GO FOR A RIDE: 24th ANNUAL MICHIGANDER BIKE TOUR REGISTRATION CLOSING TODAY (PUBLISHED ON FREEP.COM AS “MICHIGANDER BIKE TOUR: REGISTRATION DEADLINE TODAY”)
PHOTO ABOVE: Michigander veterans Ron Lenders of Shelby Township (in green jersey on left) and Brian Rumohr of Grosse Pointe pedal past Bay Harbor on the Little Traverse Wheelway just south of Petoskey during the 2010 Michigander. PHOTO BY RON CAMPBELL
By RON CAMPBELL
Detroit Free Press Special Writer
July 2, 2015
CHEBOYGAN — School’s out!
Have you ever wanted to take a long, carefree bike ride with your friends on peaceful trails through pristine pine forests all the way to glistening blue lakeshores? Looking for a last-minute, affordable, healthful, rejuvenating summer adventure? The 24th annual Michigander Bike Tour promises all that Pure Michigan magic, and more. Registration is open until midnight July 2.
The family-friendly 2-Day version of the popular tour will get underway at Cheboygan High School on Saturday, July 11.
Free Press readers may find additional details about the Michigander, view the 2014 tour video that ride veterans Brian Rumohr and Tim Donaven made and sign up online at http://www.michigander.bike.
The Great Lakes State leads the U.S. with 2,382 miles of rail trails — abandoned railroad corridors that have been converted into multi-use recreational trails — and the Michigander is one of the nation’s biggest and longest rail trail-based bicycle tours.
The 2-Day Michigander will take cyclists 35 miles on the North Central State Trail (NCST) south to Indian River and back to Cheboygan High School on July 11, where they will camp in their spirited tent city, dine together and choose between plenty of options for evening fun, including Cheboygan’s Waterways Festival, partying in the pubs in town or simply catching up with old friends and making new ones in camp.
On Sunday, the riders will pedal northwest on the NCST — a 62-mile-long ribbon of crushed limestone that runs along the northernmost segment of the old Michigan Central Railroad — to Mackinaw City, where they will be able to go zip-lining at Historic Mill Creek State Park, shop for souvenirs and enjoy a stunning close-up view of the Mackinac Bridge in town or hop on a ferry to car-less, timeless Mackinac Island — with or without their bikes. Celebratory cake and beverages will be served after they conclude their scenic trek at Cheboygan High School.
“This is probably the best weekend plan we’ve had in our 23 years,” said Rumohr, a 37-year-old bank manager from Grosse Pointe who has long served as a tour volunteer and will be riding his 19th ‘Gander.
“The Michigander really highlights how beautiful our state is, and this year’s route is incredible,” he added. “Cheboygan is pulling out all the stops. On the first day we’ll head out to Indian River along the north shore of Mullett Lake, and on Sunday we’ll be back on the NCST to Mackinaw City, which has some of the best views as you ride along Lake Huron up to the Straits of Mackinac.”
The 2015 Michigander’s 294-mile 6-Day option will begin in Cheboygan on July 13, camp overnight in Harbor Springs, Bellaire, Traverse City, Grayling and Indian River and conclude back at Cheboygan High School on July 18. It will travel on back roads and the North Central, North Eastern and North Western State Trails along with the Burt Lake Trail, the Little Traverse Wheelway, the Traverse Area Recreational Trail (TART) and the Grayling Bicycle Turnpike, all of which have either paved or hard-packed crushed limestone surfaces. The 8-Day option combines the 2-Day and 6-Day rides, for a total of approximately 364 miles.
The Free Press co-founded the tour with the Michigan Chapter of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy in 1992. The Michigander, which Bicycling Magazine cited as one of its ten favorite events in its 2012 Multiday Ride Guide, is now run by the Lansing-based Michigan Trails & Greenways Alliance (MTGA).
According to Michigander Director Barry Culham, 345 riders have signed up for the weekend ride as of June 25, and 672 overall.
Rumohr had a bit more than his share of Pure Michigan adventure last year when, after pedaling through the legendary Sleeping Bear Dunes three days earlier, he and Sam Kennedy encountered a very real, wide awake black bear on the tour’s last day.
The pair had set out especially early that morning on the White Pine Trail so that they would arrive in Reed City before their fellow cyclists. Kennedy, a 61-year-old retired GM warehouse worker and fitness buff from Belleville who will be riding his 22nd ‘Gander, spices up the tour’s grand finale every year by waving two checkered flags and yelling congratulations as riders roll by him triumphantly underneath the yellow Michigander Finish Line banner.
Before Kennedy could get there, a black bear moseying along the side of the White Pine south of Cadillac took note of his two fellow trail enthusiasts when they spotted him and came to a stop about 100 yards away.
After a few tense moments, Rumohr said, the bear lost interest and wandered off into the adjoining woods.
When news of the unexpected trailside excitement hit Facebook, 18-time Michigander rider Kristen Kramer posted this helpful comment for Kennedy: “You don’t have to be able to pedal faster than the bear. You just have to be able to pedal faster than Brian (Rumohr).”
Kramer, a registered nurse from Clinton Township, says she keeps returning to the Michigander because of the people on the tour.
“I can ride my bike anywhere, but the camaraderie of fellow cyclists brings me back year after year,” she said. “It is the friendships that I have made that make me feel like I am coming home again. I have attended their weddings, funerals of their loved ones and traveled, laughed and cried with them.”
Kramer also treasures the fact that “for one week each July, I get to be a kid again. I ride a bike, eat ice cream, play with friends and sleep in a tent. I have no job, no bills to pay, no worries and no stress.”
Kennedy joked after the momentary stress of last year’s ride that he’d be working to improve his zero-to-60 time, just in case a hungrier, more ill-tempered bear crashes the 2015 Michigander party on wheels.
Is his crunch-time acceleration better than Rumohr’s?
“Trust me, if it needs to be, it will be,” Kennedy said.
To which Rumohr replied, sort of like a kid razzing his buddy on the playground, “Maybe on his Harley.”
Here’s your chance to take that long bike ride through the woods to the beach.
A ride all the way back to the carefree days of your childhood, when the only thing that mattered was that school was out for summer and riding your bike to the ice cream store with your friends was just about the best feeling in the whole wide world.
–For more information about the Michigander, log on to:
–Detroit-based freelance writer and Michigander veteran Ron Campbell can be reached at: email@example.com.