A Norte! Story: William Bikes Happy On The Vasa Trail


Meet William. William is a 6th grader at East Middle School. We met William last year when he started showing up for Vasa Domingos and Fridays@TheCommons, our weekly mountain bike shreds. By working hard, William has come a long, long way. He is now legit mountain biker; smooth through the turns, powerful up the climbs and confident through the sand.

We asked William to share his experience. Here’s his story:

Sand, Hills and The Vasa Trail
by: William Haapala

It was a scorching hot day and the sun was up at its highest peak, almost like a clock when it strikes twelve. I could barely see. My dad and I were on the Slush Cup course with a biking group called Norte!. Here we are – the huge valley sandpit. I am never going to make it up the hill, I am totally going to crash in the sandpit. Even if I do make it through I will never make it up the other side.

What are the odds that I will make it up? I don’t know why I have enough confidence to try this. And there I was creeping up the one side of the valley, my face was redding up and I could feel the sweat starting to run down my back. It felt like the sun was going to collide with the Earth. My heart was starting to thump faster and faster.

Every inch felt like an hour. The top of the hill was coming into sight and I felt like I was going to pass out. I could hear my bike talking “crunch too much sand, crunch too much sand.” I could barely hold the grips because I was so sweaty. Higher and higher I went and finally I was at the top.

It felt like it took hours. It had only just begun, now I was speeding down an extremely steep hill right for an extremely large sandpit. I could hear my bike clicking rapidly. It felt like the sun was running away from the Earth. There it was 3,2,1 it sounded like water falling. Maybe I will make it this time.

My front wheel was swerving every which way. I was getting into what the pro bikers call a death wobble. I could smell the strong scent of churned up dirt because of the ATVs. My eyes were closed so tight that my eyelids were starting to get sore, and all the sudden my wheel stopped wobbling. I think I might make it. I opened my eyes and I was coasting up the other side. There was so much sand in my mouth and it tasted like dirt. The sun was back and I was sweating again.

I was feeling a lot better about this now but still not sure if I was going to make it. My dad came up to me. “That wasn’t so bad, I thought I would have never made it, ” I said with enthusiasm. That was the easiest time I have ever gotten up a hill so big I thought. I can’t wait until next time. I can’t believe that I thought it was so hard. That was so much fun. I will always look forward to this part of the trail.

“I will never be afraid of this again,” I told my dad. He nodded in reply. Maybe this is why biking is so fun; maybe the suspense is what makes it enjoyable. It is now two years later and I still look forward to this part or the trail.

Video from Vasa Domingos featuring William


Norte! has played a part in mucho Bike Happy moments in Traverse City this year. From pedaling to school to exploring our woods and trails, Norte! has empowered our local youth, like William, to be resilient, independent, and self confident both on and off their bikes.

If you like William’s story and want to support more of the same, please consider donating to our end-of-year Bike Happy, Traverse City  campaign. With your continued support, we’re committed to building a more bike-friendly Traverse City by inspiring its youth through bicycles.

Gracias. And let’s ride bikes together soon.