If you spent any time around town Monday afternoon or evening, it would have been hard not to notice a spike in bicycle traffic.
The travelers are part of Pedal Across Lower Michigan, or PALM. The group left Holland early on Sunday, before making their stop at Thornapple Kellogg Middle School in Middleville on Sunday night. Portland High School is the group’s second overnight stop, before moving on to Owosso on Tuesday night, Otisville on Wednesday night, Almont on Thursday night, and finally arriving in St. Clair on Friday.
According to the groups website, www.palmbiketour.org, the total route is between 250 and 300 miles, with daily routes between 30 and 60 miles. The organization says that this is its 37th annual event.
Organizers make arrangements ahead of time to use schools as overnight rest spots. Riders sleep in tents or campers and use the school for restrooms/showers and meals. The riders gear is transported to the next stop by volunteers driving cargo trucks. The group also travel with two mobile bicycle repair shops to do repairs on route.
According to the site, the cost for adult participants 18 and over is $130. Families are welcome, and registration is limited to the first 700 participants.
I spoke with one volunteer named Dennis who said this was his 7th year volunteering for the ride. He is part of the SAG (Support and Gear) team that accompanies the bicyclists in motor vehicles. He said this was the group’s “first time in Portland in 37 years.”
Dennis said the group has about 600 riders this year. He said, “It is an extremely inexpensive ride. It is one of the best in the state for value. We transport their tents and luggage form school to school. We provide meals, breakfast and dinner, and support facilities. This year there are 16 or 17 of us in support vehicles. The volunteer team exists of anywhere from 70 to 100 people who have different jobs.”
He added, “We call ourselves the family ride because we try to keep the rides not to hilly, although today was a little different. We have stops along the way to provide water and fruit and things like that. Riders are on their own for lunch.”