This past weekend, we joined nearly 1,000 other cyclists for the Cherry Capital Cycling Club's annual Ride Around Torch (RAT). While we've cycled in the area before, this was our first time participating in the organized event. We've only done one other organized ride (and it was a few years ago), so we had some idea of what to expect...but the RAT surpassed all our expectations.
Any chance I get to be around a place as breath-taking as Torch Lake, I'm there. The towns are smaller just east of Traverse City, but they are wonderful, fun, and have a lot of personality...so their populations quadruple this time of year. Lucky for us, we could avoid all the traffic and hustle-bustle by joining a ton of other great cyclists and taking to the road, seeing the land in full panoramic views and taking in the sights not often seen by visitors who stick to the borders of the lakes.
We started our ride in Elk Rapids and headed north to Eastport. From there, we went down the east side of Torch Lake, through Alden and Crystal River, around the top of Elk Lake through Kewadin, and back up to Elk Rapids. We opted for the 63-mile loop, but the RAT also includes a 26-mile route and a challenging (read: HILLY) 100-mile loop. All the routes are clearly marked, and you can ride them during the year even without the helpful markers or roadside assistance that the CCCC provides for the ride. I was pretty beat after riding the 63 miles. Maybe I'll consider doing 100 miles next year...but no promises!
All along the route, we had wonderful volunteers dishing up delicious food (I think I demolished 3-4 cookies and 3 bagels without shame), plenty of pit-stops, and lots of great company. At every stop, we chatted with fellow cyclists and learned more about where folks came from, what kinds of rides they've done, and just about everything else. Everyone was friendly and supportive, which I really needed at our third food stop at mile 49!
The whole route was breath-taking. Sure, we didn't stay along Torch Lake the entire time, but I'm a big fan of rolling country hills and farm landscapes. There were some hills, but the views from the top of many of them were worth the climb. I wish I had more pictures to share the route with you, but I was too busy pedaling and taking it in with my own eyes! You'll have to try it out for yourself next year.
At the end of the ride, I gotta admit, I was really sore. The ride was about 20 miles farther than I've biked all year, so you could say my endurance is quite low for something like this. Luckily I could draft some fellow riders for the last leg and somehow made it back to Elk Rapids going the fastest speed we rode the whole trip! It wasn't just my legs, either: my neck and upper back were the most sore, so when we made it back to our car I gave myself permission to just lie on the ground for a few minutes. Not for too long, though....
...because after the ride, the CC Cycling Club hosted a fantastic BBQ! I loaded up on potato salad, pasta salad, more cookies, and a dee-lish veggie burger. Oh, and the best perk of all? A dip in Lake Michigan right at the BBQ site to cool off and get some of the sweat and grime off my body after a long ride. I wish we could've stayed all day, but alas, we had more summer activities to attend!
All in all, I highly recommend the RAT for beginner, novice, and expert cyclists. There is a course and distance for everyone, and it's a fun, well-organized event that really embodies the great community of cyclists in our region. Plus, you really can't beat the location in terms of views and varying scenery: it is not to be missed!