Thursday, September 19, 2013

Mitten Mission

Monroe Man Goes On "Mitten Mission"

Joshua Scully of Monroe biked around the state of Michigan this summer 

When high school math and science teacher Joshua Scully walked into the first day of class, his Meadow Montessori students were not able to even utter the question, "What did you do this summer, Mr. Josh?" before he pulled out a map traced with magic marker. 

"I'm going to brag," he said with a grin to his students. 

Tracing a trail along the outer edge of Michigan, the 56-year-old Monroe resident told his students of his 1,400-mile adventure that found only he and his bike traversing the state in a 14-day trip he adoringly called his "Mitten Tour." 

Beginning on Aug. 2, Scully traveled an average of 103 miles a day as he made his way from Monroe, along the eastern edge of Lake Huron, across to Mackinaw, then to Traverse City, and down through South Haven before coming back two weeks later. 

"It wasn't one of those things where I planned it for six months or a year," Scully laughed. "It was my Forrest Gump moment you could say." 

With only two weeks of preparation, Scully's trip was born upon a pledge he made to himself. 

"I told myself that I wasn't going to drive my car," he said. "Doing my day to day around Monroe, I could handle it. But then I had appointments in Ann Arbor and Plymouth. So I rode up there and told myself, 'Hey, I can do this.'" 

Armed with nothing but his bike, his bags, a tent, and intuition, Scully embarked on a trip that would give him an intimate audience with the Great Lakes State. 

"I got to go through 120 towns during the trip," he said proudly. "Every place has its own little charm. On the last day, I took a wrong turn and was riding by a large field. In the middle, there were 100 cranes grazing. It was very interesting." 

"I got to see the diversity of Michigan's terrains, which was very interesting," he said, "On the east side of the state, everything is very flat. There are lots of corn fields. Up near Lake Huron, there are very few towns, but a lot of cottages. Then once you get near Alpena, it's very hilly." 

In some cases, the hills were so challengingly steep, Scully would need to get off of his bike to walk up or down the hills. 

"In northwest Michigan, the hills were frightening," he said. "Riding up would be a challenge with 50 pounds on my back with my bags. Riding down the hills would be scary, too, because I could attain speeds of up to 50 miles per hour." 

How Scully planned his trip was to bike on average 100 miles a day until he came to campsites that he had routed earlier, sleeping in a tent he carried on his bike. 

He camped in seven different state parks along the way. In the beginning, he planned on waking up and getting on the road about 7:30, but began to wake up earlier in the hopes of saving daylight. If he rode conservatively, he said, Scully could finish his 100-mile quota in about eight hours. 

The bags that Scully carried with him on the back of his bike included everything that he needed for his two-week trip and not a thing more. He was able to complete the trip without any escort, as many other tours carry on, such as the DALMAC (Dick Allen Lansing to Mackinaw) Labor Day Bike Tour, which Scully rode in fewer than two weeks after circumnavigating the state. 

"I knew that I wouldn't be going to any parties along the way," Scully said, "so I just packed one pair of biking shorts, one biking shirt, a pair of shoes, four pairs of socks, and some stuff to wear when I was done riding." 

Scully even went through the trip without packing food or water, but with his background in biochemistry, in which he has his doctoral degree, caloric intake was a big thing on his mind. He met the challenge, however, in a very resourceful and economical way. 

"I knew that I would be burning about 3,000-4,000 more calories a day than my normal 2,000," he said, "So I knew that I needed simple carbohydrates – sugars. I really didn't want to spend a lot of money, either. So, it's funny, what I would do was go to McDonalds and get a large Coke for a dollar. I'd fill up both water bottles I brought with Coke and then drink one too." 

In one fell swoop, Scully was able to conjure up an economics lesson, a chemistry lesson, and a physiology lesson all in one example. 

One thing that Scully was able to learn on his trip, however, is how hospitable Michiganders can be throughout the state, when times before he has found the road a hostile place for bikers. 

"I ride in the road," he said, "Some screwballs will yell at me to get out of the way. In Michigan, cyclists have the same rights as motorists. But in my entire trip, I only had one person yell at me. It was really cool. Sometimes, when I didn't know where I was going, some people were willing to stop and help me figure out where I should be." 

On his blog that chronicled his entire trip, the final entry of Scully's trip begins with a line from Jack Johnson's, "Upside Down;" "Turn the world upside down.....who knows what is impossible." 

"In the beginning, I didn't think I could do it," he said. "But now, who knows what will come next year. I called a friend of mine while I was on the trip and told him what I was doing. He just kind of lies around sometimes. I called him the next day and he was out of breath. When I asked him why, he told me he was on his bike. That was pretty cool."

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