While not quite as fast as a speeding bullet, a Tuk can turn more necks than Superman. When hanging with Austin and Jaleen Dingledine, owners of GR Tuks, you do start to feel a little like a hero. As we zipped down Cherry St. toward Brewery Vivant, people literally cheered like we just stopped a crime. Nope. We’re simply drinking and soaking up the city’s sights, and a ride in the Tuk is by far the most thrilling way to go about it.
So what’s a Tuk? A Tuk is an anachronistic machine. It looks like a vehicle Elon Musk would construct from Fred Flintstone’s blueprints. And yet theirs are state of the art, 100% electric, with a bumping sound system as well.
OK, so why a Tuk?
“The idea stemmed from my sister’s travelling and experiences with Tuk Tuks, specifically in Thailand,” Austin said. “From her first encounter with a Tuk, she knew this experience had to be shared with Grand Rapids.” While the ones abroad tend to come in technicolor, the Dingledines chose classic white and a wider body. “Our tuks are super luxurious compared to any other Tuk I’ve been on,” Jaleen said. “And I’ve been on a lot of Tuks!”
Aside from these minor discrepancies, Austin and Jaleen have wholly imported this mode of transport to a T. Clocking in at a top speed of 25 mph, when the Tuk gets moving it feels like you’re on safari but the lions and giraffes are Grand Rapids’ best breweries. I had a blast going on an abridged version of the Beer City Tour with the Dingledines and learning more about the story behind GR Tuks.
Beginning at Craft Beer Cellar, the bottle shop/bar makes for the perfect pickup point where riders can snag a couple cans before hitting the road. Unlike the beerless folk you see pedalling on the Beer City Cruiser, a tuk isn’t a dry vessel. Yes it’s legal to drink – and a hard selling point. Like getting away with something you shouldn’t, it’s hard to overstate how awesome open-air drinking is as you nod at passers by, Two Hearted in hand. Austin, who works in insurance as well, acknowledged that while the license isn’t cheap, it’s totally worth it. “Honestly it’s a see to believe situation to really grasp the experience.”
While it was only the three of us in the Tuk, you could max it out with a group of six if you’re looking to achieve the clown car effect. It’s cozy but not cramped—imagine cruising the open road on a mini-pontoon. “The seating positions of the Tuks fosters great conversation and camaraderie,” Austin said. Or if you want to build a caravan, rent both Tuks and tear up the town with a full squad. The full $250 two-hour Beer City tour includes pit stops at Brewery Vivant, City Built, and New Holland’s Knickerbocker—each location satisfying a different gustatory itch. Split the cost among friends and, bingo, you have an affordable and unforgettable night on your hands.
The timely tour right now—and there’s still time to book one—is the ArtPrize route. Starting at 6pm outside the Harris building, the Tuk shuttles you about to the city’s best venues. It’s a killer alternative to wearing out your sneakers trying to find all this juried selections. “The ArtPrize tours have been solid gold,” Jaleen said. “It’s unreal the amount of art our customers are able to see in two hours.” It’s clear the Dingledines take the competition seriously. This year they transformed their sister vehicle, the Grand Rapids Beer Trolley, into a mobile ArtPrize entry titled The Last Rhinos. Canvassed by artist Dan Kopas, the piece intends to spread awareness on the rising rate of Rhino poaching. Keep your eyes peeled for the trolley as it stampedes across Grand Rapids.
While fun and connection are crucial tenants of GR Tuks, family is what binds the business together. The brother sister combo works wonders, “We come from different backgrounds and strengths,” Austin said. “We have certainly discovered what roles are best fit.” Most importantly, they’re a welcoming duo who are genuinely interested in facilitating a good time. “It’s not everyday someone forms a relationship with a family who owns a Beer Trolley and a pair of Tuk Tuks!” Getting to know the Dingledines is half the fun, and the other half, well, you’ll just have to hop on a Tuk to experience the zaniness firsthand.