This was a short day with little in the way of scenery, lots of bad pavement, rude drivers, and a cold rain all afternoon. If Michigan could speak, it would be saying, “get the hell out of here.” But we did meet two very nice and somewhat wacky people.
We left Midland at 9am and were pushed out of town fast by a stiff west wind. Suburbs yielded to scattered rural sprawl on top of fertile cropland, and the further we got from town, the more farms we saw. We rode west and south through fields of beans, corn, tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, and sugar beets. Some of the houses had already put up Halloween decorations, and the weather was way into autumn.
When we got to Bay City, the Adventure Cycling map got too confusing and we got somewhat lost, which wasn’t good. We ended up riding on some busy city streets and fought off some of the most aggressive drivers we’ve encountered on the trip. We were passed too close, turned in front of, honked at, and stopped short, all in the space of about ten miles. Either Bay City was having a bad day, or every day there is bad.
We rode for several hours through more farmland until we got to the small village of Fairgrove. Sara was waiting for us at Castamore Zangalotti’s Flashback Café, along with a table of 12 high school kids and several parties of old ladies. The food was great. Jim had a milkshake and grilled ham sandwich, Sara and I had chili, and for dessert we shared homemade cinnamon sugar donut holes, which are called “Martian Nuts” on the menu. “Ron was messing around with these for a church function, and someone who tasted them said they were out of this world,” said Jo Thomas, Ron’s wife and the waitress of the place. “One thing lead to another. Now there are a lot of jokes. Did you hear the Martians screaming out back after you ordered?”
Ron was in back cooking, and after the lunch crowd emptied out he came out to meet the cross-country riders. Castamore Zangalotti doesn’t exist, we learned. “I woke up from a dream and the name was in my head,” said Ron. “I wrote it down on a pad and went back to sleep. I checked Google, and didn’t find anyone who really has this name. But I couldn’t get it out of my head, so we named the restaurant for him.”
Ron and Jo were friendly and funny and not in a hurry. Their place is decorated with some great old weird stuff. They put a carpenter’s nail bag around the waist of a life-sized cardboard cutout of Elvis. There are lots of boosterish signs for the local high school football team (the Vikings), and just above our booth were the results of an actual popularity contest held by the village’s grocery store long ago. We didn’t want to leave, especially because it was starting to rain, but we still had the afternoon ahead of us, so off we went.
That was a mistake. The rain got worse as soon as we left town, and by the time we got to the next town, Caro, we were soaked. Having done 55 miles, we declared victory and checked into a motel. We wanted to watch the Biden-Palin debate, anyway.
I cleaned up and rode back into town, where I visited the local Democratic headquarters and got an Obama sticker for my bike. Election season had finally caught up to us, and the news was good; that afternoon, the McCain campaign announced that they were pulling out of Michigan. I told the woman at Obama headquarters this news. She was so busy that it didn’t really sink in.
Later that evening, I was snoozing and trying to stay awake while Joe Biden and Sarah Palin jabbed at each other. The cell phone rang. I picked it up and a deep, menacing female voice slurred, “I hate her.” It was Tania. I love her.