To outsiders this word may be nothing more than a geographical identifier. To those of us that wear the title of “Michigander”, we know it as a badge of honor defined by what we love most in this great state. We characterize ourselves like we describe the territory; boundless, innovative, determined, grandiose, unique and absolutely spectacular.
When I participated in the “20th Annual Michigander Bicycle Tour” in 2011 as a staff intern for the ride organizers, Michigan Trails and Greenways Alliance (MTGA), I never would have imagined that this one word “Michigander” could encapsulate a journey, an experience, a group of people and environment so fluidly.
Dubbed “The Michigander” for short, this annual bicycle tour crosses different regions of the state each year over your choice of 2-, 6- and 7- day routes. Welcoming all bike types, riding styles, fitness levels and ages, the staff of MTGA really works to accommodate all participants. It is a ride for everybody!
Having experienced such a warm inauguration into the family of Michigander volunteers and staff last year, I was excited to return for the 2012 “Northern Michigan” tour as a riding participant. I am not an avid cyclist, so I chose to partake in the 2- day weekend tour recommended for families and first-time riders. With the many options of riding paved, single track or trail routes it is no wonder why Bicycle Magazine named this adventure tour as one of its Top Ten Multi-Day Rides.
July 13th, I joined hundreds of cyclists on a journey from Indian River to Mackinac City on a quest to define my own image of a “Michigander”. From two wheels I absorbed the serenity and open air granted by riding the quiet, traffic-free North Central State Trail.
Removing myself from the day-to-day of fluorescent lamps, computer screens, and desk chairs, I soaked in the rays of sun sprawling across Mullet Lake and Lake Huron, watching as the beads of moisture on the docks dissipated and relocated to the back of my neck as I sped along on my bike under the heat of the rising Michigan sun. With friends passing to say “Good morning” and “Meet you at camp”, welcoming faces at conveniently placed rest stops, and evening stories shared between lounging campers, it is impossible not to appreciate the simplicity and beauty of Michigan and its’ people.
Returning home, I possess a revitalized perception of the environment I am surrounded by and the people I live with. As a second year rider, I plan to incorporate The Michigander into my yearly traditions going forward. Having re-instilled that sense of pride often snuffed out and lost in the everyday traffic of activity, I return home a self-defined and proud Michigander.