Adventures of 2018, Part I – Gaylord, MI to Mackinaw City, MI

Now that the weather here in Michigan has turned to such that I’m pretty much done with participating in outdoor adventures, decided this is a good time to reflect on everything that took place this past summer.

One ‘adventure’ of 2018 has already been documented in this blog. An Adventure Through Willpower, Discipline, and Results. Nothing and I mean NOTHING else was going to happen until that was seen all the way through to its end. If you’ve had a chance to read that account you will understand that even if I did have time to spare, there was simply no way my body was up to any other challenge.

The very moment that 12-week adventure came to a conclusion I decided it was time to get the bike out and ride somewhere, for REAL! With the perpetual hunger pangs gone and a few days off from work ahead of me, I was going through a book a friend at work had given me, listing various trails throughout Michigan. Within just mere hours of completing one adventure, I declared that the next day I will drive to Gaylord MI and ride to Mackinaw City on the North Central State Trail.

Considering Mackinaw City is a hot tourist destination and I’d be arriving on an off day, Tuesday, decided there would be plenty of options available to ‘hotel it’, rather than camp. Then I would ride back to Gaylord the next day.

Took my time getting ready in the morning. With no camping gear to pack, a 2.5-hour drive to get to the trailhead and a pittance of 62 miles of level trail to ride, I was in no hurry to leave home and start traveling. Roughly 30 minutes into my drive north it dawns on me I may have forgotten to pack my cycling shoes. Two days of riding in regular shoes would be an inconvenience but I didn’t even have those with me. There is no way in heck that riding even just a couple of miles in flip-flops will EVER happen. So, I had to turn around and get my shoes.

At 2:00 pm I’m finally on the trail peddling north out of Gaylord and feeling pretty good. The speedometer is even reading about 2 mph faster than my typical pace. Reaching Indian River, roughly half-way to my destination, I stop for a few snacks…. Emphasis on the words “few” and “snacks” because this will be an important element later. Shortly after Indian River, I started to feel the results of my faster pace earlier. Had to stop a few times and push the bike to get some relief from leg cramping.

Tasty trailside spring water in Topinabee MI. (Between Indian River and Cheboygan MI)

Once in Cheboygan MI, decided that I will pull off the trail at the first convenience store get a bit of nourishment. The trail passes through a residential area of Cheboygan I didn’t see anything near the trail to make a quick stop. Before I knew it I was back into the wilderness. Oh well, all kinds of good places to eat exist in Mackinaw City. No turning back.

What an absolute mistake that was. As daylight is fading my body is running on fumes. For the most part, I’m barely able to turn the peddles, running on pure willpower. Quickly found that stopping to take a rest break is absolutely out of the question due to the massive mosquito population that has emerged in the dusk.

When the sights of Mackinaw City came into view it gave me a boost, a quicker pace, with the realization that soon there shall be no more God forsaken peddling for the day. About a mile out from the city I came across a guy walking the trail the other direction. Stopped and asked if he knew of a good place to get a pizza. He tried his darndest to provide me with the best route to his favorite, but once I had a name and a general location, I wanted nothing more than to say thank you, good-bye and start crawling if necessary toward some food.

Figured it would be at least 20 minutes for me to get the pizza after ordering, so I stopped at a convenience store about a block from the pizza place to buy a package of doughnuts. Practically had them finished off before reaching the exit.

Finally, at the pizza place and my ‘large pizza’ on order, I’m waiting impatiently. Sitting in the restaurant I began to shiver uncontrollably. Went out to my bike to get my jacket only to still sit shivering among the other patrons that are wearing shorts and T-shirts on this nice July evening.

To say I destroyed that large pizza would be an understatement. With some nourishment in me and able to think clearly, realized my critical mistake was still feeding my body as I had been doing the preceding 12 weeks. Eating with the intent of shedding as much body fat as possible. Ya know what they say about old habits.

A search of the good ole internet and a quick phone call found me an inexpensive place to stay for the night, less than a mile from the pizza place. Once at the hotel, realized that my bike, as well as myself, were covered with a layer of dust from the 62ish miles of riding the dry, crushed limestone trail. I’m surprised no one called the authorities while I waited for my pizza.

The next morning I was determined to not make the same mistake for the ride back and found a restaurant to put away a very high-calorie breakfast. Then it was to the store to stock up on ‘cyclist diet’ items. High sugar, processed crap food that was making part of me internally cry out; NOOOOOOO! While another (more sensible) part of me is rationalizing; “Hey dumb ass! You do want to make it back don’t you? Don’t get your cycling shorts in a bunch.”

Had a few options to get back to Gaylord. Decided to forgo a return trip down the same path I traveled up. Instead, I chose to ride another Rail to Trail, which also has its northern terminus in Mackinaw City, the North Western State Trail. This trail ends in Petoskey with the big question of the day determining how far south do I take the trail before attempting to making my way east, on the shoulder of Michigan roads, to Gaylord.

24 miles after leaving Mackinaw City I stopped at a restaurant in Alanson MI for yet another calorie infusion of food, the type of which my body hadn’t seen the likes of in months. And it liked it!

With my meal done I took out the laptop in the restaurant, opened the local map to determine a way to get to my destination for the day. Before I knew it, I had the entire wait staff helping me establish which roads had low traffic and which would be the best route. The final decision was to get off the trail right there in Alanson and ride several different roads to Indian River, then pick up the North Central State Trail back to Gaylord.

Trail map provided by

With a much earlier start for today’s ride and smarter tactics for replenishing fuel, I’m feeling much better than yesterday and able to stop and enjoy a few things along the way. One such stop was changing into the swimsuit and take a chilly dip into the Sturgeon River.

Trail-side swim spot in the Sturgeon River. A few miles north of Wolverine MI.

Back on the bike and just a short ride south of my swim spot, I stopped to watch kids who were jumping off a bridge into the river. Each one excited to proclaim to me just how many times they made the leap.

Kids taking turns jumping into the Sturgeon River.

Made it back to Gaylord ready to eat again and feeling satisfied with completing a great two-day ride. The weather was perfect and the scenery even better. The North Central and North Western State Trails are extremely nice taking one through the some of the best lands Michigan has to offer. Was surprised at just how little traffic I encountered both days. Believe these are truly the best hidden gems of rail to trail riding. My last-minute decision to tackle these trails was a good call. Will certainly ride them again.

North Western Trail. Just south of Mackinaw City, MI

The remainder of the 2018 adventures will be posted soon. Be sure to subscribe, in the right-hand column at the top of this page, for updates. I know you saw it and don’t pretend you didn’t! Scroll up and subscribe already.

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2 thoughts on “Adventures of 2018, Part I – Gaylord, MI to Mackinaw City, MI

  1. Barney

    Hey Guy! gotta learn how to eat right!!! That “runnin on empty shyt’s gotta stop!!! LOL!!!
    …as an aside, the Gaylord area is super signicicant to us because my first wife Kersten grew up there. Her Dad was the Sargeant of the State Police Post in Gaylord for many years. Before Kersti got MS we used to ride (and hike) some of the very early trails with the kids (pre – Rails to Trails times) in the area.
    Thanks to your article, I’m gonna put that trip on my to-do list for next year for sure!

    Nice writeup! Thanks again! b2

    1. Scott Post author

      I hear ya Barney. Ya think I would know better on the nutrition aspect by now. I blame the last minute preparation and forgetting to pack my biking brain as well as the shoes.

      I just love the whole northern part of the Lower Peninsula. My grandparents lived up there and the area holds a lot of special memories for me.


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