Well, we’re back. A beautiful, breezy 62°F (16°C) when we left Traverse City, Michigan this morning. A face-slapping 100 (38°C) when we touched down in Austin this afternoon. And it appears the air conditioning is on the fritz at home — indoor temp was 85 (29°C), and we’ll be in for an uncomfortable night.
But what a great week we had. We met our friends Brad and Linda, whom we biked with in Chicago several weeks back, and stayed at Linda’s sister’s farm on the Old Mission peninsula of northwestern Michigan.
The setting is spectacular. The peninsula juts into Grand Traverse Bay on Lake Michigan for about 18 miles. It’s narrow, and from many spots you can see both the West Arm and East Arm of the bay at the same time. A great biking destination.
Just a few miles from the farm is the Old Mission Lighthouse. The ride allowed us to get used to the bikes we had rented and were riding for the first time (more on renting bikes in a later post). Although now out of commission, there is still something romantic about a lighthouse.
We took several rides on the peninsula during our stay, each one covering a slightly different route. The center of the peninsula is high ground, which means riders have plenty of hills to negotiate. The area around Grand Traverse Bay is known for cherry orchards. Grapes grow well, too, and a number of wineries have sprung up in the area.
Despite the name Old Mission, the missionary activity in the area is fairly recent. It was not until 1839 that a Presbyterian minister came to the area to convert Ottawa Indians. A replica of the mission stands across the road from the farm where we stayed.
Three roads run up the peninsula. Center Road, the major highway, has the high ground in the middle. Peninsula Road hugs the shoreline on the west side, and Bluff Road runs along much of the east side. A number of connecting roads cross the peninsula, allowing bikers to create routes of varying distances.
Brad and I took off one morning to ride to Traverse City and back. We opted to head south on Peninsula Road, spend a little time in town, and head back on Bluff road. The toughest part of the trip is at the beginning, when we had to cross the hills to get down to Peninsula Road. From there, the going was easy, with a marked bike lane along much of the road, and fresh, smooth asphalt for several miles.
Several long paved bike trails cross Traverse City and lead to various locations in the country. We rode the TART Trail along the city’s lakefront park.
Northwestern Michigan College farther along the trail is home of the Great Lakes Maritime Academy.
Leaving Traverse City on the return leg, bikers must ride Center Road, or Route M-37. It’s fairly busy, but has a wide shoulder for much of its length. Still, it’s good to get off Center and get onto Bluff Road with its views of the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.
Our ride to Traverse City and back was 37 miles and change. It’s an easy ride, and the break in town allows for some additional sightseeing.
The Cherry Capital Cycling Club seems to be quite active — we saw them riding in good-sized groups several times during our stay. Their web site features maps of a number of different bike routes in the area.
Perfect summer weather, terrific scenery, cherries and wine — we had a great time. For getaway biking, northwestern Michigan is hard to beat.