Macie Hefron couldn’t in her wildest dreams imagine how good it would feel when she first rode on a railbike tour during a trip to Maryland a couple of years ago.
“I was outside enjoying the wind blowing through my hair and smelling the natural smells of nature,” Hefron said. “It was honestly a dream to be riding down a track on something like these. It truly is a feeling that everyone needs to experience at least one time in their life.”
Now, Hefron and her company, Wheels on Rails, is going to attempt to create that experience for Michiganders and visitors from out of the state.
On May 25, the Thursday before Memorial Day weekend, Hefron and her company is planning on opening a 6-mile railbike tour in Traverse City.
It will be the first known railbike tour in the state.
“My favorite part is when you get down into the woods where we go under a bridge, see spring fed clear creeks running alongside the line, and we are surrounded by the trees that make our Northern Michigan the beautiful place it is,” Hefron said.
Hefron, a 22-year-old who graduated from Grand Ledge High School in 2019, came up with the idea during the COVID-19 pandemic when gyms were closed.
So she went on bike rides outside, and then a light bulb went on.
“I was biking a lot because the gyms were closed, and I saw rail bikes as I was scrolling through my Facebook,” Hefron said. “(I) immediately knew Michigan was missing this activity.”
Railbikes are pedal-power carts that are ridden on railroad tracks and have the same style as recumbent bikes in the way people sit on them and pedal.
When going on a railbike adventure, it’s common to leave in a group with tour leaders at the front and back for safety, with the pace set by the lead guide.
Hefron said she wants to bring families together for an enjoyable activity that puts railroads in a different light.
“I hope to spread the good news about railroads,” she said. “Often times, they are seen in a negative way. This allows people to see the beauty of them in a safe and legal manner.”
Following high school, Hefron said she got a job at the Michigan Department of Transportation that allowed her to get more familiar with specific trains and railroads around the state.
The process of creating the rail bike tour wasn’t easy at all, as she had to get an assortment of approvals from the state government and agencies that were time consuming.
“With the little resources I have had, I have been able to network and meet some of the best people I have ever met in my whole life,” Hefron said. “I have also had such a big support system who have kept me going.”
Visit this website for more information on the tours as Hefron and her team continue to prepare for the grand opening.
“I hope this can bring families together in a new and fun way, especially after the long COVID years we just encountered the last few years,” Hefron said. “This is a safe and healthy activity for all.”