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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Escape 2007, Episode 8: Kal-Haven

Things have settled down quite a bit in the last day or so, thanks to a couple of fortunate circumstances. First, OB’s father-in-law is feeling much better, and the hospital is going to send him home. This frees up my sister-in-law, in several ways, and she joined us at the lake house early yesterday. Daughter Dearest’s efforts to keep the kids entertained was not overlooked; she got her first pedicure out of the deal (she described it as "different, but nice"). So Daughter Dearest is now free to do… what?

That question was answered by the second circumstance. We had a family meal at a place in Hamilton yesterday, and a cousin (one of the about 20% of my cousins who happens to be female), a little older than Daughter Dearest, was a last-minute addition to the roster. This perked up DD considerably; they had a good time together last time we were in Michigan. Before hearing this news, she had planned to skip the meal entirely. They sat together and DD smiled more in one evening than she had most of the week.

Then, after the dinner, they came over and asked me if DD could go back with them so she could go to my uncle’s party tomorrow. I gave it all of two seconds before agreeing; she had been helpful (if not terribly happy) all week and I wanted her to have a good time too. Besides, it wasn’t exactly like she was going off with strangers. This also answered the question about what she’d be doing while my bro and I were off on our bike ride.

Leaving Bloomingdale stationThe Kal-Haven Trail is one of the Rails-to-Trails projects, and runs from Kalamazoo to South Haven (on Lake Michigan) — roughly 35 miles. Of the several possible starting points along the trail, we chose Bloomingdale (at the halfway point). That worked out to about 17 miles to the beach; I figured I’d ridden that far on much hillier terrain so I shouldn’t have too much trouble doing it there-and-back on a flat run. (OB is in much better shape, so it wasn’t an issue for him.) There’s only one significant climb on the trail, and it was on the part we weren’t taking.

As you know, I’m not a big fan of cellphone cameras in general, but they do OK on bright sunny days like this. Weight-wise, they come for free with the phone, and I figured it would be a good idea to carry the phone anyway. But sometimes, you just want some zoom.

In the distance, you can see OB boarding his bike. The nice pavement ran out as soon as we got past the depot/museum and into the shade. However, the dirt was hard-packed, smooth (except for the occasional gopher hole), and sprinkled with very fine gravel. My road tires never felt like they were anywhere near slipping at any time.

Trail-side businessThe trail runs parallel (and across) numerous county roads. Some of the smarter businesses near the trail crossings provide services for the cyclists (summer) or snowmobilers (winter). This particular entrepreneur offers blueberries, soft drinks, and restrooms. The trail has outhouses at various stops along the way, but sometimes you need a break, right?

Covered bridge (view from the saddle)Approaching South Haven, there’s a covered bridge over the Black River. I took this shot while in motion; it’s blurry, but not in the usual way. Kind of a neat effect, methinks.

We took the westward leg with only one stop to adjust items of clothing; I felt pretty good even after what Jack calls “Accidental Ingestion of Airborne Protein.” (OB managed to spit his out, mine was too far back so I just swallowed and kept riding.) The trail ends shortly after crossing the bridge. OB and I dithered about how to proceed, and figured “west” would get us to the beach. About a mile later, we found a little shop near the beach, grabbed a sandwich and Vernor’s, and crossed the street to the beach.

Cheeky wimmin on the beach“Where should we sit?” OB asked.

“In the sand,” I said. “It’ll brush off.”

And so we did. I figured even if I was sore tomorrow, this was worth it. Chow on the beach with your bro, cheeky young ladies walking past, no fishkill — what more could you want in a bicycling destination?

Of course, the trip back was a little harder on the eldest (that would be me). We figured that it was aggregate downhill going west, since the lake is the low point. Seems like downhill going/uphill returning is how I end up on most rides. I had to make a few rest stops on the way back, but after a couple of minutes I was ready to continue. We got back to Bloomingdale, grabbed an ice cream to celebrate, tossed our bikes into Barge Vader, and headed on back.


  1. Sounds like a great biking expedition you had there FAR. It's really cool that you have the periodic little rest havens with local treats to sample. Would be great way to spend an afternoon ... I take it it wasn't too hot that day, lol.

  2. Yeah, it was a great afternoon. We brought water with us, of course, but sometimes you want a little more.

    It was quite pleasant, about 80 give or take a few degrees. Most of the trail itself is shaded, except for the crossings, so it was close to perfect riding weather.


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