Great Lakes Mac & Cheese will show you 2 states, the 3 largest Great Lakes, waterfalls, epic shoreline, historic lighthouses and carefully chosen roads that avoid traffic and show you a landscape that helped build our country.
From the days of the French trappers to the era of the lumber and railroad barons, this area provided goods that helped build our nation. The Wild West as we know it was also very much in the northern midwest! Jesse James and the famous Northfield are in Minnesota after all.
- Manistee, Michigan – 32 miles
- Frankfurt, Michigan – 62 miles
- Glen Lakes Beach State Park, Michigan – 90 miles
- Traverse City, Michigan – 118 miles
- Charlevoix, Michigan – 179 miles
- Petoskey, Michigan – 197 miles
- Mackinaw City, Michigan – 236 miles
- OVERNIGHT – St Ignace, Michigan
- Whitefish Point Light House, Michigan – 318 miles
- Roberts Corner, Michigan – 370 miles
- Blaney Park, Michigan – 406 miles
- OVERNIGHT: Manistique, Michigan – 428 miles
- Indian Lake State Park, Michigan – 434 miles
- Faithorn, Michigan – 523 miles
- Marinette, Michigan – 576 miles
- OVERNIGHT: Green Bay, Wisconsin – 629 miles
- Scray Cheese (Info), De Pere, Wisconsin – 638 miles
- Pine Grove, Wisconsin – 649 miles
- Casco, Wisconsin – 673 miles
- Renard’s Cheese (Info) – Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin – 693 miles
- Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin – 703 miles
- Algoma, Wisconsin – 721 miles
- Point Beach State Park, Wisconsin – 752 miles
- FINISH: Manitowoc Wisconsin – 764 miles
History And Route Information
This route covers a huge amount of area that is full of history and scenic treats. Some of the notables are below. We will be adding and changing these over the next few months so come back to see what new sights you are in for.
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
There is an old Ojibwa legend that a mother bear and her cubs decided to swim across Lake Michigan. The mother made it to shore and waited on the shore, but the cubs drowned after the long swim. The mother refused to give up waiting for them and sat sleeping on the shore for the cubs to return. As a reward for perseverance, the Great Spirit raised two islands in the lake to commemorate the cubs and the wind buried the sleeping bear with sand on the shore where she waits to this day. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleeping_Bear_Dunes_National_Lakeshore
You will pass through Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore on Day 1.
Those outside the Upper Midwest may not have heard of Father (Pere in French) Marquette, but many are familiar with Marquette University which was named for him. Pere Marquette was a French explorer and Jesuit priest in the 17th century who founded or presided over many of the places we know today – he was among the first to visit the site that later became Chicago. You will pass 2 parks named for him along your journey as well as the National Memorial to him.
Though no one is exactly certain of where Pere Marquette’s grave is located, the National Memorial to him is across the street from our overnight at the Quality Inn. You may want to ride over and see it.
The Mackinac Bridge
The Mackinac Bridge (the “Mac” in our Mac & Cheese) was built in 1957 and remains one of the longest suspension bridges in the world. In fact, the bridge has a longer suspension between anchor points than the Golden Gate (a point of pride back in the 50s). The bridge is about 5 miles long from shore-to-shore. The winds on the bridge can be amazingly powerful, reports are that a Yugo was actually blown off the bridge back in the 1980s.
Bicycles are not allowed to ride on the bridge except for 3 hours during the Sunday of Labor Day. Our ride will just miss this period – we actually looked into having the brevet coincide with passage but discarded the idea due to the 40,000 people who will doing it on that day. Instead, our ride will pack you up in a car ferry across the bridge to the overnight in St Ignace.
Photo By Justin Billau – Flickr: Mackinac Bridge, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23330731
Yoopers vs. Trolls
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan has a long history of being distinct from the lower part of the state. The region has its own dialect, habits, sayings and even its own chocolate bars. “Yoopers”, as the inhabitants refer to themselves are distinctly different from “Trolls”, those that live “under the bridge”.
Until the Mackinac Bridge was built, the UP was only accessible by ferry and due to the weather in the Straits of Mackinac, the ferry could be shut down for lengthy periods of time. Though the peninsula is connected to Wisconsin, cities like Sault Ste Marie were far from that border.
Be sure to have a Yooper bar while you are in the UP – you will find them at most gas stations.
After Niagra and Cohoes, Taquamenon Falls is the biggest falls east of the Mississippi. If you are fan of Longfellow, this is where Hiawatha built the canoe together in Song of Hiawatha. The waters are slightly brown from tannins that they pick up in the many cedar swamps in the area. The falls are over 200 ft across with a vertical drop of 50 feet.
You will pass this area after Whitefish Point. There is a brewery pub located there that would make for an excellent place for a sit down. The brewery is a very short walk from the falls itself.
Though the clock is ticking, Day 3 has only a little under 300k and is relatively flat. If you can build up a good time cushion, here and Whitefish Point are excellent places to have a few minutes off the bike to enjoy serious scenery.
The Great Peshtigo Fire
October 8, 1871 was the day of the Great Chicago Fire – many people are aware of that. But the exact same day was also the day of the Great Peshtigo Fire which killed many more people and laid waste to most of the territory our ride covers on BOTH Days 3 & 4.
During the days of the lumber barons, Peshtigo was a large city full of sawmills. The summer of 1871 was unusually hot and dry and at some point, a fire started in the piles of sawdust all over the town. The exact cause is unknown and theories abound from comets to arson.The fire covered over 2,400 square miles! The extent of the fire was so great that no records remained to compare and many were burnt to ash with no one left to notice they were gone. An estimated 1,200 to 2,400 people lost their lives.
You will pass through Peshtigo and the tribute to the fire on the ride on Day 3.
Though Wisconsin is famous for cheese, it actually produces more cheese than just about anyone else. In 2017, 3.1 BILLION pounds of cheese was produced in Wisconsin, which was about 26% of all the cheese produced in the US). That is a bunch of cheese!
There are about 600 different kinds of cheese made, and you certainly can’t sample them all in one visit. However, you will at least get some opportunity to put a dent in the number during this ride. Two of our info controls stop at small cheese factories in Door County. There is Scray Cheese! which you should be riding by on the morning of Day 4. Hopefully, they will be open, though it is a Sunday. If we miss them, you will have another opportunity at Renards Cheese, home of Cheesy Potato Soup, one of the very finest rando foods of all time.
The very roads you ride on are the gift of the dairy industry. Wisconsin has some of the best cycling in the US due to the industry that paved almost every tiny road so that dairy trucks could easily make it to the various farms.