• Time Out Chicago; Feature; Strange Lake Tales

    Strange but true lake tales
    You may think you know all about Lake Michigan, but we dredged up some offbeat lake lore that is sure to float your boat.

    Excerpt by: Gretchen Kalwinski

    Making waves

    You know how when you look across the lake, the other side looks really, really far away? It is. But some dude swam across the lake in 41 hours. See, ultramarathoner Jim Dreyer was running out of terrestrial body-punishing feats of endurance, so in 1998 he took to the water. Swimming the 65 miles between Two Rivers, Wisconsin, and Ludington, Michigan, in a little less than two days, he smoked the previous Lake Michigan distance record (held by IIT research chemist Ted Erickson, who swam the 44 miles from Chicago to Michigan City, Indiana, in 36 and a half hours). Though he was already a marathon-trained athlete, Dreyer had to add “meteorological expert” to his resumé in order to look out for potential hazards on the lake. But his real secret weapon: replaying Aerosmith and Beatles tunes in his head while he swam. (We’re hoping it was the older, pre–“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” Aerosmith.) After a blitz of media attention, Dreyer continued his long-distance swimming in the four remaining Great Lakes and nabbed 13 world records, all to raise funds for Big Brothers Big Sisters and the Great Lakes Shipwreck Museum ( in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Here’s the kicker: He’d only learned to swim in 1996. Traumatized by water after almost drowning as a toddler, he finally decided to venture to his local swimming pool, where a kindly lifeguard gave him beginner’s lessons. “My swimming career had real modest beginnings, for sure,” Dreyer said. He plans to keep undertaking running and swimming challenges for charity; track his progress at —Gretchen Kalwinski