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Bucket List Cycling Rides:  The Tunnel of Trees, Harbor Springs, Michigan

July 2016
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I rode the tunnel of trees, South to North, along 119 just north of Harbor Springs, Michigan last year for the first time.

I’ve driven the route before, long ago when I was just a kid and the day after I bought my first road bike I was looking forward to cycling that track.  

For a couple of years I was trying to figure out how I could get up there.  When I signed up for DALMAC, with my wife’s blessing, I had no idea that I was going to be able to cross that ride off of my bucket list after only two years of longing.  

Our DALMAC group

I found out several weeks after I’d signed up that part of the DALMAC west route includes 119 and I was absolutely fired up.  We would reach the Tunnel of Trees on the final leg of the four day, 385 mile tour.

Rolling into Harbor Springs

I’d hit a pothole the size of Delaware just a few miles before the smooth lead into Harbor Springs, bad enough that I’d busted the bottle cage that was holding my tool kit to my saddle.  I knew I was going to have to stop at the local shop…

The repair took quite a while and the main group we were with pressed on up the road to lunch.  Only my friends, Mike, Phill and Matt stayed back to help get me back to the group.  If you ever want to know how good your friends are, this is the test.  I still get a little emotional thinking about it.  That’s as good as it gets…

Entering the Tunnel of Trees…

At the time I didn’t know why they were working so hard to get me back…  I was pretty busy snapping pictures.

Lake Michigan shoreline…

We were making some serious time, between 21 & 24 mph.  Matt waved us on, choosing to sit up and enjoy the sights at a more reasonable pace.  We stayed on the gas.

Don’t try this at home boys and girls…

Shortly after taking this photo we pulled into the lunch stop.  I fired down a burger (my God was it good) and a Coke, topped off a bottle cage and we were off.  Over the next ten to fifteen miles there were no photos.  The pace was kicked up to awesome at 24 to 28 mph and I was simply concentrating on keeping the wheel in front of me while taking a quick second to look around now and again.  Stunning is a good word but it doesn’t do the scenery justice. 

With just 15 miles to Mackinaw City, our goal, I hollered up to the lead and asked them to dial it back for a minute…

I caught back on and put my phone away.  We hammered the next fourteen miles out.  The roads were okay, a little rough in sections, but the scenery is absolutely beautiful and makes up for a bump or two.  Truthfully, we rode this too fast.  I love fast but some roads are meant to be enjoyed and admired at a more leisurely pace.  This is one.  If you find yourself in Northern Michigan in the summer time, do not miss the opportunity to ride the shoreline up 119.

I wrote earlier that Mike, Phill and Matt were working to get me back to the main group and I didn’t comprehend why.  I found out on the last mile when they called the three first timers to the front to lead the group to the finish line…  This is why:

That’s Eli and Ron…

A bucket list ride is definitely best shared with friends.  My daughters are photo bombing, Phill is on the right, Mike is in the middle.  I’ll remember that ride and what my friends did for me till just before I’m worm food.  It simply doesn’t get any better.  

If you ever find yourself in Harbor Springs, this is a must-ride track.  Just keep the water on your left and you’re good.

Oh, and our average pace for that 72 miles from Boyne City to Mackinaw City?  Just shy of 22 mph.



  1. Sue Slaght says:

    Jim I got choked up reading about what your friends did for you. I’m a rider who gets a lot of help so perhaps that really resonated with me. I drafted behind Dave for a lot of miles during our four day ride. Not sure I could have done it without him. Congrats to you and well done!

  2. Oh, this blog brought back memories for me. I think I commented on your blog when you originally talked about riding the tunnel, that I have done that route. My former employer has a house in Harbor Springs and a bunch of us used to go there every May for a guys’ weekend.. three straight days of riding. We opened his house up for the season, one of us driving the car there that he left at the house for the summer (usually a white Mercedes convertible). The first time we rode the tunnel, we started with a tour that started from the retreat hotel center outside of Harbor Springs. That truly is a gorgeous ride. Every year after that we rode that route, usually taking a more direct route back to Harbor Spring from Mackinaw.

    • bgddyjim says:

      You did and you are truly a lucky man. May can be a tricky month that far north but you can’t pass up an opportunity like that!

      • We had some freezing cold rides, some rain soaked rides, but mostly got lucky on weather. Jeff had some really good routes to ride around Harbor Springs. His house (a three story brick townhome) is a very short walk to the bike shop, the house at the bottom of the bluff — quite a nice little climb up that bluff at the start of some of our rides. I like your picture rolling into Harbor Springs, because we rode that a lot since one route was to Petosky and up the hill from the golf course there.

  3. adarling575 says:

    For some reason my WordPress unfollowed…. The pictures of this ride are glorious – I for one am pretty happy you didn’t push the hardest the whole day so you could share these pics!! Makes me jealous 🙂

  4. Manu Stanley says:

    “I’d hit a pothole the size of Delaware …” that was a lovely expression. Quite similar to the scene from the film “Armaggedon” where the US President announces on TV: “An astroid the size of Texas is going to hit the Earth…”. I thought potholes existed mostly in India (and similar countries) – lol. Keep riding. Cheers to your riding friends!

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