Meeting the Challenge — Exceeding Expectations

I remember the day it popped into my head: “I think I’ll ride my bike around Lake Michigan.”

Maybe you’re picturing it right now: an oddly-shaped oval around the big lake — a clear blue vision of wide-open water, sandy beaches, and bustling summertime Midwestern culture. And, a lot of road. It’s an easy thing to imagine, no?

It seemed impossible. Impossibly long. Impossibly expensive. Impossibly dangerous. But then I thought of my mother.

My mother was a CEO and a runner. A world traveler and a grandma. She did all of those things 100 percent. So when she died unexpectedly seven years ago, she had one final lesson: if there’s something in life that you really feel like you need to do, don’t wait. 

So in May, with the support of my family, I loaded up my bike with food, water, and a ridiculous amount of camping gear, and I hit the road. It didn’t take long to realize things would be much more challenging than I imagined. On the first day, I encountered a washed-out bridge, an unexpected detour, and a series of steep, sandy hills. I was legitimately lost a few times, ran out of water once, and pushed my body to the point of trembling exhaustion. Every night I stared up at the ceiling of my little tent, wondering how I would get through the next day’s ride.

But I kept pedaling — along the western coast of Michigan and the dunes of Indiana, into Chicagoland and then north to the endless verdant pastures of Wisconsin. I swam in the cool waters of the big lake. I watched one of the most incredible sunsets I’ve ever seen — a shimmering haze of pink and violet over the dunes of Van Buren State Park near South Haven. And I connected with old friends, new friends, and family along the way.

A week or so into the month-long tour, I realized my legs didn’t hurt anymore, and I was no longer bothered by headwinds, rain, or heavy traffic. Instead, I was now a dirty, sweaty vagabond with a ridiculous amount of camping gear, taking everything in stride.

As the miles ticked away under my tires, I found my reasons for taking the ride changed. It was less about the easy-to-imagine accomplishment of riding my bike 1,000 miles around Lake Michigan. Instead, it was now more about the journey itself — the lessons learned, the confidence I had found, and the new understanding of the places I was traveling through. A bigger, more grueling, and solitary version of Norte‘s Summer Bike Camp.

Towards the end of the trip, I took the ferry to Mackinac Island. My family visited every year when I was a child. I didn’t remember much about the island, but as I rode the ferry across the Straits on a cool, clear morning, I remembered this — my mother loved this place.

As the island came into view — an emerald forest ringed in soft sand, surrounded by the clear blue waters of Lake Huron — it made sense. Even with the tourist kitsch of the main street, time slipped away, and as I stopped at the top of a knoll overlooking the lake and breathed in the clean air and the history. At that moment, I felt my mother was there with me and heard her loud and clear:

If there’s something in life that you really feel like you need to do, don’t wait.

Keep the rubber side down,

Aaron Selbig
Norte‘s Systems and Communications Director

NOTE: Norte is hundreds of people with stories like Aaron‘s. People who see a challenge and dive in, motivated by sheer grit and a lifetime of experience seeing them to the end. All of them exceeding expectations. Let us know. What’s your big challenge

We don’t spam, and we don’t share your contact info. However, we get excited about the fantastic people, places, and activities in Northern Michigan.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.