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.

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