How to spend the perfect day in Suttons Bay

By Chris Loud

Sun contributor

The morning heat was starting to sizzle as I escaped into the shade of the woods. I was just south of Suttons Bay on the TART trail pedaling north towards a dunk in the lake and a hearty breakfast. Dappled sun bounced off the clean pavement ahead as I shifted gears for more speed, energized by a cool breeze and the sight of the exit for Hop Lot. The quicker I get breakfast, I thought, the quicker I can get a beer. That logic made sense at the time.

The only thing interrupting my blissful cruise into town was the loud grinding and clunking of my gears as I began to shift down. Maybe if I let it sit in the sun on the beach while I swim, the bike will heal itself, I hoped. I obviously needed to clear the cobwebs. I coasted to the beach just north of the harbor, set the bike down, off came the shirt, and into the water I went. A rush of cold blood went through my body. I came to the surface, but only enough to let my eyes and nose out of the water. Near the horizon, the dark sails of the Inland Seas schooner stuck out proudly. A young family was building castles made of sand. Only hunger could get me out of this water.

The public restroom air dryer was just enough to remove the beads of water. Only slightly damp now but clear-minded, I walked the bike up into town in search of bacon. I thought about hopping back on the bike, but the embarrassment of my gears kept my feet on the ground. Martha’s Leelanau Table had a sign out for brunch, and the patio looked cool and comfortable, but my attire was damp and dorky. I reluctantly trudged on.

A brilliant idea popped into my head when I saw the sign for Suttons Bay Bikes. Maybe I should get my bike fixed so I can ride it in public without interrupting people’s conversations on the sidewalk as they search for the origin of a metal-on-metal disturbance. After a quick explanation of the issue, I left the bike behind at the shop, proud of my enlightened bike care.

I walked with a brisker pace along the curved sidewalk that follows M22 through town, heading south by stores I loved from childhood. Enerdyne was the place for Petoskey stone maintenance, and all cutting-edge nature toys and brain games. I remember walking in this store as a kid and making a straight line for whatever new crazy throw and catch thingy. There was always a new crazy throw and catch thingy.

Murdick’s Fudge wafted unfair smells that lingered just outside their door, hitting visceral nostalgia, but also now prompting an itch for coffee, apparently my adult answer to the aromatic triggers. I poked my head into Front Porch Gift Shop, taking notes for a few upcoming summer birthdays. Baking implements make great gifts, because then you often get to eat more baked goods as the result. A solid goal for any gift giving strategy.

Finally, I made it to 45th Parallel Cafe. I sat outside near a table full of folks in colorful clothing, sporting red faces and big smiles. I wondered if they wanted to hear the story about how I had a bike that needed to be fixed, and so I decided it to get it fixed, but instead I ordered a smoked bacon and potato omelette with an iced coffee.

Full, satisfied, and caffeinated, I decided I had the capacity to take on Bayside Gallery, an expansive and eclectic home decor and gift shop, with a babbling stream and garden patio greeting you before you enter. I could spend hours in there, but found a small piece of wall art that fit into my backpack, so I decided I better quit while I was ahead.

With rain in the forecast, I popped into Bahle’s. I needed a rain jacket. I hate rain jackets, but I actually found something I liked, and suddenly my bike attire didn’t feel so dorky. Now I hope it rains.

Before the rain, I decided to walk through the harbor. In one of the transient slips, an even amount of men and women, but hard to say how many, came leaping out of a large sailboat, spouting tales of “this one time” and promises of “wait until you see.” In another slip across the fairway, a father and son awkwardly climbed out of a tiny motor boat, fishing poles in hand.

I looped around to the other end of the harbor, where the grassy area extends out between the bay to the south and a wetland to the north, making a quiet little peninsula park. The Inland Seas tall ship was docking, which is always a sight to see. The captain turned the bow in, and expertly swung the stern to settle next to the dock. Crew members hopped off and lowered the gangway for the smiling passengers.

Inspired by my late morning people watching, I was compelled to converse. Boone’s always has a great perch sandwich, and I was in the mood. I sat at the bar to maximize my confabulating ratio. Plus, then I wouldn’t be the only one having a beer with lunch. The group of couples from the large sailboat took up most of the tables on the west side of the room. They were sharing more stories of “then, you wouldn’t believe it” and “the craziest part was.” I went head first into a discussion about hockey versus soccer, and gave my two cents on the jumping carp problem inching towards the Great Lakes. The time passed quickly, and the rain started to fall.

I poked my head out from under the awning outside Boone’s, rain falling steadily, and contemplated my next move. I saw some young families down the street, darting across the road. Where are they going? I ran across the street, and charted my path from awning to awning.

Then, I saw the marquee. Of course, The Bay Theatre. Suttons Bay actually has a theater. This cool vintage movie house was showing a matinee in a half hour, and my decision was made. I enjoyed the film. It was a bouncy, yet sobering tale of a powerful family with very young children who never aged. And to think if it wasn’t for the rain, I may have never seen Incredibles 2.

The rain had stopped, and happy hour was in full effect. I had a beer outside at the Village Inn, watching folks head to their preferred dinner spots. Some were going to Streetside Grille for an open-air cocktail and small plate. A few couples popped into the historic firehouse to enjoy the farm-to-table experience at 9 Bean Rows. Older kids, soaking wet and sun-burnt, grabbed some pizza from Roman Wheel. Others were hustling to North Country Grill to make sure they got a spot out on the patio. For me, I finished my beer and headed towards Suttons Bay Bikes. My ride was ready.

After getting the bike, I walked across the street to MI Market to get some road snacks and some jam for the morning. All local products, and lots of great stuff, made it hard to decide. I basically asked the owner what he was digging lately, and he narrowed it down, but only slightly. He seemed to like everything he carried in his store. A novel concept.

Then, it was time to get back on the horse. Nervous at first, but then, bliss. I weaved all around that small town on my brand new old bike. I wanted every person on the sidewalk, in stores, even in cars to hear how my chains were not making any weird sounds. Finally, I straightened out my course and headed for the TART trail.

The smells and sounds stopped me quick. The fires were going outside at Hop Lot, and the Broom Closet Boys were playing. I made a detour for another pint and some barbeque. At a table near one of the fires, the group from the large sailboat was laughing about “that was the first time I ever” and “I would do it again if I could.”

On the other side was a collection of stretchy pants and backpacks. I struck up a conversation with them, first about the rain, and then where they were heading. They said they were taking the BATA bus back home. They’ll take your bikes and everything. I thanked them for the info, and went back inside for a stronger IPA. When I came out, I noticed a lull in the conversation with the large sailboat crew. I wondered if they’d like to hear about how “this one time, my bike needed to be fixed.”