Glorious ride to Grand Rapids


Wow, what a beautiful day it was today. The weather was perfect for riding, and the scenery was incredible, in a variety of different ways. And, I even had some company for more than half of the 40-mile ride!

I awoke in Allegan this morning, and had a leisurely and delicious granola-and-fresh-fruit breakfast with my hosts Rian and Paula, while we talked more about travels and life.

After breakfast, I packed up my rig, and so did Rian! He decided to come along with me for a good chunk of my ride today, which used to be his occasional commute when he worked in Grand Rapids. He also brought along his own bike trailer, so we were kind of “bike twins” out on the road, which was fun. The auto traffic along most of the rural roads was pretty quiet, so we were able to ride side by side and chat for a good portion of the ride.

At one point, I thought I heard something a bit “off” from the trailer. I looked back, assuming the rain/visibility cover had shifted itself over and started rubbing against one of the tires, which it does sometimes, creating drag and an audible sound.

But when I scoped out the situation, I found instead a large screw embedded in the trailer’s tire! It had been flat for the past mile or two, we estimated, because Rian noted that he had seen something bright and seemingly flashing in the tire when he was riding behind me to let cars pass.

Argh… but I was so grateful for Rian’s presence and bike-mechanical expertise! We pulled over into the shade of a tree in the yard of a rural house. (Fortunately we never experienced the dog a sign posted to a tree warned us to beware of.) I dug around in my trailer bags and backpack, pulling out my Tern multitool, some tire irons, a spare tube, and my full-sized tire pump. Meanwhile, Rian quickly and expertly put all these tools to use, fixing the flat in short order. (Rian, if you are reading this, thank you again for saving the day!!)

We packed everything up again, and got back on the road. Before too long, the road turned into a lovely shaded bike path. It reminded me a bit of the 21-mile Banks-Vernonia rail trail, just west of Portland. At one point, the path passed through a golf course, and we saw some golfers heading across the “overpass” in a cart! It was kind of funny.

Once we got through a tunnel, Rian decided to turn around and head back home, having already traveled about 30 of the 40 miles I needed to go. We said farewell, and I continued along the path until it opened up into roads again.

Before much longer, I reached another beautiful shaded bike path, also along the side of a park that included a golf course.

When I stopped in the park for a much-needed restroom break, I was blown away by the quality of light against the trees and grass. The scale and spacing of the trees—mostly oaks, I think—reminded me of the otherworldly feel of the oak grove in Salem, Oregon’s Bush’s Pasture Park. In both cases, I stood mesmerized for some time, doing my best to capture the feeling in photos, but not quite succeeding.

Just before I was ready to leave, I glanced down at my feet and saw a tiny, adorable toad hopping around in the grass. They were probably about the size of half of my thumb. The photo quality isn’t great, but you can get the gist.

Soon thereafter, I encountered yet more friendly-looking wildlife, as I came upon a deer having a snack near a creek.

Then I went through a city park, with lush rolling hills and trees on the edge. It was a whole different park aesthetic, and I loved it too.

Soon afterward, I arrived at the home of my Grand Rapids Warmshowers hosts, Diane and Skip. They had just had a large family meal last night, and the leftovers were plentiful and delicious, so we feasted on a wide variety of healthy dishes while we talked about family (they have six grown children, and many grandchildren) and traveling.

After dinner, I wanted to enjoy the perfect weather and light a bit longer, so I walked three blocks to their neighborhood park, which I reached just at golden hour. I basked on a bench, savoring the slow waning of the day.

Tomorrow it might rain; we’ll see. I hope to get out and begin exploring the city of Grand Rapids. In the evening, I might join Diane and Skip at a bike race 20 miles away that their son is organizing; we’ll see how things unfold.

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