Number Eighteen: Michigan

Our first stop in Michigan was Mackinaw City, which was probably once a charming summer get-away and fishing village. Now it is a serious tourist trap, with a couple nice bike paths. On the North Central Rail Trail, we expected to be riding along Lake Huron. We were separated from the lake by the typical string of summer cottages, in varying stages of decay and decadence. We were separated from the cottages by a busy highway and from the busy highway, by a linear pine forest. We couldn’t see lake, cottages, or highway because of the trees. (We could hear the highway.)
IMG_2896We liked the trail.

Grand Rapids

One might think the city was named for some really great rapids, at least in the eyes of a map maker, founding father, or real estate speculator. (That may be redundant.) But it’s named for some ok rapids on the Grand River.

Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum was fascinating. Gerald, nee Lesley, had a violent temper, surprisingly from what I remember of the man and less surprisingly from what his early childhood was like. His mother dealt with it by making him stand in front of a mirror and memorize the poem, “If”:

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

Maybe it should be permanently installed in the Oval Office.

Ford (and probably his friend Richard Nixon, but certainly his wife Betty) will do well in history books. Ford understood both leadership and representation. He was unlucky enough to have the opportunity to courageously demonstrate both: (1) when he oversaw the final withdrawal from Viet Nam and (2) when he unconditionally pardoned Nixon. (Some would say he “surrendered” Viet Nam and others that he had “cut an deal” with Nixon.) Viewed from the present, both decisions were probably right and they probably cost him the 1976 election.

The Nixon/Ford initiatives on the environment, civil rights, arms limitation (SALT), and, for Ford (and emphatically not Nixon), the Sunshine Act, will play well in the future. Ford’s openness with the public, press, and photographers, partly because that was his nature and partly because it was decidedly not the nature of his predecessor, gave Chevy Chase and SNL a  lot of material, although he was probably the best athlete who has ever occupied the White House.

Ford was what a Conservative should be, tight with the taxpayers money and generous with his compassion. Unfortunately, both he and Nixon were spectacularly wrong when it came to economics, as Reagan demonstrated so effectively. Believing cutting upper bracket taxes, weakening unions, and deregulating industry would create jobs, they only increased the disparity in the distribution of wealth, reduced the middle class, and led to an era of greed, which we still seem stuck in, that gave us the last Great Recession and probably the next.

A highlight of the visit, however, was Doré borrowed a wheel chair, as she often does in museums. We were later approached by a guard, who wanted to know if that was her chair or had she borrowed it from the Museum. We hadn’t done anything! The chair we had borrowed, he went on to explain, had belonged to Betty Ford. She had brought it with her when she came to the memorial service for President Ford and donated it to the Museum as she left.

The Wheelchair, Doré, and Betty Ford, campaigning for the ERA over the objections of the President and the White House.

We came to Grand Rapids to ride the Musketawa Trail to Muskegon. The city first came onto our radar when we saw the video they had made a few years ago in response to having been voted the “Most Boring City in the US”, unjustly they thought. The world record is the longest lip sync in a single take and “Musketawa” is a portmanteau of the names of the counties the trail goes through.

First we stopped by Alger Bikes, across the street, to pick up chain and gear degreaser. There we met a man who leads tours for Bike America and has ridden in 48 states, not Alaska and North Dakota. The shortest coast-to-coast route is San Diego to St. Augustine.

After 20 miles on the North Central State Trail in Mackinaw City, we only needed 30 more to meet our Michigan target so it was an easy ride. And, yes, I know I have a skipped a couple states.




2 thoughts on “Number Eighteen: Michigan

    1. The guard, who was an African-American man (but I don’t know what difference that makes), wanted to be sure we knew the history of the chair, and then to be sure we saw a couple of his favorite exhibits (e.g., her support of the ERA) about Betty.


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