Bikes for All, All for Bikes ?

Bikes for All, All for Bikes ?

Norte‘s Bikes for All program is known for serving special needs students still attending school programs. Bikes for All works with TBAISD’s New Campus, Oak Park, and others. Bikes for All MeetUps — Tuesdays adds an option for those 26 and older whose social opportunities are limited due, in part, to aging out of school programs. While this first run was a small group of five, it proved the concept, and we hope to expand it.

A special thank you to Rose Coleman of the Grand Traverse Pavilions who loaned us “The Duet,” which accommodates non-pedaling individuals. The bike not only looks fantastic, but the experience also places the rider front and center so that they can feel the wind on their face and view the passing world unobstructed.

This summer, join us every Tuesday beginning on June 8 at 10:30 am, weather permitting. The fleet of adaptive bikes is limited, but we will be ready to ensure everyone has a marvelous time. Annie and I both would love to have too many riders — the more friends and smiles, the better.

As a Norte Board member, I feel fortunate to work toward Norte‘s mission of providing biking for all community members. It’s even more special doing so with Annie and her growing list of friends. Come on out, and let’s roll together!


Sue Paul, Norte Board of Directors

P.S. Norte is looking for volunteers to help us with our expanding Bikes for All programming. If helping ensure that everyone has an opportunity to ride bikes sounds up your alley, give us a shout. We’re also looking for gently used adaptive bikes in need of a good home.

If you’d like to donate financially to help grow the Bikes For All program, please made a gift and help us reach our 2021 goal.

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Donation Total: $50.00


Safe and Responsible

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Roll on with Eats by Bike Week

Grab a bike, an Eats by Bike Week bingo card from Norte and hit local Businesses Champions for tasty eats.

As Northern Michigan Bike Month hits its mid-way mark, Norte invites everyone to join them in celebrating good eats accessible by bike. Eats by Bike Week is May 17 – 21 and encourages individuals to support the local restaurants and cafes that help Norte put more kids on bikes through their Business Champions program.

“The concept is straightforward. Visit to download your Eats by Week bingo card (PDF), then saddle up and hit up our region’s great eateries,” said Wes Sovis, Norte’s Donor Relations Specialist. “I can’t wait to see how many of them I can visit and dive into. I might need to ride a bit farther that week to work some of it off.”

In addition to combining the simple pleasure of biking with supporting local businesses, participants also have the chance to win prizes from Norte’s merchandise store. “To be entered to win a Norte Prize Pack, participants must submit a photo of their sweet eats to Norte — either through tagging us in a public post on social media or by emailing it to us,” added Sovis. Norte also offers a bonus Norte cowbell to everyone who submits five photos to achieve a “bingo” on their card.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. Norte’s Eats by Bike Week from May 17-21 exemplifies the #BikeThere credo while demonstrating the purchasing power of those who bike for everyday tasks.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.

For a complete list of activities for Northern Michigan Bike Month, visit Norte’s website at On their website, you can also peruse Norte’s Wall of Champions, a list of businesses that support the organization with donations.

Download your Eats by Bike Week Bongo card and #BikeThere (PDF)



Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) strongly recommends continued effort to stop the spread. The following steps need to be taken together for the best protection.
  • Health Check – Self-monitor and stay home if you’re feeling sick.
  • Wear a mask – Take it off when you eat or drink, then put it back on, even outside.
  • Physically Distanced – Keep six feet apart as much as you can.
  • Wash Hands – Wash hands regularly. 20 seconds with soap and water.

Norte also supports socializing outside in well-ventilated areas and getting a vaccine as soon as available.  If we all work together, we will beat this pandemic.

Bike There—Adventure and Empowerment Await

Bike There

Adventure and Empowerment Await

I don’t remember a time in my life when I didn’t have a bicycle. I also don’t remember anyone teaching me how to ride. My older brothers and sisters must have taught me, but I suspect their pedagogical method was along the lines of, “Keep up or stay behind.” In reality, they probably ditched me often. But the way I remember it, I not only kept up with them, I bravely struck out on my own and left them in the dust.

That’s the power of the bicycle. It’s a machine like no other. It can transform a mere mortal into an uber-efficient, supremely balanced, go-anywhere supernova. The bicycle is empowerment. It is independence. It is freedom.

Many of the most important life lessons I’ve learned I learned while riding my bike. I was a typical Generation X latchkey child. Adult supervision wasn’t something I had to worry much about. For the most part, our neighborhood’s pack of kids was left to their own devices, roving from house to house searching for food and following our curiosities that expanded outward from the subdivision as we grew older.

