Bike Trip - August 18 through 29, 2002

Part B - northern Lenawee and Monroe Counties and home

Saturday morning it was dry. We arrived in Tecumseh in early afternoon, via the lovely city park along the river with a dam. John III and John II , who we know from our local computer conferencing system, were perfect hosts - we showered, ate, piled lots of stuff on the balcony near the woods (see our tents below) to dry, and let John III (who is 6) try out our camera. You can see their wall-to-wall bookcase and the large freshwater aquarium and model train set in the box. You can also see our llama photo on John III's computer. (Turn up the brightness on your monitor to see John III).

We biked to the nearby gravel pit swimming hole. Lovely, clean, quiet, and sand for making sand castles. We continued on our bikes (with John III on a trailer behind John II) half way along the rails to trails (converted railway track) path to Adrian, and saw the small local waterfall. Very clean and quiet route. We continued to the local Chinese restaurant and tried their Chop Suey and Chow Mein (as the menu said, they differ in having white rice or fried noodles).

We tented in the yard of the apartment building and heard crickets all night from the forest in back. In the morning we were treated to waffles and homemade cherry preserves, and they headed off towards grandparents in Eaton Rapids and we headed off northeast towards Milan.

My tire was making funny noises. In Macon (a church and general store) Jim bandaged it by wrapping tent patching material around the tube to keep it from stretching where the tire was bulging due to sidewall damage. We now know why you want rubber wider than the sidewalls to protect them. Nobody in Macon knew anyone who biked.

A few miles northeast of Macon we visited Virginia Hammond and Dave Gordon. (Jim is practicing reaping air.) Virginia has been selling vegetables and flowers at the Ann Arbor market for 52 years, same number booth. You can see one of her gardens by the main barn, once used for sheep, which is in beautiful condition and has attracted many families of barn swallows . We scared these babies, who made their first flight when the flash went off and never came back to the nest.

We saw Dave's family's antique carpentry and farming tools (let us know if you can identify all the uses) and a butter churn that are kept in the former horse barn . Instead of horses they now use more modern machinery, kept in a former corn storage building, but Dave also restored a fifties Ford tractor. We played around with his computer (not defragged since 1995 - it took at least 6 hours) and put the tractor on it as the new Windows background image. Dave posed in his office with his new and his old office equipment. We cooked supper together and tented by the horse barn.

In the morning, after homemade pancakes and blueberry sauce, we went down the road to his relatives' farm to watch their Mexican hired hands do the milking . They also raise their own calves in little white plastic huts. Dave's relatives farm a lot of the land in that area, which is one of the few remaining dairying areas in the county. He and Virginia were neighbors and when they were both widowed, they made a good match. They go to Florida in the winter so can use a second computer for e-mail in Florida, which we will make in trade for vegetables.

This was the last chance we had on this trip to upload photos from our camera, so only one more 'roll' got taken. This does not mean that our last few stops were any less interesting.

Monday morning we stopped in Milan to look for a bike store. At the local Foodtown we met someone on a bike who steered us to a guy who sells bikes from his corner house. While at the market we got our photo taken for the Milan News-Leader by the person who writes the paper. She was looking for interesting people "in Milan" (she did not say "from Milan"). Friends living in the Milan area were all very surprised to find us in their local paper that week. (If we get a copy we will scan and post it). The guy with the bikes, who had also been in the paper (small town) gave us a tire and promised to come pick up our 3-speeds and find them a good home.

We had planned to head north and east after this, but Jim wanted to see Cabella's new superstore near Dundee. They are aimed at hunters and fishers but also had tents and camping equipment. We admired a large exhibit of stuffed birds in dioramas, and heads of various hoofed animals and entire stuffed elephants and tigers. I wore earplugs to block some of the constant rock music and shooting noises, and borrowed a warm jacket as the place was freezing on a very hot day. We tested camping mats and bought one that someone had returned, 3.5" thick, almost like a real mattress. I slept a lot more soundly after that - but Jim had to carry it. We emerged from the fantasy land around sundown and headed west along Dundee's Main St., past all the internationally famous food places - McDonalds, Burger King, Wendy, Taco Bell - and some hotel chains and sausage shops and a Christmas decoration shop. These are all new within the past two years. Dundee has become a boom town, with a new high school and not enough workers for all the new jobs. They also have gravel trucks running through town.

We had reached the sewage treatment plant without having found any parks, when we met a couple out walking. Mike and Betty Yeck offered us their 7 acres of yard on Main St., next to his restored WWII military ambulance. We were also given a tour of their fascinating late 19th century house, which has an enormous number of doors, an interesting collection of things they have acquired, and a 2-story addition for storing food. It was owned by Mike's parents and was at one time an aquarium factory.

Tuesday, after we had breakfast together, Mike gave us a quick driving tour of Dundee, and then we stopped at his Dundee Military Pool Museum. We could not possibly have picked more interesting or kinder people to ask directions of the night before. Betty, who once worked as a military nurse, even baked up a batch of oatmeal cookies to send with us. (They did not last long).

