Updated: Jul 11, 2020
Family vacation provides the backdrop to rekindle a passion
In 2015 we embarked on what was sure to be a restful family vacation. After so many chaotic jaunts through Europe or hectic schedules across New England, this trip was scheduled to include just two stops: a few days in Detroit and several more on Mackinac Island, Michigan.
Detroit holds a special place in our heart. This is our first return in nearly twenty years, since Jennifer and I were transferred to the frozen tundra of lake effect snow and the rolling hills of the suburbs. It proved to be a suitable background for our two girls to be born and for a steep leadership learning curve for a young pup like me in a heavily unionized gasoline distribution plant.
Upon our return, we bounced to the rhythm of the Motown sound and stood in awe of the cool cars and transformational history of the Ford Museum and Assembly Plant. We revisited (very) old stomping grounds including a must-stop at the Guernsey ice cream shop.
Scenes from Mackinac Island: relaxing and enjoying the view from the hotel; our traditional Putt Putt game (before it got nasty with clubs flying), and our 8.2 mile scenic bike ride around the island.
Then we drove five hours to Mackinac (actually to Mackinaw City) to grab a ferry to the Island). This short drive escaped us during our Detroit years as we were too overcome with having babies and tending to our growing family and shrinking budget. However, Mackinac Island is such a quaint place. A small island between the main portion of Michigan and its upper peninsula. No cars are allowed on the island, so its all about walking, horse-drawn carriage rides, and bike riding. Mackinac has its share of fudge shops, souvenir places, museums and art galleries, but this is a "chill" place offering casual shopping, relaxing at the hotel, a friendly game of Putt Putt, and the requisite leisurely bike around the circumference of the island. The scenery justifies many stops on this 8.2 mile loop.
For me, this was a moment of personal reflection as well. Only a couple of years earlier, my two-year reunion with my childhood cycling passion was abruptly terminated as I was flung off my bike trying to avoid three angry dogs in the middle of a country road outside of Houston. What followed was about six months of recuperation. This was not a simple broken arm like the ER doctor announced, but a dislocated shoulder on top of my upper arm which was shattered in three places. Surgery would be delayed and complicated by two blood clots and my recovery would be further challenged by pain-reducing opioid addiction, an arm nerve that pulsed for weeks, months of torturous physical therapy, and near-total sleep deprivation that turned me into a drugged-up zombie. And I hadn't even broken a finger up to that point!
So no wonder we were seeking a calm vacation. Suddenly, I found myself with the family, preparing to rent bikes to circumnavigate Mackinac Island, and I stood motionless. I hadn't been on a bike since the accident. I had struggled with the notion of cycling again during those late night, drug-induced hazes, not sure if I would be able to ride again and definitely not sure I wanted to. Yet, here we were...renting bikes.
After we rented the five bikes, I slowly mounted the cycle. My hands shook as I lifted my right leg to the top of the pedal and stood motionless. I glanced back at the memory of teaching my kids how to ride solo in the neighborhood parking lot. And then I cranked down and pedaled off. My stern, concentrated face gave way to a smile and then finally laughter and singing. I reveled as I glided along the smooth path with the wind slicing around my helmet. It was a bit of my own celebration, to have overcome all the challenges of the past year and return to the sport that had given me freedom when I glided through the hills of Mountain Brook at age ten and then decades later brought me such joy and much needed tranquility. Before my accident I became immersed as I stretched my initial five-mile neighborhood ride to a 170-mile two-day charity ride to Austin, the pinnacle of my riding journey. Now, I was equally overjoyed in the simplicity and freedom of an 8.2 mile ride with the family around Mackinac.