Pedaling through Big Rapids

PALM riders will arrive June 20, WAM July 29

PEDAL POWER: Bicyclists pedaled about 100-miles from Traverse City to Big Rapids last year during the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 24th annual Wish-A-Mile 300 Bicycle Tour. The three-day event will pass through Big Rapids July 29. (Pioneer file photo)

BIG RAPIDS — Big Rapids may come to be known as “Cycle City” after two groups of more than 800 cyclists each roll through town this summer.

The two groups of cyclists, traveling about 300 miles each, are pedaling from one end of the state to the other — one leaving from Ludington heading east to Harbor Beach, and the other heading south from Traverse City to Chelsea. Although the rides are more than a month apart, Big Rapids will be the crossroads where the multi-day treks cross.

“For residents, this it a great opportunity for them to ask riders where they are going, how long they’ve been riding and how they can get involved,” said Big Rapids Parks and Recreation Director Heather Bowman. “You’re starting to see that there is a draw for cycling in Big Rapids. … There is a need for things such as bicycle lanes and bike racks at our parks. There definitely is a large group (of residents) who are saying this is what we need.”

More than 800 pleasure cyclists riding across the “palm” of Michigan will ascend on Big Rapids on June 20, during the second leg of the 30th annual Pedal Across Lower Michigan (PALM) bicycle ride.

The 283-mile ride starts on June 19 leaving Ludington toward Hesperia and picks up the next day bound for Big Rapids. Cyclists will pedal 46 miles to the city, coming to town on 17 Mile Road, turning down Sheridan Street past the Mecosta County Fairgrounds, to Waterloo Street, Osceola Avenue and finally East Grand Traverse Street to the Big Rapids Middle School, where they will camp for the night. Most riders are expected to arrive between 1 and 3 p.m. Traveling between 28- and 62-miles a day, riders also will make overnight stops in Clare, Bay City and Bad Axe before finishing in Harbor Beach on June 24.

“The unique thing about this ride is that it’s very family-oriented,” said PALM site coordinator Pat Paveglio. “There are children in trailers, we have people in their 90’s riding and the youngest riding on their own last year was 7 years old.”

(Pioner file photo)

The route PALM riders take changes each year to give riders a “variety” of sites to see and places to stop. The last time PALM riders came through Big Rapids was in 2005.

“The people in Big Rapids are very welcoming and nice,” Paveglio said.

Once in town, riders will have several options for entertainment. The Cadillac-based band A Pair of Jacks will perform at the middle school bandshell for riders and community members alike. Riders also will be able to participate in a scavenger hunt looking to locate various sculptures throughout the area, and attend a bicycle safety and repair course that night behind the middle school.

In July, more than 800 riders are expected to participate in the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s 24th annual Wish-A-Mile 300 Bicycle Tour. Riders will complete the first 100-mile leg of the trek on July 29 in Big Rapids.

Last year, the event raised more than $1.3 million to grant wishes to Michigan children with life-threatening medical conditions.

With both long-distance rides passing through Big Rapids, Bowman said has the potential to become more bicycle-friendly, both to residents and out-of-town riders.

“Hopefully within the next five years we’ll have more bicycle groups coming through town and (the amenities) to draw them in,” Bowman said. “I hope these rides send a spark to some of the people in town who have their bikes in garages to get back out on their bicycles.”

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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