People in spandex, flying pigs, and a penguin in chili – August in Torch Lake Township

Posted on August 7, 2009


This week the League of Michigan Bicyclists is having a nice little ride up the west coast of Michigan.  About 360 people left Montague on Sunday in the driving rain, headed for Mackinaw City. The skies cleared, another 71 riders joined the trek in Traverse City on Wednesday, and all 400+ poured into Torch Lake Township at lunchtime on Thursday, hungry as bears.

People in spandex and helmets crowded the Eastport Market.  They came from Florida and Kentucky and Ohio and Ontario and Missouri and whoknowswhere.

C - Kim and Tom from St Louis

Kim and Tom from St Louis

C - Anna and Becky Sittason from Ft Thomas KY

Anna and Becky Sittason from Ft Thomas KY and their slick Ibis tandem

Kids were chowing down in the parking lot for heaven’s sake. Wait, wait–who were these kids and why were they going the wrong way? It turned out they were 9th and 10th graders from Evanston, Illinois, headed south on the third day of their own 360-mile ride from Wilderness State Park to Fremont.  Their assessment of the trip so far? “Fun!”

C - YMCA Camp Echo cyclists

The Spandex People had landed at Sonny’s, too.  Lori Williams was on grill duty Thursday, and watched in stunned surprise as they filled the tables in the cafe and overflowed into the parking lot.  Hours later, as the last of them finished their meals and headed for Charlevoix, Chris Szejbach still had that deer-in-the-headlights look. She was going home for a little nap.  No pictures of Chris today.  She’d kill me, and she knows where I live. 

John Chester, though, was full of energy, not to mention lunch.  That’s John on the left. 

C - Refueling stop at Sonnys

John is from Cincinnati. He loves Cincinnati. He is a rollicking one-man Convention and Visitors Bureau for Cincinnati.  We got talking because his backpack is festooned with glittery beads–the kind you catch at Mardi Gras parades –in the shape of pigs.  These, he claimed, are an unofficial mascot for the city, famed as Porkopolis in the 19th century.  There are flying pig statues at Cincinnati Gateway in Sawyer Point Park.  I am not kidding about this.  John, who even wears flying pig logo socks, said he bought pig beads to trade with other riders for equally significant symbols of their hometowns. 

C - Pig beads as a safety measure3

I pondered the possibility of muskie beads.  I could trade them with other bloggers at blogger conventions.  They’d be a safety measure, too.  Just imagine how they’d light up Miss Sadie and the Cowboy at dusk.

Then John stood up and I saw the penguin logo on his shirt.  OK, another story.  Each year on the first Sunday in May the Cincinnati Cycle Club sponsors a ride called the Chili Century.  Chili as in chilly, which they think it is in Cincinnati in early May, on account of they have never been to northern Michigan in early May. 

C - Cinci Chili

So, if it’s chilly a penguin is a good mascot.  Why is the penguin standing in a bowl of . . . spaghetti?  “Chili!” said John.  “Cincinnati chili.  It’s different from any other chili you’ve ever had.  Cinnamon.  Chocolate.  And it’s served over spaghetti.”  Hmm.  Since talking to John I have been mousing around on the internet and have learned a lot more about Cincinnati Chili, which sounds suspiciously like the stuff we slather on Coney dogs in Detroit, except for the spaghetti part. 

Based on extensive research, I have decided that I would prefer the Four-Way version–spaghetti, chili, diced onion and grated cheese–to the Five-Way version, which includes totally unnecessary beans.  I have decided that I will make it the first day I build a fire in the woodstove, which could be any day now. I have decided to try the Roadfood recipe for Cincinnati Chili for my first attempt. I know, I know. You’re from Cincy and you have a better recipe. Go ahead. Send it along. We can never have too many recipes for chili in Torch Lake Township.

Back to the cyclists. Some of them had the foresight to make a little detour to the Day Park, where they saw a whole lot of boats and wakeboards assembled for a wakeboarding demonstration. I thought it made a festive scene, but Miss Sadie and the Cowboy wanted to go home, and it was time to go to the day job anyway. I didn’t get to watch professional wakeboarders flying around Torch Lake, but if you did, let me know. Thomasina Sawyer is always glad to welcome Guest Posts.

C - Cyclists boaters and wakeboarders at the Day Park