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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.

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Here’s to You, Vacation Home Owners

When someone asks if I want to drive two hours to go on a 30 mile bike ride, obviously I say YES! (In reality I said something like, “Why would I want to drive for a total of four hours to bike for approximately two?” but I ended up saying “YES!”…only it probably came out more like, “…sure.”)

After a quick pit stop for a pizza power-up, we were on our way.

The ferry was about to pull away as my friend whipped the Honda into the last available parking space, and by available I mean the car fit after I moved a rouge bicycle out of the way. I quickly shed my sneakers for clip-ins, snagged my helmet as I shut the car door (very Indiana Jones if you ask me), and skedaddled over to the ferry. We made it.

Moments later andimg_1180 hellllllooooo Shelter Island. I clipped in my right foot and away I went up the first little hill. I still can’t clip in with both feet on the Blackfin; despite being on the loosest setting, those new clips are just too tight. When I make the mistake of clipping both feet, my mind screams, “BROKEN CLAVICLE!!!!!!!!!!!!” No thank you Blackfin. No thank you. Gosh, that would be such a nightmare. I miss my old clips.

We headed to the easternmost point which was, of course, beautiful. Since it was late fall there weren’t many cars on the island. That plus the fact that people who own vacation homes don’t have pothole filled streets which meeeeeeans NO DOWNHILL BRAKING NECESSARY! This is huge. HUGE. I am a country girl who lives in the city which means no matter where I am, there are Grand Canyon level potholes, cracked concrete wide enough to grab my tire (= me over the handlebars and on the street), and the like. Not having to brake  is such a treat. 35mph here I come!

img_1178After using the map and making a couple of wrong turns, we realized there are no wrong turns. We’re on a tiny island. We stuffed the map into a jersey pocket and away we went. Good afternoon French ice cream shop, how do you do?! Yes, I will sit your deck overlooking the water while I eat salted caramel and dark chocolate scoops. Don’t mind if I do. (Do I secretly bike so I can eat tons of ice cream? Maybe.)

We pedaled onward and upward. We never did find the church that allegedly exists at the highest point but I (for once) am loathe to complain about going uphill because of those sweet downhills. Thank you seasonal islanders for your beautiful, pothole-free roads.

Because of that carefree downhill, that’s why I love riding my bike.