Come celebrate Michigander 25!

Come celebrate Michigander 25!

You are formally invited to join us on the special 25th anniversary edition of the historic, scenic, rail trail-based Michigander Bike Tour, which will rock and roll through beautiful West Michigan July 16-23, 2016. Save the dates! Registration for the ride is now open and will continue through June 30, 2016. For more information or to register, log on to: http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bike-tour.

PHOTO ABOVE: The Biker Babes (and Dudes), resplendent in their finest cycling apparel, celebrate their completion of the 2010 Michigander in Indian River with Mr. Finish Line himself, Sam “Pit Bull” Kennedy. The irrepressible BBaD’s tradition of rolling under the yellow banner in a variety of outrageous costumes every year is one of the ‘Gander’s most highly-anticipated closing spectacles. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL

The Michigander Bike Tour: So many miles, so many smiles — and so many stories

The Michigander Bike Tour: So many miles, so many smiles — and so many stories

LIFE IS GOOD, INDEED.  And on the Michigander – a sun-kissed, rain-soaked, sweat-streaked, aerobic laughter-filled, triumphant tear-stained, thigh-burning, soul-enriching, gloriously scenic two-wheeled journey all the way back to those carefree summer days when the only thing that mattered was that school was out until September and riding your bike to the ice cream store with your friends was just about the best feeling in the whole wide world – life is even better. Enjoy the ride? We LIVE for the ride.”

–An excerpt from “Resilient Michigander riders cross jubilent finish line in Harbor Springs” (article DFP 2013-3), which was published on the Detroit Free Press website, http://www.Freep.com, in July, 2013. Scroll down for newly-edited and expanded versions of all the Michigander articles I’ve written for Freep.com.

Those who signed up for the 2011 ‘Gander — our last West Michigan route — will never forget the ride, or the weather. I cranked out seven Michigander stories for the Grand Rapids Press that week (nine overall), the hardest I’ve ever worked as a writer. My task of gathering info, quotes and pictures, pounding them all into a coherent story and getting the finished product to an editor by my 6:30 p.m. deadline (yeah, right) every day for seven straight days — on top of repeatedly breaking down and setting up camp and actually riding when I could (it soon became painfully obvious I would not have time to ride the entire route each day) — was made all the more challenging by the fact that with average daily highs well over 90 degrees, the 2011 edition turned out to be the hottest in ‘Gander history.

But as a communications and journalism major (Go Green! Go Grizzlies!) who happens to love biking and camping, it was also thrilling to follow in the footseps — and tire marks — of  legendary Detroit Free Press Michigander writers of yore such as Neely Tucker, a highly-acclaimed novelist currently with the Washington Post, New York Times op ed columnist Frank Bruni and retired Free Press outdoors columnist Eric Sharp. And in the midst of that searing July heat, I met some pretty cool people and heard some pretty fascinating stories.

Below are links to the published versions of those GRP articles, which are accompanied by dozens of photos but unfortunately include several errors inserted by misguided editors. You will also find links to the online versions of the three 2015 Free Press stories. As this blog is a work in progress, please check back for older articles that have appeared elsewhere, and stay tuned for a nostalgic ‘Gander 25 preview story for Freep.com.

If you are a Michigander veteran like me, you just might find yourself in here somewhere!

MICHIGANDER ARTICLES AND PHOTOS ONLINE:

GRP 2011-1: Bike Tour comes to West Michigan; 20th annual ride will hit trails surrounding Grand Rapids

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/bike_tour_comes_to_west_michig.html

GRP 2011-2: Get on your bike and ride: If you’ve ever wanted to do a long bike tour, here’s what you need to know

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/get_on_your_bike_and_ride_if_y.html

GRP 2011-3: 7-Day Michigander Bicycle Tour begins as old friends, rookies start journey

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/7-day_michigander_bicycle_tour.html

GRP 2011-4: Taking it easy on Day 1; Michigander Bike Tour participants brave heat, humidity

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/taking_it_easy_on_day_1_michig.html

GRP 2011-5: Exotic themes, heat mark third day of Michigander Bicycle Tour

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/exotic_themes_heat_mark_third.html

GRP 2011-6: How volunteers make Michigander Bike Tour possible

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/how_volunteers_make_michigande.html

GRP 2011-7: Michigander Bicycle Tour, Day 5: When it comes to heat, it’s all relative

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/michigander_bicycle_tour_day_5.html

GRP 2011-8: End in sight for heat-and-road-weary Michigander Bike Tour riders 

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/end_in_sight_for_heat-and-road.html

GRP 2011-9: Resilient riders complete 7-day, 340-mile Michigander Bike Tour

http://www.mlive.com/outdoors/index.ssf/2011/07/resilient_riders_complete_7-da.html

DFP 2015-1: Michigander Bike Tour: Registration deadline today

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/outdoors/2015/07/02/michigander-bike-tour/29605451/

DFP 2015-2: Cyclist takes new heart out for spin on Michigander

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/outdoors/2015/07/16/michigander-bike-tour/30242811/

DFP 2015-3: A little Hemingway, lot of love on Michigander Bike Tour

http://www.freep.com/story/sports/2015/07/21/michigander-bike-tour/30490209/

–For more information about the Michigander, log on to: 
http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bike-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.

DFP 2013-1: Scenic “Up North” Michigander registration still open; spare cycling shorts advised

DFP 2013-1: Scenic “Up North” Michigander registration still open; spare cycling shorts advised

SCENIC “UP NORTH” MICHIGANDER REGISTRATION STILL OPEN; SPARE CYCLING SHORTS ADVISED

PHOTO ABOVE: Clawson residents Jackie and Rob Litwin celebrate at the  Michigander 2012 Finish Line in Mackinaw City. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL

By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
June 27, 2013

CHARLEVOIX – For bicycling and outdoors enthusiasts who enjoy making adventurous new friends, Christmas – or at least its warmer two-wheeled equivalent – is coming early again this year, right through scenic Northern Michigan.

