Tour de Fun in Leelanau
But they are the good kind. A record 600 cyclists, minus at least one who preferred to skate ski the 19-mile trek from Traverse City to Suttons Bay, participated in the 12th annual event on Friday.
The annual outing covered all 15.5 miles of the Leelanau Trail, of which 6.5-miles was on new asphalt. Pavement from Lakeview Hills Road to Revold was finished last month.
“It was kind of crazy with the weather earlier in the day,” said Julie Clark, executive director of the Traverse Area Recreation and Transportation Trails, Inc. (TART). “But it turned out gorgeous.
Registration for the TART fundraiser, which included special design socks, refreshments and food at trail stops along the way and dinner and music at the finish in Suttons Bay Marina Park, was closed three days before the start.
“We were getting calls throughout this last day to get a reservation and not whether we were canceling because of the weather,” Clark said. “We thought ‘Wow! That’s saying something.’”
This year’s event drew a wide variety of riders, from 6-year-olds to senior citizens.
“It was a lot more diverse in age ranges,” Clark said. “And there were a lot of faces that aren’t familiar which is really great.”
“I kind of missed the unpaved part ... it had a lot of character to it,” Leach said. “But being paved is definitely a benefit for everybody.”
Doug Spence, a doctor at the Creekside Clinic in Lake Leelanau, was particularly happy to see the whole trail paved.
“I’m a big fan and try to do this every year,” Spence said. “It was very exciting to have it paved, especially for my 8-year-old son being able to make the ride by himself.
“We are very appreciative of all the hard work for the people that are doing this event.”
“This is really a blessing,” Kay Goodall said. “It’s great.
“Hopefully some day we’ll have a path from Elk Rapids to Acme.”
Linda Thornton and Kris Send, both of Suttons Bay, were dropped off in Traverse City and rode their bikes back to Suttons Bay.
“This is really nice having it paved,” Send said. “A lot more people are using it now.”
“It’s just a beautiful ride,” Thornton said.
Elmwood Township’s Bill Heitman, his wife Nelly, and children, Henry and Natalie, who have the luxury of the Leelanau Trail going right through their property just south of Lakeview Hills Road, made the tour and then some. They rode their bikes into Traverse City for the start, then north to Suttons Bay and then rode back home — a 38 mile trek.
“You didn’t have to worry about cars.”
Bill Heitman said although the trail construction had a controversial start, “the bottom line is the paving is going to get more people out on the trail.”
“It’s getting very popular, but expansion has some logistical questions,” she said. “We’re review it and see if we want to grow again.”
As to why the event is growing in popularity, Clark said it’s a number of things.
“It’s the socks and the great beer,” Clark said jokingly. “But it’s really good food, good people and good trail.
“And you can’t beat the location and Suttons Bay is gorgeous. It’s a wonderful town to ride into with the bay right nearby.”
“We expect the number riding back to be higher than ever before,” Clark said. “It’s downhill most of the way.”