Having a functional bicycle was a ticket to a larger world full of adventure. When I was about eight, I was inspired by a calling from deep within: a calling for candy that could only be sourced two miles down the road at Lake Ann Grocery.

I remember coming to the end of my subdivision where the quiet street meets the county road, stopping to contemplate my options, and then gunning it. Up the big hill, along the straightaway, and past long stretches that, back then, were only woods. It was much farther than I expected it to be. Passing cars were a welcome relief; they might be able to save me from the bears I was sure were going to come out of the woods at any moment. The fear of wild animals pushed me, and the temptation of that candy bar pulled me to remarkably high speeds, given that I was an eight-year-old on a makeshift single-speed with a banana seat.

I was relieved to roll into the bustling village of Lake Ann. I sat in the park and enjoyed my Whatchamacallit before heading home. However ill-advised by today’s safety standards, that trip was an early lesson in perseverance and determination. I struck out on my own to pursue my goals, overcame my fears and physical limitations, and achieved my chocolatey aim. At the time, it felt like absolute freedom. It was also my little secret, and there is power in secrets.

As I grew more confident and upgraded to a 12-speed Ross Signature, I struck out farther. As a teenager, I regularly biked the 15 miles to Traverse City to hang with the city kids. I learned to climb the hills, using all my strength. I learned to ride fast and learned back roads to limit my exposure to traffic. A few years later, the bicycle remained my go-to transportation choice throughout college and allowed me to save money quickly without owning a car. I had a ticket to ride.

The pushie crew at Minuteman Messenger in Melbourne, Australia, 1997

After graduation, the bicycle became my livelihood for a year abroad. I landed in Australia with $300 and a work visa good for one year. In two weeks, after stretching the truth about how well I knew Melbourne’s streets, I landed work subcontracting as a bicycle messenger—a pushie.

Still, today, delivering express packages by bike remains one of the most empowering jobs I ever had, and it introduced me to new people every day, from CEOs on the 55th floor to co-workers struggling with addictions and families to feed. We even had a retired CEO join our crew. He was slow, so we gave him the dregs. I was able to pay off a modest student loan with my earnings and head to China. Thanks, bicycle.

This is all to say: May is National Bike Month, a time to celebrate the elegance, value, and gift of the bicycle. Established in 1956 by The Bicycle Institute of America, National Bike Month showcases the benefits of human-powered movement by bike and encourages everyone to give it a try. For me, bike month is a chance to reflect on the riches I have enjoyed thanks to this handy, accessible, and equitable tool.

How are you celebrating Northern Michigan Bike Month? And, what’s your story? Do you remember your first destination by bicycle? Your first time out alone? Please share with us on social media or send me an email. I’d love to hear how the bicycle has impacted your life.

Bike There!

Advocacy and Communications Director

Top image: The Walkway over the Hudson in Poughkeepsie, New York ? kriosusa

*A version of this column was original published in the Northern Express. 

P.S. Coming up for Bike Month, tonight’s Ride of Silence, this weekend’s  24 Hours at the Civic Center, and next week’s Eats by Bike Week—get your bingo sheet for the latter and the #BikeThere

2021 Bike Month Poster

Download your Mike Erway Design poster for Bike Month.

Safe and Responsible



Building Stories One Bike at a Time

Building Stories One Bike at a Time

The Red Schwinn is a super cool bike. But, truly, it’s so much more!

The end of Old Hickory Lane had a cul de sac with a tiny creek. It was more like a tiny drainage ditch, but it felt like something unique and mysterious. It was my destination. I packed a small backpack with chapstick, a stuffed animal, and a snack, likely sliced apples.

I felt invincible, adventurous, independent, brave. I was determined to reach the creek all by myself, on my red bike. It was a dream. I felt empowered. This journey wasn’t the first bike adventure of my life, and thankfully, not even close to being the last, but it was memorable. And it began with my red bike — The Red Schwinn.

I was the fourth child to experience the joys of The Red Schwinn. Now legendary within our family, this red treasure has given this same sense of freedom and adventure for 11 children and counting. The trusty Schwinn was purchased for my older sister, Julie, in 1973 by my grandmother. I imagine my Nani made this purchase with great excitement. Julie was her first grandchild, and this bike was expensive at the time. She could not have anticipated the lasting memories and impact her gift would have upon five of her grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

My older sister is now 52. Her three children all experienced the freedom of The Red Schwinn. Up until 2008, the bike still had the original solid rubber tires. McLain Cycle and Fitness swapped them out and gave the bike a once over before my own three children had their turn.

