I hadn’t been on a bike for over 30 years.
But from the moment my daughter Abby and I embarked on a ferry to Mackinac Island, bicycles were everywhere.
It was our first visit to “the island,” in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, where there is a “no cars” history.
Men and women debarked off the ferry with their bike, commuting from their employment on the island. Families with small children brought bicycles with training wheels and Burley bike trailers onto the ferry. Once we arrived at the Starline ferry dock on the island, cyclists rolled their bikes down the ramps, off to the automobile-free environment.
Deliveries on the Island
Horse-drawn wagons picked up boxes of supplies for the various hotels and businesses. I was particularly fascinated with a drop-off at Joann’s Fudge: Ten 50-pound bags of granulated sugar, five cases of milk, eight quarts of strawberries, eight quarts of red tart cherries, six fifty-pound pails of invert sugar (creamy), and cardboard boxes containing 36 pounds of butter and an equal amount of cocoa. It was mind-boggling to think of the logistics to bring supplies to the island.
We learned the Mackinac Island aroma is unlike any other place: pristine Lake Huron breezes, chocolate fudge, and horse droppings. In our three nights on the island, the sound of horses clopping up and down the street was great music to fall to sleep by, even if the streets had to be hosed down every 24 hours.
Bikes for Everyone
I looked around and noticed people of all sizes and shapes on bicycles. Hardly anyone wore a helmet since there was no danger from cars. There were few fancy bike shorts and racing bikes. I saw bikes like I rode when I was ten years old, with kick stands and rust on the fenders. Pot-bellied men in khakis and polo shirts pedaled by; fudge shop employees in gray uniforms, and lots of children. Some weaved a bit, but they had room to maneuver. No one was in a hurry. It wasn’t a race.
What Does 8.2 Mean?
In one store, we saw T-Shirts, mugs, decals, and socks with the logo, “8.2.” A sign explained you became a member of the 8.2 club by walking, jogging, or riding your bike around the island: 8.2 miles. Abby and I looked at each other and said, “We have to try it.” Of course, there were several places to rent bikes.
So that’s how I became a member of the 8.2 club. My bike was perfect: fat wheels, fenders, a comfortable seat, and only seven speeds, with easy gear shifting. We were assured the terrain was “mostly” flat. I felt some misgiving around mile two. What if the road ahead turned out to be hilly? Well, there would be no shame in resting or walking. I didn’t want to leave the island with regrets, so we pushed on. At mile 4.5, we were more than halfway and there was no turning back.
We completed our circuit in an hour and fifteen minutes. And we were proud.
Now I am thinking about getting a bike. Do you have a bike story to tell? Have you tried something new this summer?