Category Archives: TerraTrike

Rolling Forward Through the Past

Sometimes a wonderful resource is born from misfortune.

In 1901, the Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad  completed a spur from Traverse City to Northport, Michigan under the name Traverse City, Leelanau and Manistique Rail Road.  As part of the line, they also established a rail car ferry from Northport to Manistique in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Prior to that in 1874, they completed a rail spur from Traverse City back to their main north-south line (Cincinnati, Ohio to Mackinaw City, Michigan) at the tiny village of Walton, Michigan, later renamed Walton Junction.  That 1874 line began the immigration boom that Traverse City still sees to this day.  Diana and I had passed through Walton Junction for years on our way to her parent’s cottage on Fife Lake, never realizing that the name was derived from the meeting of theses two rail lines.

Competing with the already-established Ann Arbor Railroad for freight across the lake, it was quickly discovered that the ferry service wasn’t going to be profitable, so it was discontinued in 1908.  Freight and passenger service continued on through several different companies until 1975.  In 1989, the Leelanau Scenic Railway was established on the line, running to Suttons Bay until 1995, at which time the right-of-way was abandoned and the tracks were torn up.  All that was left of the railroad was the graded land, several bridges, and a handful of depot buildings.

The depot in Suttons Bay as it appeared in 1920…

…and repurposed as a law office today.

Meanwhile in Traverse City, the Traverse Area Recreational Trail had been built along an east/west rail corridor that ran through town.  With the success of that route, the Leelanau Trails Association purchased the 17 mile Leelanau Scenic Railway corridor from Traverse City to Suttons Bay….and work began on what was to become the Leelanau Trail. Asphalt paving was completed in 2013, and the pathway was designated as part of U.S. Bicycle Route 35.

Where trains struggled to get through the snow in winter…

…cross country ski trail groomers now run in the cold weather.

Where the passenger cars used to make their way northward…

…we now find ourselves riding along their former route, 115 years after the railroad was built.

Pedaling the Leelanau Trail (seen above in red) has become one of our favorite pastimes.  We started riding it in earnest last fall when we purchased our TerraTrikes.  Several wineries are located a short distance from the trail, so there isn’t a shortage of places to visit.  🙂    The scenery along the route is amazing.

During the spring, the cherry blossoms carpet the hillsides.

Here is Diana photographing a bank full of Forget-Me-Nots.

These little beauties were the theme we chose for her mom’s funeral guest book; as a result, seeing these made this day pretty darn special.  🙂

We enjoy seeing this draft horse and donkey along the way…

…as well as this huge cow that keeps them company.  🙂

While many of the railroads of northern Michigan were not able to sustain their businesses, the efforts of the railroad workers are being reused through the development of these trails.  We consider ourselves fortunate to be located so close to the Leelanau Trail this srummer, and we look forward to many more rides along this historical pathway before we leave this fall.

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Rail Trails of Grand Rapids, Michigan

On November 1, we relocated back to Grand Rapids, Michigan to be near Diana’s mom.  We are evaluating the situation and trying to make the best decision regarding where to spend the winter.

Our first week back, we have been fortunate to have had some great fall weather.  For three consecutive days, we had temperatures in the low 70’s, and we took advantage of the sunshine and checked out the local rail trails.  The Grand Rapids metro area is home to an extensive collection of recreational trails, and each year brings more miles of paths onto the region’s map.

  
The above image shows the trails marked in red.  As you can see, it is quite possible to ride a very long distance!  🙂

On Monday, November 2, we drove to the southern terminus of Kent Trails in Byron Center. This asphalt pathway was paved in 1992, and is the oldest rail trail in the region.  It runs on the rail bed of the defunct Grand Rapids and Indiana Railroad, which first ran on this portion of land in 1870.  At its peak, the railroad ran from Cincinnati, Ohio to Mackinaw City, Michigan, and was the route that Ernest Hemmingway took on his excursions to Northern Michigan from Chicago.

  
Coming north out of Byron Center, the trail runs between the two halves of Railside Golf Course.  There are two of these graceful golf cart bridges over the path.

  
A few miles north, the trail goes under M-6, otherwise known as the South Beltline or the Paul Henry Freeway.  We purposely are not political on this blog, but Mr. Henry’s legacy bears mentioning.  Paul Henry was a Republican U.S. Congressman who oversaw the same district that Gerald Ford held when he was a congressman.  From that office, Ford moved into the vice-presidency and then the presidency.  Mr. Henry was known to vote with his conscience, even if it meant that he went against the rest of his party and President Reagan, which was quite remarkable in such a heavily Republican district.  We had the pleasure of meeting him as he passed us at an outdoor cafe in Grand Rapids, and he was a true gentleman who was well respected on both sides of the aisle.  He ended up getting a brain tumor and passing at age 51.  During his tenure, this much needed highway was in the planning stages.

  
When we got to the five mile mark, we discovered that the trail passed by the new Cabela’s store in Grandville.  We stopped for a little bit, then headed back the five miles to our truck.

On Tuesday, we rode on the northern portion of the Paul Henry Thornapple Trail.  This particular trail is still under development, and runs along a former railroad between Grand Rapids and Vermontville to the southeast.  When complete, it will be 42 miles long.

  
We started on the outskirts of town and rode north into Kentwood, a southern suburb of Grand Rapids.

  
The trail was very nice.  We did have to cross a five lane portion of 52nd Street, but it was at a traffic light.  There was a nice city park with restrooms near that intersection.

