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Lifestyle

Life without cars

Or a cyclist's serious summer leisure rides

SEE ALSO
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Published 6/16/2010

TAKING IT TO THE STREETS

Hines Park along Hines Drive
Running 18 miles along the Rouge River, Hines Drive stretches from Dearborn to Northville. Accompanying the roadway are extra-wide shoulders and a nearby paved path. What's a bonus, though, for those of us on two wheels, is that from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturdays, May through September, it's closed to cars for the six-mile stretch between Outer Drive and Ann Arbor Trail. That means cyclists, walkers, joggers and skaters own the stretch with no worries of steel machines and the attendant fumes. There's car parking at the main cross streets for access.


THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT

Pack the soccer balls, gloves, bats, kids and fishing poles and pick a few spots to visit by bike along Hines Park. The six communities along this route have a mixture of facilities, ranging from ball diamonds to fields to playscapes to fishing holes. And the park hosts special events all year.


MAKE A DAY

Park at one of Hines Drive's ends — the Henry Ford Fairlane Estate is near the eastern edge, downtown Northville is at the western terminus — and ride its entire length and back. With restrooms and picnic areas along the way, you'll find spots to comfortably stop and refuel with snacks and water. Another idea is to park in downtown Plymouth and navigate to the drive. The quaint downtown is a perfect place to wind up after a long ride, and to get a well-earned bite to eat and some liquid refreshment. Sean O'Callaghan's, 821 Penniman Ave., is a favorite, with outdoor seating, Irish flair and a build-your-own salad on the menu.

For information about special events throughout the summer see: waynecounty.com/mygovt/dps/depts/parks/special.aspx


ON THE WATERFRONT

Lake Shore Road in the Grosse Pointes
With mansions on the inland side and a view across Lake St. Clair to Canada on the other, riding along Lake Shore Road in the Grosse Pointes is one of the area's most picturesque routes. It's the kind of beauty you never see when Detroit is portrayed in national media. Look for wildlife, boats and freighters. To reach this stretch, park in one of the lots in the nearby shopping districts — the Village in the city of Grosse Pointe or the Hill in Grosse Pointe Farms — and traverse the tony neighborhoods to reach the waterfront route. There you can stay on the sidewalks and avoid cars at the crosswalks or ride the sometimes-narrow lanes in the streets. With cycling clubs and individual riders commonly using this stretch, motorists seem to be somewhat accustomed to avoiding two-wheeled vehicles.

MAKE A DAY

From the iconic Grosse Pointe Yacht Club in Grosse Pointe Shores, head east as Lake Shore turns back into Jefferson Avenue through St. Clair Shores. About 10 miles up the road — roughly following the water's edge — you pedal into Metro Beach Metropark in Harrison Township. Heading the other way from the yacht club landmark, you cycle through the Pointes and into Detroit, where Jefferson Avenue eventually connects you to Belle Isle about 10 miles away.


MAKE THE CONNECTION

Clinton River, Paint Creek and Macomb Orchard trails
From downtown Rochester, cyclists can pick up all three of these trails that have been created on abandoned railroads. The paved and gravel pathways are part of a growing network of trail and greenway connections that planners hope will eventually create a route across the state. Each has a "friends of" nonprofit group that will be happy to let you join, for a small donation, to help pay for maintenance and improvements, including the prevalent signage and mile markers along each, as well as restroom facilities. Trail crossings of roadways are well-marked for safety and ease of navigation. Free parking is found at Second Street, just southwest of downtown Rochester, and the lot is adjacent to the Clinton River Trail. Signage will get riders and walkers to the downtown Riverwalk that connects through the downtown parks to the Paint Creek Trail.

The Clinton River Trail — some of it's paved, some sees recycled asphalt surfacing — runs 16 miles through Sylvan Lake, Pontiac, Auburn Hills, Rochester Hills and Rochester. It's the least scenic of the three, but the Rochester Rotary River Overlook and the Mastodon Site are unique. The designated trail isn't complete between Opdyke Road (where there is parking) and Bagley Street, where the Clinton River Trail connects to the West Bloomfield Trail, but advocates are working on planning a permanent route and acquiring the land, and they have a temporary route marked. Right now, best to skip it by bicycle, as it's not the safest path. See clintonrivertrail.org.

The Macomb Orchard Trail's western edge is across Dequindre Road from the eastern terminus of the Clinton River Trail. Paved, stretching toward Richmond from that trailhead, the 23-mile route runs northeast to Romeo, then turns east to Armada and Richmond's Gateway Park. Along the way it cuts between backyards, across fields and through shopping areas. A recent ride revealed wildlife: deer, little bunnies and some sort of large ground rodents we didn't stop to identify. See macomborchardtrail.com and orchardtrail.org.

To the north, the Paint Creek Trail stretches nearly nine miles to Lake Orion through Rochester, Rochester Hills, Oakland Township and Orion Township. As Michigan's first Rail-to-Trail, the route opened in 1983, and now has more then 100,000 visitors each year. Horses are allowed on its northern half, and its crushed limestone surface is easy to travel in various weather conditions. See paintcreektrail.org.


MAKE A DAY

Park in downtown Rochester and ride all of the spokes. All told, that will put 96 miles on your bike — not too shabby a day off the roads.

Sandra Svoboda is a Metro Times staff writer. Contact her at 313-202-8015 or ssvoboda@metrotimes.com.

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