“You can never go home again.” Martin O Blank’s defining line from the film Grosse Pointe Blank has stuck with me since I first heard it in the late ‘90s. It stuck with me because I thought, until recently, that it was bullshit. I moved away from Grand Rapids, MI for work and school in Colorado in 2004 but would go back to visit at least every year. And nothing seemed to change. My friends and the city itself seemed perfectly preserved in time. It always felt like home. But after a big move to Arizona and a pandemic, nearly five years passed without a visit. Then, after that time away, when my family and I road tripped Michigan this past July, I realized that Blank might have actually been onto something. My friends and the city had changed. In exciting ways to be sure, but things were markedly different and the area felt less homey for the first time in my life.
In addition to riding some amazing purpose-built singletrack in my former hometown of West Michigan this past summer (more on that to come!), another highlight was linking up with Mitch Mileski for a very unexpected type of trail riding. Mitch manages the Fulton Street location of the Grand Rapids Bicycle Co. and, having also grown up in Grand Rapids (just much more recently than me) he knows the city very well and was generous to show off a few hidden gems. I met up with Mitch early on a moody weekday morning with a typical summer weather forecast calling for a 50% chance of precipitation.
During a visit to my hometown of Grand Rapids, MI this past summer I stopped in at Velocity USA, purveyors of finely shaped and colorful formed aluminum. Jill Martindale – resident endurance racing aficionado and winter weather lover – graciously took time out of her day to show me around their manufacturing facility. I’ve been a fan of Velocity for quite a while (still have a 20ish-year-old set of Deep Vs kicking around) and was very geeked out roaming around the factory with Jill, observing the precision processes that go into creating each rim and wheel build, and meeting the folks that make it all happen.
This is the story of 10 Wisconsin guys heading to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan for a 4-day bikepacking trip in the summer of 2021.
This fall, take to the Upper Peninsula to ride 166 miles through untamed Northern Michigan. The Moran 166 is comprised of lush evergreen-lined gravel roads, deep forest two-tracks, and pristine natural scenery. Beyond an epic adventure, the Moran 166 is a high-stakes bike race with $10K prize money. Sign-up and line up on September 11, 2021…
-$10,000 cash prize purse for top 10 men/women of the Moran 166 main event. Prizes for top 3 men/women of the 64-mile short-course event.
-300 racer limit for 2021 Moran 166 (150 racer limit for the Moran 64 short-course).
-Moran 166 main event starts at 7 AM. Moran 64 short-course starts at 9 AM.
-Moran 166 has restored and have secured the old Mackinac County Fairgrounds for the Start/Finish. 550,000 sq. feet. Plenty of parking.
-This will be a mass start event but all riders who feel they can complete this in 10.66 hours or less will be staged at the front. If you are staged at the front & finish in over 10.66 hours you might be publicly humiliated.
-There will be 3 aid stations & staff to manage road crossings. (There will be no aid stations for short-course racers).
-The event will be timed by Superior Timing and Moran 166 are working on live video & tracking to be displayed at the start-finish as well.
-The average high temp on September 11th is 70 degrees F. The average low is 53 degrees F.
-The bugs have generally stopped bugging by mid to late August here, so we should be good.
-Packet pickup will be at our Moran 166 HQ (one of the last buildings standing in Moran) Friday afternoon/eve.
See more at the Moran 166!
The North Country Trail
Way back in the mid-80’s I was born about 30 minutes outside of Detroit, Michigan. The area I was in did not exactly lend itself to cycling becoming a hobby at the time, so I really never became interested in bikes and the outdoors until I moved to California and found the mountains as an adult. Fast forward to 2020 when my plans to ride through far-flung mountains in Asia all summer came grinding to a halt along with everyone else’s lives, I found myself back in Michigan for an unknown period of time.
Credit: 906 Adventure Team. Cable, age 9, carving out his legacy.
(It’s a good day; it’s a bad day)
Shakespeare insisted that a name held nothing significant; in fact, a name is but an arbitrary designator. A rose, “by any other name would smell as sweet.” If the rose weren’t called a rose, we would still swoon over the sweet smell. Poor Juliet, the owner of a smitten young heart, failed to see everything that exists in a name. In my case, at thirty years old, I still carry my maiden name. Instead, I like to say it’s the name I’ve made for myself; I don’t see that changing any time soon. I grew up in the trailer park across the street from the General Motors Factory in Janesville, Wisconsin, and attended Jackson Elementary school. It was there I celebrated Andrew Jackson as a glorious president; Jackson signed the Indian Removal Act of 1830. What’s in that name? A legacy of brutality*, I say.
*Yes, this is a reference to the 1985 album by the Misfits. Hybrid moments is one of my favorite songs of all time.