My wife and I completed our first ever tandem tour just last weekend up in Alpena, Michigan with the League of Michigan Bicyclists.
Now, this is going to be a fairly biased review for several reasons, but for one, because I spent a good deal of my summers as a young boy in Alpena staying with my grandmother. There’s a special cedar smell to Alpena that’s stayed with me all these years… One smell and I’m transported back to being a carefree kid. Combine that with that it was my first tandem tour with my wife, and we spent a good deal of the weekend helping out with logistics and registration. That said, for the scenery and immaculate roads (they were absolutely fantastic) the 2022 Sunrise Adventure was the most enjoyable of all the tours I’ve ever ridden for a multitude of reasons.
For the sake of this post, I’ll stick to the tour itself. This tour is hub-and-spoke, meaning you’re at a “home base” at a hotel (or other rental property – not included in the cost of the tour itself) and you radiate out on three different routes for each of the riding days (Friday, Saturday and Sunday).
Registration is on Thursday afternoon just before the tour kicks off with a rider’s meeting and a wonderful spread of wine and snacks (I, obviously, skipped the wine). We’re not talking about your normal granola bar snacks here. This was a full cracker, cheese and sausage spread from a catering company.
Day One’s route is beautiful and scenic.
Day Two is the most beautiful route I’ve ever ridden (and that includes the Tunnel of Trees route outside of Harbor Springs on Day Four of DALMAC) that ends at the Presque Isle Old Lighthouse where you can ascend the 130 stairs that take you up ten stories to look out over the whole point. The view is absolutely amazing.
Day Three’s route is through farm country and is absolutely picturesque.
There are three routes for each day, a long (usually around 100k), a medium (around 40-miles) and a short (in the 20-mile range), though Sunday is shorter to give everyone a chance to finish and head home.
This little adventure gets better, too. Everything starts in downtown Alpena, so you’ve got shops and fantastic restaurant choices everywhere you look. Most of the local restaurants are amazing, or at least we had that on authority from a few locals we spoke with. Thursday, after we volunteered to help with registration, we ate at Red Brick, which was billed as upscale comfort food. Fabulous is a good word. Try the loaded tater-tots. You can thank me later. My wife and I had lunch after the ride on Day 1 at a place called Fresh Palate – an almond encrusted white fish filet sandwich that was simply amazing. For dinner we ate at Pompeyos Mexican Grill on South State Avenue… which was outstanding and… erm, massive. We ate Pompeyos leftovers for lunch on Day 2, then had a nice dinner with the other riders at the NOAA Maritime Museum that was quite wonderful. Sadly, for the first time in recent memory, we were scheduled for the glass-bottom boat tour out of the museum but that had to be canceled for a small craft advisory due to high winds the first two of the three days. The point is, though, unlike some tours, the Sunrise Adventure has a veritable ton to do off the bike.
Finally, this is a laid back tour. I didn’t see one hammer up there, other than my wife and I. There were a couple of guys who were close (and there were definitely a few high-priced carbon road rigs on display), but for the most part the courses seem to be set up for an enjoyable cycling experience where you could take your time and take everything in. The routes were short to reasonable at 20-ish miles to around 100k (three routes per day – short in the 20-mile range, medium in the low 40s, and long approaching 100k) and weren’t too challenging with gentle, rolling hills. My wife and I, on the tandem, stuck with the medium routes and they were fantastic and only used the granny gear a time or two (52-42-30 front, 11-25 cassette). We’ll have to see what happens next year, whether we’re going to bother with the 100k routes on the new tandem, but I doubt it. With the amount of time we put into volunteering, I just don’t see us bothering with the longer routes. In fact, with how things went, I’d say the 40-ish mile routes were perfect.
I’ll wrap up this post with this; League of Michigan Bicyclist tours are not cheap. What you get for your money, though, is an experience unlike most planned out tours in places that are truly worth visiting. If I had to liken LMB tours to something else, they’d be like a cruise. You spend time on the boat (bike), bouncing from excursion to excursion… and the Sunrise Adventure is a fantastic example that shouldn’t be missed – especially if you’re new to tours (we’re – my wife and I are talking about working with Neal, the tour director, on building workshops centered around the new riders and making the most of their first tours) so the Sunrise can be a safe entry into cycling tours – more on that later).
You can see by the smiles in the photos above, the Sunrise Adventure in Alpena, Michigan is as good as they get.