And then there were three

If you’re going to have a friend join you on a bike trip, it is mighty handy if he just happens to be a bike tour operator. Especially if you are in his home territory. And an all around good guy, like Jim.

We had already spent one day making our way north along the western shore of Michigan. It was enough to impress us with the Lake Michigan views and fine sand beaches. And I was enamoured with the brilliant blue-green color of the water, reminiscent of the Caribbean. We discovered that many towns were built on lakes, small bays or rivers adjoining the big lake. They frequently afforded appealing views with boats bobbing in marinas. And in between were orchards laden with ripe red apples, farm stands, peaches for sale, scenic farms and woods lining the road.

A Michigan beach
Rest stop in Onekama

Our rendezvous point with Jim was Arcadia. A tiny village, it boasted both a nature preserve and a beautiful town beach. With free time available, an afternoon for doing your own thing seemed in order. Rich eagerly headed out in search of birds in the marsh. I spent my time walking the beach with the roar of the waves in my ears and the wind on my face. We finished just in time to meet Jim for dinner, and capped off the day with a splendid sunset over the lake.

Arcadia Beach

Our morning departure as a threesome was quite a wake-up call. We had reached the coastal sand dunes, and as they rose steeply above the water, so did the road. Our initial few miles were straight up, ending at an overlook with long views up and down the coast. No one but me was willing to climb the steps to the top. But it was worth it. The low sun was just beginning to illuminate the trees below, and the clear blue skies and enhanced the deep color of the water.

Overlook at Arcadia

It was a grand day for cycling and necessitated taking time to enjoy the sights along the way. Having three people meant more interests. More ideas. More reasons to stop. A photo opp for Rich. A rest stop for Jim. A lighthouse or two for me. One looked like a toy, but Point Betsie Lighthouse was quite nice.

Point Betsie Lighthouse
We were in unanimous agreement on one thing. Ice cream. A requirement at the end of a long, hot day of cycling. Such was our mission upon reaching Glen Arbor after our 50-mile ride. Fortunately, Jim’s expertise led us to just the place – a shop where all the ice cream featured Michigan cherries!
Jim, Molly and Rich at ice cream place

We were grateful to learn that Jim was a very agreeable traveling companion. Despite the dire weather forecasts for morning, we threw caution to the wind and stuck with our plans to camp that night. For our reward, we scored the only campsite in the DH Day National Forest Campgound with a water view! The fact that they had only primitive campsites (outhouses and water faucets, period) was no problem. Our beautifully secluded spot also had beach access. With Jim leading the charge, we were soon swimming off our day’s sweat and rinsing our cycling gear all at once in Lake Michigan! I certainly never expected to swim in the lake on this trip. And had we been on our own, I’m not certain we would have taken the plunge. It’s a good thing that by then there were three.

Swimming in Lake Michigan


Water, Water Everywhere

Rainy cycling

We were destined to spend the day surrounded by water. The first variety came out of the sky. The weather forecast made it abundantly clear that we were going to encounter rain this morning. And it wasn't wrong. Although the skies were dry when we left, it soon began to drizzle. Rain was not far behind and continued off and on for the duration of our ride. But still, it could have been worse. The temperatures were mild enough that we didn't get cold, and the wind was light.

Our early departure worked to our advantage. By the time we arrived in Manitowoc, the rain was tapering and a strong NW wind had picked up. We both agreed that we were better off getting wet than battling that headwind. And we were glad that we had pressed onward yesterday leaving only a show trial 23 mile ride today.

Walking around the harbor in Manitowoc was pleasant and offered plenty of sights. We were fascinated by the “fishing kayaks” we saw. Powered by foot pedals and very stable, they gently maneuvered around the harbor. We even saw one such fisherman land an active, jumping fish. The Farmers Market provided a colorful contrast to the dreary day. And we were able to see the USS Cobia up close by the Maritime Museum. It is one of 28 subs built in Manitowoc that saw action in WWII. We completed our walking tour at Manitowoc Coffee, where we gradually began drying out.

Manitowoc Farmers Market
USS Cobia
Molly at Manitowoc Coffee
Rich and The Badger

The afternoon brought our second water immersion experience. In this case, we boarded The Badger and spent four hours in the midst of Lake Michgan, crossing from Wisconsin to the Michigan side. The Badger was built in 1952 to carry rail cars across the lake, which it did until 1990. Just two years later, it began its new life as a car ferry. The thick black smoke that belched from its smoke stack nearly became its downfall when new EPA regulations were enacted. However, installing an ash retention system on its coal-fired steam engines kept the ferry in business. Just this year it was designated as a National Historic Landmark, and continues to make four crossings daily in the non-winter months.

Enjoying the deck

Not long after departing from Manitowoc, the skis cleared and the day became hot and sunny. We spent most of the voyage out on deck where our clothes dried quickly in the sun. I reclined in a deck chair with my book for the afternoon. And I considered it a personal victory to be able to tolerate the waves that rocked the boat from side to side.

As the day ended, we were drawn back to the water one more time. Now in Michigan, our coastline faced west. Walking back to our motel after dinner, the sky was filled with fantastic cloud formations, highlighted by the last light of the day. And there at the horizon was the sun's finale, glowing red between lake and clouds.

From the early raindrops to the sun's retreat, it dominated our day. Water, water everywhere.

Sunset over Lake Michigan - by Rich Hoeg