Adventures of 2018, Part III – Traverse City, MI back to Escanaba

This is part three in a series of articles covering my adventures of 2018. Part one can be found here. Part 1 Gaylord MI to Mackinaw City

By the time the middle of August rolled around I was feeling a dire compulsion to fill my summer with as much activity as possible before it’s over. One activity on my wishlist to still fulfill was a promise made to my aunt last summer to take her paddleboarding.

The day I got back from my kayak excursion in Port Austin, MI I contacted my aunt to see if next weekend would be good for us to do a paddleboard outing? As luck would have it she would be at their place in Traverse City, MI for the weekend and invited me to join her and her husband for a couple of days.

An afternoon of relaxed paddling under the sun in Grand Traverse Bay sounds wonderful. My bike is going for sure, however, by mid-week, I get this idea to do some epic paddleboarding, as in Little Bay de Noc epic. (See the previous story Part II)

A couple of days before heading to Traverse I called my aunt to see if she would be willing to run transport for me the coming weekend, as in dropping me off at one point and driving my car to pick me up a few hours later at another point. With a bit of skepticism, she reluctantly agrees. Then I disclose my grand plan to her.

My goal is to paddleboard from the tip of the Leelanau peninsula, across Grand Traverse Bay to Norwood, MI (which is located about 10 miles south of Charlevoix MI). The mileage between these two points is about 7.5 miles. Figure I have already accomplished that kind of open water mileage on a paddleboard just a couple weeks prior in Escanaba. The only difference is this will be just one straight shot, not a round trip.

Can tell she is not wild about this idea, but I think knows me well enough that if I have my mind set on doing this… I’ll find a way to make it happen, so she might as well somewhat supervise this endeavor. Then I ask her not to tell mom as its best mom learns about some of my adventures after they have happened. Sorry mom.

Planned paddleboard trip across Grand Traverse Bay Michigan.

Not gonna lie. The thought of doing this makes my backside pucker a bit. But at the same time, facing a monumental solo feat creates an unexplainable exhilaration inside me. My mixed emotions have me putting in a decent amount of thinking and preparation. First and foremost is a careful eye on the weather including a nearshore marine forecast for the area. Another preparation detail was purchasing some safety equipment; items to signal my location in case of an emergency and ‘floaties’ to keep important things from accidentally finding their way to the bottom of the bay.

My first full day in Traverse City was packed with some relaxing paddle boarding and sipping wine samples at an area winery with my aunt, then doing some biking. The weather was perfect and the next day forecast is saying a repeat of today, minus the sunshine during the am when I plan to depart on my epic paddleboard trip from Leelanau.

Just a little wine purchase to take back home.

Woke the next morning to calm winds with a prediction of 10 mph by afternoon and marine forecast of waves 1-2 feet… It’s a go! Loaded up one board and all the little do-dads to make what I figured will be a three-hour paddleboard excursion: Water, snacks, cell phone, GPS, life vest, and the safety knickknacks purchased just for this trip.

The Leelanau State Park will be my departure point and when we arrived, about 9:00 am, the conditions made the weather and marine reports true. Cloudy skies, calm winds, and 1-foot waves. The only thing missing to make this just like my Little Bay de Noc trip is bright sunshine. When we arrived at the tip of the Leelanau I used maps on my phone and a compass to determine a heading to my destination on the other side of the bay. A radio tower a few miles inland looks to be the perfect marker point to paddle towards.

Once I set out, the waves were coming at me directly to my left, making standing on the board a bit tricky so I elected to kneel on the board. Not a problem as the last leg of my previous open water excursion was done kneeling on the board for the exact same wave conditions, and that went very well.

About 1.5 miles into the trip the waves have built to 3-foot plus. The rollers do not present much of a challenge as far as staying on the board but it is making me use a lot of energy to remain stable. I also come to realize… the winds are still calm and if the predicted 10mph winds do come, these waves are going to get bigger, really making it a challenge.

Setting out from Leelanau State Park. Lake Michigan.

I may be a risk-taker but I’m not a reckless one. Dugout my phone from its waterproof case to make the call to my aunt, “I’m turning around”. After making my way back to the departure point she commented the waves were considerably bigger than when I left. Oh well… I tried.

With that weekend excursion behind me, I had no plans for an adventure next weekend due to a commitment on Saturday. That Friday though, the company I work for asked again if I would be interested in working the next week in Escanaba. Had fun there a few weeks ago so why not? Good thing I didn’t make any reservations or plans for the weekend, now that Sunday is designated as packing and traveling day for five-plus hour drive north.

This time my trip to Escanaba will be minus the paddleboard but I did decide to bring along all my bikepacking gear to accompany the bike. Since my assignment was just one week, planned to leave Escanaba Friday, after work, and do a two-day ride before heading home. My trip of choice this time was to bike Beaver Island, located in Lake Michigan offshore from Charlevoix and Petoskey MI.

My week back in Escanaba, several people that I had met on my previous visit were surprised to see me, and some not so much, saying, “I knew you’d be back”. One such fellow to say so was, Harry, owner of Great Lakes Fitness (GLF), my home away from home gym. One day after my training was over for the day, I was talking with Harry about some of my adventures and gave him a wristband as an invite to check out the blog.

When I was at the gym the next day, Harry said he had read my blog and was impressed by my weight loss journey and pictures. An Adventure through willpower and discipline. He wanted to feature me on the gym’s ‘wall of fame’ with a picture along and a print out of that article. To say I was shocked is a huge understatement. To be presented on the same wall as the GLF notables including the winner of the 2018 Mr. Michigan, who calls GLF his home gym, and Harry himself who has countless bodybuilding accolades, is a huge honor.

Me with Harry, owner of Great Lakes Fitness, Escanaba Michigan.

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