Statistics Rustbelt:

Distance: 1430 km
Daily Average: 68 km
Days in the Area: 21
Days on the Bike: 16
Altitude covered: 9300m
Daily Average: 580m
Nights in Tent: 11
Nights in Houses: 10
Breakdowns: Flat Tire in the Back
Daily Expenses : 14,00€

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Crossing the Rustbelt

One of the first things I realised when I left the ferry in Marine City was that I am the only cyclist around. Also here there is a signed Bike route, but no one except me is riding along it….
I followed the St. Claim River upstream, northwards to Port Huron where I reached my third of the big lakes. I wanted to cycle along the coast to the north but the road is not following the shore so I can only see the lake here and then.
In Lexington I turned west. That was the first time I went on the grid, every mile there is a road going north or west. Straight roads are the consequence, 90km in my case. Boring Story. Then I reached the town of Millington, where Juli and her husband Larry are living. They are friends of Sonja that is a friend of Simone where I stayed when I was back home… So you get your local contact around some corners. The last KM I went with there truck, after 150km I was done that day.
It was time for a break and I got it. Except of a funny cheeseburger festival north at the Lake Huron and a Sightseeingtour through Flint we did nothing. Very good!
The Cheeseburger Festival was pure America. Everything was about Food, the variety of Burgers was fascinating and very tasty!

The Trip to Flint was also pure America but in a total different way. Flint was the former Automobile Capital of America. That was before General Motors moved their Headquarters to Detroit and later end of the Eighties closed down the most of the factories and moved them to foreign countries. Ten thousands of Jobs got lost. Comparable with Volkswagen would close down the Factory in Wolfsburg. The City never coped that. If you want to know the whole story watch „Roger & Me“ a Documentary Movie that shows the impact on the Society. Impressive. The Aftermath for the City were horrible and are still visible. Closed down Shops, whole Streets torn down or burnt down. A few years back from now the Flint Water Crisis topped it. To save money the City decided to take the drinking water out of Flint River instead of Lake Michigan. The Waterworks weren’t´ able to clean the water properly and the Pollution of the Water washed the Lead out of the old pipes and several people got sick from that. Who got stuck in the mud gets out very difficultly. Larry insisted that I stay in the car while we are in town… Tough!

After a few days it was time to go on. After Flint I skipped Detroit and cycled a little bit north towards the Shore of Lake Michigan. On my way I crossed Saginaw, a little Town that was part in their Song „America“ and now is on the same way that Flint is. Just every third Building Downtown is still standing, the decay is hidden and you need to look twice to see it. Air smells depressive. The Oppression in that Hour in town was impressive.

After that it went better. Along the coast there are more wealthy people living, so the Lakeshore at Ludington was my destination. I went out to the Dunes, the Lighthouse reminded me of the north sea. I followed side roads and former railways south and came to Muskegon, the second Port along the Lake. From there and from Ludington you can take a ferry to the other side of the Lake. That was too expensive for me and so I drove around the Lake. Some windy Days let the Lake look a little bit like the Pacific Ocean…

Further South I crossed Benton Harbor. The City had the same Smell than Saginaw. Also here the most of Downtown was gone and the most of the Buildings were closed down. (Caution: Stereotype) Some dark skinned people were walking along the road and shouting. They put a Piece of the WTC on the Main square, don´t know why it has to be here, it was the first I´ve seen on that trip. Whirlpool, the Household appliance Corporation has their Headquarters in town. These Buildings were the only ones in a really good condition. I was done when I crossed the bridge over to the Hill St. Joseph is situated on. First thing I saw was the brand-new Jail looking down towards Benton Harbor. In Town everything was the total opposite. Mainly white people were walking around smiling, the shops were nice and open. A beautiful Beach town were living is good. Just a few Miles away from the Shanty Town over there. I read that the people who could afford to move over and left the sinking ship (when economy came down) towards St. Joseph. The Rest is the community of Sorrow down in Benton Harbor on the other side of the River.
In the American System the Education and Security is mostly paid by local taxes is not really helpful when it goes down. If you are not able to pay education the people are not educated enough to attract work to town, they are more affine to Crimes that can not be fought cause of the under financed police. Flint, Saginaw and Benton Harbor are under the most dangerous towns in the US. Flint won a price as the city with the lowest quality of life in the USA… macabre.

My way took me more south were I crossed Gary, another city that lost it´s fortune before I came to Chicago. The South of the City is little postindustrial cause of the torn down Steelworks but also the Residential Areas are not in the best shape. I entered the Promenade and stayed there to watch the Eclipse that took place that day. It was only 85% in Chicago but it was fun to watch the people starring into the sky wearing the paper googles.

I stayed one night in the Apartment of Sarah. Met here via Warmshowers and could even she wasn’t´t at home use here Apartment. As I left she wasn’t back home so we never met… Unbelievable how trusting the people are with totally strangers. Thanks a lot, Sarah!
The next nights I stayed with x and his family in the north of the City. I needed a day off the bike and having an apartment for me was perfect. Thanks for the opportunity to rest.

