Organized bike tours offer scenic views
By PETER H. MILLIKEN
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
Bicycling is a leisurely and scenic way to see northern Michigan, and organized shoreline tours are scheduled each summer.
The League of Michigan Bicyclists offers several of these weeklong cycling and camping tours, including the Bow Tie Tour, which begins and ends in Gaylord, Mich., and is named for the shape of the route it takes. Enrolling 309 riders from 24 states and Ontario, including 46 Ohioans, this summer's Bow Tie Tour covered about 320 miles, with trucks transporting participants' luggage between campsites.
"Michigan has some of the best scenery. We have more shoreline than any other state in the union," said John Snethkamp, LMB chairman and tour director. "We've got two peninsulas that are fully in the Great Lakes. That's a lot of coastline," he observed.
After assembling in Gaylord, the Bow Tie Tour made an overnight stop at the beachfront Mill Creek Campgrounds in Mackinaw City before ferrying across the Straits of Mackinac to the Upper Peninsula port of St. Ignace.
From St. Ignace, the group pedaled through a wilderness area of the Hiawatha National Forest, camping at Cedarville High School.
From there, the tour headed north to Sault Ste. Marie and the Soo Locks, camping for two nights on a bluff at Lake Superior State University, which offered a spectacular sunset view over the St. Mary's River. Many riders took an optional Soo Locks and lighthouse boat tour, which went all the way to Whitefish Bay at the entrance to Lake Superior.
Return trip: After a rest day in Sault Ste. Marie, the cyclists returned to St. Ignace, Mackinac Island and the Mackinaw City campground, enjoying an evening boat tour under the Mackinac Bridge.
From Mackinaw City, the group headed south along the picturesque Lake Michigan shore, passing large sand dunes and cycling beneath a coastal arboreal canopy known as the Tunnel of the Trees, before camping in Petoskey and returning to Gaylord.
Amenities: "We treat our riders extremely well. We feed them well. We look for some of the best roads and some of the best scenery that we can find, and we allow our riders to enjoy it," Snethkamp said.
Riders need to be prepared for rapidly changing weather and bring proper clothing for all types of conditions, from wet to dry, cool to hot, he advised. To complete the ride, which involves 35 to 65 miles per day of cycling, he said participants should have trained to the point where they can cycle nonstop for at least an hour without feeling overly tired.
Next summer, the league will again offer the Bow Tie Tour, which has sold out in April for two consecutive years, as well as the West Shoreline Tour along the Michigan side of Lake Michigan and a new Middle of the Upper Peninsula Tour -- all of one week's duration.
The league can be reached at P.O. Box 16201, Lansing, Mich. 48901 or www.LMB.org on the Web.
XThe author completed this summer's Bow Tie Tour.