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Ride across America

Michigan: Past, present and future

Iain Lauren Bike across America

  • Day 34, August 9th: 36 miles
  • Day 35, August 10th: 80 miles
  • Day 36, August 11th: 54 miles
  • Total: 2,364 miles

August 12, 2023 | We have had an eventful past few days.  From Milwaukee, we got up at 5am to catch the high-speed ferry over to Muskegon, MI.  We saw the sun coming up just as we left – easy crossing on a smooth Lake Michigan.  Lauren slept during the entire crossing.

Iain Lauren Bike across America

Iain Lauren Bike across America

From there, we have made our way southeast through a very humid and sticky Michigan.  We have camped a couple of nights in some good campgrounds, but you have to be in your tent by sundown or the mosquitos will eat you alive. We have mosquitos in Texas, of course, but they usually operate alone. In Michigan, they attack in packs and are relentless.  A good excuse to go to bed early!

Iain Lauren Bike across America

Michigan is very pretty with many small, family farms that are all immaculately kept.  We have seen corn (of course), strawberries, blackberries, cherries, onions, sunflowers, multiple orchards and many large green house operations.  Yesterday, we stopped at a family farm and shared a pint of fresh strawberries - very tasty.

Iain Lauren Bike across America

Another fun experience today: I was riding on a highway when a bee or wasp stung my lip and then got inside my mouth and stung my tongue.  Yeah, it hurt.   No permanent damage but for the next hour or so my lip and tongue were numb; I was literally riding with my tongue out to ease the pain.  Lauren thought it was hilarious and gave me no sympathy, mainly because I gave her none when a bee or wasp stung her toe in North Dakota.  The wildlife is dangerous out here!

Today started with problems but ended very well.  Lauren’s gear shift cable broke last night riding into the campsite.  We did not have a replacement so I rigged her derailleur so she had a lower gear, and we rode into Battle Creek to the only bike shop, getting there just as it opened at 10am.  Problem was they were backed up with repairs, but the owner, Mike, gave us a bike stand and let me work on the bike in the store.  Turns out the shifter was broken (a common Shimano problem) and they did not have a new one.  But Mike found a used shifter and gave it to us free.  I put it on the bike and Bingo!  All fixed.

Mike then asked how far we were planning to ride that day. 50 or 60 miles, I replied.  Great, he said, do you want to stay in Jackson with my mother?  He called her and told her he was sending two cyclists to her house (not an uncommon occurrence it seems).  So tonight we are staying with Grandma Angela in Jackson, MI.

Battle Creek is interesting and forms part of today’s history lesson.  Kellogg’s was founded in the town and the world headquarters is still here.  The Kellogg’s we know today was founded by W.K. Kellogg in 1906.  W.K. worked with his older brother, John Henry Kellogg, who managed a ‘holistic sanitarium’ in Battle Creek following principles defined by the seventh Day Adventist Churn (both brothers were members).  John Henry developed cereals as a healthy food for use with patients.  The Kellogg family originated in Essex, England and moved to the first Connecticut colony in the 1600s.

There are multiple stories and much debate about how it happened, but basically in 1897, some corn maize was left out and the next day run through the rollers they used to make cereal.  The result was Corn Flakes.  Several disagreements, arguments and law suits resulted in W.K. founding the company we know today.  At one point, W.K. wanted to add sugar to Corn Flakes, but John Henry refused; the result is Frosted Flakes or Frosties.  For this, I am eternally grateful to W.K. Frosties are the best!

But there is more. C.W. Post lived in Battle Creek and had been a patient at the sanitarium.  He saw how Kellogg was making cereal and in 1895 founded Postum Cereal Co to make a cereal-based drink called Postum (it was marketed as an alternative to coffee).  In 1897, Post introduced their first dry cereal, Grape Nuts.  Post Consumer Brands (part of General Foods), as it is known today, is now based in Minnesota but still has a huge plant in Battle Creek (we rode past it).

So, Battle Creek was responsible for Kellogg’s and Post Cereals!

Finally, we rode through Marshall, MI today, which is to be the site of a new $3.5 billion Ford EV battery factory, due to open in 2026.   The irony here is that we have been riding past corn fields since eastern Montana and have seen several ethanol production plants. You can usually smell them before you see them; they have a wheaty, sweet smell around them.  The irony is that the U.S. government gives various tax incentives and grants to support the production of ethanol (it is added to gasoline as a dilutive), which of course is supporting the massive agriculture operations we have seen.  But as EVs grow in number, there will be less need for ethanol and hence less need for the corn.  The move to EVs will therefore impact the economy of an entire agricultural region.

Iain Lauren Bike across America

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