I decided to go on a ride last week. My son had the pleasure of dropping his parent off in the middle of nowhere with nothing but survival gear. His pleasure was abated by the fact that I knew what I was doing and how to get back. But the house was his for a few days.
After my abandonment at Benzonia, Mi, he returned to a few days of unsupervised bliss while I made my way to USBR 35. That's the Bike Route #35 on the map of the bicycle superhighway system. I had ridden most of it at different times but there was a segment between Traverse City and Holland I had never seen, so I went there.
Going south from Elberta, the Bike Route winds it's way along the coast using the infamous M 22 highway. It's a famous scenic route along the lakeshore of Lake Michigan.
It is a well chosen route which has large paved shoulders and most of the traffic maintains a moderate and watchful pace. Not that they are worried about cyclists or not killing anybody, most are just busy gawking at the forests, hoping to see a bear and
anticipating another scenic overlook where they can take a prolonged look at a beautiful lake shore.
Making my way down the coast, I managed just around 50 miles to the Orchard Beach State park on the first day. The terrain is hilly, bordering on mountainous, but becomes less so as you go south of the Leelenau Peninsula. The wind was right in my face going south (I expected that) testing my patience.
I was reminded how cycle touring is different from club and charity rides. It's a lot of fun on a club or charity ride to pretend race with spandex hamsters across a defined and repetitive route. Out here, on a bike loaded with camping gear and clothing, there is a destination which needs to be attained each day. That's it. There is no incentive to "leave it all on the pavement" striving for a KOM on Strava or beating your buddy on his new Cervelo. Just whatever it takes to get there with enough energy left to enjoy where you are. Against the wind on hilly terrain, it's best to gear down to whatever cadence is comfortable and stop as often as you please. You don't want to get there too early with time on your hands, or too late, but you want to do it again tomorrow.
A nice thing about the coast of Michigan is the proliferation of campgrounds. This is not a trail with rustic sites like the CO or IM trails. I suffered the luxury of a swim at the beach and shower on a daily basis as well as electricity to recharge my phone and the company of curious campers who had never seen anybody go anywhere without a car or 90' mobile whatever.
I got frustrated and took my private jet to Dubai for a little breather.
Really, that's what it looks like when you look across Silver Lake at the dunes. The dunes here are something of an environmental catastrophe well used. At least that's what I am told. The little scrubs you see poking their noses out of the dunes are supposed to be the tops of old pine trees that were not cut when the forest was clear cut. I was told that the pine forest here (and a couple other places along the shore) was harvested to provide lumber after the great Chicago fire way back when. The absence of trees accelerated the growth of the dunes and they have become a major recreational area for dune buggy racers and tourists. I've never bothered to look for documentation on the story. It might just be another suburban myth, but it makes sense.
The Lakeshore trail at this point parallels the highway cutting along the shore in well developed residential areas. As you might expect, the trail is a glorified sidewalk with frequent drives to negotiate, but I was getting nowhere fast against the wind and being separated from the high traffic volume was a relief. This area between Grand Haven and Holland is residential and there is a lot of business and commuter traffic on the Lakeshore Rd. If you expect any scenic view of the lake, you won't find it here. This is expensive real estate. The lake shore views have been jealously protected by some very large homes and landscaping to maintain the privacy of the view purchased. Really, how much do you want to pay to look at a hunk of water every day?
I cut across the farm land of northern Allegan County. Zig-zaging my way through the excellent county roads gave me a welcome relief from wind and would make my Thursday ride much shorter. I saw Silver Creek County Park on the map near Hamilton and wanted to reach it for the night I couldn't find it. I finally ran out of energy and decided to backtrack a couple of miles and make do with the back yard of an abandoned church or schoolhouse.
I wasn't more than 40 miles from home, so I took my time. Riding easy with a mild wind quartering behind me, I meandered through a few county roads into Allegan and took M-40 a few miles until I could cut over to catch the Kal-Haven trail outside of town. Thursday was like an easy recovery ride after the stress on Wednesday. I had no mechanical issues all week and except for the wind and heat it was a great 250 miles over 5 days. If you take a trip on US BR 35, it's best to start at the south end since the prevailing winds are SSW. The logistics didn't work for me on this trip, but if I decide to try the whole route some day, I will take the train to New Buffalo and ride North to have somebody collect me later.