchy, and covered with impressive red blotches. Now he knows that poison ivy oils can go through clothing.

Wednesday there was a steady light rain. We put on rainsuits and left anyway. We took them off because it was hot. We stopped to cook breakfast at Sharon Mills County Park (under construction) where the county is spending a fortune reconstructing a Henry Ford mill (back of it seen from the picnic shelter) in white Greek Revival Style, complete with water. The picnic shelter looked like a temple with a sacrificial altar at the end. It rained harder. We washed the oatmeal from our pressure cooker using water dripping from the roof. We left anyway in light rain.

We eventually arrived at the home of Chris Coon and Christine Snyder on Pleasant Lake Rd., which is a main route for gravel trucks starting at 6 am. They are planning to move to near Kalamazoo, to help start an intentional community (co-housing). They are the only members who know anything about building. Christina is an architect who teaches sustainable architecture, and Chris installs solar panels and windmills, and they garden. Christine showed me drawings and models of geodesic domes. We cooked supper on their 2-burner and our 1-burner propane stoves in the yard, under the Carpathian walnut tree, a real feast.
After supper we headed northeast again to visit Mark and Susan Boone, who we had last seen on a bike trip to Blissfield in 1995. Susan showed us lots of photos from Armenia, where she had been teaching computers. I am sorry we did not have three days to see all the photos (also a Grand Canyon rafting trip). Mark explained the (lack of an) economic system in Armenia, and showed us his 120 pawpaw trees , the persimmons, and edible dogwood and other trees with edible fruit . He will give us scionwood for our persimmon (male) and pawpaw (the one that leafs out too early and has to try again), and maybe seedlings. We camped in a far corner of his farmland, which has been in the family for generations. Nobody else in the family grows anything much but corn and soybeans.

Friday we headed south again in light rain, with all our clothing and bedding and tents wrapped in plastic bags. An old orange external frame backpack was a nice visible way to carry sleeping bags. We met a friendly local resident who came out to bark at us, on a hilltop where we stopped to photograph a typical farm. We stopped to look at Bridgewater, which has a friendly feed mill and pet-food store, a restaurant named 'Bank', a general store that let me use their phone to call Tecumseh, a tire place, and Bridgewater Lumber (where we will buy cheap 24" insulated doors). They offered us the town's only sheltered picnic spot . It rained lightly and then heavily.

We asked customers about a place to camp in the rain - Bridgewater Town Hall (a cemetary with locked building), Clinton Town Park (lots of picnic shelters but 2 hours away), someone's yard to the east, and then a pole barn 2 miles west. We left in light rain and arrived in a torrent - the driveway was a river. The pole barn is being built by the owner (lumber yards are a good place to meet professional carpenters). His wife came to make sure we had water and introduced us to the llamas in the yard next to the barn. They were quiet, clean and friendly. You have to shear them with their neck fur left on when your kids bring them to 4H shows (along with pet pigs). Their next-door neighbors have pet peacocks that sound like a child being tortured. We had a very dry night's sleep (with mosquito helmets over our heads as we could not pitch our tents on a concrete floor), then said goodbye to our neighbors (note the yellow plastic toy construction machinery) and headed south to Lenawee County and Tecumseh.

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Continue to Part B of this trip