Cadillac, Kalamazoo and Back: My Michigan Johnny Cash Ride

Trip Duration: Two Days (Aug. 22-23)

Distance Traveled: About 860 miles

Destinations/Major Stops: Cadillac, Mich.; Kalamazoo, Mich.

Trip Description

Of all the tours I had planned for 2020, the Michigan Johnny Cash ride was the one I most wanted to get done this year. On Aug. 22-23, that mission was accomplished. The ride is part of my ongoing riding project for which I am riding to all the places in the United States mentioned in the Johnny Cash song, “I’ve Been Everywhere.”

I got a late start Saturday morning thanks to my newfound logistical nightmare of having my 2008 Yamaha FJR1300 stored in a storage unit (thanks to the HOA where I live). After fueling up, I took Interstate 270 along the east and north sides of the Columbus, Ohio, metro to the exit for U.S. Route 23. After passing through the “trench” section of Route 23 that’s just north of I-270, I continued north on Route 23, passing by the cities of Delaware, Marion and Upper Sandusky. I got delayed by about 10 minutes on the northeast side of Marion due to a vehicle fire that’d been recently extinguished. After Upper Sandusky, U.S. 23 leaves the expressway alignment (which continues as Ohio Route 15) that ends at Interstate 75 on the south side of Findlay, Ohio. 

The Historic Cadillac Production Mural in Cadillac, Mich.
The Historic Cadillac Production Mural in Cadillac, Mich.

I continued my jouyrney north on I-75 — a stretch of road I had driven a lot for a previous job when the roadway was being reconstructed. It was good to ride it without ueven pavement and orange cones everywhere.

As I approached the Greater Toledo area, I followed the Interstate 475 and U.S. Route 23 expressways along the west side of the Toledo metro and crossed the Michigan border. I stopped for lunch at a Subway in Dundee, Mich., then got back on Route 23 north, passing through Ann Arbor and continued back onto I-75 where the two expressways meet near Flint. After another brief traffic delay north of Flint, I got off I-75 near Saginaw and onto U.S. Route 10 west, which I took to Michigan Route 115. The U.S. 10 expressway had a posted speed limit of 75 mph, which is about as high as I’ve ever seen on the east coast.

I took the exit for Michigan Route 115 and made a brief hydration stop at a corner store just north of the interchange. When I got back on Route 115 north, it was almost surreal doing 55 mph on a two-lane surface route after the high-speed riding I’d been doing for several hours. An about 40-mile ride (including a lengthy detour for a closed portion of Route 115), landed me in downtown Cadillac. The decorative streetlight-lined boulevard that leads from the U.S. Route 131 expressway to downtown makes for a commanding impression as one rides toward downtown, and I was instantly taken by the stunning shoreline of Lake Cadillac that adorns the western side of downtown. I made brief stops for photos at the public library, a public parking lot along the shore, a former train station and a large mural that details Cadillac’s industrial heritage.

With photos done and the first of my two objectives for the trip completed, I hopped back into the saddle and made my way back to U.S. Route 131 south. I had hoped to make it to Kalamazoo before it got dark, but ended up spending the night in a Comfort Inn in Grand Rapids, Mich.

I stopped at a “scenic overview” on the way to Grand Rapids. After getting off the bike and walking up a small hill to an observation post, I looked to the west and couldn’t figure out what was so scenic about the view. I got back on the FJR and, as I completed the loop around the observation post, began heading down the hill and realized I’d been looking in the wrong direction for the scenic view. It was actually to the east.

For my Johnny Cash stop in Kalamazoo, Mich, I used the Kalamazoo College campus.

I reached the hotel just as it was starting to get dark and enjoyed the view from the room’s balcony of the commercial terrain within which the hotel was situated.

The next morning I loaded up the bike and finished the ride to Kalamazoo. Though the biggest college in the city is Western Michigan University, I chose to use two signs for the smaller Kalamazoo College that I’d scouted on Google Maps’ Street View for photos. With the photos done and both of my ride objectives completed, I got back in the saddle and started the ride home. Though the fastest way back to Columbus was to head through Fort Wayne, Ind., and Lima, Ohio, I opted for a more expressway-heavy ride home. 

One of Cadillac’s residents was kind enough to stop and snap a photo of me and my FJR1300 in front of Cadillac’s old train station.

From Kalamazoo, I made my way east on surface roads to get to Interstate 94 east, then took Interstate 69 south across the Indiana border. I stopped for fuel at a Pilot Travel Center at the first exit in Indiana, then got back on I-69 to reach the Indiana Toll Road. I headed east on the ITR, which becomes the Ohio Turnpike when you cross the state line, and continued to the turnpike’s interchange with I-75. I then took I-75 south to the exit for Ohio Route 15 and followed the same route home that I’d used on my departing ride.

Route Map

Trip Summary/Analysis

Ultimately, the trip was a success. I got to do a short tour that had been on my “to-ride” list for several years and completed two more Johnny Cash stops (bringing my total to 29, just 56 more to go).

But, the real highlight of the trip was Cadillac. I was impressed with the classic architecture of some downtown Cadillac buildings. The little city reminded me of a quieter, more serene Youngstown with its industrial heritage and impressive architecture that capture the past economic prowess of the region. Though the downtown wasn’t bustling with activity, I was impressed with how well the village has balanced the classic with the modern. I was sad that I didn’t have more time to spend in Cadillac; it’s a place I’ll have to plan a dedicated trip to.

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