Thursday, September 28, 2006

Bike Tour: Muskegon to Ludington

We had a nice breakfast at the Holiday Inn and were on the road by 10:30 am. It was chilly and partly cloudy. The area around our hotel was kind of tired. According to the hotel staff, Muskegon was known for processing timber. Much of the industry has moved on however. It was evident from our ride through town. Not much going on downtown. On the plus side, not much traffic. Our route took us on country highways up to the twin cities of Whitehall and Montague. Not a very scenic ride but it got us where we wanted to go.

Whitehall and Montague are pretty towns on the shores of White Lake. Ralph and Dennis took a bathroom break at Big John's Pizza while I checked out the White Lake Chamber of Commerce located in a nearby restored train depot. According to Ralph, Big John wasn't big at all; in fact "John" was a teenage girl. It started to rain after Ralph and Dennis joined me at the C of C. The young lady on duty was devoted to duty and provided information on the local restaurants and where to find the Hart-Montague Trail (she pointed to the trail right outside the window).

Once the rain subsided a bit we went on our way. We biked across White Lake and admired the majesty of the Worlds Largest Weathervane. Unfortunately it indicated we'd be biking into a headwind. We each refuled with a chocolate dipped soft serve cone at the nearby Twisters Ice Cream, 8688 Water Street, Montague MI and waited out more rain.

After a while the rain subsided again and the sky appeared to clear a bit so we set off in earnest on the Hart-Montague Trail State Park. This 22 mile trail is the first "Rails to Trails" path in Michigan on a Chesapeake & Ohio right of way. It is paved and runs through the towns of Rothbury, New Era, Shelby and Mears.

It was nice to be off the road again and on a dedicated bike path. The trail is tree lined, flat and in some places, so straight that you can barely see where it ends. We zipped right by Rothbury, which might be a nice town, but since we were on a roll we didn’t take the opportunity to check it out. New Era is a small country town with a nice rest area for bicyclists. We took a break and read a bulletin board that had a history of the town and then continued on our way. Shelby is a larger town and also has rest area for bicyclists including a bulletin with more local history and a poster for a 2004 Breast Cancer Walk. There is also some type of gem dealer advertising along the trail that has a showroom and theater(?), if one is interested in that sort of thing. We blew right by Mears without even knowing it. Upon heading northwest I realized we missed a turn. Mears is on the map but it isn’t a very big town; so it was easy to miss.

So we had to leave the bike path and head out on the roads again. The roads were smooth and mostly deserted in this area of apple orchards and small vineyards. We headed north on 60th Avenue and progressed well until crossing Harrison Road. Apparently in these parts an avenue can also be a two track sand path. At first it didn’t seem too bad and we could still manage ok. But as the track got hilly, the sand got deeper in the low parts and we were forced to walk our heavily laden bikes. Ralph breaking down in laughter didn’t help either. I didn’t see what was so damn funny. I was a bit panicked that I’d be leading these guys through the forest until nightfall. Fortunately after about two miles we eventually made it back to hard surface.

Soon thereafter we reached Pentwater Lake and another scenic ride leading to the town of Pentwater. Pentwater is a picturesque town with plenty of places we could have stopped to eat if we had gotten there in season. But we did find a deli and restocked with the junk food necessary to continue on our journey.

We next biked past Bass Lake along North Lake Shore Drive which was lined with summer cottages and cabins. After that we biked near Lake Michigan and encountered a series of hills that seemed to come one after another. This was dogging Dennis in particular. Eventually we reached the top where there was a reservoir and a hydroelectric dam of some sort. From our level we couldn't see the water though. It was if they built a giant above ground swimming pool. Then we had a dramatic downhill on Iris Road that lead us to Pere Marquette Highway. Marquette Highway is pretty busy and luckily for us we didn’t have to travel on it very long. We turned off on a side road and headed into Ludington.

We were passed by a fancy pants road biker shortly before we finally reached our destination, Four Seasons Lodging and Breakfast (not a bad place; I’d stay there again if the need arose). We checked in and asked the desk clerk for a good place to eat. She recommended Jamesport Brewing Company and PM Steamers (I thought she said Cleveland Steamers). We cleaned up and headed out for something to eat. It was nice to walk around and be off our bikes as we checked out the town. I forgot to pack regular clothes so I had to wear sweatpants and a t-shirt. We decided on Jamesport Brewing Company merely because it was easier to find. It was a good choice; a lot to choose from on their menu and lots of good beer for my pals. Dennis was smitten with Pabst despite puking it up the night before. Unfortunately they only offered higher end beers. But enough already; we ate and went back to the motel to sleep.

Distance Traveled: 63.2 miles
Distance to date: 736.9 miles
Price of gas: $2.71

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