Open Road Press

Upper Peninsula by Bicycle

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

After eight straight days of riding, Mackinaw City became the site for our first rest day. It was Sunday, and we enjoyed connecting at a local Bible church. Old hymns with rich words summoned our spiritual roots. The setting—its music, its words, and its spirit—whisked us refreshingly back in time. Separating from our routine revitalized us. Recalling the past makes it easier to see and embrace where you are in life and who you’ve become. Our muscles weren’t the only thing being restored on that rest day.

Mackinac Island

The next day, we boarded a ferry to Mackinac Island. (We were told that no matter how you spell the word, it is still pronounced mack-in-naw.) We’d seen tourism trappings in the city, but the island would supersize the allure. Souvenir sweatshirts, fudge, horse buggies, and exorbitantly priced hotels competed for our attention upon debarking.

DSCN4118More impressive than the island was the bridge we’d avoided to get there. Opened in 1957 as then the world’s longest suspension bridge, the Mackinac Bridge carries I-75’s traffic five miles across the Straits of Mackinac, the body of water that connects Lake Michigan to Lake Huron. Bicycles are not allowed on the bridge. We passed up the $5 taxi in favor of the more expensive ferry ride. The ride over choppy waters offered unique views of the bridge, the island, and their surroundings.

IMG_3275After cruising eight miles around the island on its paved perimeter pathway, we were ready to move on. Despite the overabundance of bicycles navigating their motor-free surroundings on Mackinac Island, we looked and felt out of place with our over-sided loads. We boarded another ferry for the ride to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Once on the boat, we had escaped not only the Southern heat and humidity of weeks past but also northern tourism run amuck! We were glad we’d been to the island, but not anxious to return anytime soon. Based on the size of the crowd and the frequency of ferry runs back and forth to either peninsula, however, others will certainly disagree with our opinion of the island experience.

The Upper Peninsula

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula gave us a completely different feel from “island life.” The city of St. Ignace welcomed us at the ferry terminal. Like its sister city across the Straits, the label city was either an hyperbole or a misnomer. Nevertheless, St. Ignace would be the last major outpost for a couple of days.

DSCN4161Suddenly, juxtaposition screamed out. Wild backcountry where bear and wolves roamed freely contrasted sharply with the small parcel of land we’d just left in Lake Huron—the one overfilled with tourists dumping their vacation savings. What’s more, eye-popping views of beautiful Lake Michigan dazzled us while its brisk crosswinds challenged our progress. Abandoned businesses dotting the roadside hadn’t survived despite the onslaught of vehicles that sped by them. The robust traffic was simply trying to make time. Motorists were bound for places beyond the borders of the land they had to cross to get to them.

Our haven, ironically, was that busy road, US Route 2, with its generous and forgiving shoulder and smooth pavement. Surely no wildlife would venture near this traffic. If we broke down, one of its many pickup trucks could shuttle us to a bicycle shop down the road. Like our fellow travelers, we focused on making time, reaching another place where services make life more comfortable.

DSCN4166On one particular stretch, my energetic wife burned up twenty miles into a crosswind with little trouble. That’s my Debbie: 120 pounds of power and unbridled enthusiasm wrapped in her soft, attractive, and unmistakably ladylike exterior. I struggled to keep up—and I loved it! Debbie has cycled more miles than most women can fathom, even those half her age. When TheHopeLine Tour ended so unceremoniously two years earlier, I could not have been more proud of her effort and determination. On this day in the Upper Peninsula, I remembered yet again that I have married a woman whose impressive physical feats belie her feminine beauty.

We’ll leave the Upper Peninsula and the state of Michigan in the next post.

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