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M.U.P.

About a year ago I started asking around to see if people wanted to go on a bike camping adventure. Once I rounded up the usual suspects (Fiancé, Dad, Brother) and heard from an unexpected addition (Uncle), we settled on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

The first step was to decide if we wanted to register for the League of Michigan Bicyclists’ group ride or venture out on our own. We wanted to have a lot of family bonding time so we opted to strike out on our own…sort of. Fiancé contacted the League and, as luck and Michigander kindness would have it, they sold us their route maps for $10!

After a few questions were answered we were practically on our way!

  • Are there bears? (Yes.)
  • Do they come in the campgrounds? (Not usually.)
  • Are there restaurants? (Yes. Local joints.)
  • Are there grocery stores? (More like convenience stores.)
  • Is there cell phone reception? (Ye,s but you might pick up Canadian towers.)
  • What is the weather going to be like? (Colder than you think.)
  • Is the population really that small? (Yes.)
  • Are people as nice as everyone says? (Yes.)
  • Am I really about to go on a week-long bike ride with four dudes?! (…yes.)

I found campsites, mostly conveniently located…although our first three days would end up being over 70 miles each. After consulting with the group, everything was booked except for DeTour Village State Forest which was first come, first served (that freaked me out more than a little bit since, where the heck would we GO if it was full; there were no other campgrounds anywhere nearby). Straits State Park, our start/end point, allowed us to leave our cars for the entire week FOR NO EXTRA COST. I practically dropped the phone when I heard that news. I mean, helLO! I live in DC; you can’t park for 15 minutes here for less than $20.

Now if I could just convince Dad to lighten his packs so he’d roll without an additional 50 pounds, we would be set.

Our journey began. Fiancé and I took a relaxing road trip there and I’m going to be honest with you, I think the Andy Warhol Museum is overrated. Also, while Detroit’s food scene was on point, I had no clue it would shut down completely for the July 4th holiday. After our final pit stop to check out the world’s largest Christmas store, we headed to Straits to meet up with the others.

We biked. And camped. And biked some more. We ate pizza and fudge and ice cream since we’d be “burning it off tomorrow” (I gained weight this trip so…so much for that). We took the ferry to the carless Mackinac Island and were promptly overwhelmed with the sheer number of people on bikes. We toured the island at a snail’s pace, ate some fudge, and took a nap on the next ferry out. Relaxing is exhausting! We realized how heavy our bags were and started dumping things in the car before heading out, even Dad! It rained. It was sunny. It was hot. It was cold. We were hungry; we were too full. We biked on.

I must say, it was pretty amazing to only see one Starbucks and two fast food restaurants

(if anyone asks, I did not confirm or deny that we each ordered our own pizzas at Pizza Hut). And the people, the people were so sweet. During a lightning storm a couple welcomed us into their home and chatted us up for the better part of two hours.   One night a neighboring camper saw us roll in on our bikes and, not only did he bring over some wood for a fire, but he built it too. (He topped it with Doritos which are apparently super flammable although he told us Fritos are actually the best…or would that be the worst? I don’t know. Most flammable.)

And the nature. Stunning. Hello Lake Michigan, my old friend from my days living in Chicago, delightful to see your other coast. Lake Huron you say? Nice to meet you and your calm waters. And then Lake Superior…while a bit frigid I couldn’t resist stopping in, even if just to pay my respects to the late, great Edmund Fitzgerald. We saw two lighthouses and the beautiful tannin-dyed waters of the Upper and Lower Tahquamenon Falls (don’t worry, I still don’t know how to say it).

Just like that, it was over. Adios delicious breakfast places with the nicest staff on the planet. Sayonara perfect sleeping temperature for camping (40s-50s at night in JULY!? Amazing). Adieu highway shoulders littered with wildflowers instead of garbage. Au revoir ease of access to fudge. Goodbye scenery straight out of a Bob Ross painting (but for real though, look at the side by side) —>

Because biking is an adventure, an escape, a way to bring people together, a way to take some time for yourself, a vacation, that’s why I love riding my bike.

For the Love of Biking

I love riding my bicycle. I think that much is obvious. So when a ride is advertised as “celebrating life on two wheels,” You can probably assume I’m interested.

In 2016 I was. For sure. I was meeting my fiance’s friends for the first time. I was looking forward to having a ride without cars since DC traffic is inSANE. It was the inaugural event. Besides the super-early Sunday start time and a somewhat expensive but still doable entry fee, what was not to love?

2017’s bike ride was a different story. I see those same friends on the regular now with intramural softball, dodgeball, and bocce. While I’ll always feel slightly endangered on some of the streets here, I bike on the regular. The entry fee, while still doable has increased and just seems too pricey for a measly 20 mile bike ride. Granted I’m all for supporting local bike organizations and giving back to that cycling community but this was just out of proportion. And even though the ride organizers had assured everyone they had solved the bottlenecks that plagued last year’s course, I just wasn’t into it.

Then, that fiancé found out if we volunteered for two shifts at packet pick up the day before. Doing 8+ hours of handing out packets didn’t seem worth it to me. I thought sleeping in and riding the trails sounded better but I didn’t want to burst his bubble so of we went…all day.

Packet pickup was definitely improved but the overall day did not. In 2016 it was a party: artwork on display, music blaring, free key chains at REI, snacks. This year it felt dull (then again, last year I wasn’t there quite so long).

After earning our free ride, we woke up early on Sunday. Don’t get me wrong, it is always nice to get out on my bike, even when it’s not, but I was not feeling it. We had a decent bike ride; however, the snacks were sparse, the route still had pointless (and dangerous) bottlenecks just so we could cross a bridge and come back the same way. That was very frustrating. What was also frustrating is how other riders didn’t move to get out of the way until an ambulance was directly behind them. Come on people.

We skedaddled out of the after-party, not wanting to spend money on food and already loaded down with all the free bike lights we could carry. I will say getting to try out my new cycling accessory was terrific: da brim. Yes I’m aware they seem a little dopey but it is perfect for sun and does alright in the rain.

Because biking is free, that’s why I love riding my bike.