Michigan To Open "Wheels on Rails" in 2023, a Railway Biking Adventure

Wheels on Rails Tour 9 photos
Photo: Wheels on Rails LLC.
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Sure, riding around in a car or motorcoach and exploring the backwoods of Michigan is great and all, but what if there was a different way to do so? Well, there is, and that's what Wheels on Rails is about to offer in the summer of 2023.
Folks, I want you to imagine some railroad tracks. Good. Now add a sort of train wagon that's built from nothing but tiny steel wheels, a steel frame, and a couple of seats, and that's what you'll be able to ride later this summer. Did I mention that the whole dang contraption is operated by nothing more than some bicycle pedals? Yes, people, the images you see in the gallery are genuine, and the adventure is even more so. Let's see what folks visiting America's automotive manufacturing state can embark upon.

Wheels on Rails was founded by none other than Macie Hefron, a lover of the outdoors, cycling, and railroads. Coupled with a background working for the Department of Transportation, something like this was bound to happen. So, what are we in for? Well, quite a lot, actually, and it all starts with the railroad. If we consider the massive network of rails and bolts that make up America's cargo-delivering system, then the answer is basically right there. Over the ages, some of these lines have proven obsolete and even shut down. It's on such a segment of track that Wheels on rails operate, so don't worry about ending up on YouTube in some "Fail" video. Best of all, this privately owned piece of railway is also accompanied by a tour guide spitting out facts about the state and some of the local history.

Once you've arrived in Grawn, Michigan, you'll be greeted by the railway car you've reserved for your group. Be it a private and intimate ride for two, or larger groups, all these cars are to be peddled to and from the end of the track for a total of nearly six miles. It sounds like you'll be getting a workout, too, so be sure to dress accordingly. Considering tours will span the summer of 2023, from May 25 through Labor Day, September, there's quite a range of weather you can experience.

Three\-Wheeled Handcar
Photo: NOAA John Hayford Album
As for what you'll be riding, I've described the contraption already. It's a low and minimalist rail car, similar to those operated by a manual lever, the handcar, but with a couple of seats on top and powered by yours truly. There's nowhere to turn, so no steering mechanism is available. Sounds like a great way to kill some time.

Come to think of it, this sort of tour is great for so much more than just team-building sessions or dates. Imagine booking a tour like this in early Spring, when this year's green begins its expansion over the landscape. Think about bringing your camera or a drone; it sounds like you'll be getting some serious Instagramable shots. Think about the same towards the end of the season, when treetops show the world that winter is approaching again with displays of light green, yellow, burgundy, and brown. I'm sorry, I already know what I might be doing this summer.

Come to think of it, quite a lot of people already do. According to an interview carried out between MLive and Hefron, nearly half of the tours have already been booked as of January 12, 2023, and May is over four months away. I think we may end up hoping we made the call sooner.

Now, if this sort of experience promises to fulfill your laidback need for adventure, there are a few other things you need to know, and the main one is that you must make a reservation to ride; no showing up thinking you can squeeze in at your convenience. This is because each tour requires a guide, so don't think about anything nefarious either.

Wheels on Rails Tour
Photo: Wheels on Rails LLC.
You should also "...refrain from bringing any pets, drugs, alcohol, or smoking supplies. Smoking or vaping is not permitted on the tour." With the level of vegetation around, the last thing you want to do is start a forest fire. Plus, the one hour of fresh air should help you, nonetheless. But I can personally say I was looking forward to cracking a cold one and just letting the missus do all the work. I could fly the drone.

Up next, it might help to know how much cash you'll have to dish out for this experience, and this depends solely on the size of your group and how many bikes you need. For example, the tandem – two-seater - "bike" can be reserved for $89 an hour. The quad – four-seater – is renting for $160 an hour. That whole 'an hour' bit also means that you may be able to book consecutive tours, allowing you to scope out the terrain on one run and then get those pictures on the next one, maybe a bite to eat in between.

Honestly, it's a great way to see a portion of the American backcountry and a tad of the system that helped make this country what it is today. Not to mention a history lesson from a guide and some fresh air. I think I'm starting to understand why this activity is already in such hot demand.
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About the author: Cristian Curmei
Cristian Curmei profile photo

A bit of a nomad at heart (being born in Europe and raised in several places in the USA), Cristian is enamored with travel trailers, campers and bikes. He also tests and writes about urban means of transportation like scooters, mopeds and e-bikes (when he's not busy hosting our video stories and guides).
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