Not everyone has a Nani to buy them a bicycle or inherit one passed down from generation to generation. However, our work here at Norte can help create other stories, traditions, and memories. We’ve already started to see them develop with repeat patrons to Norte‘s Grand Traverse Regional Kids’ Bike Library. We already have young riders on their second or third bike in its short history, and they are all smiles when introducing the program to a friend or younger sibling.

As we roll into Northern Michigan Bike Month and summer of adventure ahead, there’s no better time than now to check out the bike library. Bikes can be checked out for as long as needed and returned when a child is ready for a new chapter and the next size up.

As for The Red Schwinn, it waits patiently and dutifully for the next generation in our family. The last member to ride it was my daughter Ella. Sometime shortly, but not too soon, one of my three children will pass it on, and another generation of independence and freedom will begin.

Keep it rolling!

Jill, Director of Operations

P.S. For adults looking to celebrate Bike Month, we also have previously loved bikes for sale and a few Essential bikes ready to roll at the Wheelhouse. Come see us, 10-6, M-F, and Saturday, 10-2.

2021 Bike Month Poster

Download your Mike Erway Design poster for Bike Month.

Safe and Responsible



Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

Celebrate Northern Michigan Bike Month

During May, Norte has almost daily activities to encourage more people to go outside and roll with the organization’s spin on National Bike Month. Join us, #BikeThere

With spring in the air and the snow finally at an end, Norte invites individuals in Northern Michigan to experience the joy of getting out for a bike ride. Norte‘s Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, urges everyone to lean into Bike Month and try riding a bike for everyday tasks.

“Every day, people across the globe, many of them right here in Michigan, prove daily that the bicycle remains one of the most efficient, accessible, convenient, and safe ways to stay active and get things done,” said Schmidt. “I hope folks use Bike Month to develop a habit of biking to school or work, running to the store, going to the dentist, or getting their vaccination. Bikes are an expression of freedom.”

Norte‘s May calendar is rolling with opportunities for families to participate at all skill levels and confidence. The month kicks off on Sunday, May 2, with the annual Previously Loved Bicycle Neighborhood Yard Sale. This event runs from 11 am–2 pm outside at the Norte Wheelhouse in the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. Norte will have donated bikes for sale, and for $10, individuals may sell their own.

“If you don’t have a bike, don’t let that stop you from experiencing Bike Month,” said Schmidt. “The yard sale is a great opportunity to find a perfect bike to keep you rolling throughout the summer, into fall, and beyond.”

2021 Bike Month PosterClick for the 2021 Bike Month poster (PDF)

Other highlights of the Bike Month include Bike to School Day on May 5, Take a Mom Mountain Biking on May 9, and 24 Hours at the Civic Center from noon on Saturday, May 15 to noon on Sunday, May 16. The latter is what Schmidt calls a “move-a-thon,” where individuals pledge to walk, run, or roll around the one-mile long Civic Center track for 30 minutes out of 24 hours. Participants pledge $20 and encourage others to donate to their cause. The funds raised are invested back into Norte‘s youth programming and improvements at the Civic Center.

Bike Month began in 1956 by The League of American Bicyclists to put on display the many benefits of bicycling and encourage others to get rolling. This year’s theme is #BikeThere to promote the everyday tasks accomplished on a bike. #BikeThere is exemplified by Norte with Eats by Bike Week from May 18-21. Norte will provide a bingo card of local restaurants and encourage individuals to visit as many of them as possible while wearing their orange Norte gear and, of course, arriving by bicycle.

To make the most out of Bike Month, Norte offers the following reminders.

  • Give your bike a tune-up and get in early as local bike shops get busy quickly.
  • Obey the rules of the road and ride with respect for others. We’re all in this together.
  • Make sure your bike has working lights. You never know when you’ll need them.



Let’s Roll! 



Safe and Responsible

Measuring Inspiration Three Hours at a Time

Bike Camp Photo

Each spring and fall, we’re fortunate to spend three hours a week with some amazing kids. The young riders who participate in Youth Mountain Bike Team or Bike Más inspire us all as they inspire each other—with friends old and new. These three hours are full of laughter, riding, running, exploring the wilderness, and getting up close and personal with local landmarks.

We’re also highly interested in what happens during the remaining 165 hours of their week: classes, homework, laughter, music, family time, and other active pursuits. How these hours are spent is different for every student, even within the same family.

Why are we interested in these other hours—the time not spent in Norte‘s saddle?