  
We came to an intersection with the East-West Trail and continued north on the Paul Henry Trail.  The neighborhood started to get a little too urban for our taste, so we backtracked to the East-West Trail and checked it out.

  
This is a fairly new route that runs along a series of high tension power lines through a Consumers Energy corridor.  It’s definitely a suburban route, and is a great use of the land.  This particular raised wooden path over a swamp was first rate!

  
Kudos to Consumers Energy for partnering with the community on this trail!

On Wednesday, we decided to check out one of the premiere trails in Michigan: The Fred Meijer White Pine Linear State Park.  This trail runs along the same Grand Rapids and Indiana corridor that Kent Trails runs on, only the White Pine is from Grand Rapids north to Cadillac…a distance of 92 miles.  

  
The southern 22 miles is asphalt, with the rest being a hopscotch of asphalt and crushed limestone.  We started out in the town of Belmont and headed north.

  

In the parking lot, we had met this fellow TerraTrike owner who constructed this sidecar for her doggie. That was one happy puppy!
  
The trail ran near the Rogue River, and there were several deep ravines.  This particular portion of the railroad grade dates back to 1867.

  
Just prior to passing under 10 Mile Road, the route crosses an old bridge over the river.

  
It then runs through the quaint town of Rockford.  Longtime readers may recall our post from this town last December called ‘A Small Town Christmas’.  On this beautiful November day, the town was packed with people enjoying the sunshine.

  
We had a trailside lunch at Ramona’s Table, which was delicious!

From there, we continued north for a bit.

  
Pretty soon, Diana pointed skyward…

  

….and the leaves appeared to be raining out of the clear blue sky!
  
We ended up pedaling to 12 Mile Road, which was six miles from our starting point.  We headed back and called it a day.

These pathways are just a small sampling of what the area has to offer.  We look forward to exploring more of West Michigan’s trails in the future.
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Hauling Our New Trikes

One thing is for certain: we love our new TerraTrikes!  We knew they would be a challenge to transport though.  This post will show you what we came up with to solve this issue.

 
When we purchased Diana’s TerraTrike, it didn’t take us long to figure out how to haul it.  With the fifth wheel, we needed to get it out of the way of the hitch.  Mounted in the position above, it is safely in front of the trailer.  We’ve since purchased a TerraTrike rooftop kit from Suttons Bay Bikes, which consists of three foam blocks for the tires, and two straps.  I use the straps in place of the orange bungees.  We also remove the seat fabric, which easily snaps on and off.  Trike #1…issue solved!

When I decided to also purchase a trike (as Pam from Oh, the Places They Go kidded with me, “I had a feeling this was coming”), Diana and I had to come up with a solution…and fast.  Our time at Wild Cherry is winding down for this year, and we now owned two trikes, two bikes and a two bike receiver-mounted rack.  We quickly sold the bikes on Craigslist…as in hours after I posted the ad.  That was a relief.  🙂   The rack is a very sturdy Yakima, and it has served us well on the back of the fifth wheel.  I took a long look at it, hoping to come up with a way to modify it for my trike…without losing the ability to change it back to a two-bike rack, if we needed to sell it.  Here is what I came up with:

  
Here is the rack after I flipped the outer rail end to end.  It originally had one bike facing left and one bike facing right.  My goal here was to have both of the wheel supports on the right side in this photo to be aligned with each other.  The single rear wheel is going to ride in the left wheel support, furthest from the truck in this image. This rack also mounts to the back of the trailer, when the truck and RV are hooked up.

With the wheelbase of the two front wheels being 29-1/2″, the current 11″ spread between the wheel supports on the right wouldn’t work to support the front wheels. This is where the modification was needed.

  

I disassembled the supports from the rack and set them aside to use later.

  
This is the piece of 1-1/2″ square steel tube I picked up yesterday at a Traverse City steel supply company.

  
I cut and drilled four small pieces from some scrap steel that Jim (Wild Cherry’s owner) had on hand.  It helps that he is also a cherry farmer, as he has all sorts of equipment that he let me use.  🙂 Thanks Jim!

 
Here are the four pieces.  The steel was from an old garage door track, hence the extra hole in the one on the right.  That won’t affect anything.

  
I then dusted off my welding skills that I hadn’t used in 35 years and fired up the arc welder….yes, Jim has one of those also!  I welded two of the flanges I had made on one side of the bar, the same distance apart as the wheelbase of the trike.

  
I then marked the center of the bar on the opposite side of the flanges.  I lined that up with the outer arm of the rack, as that is where the center of the trike was going to be.  I then marked the bar where it was going to attach to the inner arm…the mark seen here on the right.

  
I then welded the two remaining flanges into position.  I cleaned up the assembly a little with a hand grinder…my welds were strong, but none too pretty.  :). Once I was done with that, I gave it a couple of coats of black satin Rustoleum.

  
I mounted the bar to the rack with stainless steel bolts and lock nuts. I used stainless steel washers as spacers to fill the void between the flange on the rack. 

  
I then remounted the wheel supports in their new position on the bar.  All that was left now was to head back up to our campsite and try it with a trike!

  
 
It worked!  Here is how the trike fits in the rack.

  
The wheels strap down, just as they did before.

  
Here is a photo from the back.  The one trike actually weighs less than the two bikes combined that used to ride there, so this setup should be very stable.

  
And when the trike is off, I am able to still fold the rack into its upright position.  If for any reason we ever want to sell the rack, all we have to do is bolt it back into its old position, discard the bar I manufactured, and it is good to go.

Trike #2…issue solved!