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Day 22: Sussex, WI to Wyoming, MI

After nearly a week, we finally have a new state!

I got up around 8, said goodbye to Katie just after 9, and hit the road to bike the 25 miles into southern Milwaukee to catch the ferry. The first dozen miles were on a combination of local roads and bike paths through Waukesha County. At about 12 miles, I got on US-18 for a couple of miles. This is noteworthy only because Google was going to extreme lengths to try to keep me off US-18, but in fact there was a bus-and-bike-only lane, so it’s quite a good road to bike on despite being major. (And there wasn’t exactly much traffic on a Saturday morning.)

After two miles on US-18, I crossed into Milwaukee County and picked up the Hank Aaron Trail, which parallels I-94 into Milwaukee. One nice thing about taking the trail is that I got to see a number of things up close that I had seen from a distance yesterday by car or by boat. First was the state fairgrounds, where they’re setting up for the state fair next weekend, and then came Miller Park, home of the Milwaukee Brewers.

Another few miles down were The Domes, which allow different biomes to exist at the Mitchell Park Horticultural Conservatory. I definitely need to check this out next time I’m in Milwaukee.

Finally, as I neared downtown, I saw the Allen-Bradley Clock Tower. For a long time it was the largest four-faced clock in the world, until that crazy new clock tower in Saudi Arabia passed it.

Anyway, I had allowed plenty of buffer time to get to the ferry, and thanks to a southwesterly wind (great when I was going east; not so great when I was going south) I had plenty of time to spare, so I checked out 1840 Brewing. They’ve been around for about 2 years and have some really cool stuff going on. Possibly my favorite brewery in Milwaukee, but you have to appreciate unusual, experimental-type beers to enjoy their stuff.

My favorite was definitely the Cavite Lodi, a Berliner weisse with lychee and calamansi lime. Other highlights included the Sea Foam fruited sour, which includes blue spirulina to give it a weird bluish hue, and the Koselig “raw” kveik IPA. But really, I liked everything. Incidentally, a raw IPA means they didn’t do a boil but instead just let the yeast eat whatever carbs got absorbed into the water from the malt at room temperature. It was actually quite complex. Learn something new every day.

Then it was time to head over to the ferry. Unfortunately, I managed to miss a turn and only realized my error when it looked like the road was taking me back into Milwaukee rather than out to the water. At least it turned out I had only overshot the turn by a quarter mile.

So I got to the pier just before noon for my 12:30 ferry… and there was no boat. Since it was a very windy day, the lake was very choppy (3-5 foot waves on the Muskegon side), so the ferry was going slower than usual. The boat showed up 25 minutes late, but they did a quick turnaround and we only left 15 minutes late. I wound up sharing a row with a couple of Harley riders, one of whom was originally from Weare, NH. New Englanders are everywhere!

The choppy water made for a VERY rolling ride, but somehow I kept my lunch down. Eventually we arrived in Muskegon 30 minutes behind schedule. I guess we lost some time due to the wind and waves.

So I made it to Michigan! It was a huge relief to touch down in the Eastern timezone after being in other timezones for more than a month. It also feels very comforting to be in a state that I’m actually pretty familiar with, where I might not quite be a local but where I can discuss with locals a range of cities and regions from Detroit to the Leelanau Peninsula to Marquette.

To my disappointment though there was no “Welcome to Michigan” sign at the ferry dock, which is why I took a photo of the state flag instead. There was, however, a quick exit to a bike path along Muskegon Harbor. Only, remember how I’ve mentioned flooding in the Midwest a few times? A section of the bike path was under nearly a foot of water. I couldn’t pedal a full spin or my feet would have gotten soaked, so I just rocked my feet back and forth to get through it. Meanwhile, I did get a nice shot of some of the houses overlooking the harbor.

In downtown Muskegon, I checked out my first Michigan brewery of this trip, Pigeon Hill. Pigeon Hill suffers from a problem that I’ve encountered several times already on this trip, namely that everything was good and most things were very good, but nothing really stood out. My favorite was the “SCP”, for “salted caramel porter”, but they only had it on nitro and I think it would have tasted better on draft. Creativity points to “OCP”, for “oatmeal crème pie”, a spiced ale that tasted not entirely unlike oatmeal cream pie. But seriously, I did like it.

While I was at Pigeon Hill, a guy walked in wearing a t-shirt that said “חזק”, which is Hebrew for “strong”. I couldn’t resist asking him about it, and he was surprised I could read it. Turned out he had gone to Israel with a Christian group, but somehow “חזק” became the group’s rallying cry.

