Michigan’s Shoreline West Tour July 26 – August 3, 2003
It had been six years since I first rode Shoreline West, but I still had fond memories from the ride. And I was anticipating this year would be even better with cycling friends from Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, Tennessee, Georgia, Wisconsin and Michigan agreeing to join me there. Experience has taught that bike tours are more fun when ridden with friends. Julie and I met Friday afternoon at Indiana Dunes SP and Myrle joined up with us on Saturday morning. The three of us had a nice 25-mile ride and picnic lunch at the beach before driving on to Michigan and meeting the rest of the gang.
The tour began in Spring Lake, near Grand Rapids, and proceeded north along the Lake Michigan shoreline. Each day’s route would take us through beautiful small towns with colorful flowers and along the waterfront and harbors with their pretty sailboats. Each town provided us with ample opportunities for snacks, lunch or an afternoon ice cream. Several days, as the route would follow along the shoreline of Lake Michigan, we would face the temptation to stop peddling, park our bikes and go for a cool swim or take a stroll along the beach in the soft white sand.
Nightly campsites were usually located within walking distance to town where we could hangout with old friends and meet new ones. We saw spectacular sunsets over the lake and ate some of the best ice cream available anywhere. Breakfasts and dinners on this tour, included as part of the registration fee, were very good and a couple of times outstanding, like the night we had large steaks cooked on outdoor grills. The layover day in Traverse City was great and provided us with several options.
Some of the highlights of the tour were Cherry Point Market, Mac Woods Dune Rides, Sleeping Bear Dunes NP, the Pie Factory, Charlevoix, the Tunnel of Trees and Mackinac Island. In summary, this is a great tour with lots to see and do and should be a “must do” on anyone’s list.
One of the things that continue to fascinate me about cross-state bike rides is the variety of people that do them. There are 7 year olds and 70 year olds. There are very small people and very large people. Some are very fast and some are very slow. There are singles, couples, families and teams or groups. And they bring all kinds of bikes. There are road bikes, mountain bikes with knobbies, hybrids, recumbents, tandems and three seaters pulling a tag-a-long. But they all have one thing in common. They have a lot of fun!
In June, 1999, I was privileged to ride in my third BRAG (Bicycle Ride Across Georgia). We began in LaGrange, which is about 20 miles from Alabama, and rode across the state to Savannah, a total of 435 miles. We began on Sunday morning and finished on Saturday afternoon. The weather was unbelievable for this time of year with overcast skies keeping the temps mostly in the 70’s while we were riding. We had overnight stops in Columbus, Thomaston, Perry, Dublin, Metter, and Statesboro. BRAG is a family oriented tour, not a race. It is recreational, social and in some ways, educational. We traveled at our own pace along a set route and at the end of each day, tent camped at a local college or high school. There was even some indoor camping in the gym if you wanted to sleep with about two hundred other people! Everyone was responsible for his or her own meals but most choose to eat breakfast and supper in the school cafeteria. And I found the food to be really good. Sometimes the lines are very long but this gives people time to talk to each other and make new friends. During the afternoon and evening there were various activities and entertainment. And some of the towns we visited went all out to see that we had a good time. In Thomaston they closed the streets around the Courthouse Square for a party and dance featuring The Platters. At Fort Valley State University there was a large tent set up with numerous food vendors, entertainment and an invitation to swim at the pool. West Laurens HS in Dublin was a great stop and the football coach there was from Lenoir City, TN, my home town! In Metter, there was another street dance with CC and Company. The ride ended by going around Savannah’s historic Madison and Monterey Squares and through historic neighborhoods with large trees full of Spanish moss draping across the streets. Our final destination was Daffin Park where we ate a great BBQ lunch and had all the free beer we wanted (and were willing to stand in a long line for).
One of the things I’ve noticed about these kinds of rides is that by mid-week you have lost track of time and don’t even know what day it is…and really don’t care. You just ride your bike, meet lots of people, eat lots of food and have lots of fun. Lord willing, I hope to do these kind of tours for years to come!