This BBTXL dared to ask the question "what if Bell's and Founders were lunch stops??"
We iterated on the 2013 route, trying to add miles after Marshall and shorten the day riding in to Traverse City. The riding along Lake Michigan was beautiful, and we included as much rail-to-trail as we could. Although we didn't have any 95 mi days this time around, the days weren't exactly short either.
This trip started in Ann Arbor on Saturday, 2021/08/14 and we rolled in to Traverse City on Thursday, 2021/08/19. It was good timing; the week before a windstorm swept through Michigan knocking down trees and power lines that were mostly cleaned up by the time we started. The weather was hot, but clear, and there was lots of swimming in Lake Michigan at the end of the day's ride.
The route from Ann Arbor to Jackson is one we've done several times, and included some of the recent sections of the Border to Border Trail. After a refreshing lunch at Grand River Brewery, we took the Falling Waters Trail to Concord, and then came back north to visit Dark Horse Brewery in Marshall. Even though the wind storm was 4 days ago, there were still power outages along the way. Our planned afternoon ice cream stop was without power, as was our original camp destination Camp Turkeyville (yes, it is a real place); instead, we returned to our 2013 campsite at Tri Lake Trails Campground.
Several folks on this trip are associated with Common Cycle and at this campground we had our first customer - a kid with a squeaky chain got a maintenance crash-course.
This was a short day on the 2013 trip, so we stopped at Bell's Brewery for lunch and continued on to camp at Yankee Springs. You can't not stop at Bell's. The food was great, they have beers they don't distribute at the tap room, and there was an incredible concert by Jordan Hamilton.
A theme of this trip was stitching together trails, and this day was no exception as we did part of the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.
The morning ride out of Yankee Springs was on some nice rural roads. Getting in to Grand Rapids can be harrowing, but we did our best to follow trails into downtown to avoid the major streets. Founders was open, but they didn't seem like they were expecting a large crew for Monday lunch. Leaving Grand Rapids we picked up the Musketawa Trail which dropped us off on the west edge of Muskegon, which we biked through to pick up the Lakeshore Trail.
Michigan has some great state parks, and the previous night at Yankee Springs was fine with nice access to Gun Lake, but it isn't Lake Michigan, which we finally got to see as we rolled into Muskegon. Some of our crew hadn't seen the Great Lakes before, and what an introduction! The Muskegon State Park camp sites were a short walk to a long beach just for campers.
The first half of the day was the Hart-Montague Trail, one of the oldest rail-to-trail in Michigan. Now that we're closer to the lake, we started passing by roadside fish stands, which were excellent.
There's a bit of a climb into Ludington, as you go past the Pumped Storage Hydro Plant. It pumps water from Lake Michigan uphill when electricity demand is low, and then runs turbines to generate electricity when demand is high. Consumers Energy uses some wishy-washy language ("it's been called one of the world's biggest electric batteries"), but there's no doubt it's large. If you're an infrastructure nerd, you definitely need to check it out.
We camped that evening at the rustic Jack Pine hike-in sites at Ludington State Park. It's about 1.5 miles with a few sandy patches, but as a result the camping and the beach are much more private. About a mile further north is the Big Sable Point Lighthouse, which is worth checking out.
We finally ran out of trails to stitch together, and so we spent most of the day on US bike route 35. This section was mostly low-traffic roads, which were fine.
The food today did not disappoint. 2021 was a great year for peaches, and there were numerous roadside stands selling fresh peaches picked that morning. Later, as we passed through Arcadia, we stopped at Ketch-22 for an afternoon snack.
All these state parks were great, but Sleeping Bear Dunes is probably Michigan's most well-known and visited park (technically national lakeshore, although it is administered by the National Park Service). We camped at the southern edge of the park, to leave time to explore it the following day.
This was our shortest day in terms of mileage, but there's a ton of stuff to see along the way.
The dune climb has got to be the most popular attraction here. If you want to go all the way to Lake Michigan, give yourself several hours and go early to beat the crowds and the heat. The sand gets very hot, so in addition to water don't forget shoes (a snack is also a good idea).
We actually turned off the plotted route at the dune climb and took the bike trail up to Glen Haven which in addition to historic sites has a very welcome public water fountain and restroom. The train joins back up with the route in Glen Arbor, a touristy area with lots of places to eat. The route then turns east for one last big climb and then a glorious descent into our final destination, Traverse City.