The 22nd annual Michigander Bicycle Tour will get underway at Charlevoix Middle School on July 13 and take its riders from 56 to 280 miles on rail trails – abandoned railroad corridors that have been converted into multi-use recreational trails – and back roads. It will conclude in Harbor Springs on July 19.

“We keep coming back ‘Up North’ because it is one of the most popular Michigander routes,” said Nancy Krupiarz, the executive director of the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA), the nonprofit organization that runs the event. “In addition to our many veteran riders who return year after year, we are also attracting a lot of new out-of-state riders who want to experience Michigan’s beautiful north country.”

Michigander Director Barry Culham has extended the online registration deadline to 5 p.m. July 5. For more information or to register, log on to http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bicycle-tour.

Cyclists on the 56-mile 2-Day option, a good choice for families and beginners, will ride along Lake Michigan on the paved Little Traverse Wheelway (known to locals as simply “the Bike Path”) through Petoskey to Harbor Springs on Saturday, July 13, camp overnight at Harbor Springs Middle School and return to Charlevoix via the trail the next day.

Riders on the overlapping 252-mile 6-Day and 280-mile 7-Day routes will pedal on the Bike Path, country roads and the highly-acclaimed North Central State Trail, a 62-mile long ribbon of crushed limestone between Gaylord and Mackinaw City that runs through quaint tourist towns such as Topinabee and Cheboygan along the northernmost segment of the old Michigan Central Railroad, including an especially picturesque 15-mile stretch by Mullett Lake. The NCST officially opened in 2008.

The spirited cyclists will camp overnight in Harbor Springs, Bellaire, Gaylord, Indian River and Mackinaw City and, accompanied by heart-pumping music and rousing cheers from their fellow riders, roll triumphantly under the yellow “Michigander 2013 Finish Line” banner back in Harbor Springs on July 19.

The Free Press co-founded the Michigander with the Michigan Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 1992 and introduced it in a cover story in the old Free Press Sunday Magazine. The 200 or so cyclists who signed up that first year rode cross-state – with much of the mileage on rough, undeveloped trails – from South Haven to Rochester, finishing on the Paint Creek Trail.

With its ever-increasing and improving network of such greenways, the Great Lake State leads the U.S. with 2623 total miles of rail trails, and the Michigander is now the nation’s largest – with about 50 volunteers and 650 riders registered for its three routes as of June 25 – and longest rail trail-based bike tour, according to Krupiarz.

Former Free Press outdoors writer Eric Sharp, who rode and wrote about the tour from 1994-2001, had fond memories of the event.

“What was most notable was the incredible enthusiasm of the people who had ridden it before,” he said. “This was the highlight of the year for many, better than Christmas, and their enthusiasm was infectious.”

One year, Sharp noticed a group of riders who were perhaps a little too enthusiastic when it came to trailside swimming holes.

They “decided to go skinny dipping in a small lake we passed, only to find that riders who came along later had grabbed their clothes and strewn them along a quarter-mile of woods,” Sharp recalled. “When I passed, two of the guys were still riding naked, looking for their cycling pants.”

Bicycling Magazine featured the Michigander as one of its favorite events in its Multiday Ride Guide last year. You’ll get no argument from Rob Litwin, a 56-year-old Kodak field service engineer from Clawson, about the tour’s appeal.

“I enjoy seeing all the repeat riders every year,” said Litwin, who is returning for his 17th Michigander. “It feels like a family reunion. I also enjoy the trails because it gets you closer to nature. When you spend most of your time cooped up in buildings and cars you lose sight of the natural world, and when I get out and bike a trail I feel a connection that I find revitalizing. It never fails – I always feel better after a bike ride. And the Michigander always helps me find my smile.”

“I love the Michigander because I love my husband,” added his grateful wife Jackie Litwin, a 14-time Michigander participant who says she is not a ‘complete biker nut” like Rob and, due to scheduling conflicts, will have to miss the tour this year. “He rides into this brave new world each year, and always finds his way back to himself, and back to me. He comes home a better husband, a better dad, a better man.”

Here’s hoping the better man doesn’t go swimming au naturel in any of the numerous lakes along this year’s route. Otherwise he may need help finding his cycling shorts as well.

For more information about the Michigander, log on to: http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bicycle-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.

 

DFP 2013-2: Michigander riders beat Northern Michigan heat, near finish line

DFP 2013-2: Michigander riders beat Northern Michigan heat, near finish line

MICHIGANDER RIDERS BEAT NORTHERN MICHIGAN HEAT, NEAR FINISH LINE

PHOTO ABOVE (L to R): Les Rosan of Alma and Barb Jackson of Mt. Pleasant ride along Mullett Lake in Topinabee on the North Central State Trail during the 2013 ‘Gander. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL

By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
July 18, 2013

MACKINAW CITY – Why would a seemingly normal person want to spend a week-long vacation riding a bicycle 280 miles on country roads and rail trails – abandoned railroad corridors that have been converted into multi-use recreational trails – in the summer heat?

For Julian Jeun, 39, a percussionist in the Windsor Symphony Orchestra, it’s the chance to check off a challenging adventure that’s been high on his bucket list.

For 62-year-old Les Rosan, a newspaper columnist and private investigator from Alma, it’s all about maintaining a healthy lifestyle while renewing old friendships and forging new ones in a unique “adult summer camp.”

And for Sarah Williams, a 41-year-old mother of two from Troy, it’s another opportunity to prove wrong the doctors who told her she would likely never walk again after suffering a severe back injury in 2000.

These three cycling enthusiasts pedaled 36 miles on the acclaimed North Central State Trail (NCST) from Indian River to Mackinaw City yesterday on the fifth day of the 22nd annual Michigander Bicycle Tour, accompanied by 384 other riders from Michigan and 23 other states and Canadian provinces.

“It’s physically more challenging than I thought it would be, but I’m enjoying the challenge,” said Jeun, who saw a preview story about the Michigander on the Free Press website and decided to gear up for his first bike tour on his beloved white Electra Townie cruiser. “The people on the ride are great. This whole thing for me is about going slower, getting into a groove and enjoying the ride and the scenery of northern Michigan.”

