Day 47: The day of the cyclists’ Disneyland

Day 47, 7/30, St. Ignace, MI to Mackinac Island, MI to Petoskey State Park, MI: 63.3 miles, 2,000 ft elevation gain, 12.4 mph average speed.
Trip totals: 2,838.9 miles (71 mile daily average), 117,931 ft elevation gain, 12.5 mph overall average speed.

Two days behind schedule.

Fair warning: there are a lot of pictures in this post. We thought about trying to cull some out, but we decided a day like this deserves a lot of pictures. So, they’re there. Anyway….

The second best part of waking up this morning was that there were surprisingly few mosquitos around to bother us. The third best part was that we were only going a mile to get on a ferry, not trying to make it 30 miles before breakfast.

The best part? Well for me, the best part was packing up camp and hearing Dani singing a song and making sound effects in the tent as she was packing her sleeping pad. Turns out her dream last night involved an incredibly detailed, original Caribbean-style song, and it was stuck in her head. Things like this are my favorite part of marriage. We sang her song all morning.

We left camp and rode for 10 minutes to the ferry dock. After a quick snack of PB&Banana we boarded the ferry and enjoyed the sunny, half-hour ride to Disneyland Mackinac Island.

  

The old-school bike tourist we meet last night described the island as a “bike Disneyland,” and we can’t think of a more apt description. We got off the boat and the main little town area was just full of bikes passing both directions, some people sightseeing, some people towing boxes of supplies to local businesses. It was a glimpse into how much fun the world could be if everyone only rode bikes (and everything was really clean), and it just kept getting better.

  

  

Our first stop on the island was JL Beanery, a cute little coffee shop we found on Yelp that’s right on the harbor. We sat in wicker rocking chairs and drank coffee, ate stellar breakfast sandwiches, and looked out at the gorgeous view. We could also hear the water splashing up against the dock as we sat. So peaceful! It was an amazing place to spend an hour or so.

 

We did have to deal with a lady who got all huffy when Dani decided to sit down in a wicker chair that happened to be next to her. Apparently some people around here struggle with how a cutesy coffee shop doesn’t allow for the massive amount of personal space they expect in their lives. Or maybe she just doesn’t like other people. Who knows? In any case, she left and we stayed, so it worked out for us!

It was so cozy that we left with somewhat heavy hearts, even though we knew that the rest of the island was going to be amazing as well. And boy oh boy…

Cycling paradise! Especially early in the morning when there weren’t as many other people on the road. It was still great when it got more crowded, but not everyone that was riding was, well, absolutely competent on a bike. Lots of unexpected swerving and stopping.

Anyway, the ride was spectacular. The island sits right between Lakes Michigan and Huron, and the road hugs the coast for the eight-mile circumference. Gorgeous water, gorgeous views, gorgeous lack of cars. The first stop on our ride was a 207-stair climb to Arch Rock, an arch created when wave action and high lake levels disintegrated soft rock in the center of some harder rock. Then we pedaled around to the north side of the island, enjoying the views of Lake Huron. The water was unbelievably blue. It was hard to believe we were on a lake and not in the Bahamas.

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A little over halfway around, we turned and rode up into the interior of the island. There were a couple of battles fought here during the War of 1812, and there is significant Native American history here as well. And there’s also a golf course, because what’s an amazing natural and historical gem without one of those.

We also got to see some of the houses inhabited by the handful of lucky folks who get to live in this magical place.

When we finished the loop, we went back to JL Beanery for smoothies and cookies, and then headed into town to walk along the main street. Each and every building was stately and beautiful, but this place sure gets crowded. I’m happy we caught the first ferry over so we could see things when it was a little more quiet.

We’ve been seeing signs for Mackinac Island fudge for the past few days, so we wanted to make sure we tried some. A pound and a half seemed like a good amount: rocky road, peanut butter and chocolate almond. Then it was 1:00p, and it was time for us to get back on the ferry and ride over to Mackinaw City. Goodbye Disneyland.

We disembarked on the mitt of Michigan. Mackinac Island was amazing, but I have to say that on the whole, we were a little disappointed by the UP. I’ve heard so much about it that it had taken on almost mythic properties in my mind, so I guess it was inevitable that I was let down. Also, we didn’t really have the time to really explore anything off route, and I don’t think anyone would recommend driving down Rt. 2 as the best way to see the UP. I think if we had time to explore up around Lake Superior, we would have enjoyed the experience much more.

