A backroads look at Mackinac Island


The Huffys at the Grand Hotel Tea Garden

Best husband and I are just back from beautiful Mackinac (pronounced  Macinaw) Island, located in Lake Huron, between the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. This quaint tourist spot is  home to many historic sites, including Fort Mackinac, where Dr. William Beaumont perfected his experimentation on the human stomach. No motor vehicles are allowed on the island, and visitors must get around on foot, by bicycle or horse-drawn carriage. Our favorite parts of the island are the upper and back roads, where we take our bikes to get away from the crowds, and explore the less traveled (and harder to get to) areas. Here’s some of our favorite spots.

The Grand Hotel

The world-famous Grand Hotel and surrounding gardens. Red geraniums, made voluptuously vibrant by the endless supply of horse manure fertilizer, are the signature theme of the hotel. The gardens and grounds are pristine and manicured. The hotel is formal, requiring dress clothes after 6 PM, and has guards posted at the east drive to prevent those messy-looking cyclists from cluttering up the view in front of the hotel (although those messy horses pulling carriages are allowed.) Always the rebels, we managed to circumvent this by biking up to the west bluff behind the hotel, then coasting down the steep, steep street that runs right into the Grand Hotel drive. They couldn’t catch us and couldn’t stop us, and we had a great ride down.

Notice the “blue sky” of the porch ceiling, repeated on the underside of the porch balconies.

Great view from the porch. Note the geraniums.

This oft-photographed classic phone booth was moved recently from its spot next to the stone church, to make room for a new house constructed there.

A genuine pay phone, for those who’ve never seen one before.

Coming up: Mackinac Island rocks.

© Huffygirl 2011

Too old to start the training, OR Mr. Toad’s wild ride


I wake up, wondering what day it is, what time it is, and why am I wrapped up in extra blankets while the fan is running full blast? My neck hurts, my knees hurt, my feet hurt, my quads hurt, my shoulders hurt  and I’m pretty sure my hair hurts. What happened? Well, fast-backward twelve hours earlier.

Twelve hours earlier

I’m on my bike, clutching the handlebars as tightly as I can. My hair that is not contained in my helmet is whipping across my face. I’m trying as hard as I can

The demon trainer (© Huffygirl 2011)

to keep up with the biker in front of me.  After all, only a short while earlier I had taunted this demon – “Go faster” I said – “I’m getting too close to you.” Jeez. What was I thinking? My right hand is numb, my left shoulder aching. Was that a pothole back there? I just missed it. I’m going so fast (well fast for me anyway) that I’m not taking in all of my surroundings. Where are we anyway? I’ve done this ride before, the landmarks should be  familiar, but I’ve really got all I can do to keep up with this speed demon, let alone watch the scenery.

Okay, now we’re going up a hill. I gear down, but that’s not enough to keep up with this demon, so soon I’m standing on the pedals, cranking away. I did it! But at the top, he’s off again. Finally, we’re at the flat part of the ride. “This should be a cinch” I think, “I’ll show him I know how to keep up.” But it seems that we’re going into the wind. I struggle to keep up on what is usually the easiest part of the ride, watching my average speed drop and drop and drop, farther from my goal. We stop for water at the corner before the turn.  “Well that was hard going into the wind, but we’re turning now so it should be better,” I say. But the demon trainer points out “Nah, that was just a crosswind, when we turn we’ll be going even MORE into the wind.” I don’t see how we could possibly be going MORE into the wind and scoff at this, until I notice the flag on the corner, spread out wildly, flapping away from the direction we are turning.

And so we continue: flats, uphills, downhills for 25 miles. I’m watching  the pedal rotations of this demon man (and his impressive calf muscles) and notice that most of the time I’m pedaling twice as fast as he is, just to barely keep up. And he’s not riding at his full potential – after all he’s taking it easy on my first training ride. 

By the time we get home, I’m feeling accomplished, but aching. I didn’t ride pretty, but I did it. My bike computer tells me I did this ride exactly six minutes faster than the last time when I was just phoning it in. All this and only six minutes? Still, for me, whose only boast is  being the slowest biker on the road, this is progress. Next time it might be seven minutes, and then eight and then…oh heck, I’m freezing and aching and need a shower.

By the time I’m done showering I’m chilled to the bone, from all that cold wind rushing quickly past me no doubt, and despite the summer heat, wrap up in extra blankets and a heating pad to crawl into bed.

So now flash forward twelve hours again. I untangle myself from the extra blankets and get up to turn off the fan. It turns out I can still walk after all, and isn’t this why Tylenol was invented anyway?  So, will I let my husband be my trainer again? Absolutely!

The Huffys, on an easier ride (© Huffygirl 2011)

© Huffygirl 2011

Related post:

Satire Friday: Two Tired


two mountain bike tires, same size (26, 2.1), ...

Image via Wikipedia

I went to ride my bike today and discovered it had a flat tire. Not just any flat tire, but the BACK tire. Bummer. I’ve developed my own method for changing tires that’s worked pretty well in the past:

1. Get out bike. Discover the flat tire.

2. Lay out the new tube, tire levers and tire pump.

3. Ask husband to change tire.

That method has worked great so far. The problem is, I’m supposed to be real biker now, and real bikers change their own tires. I’ve signed up to be the bike leg of a triathlon relay team, and competitors are not supposed to receive help during the competition. No help getting out of wetsuits, putting on shoes, or changing tires. The tri is still 3 months away and I’m already having nightmares of my walking 5 miles carrying my bike because I couldn’t change my own tire. And letting down my team. And letting the record show forever a time of 3.5 hours for my first official bike ride.

Trouble is, I’m a weakling. I can’t even pump up my own tires. When I bike with my bffs they pump up the tires for me. How pathetic is that? They’re girls, I’m a girl, but I can’t do it. I’m jumping up and down on the tire pump and nothing. My friends even have to lift my bike on top of the car for me. I’m like a helpless little kid. But that’s about to change.

I’m sitting in the tire changing workshop. The guy from the bike shop is making it look so easy. Put your chain onto the smallest sprocket. Okay, I can do that. Next, release the brakes. That’s pretty easy too. Now, turn the quick release to loosen the wheel. I watch in fascination as the bike shop guy breezes through the steps. The tire is back in place in no time. I vow that the next time I have a flat tire, I’m going to change it myself. Trouble is, it could be weeks or even months before I get a flat, and I’m certainly not going to change a good tire just for practice. But turns out that God does have a sense of humor – I find the flat on by bike only two days after taking the tire workshop. What luck! And at least I can change this one in the comfort of my own home instead of on the side of the road with cars zooming by.

Step 1: Put the chain on the smallest sprocket. Turns out this is the opposite gear of what I think it should be. Done. Step 2: Loosen the brake; remove the skewer and the wheel. Check. This is farther than I’ve ever gotten with tire changing before. I feel empowered.

Step 3: Jam the tire levers into the wheel rim to loosen the tire. Try both ends because neither one seems to be doing anything. Do this for at least 20 minutes. Step 4: Lay the wheel down cassette-side up on the floor. Right in the middle of the living room works best.

Step 5: Allow wheel to rest on floor for several hours, or until husband comes home, feels sorry for you and changes tire. Alternate step 5: Put wheel and bike in car, take to bike shop, and pay bike shop guy whatever it takes to change tire. Step 6: Voila! Tire changed.