Saddle Up and Hit the Trail
I have a confession. While I have traveled to some amazing places in my 10 years managing the Michigan Alumni Travel program, I am married to someone who hates to travel. I know — hate is a strong word, but that’s how he feels about it. Trying to make it through a two-hour plane ride is a challenge for him. I have gotten him to escort me on two Michigan trips, but that’s about it.
What’s a travel gal to do? We travel domestically. While the world is open and provides fabulous travel opportunities, the United States is full of great destinations, too. One of our favorite trips has been biking Northern Michigan, as well as Napa and Sonoma. I’m happy to say that we have both tours in our lineup for 2019.
If you are like me, you might fret or balk at the idea of biking several miles in a day and using a bike as a means to get from one place to another. Let me tell you, I’m not a road warrior. My husband is. He doesn’t think twice about getting on his bike and riding several miles into the sunset. Me? My bike is one step up from a beach cruiser. I have this basket I like to clip on the front of my bike for my sunglasses, sunscreen, water, phone, hat — you get the picture.
How did I make it through four days of riding? Here’s the secret: A van follows you throughout the tour. If you run out of energy or just want to sit back and enjoy the scenery, just let the guide know and they load up your bike — and you — and continue along the day’s route. Knowing that, there is no pressure to cross the finish line each day. In addition, padded biking pants are worth the investment.
Napa and Sonoma
Napa and Sonoma was our first try at a bike tour. The ride leader, Fred Ackerman, is now the founder and chief shepherding officer of the company we are using for our ride there in 2019 — Black Sheep Adventures. Fred is a great ride and trip leader. We stayed at some amazing hotels, ate some of the best food I have ever eaten, and tasted wine that I still buy from the wineries we visited. I felt it was perfectly okay to indulge since I was pedaling several miles a day!
I might be a bit biased, as Michigan is my home state, and I love traveling to and spending time in Northern Michigan. We started in Traverse City and rode our way up the Leelanau Peninsula. The bike trails are a mixture of off the beaten path and right through the heart of a city. We saw hop farms, fruit orchards for miles, and beautiful lake views. The wine scene is popular — and growing — in Northern Michigan. I did the tour in the fall (September) when the apple trees were loaded and grapes were being harvested.
If you have never done a bike tour, consider one of these. The experience is unique and unforgettable.
Northern Michigan Winery Recommendations
- LMawby: If you like champagne or sparkling wine, stop by. You need to experience it for yourself. It’s delicious and my all-time favorite.
- Suttons Bay Ciders: In my opinion, this establishment has one of the best views on the peninsula. Even if you don’t care for cider, stop anyway. The view is worth the stop alone.
- Forty Five North: We actually went off-roading and biked right through the vineyard. This gave us a good perspective of the overall operation. We talked with some of the field staff and learned some of the joys and challenges of running a vineyard.
Napa/Sonoma Winery Recommendations
- Quivira: This organic farm, vineyard, and winery produces delicious Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite white wine!). The family-owned facility is committed to organic farming and is completely self-sustaining. Stop by and not only learn about their wine, but also their farming practices, and enjoy the grounds.
- Trentadue: The mission of this winery is simple: To produce affordable, every-day drinking wine without sacrificing quality. They did not disappoint. Making wine since 1969, the winery is steeped in history and beauty.