Thursday and Friday were beautiful days for a century. Saturday was sketchy but we got away, largely unscathed. It rained Sunday night, but miracle of miracles, it cleared up Sunday morning… and I mean clear.
Paved surfaces showed dampness, but it was nothing to worry about, and the temperature was fantastic, in the low 60s. We ate a hearty breakfast and got ready to roll.
The last day of DALMAC is bittersweet. In a few hours, all of the fun, laughter and good cheer will be memories as we head for home. On the other hand, day four gives a cyclist everything a route could give – it’s one of the most beautiful cycling routes in the country. There’s a “Wow” every few miles.
There’s also lots of up, and we were climbing just 1.4 miles into the morning.
Now, a funny thing happens to we weekend warriors after three speedy centuries in a row… I don’t care how fit you are, a 3 to 6% climb for two miles hurts if you try to push it. Thankfully, we had Doc Mike and Diane on their tandem, so they paced us up the hills and absolutely bombed the downhills. Once out of Boyne City, there’s a section of rollers through Walloon Lake that’s made for tandems – plus you have the beauty of the lake on your left, through the trees.
After Walloon, we go off course and hit an old favorite along the southeast side of the lake, the seven sisters – a series of rollers that starts with a short, steep climb that we dubbed “The Wall Part Two”, then winds and bends its way along the lake shore to the Walloon Lake Country Club. It’s a beautiful, fun section of road (though there is one dangerous corner riders have to watch out for as it tends to get windswept and sand drifts over the road surface – it’s sketchy at best). Once through the seven sisters, it’s more hills and valleys, followed by a fast descent into Petoskey. Be careful of the righthand turn at the bottom – my top speed coming down the hill was 50-mph.
Once through Petoskey, you’re only seven short miles from Harbor Springs and one of the most beautiful stretches of road in Michigan.
Most years, I take photos of everyone as we pass between the beach and the beautiful houses. This year was different. Mike and I split off from the main group to see the houses before the main drag along the beach, so we were behind and had to hammer it to catch up to the group again.
Believe it or not, that selfie up there was at speed… Ken is an exceptional cyclist and managed to get right up next to me as I went to take his picture and said, “No, let’s do a selfie instead!” I was amazed he could get that close while keeping steady – well above my pay grade!
This year, rather than press on after the stop in downtown Harbor Springs, we went back to the harbor to take a photo of the group – something we’d never done in all the years I’ve ridden DALMAC:
Next up is the long climb out of Harbor Springs to the tunnel of trees. When entering the chute, hold onto your butt – top speed is, without pedaling, around 40-mph. The next twelve miles are simply breathtaking.
After Goodhart and Cross Village, we head north again, over inland roads to avoid the choppiness of North Lake Shore Drive – had it to do over again, I’d stay on Lake Shore as the spectacular scenery is worth dodging some rough patches of road.
Finally, we hit Cecil Bay Road along the coast:
If you zoom in on that middle image, you can actually see the top of the Mackinaw Bridge. We’re just four miles out on that last photo…
We hit W. Central Ave and the homestretch with a massive tailwind. Chad came off the front and gave me the leadout. He said, “Take it home, Jim”. I did. I kept the pace reasonable for a bit, but ramped it up as we dropped down a small hill. I took it all the way to 37-ish-mph last I looked and brought it across the line. 75 miles in the books.
That brought our total for the four-day tour to 377 miles at an average speed north of 19-mph. And then, the obligatory dip in Lake Michigan. It was warm outside, but the water took a little getting used to!…
And all that was left was the ride home. Thankfully, we gave two friends a lift so the good times, laughs and stories continued all the way to our driveway.
What a weekend.