My 5 Favorite Places in Michigan: Jim Dreyer (Endurance Swimmer and Superhuman)
It’s not everyday someone gets new nicknames like “The Shark”, “Superhuman” and “The Human Tugboat”. After years of competitive swimming and owning many of the records associated with the Great Lakes, Jim Dreyer has earned each name given to him.
Dreyer has swum across all five of the Great Lakes, with Lake Superior in 2005 being the last of the five to complete this goal of Dreyer’s. During his 2005 Lake Superior swim, he carried 250 pounds of weight attached to himself. You can read more about Dreyer on his official website.
It was this strength Dreyer displayed that earned the attention of the History Channel show “Stan Lee’s Superhumans”. The show, currently in its third season, looks for amazing talents people across the country have. Dreyer was featured as “The Human Tugboat” during the episode called “Powerlifting Pastor”. In his segment (watch the video), Dreyer towed a 27 ton car ferry 800 yards in 52 minutes and 30 seconds. The description for the episode may say it best; “Jim Dreyer is an endurance swimmer who can swim for days on end, while towing tons of weight behind him, like a human tug boat.”
Mr. Dreyer is currently training for two great events. Around the fourth of July, Dreyer will tow a Lincoln MKC on a barge to Mackinac Island. This event is being called the “Tough as Nails Swim”, a prequel to the upcoming Labor Day event.
On September 7th, Dreyer will lead 84 swimmers in the newly created annual Mighty Mac Swim (see our prior post). Sponsored by the World Open Water Swimming Association, this marks the first sanctioned swim between the two Michigan peninsulas. The event is a follow up to 2007’s 50th anniversary Labor Day Bridge Walk, when Dreyer led 50 swimmers from one peninsula to the other.
Dreyer isn’t big on bragging or focusing on his fame, instead he uses his talents to raise money for organizations like Habitat for Humanity. In fact the Mighty Mac Swim has already raised $60,000 for Habitat for Humanity, one of Dreyer’s favorite organizations. You can donate to the cause here. We recently had the pleasure of talking with Mr. Dreyer to get his input on his five favorite places in Michigan.
1. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore
There’s a reason Good Morning America called this “the most beautiful place in America.” I had been there before, and always admired the spectacular beauty, but it wasn’t until I swam the Manitou Channel en route to the Mackinac Bridge from Indiana that I saw her in all her magnificence.
I had survived the remnants of Hurricane Isabel, and her 20’ waves when she passed over Lake Michigan, pushing me half way to Wisconsin, just the day before. The next day I swam all day into 8-footers that kept pushing me back from my intended destination of Leland. A boat pulled up next to me to see if I needed rescue. It’s hard to turn down a lifeline in a situation like this, but seeing the towering Sleeping Bear Dunes to my right, the beautiful Manitou Islands to my left, and the towering Pyramid Point ahead, I said “no thank you. If I’m going to die, this is the most beautiful place to do it.”
2. Straits of Mackinac
I will admit that it’s hard not being a little biased when you are the Event Director of the Mighty Mac Swim, but the place where Lakes Michigan and Huron meet is truly beautiful. What makes the Straits area unique is the combination of incredible natural beauty, history, and man-made architectural works of art. Quaint towns sit on both sides of the Straits, but the crown jewels of the area are Mackinac Island, which is like taking a trip back in time, and the architectural wonder of the Mighty Mackinac Bridge!
3. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore
Situated along the rugged shores of Lake Superior, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore is truly a haven of natural beauty for the outdoor enthusiast. Sure, you can take a paid tour of pictured rocks from the water by boat, but the real outdoor enthusiast will take in its towering majesty by kayak … and on shore there are miles and miles of unforgettable hiking trails! In the winter time, the frozen waterfalls are breathtaking!
4. Isle Royale National Park
Isle Royale lies 48 swimming miles from the mainland of Michigan, but just 22 miles from Minnesota. When Lake Superior freezes over, moose, bear and wolves make their way to the island, and some never leave. Isle Royale National Park camping and hiking is an unmatched wilderness experience.
Swimming near the island can be interesting too. Did you know that a moose can swim 6 miles per hour? Believe me, it’s a little intimidating to be swimming and passed by a 1,600 pound moose!
5. Tiger Stadium
Although I am known as an ultra-marathon strength athlete, baseball will always be #1 with me. Tiger Stadium in Detroit held so many cherished memories for me and countless others for generations. Perhaps the only reason Tiger Stadium is #5 on my list is because it shamefully no longer exists.
Two nights before Tiger Stadium met with the wrecking ball, I squeezed under a security fence to experience the stadium for one last time. All was dark, and I was seemingly alone. Then the ghosts came out (Cobb, Greenberg, Gehringer, Cash, Fidrych, Harwell). I sat on the pitcher’s mound, I sat in the dugout and I ran around the field like a 12-year old while Ernie himself called the action. I think the trespassing statute of limitations has run out by now, right?
If you enjoyed Dreyer’s storytelling you’ll be pleased to learn that he is currently writing his autobiography. His unreleased book will be called Not in Moderation. Please check out the other entries in our 5 Favorite Places in Michigan segment.