North of Chicago is the State of Wisconsin and Milwaukee. The City was settled partly by germans and the classics are still german, Beer and Sausage. The Breweries are called Schlitz, Papst, Miller and Schmidt while the sausage is named Usinger. Funny. Stayed with Carolyn and Tristan who run a Bike shop. I took the Opportunity and did some Maintenance on my bike, replaced a tire and a spoke. One Evening we watched a Movie in a Community Garden and the other night we went to an puppet-Cabaret. Very black humour and very political. Not sure If i got all the jokes…

I went on.Minneapolis was the next stop. Wisconsin is the Land of the Rails-to-Trails. Former Railroad tracks were made Bike Trails and now connect the country off the main roads. First I followed the Glacial-drumlin Trail towards Madison, the capitol of the State. The City Center with the Capitol is situated between to lakes on a hill. Very nice. Madison is a student town, has a nice vibe and surely would be a nice place for a stop… but I only cycled through. Behind the City there is no trail so you have to follow the roads. I passed the „Badger Ammunition Plant“, during WW II it was the worlds biggest Weapon Factory. 30sqkm big and just taken away from the owners of the property. They kept the Factory on standby until Vietnam and activated it for every war. Ten years ago they decided to tear it down and so they still work on that. You can visit a Museum that shows more about that but it was closed when I passed it.

After that I came back to the Rails. One day following the `400`Trail and then on to the Highlight of Wisconsin, the Elroy Sparta Trail. In Bosnia, 2 years ago, I had a similar trail and that was real adventure! This one now has three tunnels pitch-black, soaking wet and mysterious… great!
After that it went boring again, I thought about fall and winter in the Hills between the tunnels but down in the Mississippi River Valley it was hot summer again. I followed the River for some days now.
First day had a highlight for me, David peddled next to me and woke me up from my Meditation. We went together to Trempeleau. He invited me for a few beers and introduced me to Jörg (he called him Jurg), a german who took over the hotel together with his wife Amy a few years ago. We had a nice conversation and he offered to camp in the garden of the hotel. Later he gave me a key and the opportunity to sleep in a real bed after having a nice shower. A really special place with this kept old and traditional Hotel on the shore of the Mighty River. Thanks Amy, thanks Jörg!

Next morning I followed the deep Valley of the River, reminded me of the River Rhine back home. The River is partly a few miles wide and really wild. There was never a glacier covering that area that allowed the Bluffs to still exists. Partly Joining Rivers brought so much material with them that they made barrier and a lake out of Mississippi. Really liked that part…

Two days later I reached St. Paul, the Capitol of Minnesota. Together with Minneapolis it´s the Metropolitan Area of the Twin Cities. In Minneapolis Joshua is living. Met hi last year while I stopped in Portland and he invited me to stay with him for a few days. I really appreciated that offer. Nice to meet old friends again!
I stayed a few days in town, visited Minnesota State Fair with Joshua. Packed with people, attractions and animals. We took a ride on the ferris wheel at night and had great fun. Wandering through the Downtown Area was also very nice. Minneapolis is the last real City before the West coast and so I enjoyed the big City breeze for a last time.

Next Chapter called the Great Plains, 2000km of flat and boring farmland that brings me to the Rocky Mountains. I´m full of respect of that part. The wind seems to blow constantly from the west, means Headwind and beging alone for 3 weeks is really a challenge to keep me motivated and going. But thats the next story, that I will tell You next time!

Crossing the former Industrial Heart of America around the Big Lakes was exciting and boring at the same time. It was impressive to see how the former wealthy heart of the country was demolished in the last 30 years. I met the Trump Voters I was looking for and after seeing the decay there I can understand their frustration and that they voted for a change… That doesn’t´t mean that I can follow and agree all their arguments they brought up.
The Fun Riding a bike was ok-ish. Lot´s of Railtrails led me past the probably interesting areas. The Roads were wide and you really feel that this country was build for the automobile. In the City they start changing their thinking. Lots of Bike lanes, Bike Paths and here and there an old Railway track that leads through the heart of the city is now open for the Bikes. That´s real fun! A lot of the Areas I crossed were urban territories, so there was not that much wilderness to see. Wisconsin reminded me of Home. Very similar to the landscape and the Flora of Germany it was like a week of Holiday in central Germany. Cycling through the swampy areas let me think about how it was in Germany back 1000 years ago before we started drying the swamps and make them Farmland… This Swamps made my evenings really bad. Instead of sitting outside and enjoying life it was a run to get in the tent before the mosquitos eat you up totally. A lot of Sunsets I´ve seen through the net of my Tent-Door.
I’m really looking forward to the loneliness of the west, the opportunity to put up your tent wherever you want and having real silence around you. Here it is a constant search for the spot that fits without being protected by a sign that tells me „KEEP OUT!!“ Probably everything here is Private Property and so I partly cycled until late in the Evening to find a spot were I can sneak in…

But now it will be less civilisation and much more wilderness. Hopefully, let´s see…

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