Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Road to Hell

The road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Everybody knows that. What everybody DOESN’T know is how that phrase applies to me.

Since a blog is an ideal spot for sharing your inner thoughts. It’s high time that I made a confession.

Two summers ago, I was definitely heading to Hell, but unforeseen circumstances caused me to make some major changes in my life.

Starting in January of 2006, I started out on a mission to visit every church in Evanston. By the summer of 2007, I had visited the vast majority of them, although my work schedule didn’t allow for Friday night services at the local synagogues, and some of the Baptist churches didn’t get visited because most of them seemed pretty much the same.

By now, you’re probably assuming that I had an epiphany, and got “born again” into a new religion. Unfortunately, that’s not what this story is about.

It’s about railroad tracks.

The Chicago Tribune published a story about a man named Clayton Klein in the summer of 2006. He’s a pretty old guy, and for a number of years, he has walked from Paradise, Michigan to Hell, Michigan, and then on to Ohio.

The total mileage is 428 miles, and the purpose of the walk is to raise money for charity.

Even though he is now 90 years old, he’s still at it.

In 2009, he started out on September 4, and will finish up on September 28. His bio can be read at the link below:

do you think he’d walk a mile for a Camel?.

After I read the story in The Tribune, the thought that popped into my head was, “gosh, wouldn’t it be fun to ride from Chicago to Hell and back again on my bicycle?”.

I floated the idea past a few friends and family members in the closing months of 2006, and picked up another person who is as crazy as me, my daughter Kelly.

I contacted the transportation departments of both Indiana and Michigan, and a few weeks later, got my complimentary maps in the mail.

For the majority of the trip, the best way to get across the state of Michigan is on Highway 12, which runs a slight diagonal from the lower southwest corner up to Ann Arbor and beyond.

Ultimately, Kelly and I settled on a week that fit both of our schedules, and we actually departed from Chicago on the first Sunday in August. We had lots of water and energy bars to get us through the week, and made motel reservations for the first night in Mishawaka, Indians, roughly 125 miles from our starting point.

We had pretty much everything that we needed, with the exception of spare tubes, a bicycle pump, a tire tool, bandages, and skin sanitizer.

Since my post of March 4 provides a lot more information about the conclusion of the trip, I’d like to refer back to the third paragraph of THIS story.

I was definitely heading to Hell (Michigan) , but unforeseen circumstances (the railroad track that crossed Highway 12 at a 45 degree angle) caused me to make some major changes in my life (the crash brought an immediate halt to the journey, and also caused me to have gravel embedded in my arm for a few days.

The reason that infamous bike ride came to mind again this week is that Kelly and Brett (her riding partner from this year’s RAGBRAI) are planning to ride 100 miles in the Apple Cider Century on September 27.

Like the North Shore Century (which all three of us completed just last Sunday) the Apple Cider ride has been going on for a while. This was the 25th year for the NSC, but the Apple Cider actually started 35 years ago, in 1974, two years after the first RAGBRAI.

The first five Apple Ciders were held entirely with the city limits of Three Oaks, Michigan, but moved 3 miles north in 1980.

This year, the starting point of the ride is back in Three Oaks.

If you plug in Three Oaks, Michigan on either Google Maps or Map Quest, you’ll discover that it sits right on Highway 12.

If you travel east from Three Oaks, you’ll find that eventually you wind up in Saline, which is due south from, and a short ride to, a town called Hell.

Since part of this year’s Apple Cider route will be going east on Highway 12, that means that Kelly, for the second time in her life, will be on the road to Hell.

This year, I’ve got a strong suspicion that her journey will be a lot more fun that the last one.

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