It has been at least 10 years since I have spent a lot of time on a bike, probably longer. In fact, I donated a bike that I could have repaired a year ago. I just didn’t see it in my future.
But life is funny. Fast forward a year and I was bike shopping again, not just for any bike, but for a bike that I could easily carry while my canoe was on my car. A foldable bicycle.
You see, I don’t really like to ride a bike. I am an old man with old age problems – L4, L5, S1 lower back surgery and other problems.
But I really, really like solo canoeing. Just me, the paddle, the river and the fish, the birds, the deer and whatever appears.
But the problem with canoeing solo is that it’s not really easy to do it completely solo. You need an accomplice to spot a car in the back of the tank. Or you have to go back to your car.
Well I talked about a good game about going back to the car for a year, but I never really did. I have always found someone to help me get around. But I don’t want to disturb others. I work irregular hours, especially at this time of year. When I have a four hour free block on a weekday, I can take it because I know I’m going to show something or whatever this weekend.
So I bought used folding bikes online. I had watched a few this spring and saved a few to my Facebook Marketplace account, but nothing quite suited it. I just wasn’t motivated to pull the trigger on one. And yes, I looked at the traditional bikes and racks I could use, but I like the idea of throwing the bike in the car and locking it – or folding it up and stowing it in the woods if I do. paddle up to him.
This month the trigger was pulled. I bought a bike locally and am quite happy with it. There are some lighter and probably faster ones, but this one was easy and reasonable so I bought it.
Where to go
What prompted me to jump off the ledge and join the world of pedaling?
Well, canoeing, yes, but more specifically, canoeing research.
Using OnX Maps, which does not pay me, I swear, I started to calculate the distance the rides would be if I had to float on different sections of Père Marquette, Le Pin, Le Blanc and Le Petit. Manistee. Why not the Manistee? Well, there may be shorter paddles, but most of them are long. Plus it’s big water with bigger boats, especially at this time of year.
I imagined 15 different paddles that I could do in less than three hours. The bike rides needed for them were all less than 5 miles with the exception of the Dobson Bridge to Silver Creek on the Pine.
This one is about 8 miles, hilly and probably the one I won’t try unless we get into a full lockdown of business and have hot, dry weather in the winter. You never know what the Ninas and Ninos will bring.
Of course, once the bike was in hand, I had to go row and pedal to prove to myself that it was doable and see how much I liked it.
November 11 was a windy day, but the wind was blowing from the east – or behind my back on the river. I chose an easy preferred section – Rainbow Rapids to Upper Branch Bridge. While there are paddles with shorter shuttles, this one has rapids, beautiful scenery, and a mid-range bike ride to the car about 3 miles away.
The first step was to drop off the bike to take away. Fairly easy, I just stopped at the Upper Branch Bridge access site and locked it to a pole.
I rechecked my mapping as I drove to the starting point. Yes, 3 miles. I arrived at the Rainbow Rapids parking lot surprised to see two vehicles with trailers and three other vehicles, in addition to a canoe by the water. Apparently, the impending onset of “winter” weather made everyone think the same way.
I am no stranger to this stretch. It’s picturesque, but not wild. I didn’t anticipate any problems, but I know there are enough residents all year round on this stretch who could help me if I had a real emergency. Also, there is guide traffic, but not a ton.
The trees had passed the peak. There are two seasons on the Pere Marquette: One where your eyes make you say “Oooh! Aaah! ”And another where your nose says“ Eww! ”We were pretty much out of the first season and solidly into the second season. But that’s okay, I don’t mind the rotting salmon so much. that I see live fish.
It took me 40 yards of paddling before I saw my first salmon, which I guessed to be a chinook by the size of its tail. It was not very dark, but there were a lot of white spots. Still, it was a fish and I was happy to see it.
Without leaves on the trees, Father Marquette is another river. People marvel at the pine tree because of the view from the M-37 over the Peterson Bridge.
This topography, they believe, does not exist anywhere else. But of course Father Marquette has valleys almost as deep and some of them are on this stretch.
I got around the traffic jams to line up with the rapids that gave the boat launch its name.
You want to be to the left of the river, but not in all water flows. When it goes down you want to be in the left center as the exposed rocks on the left will give you trouble. This, of course, assuming you want to ride the rapids on the most splashy road. I always do.
Although the American Whitewater, whoever it is, says there is no living water on the Pere Marquette, Rainbow Rapids is living water. If I run most of the rapid and get splashed, it’s living water. We can discuss Class I or Class 0, but I’m saying it’s Class I and I’ve been on the river at speeds that will scare intermediate paddlers. There is a lot to do in reading and racing rapids and I encourage you to check out the “Path of the Paddle” series on YouTube by Bill Mason, the father of advanced canoe education in Canada.
Suffice it to say I kept the side open and rowed with a smile on my face.
A kingfisher stayed 50 meters ahead of me for most of the float. He was out of earshot most of the time, but I heard his machine gun chuckle a few times.
I saw brown trout and coho before meeting the first guide drift boat. They dangled the spawning under the floats, presumably for late coho and early rainbow trout.
At this time of year everyone fish for holes, so the courteous thing to do is stay on the shallow side of their boat, assuming there is room. There was. I said hello, they said hello, no blood was shed and I left.
My favorite stretches of the PM aren’t really affected by the change in leaf color as they are bordered by hemlock and cedar trees. Red cedars are slightly rusty, unlike white cedars. I don’t make any distinction between them, I just appreciate them.
There aren’t many problems on this stretch, as the guides keep openings in traffic jams so their drift boats can pass. As long as you can see where you’re going, queue ahead and you’ll have plenty of room – with just one blade, anyway.
I almost mistook a red-tailed hawk for an eagle, but it veered and I was sure of my ID.
I would see an eagle later when I was huffing and puffing on Wingleton Road on the bike.
I passed a second driftboat, I was courteous, they were friendly and tolerant.
This stretch takes about 2 hours of paddling if you don’t stop for a break at Sulak, which is about the halfway point. I didn’t stop as I was a little surprised at how quickly I got there.
The most fun parts of the paddle are mostly before you get to Sulak, but there is a lot of scenery and a few swifts beyond that are worth the effort. The corners get sharper and the holes get deeper as you progress.
I was surprised that I didn’t see more wildlife, although there were several stretches where I saw and heard nuthatches, chickadees and chickadees. Blue jays were also commonplace.
There is an active beaver colony somewhere in the lower part of this paddle because a tree has fallen and the branches have been gnawed and barked.
I reached the end of the stretch in under two hours, then locked the canoe and hopped on the bike.
Well, I said I wasn’t a cyclist, was I?
What is striking when we come back to a bike is that as riders we have no appreciation for changes in altitude. Getting out of the river valley was a bit tiring as I searched for some comfortable gear.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, that easterly wind was still there when I decided to head east back to the car.
Duh. I huffed and puffed, but got back to the car in less than half an hour.
The ride allowed me to appreciate the paddling partners, Henry Ford and cars in general.
I’ve thought more than once, “Why didn’t I buy this off-road electric scooter that I saw listed in Grand Rapids for $ 300?” “
The answer is that he weighs 80 pounds. And lifting that would definitely be harder on my back than pedaling a little.