As the fall season pushes forward, so do Michigan’s adventurers. Chuck Hayden and his group of bikers did just that, bicycling over 80 miles through Michigan trails. Enjoy Chuck’s account of this adventure here with Pure Michigan Connect!
It was difficult to hear each other over the crunching roar of bike tires and gravel. As we rode in formation, I watched the numbers slowly increase on my bike’s computer odometer. I looked up and to my right to glance at Ryan as he slowly pushed the pedals. Although it didn’t look like he was struggling, I could sense his fatigue. He was pulling a trailer with over one hundred pounds of gear. He was quiet. He starred at the ground just ahead of him. We were all quiet.
The rain was relentless. It wasn’t a hard rain, but rather a cold and consistent one; a rain that had, so far, lasted 2 hours. Everything was soaked. The air temp had fallen below 55 degrees Fahrenheit – hypothermia weather. Because we had been riding for two and a half hours – the cold was a little less noticeable. No one seemed “unhappy”. Actually, I assumed that everyone was content and in an upbeat frame of mind. I was about to find out that I was completely alone in my optimistic “la-la land”.
As we approached 24 miles I kept a close eye on the odometer. Our three new members had decided to combine their gear in one trailer and take turns pulling it. They would switch at 12 mile intervals. It was my job to track those miles and let them know when we reached those milestones.
As we continued, I would glance at the odometer then at the current “mule” rider, Ryan. I, too, had a trailer, but it was less than half their weight and only had a single tire.
As soon as mile 24 displayed itself, I called out “Twenty Fooouurrr!”
As if I had activated the air brakes of a slow moving train, everything immediately ceased. Ryan’s rear tire locked and slid an S shape into the trail. The bikers behind him were forced to react like startled drivers. He was done pulling – there was no doubt about that.
They changed “mules”, gulped some water and swallowed an energy bar. Bill locked his foot in the pedal, pushed off and took over the duties of “draft biker”.
We were on the longest rail-trail in Michigan – the White Pine Trail State Park. We intended Cadillac, but we made Paris. It was an “experience” they would say. They would say it enough that it became the trip motto. “It’s an experience.”
We had passed four ice cream shops, a few restaurants, expansive farmland, wetlands, lowlands, forest lands, churches, time honored train stations and a few Amish horse drawn trailers hauling away their harvest. We were riding through the backyard of Michigan.
We pedaled over half a dozen bridges that displayed forests valleys, busy rapids and the mighty Muskegon River. We struggled through rain, various parks with scattered picnic tables and finally settled at the Paris County Park. The Park is home to the 129 year old Paris State Fish Hatchery. After dry clothes and setting camp, we retired to “Pizza in Paris” – makers of some of the finest Pizza in the State.
The next day, we had perfect weather and tired legs. We rode with the optimism that we would finish. It all ended in the small town of Sand Lake, Michigan where a dozen bikers were taking a break before their return south to Grand Rapids on the paved portion of the trail. We, however, were adventurers – we rode the lesser known and rewarding gravel to the north.
Guest Blogger and outdoor enthusiast, Chuck Hayden is a Senior Member of the Fortune Bay Expedition Team (a not for profit group that explores the Great Lakes Region). Chuck recently completed a 300 Mile Solo Expedition of a large portion of Michigan’s Upper Pennisula. He resides in Lowell, Michigan with his wife Martha and Children, Charlotte and Noah.