Where the blacktop ends…girl power in Michigan

Everyone talks about the romanticism of loading their bike up and taking off for a long weekend. We throw that idea around a lot at our house and with friends….about two months ago, after races had been cancelled and everyone was feeling pretty down, I threw out the idea of an all girls weekend of bike packing to friends. Both immediately said YES! We chose the Manistee National Forest as our destination for the first weekend in August.

All loaded up and heading out

To me, my Salsa Cutthroat never looks cooler than when it is loaded down for a weekend of bike packing. I used a Salsa Anything Cradle and dry bag for my handlebars, Blackburn Seat Bag and Salsa Frame bag. My feed bags are by Pro Bike Gear. My Garmin 830 was my bike GPS along with a Garmin InReach should we have trouble.

We loaded everything we needed on the bikes for three days and two nights of fun. Matt Acker, a fellow Salsa Athlete and elite ultra endurance cyclist, had put together a killer route for us through the Manistee National Forest. Thanks Matt!!!!

To say stoke level was high would be an understatement! Swimming, cycling, camping and laughs were in order!

Swim stop number one and lunch

I’ve never been great at following routes…..no worries, this was a suggestion and the first day we found our own roads during the day also. We even got to carry our bikes through the woods bushwacking at one point! πŸ™‚

One of the great parts about riding in a National Forest is that dispersed camping is completely legal and encouraged. For us, that was a good thing on the first night. We ended up camping in a fern grove without anyone else in sight!

It would not be Michigan though to not say it was sandy…..however, this only added to the fun of riding loaded down!

Day two I was sick and decided that the climbing and sand involved was only going to further slow me and my group down. For that reason I ventured off on my own….found my own roads, rode at my own pace and headed for Bear Track Campground just outside of Dublin. BUT first I had to stop at the C-Store for some much needed sugar and caffeine!

Night two everyone was exhausted…we all bedded down in our tents to have the most restless night of the trip. Trash Pandas, or better known as raccoons, raided our camp. They even customized my Orange Mud Endurance Pack for me….thanks guys!

No worries though….the next morning held promise of a real meal (not dehydrated and not in a bag), a C-Store or two and getting back to the car. We were up and at it early! I won’t lie….that first taste of the omlette was out of this world!

I think all of us get bogged down in the details from time to time. We know that we want to go bike packing but don’t know how to get out the door. My goal when I asked Katie and Jana about going was to just go….let the chips fall where they fall and have fun. We accomplished that and more.

We rode about 160 miles in the three days. The weather was excellent and the bikes performed flawlessly. We were not there to count the miles but to spend time doing something that we loved with our bikes…..the miles were great but the smiles and memories will last a lifetime.

This year has been hard for me to train for and harder to continue staying focused…..I also suspect I’m not alone in that statement. Bike packing has given all three of us this weekend an outlet that we can do at any time with our families. Everyone at the end of the weekend said “I can’t wait to go again!”

If bike packing is something you want to try I would encourage you to go do so! Try it at home for one night and see how you like it. Pick a route that you know you can ride a loaded bike on….don’t try to set PRs and climb the biggest hills you can, unless you are that kind of person. πŸ™‚

Go see what it holds for you….I’m betting that you will love it! I know we did!

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