Information about the world of cycling, including bicycle touring

The Mackinac Bridge spans five miles
across the Strait of Mackinac.

Tents of 2001 DALMAC riders take over
the baseball diamond at McBain High School.

Townsfolk, along with a few cyclists, crowd a
McBain High School junior varsity football game.


Cyclists wait outside the Muffin Tin in Alden
to sample some of the shop's giant muffins.

A couple riding a tandem enjoy
the scenic view near East Jordan.

DALMAC riders make the final turn into
St. Ignace High School at the end of the 2001 ride.

A stiff wind kept the 2001 DALMAC flags flying
at St. Ignace. The next day, stiff winds stopped
most people from participating in the annual
Mackinac Bridge walk. DALMAC participants are
required to put flags on their bicycles.

SUMMARY: A 5- or 4-day ride from Lansing to St. Ignace, Mich., put on by the Tri-County Bicycle Association. In some years, cyclists have the opportunity to do five straight 100-mile days. This ride may not have all the scenery of the Shoreline Tour West or other rides in that series, but it does hit some of the high points at the end. Besides, how many people can say they've crossed the Mackinac Bridge by bicycle?


1994, 2001

To be rather honest, this was my second choice for a Michigan ride in 1994. I would have preferred to go on the Shoreline West Tour, but I couldn't get off work that week. So I picked the DALMAC ride instead.

It was such a good choice, I decided to do it again in 2001!

DALMAC is a ride with multiple choices. You can pick a five-day version, a four-day version or a four-day version consisting of four back-to-back century rides.

I chose the five-day version from Lansing, Mich., to St. Ignace both times, but there were big differences in the way I would handle those two rides.

In 1994, I was in really good shape and really had no problems on the trip except for one big hill affectionately known as "The Wall." More about that later. In 2001, I wasn't in good shape, and I realized I had to ride a much smarter ride than I did in 1994.

All of the routes began in Lansing, the state capital. In 1994, the route began near an old Oldsmobile factory in a less-than-scenic part of town. In 2001, the ride started at Michigan State University, a much better place to start the ride. In 1994, we fought a headwind into Mount Pleasant, the home of Central Michigan University, our campsite for the night. For the 2001 trip, we had a bit of a tailwind for the trip north, and I was darn grateful for that. One of the neat things about the CMU stop is that we get to watch a bit of band and football practice.

Another thing that changed since the 1994 was that there were now two versions of the five-day ride. Both use the same roads, but have different stopping points each evening until the end of the ride in St. Ignace.

Something that didn't change was that Beal City, a small town on the second day of the ride, was still the hometown of Michigan's governor, John Engler. Despite being a Republican in a heavily union state, Engler managed to hold on to the office for a long time.

The second night's stay was in McBain, more precisely, McBain Rural Agricultural High School. McBain is about as rural and agricultural as you're going to get in Michigan. It's more than 60 miles from the nearest towns of 10,000 or more, Mount Pleasant and Traverse City, so it's not surprising that the high school's football and girls basketball teams were a prime source of entertainment in those towns.

Even though the football game being played during the 2001 tour was only a junior varsity contest, the stands were almost full. DALMAC riders got free admission to the football and basketball games, and the home team came out winners in both games! I had flashbacks to my high school days at Southwestern High School in Piasa, Ill. We were a bit closer to the big cities, but sports were the main form of entertainment there as well.

Day three got much hillier as we approached Lake Michigan. The traffic was a bit heavy on a road leading into Traverse City, but didn't have to spend too much time there. The third day of the 1994 trip was blessed with sunshine and perfect temperatures. The third day of the 2001 trip was cursed with rain and a stiff headwind coming from the north. Brrrrr. In 1994, we enjoyed the sunset on Grand Traverse Bay and a few cold drinks. In 2002, many of us stopped at the Pacific Coffee Shop for a nice, warm cup of café latte.

Saturday's ride took us to Alden, home of the Muffin Tin and some of the biggest muffins the world has ever known! Nearly every cyclist stopped to supplement their breakfasts as we went around Torch Lake. The muffins were every bit as big in 2001 as I remembered them in 1994.

The biggest climb of the trip came shortly after East Jordan. It's so famous, it has a name: "The Wall."

After two miles of gradual climbing, you get about 500 yards of ungodly grade. Some are strong enough to make it. Others had to zigzag across the road to make it. Other just gave up and walked. Count me in that final category! Regardless, you were rewarded with a smiley face painted on the road and with fresh fruit and cookies.

The ride continued through the scenic community of Boyne City into Petoskey. Most of the cities along Lake Michigan or the smaller lakes near it are gorgeous.

This was the day that showed that I really was in bad shape for the ride. I rode nearly all the ride, but hills that shouldn't have bothered me did, and all the headwind from Friday's ride meant that my legs were spent for Saturday. I hit the massage table for a half-hour Saturday night, but there was a lot more work that could have been done. Frequent stops helped me get through the trip, but I am going to make a sincere effort to get into shape before my 2002 rides.

The final day took us on M-119, also known as the "Tunnel of Trees." It's a narrow road, but very pretty. It's shaded, but once in a while, you get a view of Lake Michigan. The final stretch of the ride takes you through the beaches of Wilderness State Park before a stop in Mackinaw City.

Then came the highlight of the trip, the five-mile trip across the Mackinac Bridge to St. Ignace. Bicycles normally are banned from the bridge, but an exception is made for DALMAC. You go on one of three crossings, escorted by police. It's not a fast pace because you have to carefully navigate the expansion joints to avoid a fall. It's also slow because some people get nervous riding a bike 195 feet above the Straits of Mackinac with a very small guard rail keeping you from taking a big dive into the chilly water.

Shortly after all the 2001 riders got across the bridge, the wind started picking up and picking up and picking up. By Monday morning when we loaded the buses to go back to Lansing, the wind was so stiff that they had to cut short the annual Labor Day Mackinac Bridge walk. Good thing we didn't have to bike the thing that day!