Sunday, July 13, 2014

The first day was to start the tour out with a 30-mile round-trip ride to Palm Book State Park, which boasts the state’s largest freshwater spring: Kitch-iti-tipi. In the morning, I met Jim Plaunt, who is the owner, CEO, and principal tour director of Bike Tour Vacations and then waited for the other bikers to trickle in. By the 1PM scheduled start time, not everyone had yet arrived so we started the ride with about half of the tour riders. The weather was very nice except for a stiff breeze that promised to be a headwind on our way out.

GPS trace with wind indicators

The roads out from Manistique were smooth and with light traffic, but the breeze was definitely a limiting factor. And it was here that I made my usual mistake of starting out too fast and continuing the pace throughout the ride. As I later realized, I had latched onto the riders that turned out to be the fast group on the tour — Martin, Pam, and Steve — and of course didn’t want to be the one dropping off the back. I would pay for this the next day!

Our first sag stop along the road to the park

The state park turned out to be a lot more crowded than I expected, but only because there was a wedding that had just taken place and the entire party was just returning from a photo session around the spring. Once they cleared out we were able to get a closer look and to ride the large glass-bottomed raft that took us out over the spring. Being fed only by a spring means that the water is perfectly clear and we could see fish in the pond all the way down to its 40-foot depth.

Crystal clear, blue water in the spring
Clear water to the full depth of the spring

The return ride was definitely easier with a bit of a tailwind and we quickly returned to the hotel where a riders’ meeting was scheduled before dinner. That gave us a chance to hear from Jim and to meet his staff, which mainly consisted of Pam from nearby Marquette. Pam was to provide us with excellent service throughout the tour, driving the sag wagon and being in charge of all of the drinks, snacks, fresh fruit, etc. Her husband Ralph was also along to help out as a riding staff member.

Tom and Linda starting out on their first tandem tour

The tour was off to a good start.

Continue to Day 2

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