A Touring Life

John Springfield


My 1965 Bicycle Trip To Interlochen Music Camp By John Springfield





In August 1965, I joined a dozen other teenagers on an American Youth Hostel trip to the Leelanau Peninsula of Michigan.  Led by Jackie and Dorothy, our rambunctious group of Detroit kids looked forward to exploring "Up North".   We packed ourselves into an old school bus, loaded our bikes on a trailer, and drove up to Cadillac, Michigan.  From there we bicycled a circular route to Lake Michigan, past the famous Sleeping Bear Dune park (yes, there ARE huge sand dunes on Lake Michigan), around the Leelanau Peninsula, and back to Cadillac.  This week-long trip cost $25.


The daily route was relatively short (40 miles), and much of the day was spent setting up and breaking down our camp.  We camped mostly at state and town parks and one youth hostel.  At age 16,  I had never gone camping before.  My equipment consisted of an $8 army surplus sleeping bag and a ground tarp.   I didn't have a tent.  (Yes, when it rained at night, I got wet.)  But bicycle touring was an adventure, and I was "all in".  Who knew what surprises would occur?


After a few days we found ourselves camping at Interlochen State Park.  Across the road was the famous Interlochen Music Camp, founded in 1928 by Joe Maddy.  Some very talented musicians at my high school received scholarships to attend this summer camp.  Apparently it was the first summer camp in the nation for high school musicians.  Joe Maddy not only founded the camp, but he lead a campaign to integrate music into the normal high school curriculum.


After devouring my campfire-cooked supper, I wandered across the road to the music camp.  It was no longer a "camp", but more like a campus. Public concerts were given throughout the summer.  So I bought a ticket and took my place on a bench in an outdoor amphitheater. Famous conductors were often invited to conduct these "symphonies in the woods".   But since this was the final concert of the season,  Joe Maddy was conducting.


This was no usual symphony.  It was accompanied by a full chorale and a troupe  of dancers, all now part of an expanded Interlochen program.  As the twilight began, Joe Maddy raised his baton and started his symphony of young people.  The night brought in its cool air, and the music surrounded the audience and the trees...  I was no longer on a mere bicycle trip.  I was being transported to a place of wonder.


After the concert ended I walked back to campground, filled with a delight of the unexpected.  Most of the other bikers had gone to bed.  But after I crawled into my sleeping bag, I stared up at the night sky.  It was flooded with constellations of stars, most of which I could not name.  My mind wandered off to sleep, listening to the echoes of music in the woods.


Good night, Joe Maddy, wherever you are.



There's a book about Joe Maddy
And also a news report about him.
John Springfield is a long-time member who wrote a column, "A Touring Life", from about 2005 to about 2015, and again in 2018-19. We are glad to see him back in action sharing his travel experiences.