In addition to the region’s natural beauty and highly-regarded trails, one of the reasons tour officials chose this “Up North” route – with rides to and overnight stays in Charlevoix, Harbor Springs, Bellaire, Gaylord, Indian River and Mackinaw City – is the promise of cooler northern Michigan weather.

But with unusually high humidity and temperatures topping out at 82, 94, 91, 95 and 93 degrees on the first five days, that hasn’t exactly been the case.

“It’s hotter here than it is back home in Arizona!” said 60-year-old Phoenix resident Laura Thomas, who is driving a support vehicle for her husband Bob Thomas, 71, and their friends Lee Lambie, 62, and Ron La Moureaux, 78, also of Phoenix. All four are participating in the Michigander for the first time.

“But everyone is so friendly and kind,” Laura Thomas added. “Northern Michigan is really pretty, lush and green. We’re all glad we came.”

“You’ve got to be flexible to ride the Michigander,” said tour director Barry Culham. “Everybody’s hanging in there and having fun.”

Many riders have beaten the heat – at least temporarily – by taking refreshing dips in big swimming holes such as Little Traverse Bay and Mullett Lake, going tubing on the Sturgeon River and rehydrating and relaxing under shady canopies at the numerous rest stops along the route. Medical personnel are also on duty throughout the tour, but according to Culham, no one has dropped out due to the oppressive conditions Up North.

The Michigander’s 2-Day option concluded in Charlevoix on July 14 after a 56-mile ride to Harbor Springs and back on the Little Traverse Wheelway, a paved trail on which the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, and later the Chicago and West Michigan Railway, operated.

The riders have an optional off-day today in the multi-colored tent city they have set up at the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex. Some planned short rides around Mackinaw City; others, including the Arizona contingent, a visit to Mackinac Island.

After racking up almost 200 miles on the first five days of the tour, however, the Westerners have no intention of riding their bikes around the island’s famously car-free, 8-mile-long M-185.

“We’re going to give our bottoms a rest,” said Bob Thomas, a retired Nissan engineer.

The Free Press co-founded the Michigander with the Michigan Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 1992. The roughly 200 cyclists who signed up that first year rode cross-state – with much of the mileage on rough, undeveloped trails – from South Haven to Rochester, finishing on the Paint Creek Trail.

With its ever-increasing network of such greenways, Michigan leads the U.S. with 2623 total miles of rail trails, and the Michigander is now the nation’s largest and longest rail trail-based bike tour, according to Nancy Krupiarz, the executive director of the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA), the nonprofit organization that runs the event.

Rosan has written about the Michigander several times in his columns for the Morning Sun, a Mt. Pleasant daily. He recalled reading former Free Press outdoors writer Eric Sharp’s stories about the ride in 1994 and thinking, “That sounds like something I would like to do.”

After overcoming a rough start due to inexperience and a lack of training, he liked riding Michigander III so much that he has ridden every edition since, 20 in all.

“It was like an adult summer camp,” said Rosan, who talked two friends – audiologist Barb Jackson, of Mt. Pleasant, and Linda Luneack, a retired Spanish teacher from Alma – into joining him on this year’s tour. “The Michigander has never been about the ride, per se; it’s about the people you meet and the friendships you form.”

Rosan’s wife Carol is philosophical about the physical toll a 280-mile bike trip in July could take on her husband, a retired police officer.

“She says, ‘If he drops over dead on a bicycle, he’ll be happy.’ ”

Les Rosan is determined not to drop over anytime soon.

He has successfully battled lung cancer and a progressive genetic heart condition in recent years, and credits the Michigander and bicycling in general with inspiring him to maintain a healthy lifestyle. He rides about 2500 miles every year on his red Cannondale road bike and his black Cannondale hybrid. The latter came in handy on the 62-mile, crushed-limestone North Central State Trail between Gaylord and Mackinaw City, on which the cyclists pedaled July 16 and 17.

Riders on the overlapping 6-Day and 7-Day routes will complete their long journey and roll triumphantly under the yellow “2013 Michigander Finish Line” banner tomorrow at Harbor Springs Middle School.

Williams’ triumph over a spinal cord injury in 2000 that left her wheelchair-bound for four years is particularly remarkable.

“I never accepted it when doctors told me I probably wouldn’t walk again,” said the 41-year-old Troy resident and mother of two. “I was motivated to stay physically active.”

After a major breakthrough in her diagnosis and years of intensive physical therapy, Williams ditched her wheelchair in 2004 and rode her first Michigander in 2007. This year marks her seventh consecutive ride.

She’s accompanied on the tour by her husband Bill Williams, a 40-year-old software project manager, their 5-year-old son Brayden and 3-year-old daughter Aurora, and another family they’ve been reuniting with on the Michigander since 2007: Novi residents Maria Tilmos, her husband Wayne Tilmos and their 5-year-old son Mason, who alternates pedaling behind his mom and dad in a recumbent tagalong and is the youngest rider on the tour. Brayden also rides a tagalong; Aurora is pulled in a bike trailer. The Tilmos’ youngest child, 2-year-old Vayla, is back home with her grandmother.

“It feels good being able to do normal things that normal people do,” Sarah Williams said, then broke into a big smile as she made a sweeping gesture around the ice arena at the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex, where her fellow riders – many clad in unforgiving spandex shorts and jerseys, sunburned, helmet-haired, exhausted and walking gingerly, but enjoying each other’s company and still in good spirits – were having dinner after adding 37 hot miles to their cyclometers, with the end of their singular seven-day, nearly 300-mile bike ride now in sight.

“But ‘normal’ people don’t do this, do they?”

–For more information about the Michigander, log on to: http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bicycle-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.

