Trying Out a Ride-Sharing Program in Midland, MI
The Whiting Forest Birding Festival extended an invitation to my husband Kevin to teach a nature writing workshop on September 21st in Midland, Michigan. On the morning of his workshop, I decided to try out the city’s bike-sharing program. A bike-share station was located at a city park within a block of our hotel. The ride company Zagster.com required the creation of an account, recording the chosen bike’s number, and unlocking it, all simple steps done from the convenience of my cell phone. The 5-speed bike was heavy but actually moved easier than I expected. A front rack could hold my purse and water bottle.
I decided to check out three trails from the park, but the first exciting feature of this ride was Midland’s famous Tridge. This walking and cycling bridge, an engineering marvel, crosses the junction between the Chippewa River and the Tittabawassee River. Built in 1981, the Tridge is 8 feet wide with three 180’ sections forming a Y. The trail to the left enters the Chippewa City Park and then upon of the recommendation of a Festival participant, I traveled about one mile to the Whiting Overlook. This mountain in the middle of flat land overlooks several ponds with visiting pelicans. By the time I arrived at 9 a.m., the pelicans were gone but the ride to and from the area went through some scenic wooded marshland and prairie remnant fields.
I rode back to the Chippewa Trail and headed west for 3-1/2 miles to the Chippewa Forest Preserve, a county park with 1568 acres and numerous trails, a nature center, a homestead, kayak/canoe launch, and lots of educational programming. Fall colors in the shrubs along the way made for a beautiful ride. The trail travels through extensive and scenic sections of the preserve. A visit to the Nature Center and the Homestead are well worth the time. In the Nature Center, a room with floor-to-ceiling windows provides an overlook, extending over the Chippewa River. Comfortable couches allow anyone to view the river wildlife and foliage. Exhibits detail natural information and also educate viewers on the offerings of the area and its inhabitants. The homestead area immerses the hiker into the 1870s-era homestead, barn, syrup building, a schoolhouse, and a wigwam. On the return trip back to Midland, signage again offers insights into the land, the animals, and the plant life.
Once more at the Tridge, I decide to take a quick ride on the Pere Marquette Rail Trail on the north side of the Tittabawassee River. (This trail’s namesake has ties to the Dubuque area. Father Jacques Marquette floated down the Mississippi with Louis Jolliet in 1673.) Historically, the trail is named after the Flint and Pere Marquette Railway that ran through here in 1857 as a central Michigan rail connecting Flint, Michigan to Lake Michigan on the west. This 22-mile paved Pere Marquette Rail Trail running from Midland to Clare then becomes the 55-mile Pere Marquette State Trail from Clare to Baldwin, which is primarily crushed stone.
The Pere Marquette Rail Trail detour due to bridge construction takes the rider on the city’s lovely West Main Street with grand older homes. In one-half mile, the detour connects to the main trail and travels northwest for 22 miles to the city of Clare. Unfortunately, I only traveled three miles and then returned due to time limitations, yet it is a scenic section. It passes a couple of city parks that line the Tittabawassee River. The Herbert Dow Memorial Museum, Northwood University, and Dow High School all have access to the trail. The tree-lined trail is busy on this Saturday morning with bikers and runners of all ages.
All in all, the ride-share bike trip was a success. When the rider needs to stop, the rear bike tire can be locked and the bike carries a cable to lock onto bike racks. Opening the app and touching the resume button is easy. At the completion of the ride, riders touch the “end ride” button. The cost of the pay-as-you-go plan is $1 for each half hour, so I had a bill of only $5, inexpensive entertainment for over two hours of activity. For more regular users, Zagster.com also has an option of an annual $20 fee. With this method, all trips under two hours are free and then $1 per hour after that. I recommend utilizing bike sharing programs when a rider has to leave his or her bike at home. The well-marked trail system was easy, beautiful, and varied in woodlands, rivers, and activities. Midland, Michigan, is blessed by such a wonderful amenity and the inexpensive Zagster ride-share system.