Hundreds of tents will pop up at T.L. Handy Middle School this June when a group of 700 bicycle riders pedal into town as they ride their way across Michigan.
Bay City is the fifth stop on the annual Pedal Across Lower Michigan (PALM) ride this summer.
PALM, founded in 1982, is a one-week bike tours from one side of lower Michigan to the other. The 39th annual PALM Bike Tour kicks off June 20 and ends June 26. Each night, the bikers camp in a different city. The riders often visit local businesses. They also invite local people to visit the campsite.
The PALM ride celebrates its 39th year in 2020. Each year, the exact route changes. Martha Kern-Boprie, a Bay City site coordinator, said PALM’s mission is to promote cycling and “our beautiful” state of Michigan.
“PALM is a family ride,” she said. “Each year, 30 to 50 children participate, and we have recreational activities planned for them each afternoon at the school camp sites. There is also a great sense of community among the riders during the tour, and this contributes to some riders participating for more than 20 consecutive years.”
This year’s tour includes seven cities with an estimated 30 to 60 miles of riding every day. PALM accepts up to 700 participants each year. In the past, it has filled up quickly. As of early March, a little over 100 spots are left.
Janet Nettleton, nutrition services director for the Bay City Public Schools, said the group will stay at Handy, 601 Blend St., on June 24. She said they require a lot of room, and Handy will best be able to accommodate their Bay City stay.
Kern-Boprie said PALM has not been to Bay City in several years and wanted to return.
“We look forward to the visit to Bay City and welcome contact from public officials and business leaders to make the stop as successful as possible,” she said. “The Bay City coordinating team will probably make another site visit in May and would like to meet leaders at that time.”
While at Handy, Nettleton said the team will stay in tents on the football field. They will use on-campus showers and the facility for any meetings they need to hold.
“We will feed them supper when they arrive and breakfast before they head out in the morning,” Nettleton said, “So, we really are their ‘Bed and Breakfast.’ This event will bring a lot of folks into town for one night, and I believe we need to embrace them.”
Kern-Boprie said PALM will collaborate with Bay City businesses and community members to make sure the cyclists have a fun and successful ride. Food and transportation while in town will be key commodities for the visiting cyclists.
“Most of the 700 PALM riders will eat dinner and breakfast at Handy Middle School as part of the PALM meal plan,” she said. “Approximately 100 (riders) will seek meals in town. A lot of PALM riders will want to visit the business district on Wednesday. Ice cream is very popular with PALM riders.”
Many towns PALM visits provide bus shuttle services to transport cyclists from the hosting school to the downtown area. Kern-Boprie said this service would be useful during their stay in Bay City. They also need donations of Bay City maps.
Kern-Boprie invites local leaders attend one of the daily meetings, called “mass meetings," before the riders arrive in Bay City.
“Each evening during the bike tour, there is a mass meeting of all riders to provide information about the town we are in, the next day’s route and introduce representatives from the present and next day’s town,” Kern-Boprie said. “It would be a good idea for Bay City leaders to attend the mass meetings in Clare on (Tuesday, June 23) and Bay City on (Wednesday, June 24).
This year, PALM’s route includes overnight stops at:
The week-long ride crosses the center of the state, beginning in Whitehall and ending in Harbor Beach. Riders travel about 30 to 60 miles between each stop.
- June 20 – Whitehall
- June 21 – Hesperia
- June 22 – Big Rapids
- June 23 – Clare
- June 24 – Bay City
- June 25 – Bad Axe
- June 26 – Harbor Beach
Registration is $140 for adults, $80 for youth between 11 and 17, and $70 for children under 10. The cost covers overnight camping, baggage transportation, maps, a 2020 patch, a T-shirt, and lunch at the end of the tour. Participants can get meals for Sunday through Friday for an additional $86. They can also pay for transportation from the last site to the first for $48.
Registration is open on PALM’s website until May 10. To see photos from past rides, visit the PALM Facebook page.