 

 

DFP 2013-3: Resilient Michigander riders cross jubilant finish line in Harbor Springs

DFP 2013-3: Resilient Michigander riders cross jubilant finish line in Harbor Springs

RESILIENT MICHIGANDER RIDERS CROSS JUBILANT FINISH LINE IN HARBOR SPRINGS (PUBLISHED ON FREEP.COM AS “STORIES FROM THE 2013 MICHIGANDER BICYCLE TOUR”)

PHOTO ABOVE: Two Michigander legends: Sam Kennedy, 60, of Belleville waves the checkered flags for 82-year-old Canton resident Joe Chicky at the Michigander 2013 Finish Line in Harbor Springs on July 18, 2013. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL

By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
July 29, 2013

HARBOR SPRINGS – “COME ON HOME!” a shirtless, chiseled Sam Kennedy yells as he waves two checkered flags while, one by one, two by two and four by four, bicyclists approach and then roll past him under the yellow “Michigander 2013 Finish Line” banner at Harbor Springs Middle School, fists punching the air in triumph. “LOOK AT THAT SMILE!” “YOU MADE IT!”

Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family” blasts from his wife Rita’s boom box, accompanying Sam’s cries over his bullhorn. You couldn’t dream up a more appropriate song. Rita blows a whistle from her spot about 50 yards before the finish line when incoming riders turn left onto State Road, cuing her husband to get ready to do his thing – over and over again. He will log six hours of flag-waving and cheerleading today. Early finishers and volunteers lining the path to the end of a long, exhausting, exhilarating ride of nearly 300 miles through scenic northern Lower Michigan whoop and clap as their Michigander brothers and sisters coast by.

Gentle rays of sunshine poke through wispy clouds, a welcome respite from the tremendous morning downpours that soaked my resilient 386 fellow riders and me during the first half of our 43-mile leg on this final day of the 22nd annual Michigander Bicycle Tour, July 19. All this, after we’d endured four straight 90-plus degree afternoons, unusually high humidity and a scorching sun earlier in the week.

After crossing the finish line myself just past noon, I think of the buoyant slogan on the matching new lilac-colored T-shirts two of my Michigander friends, GM parts specialist Kathy Cota of Waterford and retired teacher Bonnie Michalak of Royal Oak, showed off the night before in Mackinaw City.

“Life is good,” the shirts read, above a depiction of a grinning cyclist, naturally. “Enjoy the ride” was printed below.

I’ve just completed my 17th ride and have long considered the Michigander my favorite week of the year. Many of my comrades-in-legs feel the same way.

“This is my Christmas week, because I look forward to it all year,” 56-year-old Clawson resident Rob Litwin, also a 17-timer, told me at the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex. We battled booming thunderstorms, torrential rains and high winds on our second of two nights camped out there after a much-appreciated optional day off on July 18, the penultimate day of the tour.

Talking about riding the first leg of the tour on July 13 from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs – a pleasant, sunny 82-degree day that preceded our withering heat wave – after dealing with the everyday worries of life and work in the weeks leading up to the Michigander, Litwin added, “The weather was perfect, the sky was blue, the smell of Lake Michigan and the pines along the Little Traverse Wheelway was intoxicating, the scenery was beautiful, and all of a sudden it just hit me – I felt great and I had an ear-to-ear smile.”

The Little Traverse Wheelway is a paved, 26-mile long rail trail – a former railroad corridor that has been converted into a multi-use recreational trail – that connects Charlevoix and Harbor Springs. The other featured rail trail on this year’s Michigander was the North Central State Trail (NCST), a 62-mile long ribbon of crushed limestone between Gaylord and Mackinaw City, on which we pedaled July 16 and 17.

The Mid-America Trails and Greenways Conference named the NCST – which passes through quaint tourist towns and forests and includes especially picturesque stretches beside Mullett Lake and the Sturgeon River – the best rail trail in Michigan in 2011. We racked up additional mileage on back roads throughout the week.

The Free Press co-founded the Michigander with the Michigan Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 1992 and sponsored and covered the ride extensively in its early years. It is now run by the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA), the Lansing-based nonprofit organization for which it raises funds.

Joe Chicky, an 82-year-old Canton resident who missed the first Michigander back in August, 1992 but has ridden all 21 since then, is one of the oldest cyclists on the tour.

I asked the retired GM supervisor, who rides a gray Schwinn Voyager hybrid with a 35-year-old leather Brooks seat, how he felt after he crossed the finish line.

“Tired!” he said, beaming. “I’m glad I made it!

“I ride the Michigander because I’m able to do it and because I fully enjoy it,” he added. “The people on the ride treat everyone else as equals. If everyone was like they are when they’re on the Michigander – just good, friendly people – the world would be a much better place.”

Chicky is a much-loved fixture on the tour, famous for his entourage of family members who wear T-shirts that say “I’m With Joe” on the back.

“I’m Joe,” Chicky’s own T-shirt states matter-of-factly.

His multi-generational group this year – one of the many families on the ride – included his daughter Leslie Griffiths, her husband Andy Griffiths and their daughter Lindsey Griffiths, all from South Burlington, Vermont.

Kim Kimball, one of the last remaining old-timers who has ridden every single Michigander, said that before he got married, his Michigander friends made up his first family.

We are indeed family here, both biological and “cycle-logical.”

“It’s fun to watch people grow up, and grow old, on this ride,” said the 56-year-old park maintenance specialist from Oxford. He flies a flag bearing a peace sign beside his tent. “It helps keep me young at heart, and keeps my heart pumping.

“I keep coming back because of the people and the camaraderie,” Kimball added, echoing Chicky and most other tour vets.

As more riders pedaled into the Harbor Springs Middle School parking lot on our last day, I somewhat jokingly asked him if his four years in the U.S. Marine Corps helped prepare him for the 280-mile ride that took us from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, Bellaire, Gaylord, Indian River and Mackinaw City, and finally back to Harbor Springs for our spirited grand finale.

“You’re damn right it did!” Kimball said, and he was as serious as an empty water bottle on a thermometer-bursting day. His ever-present grin had become more visible since he’d shaved off his bushy brown-and-grey-streaked beard midway through the ride. “Because you don’t quit on yourself on the Michigander.”

Kristen Kramer, a 46-year-old registered nurse and accountant from Clinton Township, didn’t quit after wilting in the 94-degree heat during the second day of our 7-Day route. She called upon the energy reserves of her inner child.

