Riding our Tandem in Holland Michigan

Tom and I are traveling in that state to the north of Ohio (my dad refuses to say the name).  We spent three days in Holland, Michigan, and the biggest reason was riding our tandem.  Tom and I haven’t ridden much while we have been in Ohio because I like to walk and he prefers to ride his trike.  So we were eager to do some riding together.

Holland, Michigan is one of the most bike-friendly cities we have ever been in.  We started by riding our tandem on the 22 mile Lakeshore Connector Trail.  This is an odd name for the trail.  Usually a connector trail connects two longer trails or a town to a trail.  But the Lakeshore Connector Trail is a long trail that runs from Holland, Michigan to Grand Haven, Michigan.

On the boardwalk in Lake Sheldon

I wanted to ride the whole trail, eat lunch in Grand Haven, and then ride back.  Tom wasn’t in favor of that plan because I haven’t ridden much this summer and he thought 44 miles was too much for me.  Ha!  Whenever he says that to me, I just become more determined to do whatever it is he says I can’t do.  We agreed to ride halfway, to Port Sheldon, and see how we were feeling.

We had a rough start to riding our tandem when a car pulled around us suddenly.  Tom, who steers the bike, wasn’t expecting it, and he turned away from the car to avoid hitting it.  Unfortunately that meant turning quickly in sand, which doesn’t work even on a single bike.  On a tandem it meant that both of us tumbled over.  Tom’s leg got a scrape and my head bounced on the ground and then back.  I was glad I was wearing my helmet because I think it could have been much worse.  I got some scrapes on my leg and a sore neck but nothing major.  After assuring Tom I was all right, we finally pushed off again and got started.

We stayed at the Holland State Park and were able to pull out on the Lakeshore Connector as soon as we left the park.  We had a lovely ride until we were almost to Port Sheldon.  The weather was perfect – sunny but not hot.  We had to cross lots of streets and driveways when we first started out, but the houses got less dense as we headed north.  Tom and I stopped at Tunnel Park, one of the many beautiful county parks along Lake Michigan.

Tunnel Park

We were enjoying our ride very much, but when we got close to Port Sheldon the derailleur started having issues.  Whenever we would coast, the derailleur hanger would drop the chain and it would drag on one of the supports on the tandem.  Tom tried to fix it, but it seemed very gunked up, probably from our fall in the sand.  He figured out that if we didn’t coast, the chain stayed on, but it meant we would have to pedal all the time.  As soon as we hit the scenic boardwalk in Port Sheldon, we decided we better head back to the RV.

Tom with the tandem

On our way back we stopped at another county park, Kouw Park.  This park had a beautiful boardwalk out to the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan.  We stopped for the view and had a chance to talk to four other cyclists riding the Lakeshore Connector Trail.

View of the lake from Kouw Park

The Lakeshore Connector is a great resource along Lake Michigan.  We were a little disappointed, however, that it ran beside Lakeshore Road the whole way.  The problem was that Lakeshore Road doesn’t actually run along the lakeshore.  There is a long line of private property between the road and the lakeshore.  We did get a great view of lots of long driveways with an occasional view of a million dollar home.  A different kind of scenery than we were expecting.

Lakeshore Connector

We got back to the RV quickly because we had to pedal all the time.  The only way we could slow down was to pedal while the brakes were engaged, which was annoying.  When we arrived back at the RV, we had lunch, then Tom called Cross Country Cycle shop.  The main service guy, Nate, told Tom to bring the tandem in right away and he would look at it and get it working again.  That was good news even if it meant riding the tandem six miles to the shop.

It took us about half an hour to ride on the Greenway Trail to Cross Country Cycle.  Nate took the tandem right away and got it cleaned up and working again.  We were so appreciative of his help.  And he only charged us $40, which was a great price for all the work he did.  He took the derailleur apart and cleaned it out.  He even replaced some of the bearings and fixed the shifter.  In half an hour he was done and we were able to ride safely and enjoyably back to the RV.

Nate at Cross Country Cycle

We were very glad to get the tandem fixed because we didn’t bring the car with us.  If we want to get anywhere without the RV we are riding the tandem.  Thanks Nate!

The next day we took the Holland system of bike trails into downtown Holland.  With the great trail system and our repaired bike, the ride was easy.  After spending time in downtown (more on that later this week) we rode back to the campground.  Tom says we did 45 miles between the two days of riding the tandem in Holland.

Map of trails in Holland
Tandem downtown
A roundabout
Driveway along Lakeshore Connector
Tunnel Park beach
Houses next to Kouw Park

If you love to ride your bicycle, Holland is a great place to do it.  The drivers are very considerate.  The waitress at a restaurant even said they have a special segment in Driver’s Ed in Holland to learn how to watch out for cyclists.  I’m not sure why Holland goes above and beyond for bike trails – maybe it is like the nation it is named after.  The Netherlands is a land filled with bicyclists.  Holland, Michigan, is working hard to make cycling as easy here as it is in the the Netherlands.