Our programming’s ultimate goal is to create active-for-life students who are confident and independent participants in and for their community.

We aim to foster “healthy, happy, and strong” as a life-long pursuit. And being “ready-to-learn” directly prepares our students for what’s next in their education: whether today, tomorrow, or next year. The lessons learned at Norte extend far beyond the hours shared riding bikes together. The habits learned in these three hours of riding are investments in the other 165 hours of the week.

Jessie Quote

Independent kids won’t only be free and strong on the trails; they’ll be fearless leaders in their schools and communities. What they discover during after-school rides leads to questions about the region’s history and turns into family excursions, led by the young tour guides excited to show off what they learned at Norte.

Whether we spend three hours per week or per year together, we want to see how the skills your student has taken away from Norte programs have impacted their life. That’s why we send the occasional email asking you to check in with us in the form of a survey. We appreciate immensely all of your insights and feedback. It always provides motivation and inspiration.

We invite you to look through our past surveys and responses on the reports page. Here, we have post-program statistics for the 2020 Summer Bike Camp, the Fall 2020 Youth Mountain Bike Season, and the camp’s academic in-school impacts months later.

What goes on in the other 165 hours? From the look of the responses, it looks pretty fantastic.

Here’s to happy, healthy, strong, ready-to-learn, active-for-life, incredible Norte kids.

Communications Coordinator, Norte


View Norte’s Program Reports


Happy healthy Strong

Accelerate Your Advocacy Efforts

Advocate Academy 2021 Logo

Accelerate your advocacy efforts with Norte’s fourth annual Advocate Academy

The partnership of Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities’ T.C. Mobility Lab, and Norte is again offering immersive training for Northern Michigan citizens interested in learning more about how local government works and how to influence it. Centered around a shared goal of improving walking and biking conditions, the 2021 Advocate Academy offers a curriculum over six 90–minute sessions beginning February 4.

The program is designed to help participants become more knowledgeable, confident, and effective advocates for walking, biking, transit use, and other forms of active transportation. The skills learned are also adaptable to other areas of public decision making.

Register Today


“So many people have ideas for how to make their block or commute a little better for themselves and their neighbors,” said James Bruckbauer, Deputy Director at Groundwork. “They don’t always know where to start or who they need to contact to make improvements. We’re excited to help local residents understand how to make a positive change.”

The six-week course will help participants:

  • Understand the benefits of walking, biking, transit, and other public transportation;
  • Evaluate how the built environment and its conditions help or hinder our ability to get around;
  • Grasp and interpret local transportation policy issues such as Complete Streets;
  • Communicate policy ideas effectively to build trust and engage with decision-makers;
  • And foster a local advocacy movement with diverse stakeholders.

“Last year, our last session was on the eve of the public health crisis. As we remain in the middle of the pandemic, this year’s academy will be online,” said Gary Howe, Norte‘s Advocacy Director. “We’ll miss greeting everyone with a handshake, but we will still deliver an engaging and collaborative academy.”

The Advocate Academy is open to anyone interested in learning about local Pro Walk/Pro Bike issues. Registration is available now, and space is limited to the first 20 registrants. The registration fee is $35, with scholarships available upon request. Each Thursday session runs from 5:30–7 pm, beginning February 4.

To learn more and register, visit Advocate Academy.

Potential participants can email either program facilitator with questions. Jim can be reached at and Gary at

In addition to the partnership with Groundwork’s T.C. Mobility Lab, the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation is the title sponsor. This support ensures the program is available for anyone wishing to attend.



Happy. Healthy. Strong.



Welcome to Norte, Jill Sill

Norte's Business Manager Jill Sill.

Jill Sill has Joined Team Orange as Norte’s Director of Operations Superstar

Norte recently hired Jill Sill to fill the new position of Director of Operations. Her energy and professionalism will support a wide range of programming, outreach, and advocacy activities to further Norte’s mission of building happy, healthy, strong communities. As a former environmental educator, high school teacher, and public school administrative assistant, she brings a rich history of working with nonprofits to achieve community-orientated goals.

“Despite the crazy year of 2020, Norte continues to grow and reach more families across Northern Michigan. As we do this, we continue to adapt, and this new position is a critical step,” said Executive Director Ty Schmidt. “To meet the goals in our strategic plan, we need a dedicated point person running the day-to-day of Norte. Jill brings experience and passion. I’m thrilled to have her on the team.”

