Solo Biking the Top of Michigan Trails

August 6, 2018/ Guest

This is a guest post from Hubbs Grimm following his recent bucket list adventure cycling the Top of Michigan Trails. All words, photos, cones, brews, chews and views inspiration are his.

I just completed a Bucket List solo adventure on my Cruzbike and wanted to tell other Cruzbike riders and Cruzbike-wannabes about it to encourage you to try something similar.

– Hubbs Grimm

Me: I’m a 72 year-old male in reasonably good, but not competition shape. I had never done a multi-day ride of any sort.

My Cruzbike: I got my Q559 (predecessor to the new Q45) in May 2016 to replace a Canondale Bent recumbent I had for about 3 years. The Q559 was a great upgrade. Faster, safer, more ability to get my body into it. I can ride comfortably at 15-16 mph on the flat, with faster spurts when needed and slower gearing for up hills.

Background: about 7 years ago, I got to where riding a traditional bicyle produced too much “next day pain” unless I was willing to just putz around the neighborhood. I don’t generally putz when I do anything. The Cruzbike enabled me to get serious about my biking.

The Venue: the northern part of Michigan’s lower peninsula has a considerable network of rail-trails mostly overseen by the Top of Michigan Trails Council . Most of the trails are packed crushed limestone, generally flat or a very mild (1-2%) grade as they travel through the woods, along inland and the Great Lakes and through picturesque towns and small cities. I started in Gaylord on the North Central Trail and also took the Northwest Trail, and the Little Traverse Wheelway. Some lightly traveled roads with challenging hills got me back to the Trail to return to Gaylord.



“Most of the trails are packed crushed limestone, generally flat or a very mild (1-2%) grade as they travel through the woods, along inland and the Great Lakes and through picturesque towns and small cities.”

Highlights of the travelogue include: Mackinac Island – that has only bikes and horses for transportation, the bustling quaint city of Petoskey and Bay Harbor – a first-class resort fashioned out of an old quarry on the Wheelway, Charlevoix with its drawbridge to allow boats to be on both Lake Michigan and inland Lake Charlevoix, and finally Boyne City at the other end of Lake Charlevoix, known for its great margaritas and Mexican food – At least that is how I know it.

Preparation: My planning and preparation started months in advance, first to get my body in shape. I got up to a 45 mile ride and near 100 miles in a week, but never did back-to-back rides on consecutive days. Upgraded to the Q Touring and Commuting Rack and the Sling Pack for close-by storage. I added a RackTime Talis Plus pack for my clothes. I planned each segment and scouted for lodging in each overnight place. As a final gesture, I went and drove the intended road route over the ridges for both the condition of the road and the extent of the hills.

Theme: I needed a theme to focus my efforts and my time off the Cruzbike. I chose Cones, Brews, Chews, and Views – my Cruzbiking Adventure. I preplanned the ice cream shops, breweries and restaurants that would go along with the views that would just appear.

The Trip: It was all that I hoped for, and then some (more about that below in What I Learned). I was going for distance, not speed and had an overall pace of 10 mph, all things considered. I would rate the trail as mostly “A” on the crushed limestone, with some very small sections a “B” because they had turned into more of an easily traveled two-track. The asphalt sections from Alanson through Petoskey and on to Charlevoix were “A+”. Even the road sections where I made my return-to-start routing were quite acceptable – always a paved shoulder that varied from 6 ft. wide to 18″ and light traffic. I never had a section that was more than 15 miles between small villages or at least a gas station adjacent the trail. Here are some of the details:

Day 1: Started in Gaylord with 2 hours of light rain and totaled 50 miles by the time I arrived in Cheboygan all on Rail-Trails The most I had done before was 45 miles. Stopped at Drost’s in Indian River just off the trail for great Peanut Butter Moose Tracks – the best ice cream I had. In Cheboygan, the highlight of the evening was the flight of beer at the Cheboygan Brewery. My favorites were the Blood Honey Orange and the Dark Harbor. The ride along Mullet Lake had the best views.


