Category Archives: “500 at 50” Bike Trip

Posts about my 6-day, 600-mile bike trip from Ann Arbor to our campground near Glen Arbor and back.

Countdown to the “500 at 50” trip – T minus 6 days

BRIGHT AND EARLY next Tuesday morning, I push off from home on the first leg of my long-planned 500 mile trip to our campground and back. I feel oddly calm about something I’ve planned and trained for since 2007, when I first thought about doing this trip. Much of that is likely due to my other activities and goals this year, but it’s still a big deal to me.

Took the bike to Two Wheel Tango for a checkup today. They found that my drivetrain and chain were nearly worn out, so I’ll have new ones for the trip. The little wobble I noticed during my Lansing ride last weekend turned out to be a good thing, as it made me decide to have the bike checked again.

Here is a brief synopsis of my trip, with maps. Click on a map to expand it.

Day 1 – Ann Arbor to Alma – about 120 miles
The first day may turn out to be the most challenging due to the distance. My one-day distance record so far is about 113 miles, and it took about 12 hours. So that means fewer and/or shorter stops.

The trip begins with a familiar route to Chelsea, Stockbridge and Mason, all towns I visited in May, and from there through Lansing, St. Johns, and Ithaca on the way to Alma.

Day 2 – Alma to Cadillac – about 105 miles
A bit shorter distance and mostly on bike trails. According to my research they’re pretty good ones. They begin in Clare (the turn west) and then follow an “L” shape going through Reed City and north to Cadillac from there. I’m staying at Hermann’s Cafe and Hotel, a boutique place with very reasonable rates ($72 per night) and from the reviews I’ve read, outstanding food. Hope I arrive in time to actually eat some of it.

Day 3 – Cadillac to campground – around 70 miles
The shortest leg may also turn out to be the most challenging. The most direct route, M-115, is not bike-friendly, with narrow shoulders and fast traffic. So I’m taking back roads, adding distance but reducing risk. The last leg will be the toughest, as no matter how you approach the campground, the last 10 miles are mostly uphill. But I’ll get there somehow.

I will be reporting my progress through text messages. I won’t be bringing an Internet-enabled device, just my basic, Stone-Age, definitely not-smart phone. (And yes, despite working in high tech my entire career, I prefer it that way.) If you’d like to be on the list, just let me know. I will update the blog when I arrive at the campground, most likely after a nap.

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On My Way, Rain or Shine

Bike in shape? Check.
Panniers packed? Check.
Routes all mapped? Check.
Aikido test in a 95-degree gymnasium last night? Done.

Looks like all systems go for the start of the “500 at 50” bike ride bright and early this morning. If all goes well, I will end the day in Alma, then Cadillac Wednesday, arriving at the campground Thursday afternoon. If not, well, then I will put my Aikido training into use and fit with the situation.

The weather forecast for the Lansing area is for temps in the high 80s, with chance of thunderstorms in the afternoon. Wednesday looks clear throughout the route, and Thursday has a chance of T-storms near Glen Arbor. So there may be a little rain along the way, something I encountered back in May entering Dimondale. I have the rain poncho ready at hand.

Appreciating rain “in the moment” isn’t so easy, but I’ll do my best.

In one of life’s little synchronicities, my Aikido instructor gave a brief lecture on sun and rain following my Kyu test. He reminded us of Kushida Sensei’s saying that while we may not enjoy the rain, it is necessary to make the grass grow, so we can view beautiful green grass instead of brown, dead grass (which we’re all familiar with this summer). So we must appreciate both sun and rain, and in our training appreciate all the sweat, pain, and hard work that goes into improving oneself. I’ll do my best to remember that over the next three days.

Oh, and carbo-loading with a giant ice cream cone from the Coffee House Creamery after the test was great fun.

Ann Arbor to Glen Arbor – Done! Highlights, Part 1

THE BIG TRIP IS HALF DONE!

Arrival at Indigo Bluffs and my welcoming committee – daughters Tori and Rachel.

I arrived safely at our campground Thursday night, completing the first half of the “500 at 50” bike trip in three days and around 310 miles. The weather was mostly terrific for biking throughout, with cooler temperatures and very little rain. The wind was not as cooperative, coming from the north and west (i.e. in my face) most of the time. Let’s just say I’m looking forward to having some tailwinds on the way back.

