Bike Benzie Grand Fondo: Fun Spelled With Two 'O's And One Of Those In Place of the 'U' In Fun

tumblr_n76j7tkeUD1qi7lhio1_500 If you need a lesson in how to have fun, Bike Benzie is the cycling equivalent of a 300 level class at an accredited university.

Crystal Mountain, which plays host to our Crystal Cross and Fat Chance! events, is probably the premier spot to ride a bicycle. Having such a world-class venue as home base made Bike Benzie a pretty solid choice, and all the more so considering much of the 100 mile route included roads I've ridden for the last ten years. As one of the 50 or so residents outside Karlin, all those quiet two-lane roads were the daily loop, and it's more special sharing it with pals after three years away.

Winding away from Crystal Mountain with the 100 mile Fondo folks, we curled around US-31 and hopped through Honor, rolling resolutely toward Maple City. The 30 and 60 mile routes headed back sooner, so we had the lone purple arrows still heading north toward Hlavka Road. Our little trio of riders included myself, Jorden Wakeley (on a 29+) and Jon Throop. I took a little time to play tour guide through the west side outskirts of Lake Ann, pointing out the Almira baseball fields where I used to play, and also noting the roads and subdivisions of various old girlfriends. Memory lane is actually rather smoothly paved, if patched and chip sealed in certain places.

We headed west and south, finally winding our way out of Leelanau County and hitting M-22 south as it tucked along the south end of Platte Lake. I'd been a little worried about traffic on that stretch, but it turned out the be simply awesome. We had some great views of the lake, and turned the heads of some beach-goers, tourists going under the speed limit, and folks sitting out on the porch drinking various brews.

The western half of the route turned toward to Frankfort, and we rolled through as the town's farmer's market was in full swing. We slowed down to people watch, dutifully riding in the slow traffic and getting back to the open road safely, buoyed a bit by the 30 and 60 mile riders waving from the final food stop.

We rolled into Crystal at just over five hours, which included an extra mile after a wrong turn. The most impressive part of the whole day was the volunteers. Every food stop was filled with smiling, waving people and at the end of the ride, every person across the line was greeted by a volunteer, asked about the ride and if they needed anything, and eagerly handed a delicious cherry pie from the Cherry Hut.