Julie and I drove to Mackinac City, Michigan today to begin our journey on the Western Shoreline bicycle tour. The tour is seven days of biking up the western shoreline of Lake Michigan. We planned to leave her house at 7 a.m. I recently purchase a Garmin and missed the tiny detail of choosing a different state other than Indiana. I now know for sure there is no Mackinac City, Indiana. After a slight delay we left at 8:30 a.m. All went well with “Jackson” my Garmin name (I chose the Australian man’s voice – the reason for my choice of name comes later). About ½ an hour from Mackinaw City a man drove up beside my car and pointed to my roof. My bike had just fallen over! Agh!! Straightened it out and continued on.
Even with the morning delay we had plenty of time to see Mackinac Island. Our hotel was right across the street from the ferry. We walked around the island and saw the outside of the Grand Hotel, many beautiful houses with beautiful gardens, the most wonderful library I’ve ever seen, and lots of bikes. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the island. I felt like I was in a small European town.
The funniest moment of the day was driving by this hotel sign on the way to our hotel. We drove back after our island adventure to take a picture.
Today was the pre-bus day – board the bus at a local high school and bus to Montague to the start of the ride. We had to remove our pedals and turn our handlebars so they could pack our bikes on two U-Hauls, and then boarded the bus. We sat across from an older gentleman who would turn out to be one of our best buddies during the week. If we had only known… Upon arrival at Montague we got our bags and started putting up our tent. Julie asked, “Where did you put the pedals.” MAJOR brain cramp – in my haste in getting our bags/bikes ready I had tossed our pedals in my trunk and then left them there. Four hours away in Mackinac City. Luckily the ride has a mechanic to help out along the ride and we were able to buy new pedals. I was not happy to start the ride out $80+ in the hole. The ride has a total of 378 riders. The average age is 53.
Woke up to cloudy skies and were told a storm was on the way. It began to rain as we started packing up our tent to move to the next town. Not fun. The storm finally passed and we hopped on our bikes to begin our first day’s ride to Ludington (60 miles). We rode away from the bad weather and didn’t have rain the rest of the day. We did, however, have three flat tires. Well, Julie did. Two front flats and one back flat. She did a great job changing them but did not appreciate the mosquitoes that swarmed around us on the side of the road.
We stopped at Cherry Point Market for fresh cherry turnovers and talked to the older gentleman we’d seen on the bus – John Jackson. He’s 87 and this is his 24th time doing this ride. He wasn’t riding this time though due to some health issues. I asked for a picture with him. He’s super nice, funny and sharp as a tack. Very cute too!
Today’s ride was from Ludington to Frankfort (66 miles). This time I had a flat but it was before we set out to ride so had the mechanic change it and check my rim. We became fast friends with the mechanics (Dave and his wife Sue and son Keith). We rode on M22 and passed by the town of Arcadia. My family spent time at Camp Arcadia, a Lutheran retreat, when I was a kid. We spent a week there for several summers. The camp is right on Lake Michigan. Julie and I detoured into town and walked around the grounds. It was the same, but better. Lots of improvements. I have great memories of that place and would love to go back sometime.
After Arcadia was the dreaded Watermelon Hill. Very short, but steep, hill, so named because the SAG folks had watermelon at a lookout point at the top. We even walked 117 steps to a lookout point overlooking the lake.
I got a scare today after Watermelon Hill. I was riding along and a snake appeared on the side of the road and slithered up next to me. I screamed and then it seemed to lift its head up like it was going to bite my ankle and my scream raised an octave or two. Julie was behind me and had no idea what was going on. I think I scared her as much as the snake scared me!
In Frankfort we walked into town after supper and saw the lighthouse and watched the sun set. We talked for a while to a couple of men on our ride. One of them said that when he first rode by us all he saw was legs. (Julie is 5’11”.)
We rode from Frankfort to Traverse City (65 miles). No flats today!! We stopped at Pt. Betsie Lighthouse and were a little disappointed by the smallness of the lighthouse. We had heard it was a nice thing to see, but when we came upon it Julie’s response was, “Huh.” It was cute, but pretty small. We got a good laugh out of it. We also rode around Crystal Lake. I love riding through the towns and seeing all the lake houses. Very cool.
Today was very hot and around mile 40 I was “cooked”. The rolling hills did us in too. We stayed at a civic center in Traverse City. It’s a very nice town and one of the most popular in Michigan.
My streak of celebrity deaths continues - this time it was former senator Ted Stevens. He died in a plane crash today.
We stayed two nights in Traverse City – our only layover day. Today we could ride to the Old Mission Peninsula or not ride at all. We rode to the peninsula (41 miles). We’d heard we could swim there and brought our suits and a towel. When we arrived, we saw that it was not a place to go swimming. Very rocky and mushy. Not a lot of beach. We walked around the lighthouse (it’s on the 45th parallel and halfway between the North Pole and the Equator).
Back at camp we sat by the tent reading and visiting with other riders, some of which are the following:
Howard and Jody – she was recovering from a ruptured mitral valve.
Robbie – met him on the TRIRI (Touring Ride in Rural Indiana). His computer broke early in the ride so when I saw him on the road I’d yell out the mileage.
George – met him on my first TRIRI and he told me about this ride. This is his 24th consecutive Shoreline tour.