(Riders on the overlapping 252-mile 6-Day route began on July 14 in Harbor Springs. The 2-Day participants rode a total of 56 miles from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs and back, primarily on the Little Traverse Wheelway, on July 13 and 14.)

“For one week a year, I get to be 8 years old again,” said Kramer, a 16-time Michigander rider, who was accompanied on the tour by her friend Darren Brewster, a 50-year-old Comcast installer from Warren. “I ride my bike, I play with friends, I sleep in a tent and I eat ice cream. I have no job, no boss, no deadlines, no mortgage payment, no stress.”

If any folks had a right to feel stressed out on the Michigander, it was Brighton residents Kelly Poppe, 52, and Fred Purol, 62. I met them on July 18 on Mackinac Island, which many of my fellow riders and I visited on our off-day.

I learned on that rainy morning that the couple had gotten engaged four months earlier and, two weeks before the Michigander began, decided to get married – during a week of pedaling more miles each day than many folks ride all summer, in intense heat and pouring rain, and camping out in a tent every night in the company of almost 400 other dog-tired, helmet-haired, limping, snoring people with weird tan lines who think nothing of gallivanting about in public in unforgiving spandex shorts and tops.

Romantic?

You bet your Avocet it was.

“Bike riding is one of our passions that we share,” said the newly-renamed Kelly Poppe-Purol. “Fred and I couldn’t have been happier with how the week transpired. All of our plans fell right into place. Everything seemed to come together so easily, with absolutely no stress.”

“Biking is what got us together in the first place,” added the groom, who was on his third Michigander. “It wasn’t a typical wedding, but it was very romantic.”

Tying the knot on storied Mackinac Island – one of the Great Lake State’s choicest spots for both exchanging wedding vows and riding bikes – didn’t hurt.

Reverend Thomas Marx, a Mackinac Island resident, officiated the small, private ceremony at the Harbour View Inn on July 17, after arriving on his bicycle in a suit and tie, with his Bible in his basket. Highland resident Linda Dove, a longtime friend of the bride’s who also rode the Michigander, was the matron of honor and served as the couple’s witness and photographer as well.

Add “The Wedding March” to the 2013 Michigander soundtrack, which – in addition to the fitting Sister Sledge classic – ranged from “Hot Fun in the Summertime” to “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” and from “Everybody Hurts” to “Feelin’ Stronger Every Day.”

“The Harbour View Inn and Mackinac Island will hold a special place in our hearts forever, and the Michigander as well!” said Poppe-Purol, who was on the ride for the fourth time and works in human resources for Thai Summit America, a sheet metal stamping company.

The bride and groom might not have felt stressed, but the icing on their wedding cake did, and melted in the day’s 93-degree heat. The couple spent their special night at the Harbour View, boxed up what was left of the gooey cake and put it out on the dessert table for their fellow riders to enjoy the next night when they returned to the Michigander camp in Mackinaw City.

Both newlyweds said they plan to return to the tour on a regular basis. Fred Purol, a finance manager for Reliable Carriers, a Canton-based trucking company, pointed out another advantage to getting married under such unique circumstances.

“It will always be easy to remember our anniversary!” he told me with a sly smile.

It’s not so easy to explain the essence and appeal of the Michigander to folks who have never ridden it, let alone to those who think that riding a bike is just for kids.

The Michigander, with its 280-mile 7-Day option and 50 volunteers and 736 riders on its three overlapping routes this year, is the nation’s longest and largest rail trail-based bike tour, according to MTGA Executive Director Nancy Krupiarz. It takes place annually in July in the Great Lake State, which leads the nation with a total of 2623 miles of rail trails. Its riders pedaled an average of 40 miles per day on the Little Traverse Wheelway, the North Central State Trail and back roads, came from 23 states and Canadian provinces and ranged in age from 5 to 84.

That doesn’t begin to define the Michigander Mystique.

The Michigander, which Bicycling Magazine cited as one of its favorite events in its Multiday Ride Guide last year, is Rochester Hills residents Jeff and Debbie Rice receiving a rousing toast from about 50 of their brother and sister cyclists as they celebrated their 23rd wedding anniversary at Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire on the evening of July 14.

“That was great,” said Jeff Rice, a 54-year-old carpenter. “It felt like family – the people, the fun, the atmosphere … and the beer.”

The Michigander is the kind-hearted woman with the wet towel who noticed us riding by just south of Charlevoix during the second leg of the 7-Day route earlier that day. Her house was near the bottom of a steep hill we had to climb, a task made all the more daunting by 94-degree temps, an unshaded open road and a burning sun.

Even more dispiriting, at least to me, was the sight of two sleek yellow and black motorcycles for sale by the side of the road before her place. $5200 for the pair. “What kind of twisted individual would taunt us like that?” I wondered as I removed the coin purse from the rear bag of my silver Bianchi hybrid and found I was $5179 short.

The nice lady lowered my body temperature and lifted my spirits when she dipped her towel into a small plastic tub of cool water and dropped it on top of my temporarily de-helmeted head. She politely denied my request for a loan of $5200, however. That was a double bummer, because in that heat at the bottom of that hill, I was sure that my impulse purchase would have not only made my quest for the summit a lot easier, but would also have allowed me to do one of my fellow riders a huge favor by selling him or her the second of those mighty bumblebees at a modest profit.

I would have applied it to next year’s tour fees.

Regarding the 2014 edition of the Michigander, ride director Barry Culham told me, “We are looking to have the route in northwest Lower Michigan, in the Traverse City area.” He said he hopes to announce the specific route by Christmas, and that applications will be available by late February.

The Michigander is 65-year-old Rochester Hills resident Catherine Herron, another 22-time tour participant, insisting that a proper banana split has vanilla, chocolate and strawberry ice cream – not just vanilla – and her childlike delight in finding the perfect one at the Big Dipper Ice Cream Parlour in Cheboygan when we passed through on the NCST on July 17.

“This Michigander was the best ever!” Herron exclaimed at the finish line. She says that every year, and means it.

