Dan Hurwitz says he likes doing solo bike tours.
Four years ago, the 69-year-old Bedford resident cycled across the country. Tuesday, he leaves for a six-week tour around the circumference of Lake Michigan.
“It’s a great way to see the country at bicycle speed, and for me that’s 10 miles per hour,” Hurwitz remarked. “If you’re in a car you whiz past a beautiful sight. I have all day to go past that beautiful sight.”
“The people are the best part,” he continued. “I talk to farmers in their fields. I stop for lunch and stop for dinner.” He plans to spend about half the nights in campgrounds, the rest in motels along the way.
The journey represents Hurwitz’s participation in the 2023 Pan-Mass Challenge, the venerable fundraising event benefiting Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The PMC takes place annually during the first week of August; there are 16 in-state cycling routes ranging from 25 to 211 miles.
And then there is a category called the reimagined ride, Hurwitz explained, “when you do something on your own.”
In 2019 he biked coast to coast, west to east. “When I first hatched the idea in the fall of 2018, I said I am going to shoot for the spring of ’19, because you never know what’s going to happen,” he said. “My philosophy is: don’t put things off.”
Now post-Covid, he chose circumnavigating Lake Michigan because “I just thought it would be a good idea.” He identified the “North Lakes Route” through an organization called Adventure Cycling.
Hurwitz will drive to Michigan City, Indiana, where he will begin – and ultimately end – the circuit, just south of the Michigan state line. The route heads north to the confluence of Lakes Michigan and Huron, where he plans to take the ferry to picturesque Mackinac Island.
Then he will head west, now on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, eventually turning to the south into Wisconsin and entering Central Daylight Time. “Changing time zones on a bike tour is easier because it’s so gradual,” he observed. The route traverses Green Bay, Wisconsin, and Chicago.
Hurwitz expects to amass around 1,200 miles, 200 of which will cover a side trip to Madison, the capital of Wisconsin. “I’m planning on 40 miles a day. That should be a very achievable average for me,” he said. “I plan on riding five days a week, depending on the weather and circumstances.”
He noted, with a laugh, “I don’t think I’ve ever been able to stick to my schedule.”
Hurwitz said he chose to raise money for the Pan-Mass Challenge after friends recommended it as “a fun ride for a good cause. I discovered it was emotionally satisfying and I’ve been hooked ever since.”
“Raising money for cancer research is easy because everybody has been hit by cancer,” Hurwitz said, noting that both of his parents died from the disease and other relatives are survivors. “The money just pours in – I’ll even get a check in the mail with a thank-you note. I think if I stop doing this, someone will complain.”
Hurwitz said he became interested in long-distance cycling in 1972, during his senior year of high school. “I was a backpacker, and backpacking and bike touring are very similar,” he explained, in areas like essential baggage and physical effort. “And if you like that sort of thing it just grabs hold,” he said.
More than a half-century later, “I definitely have slowed down – but it doesn’t matter,” Hurwitz said. “I have no time constraints.
“The key is not to hurt. I don’t care how tired I get; I just don’t want to hurt,” Hurwitz related. “The day doesn’t start to hurt until after 40 or 50 miles. When I rode cross-country, I often had no choice but to do a 65-mile day because there was no place to stay. That’s not going to be true on this trip. There are going to be a ton of campgrounds and motels and I can ride as long as I want. If I do a 25-mile day it’s okay, too.”
His cargo includes a two-pound laptop that “makes my job so much easier, researching the route, making reservations.” During the ride, “I write a blog – and I have a new appreciation for people who have to write something every day,” Hurwitz said.
“That may be the hardest part of the ride. If I don’t post a blog the next morning, people will call and check on me.
“My bike tours would be infinitely more difficult if I did not have a cell phone,” Hurwitz mentioned. “I talk to my wife Jennifer every night. That’s very helpful for me – sometimes I have trouble finding a restaurant or motel. We use tracking software so she knows where I am at all times.”
Looking ahead to 2024, Hurwitz said he hopes to rejoin the mass of Pan-Mass Challenge riders. “I miss that – it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “For me it’s scary to ride in a huge group of people, but the PMC weekend is so much fun and it’s so inspirational to ride with all these people.”
People can donate to the PMC by accessing https://www.pmc.org, then pressing the “donate” button and searching for the rider’s name. Hurwitz noted that “you can split your donation among several riders.”