Along Mullett Lake headed into Topinabee

“Best ice cream at Drost’s just of the Trail in Indian River”

Flowers along the trail
Flowers along the Trail just south of Cheboygan, MI

Day 2: All of days 2-5 were sunny with the high in low 70s. 15 miles on the trail to Mackinaw City and then I took Sheppler’s Ferry to Mackinaw Island, a unique experience with only bikes and horses. Biked a total of 15 miles including the 8-mile road around the island. The Gorgonzola Salad and a Mackinaw Mule at the Pink Pony were a big hit for me. My pictures give a glimpse of the Island, and the picture I got of the horse carriage and the Grand Hotel was one of my all time bests. Back in Mackinaw City I stayed at the small Lamplighter Motel where the owner gave me a gratis larger room so I could easily put the bike in my room. Part of their hospitality is a campfire where visitors can relax and chat as the sun goes down about 10 pm.


From a Roadside Park along the Trail, you can see Mackinac Island across the water.
At the water’s edge
Arriving on Mackinac Island
The Grand Hotel

Photo thanks to a passerby

No locks in use, it will be there
On the road around the perimeter of the island

Day 3: Everything had gone smoothly up till now, but today made up for it. When I got up, my iPhone was dead. It was the tool that allowed me to go solo, but I headed out anyway after locating the Verizon store near my lodging for the night in Petoskey. I started with about 20 miles on crushed limestone rail-trail and had a flat tire in a remote area. Resolved it with green slime in the tube. Then about 20 miles on asphalt trails into Petoskey. Rum Raisin ice cream at the Kilwin’s factory along the Wheelway, and then a great burger and Short’s Soft Parade brew at the Mitchell Street Pub made it a great day. A special word about my lodging at the Apple Tree Inn – reasonable pricing but offered free limo service into downtown Petoskey and back, and a nice simple breakfast buffet.

You can’t see this from your car.
Round Lake from the Trail
Kilwin’s started here and made great Rum Raisin ice cream – between Petoskey and Bay View

Day 4. The 15 more miles on the asphalt Wheelway along Little Traverse Bay through Bay Harbor into Charlevoix was the prettiest section of the trip. With the Trails exhausted I took to the roads and a ferry for 15 miles with some up and down ridges to get to Boyne Falls. A Happy Hour margarita and appetizers were a great change for dinner at Red Mesa, a must stop if you like Mexican food. I headed another 10 miles to Boyne Mountain for the night.

In Charlevoix – Lake Michigan to the left, and Lake Charlevoix to the right
Bay Harbor form the Trail
Me and my Cruzbike on the Ironton Ferry
Boyne City in the distance on the shore of Lake Charlevoix
View from the Fishing Dock in Boyne City
Some of the best Mexican around

Day 5: I knew this would be my toughest day. I had to take Thumb Lake Road straight up and down over the ridges for 15 miles. It was easier than I thought and the traffic on the road was light and courteous. After stopping at the Whippi Dip north of Vanderbilt for my ice cream infusion by way of a root beer float, I got back on the North Central Trail to head back to Gaylord for 8 miles all mildly uphill. I wrapped up the trip by stopping by at Alpine Bicycle and thanking John for helping tune up my Cruzbike. My first multi-day trip ended at 205 miles.

A picturesque barn while taking a break up the hills to Vanderbilt
The ridges keep coming and coming
Thumb Lake, also known as Lake Louise has three church camps, two are Methodist
My target ice cream stop for a root beer float on Friday, on Old 27 just north of Vanderbilt

My best trail picture taken on the way up hill to Gaylord from Vanderbilt.

What did I learn: Reflecting, I learned the following:

  1. Good planning pays off
  2. Next time do not bring extra shoes or things to be warm in the evening. Tough it out and carry less.
  3. Protect your cell phone from water and sweat
  4. Bring an extra cell phone you can activate in case you forgot about #3
  5. You can’t get the thrill of the down hills unless you are willing to pedal up the other side
  6. Flats happen. Bring a spare tube.
  7. My Cruzbike is up to everything I am up to
  8. I like being with someone I love rather than being alone
  9. I got stronger each day, not weaker
  10. Maybe next year I will see if I can golf 18 holes for five days in a row.

This week I was in the front row.

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