It is Lesa McDowell-Smouter and Slcott Smouter, both 50, of Troy, Mich., who first met in South Haven during the 2005 tour, nurtured their friendship on subsequent rides, started dating in 2008 – and married in August, 2009.

The Michigander is grizzled veterans regaling wide-eyed rookies with tales of riding trails that were little more than piles of rocks and loose sand in the early days, of a flustered woman who wound up in a busy men’s locker room after taking a wrong turn in one of our host schools and of an unfortunate camper finding out too late that he had set up his tent over an automatic sprinkler.

It is “Downhill Bob” Charbonneau, a retired GM engineer from Royal Oak who walks and rides with difficulty after a serious car accident but serves as a volunteer baggage truck driver on the tour year after year just so he can enjoy its “aerobic laughter.” Inspired by Michigander merriment, he coined the term to describe the phenomenon of “laughing so hard and for so long that there is exercise value to it.”

The Michigander is busy mom Sarah Williams riding her seventh straight tour with her family and friends, a few years after being wheelchair-bound and told by doctors she would probably never walk again. It is newspaper columnist Les Rosan, serenely pedaling along on his 20th with his own old and new riding buddies, a surgically-reduced right lung and pacemaker/defibrillator in his chest.

It is 5-year-old dynamo Mason Tilmos, the youngest rider on the tour, imploring his mother Maria and father Wayne, “We’ve got to hurry up; we can’t let them win!” after taking turns passing and then being passed by another family on the trail.

Ease up there, little buddy. We’re all winners on this ride.

The Michigander is Hawaiian-themed rest stops and dedicated volunteers and medics and riders stopping to help others with a flat and surprisingly tasty meals in the school cafeterias and the welcome sight of a brand new multi-colored tent city after a hard day’s ride. It is the Beanie Babies and Indiana Joe and the Bike Lady and Ruth the Masseuse and Bubba’s Pampered Pedalers and Michigan Cycling Charters and the Biker Babes (and Dudes) and Grandpa’s Gang.

It is talking to a percussionist in the Windsor Symphony Orchestra about “Scheherazade” in the morning, to a fire alarm inspector and a consultant and a bank manager about, well, all kinds of things I can’t talk about here during a rollicking afternoon pontoon boat party on Burt Lake and to a husband-and-wife team of doctors from North Carolina about nutrition and the weather in the evening. It is handshakes and hugs and promises to keep in touch in the parking lot on the last day.

The Michigander is Joe Chicky, the patriarch of the “I’m With Joe” contingent, getting emotional when I repeated to him an astute comment Michigander veteran Jim Walter made at the end of last year’s ride.

“In a way, we’re all with Joe,” Walter observed as we were about to leave the Mackinaw City Recreation Complex, and his words were as true as the spokes on a perfectly-balanced wheel.

“Oh, wow!” Joe said when I relayed Walter’s assertion, tapping his heart with his right hand, eyes moistening.

Chicky told me he had no complaints about having to ride in this year’s heat, and then explained why: On a frigid night in Korea while he was serving in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, he said, “I was so cold, I truly believed I was going to freeze to death. And when I got out of my sleeping bag, I vowed that if I ever warmed up again, I would never complain about hot weather.”

The Michigander is Howard “Putter” Schoenherr, who rode the Michigander many times with his daughter, Shelley Schoenherr. Howard used to run the Sanford Lake Bar and Grill in Sanford, Mich. and served as a Midland County commissioner for 12 years. He often tried to put up a façade as a crusty old curmudgeon, but couldn’t quite pull it off. We could all tell that he was really a big softie.

“YOU’RE GETTING FATTER!” he’d growl when he saw me on the ‘Gander for the first time each year, renewing our annual frat brother teasing sessions with a mischievous gleam in his eyes. Howard always seemed to have a mischievous gleam in his eyes.

“YOU’RE GETTING UGLIER!” I’d cheerfully retort. Then we’d wish each other a good ride and be on our merry way.

Howard passed away last September at the age of 79. A mutual Michigander friend broke it to me in an email with the subject line, “Some Sad Michigander News.” Howard’s participation in the Michigander was such a significant part of his life that it was mentioned in his obituary.

You missed a good ride, Howard – and we missed you. Ride in peace.

It is Rob Litwin saying, “The Michigander always helps me find my smile,” and his grateful wife Jackie adding this: “He rides into this brave new world each year, and always finds his way back to himself, and back to me. He comes home a better husband, a better dad, a better man.”

If there’s another summer event that inspires those kind of poignant testimonials, I’d like to hear about it.

And perhaps most of all, the Michigander is Sam “Pit Bull” Kennedy, a 21-year tour vet whose legendary status is so well-documented that he received an autograph request during the 2011 ride after the proprietor of a West Michigan party store recognized him from his picture on the front page of that day’s Grand Rapids Press.

Kennedy, 60, a retired GM warehouse worker from Belleville and no stranger to the gym, owns the Michigander finish line. Bare-chested, clad in his trademark black and white striped shorts, barking words of encouragement and praise into his bullhorn and theatrically waving his pair of checkered flags as members of his cycle-logical family ride by, he is the Michigander at its very core.

The morning clouds have all drifted away above the yellow banner at Harbor Springs Middle School on this now-idyllic July afternoon. The last few riders cross underneath it, serenaded by the stomps and claps of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” and Sam’s calls of “ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST!” and “CONGRATULATIONS!” The latest edition of the Michigander Bike Tour draws to a close under nothing but blue skies.

Come on home. Life is good, indeed.

And on the Michigander – a sun-kissed, rain-soaked, sweat-streaked, aerobic laughter-filled, triumphant tear-stained, thigh-burning, soul-enriching, gloriously scenic two-wheeled journey all the way back to those carefree summer days when the only thing that mattered was that school was out until September and riding your bike to the ice cream store with your friends was just about the best feeling in the whole wide world – life is even better.

Enjoy the ride?

We live for the ride.

–For more information about the Michigander, log on to: http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bicycle-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.

