Sandy Backroads

Lower Northwest Michigan. That’s what they call it here and sure, I’ve been here before, but not with my bike. When this tour kicked off year-and-a-half ago, I had to decide between packing my guitar or packing my bike. I chose the guitar. During my last visit home, I swapped the two and have been riding since April. In Wallowa County, even old gravel roads didn’t give me too much to worry about. Of course, there was that one seven-foot gopher snake, but other than that…
Here in Michigan, if there’s gravel it’s laid over sand, and the two together in wet conditions can make one holy mess. Get even a single car going in four-wheel drive over that mix and the gravel sinks down as sand spills over. It doesn’t take much to trash the road and even after the moisture is long gone (it disappears quickly here, down, down through the sand and into the nearest lake—which is never far) the ruts still remain. It looks tame, but remember that it’s sand:
Riding on loose scree is one thing, but through deep sandy ruts—no way. I’m not too ashamed to say I had to leap off my bike more than once on this road, lest I wanted to find myself bouncing my new helmet onto the road, my bike slowly sliding from beneath me. The good news is, these rough patches don’t run forever. Even better, I might not be in Wallowa County but Benzie and Grand Traverse Counties have their share of lovely old buildings. Just my style, and just the reason to stop and take a snapshot:
It feels good to be at the far southern edges of the boreal forest—the same sandy, loamy soils and thin trees that make up a belt around the northern part of the planet and comprise approximately 11% of all our forests. Northern Michigan’s landscape hints at the boreal forests I encountered in Alaska, a state that has my heart for more reasons than I can count. It also feels good to be surrounded by the energy and vitality that is Interlochen Summer Arts. There are nearly 300 faculty here, all working artists with MFA’s or PhD’s or DM’s, who believe in the creativity of our youths. There are students here from 45 different countries and 49 different states. And tonight we kicked off what is sure to be six weeks of delightful creativity.

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