We wanted a grand adventure this summer, but it turns out we really only had time and resources for a small adventure. In that spirit we thought about what we like to do on vacation. This is encompassed by two major activities: strolling the sites of a walkable town and eating good food. The problem is that the walking is never quite enough for the smorgasbord we find, and so the idea of an “active vacation” was born, and with a husband with a history of bike touring, Michigan Bike Tour 2012 was born- 200 odd miles around Northern Michigan with stops in-between.
*Disclaimer #1: the mileage and activities will seem rather epic to many; they’re not, just about anyone could do this ride (and should!).
*Disclaimer #2: Many of you might be thinking “Michigan?”, and I was too. I originally was set on a bike tour of coastal Maine, but it seems that the Sunday drivers on the winding coast don’t make for hospitable road conditions. I went into this Michigan trip a bit begrudgingly, but, heavens, is it a gorgeous place! Hi thee to Northern Michigan in the summer. Just last night, I told John that I have found myself longing to return several times, and he agreed.
So, if you are ever to decide to go on a 6 day bike tour here is a handy, though incomplete little guide to having a good time. Get ready for a lot of pictures…
You will need a vehicle that can contain or retain your bikes and all of your gear. If you are me, you will need a real suitcase for your “real person” clothes and another suitcase for your “bike person” clothes (you really should wear the shorts, I know, I know, but they are a good thing). If you are us, you will send your husband to Florida to buy and drive back a champagne colored Jetta TDI with trunk space that goes on for days, and you will call her Angela Merkel to honor her German heritage.
We really needed a new car anyway- promise.
Next you will drive your car to a great starting point; we chose a place at the head of a trail: Gaylord, Michigan. If you are adventurous, you will camp because nothing inaugurates 60 miles of cycling like sleeping on the ground!
Gaylord, Michigan, the home of Alpenfest! We happened to roll into town on the biggest day of the year…
It is always the right time for a camp fire.
You should awaken bright and early to get on the road. 63 miles means 8:30- 4, but with room for stops in-between.
Once you get on the road it is very important to keep your spirits up…
Try a stop at the playground in Wolverine, MI.
They have swings! (for cross training)
You’ll need lots of snacks for fuel, and Cheybogan has a great little coffee shop. If you are lucky you will meet a nice lady from the UP; she will tell you wonderful stories about how Portland is exactly like the show Portlandia.
But the important thing is just to keep going; little victories along the way as you make it to each new town make it easier. Especially when the next little town is Tobinabee, with the cutest red library you have ever seen. I hope we have a little cabin here one day; it would rest right on the shore of Mullet Lake (say it with a French accent and it really sounds quite charming).
We also met quite a few other cyclist out on the 4 day Michigander trail ride. My favorite group was “Grandpa’s Gang.” A man at least in his 70’s had no fewer than 6 grandkids on all manors of bike; they were having the time of their lives.
And here is the really important thing after you keep on keeping on through the trail, you really should reward yourself with a soft bed and good food, so we did on Mackinac Island at the Grand Hotel. This is a place to see and experience at least once. It was like being back in the 60’s at a supper club. (There was a lounge singer, though regretfully she did not emerge from a clam shell.) We moseyed around the island, soaked up the charm and spectacular views, ate a five-course meal in the dining room, and danced to the orchestra in the “lounge.” It was so much fun.
Corralling bikes and panniers onto the ferry is a team effort!
In Mackinac the fudge and ice cream flow like wine.
And the salmon live in this beautiful bay…
And the streets are charming, though the ubiquitous horse is not required to wear a diaper…
The hotel’s decoration is over-the-top in wonderful way, and be sure to get on your Sunday best for the evening’s events so as to be in dress code.
Objects are bigger in life than they appear on the screen.
and after a lovely evening and a huge breakfast, you should get back into your lycra and back onto the ferry and back onto your bike because you have miles to go before you sleep at the campground for one more night.
A few other things you should do on a bike tour that were not pictured include:
See old friends and have amazing conversations in Traverse City and eat the flakiest croissant possible in America at Nine Bean Rows,
Eat a pasty,
Buy something to do with Michigan cherries in Traverse City,
Ride the trail around breathtaking Sutton’s Bay,
Stay at a Bed and Breakfast and talk to your housemates at breakfast,
Interview each other about the trip on video- even though your wife will tell you she hates it, you will laugh about them for months afterward,
Visit another great friend on your way home, who graciously offers an air mattress and a beagle to cuddle, and eat at Frita Batido’s in Ann Arbor (yum),
and, perhaps most importantly, when your wife tells you she has nothing to prove and wants to be picked up from the final 15 miles of the trip, you should gallantly race back to the car and drive back to get her. She will be alright; an E.M. Forester novel and a man’s weekend cadre of fly fisherman will keep her company (and protected) in Wolverine. She will love you forever for it.
Bike touring really is one of the most special ways I have ever traveled; we plan and hope to make it a yearly affair. I hear they are building a trail in Maine to be completed soon; Maine Bike Tour 2013!