Following are some highlights and lowlights of the trip so far. (BTW, sorry this is a bit late – the Internet has been flaky here.)

Day One – Farmville

(In someone’s yard just a mile from my house.) An auspicious sign! (yes, pun intended)

I pushed off from home around 7:30 a.m., and things progressed smoothly through the familiar territory of Chelsea and into Stockbridge for breakfast at Cravingz, and Mason, and up into East Lansing where I had lunch. Then it was off into the unexplored wilderness (cornfields, mostly).

I’d scheduled a stop at D&K Bike Services northwest of St. Johns, which turned out to be a shack in the middle of nowhere. And it was locked. Turned out the owner was present, however, and Dave (shown here) told me that bike tours like the DALMAC come through his area, and that he and his son accompany a few tours in their trailer, supplying spare parts and service. He also related a story which I’ll share later (but the lesson is, don’t adjust your wife’s bike seat unless you’re a pro). When I told him my planned route to Alma, he shook his head. “You can’t do that,” he said. “That road turns to gravel.” He gave me an alternate route that led through Maple Rapids that was several miles longer but paved.

It was after 6:00 by the time I got through Maple Rapids and onto the road that would take me into Alma. I was tired physically, but the toughest part was staying focused as I went past farm, after farm, after farm,…you get the idea. It was a relief to finally reach Alma and ride through the pretty college campus on the way to the hotel.

The Woodridge Inn & Suites was fine (you can read my TripAdvisor review here) but I hadn’t eaten a full meal since lunch in East Lansing, and was getting woozy from fatigue and a lack of salt. Dinner at the Big Boy next door revived me and I made a note to pack some pretzels for the rest of the trip.

The next day at breakfast someone asked me what I thought about during those long rides. “Anything but farms,” I told him.

Up next – Days two and three…

Ann Arbor to Glen Arbor Highlights, Part 2

Continuing the story of my “500 at 50” bike trip from home to our campground…

Day Two – Never Ask the Locals

A promising start out of Alma on Wednesday nearly turned to disaster. I stopped at a gas station for a Gatorade, and the attendant gave me an alternate route to Mt. Pleasant that avoided several miles of dirt road. But somewhere or other, I missed a turn north and was soon headed straight for Lake Michigan, with a lot of nothing in between. Another cyclist turned me around, but I’d added over 10 miles to my planned distance that day and lost an hour off my timetable.

A bike trail on a former railway has some spectacular views.

Things picked up in Farwell, where I had a great western scramble at Deb & Jessie’s Diner and then got on the Pere Marquette bike trail, which is a real joy to ride. All the way to Reed City the trail is 10-foot wide smooth asphalt, passing through forests and fields, with no cars or trucks to worry about. All that remained was the leg up north to Cadillac along the White Pines State Park trail, which the attendant at the Reed City gas station assured me was paved. (You can guess what’s coming.)

I’m sorry, sir, you were clocked at 17 MPH in a 15 MPH zone.

The same attendant gave me directions to the trail, which I either didn’t follow correctly or were wrong to start with. A chat with a guy in his front yard at least got me back to the Pere Marquette trail, where I found some other cyclists who showed me the White Pines trailhead. Off I went…for about a quarter mile, when the trail turned into dirt and loose gravel. After fighting it for a couple of miles I turned off the trail into Ashton. “I’d get back on the trail,” the guy at the general store said. “Ya got about a mile and a half and it’s paved again.”

Four miles later, still sliding and bumping over gravel with 20 miles left to go, I was cursing that guy, the gas station attendants, and the universe in general (*) when the promised pavement finally appeared. From there it was another pleasant cruise into downtown Cadillac and Hermann’s Hotel, arriving just after 8:00.

Dinner at the adjacent cafe/restaurant more than made up for the struggles of that day, and the elegant hotel room was far more than I would expect for $72.00 per night. (You can read my TripAdvisor review here.)

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(*) Part of the confusion of the day turned out to be that the “Mackinaw Trail” on my Google Map turned out to be a road, not a bike trail. So the locals were less at fault than I had thought. On the other hand, one of them could have pointed out that fact…