Sill empowers Norte programming, operations, and development by managing staffing, accounting duties, and database management. She also serves on Norte’s leadership team working with the team’s directors to realize the six-year-old nonprofit’s goals and objectives.

“Working with Norte matches my desire to connect people of all ages and abilities with the outdoors and our community,” said Sill. “My active family finds great joy in exploring Northern Michigan by foot, boat, and bike. Helping others access this joy, the local parks, and trails, and the community connections and confidence that grow from these experiences is very empowering. I am thrilled to support the Norte mission and very well might have the best job ever.”

# # #


Happy. Healthy. Strong.

20 Reasons We’re Thankful

2020 certainly has had its trepidation, apprehension, and sadness. Yet, here we are, the day before Thanksgiving, full of gratitude. It’s wondrous how hard times grant us a perspective to take stock and count our fortunes. We have many of them here at Norte and in Northern Michigan. There are too many to list, but here are 20 reasons, in no particular order, why Team Orange is grateful for this year:

We could go on and on. The Grand Traverse region is a community full of awesomeness. We’re thankful to be a part of it. It’s a marvelous place to work on building a new generation of happy, healthy, strong.

Happy Thanksgiving. And happy #optoutside day.

– Ty

P.S. Who are we kidding? We need to throw in at least two more. Thank you to BATA for tricking out bus stops with orange and to the EE-Train. Keep being amazing.

Thank you for a Bountiful 2020 Cranksgiving

Thank you to all who participated in another triumphant Cranksgiving in Northern Michigan. We had over 50 teams from Suttons Bay, Traverse City, and Elk Rapids. We collected 1821 pounds of food in Traverse City and well over 2500 pounds in total. Who says you can’t go shopping on a bicycle? 😉

Thank you to our partner, Food Rescue of Northwest Michigan, and scores of food pantries in Northern Michigan. You helped to not only make this the most successful Cranksgiving yet, but your work also ensures that families across Northern Michigan have food on the table. We’re grateful for you and your work. 

Norte encourages everyone who can to give to your local pantry and Food Rescue this season. The Northwest Food Coalition has an extensive list of pantries and ways to give.

Thank you also to our Cranksgiving sponsor, State Farm agent, Susan Sofferdine Rauser Agency. She even showed up with donuts and cider to keep everyone fueled up.

Want your team photo? The slideshow below runs through the team photos from Traverse City’s Cranksgiving. If you would like a larger file of your team photo, email with your team name and the image’s number.


9&10 News visited the fun at the Wheelhouse and filed this report: Community Members Bike to Donate Food for Norte’s Cranksgiving



?   Happy Thanksgiving   ?



Cranksgiving: Food and Fun on Two Wheels

Our Cranksgiving Presser:

Norte invites Northern Michigan residents to form a team and sign up for this year’s Cranksgiving. The event combines a fun bicycle ride – costumes encouraged – with food collection to benefit local families. The annual event started in New York City in 1999 and launched in Northern Michigan in 2018.

This year’s Northern Michigan Cranksgiving begins at 11 am on Saturday, November 22. This year at three locations: Traverse City, Elk Rapids, and Suttons Bay.  

Cranksgiving riders will need a bicycle, a lock, a mask, and a minimum of $25 to purchase groceries and household items from participating Northern Michigan businesses. To collect all of the items on the shopping list, it helps to ride as a team, but solo riders are welcome. Registration for Norte’s 2020 Cranksgiving is free and currently open at the organization’s website,

“I love Cranksgiving. It’s a blast to see families and teams come out in the cold to have some fun, get a little ride in, and to do some good,” said Ty Schmidt, Norte Executive Director. “We have two categories, one for folks who want to ride 5-6 miles and another for a more leisurely 2-3 miles. Cranksgiving is a family event intended for people of all ages.”

This year, Norte is hosting Cranksgiving events in multiple locations in Northern Michigan. Currently, Elk Rapids, Suttons Bay, and Traverse City will simultaneously host events. However, Norte is interested in collaborating with other communities to hold Cranksgiving drives as well. “If your community is interested, let us know, and we can help you make it happen,” said Schmidt.

All Cranksgiving events will begin at 11 am, with check-in spread out from then until noon to allow for social distancing. At check-in, teams will be giving a shopping list and further instructions. When groups finish, they return the items to the starting spot. Norte will work with Food Rescue and area pantries to deliver the goods to families in need in the region. The ride should take around two hours.

To help keep everyone healthy and help stop the spread of COVID-19, Norte asks that all riders stay home if they have any symptoms before the event. Teams are required to wear a mask and maintain social distance. Although this is not a race, teams receive bonus points for posting to social media pictures of their team washing their hands.

