Get ready to see hundreds of bicyclists pedal across Bay City in late June

PALM (Pedal Across Lower Michigan), re-scheduled from 2020, is set for June 1 –24, and could bring as many as 700 cycle enthusiasts into Bay City.

Organizers of the trek from Whitehall, on the state’s west side, to Harbor Beach, are planning an overnight stop at T.L. Handy Middle School in Bay City on June 22.

During the 39th annual PALM, bikers pedal from Michigan’s western shore to its eastern shore, traveling different back roads each year. Each leg of the trip is between 40 and 60 miles. On one day, riders can choose to ride a full 100 miles, also called a century.

The annual bike ride draws individuals and families. Organizers plan family activities at each overnight stay, but many riders visit local attractions.PALM kicks off each year from a city near Lake Michigan and ends in a location along Lake Huron. Riders sleep in tents at each of the six stops on the route, usually on a school campus. The route changes each year, and takes in many historic sites and small towns across the state.

Paul LaRose, President of the PALM Planning Committee, says as of mid-January, registrations are already filling up and they are at nearly 90% of their limit of 700 riders.

LaRose says the family ride includes not only parents with young children, but grandparents and active senior. The oldest riders are in their mid to late 80s. This isn’t the first year PALM has made Bay City an overnight stop, allowing riders to visit local shops and eateries.

“A lot of people take the opportunity to go to a movie, eat in local restaurants, or ice cream parlors,” he says, adding, “sometimes we overwhelm these small businesses, so we want to give them some advanced notice.”

On June 22, riders will start arriving in Bay City around noon to set up camp at the school.Once they arrive in Bay City, Nettleton says the school will provide amenities such as restrooms, showers, and food.

“We are really their ‘Bed and Breakfast.’ We have a paid staff through the school and the meals are provided as part of the summer food programs,” she says.
Some riders will opt to visit Midland Street, Uptown Bay City, Downtown Bay City, or other business districts for a meal and shopping. Since there are a number of families on the trip with younger children, they like to have activities planned for the kids, LaRose says.

LaRose says many of the stops on the tour provide shuttle bus services to get cyclists from the school to downtown. Some of the stops also have Dial-A-Ride, but he says after riding for between 45 and 60 miles most of the riders will need some kind of transportation into business districts. One of his main concerns is making sure local business owners know ahead of time that there may be dozens of people showing up for food and ice cream.

Janet Nettleton, Food Services Director for Bay City Public Schools, is working on the dining logistics at Handy. She says this is a great opportunity to showcase what the Bay City community has to offer.

“We are so excited to be the host site for the PALM group this summer,” she says. “It’s not often we see this many people coming into the city. Hopefully, participants will be able to take advantage of all Bay City has to offer and maybe decide to return when they can stay longer.”

Handy Middle School is one of a handful of schools in the area that has the space and capability to provide for the up to 700 people who will pop tents up on campus.

The Vice Chair of the 2022 PALM Committee, Jess Rasmussen, says the last time riders camped in Bay City was 2011. That group enjoyed the visit enough to want to return. The Bay City stop was planned for the 2020 tour, but both 2020 and 2021 were canceled because of COVID-19 restrictions. With some adjustments, the route was resurrected this year, she says.

This year’s trip will take riders from Whitehall north of Muskegon, to Hesperia, then to Big Rapids. From there, riders will travel to Clare and into Bay City. Most of the riders will arrive between noon and 3:30 p.m., giving them the afternoon and part of the evening to enjoy what Bay City has to offer.

On June 23, the riders will pack up their tents and head to Bad Axe for the night. On June 24, they’ll take the final 25-mile leg of the trip into Harbor Beach, where LaRose says there will be a parade from the waterfront to the school for the trip wrap-up.

Although there are bike trails along the way, LaRose says riders stick to paved country roadways.

“We stay off major highways, but we can’t service bikes if they’re on a trail,” LaRose says.

To learn more or join the trip, visit www.palmbiketour.org. Not interested in a bike ride across the state? The PALM needs volunteers to drive support vehicles and trucks in case riders need help along the way. Send an email for information to palmbiketour@yahoo.com.