Independence Day and the Pursuit of Happiness

Independence Day and the Pursuit of Happiness

alt textMike Walden and T. J. Hill in 1994

Something inspiring, intriguing, compelling or just plain fun pops up regularly on the Wolverine Sports Club list serve. Following the Fourth Of July weekend WSC veteran T.J. Hill appeared sharing his latest riding adventure. Now, TJ was a legend when I met him in the 70′s when Mike Walden was still holding forth. He rode longer, farther and faster than the average bear then and nothing has changed. So learning about his “routine” 51 mile fat tire ride was both inspiring and compelling.

TJ is 76 years old and has been riding at the 12 thousand mile per year level for the past 25 years. Currently riding about 4 thousand on a road bike and 8 thousand on a Mountain bike, although not all of it is on dirt. He spends about 8 weeks in the south where he is a leader at the Alabama Cycling camp. That is where he gets in all of his road bike miles in February through April.

It was TJ who inspired me and others to become super-tourists. When Bob Akers, Mike Walters, Linda Potter, Greg Satterwhite and myself rode from Belle Isle to Lansing and back in the 90′s, it was TJ who had set the standard. It’s on rides like these that the value of fine tuned team of four or more riders is recognized and every ones metal is tested.

The following are T.J. Hills Independence Day sentiments:

alt textTJ and crew in a tight echelon riding from Belle Isle
To Lansing

Whereas 233 years ago 56 courageous men signed the Declaration of Independence in which they pledged their life, their fortune and their sacred honor in order to establish this great country we know as The United States of America. Indeed many of those 56 men did give up their lives, many more gave up their fortunes yet none gave up their sacred honor so that this nation might endure. We the fortunate heirs of this commitment made back in 1776 have been able to pursue happiness in whatever manner we might choose.

As for me, 64 of my 76 years have been devoted to pursuing happiness by riding a bicycle. In 1945 the bike had balloon tires, one gear and a coaster brake. Next came, a so called skinny tired bike with a 3 speed Sturmy Archer gear arrangement. That gave way to what is known as a road bike with a derailleur gear arrangement. The number of gear combinations kept going up as the years passed. There was also a track bike at that time and it has changed very little from my first one in 1952 to the one I have today.

In the ‘80s Mountain bikes arrived on the scene and at first they were prone to breakdowns. By the ‘90s most of the kinks had been worked out so that today Mountain bikes are very reliable. By 1991 I came to the conclusion that riding a road bike in a metropolitan area was less than fun due to the competition with cars on the roads. Thus after that date I became a Mountain Bike super-tourist. Prior to that time I was a road bike super-tourist. I found it very exhilarating riding on dirt roads and trails. Now then I am not really an accomplished single track rider yet I manage to get by at whatever pace seems right for me.

As for dirt road super-touring I am much more at ease. There are several pluses to riding on dirt roads. First and foremost is that there is virtually no traffic as compared with road riding on pavement. It is very quite on dirt roads which has a soothing effect. Many of the dirt roads over which we ride are narrow, tree lined and hilly and thus both challenging as well as pleasant.

alt text1983 Captain Aluminium Invitational at Washington Township Firehall. Standing
L to R Yeves Roger, Rotem, Dave Heilbrun, Roberto Valarane, Leonardo
Gianola, Andy Detloff, Ron Fedoronko, Elbert Parkes, Jeff Goerke, Arnie
Dzick, squatting TJ Hill, kneeling Back Row L to R Phil Shear, Reggi O’Neal,
Barry Bogin, Gary Nix .

Now then for today’s ride, July 4 2009, we started with a six pack from Stony Creek West Branch Lot B at 9 AM. Our six pack soon split into 2 three packs, due to other commitments by 3 of the riders. As for myself, TJ, Rick Jones and Russell Shubatowski we first rode 15 miles of trail inside the West Branch area before leaving the park. We then took dirt roads to Bear Creek Park where we did the trails therein. Next we headed north on the Paint Creek Trail to Adams Road where we jiggled west to the Carin Cross Sub then rode to the trailhead on Wains Way that leads into Bald Mountain Southeast.

We exited that trail on Kern, jiggled south to Greenshield then went west to the next trailhead where we entered Bald Mountain South. We did a full set of the trails within that area that concludes with an ascent of the two phase Apple Hill. The trail on Phase One of the hill is elliptical in shape thus when hard apples fall into the bottom riding over them often causes your bike to skip. When the apples are soft they mush and you might loose traction in that manner. There is a short flat and a 90 degree turn before you begin the steep Phase Two section. The trail is seemingly always littered with short sticks. The trail slopes to the left. Near the top there are two large roots. To clear the roots you need to ride to the high side on the right. Most often I fail to clear this hill though it is far less steep than many hills I manage to clear on a regular basis. Failure to clear this hill is likely mental as I once crashed from the right high side to the left low side that gave me a pretty sever jolt. Now I usually bail out after the first time my wheel slips.

alt textTJ showing them how its done on the track at Bloomer Park

After apple Hill we have a long section of Raspberry Trail to traverse. The trail is moderately hilly and heavily overgrown. Along this section we managed to leave a good deal of our blood as the Raspberries and their picker cousins managed to scrape our legs our arms and our face as we plowed through the greenery with head down. Often we could not see the trail ahead as we jiggled back and forth as well as ducking under low hanging branches.

Eventually we got to Lake Orion where we had lunch at CJ’s restaurant. After lunch we were all adequately tired as well as scrapped so that we decided to return via dirt roads rather than taking on another section of trails in Bald Mountain North. We returned to Stony Creek where we came in after having ridden 51 miles for the day.

So a special thanks to our Founding fathers as well as to all those who have served our country in the various branches of the military so that I and those like me have been able to pursue happiness in the manner of our choice.

God Bless America, may freedom last ad infinitum.

TJ Hill, bicycle aficionado