Between the ferry being late and the time I spent chatting at Pigeon Hill, it was a little after 6 by the time I left. I had three hours or so of daylight left, but the sky was looking ominous and it was 38 miles to Grand Rapids. Fortunately, the Musketawa Trail connects Muskegon to the outskirts of Grand Rapids, paved and off-road the whole way. It’s very flat and not particularly interesting, but it sure got the job done. The most interesting thing was probably the signs that said “No wheeled motorized vehicles.” It took me a minute or two to realize that the implication was that snowmobiles are allowed. In Minnesota they just say “No motorized vehicles except snowmobiles.” I don’t know why Michigan has to be so indirect.

Skipping over the number of trees and cornfields that I passed, just before 9pm, and 67 miles total into my day, I pulled up to Greyline Brewing in northern Grand Rapids. Shortly after I got there, one of the bartenders asked me if the Surly bike parked out front was mine. I said it was, he complimented me on it, I told him what I was doing, and he mentioned that he had once biked from Colorado to Michigan via South Dakota (so it wasn’t exactly a direct route). Anyway, we got into a whole discussion about long distance biking and the Milwaukee to Muskegon ferry while I enjoyed my beer. As for the beer itself, my favorite by far was the Irie rye “session” IPA. Have I mentioned I like rye beers? I put “session” in quotes because the beer is 5.6% ABV, which isn’t a session beer in my book, but I suppose it depends on your tolerance. Also of note was the Honey Buzzard honey beer, which was supposed to be a mead but they did something wrong and somehow it wound up legally classified as beer. Regardless, it’s hard to go wrong with any of the beers here.

Now for the clincher: When it came time for me to settle up, they offered me a crowler of my choice on the house. I thought this was a very nice gesture and remembered that Copper Trail in Alexandria, MN had done the same. But then, when they gave me my actual check, it had all the food I’d ordered on it but none of the alcohol. And I’d had 5 samplers, which should have cost around $12-13 total. I asked if there was a mistake, but they assured me it was quite intentional and said something to the effect of, “We like to take care of our bikers.” So yeah, that actually happened. I still can’t believe it, but I’m sure going back there the next time I’m in Grand Rapids. (And before you dismiss that as a hollow statement, I seem to wind up in GR every couple of years.)

The guys at Greyline had recommended I try City Built next, since I had asked for a good brewery in the direction of downtown. While I had been in Greyline a thunderstorm had passed through, so my bike had gotten washed but the roads were already reasonably dry when I biked the two short miles over to City Built. Mind you, it was after 10 at this point so I actually had to use my lights for only the third or fourth time on this trip. But it was a Saturday night and I have a short ride tomorrow, so I’m willing to stay up late.

Well, the Greyline people didn’t steer me wrong, because City Built is also a great brewery. The bartender recommended Believe in Dinosaurs hazy IPA, made with New Zealand hops and Norwegian yeast. It turned out to be a good recommendation! I also very much enjoyed the GR Fjord, a beer made with a combination of wheat, barley, spelt and rye, which had a lot of complexity as a result but was actually one of their cheapest beers.

When I left City Built I discovered that a second thunderstorm had passed through while I was in there. Again the roads had mostly dried out, so I headed another mile and a half down the street (through the unfortunately-named DeVos Place) to Founders. Yes, I know Founders is technically not a craft brewery because they sold 30% of the company to a Spanish macrobrewer, and the Brewers Association requires that craft breweries be no more than 25% owned by macrobrewers. (Why Founders couldn’t have just sold a 24% stake is beyond me.) But regardless, it’s freaking Founders, and even if a lot of their stuff is available nationwide they’ve still had at least half a dozen taproom exclusive beers every time I’ve visited.

Since it was just about midnight when I arrived and I’d had a long day, I only had room for a couple of small pours of those taproom exclusives, but I loved the barrel-aged black barleywine. Really flavorful, though it was also in the 12-13% range and not for the faint of heart! If it had been earlier in the evening and not my 5th brewery of the day I would have happily drunk more of it though.

You might think that my day ended somewhere near Founders. But notice that I listed my endpoint as Wyoming, not Grand Rapids. Getting a reasonably priced hotel room in Grand Rapids on a Saturday night in the summer is next to impossible. Even the cheapest AirBnB was $125 before taxes and fees. So I wound up booking a room in the suburb of Wyoming, 5+ miles to the south. At least it’s in the direction I need to be going, so it cuts 5 miles off tomorrow’s ride. Meanwhile, while I was in Founders, wouldn’t you know it but a third thunderstorm had passed through. This time the ground was still quite wet, though it dried out after a couple of miles.

So at nearly 1:30am I finally made it to my hotel, grateful that I don’t have to go far tomorrow. Boy am I exhausted, but the Grand Rapids beer scene was just too good to pass up.

Total distance: 76.2 miles
Average speed: 15.0 mph

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