DAY 23 (7/3/05): Luther to Traverse City, MI 83.8 mi. Today's ride was mostly through state and national forests, with a few farms thrown in at the end. There was noticeably more traffic on the roads due to the holiday weekend. Traverse City itself was a total madhouse due to the annual Cherry Festival, which draws thousands of people to this big cherry-growing region. For me it just meant that the bike path that I was supposed to be on through the city was completely occluded by sunburned tourists eating ice cream. So, I got a little lost and wound up at a laundromat, which certainly wasn't a bad thing. I took refuge there and did my laundry, and then when I left I stumbled onto the bike path that I was supposed to be on anyhow, and got out of town. I camped at a little private campground just outside of town away from all the noise, which was nice. Sadly, it didn't have a shower, but otherwise it was no problem. I didn't have much to eat since I was to off-put by the tourists in Traverse City to go in and look for food. But, I did have Ramen Noodles and cherries, so all was not lost. DAY 24 (7/4/05): Traverse City to Elk Rapids, MI 10.4mi (REST DAY). I celebrated independence day in the little town of Elk Rapids, not far from Traverse City. My Big Ride Across America and New Zealand touring buddy, Maggie, is from there and her father, Dario, and his wife, Eileen, still live there. I rolled up to their front door at around 11am, after being deluged by an early-morning thunder storm. They were in the middle of breakfast, which was good timing as far as I was concerned. After eating basically everything on the table, I took a much needed shower and then was treated to a fishing trip in Dario's boat. Although nobody caught anything, it was very pleasant for me, since I just sat there and drank root beer while being driven around the lake to various scenic points. After the fishing trip we walked around Elk Rapids a bit, and then Eileen made us a very nice dinner. Their house is totally immaculate, making me realize how thouroughly uncivilized I have become over the past month. With the lure of an actual bed nearby, I was unable to stay awake for any fireworks, but I don't view that as a tremendous loss, since I slept very well! DAY 25 (7/5/05): Elk Rapids to Petoskey, MI 87.0mi. This morning, after a nice breakfast and coffee with Dario and Eileen, I hit the road once again, on a shortcut recommended by Dario, which took me through acres of cherry trees laden with fruit on my way back to the main route. For many miles after that I followed the shore of Torch Lake, which was really beautiful and green with lots of nice looking homes tucked in around the shore. After I got away from the lake, I had to go up an absolutely tremendous hill that came basically out of nowhere. At the base, the road was full of switchbacks, so I barely noticed the climb at all. Then, all of a sudden, as if they had run out of money to pave switchbacks, the road went directly up the face of the hill. The grade must have been more than 15% at the steepest points, because I was pedaling with all my strength in my absolute lowest gear and I was wondering if either my eyes would pop right out of my head from exertion or if my front tire would lift off the ground and I would go "arse-over-tip" right back down to the bottom again. Fortunately, neither of these occurred and I crested the hill at a mighty 2mph. At the top it was all I could do to steer myself onto the shoulder, rest my elbows on the handlbebars, and gasp for a few minutes. Once I had recovered, I rode down to Boyne City, where I took Dagny to a bike shop for her first mid-tour makeover: a new chain and new handlebar tape. From there, I rode on past some huge Victorian-style vacation homes on the lake just past Petoskey, and on into Petoskey state park. DAY 26 (7/6/05): Petoskey to Brevort, MI 75.7mi. At long last, I left the lower peninsula of Michigan behind today. I rode along an amazing piece of rode known as the "tunnel of trees." As its name implies, this rode runs through woods so thick that the branches of the trees meet over the rode, making it cool and shady to ride. It's also a scenic route with very little traffic, which made for pleasant riding. It was a bit of a shock, after such a peaceful morning, to roll into the tourist town of Mackinaw City, where I caught a ferry across the straights of Mackinaw to Mackinac Island. From the boat I could see the I-75 bridge that connects the upper and lower peninsulas (at 5 mi long, it is one of the longest suspension bridges in the world, and with only two towers it is really a sight to see). Mackinac island is a terrifying place. It sounds great because there are no motor vehicles allowed on the island. However, there are sooooo many tourists, all of whom have rented bikes, that it is really not a good place for cycling. Imagine Commerical Street in Provincetown, but 5 times busier than you have ever seen it, and you will have the right idea. Anyhow, I left as quickly as possible on a second ferry which took me to St. Ignace, on the Upper Peninsula. From there, I rode the main drag of the UP, US-2, for 10 or 15 relatively peaceful miles to a USFS campground in Brevort. The forests here are beautiful, although the campground is so close to US-2 that you can here the trucks roaring by through the trees.