Hello, my name is Eric Mannix.
A little less than 4 years ago, after moving my wife all over the world, we decided to make our final move. I was about 7 years late from when I originally “promised” to move her back to our home state, but that’s a whole different story. I took a new position with my company that would allow me to travel and work remotely and we decided to take the plunge. We had two kids, 3 and 1.5 at the time (don’t you dare say he was 1…he was 1 and a half), and being back close to family was very important to us. Her brother (you have already or will read about him shortly) had already moved to Traverse City and her parents had a cottage on the Manistee River east of Fife Lake. We talked about wanting to eventually retire in Traverse City consistently over the years and the stars seemed to be aligning. Moving was nothing new to us and we knew that getting involved in the community is always the best way to meet new friends.
When you have a 3 and 1.5 (seriously, the half is important) year old getting involved in the community almost always involves some sort of kids “meet-up”. Talking with the few people I did know, I found Norte and their balance bike meet-ups at F&M Park. So, we loaded up the kids and the balance bikes and off we went. When we arrived, there were around 20 kids, about 30 parents and 1 “big kid” in an orange helmet and a BMX bike with no pedals. Walking to the top of the hill, the kids were nervous and not comfortable on their balance bikes.
The “big kid” was Ty Schmidt. He welcomed the kids, asked them their names and personally escorted them down their first few trips down the hill. They were immediately drawn to him and hung on his every word. They listened and tried everything he asked and by the end of the session, they were both going solo down the hill. I was blown away. Not only was I blown away by how quickly they picked up the balance bikes, but I was blown away that Ty addressed them by their first names every time and never had to ask for their names again. With that many kids and the inevitable distractions that come with trying to wrangle them all together, he was able to remember their names. That may not sound like much, but I was blown away. I was hooked…and so was my family.
I should back up about 20 years. I was in high school and my father, mid-40’s, had a massive heart attack. Luckily, he had his heart attack while in the hospital and on the prep table before having a heart catheterization procedure. Over the previous years, my father had slowly let his weight increase following a convenient but unhealthy lifestyle. This is how those decisions manifested itself. The doctor told him that if he had that heart attack anywhere other than the hospital, he would have died. My dad was my best friend. Still is. That day was the day I decided my personal mission would be focused on living a healthy lifestyle. I promised myself I would not put myself in that position. I would ensure that if I was lucky enough to have a family that we would be committed to the same mission. My mind was committed. Fast forward those same 20 years and enter Norte.
The non-profit with the mission to help build stronger, better connected and more walk/bike-friendly communities by empowering the young AND young at heart. Given my history, my personal mission, and my family’s mission, could there be a better fit? Now you know why I was hooked.
So why am I writing this? I want to be more involved. I’ve always wanted to volunteer my time with Norte, but my job requires significant travel and an erratic schedule that’s unknown only a week out. I don’t like to commit to something if there is a high likelihood of not following through. I was always left disappointed that I wasn’t contributing. I saw Patrick’s Heavy Ride for Norte and that struck a chord with me. I’ve found a personal passion for cycling and maybe I could “volunteer” on my own time and wherever I was. The volunteering could be in the form of training for something big and audacious while hopefully inspiring and raising funds for Norte. Great idea. How could I be a little bit different? Enter the Leadville Trail 100.
My brother-in-law, Matt Harris and I wanted to do a bucket list event. I convinced him that Leadville should be our first. We have our own reasons for wanting it and what we want to accomplish (more to come on that in the future). However, we both thought it would be a great way to get involved with Norte, do our own “heavy ride” and hopefully raise some funds for happy, healthy, strong kids and kids at heart. We’ll both be documenting our journey along the way and hopefully inspire others to take on their own big, audacious goal to get healthy and strong.
We’re two normal guys with family and job responsibilities, no endurance background growing up and zero excuses why this can’t be done. We hope you join us for some training rides (will be posted in the future) and consider making a donation to an organization we believe is truly making a difference in people’s lives. Don’t live in the Traverse City area? I am more than happy to discuss how you can take this mission, apply it to you and your community. 100% of donations will go to support Norte and their mission. Healthy and strong is an amazing foundation to build a life on.
Let’s grow that mission together.
Eric and Matt Do Leadville For Norte is part of the “Near & Far” Heavy Ride Campaign which encourages awesome people both here in Northern Michigan and those across the US to go big for Norte on August 15th. Whether you ride to Wilderness State Park with the group or whatever is “heavy” for you where you are, we hope you’ll join us. Learn more and commit.
Read Matt’s full Heavy Ride story HERE.
ERIC’S HEAVY RIDE FOR NORTE