Pure pedal

Today's posting title is an offshoot of "Pure Michigan," the tourism-branding slogan of the state where I grew up. For nearly 10 days in July, it was pure joy riding my bicycle, rediscovering many magical places and finding new ones to fill my memory bank. More precisely, my travels occurred in the Upper Peninsula, where I was a Yooper for eight years back in the 1970s. I apologize for saying this again, but it is truly God's Country.

The decision to take my Specialized Crux cyclocross/gravel machine was a perfect choice. It was great for all of the different riding surfaces I encountered on the trip, especially with its 38mm tires.

My daily journeys included miles and miles of hard-packed dirt and gravel roads, mostly through the expansive Hiawatha National Forest, an area in the central and eastern parts of the U.P. covering 894,000 acres. One route, in particular, would take me to the Mission Hill Cemetery Scenic Overlook, offering a spectacular view of the eastern side of Lake Superior and its entrance to the St. Marys River. Also, a handy spot for observing Great Lakes freighters and other vessels, with Canada looming in the background.

Another favorite pedal involved cruising on Lakeshore Drive, a paved two-lane road that literally — as its name would suggest — followed along the shore of Lake Superior. This course also took me through the Bay Mills Indian Community, a reservation comprised of Ojibwa or Chippewa people who have lived for hundreds of years around Whitefish Bay, the falls of the St. Marys River and the bluffs overlooking Tahquamenon Bay, all on Lake Superior, most of which still encompass their present-day homeland. If one wanted fresh whitefish for dinner, this is where you would go. In fact, one proprietor on the reservation — where we went multiple times — had a sign that said, "The fish you are eating today was swimming yesterday!"

One of my Lakeshore Drive rides presented a nice surprise. While finishing up the last few miles and heading back to our rented cottage, I caught up with another cyclist who was obviously bikepacking. His name was Brent and he was from Chicago.

Leaving the Windy City, he had headed north, going up along the eastern side of Lake Michigan. When he reached Ludington, Michigan, he took the ferry across Lake Michigan to Manitowoc, Wisconsin, a 61-mile journey. From there, he went up the western side of Lake Michigan and — when I met him — was in the process of doing a circle tour of the Upper Peninsula, before returning to Chicago.

At the time of our chance meeting, he was cruising toward Tahquamenon Falls to camp for the evening. I asked him how many miles he had traveled and he said he wasn't sure, as he didn't have a bike computer. "I find them a distraction," he proclaimed in an easy manner. Much like his cycling style. After we biked together for a couple of miles, I wished him safe travels and then charged back to my dream vacation home.

Anyway, the cycling was fantastic, our temporary digs right on the shore of Gitche Gumee were unbelievable, and I cannot wait to go back. It was pure heaven!

Monthly numbers

My riding totals for the month of July were a bit disappointing. I only pedaled a bicycle 22 out of the month's 31 days, losing six days alone for traveling to and from Michigan.

I utilized four different bikes: my Trek 2.3 and Domane road machines, my all-purpose Trek 920, and my Specialized Crux. July's mileage amount was a dismal 529.

So far, for the 2022 season and as of July 31, I have taken 148 rides and gone a total of 3,918 miles. At this time last year, I had 4,083 miles. I will have to pick it up during August. Stay safe!

(Editor's note: Please double click on the Upper Peninsula photos to reveal accompanying caption.)

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