Au revoir, Midwest

Bike the US for MS 2014-16

I beg your forgiveness for the drought here.

Last year I said cycling across the country was summer camp for adults. And if being a cyclist is being a camper, being a Route Leader is like being a counselor. Except instead of caring for a bunch of adolescent twerps, I’m responsible for a crew ranging in age from 19 to 66. In Bar Harbor, I, like an idiot, was certain I’d know how to handle the day-to-day challenges, thinking “Hey, these people can practically lead themselves! Whenever someone approaches our group and asks, “Who’s in charge here?” I always laugh under my breath as I raise my hand. There is always, always a fire to put out. Or at least a fire to throw water on haplessly and hope it doesn’t spread. Our propensity to fall off our bikes and get dinged up is outright impressive. Hell, even the van and trailer have gotten flat tires. There is no job description for a Route Leader, and it’s because I’ve found myself doing everything from folding everyone’s laundry, to pumping up a van tire with a bike pump, to battling parking officials, to trying to cook breakfast for 35 rapacious cyclists.

It took me a few weeks to accept this summer isn’t about recreating the unbelievable time I had a year ago, but instead about helping these hooligans have the same experience I did. Every other day I get to drive the van and hang out at rest stops, but it feels like the days I’m on the bike are my true days off. When I’m riding my bike, no one’s asking me if there will be showers available tonight, or if there’s anywhere that has WiFi. I really ought to call up my route leaders from last year and apologize, because I’m now realizing I was a proper pain in the arse last summer.

I am so lucky to call them my coworkers.

I am so lucky to call them my coworkers.

ANYWAYS. I will now attempt to dig up the memories since your last visit here.

PENNSYLVANIA: We were here for about five total hours. I’ll omit it.

OHIO: Somehow, there were no headwinds in Ohio. Ohio is flat as it is expansive, and everyone skated right on through with no complaints, which is remarkable. Hopefully this means Montana may show us mercy in a few weeks. I turned 24 in Ohio, and everyone made me drink too many Smirnoff Ices, which came as a surprise to no one but a hilarious joke to all (except me). Cleveland was rad, and we made a donation to the Mellen M.S. Center!


I cannot believe they let ME be the one who wrote the giant check.

Oh yeah, in Bowling Green we got to ride mopeds! Matt and Michelle Stimmell put up the Northern Tier each year in Bowling Green, and it turns out when Matt’s not being a baker and all-around awesome guy, he’s a moped enthusiast. Which meant we all got to go bananas on the country roads.

INDIANA: I don’t remember much about Indiana, because it was practically underwater when we went through.

Somewhere under there is the road we were supposed to take.

Somewhere under there is the road we were supposed to take.

Tremendous storms hit Indiana as we rolled through, and we had to re-route virtually every mile to make it through.

ILLINOIS: Illinois was where we finally caught some breaks regarding the weather. The rain held, the roads drained, and we had a number of generous hosts cook for us.

IOWA: Not only is Iowa the home of Field of Dreams, Adam Devine, and caucuses, but it’s also a stunningly beautiful state. I also got to play with this puppy.


WISCONSIN: See; Pennsylvania.

MINNESOTA: My admiration for Minnesota is well-documented. The MS Achievement Center in Minneapolis was a smorgasbord of emotions, and a great reminder why we’re doing the ride. If you care to read my post from a year ago, I got to see John again! He’s still playing music when he’s not battling MS and Parkinson’s. Tears rolled and we got to present a donation of $25,000! It will enable even more MS patients in the Twin Cities to visit the Achievement Center. I could gush for another 600 words about how delightful Minneapolis is. On our second day off there, I got on my bike and wandered aimlessly around town, going wherever the trails and bike lanes took me. I had totally forgotten what it’s like to ride a bike for fun. I didn’t worry about my pace, how many miles I had left, or if I had sufficient calories in me. I haven’t been anywhere quite like Minneapolis, and I really hope to return there someday soon. Preferably by plane, not bike.

Celebrating the Fourth on one of Minnesota's bike paths!

Celebrating the Fourth on one of Minnesota’s bike paths!

A beautifully lit bridge in MInneapolis.

A beautifully lit bridge in Minneapolis.

In Minnesota, we finally got to see Don and Cassie again! We Route Leaders need Don and Cassie the way Calvin needs Hobbes, and up til Minneapolis, we had only ever called them, offering problems we didn’t know how to fix (In New Hampshire I had called Cassie, a complete wreck and just had her tell me it was going to be okay. She obliged, and everything did turn out okay). But in the Twin Cities we paraded around town, got drinks, completed service projects, and just got to enjoy their company. Meeting Don Fraser and Cassie Wertz was one of the best things to ever happen to me, and I’m not embellishing that.


Ayhson, Joe, myself, Cassie & Don at orientaiton in Bar Harbor.

Now, our directions are considerably easier: go left. Only Montana, Idaho, and Washington await. I need to make more time to post here, as writing this has been therapeutic. Now, I have to go. The Dairy Queen isn’t going to eat itself…

3 thoughts on “Au revoir, Midwest

  1. Great write up Mike!!!! You weren’t the only one being a pain in the “arse” as we all begged for that information about WiFi and showers…Best of Luck on the rest of your journey. Richard

  2. Glad to hear from you. We would love to connect by having you call in to KDWA Radio between 9AM and 10:30AM for 3 minutes, so we can tell listeners how you are doing>. Had lots of great comments about the show we aired last week. Ask for News @ 651-437-1460, M-F. Kelly Casey

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