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,
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?
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