This July, my father-in-law turned 65. A month later we decided to commemorate this milestone by biking 65(ish) miles along the coast of Lake Michigan, from Charlevoix to Mackinaw. This post hereby documents our epic journey.
Four brave souls – My husband Mark, his sister Andrea, the birthday boy, and myself – left at 8:00AM from our vacation rental in downtown Charlevoix.
We headed North on the lovely Little Traverse Wheelway that winds along Lake Michigan. After about 15 miles we took a sharp left and soared down the steep hill into Bay Harbor at brake neck speed and screeched to a stop (literally screeched, dad needs to clean his brakes) at the local coffee shop (http://www.villageatbayharbor.com/business/espressocafe) where we satisfied our caffeine addictions and fueled up with their awesome baked goods and breakfast sandwiches.
After the mandatory, ceremonious dock walk, we commenced the steep climb out of Bay Harbor, back to the Little Traverse Wheelway. The next stretch of the journey, between Bay Harbor and Petoskey, are the most beautiful 4 miles of bike path I’ve ever traveled. So beautiful that Mark’s flat tire seemed like a welcomed event because it gave us the chance to stop and enjoy the scenery.
We actually had to run to get new tires for Mark’s bike because the sidewalls blew out, so luckily there was a nice bike store within 3 miles of where his tire went flat (http://latitude45.com/). 2 tubes, 2 tires, 2 CO2 cartridges and a new pump later, we were moving again, clipping along at a sustainable 16.5mph. A few miles north of Petoskey is where the Little Traverse Wheelway gets a little dicey as it hugs the curb of M119. Luckily our friend at The Outfitter in Harbor Springs had let us in on a secret and we could bypass the highway and stick to the coast line by turning on Beach Rd just north of Petoskey State Park. This road took us down to the coast and past the beautiful Wequetonsing Association into Harbor Springs where we stopped at the Wooly Bugger (http://wbcoffee.com/) for more coffee and baked goods (gotta stay nurished!).
Finally we began my favorite part of the bike route, the Tunnel of Trees on M119. “The Tunnel of Trees” is the name given to the very scenic 20 mile stretch of M119 between Harbor Springs and the small town of Cross Village. It is a one lane, 2-way road that winds through the trees on top of the bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.
The Tunnel of Trees took us through the town of Good Hart where we stopped for even MORE coffee and baked goods. We were hoping for crepes from our favorite crepe man (), but his hours had changed for the season so we missed him.
Our final stop on the Tunnel of Trees was the small town of Cross Village, home to Legs Inn, a famous Polish restaurant. We grabbed a drink from the bar and took a few minutes to check out the view before taking off on the final leg of our journey.
At this point we had gone about 50 miles and were a little bit behind schedule so we decided to get into a paceline and push hard for the finish. When we hit our 65 mile target, we were in the middle of nowhere, somewhere south of Wilderness State Park. We of course had to stop for a photo of the man of the hour, but then quickly moved on.
At approximately mile 70 I started feeling weak so I pounded an entire package of shot blocks. 8 miles later (78 miles total) we made it to the finish line, The Shepler Ferry dock in Mackinaw City and reveled in the glory of our accomplishment.
A change of clothes, a ferry ride, and a short, stiff-legged walk later, we were on the porch of the Grand Hotel drinking our celebratory drinks and toasting to my father-in-law’s 65 years with many more to come.
This was an amazing trip which I’m sure we will be reliving every summer for years to come. If you have the opportunity to do all or part of this route, take it! You will be glad you did.