Food Rescue will distribute items collected by the riders to the Northwest Food Coalition’s food pantries in Antrim, Benzie, Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, and Leelanau counties. “I look forward to spending the day with friends to have fun and do good. But Cranksgiving is something more, too,” said Taylor Moore, Food Rescue Manager for Goodwill Northern Michigan.

“Cranksgiving gives me the opportunity to think about why we need to have this event: because every year so many people struggle to buy their Thanksgiving meal,” Moore continued. “The Norte community knows better than most the power of collective action. Just as we can envision new trails and roads where vehicles take more notice, we can envision kids riding their bikes to school with stomachs full of nutritious food. This Cranksgiving, I’ll be envisioning new reasons to bike, and a Thanksgiving free of COVID and hunger.”

This year’s Northern Michigan Cranksgiving is presented by Norte Business Champion, State Farm Agent Susan Rauser. More information on Cranksgiving can be found online:

Adventurama 2020 Wrap Up!

Happy people on bikes Adventurama 2020 was off the charts. Gracias!

  • 180 happy people on bicycles
  • 8 generous Adventurama sponsors
  • 9 amazing volunteers
  • $5,000+ raised for our youth programming
  • A very, very grateful Team Orange

Official Results


Division Team Name Points
1 Those Meddling Kids 590
2 Gears and Beers 560
3 All-Weather Shredders 450
Vicious Cycles 410
M & M 324
Bees on Bikes 255
The Good,The Bad, and The Uncle 240
Birds and the Bees 175
Weir Wheel Warriors 125
1 Los Fuertes 510
2 Dying to Ride 460
3 Wizard(s) of TC 450
3 Future In-Laws 450
Kickstands are for Quitters 445
Rolling Through the Seasons 435
Rad Riders 420
Get to Cranking 415
The Peddlers 405
PacManchester 355
Camo Boys 340
Heritage Hood Crew 315
Unicorns 295
Team Dragon 290
Wolf Pack 265
Kollopoulos 260
Goodman Bikers! 255
Cool McCools 240
Little Senders Ride Again 230
Family Tree 210
Team Lovey D 210
Lily’s Bday Bashers 185
Highland Park Peddlers 185
Troynados 145
Moody Reluctant Mumblers 15
Bright Happy Scots 15
Dutch Rudder 0
Mighty Mega Muellers 0
Howell at the Moon 0
Space Cats 0
The Team Who Must Not Be Names 0
Individual Costume
Family Judy Arnold
Open Sarah Bielman
Squad Theme Costume Execution
Family The Peddlers
Open All Weather Shredders

Adventurama 2020 Photo Gallery

Norte’s 2020 Summer Bike Camp Report: Bikes. Friends. Adventure.


Whoa! That went by fast.  

Eleven weeks full of friends, fun, and adventure. Riders learned lots about our community and their own abilities – chiefly that they can do anything.

Thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you. We thank our amazing sponsors, volunteers, coaches, families, and all 613 bike camp riders that made Summer Bike Camp happen safely in this unpredictable year.

We invite you to join us and look back on all the fun. Norte’s 2020 Summer Bike Camp Report is full of highlights, progress, and tons of smiles. 

Thank you double to everyone who filled out a Summer Bike Camp follow-up survey. It’s fantastic to see the progress quantified. ?

You can view the report or download a PDF version below.


Eric’s VERY Heavy Recap

My 2020 Heavy Ride is in the books, and I’m feeling back to normal, so it’s time to do a post-mortem on the ride.  I’ll include some of the data analysis at the end for my fellow data nerds but I won’t make the rest of you suffer through that.  

The ride itself started off perfectly.  The weather was excellent and I had a nice crew of five to escort me out to Kalkaska from Timber Ridge.  Course conditions were about as good as you could ask for at the end of June with only a handful of sand traps to contend with.  The ride out was at a friendly pace and gave us all an opportunity to ride and chat.  Given the last few months, it was extremely nice to be riding with friends and just talking.  

After the ride to Kalkaska, we started the Iceman course proper.  Sand was expectedly present and the singletrack still bears the scars from the “Mudman” last November.  We made good time through Dockery and arrived a little early to Make it Stick.  I enjoyed the company of Mr. Heavy Ride himself, Patrick Cotant on every ascent.  I was sure to keep the pace reasonable as I knew I still had a long day ahead.  Over the top for the last time, I bid part of the crew adieu and made my way to Sand Lakes Rd.

