Travel Report

I love Iceman.

Love it.

Love the trip up. The expo (I don’t love the expo as an Expo, but as a place  to chat with some folks from other towns and the manifold Industry Folk, it rules.). The foraging for food Friday night, terrified that the place you want to eat will have a zillion-hour wait. The way that I never know what I’ll have for breakfast. The start scrum. I love the way I always (always!) want to quit about Williamsburg Road. And who wouldn’t love the bit after the race? It’s almost perfect.

And yet I’ve participated in the last few Icemans (right? Icemans?) in a row, and it’s gotten a bit… routine. Plus I’m a tad (cough) out of shape and blah blah blah, so I convinced a few friends to take a road trip with me to Brown County State Park, a place spoken of in reverent tones around these parts, a place I’ve wanted to visit for the past few years.

It worked out perfectly. One guy found us a place to stay. Another guy secured a big van so the four of us could travel together with bikes inside. And at the last moment a couple of other friends joined the party. It might seem that I actually did very little work planning this trip, which would indeed be a fair assessment. Our plan was to leave mid-afternoon on Friday, ride Saturday and Sunday, maybe ride a bit more on Monday, then head home.

Brown County is great. The trails are accurately graded similarly to ski hills: green, blue, black and double-black. You’ll experience climbs and descents longer than available locally. You’ll see people on all ilk of bike — from department store special to near-downhill rigs. You’ll see families out there. You’ll see a lot of women on mountain bikes. You’ll see people wearing spandex, baggies, jeans and gym shorts. You’ll see locals, and you’ll see tourists like us. Two-way traffic takes a bit of getting used to, but most folks were exceedingly polite. Sure, there was one turd; there always is.

We spent a long time comparing the Brown County trails to those available locally. The vast majority of the stuff we rode looked machine-built, with progressively more rocks and diabolical roots as the difficultly increased. One the one hand, I think of it as Big Merrell, the same overall smoothness and flow writ large (Merrell has about 100 ft of elevation gain, Brown County has 300). Then again there are some seriously burly bits that had me wondering if I had lost my mind.

What bike do you need? Whatever you have. In our crew we had one dual-suspension trail bike (me), three dual-suspension XC bikes, one hardtail and one fully rigid bike, all 29ers. I think the dual-suspension XC bikes were the pick of the litter, but everyone had a very great time.

The weather was unbelievably good. The trails were in perfect shape. Nashville is a super nice town. Two Hearted was on tap at our resort’s bar. It was tough to beat. So we rode ourselves into the ground both Saturday and Sunday, collapsing into bed each night.

We had to check out by 11 am on Monday and just lacked sufficient commitment to ride hard and drive stinky for 4.5 hours. Weak, I know. But then we had the idea of driving to Berrien Springs and riding the Trails at Andrews. This was a fantastic decision, as that is some fun stuff. There’s a lot of elevation, some big drops, some tough climbs, some berms, some tight corners. There’s a little bit of everything, and we enjoyed it a lot. One criticism leveled at the Trails at Andrews is that it can be a bit tough to figure out where to go. I hate that, especially once I start to get tired. Yeah, we did spend some time at intersections wondering where to turn, but it was (in the parlance of our times) all good. We ended up back at the car tired, happy and ready for a beer — which we found at Cultivate Brewing. I’ll tell you: it’s only one hour from Kalamazoo to the trailhead on Campbell Drive in Berrien Springs, and it’s only ten minutes from there to Cultivate. That’s a super-solid Sunday morning/early afternoon for you. There’s still time.