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Make Your Own Stinkin’ Coffee: Michigan 1982

Biking trip to Western Michgan in 1982

Proving we were not timid, we left our car in Manitowoc, Wisconsin and walked our bikes on to the Badger, a ferry that runs across Lake Michigan to Ludington, Michigan.  The trip is a mini cruise on an inland sea.  The shores quickly faded away, and we and the Badger’s passengers, cars, trucks, and bicycles steamed through the chilly water.  Four hours later we docked at Ludington, MI and walked our bikes off the ferry and on to the dock.  We were on our own.

We cycled up the coast of the Lake on an autumn afternoon and camped near the Lake in a nearby park.  The next days were spent following the Lake Michigan shore on back roads during the day and sleeping in parks behind the dunes at night.  We turned back south somewhere on the Leelanau Peninsula and headed in the direction of the Interlochen arts center, for some much-needed culture.

The roads were, at times, difficult as they climbed over sand dunes and more that once a semi nearly blew us off into space.  Early one morning we broke camp and pedaled into a nearby small town for breakfast. 

It was a very small town, but it did have a diner.  We parked our bikes in front and walked in to comforting sounds of clinking forks and the smell of steaming coffee.  All of the sounds, including the conversations, stopped as everyone turned to watch us walk to an open table.  We sat down and waited for the waitress, but she completely ignored us.  Groups of people at other tables stared at us as if to say ”you don’t belong here, freak.”  After a few minutes, we left and the door closed behind us. 

Back in the cold air we got on our bikes and headed south.  We were as eager to leave the place as they were for us to move on.

Later that afternoon we reached a gravel road that our map said led to a national forest campground in the woods about two miles away.  We pedaled there and found a fairly large, well maintained, and completely empty camp.  We set up our tent and started making dinner.   A short time later we saw a car enter the campground.  It circled the grounds and then came to us, rolling slowly by, its four or five young male occupants’ heads turning slowly to look at us as they passed.  They went around and came back for another viewing before leaving, but not for long.

The men returned a short time later to drive by us again, and I got out the only weapon we had, a Bowie knife.  It was getting dark, and we were a two mile ride on rough gravel roads, through a heavily wooded area,  from a lightly traveled state route.  We were trapped.  In the back of my mind, I had a vision of some ritualistic murder, like we had seen in many a movie – but in my head, we played the victims.

About an hour later another car entered the campground and these people picked a spot not too far from us to spend the night.  At least we had company.  We crawled into our tent, and I kept the knife under my pillow. It was a fitful night, but we had no more visitors and got up as soon as dawn broke to break camp and get out of there as quickly as we could.

The next day we made it to Interlochen in time for a performance of the Canadian Brass who took the stage that afternoon and brought us back to civilization.  It was still a couple of days until we would be back in Ludington, but we had no more encounters with the locals.  As the Badger took us back out to sea, we watched the sand dunes fade in the Lake’s mist.

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