Lake Huron Tour
All-in-all, this was a pretty uneventful albeit very pleasant two weeks. Beginning in Port Huron, Michigan on a rainy and chilly morning may not have been the preferred weather conditions but after a few hours it would begin to clear up and remain that way for the next 10 days. I spent the first night in Harbor Beach at a wonderful, family-owned, motel composed of several little cottages. A perfect ending to the first day’s ride.
The second day wound up being the longest of the trip (100 miles) as I rounded Michigan’s “thumb” to Bay City. After such a long day, it was easy to splurge on a nice hotel right on the Saginaw River. It was here that I would take care of my only mechanical issue of the trip–three broken spokes in two days. Strangely, the spokes were breaking in the middle for no apparent reason. But the good folks at Ray’s Bike Shop got me back on the road in no time and, fortunately, I had no more problems for the remainder of the trip. Apparently Specialized believes they wound up with a bad batch of spokes and replaced both wheels at the conclusion of my trip. In any case, I’ll be riding something a bit more durable on my next tours–a new Surly Disc Trucker. More on that in a later post.
My original plan had been to take the North East State Trail from Alpena to Cheboygan. Unfortunately, the trail was not quite as smooth or scenic as I had hoped. After approximately 17 miles I had about all I could stand of the crushed limestone, got on the pavement at Posen, and headed north back to highway 23. Feeling a bit defeated, I called it quits at Rogers City. I suspected tomorrow would be a better day.
And a better day it was–warm, sunny, and nice roads all the way to Mackinaw. The day’s final challenge, crossing the Mackinac Bridge (“Big Mac”), turned out to be trivial. Being the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world, over 200 feet above the water at its highest span, and considering the high winds that are possible, it’s no surprise that cycling across the bridge is not allowed. They will, however, shuttle you across. Depending on the direction you’re heading, either stop at the Bridge Authority on the north end or a small phone booth on the south end and arrange a pickup. I got lucky and the folks just happened to be nearby at the time. I probably waited no more than 2 minutes before the truck showed up. After being dropped off at the office and paying the nominal fee for the ride, I headed across the parking lot to the visitor’s center. From there, I took a short trail east, made my way through some residential streets, and meandered up to St. Ignace for the evening. This would be last time that I would actually see the lake for next 5 days.
My last day in Michigan was spent crossing the Upper Peninsula along roads paralleling Interstate 75 up to Sault Saint Marie. Unlike the Mackinac Bridge, the Sault St. Marie International Bridge allows cycling. Oddly, the only access to the toll plaza requires entering an on-ramp that clearly states “No Non-motorized Vehicles”. The attendant assured me it was quite alright, took my fee, and off I went into Canada.
The remainder of the ride would, unfortunately, be spent on the Trans-Canada Highway (17). Unlike Highway 23 in Michigan, 17 doesn’t have the wide shoulder that almost feels like your own bike-lane. The Canadian side of the lake is also somewhat less populated and therefore there are fewer alternative routes along the lake and those that do exist are likely to be unpaved. A notable exception was the section from Massey, over to Espanola, and then down to South Baymouth–about 85 miles of very scenic and relaxing cycling.
All of my Great Lakes rides have included at least one ferry crossing. Today I would be taking the Chi-Cheemaun (Big Canoe) from South Baymouth over to Tobermory. This would be my shortest day of the trip and, fortunately, the only other day spent in the rain. It would provide a needed rest day as well as some additional time for sight-seeing in Tobermory. I arrived at the terminal with plenty of time to get my wet gear off, change into dry clothes, and get ready for the 1 hour, 45 minute crossing. This would also be my first view of Lake Huron since leaving St. Ignace 5 days earlier.
The final three days were spent almost entirely on 17 so the cycling was not the most relaxing. One of the highlights would have to be the last night in Canada spent in Bayfield. A wonderful, historic, and eclectic town. Like a lot of places I’ve visited during my tours, I’ve filed Bayfield away as a place to possibly revisit some day.
Once again, the final challenge would be a bridge crossing. This time the Blue Water Bridge from Sarnia back into the U.S. at Port Huron. Like the Mackinac Bridge, the Blue Water doesn’t allow cycling but provides a shuttle at the Bridge Authority’s convenience. It must not have been too much of an inconvenience as it only took a few minutes to have me loaded on a truck, shuttled across the bridge, and dropped off at the U.S Customs office. Probably because I was the only one in line, it took quite a bit longer to get through Customs coming back into the States than it did to enter Canada. Less than a mile later and I’m back where I began–at the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. The circle is complete.
My gear and bike loaded, all that’s left is the drive home. After 14 days living at “bicycle speed”, I wasn’t quite ready to return to “highway speed.” I decided to take a leisurely drive down Route 29 following the St. Clair river and along the north side of Lake St. Clair. During my planning stages, the ferry crossing at Marine City had been a possibility (for both Lake Erie and Lake Huron) and I was still interested in checking it out as well. Finally making my way down to Detroit, I was ready to hit the interstate and get home. I had planning to get started on. Lake Superior was already beckoning.
- Day 1 – Port Huron, MI to Harbor Beach (59 miles)
- Day 2 – Harbor Beach to Bay City (100 miles)
- Day 3 – Bay City to East Tawas (75 miles)
- Day 4 – East Tawas to Alpena (60 miles)
- Day 5 – Alpena to Rogers City (35 miles)
- Day 6 – Rogers City to St. Ignace (60 miles)
- Day 7 – St. Ignace to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario (57 miles)
- Day 8 – Sault Ste. Marie to Blind River (90 miles)
- Day 9 – Blind River to Espanola (62 miles)
- Day 10 – Espanola to Manitowaning (52 miles)
- Day 11 – Manitowaning to South Baymouth (20 miles)
- Day 12 – Tobermory to Port Elgin (80 miles)
- Day 13 – Port Elgin to Bayfield (73 miles)
- Day 14 – Bayfield to Port Huron (73 miles)