Five Lakes, Two Wheels: One Man’s Quest To Bike Around The Great Lakes

Air Date:
Heard On The Morning Show
Photo: Chris Malina

There’s no bad way to experience the Great Lakes, but there’s a certain appeal to seeing the shores by bicycle. Our guest this hour spent four summers doing just that, meeting the people who call the Great Lakes home, and learning the stories and lore that make these bodies of water unique and wonderful.

Featured in this Show

  • Biking All 5 Great Lakes

    Thomas Shevory has biked through southeast Asia and all along the Rhine River through Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Austria, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

    But a cycling trip close to home — a tour of all five Great Lakes — was just as interesting and exotic, Shevory told WPR’s “The Morning Show” on Monday.

    Shevory’s book, “The Great Lakes at Ten Miles an Hour: One Cyclist’s Journey along the Shores of the Inland Seas,” charts that journey.

    “I grew up fairly close to the Great Lakes, and it just occurred to me that the Great Lakes in some way was unexplored territory for me. (The tour) expanded my view of the world, of this part of the world. It broadened my horizons of the significance and beauty of the Great Lakes,” Shevory said.

    Shevory tackled Ontario, Erie, Huron, Michigan and Superior in four consecutive summers and about 6,500 miles. One stretch that stands out to him is the ride from northern Indiana, through Chicago, into rural southeastern Wisconsin and finally through Kenosha.

    Riding through Chicago, Shevory saw the old industrial centers in the south, traveled through poor and middle-class neighborhoods and made his way through the more affluent suburbs in the north, he said. Entering Wisconsin it was suddenly rural, with farms and fields until Kenosha, which reminded Shevory of many industrial Midwestern cities.

    “You see all these changes. You see all the economic differences in America, you see the difference between rural and urban, you see differences in race and class. That ride through Chicago into Wisconsin, in some ways you see like a total cross-section of American society. When you see it on a bicycle, it kind of hits you in a way that it might not otherwise if you were riding in a car or whatnot,” Shevory said.

    Bike touring is a slow-going, up-close-and-personal way to see a place. It works for Shevory, who isn’t too concerned with getting anywhere too quickly, or even too efficiently. You won’t find route or gear tips in his book.

    “I’m not much of a planner for things like this, (and) maybe (not) in general,” Shevory said. He got lost, got cold because he didn’t pack enough clothes, and didn’t always know where he’d be sleeping at night.

    “It’s just not something I care about that much, the number of miles, the number of hours. It’s more about the experience. Mistakes are in some ways the best part of it. In fact, in some ways there are no mistakes that you can make, because everything is just part of the journey,” he said.

Episode Credits

  • Kate Archer Kent Host
  • Chris Malina Producer
  • Thomas Shevory Guest