I remember reading about the Michigander long before I had any idea I would ever be able to actually ride my bike hundreds of miles across Michigan, on rail trails and mud tracks... I thought "I'm going to do this some day... "
In 1993 I started riding longer distances, joined the DTE Cycling Club (associated with my employer), bought a new bike (hybrid) and signed up for my first MS-150, a 150 mile 2-day ride to raise funds for research and support for those with Multiple Sclerosis. I have now ridden the MS-150 eleven times, raising tens of thousands of dollars for the MS Society, and logging thousands of miles.
In 1996 I finally had the guts and experience and decided to sign up for my first Michigander... but my friend Susan had a better idea... she said "I have always wanted to do a Vermont Bike Tour--let's do that instead". And we did. We started at Stowe, VT and rode a big circle tour, passing through the Green Mountains (my first mountain cycling) staying at lovely inns and B&Bs along the way. The food was superb, as was the support on the road. We had such a good time that the day after we drove back to Michigan we got back on our bikes and rode 50 miles... Susan promised to go on the Michigander with me the following year.
1997 came, and Susan and I signed up for the ride. We trained well, but a couple of weeks before the ride she had a health issue and had to withdraw. I went through a short panic and then decided I was going anyway! I met some great people the first day--a group made up mostly of teachers from my area. They train together and ride the Michigander every year. The 1997 ride from South Haven to Traverse City, MI is legendary--we rode (actually walked our bikes) through miles of soft sand, had several days of rain, and one trail that was "unimproved" that is, there was no trail, just the stone fill where the rails used to be... I have since ridden 5 other Michiganders, each year a different route. Great fun if you like getting really hot and really dirty with hundreds if other people (and I do). Of course, I had to get a mountain bike after that first week-long dirt ride.
In 2004, the Michigander conflicted with The Husband's main event for the summer, the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat race, so I started searching for another ride. I chose the Cycle the Erie Canal ride, another camping/cycling trip, 400 miles from Buffalo to Albany, NY. Again, I went solo, meeting up with a nice group of people from KS and MO on that first pre-ride event--a bike ride from Buffalo, NY to Niagara Falls, Canada (50 miles round trip) for lunch. One of my new friends had a flat tire and a broken spoke, and between the four of us we had the tools to remove the spoke, change the tire and get back on the road. It rained and it rained and it rained that week, and there was one tornado warning. A great time was had by all! You just can't imagine how much fun it can be setting up your wet tent in the rain, taking a shower, and then putting on damp clothes to go to dinner!
In 2005, my daughter Alison and I chose the MOOSA ride, Maine's Original Outstanding Super Adventure. Camping and cycling, starting and ending in Maine and passing through New Hampshire, Quebec, and Vermont. Lots of mountains this time, but now I had a road bike, purchased the previous year when I decided to do triathlons... Daughter rode my old hybrid. The biggest climb: 5,500 feet one morning, with the downhill run in the afternoon--what a rush! At the height of the land we took photos of Lake Mooselookmeguntic in the distance. (I did not make up that name!).
For 2006, Alison and I did the XOBA, the Across Ohio Bicycle Adventure, from Northeast Ohio to Nelsonville. That year's tour was the Covered Bridge Tour, and we passed through more covered bridges than we ever knew existed in Ohio! Lots of rolling hills and wind, a great time overall... Alison rode my daughter Erika's road bike this time, making it easier to ride together.
So after many weeklong bike tours I think I am ready to tackle the big one. California here I come! I would surely welcome advice from those who have ridden cross country, whether with CrossRoads Cycling Adventures (as I am going to do) or with another tour group, or even unsupported (I am brave but not that brave!)