 

DFP 2014-1: “This will be a hoot in August”: Remembering first Michigander as registration for 23rd edition ends

DFP 2014-1: “This will be a hoot in August”: Remembering first Michigander as registration for 23rd edition ends

“THIS WILL BE A HOOT IN AUGUST”: REMEMBERING FIRST MICHIGANDER AS REGISTRATION FOR 23rd EDITION ENDS

PHOTO ABOVE: Free Press reporter Neely Tucker on his challenging preview ride of the inaugural Michigander route in March, 1992. PHOTO BY GEORGE GRYZENIA/COURTESY OF DETROIT FREE PRESS

By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer/Traverse City Travel Guest Blogger
June 30, 2014

TRAVERSE CITY – It all began 22 years ago, with a Detroit Free Press Magazine article about “The Bike Trip From Hell.”

I can still remember the cover illustration of bicyclists on a trail catching my eye one Sunday morning. Then the headline of the story in the magazine’s April 19, 1992 edition drew me in: “This Will Be a Hoot in August.”

Some crazy dude with a pony tail had ridden 275 mostly-solitary miles across the Great Lake State’s southern Lower Peninsula, from South Haven to Rochester, on icy roads and rail trails – abandoned railroad corridors that have been converted into multiuse recreational trails – through a blizzard and sub-zero wind chills in March.

Then-Free Press reporter Neely Tucker had just christened the inaugural route of the Detroit Free Press Michigander Bicycle Tour.

Next month, the True North version of the 23rd annual Michigander will roll through the paradise that is northwest Lower Michigan, including Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, the Leelanau Peninsula and Traverse City, from July 12-18.

It will be my 18th ‘Gander ride, and considerably warmer than Tucker’s first.

The 258-mile 6-Day and 293-mile 7-Day tour options begin in Reed City and Farwell, respectively, and will travel on M-22 – the sublime subject of all those trendy bumper stickers – back roads, the Fred Meijer White Pine, Betsie Valley, Leelanau and TART (Traverse Area Recreational Trail) rail trails. Riders will set up tent cities in the tiny village of Mesick and such quintessential Up North resort towns such as Frankfort, Leland, Traverse City and Cadillac.

After breaking camp in Cadillac and embarking on an easy 30-mile morning on the Fred Meijer White Pine Trail and back roads, my 6-Day and 7-Day comrades-in-legs and I will conclude our exhilarating trek through scenic northwest Lower Michigan when we roll triumphantly under the yellow Michigander 2014 Finish Line banner in Reed City on July 18.

It’s not too late to join in on the fun and sign up for the tour Bicycling Magazine cited as one of its 10 favorite events in its 2012 Multiday Ride Guide. Michigander Director Barry Culham has extended the registration deadline for Free Press readers to this Thursday, July 3.

As of June 29, 654 riders had signed up for one of the tour’s three options, including the family-and-beginner-friendly 2-Day ride, which starts in Farwell on July 12 and will take riders 35 miles along the paved Pere Marquette State Trail to their overnight camp in the crossroads town of Reed City, an old Michigander favorite, and 35 miles back to Farwell the next day.

In his classic story that introduced readers to the nation’s first and still the longest and largest rail trail-based bicycle tour, Tucker wrote about his frozen misadventures on the inaugural route. The main event, August 16-21, 1992, was sponsored and covered by the Free Press after the Michigan Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy asked the paper to join them in a project to raise awareness of and funds for the rails-to-trails campaign.

As a recent journalism grad who always took my bike with me on my frequent Michigan State Parks camping excursions but never rode great distances, I thought to myself, “That sounds, uh, interesting.” And “Wow, his editor must be a sadist.”

“I was dumb enough to keep pedaling, lucky enough not to get hurt, and numb enough to undergo heart surgery without anesthesia,” Tucker wrote then. “Even now, with the chill lingering in my bones, I can imagine that it might be fun to do this in August. But in early March the Free Press Michigander was the Bike Trip From Hell. After all, I did pedal through it. (The route passed through the community of Hell, 15 miles northwest of Ann Arbor.)

“And just as I suspected, it was frozen over.”

As I read Tucker’s article all those years ago, I couldn’t really envision that the ride would endure and grow into such a popular event that veteran cyclists now breathlessly anticipate ‘Gander Week the same way kids work themselves into a frenzy looking forward to Santa hurrying down their chimney every winter, a rocking, rolling Christmas in July trek through sleepy one-light villages and charming resort towns via back roads and rail trails.

Neither could Tucker himself.

“I had no idea it would turn into something that would last this long,” Tucker, now with the Washington Post, told me in an email last week from Austin, Texas. He was on a national book tour promoting his highly-acclaimed first novel, “The Ways of the Dead.”

Tucker, who has corresponded from over 50 countries in his career as a journalist, said his main thought after Michigander I was, not surprisingly, “This is a lot more fun in August than in March.”

“The Michigander I did with everybody else was a nice, laid-back, days-in-the-sun hangout,” he added. “You never had to come indoors. It was great. The trip I did solo in March? Well, I don’t recall being much colder, whether it was Poland or Bosnia or the mountains in Georgia. But (on the ’92 Michigander in August), everybody spoke English, and nobody was shooting at me, so it was still pretty low key. But God, my butt hurt.”

I’ve never had to deal with blizzards or bone-chilling temps in my Michigander career, but I have ridden my share of challenging miles on the long days and rough trails of the ‘Ganders of yore, including the infamous ’97 ride from South Haven to Traverse City.

Another former Free Press staffer, retired outdoors writer Eric Sharp, dubbed it “The Michigander Death March.” He rode and wrote about the tour for the Free Press from 1994-2001.

We survived Michigander VI, as we always do. While I was preparing to cover for the Grand Rapids Press what turned out to be the hottest Michigander ever in 2011, a 340-mile semi-circular route that began in Gobles and ended in South Haven, Sharp told me he’d been particularly impressed by Michigander veterans’ devotion to the event.

“What was most notable was the incredible enthusiasm of the people who had ridden it before,” he said. “This was the highlight of the year for many, better than Christmas, and their enthusiasm was infectious.”