Bob – met him at this year’s Bike Virginia. He began as FSU Bob to me (went to Florida State), morphed into The Weatherman (he knows a lot about weather!) and then to Hawaii Bob (used to live in Hawaii), then Bob Lawblaw (say it out loud!). We found we could remember names better if we associated people with something.
Katie and her dad – from Indy, we met them last year. I think she went to UIndy or just graduated.
Jim and Jack – the truck guys. They’d load and unload the luggage trucks every day.
Bubba – of Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers. After doing 30 some rides he decided people would pay extra to have someone put up their tents for them (and include air mattresses, chairs, clean towels, etc.). Bubba is a retired policeman, a big guy and a big personality. Underneath it all he’s a teddy bear. (This is the best pic I could find right now - he's on the right.)
Angry Steve – a friend of Bubba’s. He did not crack a smile, but was mainly joking.
Cabana Boy Dave (and his friend Stan) – met Dave in Frankfort and he said he would be our cabana boy if we ever bought a house along the lake. Although he was in his early 50s, so maybe Cabana Man fits better. His friend Stan joined the ride in Traverse City. We ate dinner with them one night and Stan did not get our sophomoric humor. My goal for the rest of the week was to make Stan laugh out loud. I did not succeed.
Ann and the twin sisters - they were some of the SAG (support and gear) drivers. (This is just Ann.)
Dave, Sue and Keith (mechanics) - they were lifesavers this week, along with being really good people!
This is just a small list of the many great people we met along the way. I like to say that doing these rides is like going to summer camp. The more times you go, the more people you meet and then the more people you keep seeing again and again.
We packed up again this morning and rode to Charlevoix, one of my favorite towns (60 miles). We rode with Bob today and stopped in Elk Rapids for coffee. He got the German chocolate donut. Here is a comparison of his donut and Julie's regular donut.
Rode by Torch Lake, which is noted for its exceptional beauty – the water is unusually clear and has a bright turquoise hue. Bob, who lived in Hawaii, said the water in Torch Lake was clearer and bluer than the water in Hawaii. Some famous property owners on Torch Lake are Kid Rock, Michael Moore, Eminem and Christine Lahti. Surprisingly, we saw none of these people.
Stopped at sunflower field along the way. They were a little small and droopy but so were we (droopy, due to the heat). We had a great lunch at the Torch Lake Park and got our legs in the water.
I spent some time with Bubba after dinner – ate dessert with him in the Pampered Camping tent. Bubba invited me to go on a motorcycle ride with him. As I was getting ready, Angry Steve said, “Bubba told me he was going to take a 7’ chick out on his motorcycle but I didn’t believe him.” After putting on a helmet, we rode around Charlevoix and he showed me his favorite house – a “mushroom” house designed by Earl Young. I’d never heard of this man before, but he built 40 of these houses in Charlevoix. They are various sizes and very cool. We met Bob and Julie in downtown Charlevoix and walked around a bit. Julie, Bob and I walked through a neighborhood and ended up being invited into one of the mushroom houses (the Abide house). Watched another fabulous sunset.
Today we rode to Harbor Springs (31 miles) on the Little Traverse Wheelway. We have seen some pretty scenery this week, but wish we could have seen more of the lake along the ride. We saw this sign along the wheelway and it seemed to sum up our feelings of the lack of water.
Had lunch in Petoskey, which is named for the state stone of Michigan. We stopped at a farmer’s market and had homemade donuts (I had cherry). Riding into Harbor Springs is one of my favorite parts of the ride. The homes along Lake Michigan are amazing – they have been in the same families for generations and are stately with beautifully manicured lawns/gardens. We found a small public beach area and finally went swimming. It felt great!
The last day of the ride – we rode to Mackinaw City (43 miles). The main route is supposed to go through the Tunnel of Trees, which is along Michigan highway 119. Everyone says it’s a spectacular drive. Last year we rode through it in the rain and I had a flat. We were warned that there is a higher likelihood of flats along this road when it rains. And, honestly, it’s a road with trees. Not super spectacular. We saw trees all week. It rained during the night and a little when we left so we decided to take an alternate route along State Road on our way to Cross Village. It actually turned out to be very scenic countryside and we had NO flats so we were happy with our choice.
After showering at the school, Julie, Bob and I headed out for lunch to get some pasties at the Mackinaw Pastie & Cookie Co. Before you get the wrong idea, these are actually pastries filled with ground beef, potatoes and onion. They originated as a meal for miners in England and later Michigan’s Upper Peninsula wives would make them for their husband’s lunch. The correct pronunciation is “past-ee”.
After lunch we drove to a park near the Mackinaw Bridge. After dropping Bob off we said more goodbyes and headed to our hotel. We then took a ferry for a second trip to Mackinaw Island. We found this t-shirt at a shop and had to buy one for ourselves. We saw them last week but they didn’t have our size so we weren’t able to wear them on the ride.
Drove back to Indy today. Jackson quit working midway through the trip. Luckily I was on I69 so knew where I was going. The bikes stayed upright also, so was a successful trip home.
To explain the Garmin name - I decided on the name Jackson for two reasons. My dad, Jack, is a human map, so originally called it Jack. Then I met John Jackson and since this was the inaugural Garmin trip, morphed the name to Jackson.
Stay tuned for our next biking adventure! If you're one of my Facebook friends, check out more pictures in my Western Shorleine album.