Traverse City ride report

Guest writer and organizer of our local Ride of Silence event on May 19, Jim Dickson, shares this ride report from a recent trip to Traverse City. Enjoy!

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What to do when your wife attends a conference in Traverse City and you can come along for only $10 a night? Obviously, you scrape up twenty bucks, pump up the bike tires, and head out for the first good ride of the season!

We arrived at TC by 11:30a. Since her program wouldn’t begin until 1p, we drove up the Leelanau first before stopping at Subway for a quick lunch. After unloading at the hotel and receiving an envious goodbye from my beloved, I rounded back with the bike and found the trailhead.

The map I printed out back home showed a multi-use trail, paved for the first five miles, then two-track for six plus, and finally paved for the last three miles in to Sutton’s Bay. Tom’s, the local Spartan grocery chain store in Grielicksville, had more than enough provisions. So, Wednesday’s ride was just five miles warm up to the end of the paved trail. As this is Rail-Trail, the incline seemed no grater than two percent.

Returned to the Great Wolf Lodge where the conference was held. Got a real sweet hug for having actually organized the luggage in to separate drawers and for stocking the fridge. We sat down to savor the local wine I’d picked up at Tom’s and the smoked Lake Trout, crackers, and roasted red pepper/corn/black bean salsa from Burritt’s Deli on Front St, just east of Division. There looked to be a delicious bakery next door, too which advertised cherry pies of course!

After a quick re-charge, we drove up to the Mission Peninsula to the light house park for an organized hike we found on the web. It was a great group of locals, many retirees, the rest were about our age. The Lysteria flowers were just starting to bloom and made a nice white carpet as we walked through the forest. We returned along the shore, small and medium-sized rocks peppered the sand, all worn smooth from the waves. Serious drought up there, the water level is easily down three feet. Many on the hike were avid cyclists and mentioned there are often up to four organized rides each day. It’s no wonder so many trolls (we Michiganders who live under the bridge) retire to this area.

After the ride, we stopped downtown TC at Pangea Pizzaria, a renowned local eatery. I rested well that night, awoke refreshed, enjoyed a breakfast buffet at the Lodge, and was off to ride to Sutton’s Bay for lunch. Blue sky, 52 degrees, slight tail wind — it was going to be a great day!

The buttercup flowers woke up since yesterday, and the area near the nursing home seemed to double in length. The trail crosses many side roads and personal driveways, all of which are well-marked. It meanders some and crosses the main drag north a few times. The Traverse Area Recreational Trail Association (TART) has left push brooms near the stop signs so do-gooders can sweep the gravel from the trail which always collects at the intersections (and they don’t seem to get stolen like they might elsewhere!). We have “Adopt-A-Highway” back home, they have “Adopt-A-Trail” up here. Locals can take on a mile stretch and keep it tidy, and get their name on a sign, to boot!

The two-track section was well packed with only a short stretch having any standing water and squishy sounds. Narrow road tires are not recommended, as they would make for a bone-shaking experience. My Trek 7500 grocery getter/commuter was perfectly set up for this section. Shocks, 700×35 tires, fenders, and a springy seat post. Most riders I encountered had mountain bikes with knobbies.

I finally found a vineyard along the trail! Workers were setting the vines for the growing season, pruning and affixing them to the lateral wires for optimal sunlight and easy picking!. The length of the vine actually determines the sugar content in the grapes. The cherry blossoms whitened many fields, too. An old stone building near the trail perplexed me. Half fallen, it had been re-mortared on the inside to preserve what remained. Across the trail was a funny little shelter with an arched cement top! Upon closer scrutiny, I found an underground area about 25’ square with a number of cement vent stacks. It was quite cool, reminding me of the Caverns in KY! Whether this was for the former railroad or a root cellar that could withstand Armageddon, I don’t know. A quirky little surprise, nonetheless.

Arrived in Sutton Bay just before noon, and ate at the Silvertree Deli. Great food and service, a bit pricey, but the economy here needs it just like in Adrian. The coffee drinks floored me. I had a Mocha for which they used whipped cream from the squeeze pouch that was 10x thicker than from the can. WOW! Rode out to the end of the dock, gave my rendition of Otis Redding’s “Sittin on the Dock in the Bay” to an unimpressed Simon Crowell of the seagull nation. I enjoyed the vista, but noticed the weathermen up here are about as (in)accurate as anywhere. Darkened sky with low cloud cover increased the wind speed to 15+ m.p.h. for my ride home.

The ride back seemed much quicker as I’d snapped most of my photos on the way north. Upon my return and after racking the bike, I drove over to the old State Asylum, a historic Gothic structure just southwest of town (Division St. at 11th). What a gorgeous property! Mature trees, home of the Munson Medical Complex, and now a community is being established in the old buildings, replete with condos, day care, schools, restaurants, a wine tasting room and shops. The re-named site is called “The Village at Grand Traverse Commons.” We could see the red spires from our hotel two miles south. You’d not want to hang our here late at night on Halloween, to be sure!

Overall, a decent ride, not very challenging, but a great way to start the year.

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