Now that I’m not a just wide-eyed reader but one of those grizzled vets myself, following in the footsteps of Tucker, Sharp and others writing about the Michigander for the Free Press, I am grateful that Tucker blazed those trails on the very first ‘Gander route – and that he lived to tell me and so many others about it.

And I am pleased to bring good tidings of great summertime joy: This year’s Michigander route promises to be one of its most alluring ever. Nancy Krupiarz, the executive director of the Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA) – the Lansing-based nonprofit organization that now oversees the ride – is pretty stoked as well.

“It’s wonderful to be able to return to the well-loved trails of past Michiganders,” said Krupiarz. “But this year, to be able to add the Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail, set in the beautiful and unique surroundings of the Sleeping Bear Dunes, is really exciting.”

The Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail runs 10 miles from Empire to Glen Arbor through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, which “Good Morning America” named “The Most Beautiful Place in America” in 2011.

The Michigander rolls every July now, but that’s not the only change in the two decades since Tucker’s “great adventure,” as Brian Dickerson, his editor at the magazine, pitched the unusual March, 1992 assignment.

“I think Brian was more scared that I was going to die on that trip than I was,” Tucker said when I asked if he’s ever forgiven Dickerson, now a Free Press columnist. “I’d let him buy me a bourbon if he wanted to.”

Some lean years followed after Free Press sponsorship of the ride ended in 2001, but ridership is again on the upswing. Trails have vastly improved in surface quality and in number. There is now an all-paved road bike option. And despite some suspicion and resentment over the years from a few malcontents whose property adjoins rail trails we’ve pedaled – and some small, sharp objects thrown in our path – we’ve never had gunfire directed our way either.

The 2013 edition of the tour attracted 736 total riders from 23 states and Canadian provinces, who ranged in age from 5 to 84. Many of them pedaled 280 miles from Charlevoix to Harbor Springs, Bellaire, Gaylord, Indian River and Mackinaw City.

The man who rode the first Michigander route in both winter and summer over two decades ago said that this year’s True North edition “sounds beautiful,” and has a special message for the cyclists who will be enjoying it.

“Good luck and Godspeed,” Tucker said. “It wasn’t like that in the old days!”

He added that his experiences made up for the chilled bones and sore rear end he got during his long rides in March and August, 1992 – because they gave him so much more.

“You don’t get rich in this job,” the Mississippi native and award-winning writer said. “You just wind up with a lot of great stories. And the Michigander – and that, by luck of the draw, I got to pioneer it – is a great story to tell.”

So here’s your chance to make plenty of new friends, engage in a healthful activity in one of the most spectacularly scenic parts of the state and blaze some new trails of your own.

Here’s your chance to become part of the Michigander story yourself.

Why miss out on all the fun? Life is full of uncertainties, but both Tucker and I are pretty sure about one thing.

This will be a hoot in July.

–Former Free Press reporter Neely Tucker’s website address is: http://www.neelytucker.com

–For more information about the Michigander, log on to: http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bicycle-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.

 

DFP 2014-2: True North Michigander rolls into Sleeping Bear Dunes area

DFP 2014-2: True North Michigander rolls into Sleeping Bear Dunes area

TRUE NORTH MICHIGANDER ROLLS INTO SLEEPING BEAR DUNES AREA

PHOTO ABOVE: Michigander 23 participants pedaling along the spectacular new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL

By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
July 14, 2014

FRANKFORT — Rain or shine, bring on the Sleeping Bear.

On a near-perfect sunny, 72-degree Monday afternoon, my 450 or so fellow cycling enthusiasts on the 23rd annual Michigander Bike Tour and I pedaled 48 miles from the tiny village of Mesick along country roads, Crystal Lake and the beautiful Betsie Valley Trail into Frankfort today, with the promise of a two-wheeled adventure through the spectacularly scenic Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore tomorrow.

Tim Donaven, 42, a Rochester Hills resident and analyst for Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan on his 13th ‘Gander, said he’s been anticipating the tour’s first visit to the Sleeping Bear Dunes and our 10-mile leg on the new Sleeping Bear Heritage Trail between Empire and Glen Arbor — despite the challenging terrain.

“I’m looking forward to the hills,” he told me today at our St. Patrick’s Day-themed rest stop at the old train depot in Beulah. He paused for a moment, then added, “Especially the downhills.”

Donaven helped renew an old tour tradition Saturday night — before heavy rains soaked our overnight camp in Reed City — by writing on a “True North Michigander” ceiling tile at the Buckboard Bar.

“Best week of the year, every year,” he wrote with a black Sharpie, echoing the sentiments of many veteran riders, including me.

What makes the ride so special? The friendly people, the camaraderie, the unique bonds that develop between Michigander vets. Donaven said it, I say it, we all say it.

We are family.

On Sunday, over 200 cyclists completed the 2-Day version of the tour by pedaling 35 miles from Reed City to Farwell along the paved Pere Marquette Rail-Trail, while we 6-Day and 7-Day riders headed north on a mostly-paved section of the White Pine Trail, along the converted rail bed where the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad formerly operated.

We will camp in Leland Tuesday night, then pedal on to Traverse City and Cadillac before rolling triumphantly under the yellow “Michigander 2014 Finish Line Banner” back in Reed City on Friday.

The Michigander, co-founded by the Free Press in 1992, is the nation’s biggest and longest multiple day, rail trail-based bicycle tour and was cited by Bicycling Magazine as one of its 10 favorite events in its 2012 Multiday Ride Guide.

In addition to thigh-burning hills, Tuesday also promises unseasonably cool temps and a strong chance of rain showers, but that’s not going to dampen our spirits — or keep us from modestly channeling W. B. Yeats in Michigander matters.

“Everybody’s enjoying the ride,” MTGA Executive Director Nancy Krupiarz, who was festively attired in a green hat and shirt, fake beard and black pants held up by green suspenders, told me at the St. Patrick’s Day-themed Beulah depot rest stop this afternoon before racking up a few miles on the Betsie Valley Trail herself. “We’ll pay our dues to see the views!”

–For more information about the Michigander, log on to:
http://www.michigantrails.org/michigander-bike-tour

–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: roncamp22g@gmail.com.