The ferry was due to arrive at the island at 11:00 am Sunday morning and by then, the weather had gone full circle with dense fog and calm water. Backpackers walked to the end of the long ‘T’ shaped pier and waited. Just before 11:00, the engines of the ferry could be heard and then a silhouette of a boat was seen making its approach. Once a few miles from the island, the fog lifted to blue sky with billowing white clouds. Temperatures climbed from the low 50s to the upper 70s as we docked at Leland. I retrieved my cycle gear from the transit shack and loaded the Tiger for a ride to Holland, Michigan – hopefully the tulips will still be flowering. There’s a small fish shop right on the water in Leland, so I got some smoked fish for the road.
Heading south we noted an uncharacteristically large number of cycles on the road. It was a beautiful day and there were dozens then hundreds of bikes spotted. Most were headed the opposite direction but we eventually got caught in a caravan and rode the rear of the formation. We rolled into Baldwin and the town was wall to wall motorcycles. Their 43rd annual Blessing of the Bikes Festival was taking place and thousands of bikes covered the parking lots of restaurants, motels, gas stations and bars. We decided to not fight the crowds and continued south before stopping at Woody’s Bar and Grill to enjoy a beer and chow on the smoked fish I purchased in Leland. Woody’s is pretty remote but was still packed with bikes.
We continue south to our destination, Holland, Michigan on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Known as The Tulip City, Holland supports a population of 35,000 with a strong link to Dutch heritage, complete with a 250 year old windmill and over six million tulips. Plenty of economic income comes from tourism with the biggest attraction starting the second week in May for the Tulip Time Festival, which draws an estimated one million visitors each year. The festival is timed to coincide during the maximum bloom of the tulips, their vast numbers blanketing the city in a rainbow of colors. We arrived a week after the festival, mainly to avoid the crowds and the tulips had already mostly withered. Holland State Park was our choice for quarters last night. Two large camping loops, one on the shore of Lake Michigan and the other across the road from Lake Macatawa, offer over 300 sites. With nearly 2,000,000 visitors each year, Holland State Park is the most active park in the Michigan park system. Pulling into the Macatawa loop, we had the pick of the litter: the campground was empty. Setting up beneath tall pines on site 44, we were only a hundred feet to the bath house. And after two days of backpacking on North Manitou Island, a shower was definitely needed! Cruising about 6 ½ miles into town, we dined on the outdoor patio at New Holland Brewing followed by a couple pints at Our Brewing Company a few doors down.
Today was an early breakfast at a Bob Evans and then an uneventful ride past Chicago to beat the crushing afternoon rush-hour commute.
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