Saturday, July 7. I took my time this morning leaving Clare, Michigan. Saginaw was only 55 miles away and the heat wave had broken. An added bonus was the first 30 miles would be on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail.

20120708-215719.jpg The Pere Marquette Railway began operations in 1900, operating track in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, and Ontario. This is one of the widest, best maintained rail trails I have ever been on.

The day before, I did not see a single cyclist on 41 miles of rail trail, from Reed City to Clare. I saw several in the first few minutes on the Pere Marquette, and when I glanced in my mirror, I saw two bikers gaining on me. My first inclination was to increase my speed so that they wouldn’t think I was a wimp. But they caught me quickly enough, struck up a conversation, and we rode the next 30 miles together.

20120709-092441.jpgBill Watkins, on the left, lives in Midland. He is 67 years-old and a long-time retired Midland police officer. On the right is Joe Tafel, also of Midland. He is a retired tool and die maker for Dow / Corning, both huge employers on Midland.

I told them I was headed for Saginaw. They both expressed concern for my safety and told me not to go out at night. The bike trail went right into the park in the center of Midland and out the other side. Joe showed me the “Tridge”, a bridge in the park that connects the banks of the Tittabawassee River and the Chippewa River.

20120708-221744.jpg Three bow string arches rise from a single pier in the middle of the confluence and stretch to three different banks. Joe was extremely proud of Midland and as he led me through town he sang it’s praises.

Saginaw was sort of disappointing. It appeared dry and dusty, deserted, and void of any civic pride. After all of the wonderful towns I have been in, this one left me feeling the saddest.