Sand Lakes Rd climb saw the arrival of my support crew.  They were a welcome sight and nice to get some fresh, cold nutrition.  The climb itself passed fairly quickly with the only issue being a large sand pit at the bottom.  It was critical to have the crew there to spot cars as I was coming down because that sand pit was not conducive to evasive maneuvering.  Finishing up Sand Lakes, I was trading the sand pit for the sun-exposed gravel of Broomhead Rd and the true start of the hard stuff.

Broomhead was the lone addition to the Iceman-centric course.  I wanted a longer climb to replicate the Columbine climb at Leadville and its 3k+ feet of elevation gain.  The positive is that the climb is a very tame ~3% on average and only pitches of 5%-6%.  The bad side is that the climb is almost completely exposed to the sun…and the sun played a role here.  I was on this one climb for almost three hours.  My crew was fantastic and supplied me with cold water and also a little hack I learned watching road cycling on TV.  My wife bought me some nylons and filled them with ice.  Tying them off at the top, I now had a nice little sack of ice that I could put down the back of my jersey and let slowly melt over time.  It was fantastic in the heat.  I had some additional riders come and do some repeats with me including Crosley Robinson, who I swear was taunting me with his smiling face as he accelerated past my pace and dropped me!  My favorite moment of the climb, and the ride overall, came when my daughter Mackenzie decided to do a lap with me.  Mackenzie doesn’t exude natural confidence when trying “hard” things.  However, she is beginning to learn that she’s much stronger than she initially thinks and is consistently surprising herself with what she can accomplish.  This day was no different.  About halfway up the climb, her legs started to burn.  She looked at me with a very unsure expression and just said “daddy?”, as if to express her discomfort and lack of confidence.  I reassured her that she is stronger than she thinks she is and take the climb one pedal at a time and focus on the road ahead of her, not on me.  She grit her teeth and picked up her pace.  Seeing the cars lined up at the top of the climb of family and friends, she began to smile and realize she was going to do it.  The cheers were the loudest of the day and it was awesome.  She crested the hill, we stopped our bikes and I gave her a big hug.  My average time up that climb for the other 27 attempts was a bit over 3 minutes.  This lap took me 6:50 and it was the best additional 3 minutes and 50 seconds of the entire day.  After the high of my daughter’s accomplishment on Broomhead Rd, I was 77 miles into the ride and it was really just beginning.  We were off to Anita Hill.

I had recon’d Anita’s significantly in the lead up to the ride (76 times to be exact).  I knew my line, the pitches, the sandy parts, the roots, etc.  All of these ascents had been on training days where ~25 ascents was the goal for the day.  I didn’t know how my legs would react with 80 miles and 7.5 hours in them while doing these repeats.  I had an idea…and I was right.  Anita Hill has pitches of over 20% and you have to push well over your threshold just to keep your bike upright.  Each ascent was like a body blow but I was handling them well through about 17 ascents.  As I started to tire, I started focusing on my bike computer that is affixed to my handlebar stem.  This is when I started to notice an “issue”.  Anita Hill, on Strava, is 49 feet of elevation.  While I’m sure this is not extremely accurate, I think it is close.  While staring blankly at my computer, the “issue” was that it was only giving me fractions of that 49 feet of gain.  Sometimes 20 feet. Sometimes 5 feet.  This issue plus fatigue put me into a pretty dark place as I was approaching 20 ascents.  I ended up doing 27 total and the last 10 was in a complete haze.  This was completely evident when I crested for the last time and the DeVogel family was at the top cheering.  I have no idea what I said to them (I think it was thank you…I hope) and I rode on.  10 minutes later as I got some more calories into me and started to come back to life I was so mad at myself that I didn’t stop and thank them properly for hiking out to support me.  So, I hope they read this and we can meet properly at a Vasa Domingos ride in the very near future!

The VASA CC climb (last ascent) was next on the docket.  My bike computer was still giving me fractions of the 61 feet I was expecting and I had to make a decision.  My decision was based on the fact that I signed up to climb 11,000ft for more kids on bikes.  I was certain that I was climbing more than that, but I wasn’t in a state of mind to do the mental math to be SURE I’d hit 11,000ft without seeing it on my computer.  I decided then and there that I would keep going until I saw the actual number of 11,000 and that’s what I did.  After the 23rd trip up, I was on to Icebreaker.

