This is a shameless attempt to save the the most advanced civilization in
history from imminent self destruction by eliminating carbon emission,
dependence on foreign sources of fuel,obesity, hypertension and diabetes.
Cycling accomplishes all those things at once and helps us develop a better
understanding of ourselves, each other and our relationship to the cosmos.

Oh, horse puckey!
I like to ride bikes, have been doing it all my life.
The rest of that crap is just a fringe benefit,
and the blogosphere gives me a chance to share my interior
monologue with virtual rather than imaginary friends.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Exotic Places

    I let my neighbor leach from my internet because he travels constantly.  He is a spice broker (I think there might be 5 or 6 in the world) and spends a lot of time in places like Sri Lanka and Turkey buying spices for processing here.  We were talking about travel and how mundane places like Kuala Lampur can be once you visit them.  It's true a hotel is a hotel is a hotel, but every place is exotic and charming the first time you go there.  If you haven't seen something before, it can be exciting even if it is right out the back door.
   Kalkaska is not quite like that.   My stay at the Monarch Hotel, a family owned hotel, was very pleasant.  It is plain, simple, the furniture is a little worn, but the it's clean, well cared for and the people are a lot more accommodating and friendly than the bitch at the national chain across the street.  It was a welcome relief to sit out on the porch with the owner and sip on a gin and tonic after cooling off and changing.  There aren't many places these days where that happens.  A small town full of mom and pop businesses is hard to find in America.   Even better was the Whitetail Tavern which is just 1/2 block away.  It has a recently remodeled dining room and bar with a HUGE (900 gallon) fresh water fish tank I found more interesting than the big screen TV.  When I asked the bartender about the menu, I stopped her when she said they grind fresh sirloin for their burgers every day.  It was a great choice.  A cold beer and freshly ground burger (actually cooked to my order!) was just what I needed to feel alive after the grueling day in the heat.  I wouldn't have had a problem sleeping no matter what, but that made it easier.
    Kalkaska is near the south shore of Torch Lake, a very long inland lake just off the Grand Traverse Bay.
I decided to make a little "recovery" ride out of Tuesday, and just toodle my way along the shore to Lake Michigan.  I noticed a little blip on the map at the north end which is supposed to be a campground, if it was nice, I would relax there rather than going on to Charlevoix.  The ride from Kalkaska around Torch lake promised to be around 35 miles (according to Google), the wind was not blowing, the temps had dropped more than 10 degrees, there was little humidity and I thought it would be a very relaxing ride.
I was going down, into the valley of the lake and  to say it was relaxing was an understatement.  There were charming, natural reserves hidden along the route like the Seven Bridges nature center.
It's a pathway with 7 bridges to help wind it's way through
 the  streams converging with the Rapid River at that point.
Yes everything is exotic if you haven't seen it , and this was a natural garden worth seeing.
I found it quite by accident and if I had been driving, I would never have been there.
The road continued down to the lake until Google maps instructed me to take a right before reaching Rapid City.  I looked at the map suspiciously and followed it's advice for about half a mile.  I found myself faced with a winding road leading straight up a ridge and that made no sense to me.
I had had enough of that yesterday and took my chances going down to Rapid City.
It was the right choice.  Torch Lake Drive winds along the shoreline through the forested area dotted with quaint little "cottages" (500k-1.5m in estimated value).  It was a great ride through the little village of Alden, with great views of the expansive lake.  There was evidence of cycling, not only did I see a few fellow tourists on the road, there were multicolored arrows painted in various places along the pavement.  It's a good indication of a bike friendly environment.  I found that The Cherry Capital Cycling Club sponsors a ride there each year.  It's something to put on my schedule for next summer.
I had reached the end of the lake my mid afternoon, even though I had taken my time.  It was easy enough to find Barnes County Park, when I reached US 31, there was big sign pointing across the road to the park.  
The park is not only a good campground it is unusually nice.  Most campsites are separated from each other by trees, there are several "walk in" sites which are perfect for cyclists to escape the land of gigantic RV's.
The  lake shore beach is within walking distance and, although alcohol is permitted, the park maintains a quiet family oriented atmosphere.  It was not Riverview.  
After cooking a dinner of chicken supplemented by some salads and veggies from a local deli,

I took a little ride through the woods to the dunes where I could be lazy and enjoy the view.
A wooly mammoth in da' sunset eh?


  1. Sounds perfect. Just my kind of tour. Now I'm feeling the itch.

  2. Yeah, it was testy enough to be challenging and had enough surprises and variety to stay interesting.


  3. Thanks Marc! Sounds like a great place to spend a few days enjoying northern Michigan's beauty. I've only driven through the area before, and even driving, it feels exotic. I can only imagine how biking there would multiply the feeling by 10 or more.

  4. Cycling certainly connects you to the surroundings better than any other form of travel. It's a nice area to lose yourself for a day or two.