Ride report from Dave Thompson:
Run by Great Lakes Randonneurs (Michele Brougher) and Detroit Randonneurs (Tom Dusky), the M&C starts in Ludington Michigan and ends in Manitowoc Wisconsin. In between those two locations is the SS Badger ferry. As with my Florida Sunshine 1200, most people took the ferry the night before from Manitowoc Wednesday afternoon, overnighted in Ludington and rode out on Thursday morning, finishing their ride in Manitowoc on Sunday.
I, on the other hand, coming from our northern abode, found it faster to drive west to Sault Ste Marie and then south to Ludington. There were a few of us that started in Ludington and took the ferry AFTER the ride, vs before. The ferry runs twice per day during the summer with it’s last 1:30 a.m. departure from Manitowoc taking place on the Sunday (well, actually Monday morning) of Labor Day weekend. It’s a 4 hour trip that seems like 5 hours because Manitowoc is in Central Time whereas Ludington is in Eastern Time…
On the way south from Sault Ste Marie there were signs that the Mackinac Bridge that connects the mainland south of Sault Ste Marie with the Michigan Upper Penninsula would be closed Monday morning from 6 am to 12:30 pm. I didn’t have much choice, however, since it’s a lot further to go via Southern Ontario. I took that 1:30 am ferry, arrived in Ludington at 6:30 am and simply waited about 2 hours for the bridge to open shortly after noon. The annual Bridge Walk event was the issue, not construction or anything else. Mackinaw City, on the south side, was one big party when I arrived, streets closed off to traffic etc.
That bridge added another complexity for the organizers. They don’t allow bicycles. So, riders had something to eat at a location in Mackinaw City and then they and their bicycles were ferried separately over to St. Ignace on the north side of the bridge. That was the end of the first riding day anyway, so you didn’t feel that you were actually awaiting the process and it was handled very efficiently.
The riding days were roughly 400 km, 300 km, 300 km and 200 km (actually 235 km on the last day). The ride clocked in over 1200 km and the time limit had been adjusted accordingly. I didn’t actually realize that I had more time until I was finished, riding my own ride, as usual.
Most people, self not included, ended up with riding days that started after dawn and finished late those days. Being an early riser, I tended to aim more for something like a 4 am start. Even so, I got lots of sleep with a 5 hours stop the first night (long 400 km day) and 6-7 the other nights. The first day had the most climbing but it still didn’t amount to much, compared to many 400 km rides. The other three days were less than 1000 metres of climbing, not absolutely flat but close.
There were more services available on the first day with Controls about every 30 miles. The west side of Lake Michigan, in Wisconsin, is more sparsely populated but not as sparse as Northern Ontario, on the Granite Anvil. The next days had longer gaps between Controls and Services.
Heading north from St. Ignace on the second day, we turned around at Whitefish Point with a view of Lake Superior. We crossed the path of my Tour de Superior in 2008, the counter clockwise lake circuit that Jerry, Geoff and I did with Sandy driving SAG. That sure seems like a long time ago. That was pre randonneuring!
Michele did a great job as organizer. Each of the hotels had large conference rooms with bike stands setup. Volunteers took your bike, hung it from the saddle and that was that. You had access if you needed anything; bicycles were inside; the bike mechanic (yes, she had a bike mechanic) provided support if needed. Apparently he rescued many rides – a handlebar broken off at the stem, many shifting problems and some other ride-killing issues. I’ve never seen so many mechanical issues. Perhaps because people figured that it was a flat ride, they didn’t need a well maintained bike? I don’t know.
The ride also issued two drop bags, canvas affairs that were a little snug for the stuff that I usually carry. The two bag strategy meant that I carried more in terms of backup electronics, spares and personal items such as electric toothbrush. I still like the one bag strategy, but it worked. The two bag strategy also meant that anything that I needed for the entire ride for which I didn’t have a duplicate or didn’t fit, I had to carry on the bike…like my rain pants. I didn’t expect to get rained on heavily but it could have been cold.
Speaking of rain, my early departure and arrival on the last day meant that I missed much of the rain that day. While rain threatened other days and we got sprinkled on after Whitefish Point, the last day was the only issue. That was such a relief after Hokkaido. We blew it though, Jeff Lippincott and I rode together the last day and it started to rain 3 miles from the end. Surely we could have upped the pace just a little… but of course we didn’t know. We were dumped upon; roads turned into rivers. Others only got showers as they were mostly hours behind.
Nice terrain, good weather, excellent organization – I’m so happy that I added this to my schedule!