Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Michigan Bike Packing, 2015

Looking back, this trip started a year ago. My buddy Jeff from Pennsylvania had contacted me about a trip he and a couple of friends were going to do in Lower Michigan in 2014. It sounded interesting, but I had other things planned at that time so passed. Jeff had reported back that it turned out to be a good ride with lots of fun singletrack included.
Fast forward almost a year and another friend, Scott (Bear) from Wisconsin had decided to put together a Brewery Tour in Lower Michigan.
After some back and forth planning with both Jeff and Scott, I ended up riding with Jeff on a great 4 day ride covering around 215 miles.
After that ride, Jeff and I joined up with the Bear and his crew for an evening of fun and I rode one day with them, checking out a few local Breweries. 50 miles of riding that day.
Link to both routes.

The ride with Jeff ran through a long section of the North County Trail which was/is primarily a hiking trail but they allow bikes on a major section of it. A strange coincidence happened on our last day as we were having breakfast in Big Rapids. There was a gentlemen there that asked a few questions about where we had been biking. He ended up being one of the staff for the North Country Trail, so we had a great conversation with him.

There were a few sections that didn't allow bikes so we detoured on some roads.....some paved, some not, some recently graded (soft) some not (washboards) some jeep trails (lots of soft sand).
There was a lot more elevation changes than I expected on the first day of singletrack, it being all we wanted when it came to difficulty. Lots of small creeks emptying into the Manistee River that created many downs and ups as we crossed them with a few hike a bikes.

Jeff took a number of videos of the ride but I only posted a few. If anyone wants to see more to evaluate the trail, let me know.

Jeff and my route.

Scott's basic Brewery Tour Map. Scott, Sean, Todd and Greg made up this group and they came over from Wisconsin on the Lake Express Ferry.

Before I took off for Michigan, Lynn and I participated in a 10 mile family ride with our DIL, grandson (who is 6 and rode the route) and granddaughter who is 20 months and rode in the trailer.....great way to start the day and the trip.

Riding BOB (bike on bike) north around Lake Michigan and over the Mackinaw Bridge to meetup with Jeff north of Cadillac, MI.

Manistique, MI. Lighthouse in the  background. With a stiff south wind pushing the cool spring air off the water it was rather chilly near the lake, but glad I didn't encounter the rain and fog predicted.

Photo credits to Jeff for all the great shots....and I have a few tossed in here as well.
Met Jeff at Old Hwy 131 Campsite. Night #1. Got a little rain during the night. Put away wet tent.

Jeff's rigs.
The Start, Cadillac, MI. Day 1. Jeff modeling.

On the trail.


Lunch time.

Jeff, self-portraits.

Yours Truly.

Jeff was on a RAMPS kick. Sometimes called Leaks, wild onions.

Getting a beer for the evening.

Campsite 2. Drying out tents/rainfly.

Making dinner.
 Cut up Ramps.

Full moon rising.

Day 2. was a bit chilly when we broke camp so rode for a couple of hours to heat up ourselves and then to heat up some oatmeal and such.

We tried to compare our setups....
- 26 vs 29er
- 28 speeds vs 9
- gear mounted low and back in panniers vs high on front off the handlebars
- old school gear and bags (Jeff made his own panniers) vs high tech new school
- both SPD
- disc vs rim brakes
- both rigid
.....and the list I suppose could go on some, just proves it really doesn't matter, really

After Day 1 my bivy tent sack had a hole worn in it from rubbing on the headbadge. With my wearing my biking short, my underwear did some double time for the rest of the trip while on the trail....that's efficient packing when one item can be used in more than one way!


Water handle. Need to go to plan B.

Plan B for water. Jeff brought a UV water purifier. Had to get it out twice.

Lunch.....and beer/cigar purchases for later.

Tribal Property Crossing.

The further down the trail we got, the buffer the trail got. So glad we did the hard stuff first, plus we ran "downstream".

Campsite 3. Now that's living!

 Jeff teaching me some time exposure tricks with the fire.

Breaking camp. Day 3.

Last hike a bike.....except for some sand spots coming up.

Freshly graded, yum, yum.

Figuring a re-route.

Campsite 4. Hungerford Lake. Some singletrack in the Park as well.

End of the Day.....getting the beer cold and making ready for a swim.

Day 4.

The End....pretty much the way it started.

Jeff leading me in the shuttle drive from Cadillac to South Haven, MI to drop off the ST1100.

Final video of the trip with Jeff.

Brewery Tour...Day 5.
Met the guys Thursday evening dinner in Paw Paw, MI. We had a movie night showing Among the Wild with me skiing the Arrowhead 135 and many of Jeff's trips, including the 2 we did back in 2008 (Pennsylvania) and 2012 (Idaho).
Jeff took off in the morning heading home.

Heading to the Paw Paw Brewery.

Me, Sean and Todd.
Paw Paw Brewery.

Final Gravity Brewery, Decatur, MI  for lunch.
Really cool, small place, very good beers. Starting at 12'oclock and going CW. Beans, Todd, Bear, Sean.

On to Arclight Brewery in Watervliet, MI.
Apple blossoms.

On to South Haven, MI. Right on Lake Michigan.
Beans and Sean.

No brewery here, heading to motel and pizza. Scott, with another 12 pack in the panniers.
 Todd, Scott (Bear).

Yours truly.

Next morning heading home around the lake and Chicago. 48F and misty.

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