Just over 25 years ago, two brothers and a few friends went up to Boyne Highlands to ski over Thanksgiving weekend. It was one of those rare Thanksgiving weekends that Boyne Highlands skiing wasn't open due to lack of snow, so we decided to have breakfast in the Upper Peninsula while we came up with some alternative plans. We jumped in the car and took the scenic route (M-119) from Harbor Springs to Mackinaw City before heading over the Mackinac Bridge to a hearty breakfast at the Saint Ignace Big Boy. As we drove up M-119 we were stunned with the spectacular beauty of the area as we followed the Lake Michigan shoreline on a tight, twisty road. The scenic route took us through rolling hills, farmland, and the tunnel of trees; past bluffs high above the water, beaches, dunes, the Goodheart General Store, Cross Village, Legs Inn, and views of the mighty Mackinac Bridge. We never forgot that trip.
At this time, the late 80's, mountain bikes and the sport of mountain biking itself were relatively new. But being adrenaline junkies and with the memory of that awesome road in Northern Michigan, we soon found ourselves leaving the local bike store with empty wallets, brand new mountain bikes, and a newly hatched plan. Eight of us drove up North with our bikes in two cars...six riders and two shuttle drivers. We started off Friday night, partying at the old Flying Dutchman in Harbor Springs. Being young (dumb) and just out of college, we woke up the next morning with ferocious hangovers, managed to down a good breakfast, and unloaded our gear in the parking lot of the Pier in downtown Harbor Springs. Soon we were off on our self propelled pedaling adventure; a 51 mile one-way trip to Mackinaw City along that glorious road we had driven years earlier. None of us had ever ridden any distance and we were a little unsure of what we were getting ourselves into, but we had a good back up plan consisting of two drivers and two cars if we wanted to bail out. We had an incredible day taking in all the sights, snacking at the Goodheart General Store, having a leisurely lunch at the famous Legs Inn, and finally, coming upon those amazing views of the mighty Mackinac Bridge. Then it was down the homestretch into Mackinaw City...6 hours later and quite sore, but with smiles from ear to ear. We then boarded the Arnold Ferry catamaran, bikes in tow, to the ever magnificent Mackinac Island. Once on the island it was time to drown our aches and pains, but revel in our accomplishment, well into the wee hours of the next morning. Sunday was spent exploring and biking around the Island. On the ferry boat back to the mainland, we all made a vow that we would return to do it again the following summer.
The next year we typed up a one page flyer, and mailed it out to a handful of friends. The flyer outlined the incredible ride and basically said to meet in the parking lot of Boyne Highlands if you were interested in joining the ride. A friend, Steven Kircher (his late father started Boyne) graciously allowed us to use the parking lot for the weekend and came along for the ride, one of 80 people that showed up that second year. We collected everyone's address and Steven offered to have his secretary type up a mailing list for the following year. The event, now coined Zoo-de-Mack, had a life of its own, and grew from 8 to 80 to 250 to 450 to 650 in just a handful of years.
Although we initially did not intend for this to become a business, as the event started to grow we became concerned about liability, so we set up a corporation and charged each rider $10 to cover our insurance policy. With the event growing bigger every year, there became more details to attend to: Zoo-de-Mack merchandise, feeding lunch to the masses, organizing parties, sending out mailers, providing transportation, blocking rooms, meeting with the police and road commissions, developing websites, updating mailing lists and so on. It's been a lot of work, but also a tremendous amount of fun with many friendships formed over these past years.
Today, Zoo-de-Mack is one of the biggest bike rides in the Midwest with over 4000 people attending annually. Our off-season Saturday night is the biggest bar night on Mackinac Island, bringing more business to the Island than any night of the Port Huron to Mackinac sailboat races! As we begin our third decade of Zoo-de-Mackinac Bike Bashes, I'd like to extend the invitation to please consider being one of the 30,000+ participants that have ridden the course with us!!
After hosting the spring Zoo-de-Mack ride for a number of years, we had a lot of participants encouraging us to do a fall ride. One ride a year wasn't enough, they said! We approached the powers that be at Boyne Mountain, and presented a crazy idea for a fall color biking weekend around the south side of Lake Charlevoix, with chairlift rides, bands and parties. They offered the whole resort for an October weekend, so we set up a package and "Biketoberfest" was born. The first year we had close to 600 participants and we were off and running for a solid ten years of fun. The ride itself was good, but many years of cold, wet weather and the legal system finally took its toll and the event was put to rest (a few years ago a lawsuit was being threatened by a Harley group that had rights to the name we invented but never trademarked). We have recently replaced the old Biketoberfest with the all new Biketemberfest to be held at Boyne Highlands each September. This new ride encompasses the spectacular first half of the spring Zoo-de-Mack ride with a very scenic inland route back to Boyne Highlands and chairlift biking on Sunday.
Since the 1990's, our event line-up has had some major changes. Some events have been dropped, some have been added, and some have been completely revised. Over the years, we organized a variety of events from Northern Michigan golf outings, white water rafting trips to West Virginia, ski and snowmobile trips to Yellowstone National Park and Big Sky, Montana, kayak instructional weekends, snowshoe instructional weekends, a camping bike trip on Beaver Island, outdoor adventure show/parties at Pine Knob, and ski weekends at Boyne Highlands. What will be next? Due to young kids, we have currently pared the trips down to a more manageable number. Perhaps someday soon we'll get the itch to revive some of the old trips and share some of our special experiences with you!
Like our line-up, our company has seen many changes over the years as well. Today Zoo-de-Mackinac, Inc. is owned by one of the original brothers, Greg Drawbaugh, and his wife Kathleen out of Grosse Pointe, Michigan. The daily operations are managed by a small team of four and our events are staffed by family and friends who generously volunteer their time in exchange for a fun weekend.
Please consider joining us on one of our fun-filled, adventurous weekends!