The train rolled into Port Huron around midnight. After some quick phone-mapping, I pedaled off towards a spot that seemed quiet enough. The mist was heavy and sodium vapor shop lights created a strange, orange aura. I kept my sleeping arrangements as basic as possible, in case someone came to boot me in the middle of the night. Such it is with hobocamping.
Within a few hours of being on the beach the next morning, sand became everything. It turned out the western shore was way more rocky than what satellite maps could show, which only made things more difficult. Instead of acting like pavers, separating my tires from the energy-sucking sand, they were like marbles. Having the front tire wash out happened every five minutes at first, since I had no idea what I was doing, but then I began to find the sweet spot of dense sand— not dry and fluffy, but not soaked and full of little ball-bearing pebbles.
Early on I met a woman out collecting rocks that caught her fancy. I told her it would be awesome for me if she would be a little less picky. Our talk was only for a few minutes, and was luxuriously devoid of questions about the size of my bike’s tires (part of the reason people ride these bikes in such remote places is to not have to deal with everyone asking about them, I bet), but she was curious about the bandana I had. It was bright pink, and she asked if it had anything to do with it being breast cancer awareness month. Turns out she had been a survivor of breast cancer for a decade, and after finding out that no, I just like the bandana, she asked if I would wear her pink bracelet as well.
There was one thing I knew would be an issue. The google earth maps showed that along the ride there would be sections with long, steel and concrete barriers separating private properties. Sometimes you would see just the one, other times they were every thirty feet for half a mile. I couldn’t really tell online how tall they were. My heavy rig, slowly being eaten by sand, might be able to just ride over them. Or maybe they would be four feet tall and I would have to figure out how get my bike and myself over the wall without falling and breaking anything. Turns out I would get a lot of practice with both.
I asked myself if all the problems that can happen on a bike tour in, well, not the best conditions were worth it. If asked that question when I arrived at the first campsite, I would’ve said “Yeah, skip this next time.” Or maybe opt for an on-pavement route up the shore where I could go further in the same amount of time. But that first night’s park was small, and entirely catering to RV campers who come to park their gigantic vehicles around some trees and eat outside. Being on the edge of another port-town by a highway, though depressing this isn’t really too surprising.
On my second day, fog had taken over the shore for the ride back south and hid any sign of the park until, suddenly, I found myself in the middle of its shore with no signs of civilization in either narrowly-visible direction. I’m sure this park has a big entrance off a highway and loads of boring RV parking spots, but rolling into the park from the shore was such a charming experience that I felt no need to investigate further into that kind of endless sadness. A small trail in the sand cut through the birch into denser oaks and pines until I came to a small clearing- what looked like a communal area with no one else around. Just a fire pit next to a little grove of trees to throw the hammock between. It was perfect.
It wasn’t until the moment I had the fire going and a surprise vegan sausage I had forgotten about in another bag (this made me insanely happy) cooking that I finally felt it was all worth it. You could drive to here, sure, but then you’d be stuck in some shoebox parking spot staring at the RVs around you. You could even ride on pavement to get to here, of course, but you wouldn’t be cold and wet enough to truly appreciate the fire. I firmly believe these moments are earned, and only by taking the initiative to find the hard way do you really get the reward of simple pleasures.