Anyway, we got on our bikes in lower Michigan and started to ride. But I want to explain something before I go further. A few weeks ago when I was talking to my parents, my dad said something to the effect of, “you guys sound like you’re having a lot of fun, at least when you’re not on your bikes.”

That’s really not the impression that I want to give. We really are enjoying most of this tour, on the bikes and off. That being said, I still want to complain a bit. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow we have ridden/will ride with some of the strongest, most consistent west southwest winds of the trip. The only problem with that is that these are the three days we’re riding south and southwest. It’s driving me bonkers. We’re trying to pull big mileage days to make up time, and we’re fighting the winds that we would hope and wish and pray for on 47 of the 55 riding days on our trip. Just not these three days. If the wind changes when we turn east on Saturday, I might sabotage my bike in some dramatic way so we have to rent a car. I’m kidding, or at least mostly kidding.

Oh shoot. I’m not done complaining yet. I know Dani mentioned that the roads were bad here, but they are really really bad. Today we were often forced to ride along the center line of county roads because that was the only part of the road that wasn’t reminiscent of the surface of the moon. And we were often on roads that were obviously half, or a third, repaired. I guess part of the road got so bad that Michigan was forced to do something, so they put a few miles of new pavement down, but just on a narrow strip of the road. The rest of the road was still a disaster.

So 48 miles with a 15-18 mph head or crosswind on terrible roads (to be fair, there was an 11-mile stretch on a good road with a reasonable shoulder) doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, and it wasn’t. But we still managed to enjoy the scenery. There were fields upon fields of little pink wildflowers interspersed with blades of grain, and times when we road through beautiful old forests.

  

After about four and a half hours, we made it to Harbor Springs, MI, where we bought groceries for dinner and then road through town and alongside the marina. This was one of most universally pretentious and pompous places we’ve ever seen. Big mansions on the water. Yachts upon yachts. People looking at us with surprise, disgust, fear, or some combination of the three.

It did have a nice road though. That strip down the marina was probably the smoothest road we’ve ridden on in the state.

A few miles past the marina is the Petoskey State Park. We pulled in, signed up for a campsite (a very expensive campsite; maybe the same people who decide how to fund infrastructure also decide how much to subsidize state parks), and rushed to the beach to dive into Lake Michigan and watch the sunset.

After the sunset we headed back up to the campsite and ate dinner. Dani has been very complimentary of me in her recent blog posts, talking about how I get up and get things packed while she sleeps. She makes me sound so good, and I hate to contradict someone who is complimenting me, but she isn’t telling the whole story.

I like camping. I really enjoy cooking. I also don’t mind cleaning up after dinner. But I detest cooking and cleaning while camping. I just can’t stand it. So we have a system. Dani is in charge of the evening, doing the lion’s share of setting up camp and cooking and cleaning, and I am in charge of the morning, when she wants to sleep a little more than me. Everybody wins. Yay teamwork!

Anyway, tonight she made shells and cheese with green beans, tuna, cream of mushroom soup, and salsa. It was divine. While she cooked, I cleaned the bikes and built a small fire. It was nice to eat fireside. It was the first fire we’ve built on this trip.

After dinner we waited in line to shower, and then headed back to the tent and went to bed!

Tomorrow we have a long day planned, probably fighting winds that I want for every single day AFTER tomorrow. We’ll see how that works!

2 thoughts on “Day 47: The day of the cyclists’ Disneyland

  1. It’s sad to hear US 2 has fallen from what I remember, I think the 2008 recession hit the UP pretty hard. Though, as you pointed out, US 2 has never been the road to drive/ride to see the UP – it’s the way to get through the UP. It’s the UP’s version of an interstate.

    Anyway, I hope you two got far enough east or were in a hotel for the storms that rolled through last night. They looked pretty nasty and most folks I know in MI lost power.

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    • Yeah, I think that if you’re going to do the UP by bike, you need at least a few weeks there to do it right. Oh well, next time.

      And yeah, that storm was intense! We were 5 minutes away from our campground in Bay City when we looked at the radar and saw all that red. We turned around and found a motel. Excellent decision.

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