Have you ever had vacation time from work, and literally no idea what do to with that time? If you’re anything like me, you want to spend that precious time roaming, exploring, traveling somewhere new and different. And, if you’re anything like me, the wide world leads to crippling anxiety when choosing a destination. I floundered for the months leading up to my vacation – where to go? Which friends to visit? What deserved to be explored next? I had a couple ideas that didn’t pan out, and I was left idealess.
Two brainstorming sessions, one with my mom and one with my boyfriend, produced the idea to cycle around Northern Michigan. Michigan – my home state – is a beautiful state. I’ve explored far-flung lands (Eastern Europe is pretty far-flung, right?) but haven’t spent as much time exploring Michigan as it deserves.
As it turns out, Northern Michigan is pretty cycling-friendly. A couple Google searches led me to the North Central State Trail, a 62 mile long trail that runs from Gaylord to Mackinaw City. As my parents have a cottage in Gaylord, this would be the perfect jumping off point. The trail is an old railway line, so the route is flat and covered in gravel, which made for a slower go but was well groomed and very bike friendly. In the winter, the trail is used by snowmobilers. There is an entire network that connects a couple of other cities – Alpena, Petoskey, among others – but I chose to remain on the North Central State Trail, backtracking my route for the way home.
I was briefly worried about how crazy my idea was – to bike this 120-mile round trip route, alone, with limited cycling experience. But, looking at a map, the small towns along the route were separated by 5 miles at the short end, and 16 miles at the long end. This helped to calm my nerves, as 16 miles was not completely unmanageable by foot, should something happen to my bike.
I did research. I got a bicycle (yeah, I didn’t have one before this trip), a bike bag, bike pants, and chamois cream (my gear will be it’s own post – that epic). I packed strategically so that I could carry everything on my bike’s rear rack. I drove three hours to my parents’ cottage and got a good night’s sleep.
Still – on the day I was to leave, doubt hung in the back of my mind. Who was I, who had barely ridden this new bike, to be taking off on a 120+ mile round trip cycling tour? Would I be strong enough – in mind and body – to complete this journey? But, despite my doubt, and the clouds, the weather was pleasant and the trail looked inviting, so I got on my bike and took off….
Keep your eye on this space, as I’ll be making posts over the next week detailing my trip! Have you ever took a leap of faith on a crazy trip? Have you ever been crippled by traveling-anxiety that you simply couldn’t book a trip? Let me know in the comments below…!