Mike is a retired owner of a stamping mill that used to be run on a cooperative profit-sharing basis. He has gradually converted it to an unexpectedly wonderful private museum of guns and other things he collects . He started by stamping reproduction antique rifle parts, and civil war belt buckles. Both sides wore the same buckles with different lettering. Then his antique Jeep collection expanded into antique military vehicles and took over the entire plant. The place is huge and we had a private tour. I got to play the portable chaplain's organ. The museum is open Wednesdays to the general public. It subsists on donations of other people's collections (including arrowheads, armor, and various vaguely related items) and money and is a real rival to Henry Ford's collection. All it needs is someone with a lot of time to write up tags for all the objects. We could have spent a few days in there. Unfortunately our camera did not take very good indoor photographs. Go see the museum itself and hear Mike's stories, both worth far more time than Cabella's.

Mike volunteered before WWII started, and ended up, because of his ethnic German background, as an interpreter. He told us how some of the German soldiers were only 14 years old and had no training of any sort. Prisoners of war who were sent to the US during the war often stayed here and married. Mike's WWII interests have been growing since he attended a 50th anniversary of D-Day in Europe. He still has his original uniform.

We headed back north and stopped to see Florence Kierczak , who has been coming to the Farmer's Market for 53 (!) years. Her husband Al died suddenly last year. She used to grow about 20 acres of vegetables but has had to cut back to 4 acres. We were very impressed with the 4 acres and with all the tractors and planters that Al had created or modified. Florence has an incredible amount of energy. She gets up at 3 to get to market and put everything in little boxes, with all the vegetables sorted neatly by size, and washed. She has the best collection of red peppers at market.
Tuesday evening we headed north in the direction of Nemeth Orchards but around half an hour before sunset a friendly voice from a porch on a dirt road boomed out 'Where are you from? Where are you going?' 'Ann Arbor, and we are not really sure'. We were invited to camp there, which seemed like a much better idea than showing up somewhere else in the dark. Bill (our host) ran us out a long hose and lent us a big fluffy towel to wash off the road dirt, then apologized for not bringing out a bucket of hot water. He offered us the pool but it was dark by then with mosquitoes. In the morning he brought out omelets, homemade scones and hot chocolate and told us about his life as a free-lance aerospace engineer. His wife and daughters were finally convinced that we were not mass murderers. The family photo came out too dark to post.

Bill decided we should meet one of his neighbors who was also into alternative type things. She was building a house of mud and took cold showers all year, he said. So we went a few miles in the wrong direction to meet Gita Posselt and she showed us her solar hot shower (used by the large number of people who once lived there on her ashram) and all the various buildings they had built to house the crowd, and the strawbale structure friends were building next door using parts from two old corncribs.

We had not been near a computer since Dave Gordon's, so had to cut back on photos. Gita had two computers but one was missing its (big-end) keyboard and the other was an IBM Model 30 (8088, XT) with 25-pin serial port and we needed a 9-pin port to download from the camera. Jim hooked up a phone line and fixed her 2400 bps modem and was lucky to have brought PC-PLUS on a 720 disk (the computer would not read 1.44) and moved the computer to the house from the barn and got her set up with free grex e-mail.

We saw the sheep and chickens (all colors) and rabbits and a lovely area of woods and pond which used to be cornfield. We cooked supper and breakfast together (we tented there, of course). Gita told us about life in Germany during WWII, how they drafted children, and how her father was drafted and sent to the front line because he would not snitch on his Jewish relative, and barely made it back alive from Russia, and how the war continued to affect her emotionally all her life. So now we have two views of the war in Germany. Gita also has an incredible amount of energy and is still working on community organizing - this time not only for educating people about sustainable farming and housing, but to keep out a large toxic waste dump and incinerator. She biked all over the place to meet with people. Jim adjusted her bike.

Thursday we finally got going again in the direction of Nemeth Orchards, which consists of an enormous number of mostly apple but some peach and pear trees, which Alex and his wife have been putting a huge amount of time into. None of their kids or grandkids want to continue as it is too much work. Alex also grows excellent corn and canteloupe. We biked home after that and arrived after dark. It was sort of a shock to get back to the big city full of cars rushing around, and lights, and raccoons and skunks (none in the country that we know of).
We have spent the past week unpacking, and processing and freezing apples, tomatoes from Virginia (to be traded for a computer), peppers from Florence, greenbeans from Nicholson's Greenhouses (near Belleville, we were too exhausted to make it quite that far east), and various greens from Merkel's Greenhouses (which we biked home from last year after getting a ride there). It was wonderful to see where all our food is actually being grown, and to see how much people 10-30 years older than us are accomplishing despite arthritis, bypass surgery, infections, and other things that would have knocked us out. They were all kind enough to admire our biking and camping abilities. I could not manage half of what a farmer does every day.
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