Michigan Covered Bridge Tour

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Covered bridges, for many people, are curiosities of a past era.  For those old enough, they represent nostalgia from their youth.  Others, see them merely as antiquated historic artifacts.  One thing is for sure, many people are not aware of these treasures in their own backyard.

The riding season upon us, you’ll be seeing a few more motorcycling-related stories in coming months.

When discussing ‘covered bridges’ there are two camps.  The first camp simply appreciates covered bridges, old or young, more modern or not.  A number of newer covered bridges are essentially contemporary construction (steel beams and concrete) atop which the ‘cover’ has been built for aesthetic purposes.

The second camp, dismissive of ‘contemporary’ covered bridges, is primarily focused on ‘authentic’ covered bridges.  These are the originals, wood beams, boarded sides, decking to drive across, and old.  In many cases, well over 100 years old.

For instance, the Langley Covered Bridge (Lockport Township), is on the Michigan Department of Transportations list of active bridges.  Recently rejuvenated, it serves daily vehicle traffic yet was built in 1887.

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Bridges were originally ‘covered’ to protect the timers and decking from the elements.  Easier to put on a new roof, replace some planks, than an entire bridge that’s rotted out.  After all, keep in mind, these are (now) 100 year old bridges without benefit of things like pressure treating.

Over the past few months I had been organizing a day-ride for a group of friends and fellow motorcyclists.  Drawing on a friend’s proclivity for checking out covered bridges, I decided to adopt it as the ride’s theme: a Covered Bridge Tour.  A warm-up for the season to come.

Despite the forecast rain, 22 still showed up for the ride.  Broken into groups of 4-6, separated a few minutes apart, we headed to our first stop: Whites Bridge, in Ionia, on the Flat River.

Whites Bridge

Sources vary in their counts of how many covered bridges exist in each state.  Some will only report the historic, original variety.  Others will report every covered bridge, including something someone built to cross the ditch to their mailbox.

A little bit of research is suggested before heading out on a tour.  In my case, I was looking for bridges that support(ed) vehicle traffic.

One of the best resources available is Dale Travis’ site.  Dale has created a list of every known covered bridge in the U.S.  And there’s some meat there, too.  He not only identifies the bridge (most with a picture), but provides visitors with a brief description, age, construction type, GPS coordinates, and whether it’s been lost (e.g. due to fire).  He even provides a coordinate list, by state, that you can download to your GPS.  I didn’t discover that until after the trip<g>.

One of the best Covered Bridges Lists is Dale Travis’ site at www.dalejtravis.com.

Only 5 minutes ride away from Whites Bridge, was our second stop of the day: Fallasburg Bridge.  Fallasburg Bridge

Fallasburg Bridge lays in a beautiful setting.  It anchors the end of a very nice local park, complete with facilities.  During our visit, the Flat River attracts a number of fisherman.

Conveniently enough, our 3rd bridge of the day was only 10 minutes further down the path.  Ada Covered Bridge no longer carries road traffic.  Today, nestled near the heart of Ada, it is the anchor for a local park with parking and facilities nearby.Ada Covered Bridge

Each of these four bridges is worth the trip.  Everyone in our group was amazed, astounded, to find these treasures sitting in our own back yard.  Right here, certainly a ‘gas tank trip’ for a family by car, yet few of us had enjoyed the sites before.

Sams Joints Restaurant (2)But, what is a road trip without lunch?  I was able to find an eclectic place in Alaska, Michigan (go figure), by the name of Sam’s Joint Restaurant.

As organizer, I’ll be honest, picking an eatery to send a large group to can be a high risk activity;).  People remember “last year’s ride” by how good the lunch stop was, as much as anything else.  So, let’s just say I was happy to hear how much everyone enjoyed Sam’s Joint.  Plenty of eye candy, pleasant service, and good food.  What more can one hope for?

One of the topics I normally write on is the subject of Leadership.  Organizing a motorcycle event, whether day ride or longer, is a new flavor of Leadership for some.  Everyone is a volunteer. From the participants that may or may not actually participate, to the group leaders willing to act as tour guide using routes they’ve never personally ridden before.

These events are, I think, cat-herding at their best.  Show everyone the direction, hope they like it, put some tuna down the path a ways, and see what happens after they get wet. (The last 200 miles of our day were in chilling, damp, rain.)

My thanks to everyone who participated, volunteered, and made this a great day for all.

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