My last post was all a recap of the Pine Mountain 500 – an awesome race that ended with a dash up 500 steps. What I left out of that post was the logistics… how I traveled 15 hours in the car, over 2 days, all so I could participate!
It was a whirlwind two days, and I took lots of pictures.
My trip began on Saturday morning, at 9am, when I left my suburban Detroit home and began the 7.5-hour drive to Iron Mountain, Michigan. It is so easy to eat junk food on road trips, so I armed myself with a cooler packed with healthy foods that could serve as my breakfast, lunch, and snacks – so I didn’t need to stop for food at all.
- On the left: Fruit, including 2 apples, grapes, cherries, and bananas. I saved the bananas for the morning of the race, when I want lots of potassium to help prevent cramping.
- In the center: Protein, including 2 hard-boiled eggs, a couple jerky sticks, walnuts, and a bag of cubed ham and cheese.
- On the right: Vegetables, including carrots, a bag of celery and zucchini, and a store-bought package of broccoli and cauliflower florets.
- You can see, in the back, a shaker cup with protein powder – that too was for race morning. Not pictured was cans of sparkling water and a few diet sodas, which I take along for the caffeine.
One of the highlights of any drive to the Upper Peninsula is crossing the Mackinac Bridge, a 5-mile-long suspension bridge that crosses the strait where Lake Michigan meets Lake Huron.
I don’t drive over this bridge often, but I love it every time I do!
There was some traffic on the bridge, towards the end, as the lines formed to pay the toll, and it was then that I realized that I was making great time. So, an hour later, when I saw a sign for a small zoo, I made the spontaneous decision to stop and check it out.
The Garlyn Zoo is on the smaller side, and I was able to check it out in about a half-hour. I loved watching a grizzly bear take a dip in a pool…
…and made eye contact with a big Siberian tiger.
My route also took me through the town of Escanaba, which I had never been to before, so I took a little time to explore the downtown area a little bit, as well as a waterfront park that’s home to the Sand Point Lighthouse, which first started warning ships over 150 years ago.
From Escanaba it was only about an hour more to Iron Mountain, and I made one final stop, for dinner, and picked up an Upper Peninsula staple: a pasty, which is a hand-held meat pie filled with beef and vegetables.
I checked into my Iron Mountain hotel room and relaxed for a little while, and then drove over and picked up my bib for the race the next day. I also checked out the 500-step stairway while I was there, but I didn’t climb them, since I was wearing flip-flops.
The guy behind the front desk at my hotel told me that we were right around the corner from the Millie Mine, an old collapsed iron ore mine that’s now home to tens of thousands of bats. So, at dusk, I went up there and watched bats waking up and taking off into night, where they may catch and eat as many as 1,000 mosquitos an hour.
You can’t go into the mine, because it’s covered in what looks like a giant steel birdcage, but soon enough bats were flapping around, zooming past my head, and disappearing in the trees. I kept waiting for a mass exodus of bats, like the swarms you see in the Batman movies, but it never happened. (Apparently it does in October and March, so mark your calendars!)
I stayed at the mine for about a half-hour – which was as long as I could withstand being eaten alive by mosquitos. From there, it was back to the hotel, and into bed for the night.
My Sunday started early, and I don’t need to say any more about the race itself, because I’ve covered it already. I kept an eye on the clock after the race, because I had to keep a tight schedule, leaving Iron Mountain by 10:45am, in order to catch a ferry. That’s right, a ferry! Instead of driving home the same way I got there, I drove south, into Wisconsin, for over two hours, until I reached the town of Manitowoc. And, in Manitowoc, I boarded the SS Badger.
The SS Badger is a 410-foot passenger and car ferry that makes a 60-mile, 4-hour voyage across Lake Michigan four times a day during the summer, since 1953.
I love ships and boats, and even though this wasn’t going to make my drive home any shorter, it was totally worth it to break up the drive. The entire back end of the ferry opens up, so they can load the ferry with cars, trucks, RVs, campers, and motorcycles.
They drove my car into the hold, which was already pretty full by the time I got there…
…and I went up to the upper decks, where there’s cafes and lounges and all sorts of deck chairs.
I ended up sitting on the deck and reading a book for most of the trip, and when I got tired of being in the sun, I found a comfy chair inside and took a nap.
The ferry arrived in Ludington, Michigan, and from there it was a 3.5-hour drive home. I still had some road trip goodies in the cooler, but I also stopped and bought more carrots and celery, as well as some watermelon. I also found a high-protein snack called Gone Rogue, which are marketed as chips, but are more like jerky reformed into smaller pieces. They weren’t bad, but I wouldn’t seek them out again.
I pulled into the driveway at home at 11:30pm on Sunday, after 15 hours in my car, and 4 hours on a ferry. I was wiped out, but it was a fun adventure, filled with racing, travel, healthy choices, and a whole lot of podcasts. I hope to do it again next year!
Keep it up, David!
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