By Iona, published from Crystal Falls, MI
On the evening of Tuesday July 26th, we assembled in front of a casual eatery just off of the last exit onto I-75 before the Mackinac Bridge. At this point, we were down to four, Caroline having departed two days before for her Chicago home. We waited there for perhaps ten minutes until we noticed that our ride had arrived: a pickup truck bearing the words “Mackinac Bridge Authority,” with a long flat trailer attached to the back. We walked over to meet this vehicle on the shoulder of the interstate, and after a few minutes of working with the driver to arrange and secure our bikes on the trailer, we entered the cab of the truck and crossed the bridge, entering the Upper Peninsula. On the other side, we earned the perhaps once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to legally bike on the shoulder of an interstate highway, at least until the immediately available exit that took us into St. Ignace.
It would be presumptive to claim great deal of familiarity with the UP at this point. After all, we have spent less than a week in this corner of the world. But what an interesting place it is, with its own vibrant Yooper regional identity, with its own dialect of American English, and for the great amount of natural beauty for which it is known, including Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore (which we had visited on a break day with our invaluable supporter and co-organizing MICATS friend Dave), and parts of Hiawatha National Forest (where Chalk and I had recently camped and biked through!).
For us, the UP has been a place of two farewells: with Kevin, who left us in St. Ignace biking north towards further adventures in Canada, and with Fred, who had stayed with us for a week longer than originally planned but ultimately had to leave too, with their father who drove all the way from Maryland to pick them up! Chalk and I already miss them (and Caroline too!), and all the different personalities, perspectives, skills, and stories they brought to Bike the Line. We continue west as just a team of two, but we certainly plan to stay in touch! 🙂
So far, the UP has brought us many new experiences. We distributed literature at the Schoolcraft County Fair, bringing information about Line 5 to such an important venue of local culture. Thanks to the advice of a local shopkeeper, we drank some of the freshest and coldest water we had tasted on this trip from a pump in a seemingly unremarkable grassy clearing by the side of the highway. And I can mention the opportunity Chalk had to connect with a local bike shop and do repairs on both of our bikes at their location.
Yesterday afternoon we’d just arrived in Crystal Falls, MI, the site of the most destructive of all the over 18 leaks of Line 5 that we are aware of in its history. There, in 1999, 220,000 gallons of crude oil and liquefied natural gas spilled into marshland. After local residents were evacuated, Enbridge tried to contain the disaster by igniting a cloud of vapor. They sparked a fire that burned for 36 hours, scorching eight acres of land. We will be discussing this incident in the context of our larger journey at our next event, at Contrast Coffee Co. in Iron River this Saturday August 6th, from 2:00PM to 4:00PM. For those of our readers who are in the area, we encourage you to come hear our presentation. Otherwise, keep reading our blog and expect future updates from days to come. Until then!