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Day 24: Kalamazoo, MI to Ann Arbor, MI

Today was sure jam packed. When I thought back to this morning to organize this post, it already seemed like a distant memory.

Surprise, surprise, I had trouble getting up this morning. Hit the road at 7:40 under 100% humidity. How do I know it was 100% humidity? Because the Kalamazoo area was engulfed in fog.

That photo’s actually getting a few miles ahead, in Kalamazoo’s eastern suburb of Comstock, but if anything it shows less fog than what I had to deal with in Kzoo first thing this morning. Coming out of downtown, I hopped on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail, which I’ve biked a few times before. In fact, the last time I biked it was a year ago Sunday, when I took a ride out to Battle Creek on a rental bike, not expecting to be doing the same route a year later on my own bike.

A large portion of the trail just parallels the road, but in some places it goes through nice meadows, as shown above. It also occasionally comes out to the Kalamazoo River itself.

10 miles in, the trail dropped me off in the town of Galesburg. The main road through to Battle Creek was closed due to construction at a railroad crossing, but I was able to get through walking my bike on the sidewalk. Somewhere around there the fog finally lifted too, and the rest of the day was partly sunny with much lower humidity. I also had a light but pretty consistent tailwind for most of the day, which was nice.

25 miles brought me to Battle Creek. While I didn’t pass Kellogg’s headquarters, I did pass this nutrition institute that they fund. What do the institute’s white papers say? Eat more cereal?

Of greater interest, in my opinion, is the fact that the small park right in the city center features a huge statue of Sojourner Truth. Apparently she lived in Battle Creek for the last 25 or so years of her life. Who knew?

A dozen miles past Battle Creek is the city of Marshall. They have a really cool programmable fountain that the mayor had installed in memory of his father way back in 1930.

Marshall is also home to Dark Horse Brewing, which is pretty well known in Michigan, even if it’s not widely distributed out of state. However, I hit Marshall at 10:30 and the brewery doesn’t open until 11, so I Googled nearby bakeries where I could get a nosh in the meantime. Turns out Dark Horse has a bakery/coffeeshop/creamery on the premises! They also have a general store, a motorcycle repair shop, a tattoo parlor, and probably some other shops that I didn’t even notice. Your one-stop shopping in Marshall! I got a truly excellent croissant at the bakery, so they really know what they’re doing when it comes to baked goods.

On the dot of 11 I went next door to the brewery. I very quickly discovered they’re trying to get into Guinness for World’s Largest Mug Club, with some 5000 mugs hanging from the ceiling. The place is just kind of surreal.

On the downside, their flights are a rip-off. They charge $17.50(!!!) for five 5-oz pours. For half that price I could have gotten two pours and three free tastes, if only I had known which beers I wanted the full pours of. But leaving price aside, they do make some very good beers. As the name implies, they focus on darker and stronger beers. Of the dozen beers they had on tap, only four were under 7%. My own favorite was the JAA raspberry black ale. They balance the raspberry flavor very well against the bitter, malty flavor of a black ale so that both can be tasted but neither overpowers the other. Also of note were the Rain In blood orange pale ale and the Plead the 5th imperial stout. In the case of the latter, they usually have a barrel-aged version of it, but today they were out. I’m guessing the barrel-aged version tastes better.

On the way out of Marshall I hit another construction zone. This time a bridge was out, though I could walk my bike through on the sidewalk, stepping over some pipes. No cars are going to get through any time soon though.

A dozen miles later I got to the city of Albion. I knew Albion had a brewpub, and it was nearly 1pm and therefore lunchtime, so I decided I’d just be lazy and eat at Albion Malleable rather than look for another lunch spot in town.

It was a good decision. I got a grilled cheese with their housemade tomato jam, and the jam was delicious. For beer, I’d recommend the 420 Superior Juice hazy IPA, which has very low bitterness and a lot of good flavors. (Incidentally, 420 Superior is their address, but I’m sure the marijuana reference was not lost on them.) Another good beer was the American Molder robust porter, which is a great example of a robust porter. Not always what I’m in the mood for, but very good for what it is. Also, the bartender insisted that I actually get a photo of myself for the blog, so here it is.

And now for the day’s drama. When I was packing this morning, I took my passport out of my saddle bag and put it in my Camelbak so it would be easier to get to. At Albion Malleable, I hung my Camelbak on one of the hooks under the bar, which is what I typically do at breweries so that it’s out of the way. You can see where this is going. 3 miles down the road from Albion I suddenly realized that I felt a bit light. It didn’t take too much longer to realize just why I felt light. I swore rather loudly and immediately made a U-turn and biked the 3 miles back to Albion.

The whole incident not only ate up nearly half an hour but also cost me quite a bit of energy. I was so miffed at myself that I decided I was going to skip any further breweries between Albion and Ann Arbor and just push through the next 53 miles as fast as possible. I made a quick pit stop in Jackson and got some food at a convenience store, but other than that it was just bike, bike, bike to Ann Arbor, stopping only to stretch. By the time I reached the city limits at 6:25 I’d gone 108 miles and was totally spent.

Fortunately, HOMES Brewery is at that end of Ann Arbor, and they’d been specifically recommended to me by the distributor I chatted with on Sunday in Kalamazoo, so I headed there. HOMES, by the way, is named after the popular mnemonic for the names of the Great Lakes. As for their beer, most of what they do is IPAs and sours. Catering to the masses of hipsters, I guess. Still, they do a really good job of it. By far my favorite was the Blue Passion Sherbet, which is a fruited sour with blueberry and passionfruit. Probably my favorite beer of the day, period. Just a really fun beer. Also of note is the Fault, a double IPA with Idaho 7, Citra, and Cascade hops, which basically has a little bit of everything when it comes to hop flavors.

It’s hard to see in this photo, but their fermentation tanks have women’s names on them. I forgot to ask why because I was a bit out of it from being exhausted.

From HOMES I headed across town to the house of my warmshowers host, Mike. I hadn’t been to Ann Arbor for more than 7 years, so it was nice to bike through the middle of downtown and have some memories of the city come back. Unfortunately I was just too exhausted to go out an explore at all. Mike actually offered me an extra night’s lodging so that I could hang out in the city, and if I hadn’t just had a rest day in Kalamazoo I might well have taken him up on it. As it is, I’m sure I’ll get back to Ann Arbor, hopefully sometime soon. Also, when I told Mike about my Camelbak ordeal, he told me he was once biking around Poland and suddenly realized he’d left his wallet at a restaurant 30 miles back. At least I didn’t have to do any backtracking on that scale!

And now I seriously need to rest. If everything works out, I’ll be in a different country by midday tomorrow.

Total distance: 112.1 miles (of which 6 were unnecessary)
Average speed: 15.4 mph

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