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Uphill and Against the Wind - TransAm E-W
By Dave T

First Trip - to Mackinac Island

My dad purchased a new 10 speed bike and I was the recipient of a semi new green three speed bike. I was probably 7 or 8 years old, and it came with a brand new speedometer. The next day I started to ride it around the block, over and over and over, until the odometer read 25. Yes, I rode that bike around the block about a hundred times when I could hardly reach the pedals. I remember my dad looking at the odometer with a bewildered look on his face and saying to my mother it must be broken or something. No dad, it wasn't broken, I did ride that stupid bike 25 miles in one day.

My interest in cycling didn't really start until I worked in the local bike shop when I was 13 years old. My brother Steve worked there and eventually took it over from Tom the owner when he was 14 or so. I was hired in to do small stuff around the shop and Tom hired me for the Beer Store side . My brother always had some money making venture or scheme, this time he owned a bike shop.

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Ray and I at the Village Limits of Mackinaw City, just across the channel from Mackinac Island. Thats me on the left.

I learned to repair everything on any bike, I must have repaired just about every bike in our small town of 1,500. Working many nights in the bike shop and Tom's Beer Store and saving enough money I purchased the top of the line Takara 970. The owner Tom showed me how to lace and true my first set of hand made wheels for my Takara. Tom said I must have some new wheels with Campagnolo hubs, DT spokes, and Wobler rims to go with my new bike. Heck, I can't use junky stock wheels, I need Campy! Many hours were spent perfecting those wheels until they were as true as true could be. One late night while I was doing my finishing touches on the wheels Tom came in and put a 16oz Old Milwaukee on the counter and said I deserved it. Old Milwaukee? Tom was like that, I had to earn my way up to the good stuff, just as I had started with a low end Takara and earning my way up to the 970.

The bike was ready for some serious riding, until Tom pointed out the fact that I'm going to get a blister on my ass if I kept the stock saddle. He was pretty much right and he got me a good deal on a nice new rock hard Brooks Professional. Tom had all kinds of theories about how to "break in" my new Brooks, none really seemed to work. The only thing that got broke in was my rear end. (The Saddle eventually got broken in... in ASTORIA.)

I started going on short day rides with my dad, to places across the river in Canada, up the St. Clair river towards Lake Huron. Many Saturday mornings I spent riding to places like Port Huron, St. Clair, Harsens Island. When I got a little older, I started going on overnight trips with my friend Ray, we'd ride up to the Pinery Provincial park in Canada or Lakeport, MI. Those rides were about 140-150 miles round trip. Ray and I also did the Wolverine 200 one summer on Belle Isle in Detroit Michigan. Yes, it was a double century, and I still have my Detroit News Wolverine 200 back tag showing all 200 miles complete.

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West shore of Mackinac Island, Michigan

The Mackinac Bridge is in the background, the link between upper and lower Michigan

Ray and I hatched the idea to ride all the way to Mackinac Island that summer. The trip to mackinac was probably about 350 miles as we rode along the shoreline of Lake Huron most of the way. Somehow Ray lost all his money along the way and I had only $60 so we did the best we could "bandit camping" until we reached Mackinac Island. Once we reached Mackinac Island Ray's dad came and picked us up in an airplane from the island airport. What a thrill it was flying home from Mackinac Island in a light aircraft. We were both 13 years old at the time and it was quite an experience for 2 young men. Ray and his family moved to Yuma Arizona shortly after that trip and I havn't seen him since.

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Ray flipping me off coming into the shop.

Back in the bike shop we had an old guy name Herb come in all the time, ironically he rode a green 3 speed just like the one I had. Herb rode this bike everywhere, even in the winter and he racked-up miles on his odometer like mad. I fixed that bike many times over the years and watched the speedometer read 1000, 2000, 3000, 4000, 5000, 6000 miles. The more miles Herb racked up, the more Tom kept telling me "You'll never catch Herbie" in a real kidding, serious manner. Tom was always kidding me that Herb was the best cyclist in the city. We'll see about that I said.

Next up, Lake Huron circle tour, Oregon north Cal coast, then Trans America. to be continued.

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