The Long Way Around

Two peninsulas

Bike touring is all about getting from point A to point B. It is the journey. We see the countryside intensively, at a slow pace. But only right along our route. Despite our best intentions to live in the moment, we often find ourselves focused more on getting to our next destination. On this trip, and in particular in the last few days, we have endeavored to break that mold.

We had a hunch that the western side of Michigan would hold some of the best scenery, so our goal was to prevent rushing through this area. Our intentions have been assisted by the existence of small roads right along the coast that allow us to meander and linger. Peninsulas in particular offer perfect opportunities to practice this approach. It would be easy to cut across the bottom. But we have resisted the temptation.

Rich and Jim taking a break

The Leelanau Peninsula impressed us with its coastal parks and prosperous towns. The fine sand beaches and tall dunes were such a contrast to the rocky shores of Lake Superior that are more familiar to us. And we continued to be amazed to see frequent lakes and bays so close to the big lake. We were as likely to have water views inland as we were on the coast side of the road.

We ventured up the peninsula to Northport before turning down the opposite shore. Had we not done so, we would have missed a surprisingly tasty breakfast stop. Dining on eggs with a Mexican flair surrounded by a vivid yellow décor was a day brightener. Resuming cycling, we were bathed in equally brilliant sunshine sparkling on the waters of Lake Michigan. That carried us all the way down the eastern side, passing vineyards and orchards.

Old Mission Peninsula was far more of a whim. Smaller, narrower and with almost no towns, we had little reason to go there. I had to cajole Rich into doing it. And it was the best morning of cycling yet.

Molly cycling Old Mission Peninsula

Under a cloudless blue sky, we headed up the east side of the peninsula. We traveled small local roads, with barely a car in sight. Crisp cool air flowed over us and the low sun was only just beginning to provide its welcome warmth. But it's golden rays illuminated the blue of the water, the dark brown tree trunks and the rich green grass. It was an ambiance that not only encouraged loitering but demanded it.

Bald Eagle by Rich Hoeg

There is no denying that this was a wealthy area. We enjoyed gawking at the sprawling mansions with immaculate landscaping. There was an impressive array of water toys adorning the long docks that jutted out into the lake. Beautiful beach-side patios hosted colorful collections of Adirondack chairs. And bountiful fall flowers bloomed in the carefully tended gardens. Even a bald eagle graced the tall trees and obliged Rich by lingering long enough for a photo.

Crossing over the peninsula we found orchards, colorful farm markets and tidy vineyards. A picturesque marina greeted us on the other side. By then the sun was high enough to stream through the trees and reach us on the opposite side. It was the kind of morning that we wanted to last forever.

Farm Market on Old Mission Peninsula
Old Mission Peninsula

By the time we finished our loop, we had traveled 27 miles but progressed only one mile toward our destination for the day. And yet we had just taken in tantalizingly beautiful scenery. Proving it was worth it to go the long way around.


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