Open Road Press

Escaping the Heat

Part I of a six-part series on the Bishops’ bicycle tour on the shores of Lake Michigan

There’s no better time than summer to tour by bicycle. However, when July rolls around in Middle Tennessee, the heat and humidity can be brutal. So, Debbie and I decided to venture north to explore Lake Michigan and its surroundings. We bought Adventure Cycling Association’s North Lakes map set, threw our gear in the car, and headed toward the Arctic Circle.

Touring the Eastern Shore of Lake Michigan

IMG_3213We landed in the southwest corner of Michigan to begin our bicycle trek. Our bicycling maps—and our legs—took us north on flat terrain along the lake. The nooks and crannies of the jagged shoreline elongated our trek toward the Upper Peninsula, yet allowed us better visuals and riding conditions than we would have found on the straighter but busier roads to the east.

Michiganders seemed to be an active bunch, although their speed of travel belied their sincere warmth, expressions of concern, and unsolicited explanations of what lay ahead. Bicycles filled many a paved path. People were on the go. The energy was contagious.

We cycled through a Fourth of July celebration in South Haven. Cars jammed the downtown area, where a craft fair and the shoreline attracted the overflow crowd. Later, we would pass through Grand Haven. True to its name, the distinctive downtown suggested this was a must stop for tourists in need of casual shopping, a fine meal, or other entertainment.

Muskegon is an industrial city along the shore of Lake Michigan. A bicycle path followed the boundaries of a large inlet, allowing us swift and safe passage through the city and clear view of the water. After touching down at the beach on the outskirts of Manistee, the topography began to change. We climbed to a farsighted overlook of the Lake just north of Arcadia, with splendid views of the Lake and the region, such you can see in the accompanying photo.

Agricultural Ambiance

Abundant cherry orchards in the region brought smiles to our faces. In Traverse City, we cycled through the heart of the National Cherry Festival, with a carnival on one side of us and vendor tents on the other. The area’s population and activities were bursting beyond capacity as droves of tourists reveled in the cherry jubilee.

DSCN3958 DSCN3961Blueberries were a staple along the Michigan coast as well, with an occasional pear or apple orchard sprouting up to add some variety. The fruit extravaganza reminded us of our honeymoon tour six years earlier, when impressive orchards accompanied our lakeside rides in Ohio and New York.

The word wholesome best describes Country Dairy, a highlight stop along the bicycle path between Whitehall and Hart and home of the bottomless glass of milk. We opted out of the tour in the interest of milking more miles. Foregoing interesting activities to make progress is a common dilemma on a bicycle tour.

Farther North

DSCN4059A lakefront bicycle path farther north provided spectacular views and smooth cycling from Charlevoix to Petroskey and beyond. We’d hit the summer playground for those otherwise locked in nearby cities like Detroit and Chicago. Charlevoix was hosting a huge art show in its quaint downtown. While clogged traffic stood still, we squeezed past mirrors and door handles, crossed the steel bridge over a Lake Michigan inlet, and headed for Mackinaw City at the tip of Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.

IMG_3262With temperatures in the 70s and air from the cool lake waters dancing about on an exquisitely beautiful summer day, the muggy southern air had become a distant memory. We had indeed escaped the heat.

After a lakeside ride through the “tunnel of trees” and an unforgettable sunset over the water, we arrived in Mackinaw City, Michigan. We’ll take a rest break now as we did then, and resume our tour in the next post.

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