Yesterday (Saturday, August 2nd) was a perfect day for biking: warm, low humidity and an absolutely beautiful sky — just enough billowy clouds to add some personality to an otherwise deep blue expanse.
Update: The next week my friend Bruce and I took a more direct route, and I’ve included a map at the end of this post.
Upon checking the weather, I saw that winds were from the northwest, and I decided to head that way so I’d work harder on the way out, but enjoy a tail wind on the way home. Somehow that is something I’ve only recently been in the habit of doing… Anyway, I got a late start and decided to skimp on route planning; my hope was to end up at Lake Michigan for a swim, but all I did was glance at a map before hitting the road.
I followed the Riverside Trail to Darden, jogged west to Lilac and took that north to Bertrand. I was under the mistaken impression that Bertrand would take me due west until eventually it would T with a north-south trending road. Oops! It turns out that Bertand becomes Chicago Trail — both of which are excellent cycling roads– but clearly trend south west. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, before long I had drifted back into Indiana!
Fortunately for me, however, I ran into another cyclist (heading the opposite direction) who turned out to be Jeff Chrystler, an occasional riding buddy of mine. Notably, Jeff’s the one who convinced me to start checking wind patterns before riding! After turning around, he showed me a great route to get to Three Oaks, MI. Upon reaching Three Oaks we parted ways because Jeff was in a hurry to get back to South Bend.
Three Oaks was having its “Inside Out Summer Fest”, and the streets were packed! I love summer festivals and spent some time wandering the streets, listening to music and getting some food. At the same time, I was pondering my options for the remainder of the ride.
Luckily for me I ran into another cycling friend, Will Streeter, and mentioned that I was thinking about riding to the lake. He generously gave me a copy of the “Backroads Bikeway” map that he had just picked up — this is an excellent resource published by the people that organize the Apple Cider Century.
From Three Oaks I took Flynn north almost all the way to Warren Dunes State Park (a brief jog west on Browntown and then a couple hundred yards northeast on the Red Arrow Highway). I could hardly believe the line of cars waiting to enter the park! It certainly was a beautiful day to visit the lake, but it was bumper-to-bumper in both directions as two lines of cars slowly entered the park. I’d be lying to say I didn’t take some pleasure riding past the long lines in the grass 😉
The lake was amazing! Large waves, but the water looked clean and inviting. It was the perfect temperature, and I had a great swim. After refilling my water bottles I hit the road and started back to South Bend.
There are quite a few options for making this trip because there are many excellent cycling roads in southwest Michigan. The scenery is awesome: rolling hills through patches of forest and intermittent farms — vast seas of nearly mature corn stalks and acres and acres of soybeans.
I took Browntown east, Gardner south, and then Wagner Rd / Madron Lake Rd southeast to 4th street, and then into Buchanan. From Buchanan I took the Niles Buchanan Rd to Niles (the only bad biking road of my entire ride) and had a great burrito at Ricky’s Taqueria. From there I made my way back to South Bend following Bond and Laurel (through St. Pat’s Park) to Darden and then finally Riverside Trail.
The total distance for the fairly indirect route I took was 88 miles, but I imagine with just a little planning ahead a trip to the lake could be both safe and pretty and closer to 65 miles. Highly recommended!
Here’s a map of my return trip (I’d recommend skipping Niles… unless, like me, you like to hit a taqueria during a ride!):
And here’s the route I took to the lake (definitely not very direct!):
Here’s a fairly direct, yet safe and pretty route. It is about 36 miles (each way) from my house in Sunnymede. The route on the map is from the lake to near the northern-most part of Riverside Dr.