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Bicycling Guide to the Lake Michigan Trail: A Complete Route Guide Around Lake Michigan Paperback – June 15, 2014
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The author consulted with local bicycle organizations to combine bike paths, quiet back country roads, and connections into a bicycle ride of around 1,300 miles/ 2,100 kms, around Lake Michigan. The terrain varies from urban, to rural, wilderness, and vacation country.
The route is probably around 50% bike paths, and the rest is back roads with little traffic. It is generally flat, with smooth pavement. I found the route to be as bicycle friendly as anything I’ve ridden, and I was enjoying myself immensely, riding through interesting country, away from cars day after day. The route will appeal to riders of various strengths and interests. To see pictures and text describing the ride, search my name rolfstengl on the net.
The book divides the route into 21 sections, each with text, a table with turn by turn directions, and a map from the author’s GPS. The text is cheerful and provides a general introduction to the highlights of each section, as well as clarification of the route where required. The route tables give distance, directions, and information such as availability of food and accommodation. The tables can be used riding in either direction.
The author has collected and organized a huge amount of information. It is accurate and clear, so I was able to find the way easily. You can ride any part of a section, or a portion of the route, as time allows. A few minor errors were obvious and easily avoided while riding.
The maps show the route, towns, campgrounds and some adjoining roads, so that each segment is put into perspective. I supplemented with paper maps for the large cities, although this is not necessary if you’re just riding through. In small towns, the locally available maps were adequate when I chose to explore off route.
The author includes camping and hotel information, as well as whether food and groceries are available. This is crucial for long distance touring, and I found the information helpful.
Hotels are a personal matter, and I often found the “motel strip” in a town for less expensive or more conveniently located accommodation. For example, in St. Joseph the listed hotel was charging $250 per night, and I found two strip motels with plenty of fast food restaurants and a grocery store nearby, just 3 miles down the road and only one mile from the route out of town. The author correctly states that in most places you have lots of choice for accommodation.
I camped when the weather was good and the campground was conveniently located. The author sometimes notes whether the campground is on the route, or the extra distance required, but this is not consistent, so you have to make local inquiries.
The location of grocery stores was important to me as a self supported rider, however the guide only tells you whether there is a store, with no location. For example, coming from the north into Muskegon State Park campground, I passed a fast food concession and then headed down a substantial hill into the campground, with no food until some five miles further on. In Petoskey I stopped right as I came into town, to ask about a grocery store. It turned out I was directly behind the store, and would have been inconvenienced had I rode the extra 4 miles to the campground without stocking up. So the book gives the basics, and I became proactive to supplement with the information I needed.
There are hills, some are steep, and some form rolling hills in a series of maybe six to nine miles. The author is not good at identifying these places, in case you are tired, or face bad weather. Happily, hilly stretches are rare and I recall only four of them.
I flew into Chicago. Cycling through the city, and in and out at either end, was almost entirely on bike paths. I enjoyed my time in Chicago, and ended up sightseeing a total of six days, both with and without the bike.
The Guidebook details a connected series of trails and roads, is clearly organized, and is easy to follow. I enjoyed the route, and had several days in a row thinking that each day was the best so far, only to find the next day just as good. Buy this book and you will have the foundation for an excellent cycling holiday.