Icebreaker brought the welcomed sight of my full support crew and a few more supporters.  The Schmidt family brought a boom box and that was a HUGE mental boost as I climbed my first rep.  Up and down I went.  Over and over again.  My computer continued to play with my mind and even was so nice to literally give me 0 elevation gained on one ascent…LOL.  Right when I was getting frustrated, my kids and the Robinson kids ran down the hill.  On my next ascent, they ran with me screaming all the way up.  It was awesome and probably the closest thing I’ll ever get to the feeling of riding the Tour de France.  They took turns smacking me on the way up and the boombox and cheers made me feel like I was approaching Dutch Corner (or I was hallucinating from heat and fatigue…either way it was fun!).  Up and down I continued until my computer read 11,014 feet.  I stopped.  I leaned on my bike.  I looked up and told everyone I was done.  I was done because the devil inside my computer said I was done.  104.6 miles and 11,014 feet of climbing.  $3,000+ raised for more kids on bikes.

What am I taking away from this?  I’m choosing to focus on all of the little things that made this ride so memorable for me.  The ability to share those little things with family, friends and community in a healthy way is very important to me.  Being healthy allows you to continue to create new “little things” far into the future until your legs won’t let you keep up anymore.  Then…go buy an e-bike so you never miss out!

That’s what we’re all really striving for with Norte’s advocacy, right?  It’s not to put a rider in the Tour de France or produce a local Iceman winner.  It’s not to inspire adults like myself to do some crazy ride.  It’s to celebrate that the bicycle provides you an opportunity to go just fast enough to produce a thrill but slow enough that you’re able to take in the details.  It also allows you to do something that is hard.  Riding up a hill is hard.  Your legs hurt, your lungs burn and your brain tells you to quit.  If you don’t quit, there is immediate satisfaction of accomplishment when you crest that hill.  Your body adapts and you can ride a bigger hill or ride the same hill faster.  It is athletically satisfying.  However, I encourage everyone to search a little deeper because I think there is more there.  The bike allows you to do hard things in a controlled environment.  If you push your body to do hard things and you persevere, you’ve earned the ultimate reward of experience.  You can draw on this experience not only in athletic feats, but when life becomes hard.  You’ll KNOW that your mind can overcome.  Searing pain in your legs and burning lungs become the metaphor of whatever bad card life has dealt you.  Your mind becomes conditioned to function while under stress and you KNOW you can persevere.  This may sound simplistic and maybe even a little crazy, but know that it works for me.  It works for many other people I’ve talked to.  It works, if you allow it to work.  I’m hoping my daughter Mackenzie put Broomhead Rd somewhere in the back of her mind and she’ll be able to draw on it one day soon.  Norte provides so many things to so many people.  I would argue that the opportunity to learn how to persevere is as important as any.  Thank you Norte, for everything that you do!

You’re still here?  You ready to dork out?  Good.  Me too.  Here we go:

Total Time: 11 hours, 22 minutes

Total Moving Time: 10 hours, 37 minutes

Total Distance: 104.6 miles


Total Climbing (Wahoo Computer – Barometric Altimeter): 11,014

Total Climbing (TrainerRoad Analytics – Google Maps GPS): 13,123

Make it Stick Ascents: 16

Sand Lakes Climb Ascents: 16

Broomhead Rd Climb Ascents: 28

Anita Hill Ascents: 27

Vasa CC (last hill) Ascents: 23

Icebreaker Ascents: 28


TSS (Training Stress Score): 516 – Low to mid-500’s is what I shoot for during my build-up weeks.  So, hitting that in one day is pretty big for me.

Kj (Calories) Burned: 5,601

Calories Ingested: 4,170

Carbohydrate Ingested: 905g

Carbs/hr: 81g – For the 1st 10 hours I was closer to 90g/hr.  My next big ride, I’m going to shoot for 100g/hr and see if my stomach can handle it.


Normalized Power: 176 watts

Watts/kg: 2.6

Intensity Factor: 0.67

Average Power: 137 watts

Max Power: 612 watts

Average Heart Rate: 137


I was trying to replicate my expected Leadville effort (accounting for elevation obviously).  I was targeting an IF of 0.65 but knew I would take some breaks to hang with the kids and that the steep pitches of these climbs were more than what Leadville offers.  Obviously, the additional 2k feet of climbing and ~2hrs of riding threw things off, but I felt good the entire ride except for about 20 minutes on Anita’s.  My nutrition was good, while hydration was OK.  Looking back, I’d increase my plain water intake.  Other than that, I think I’m in line to achieve my goal of a sub-9 Leadville 100.  If you have any questions feel free to reach out.  Power profile below.  Go Norte!

Inspired by Eric? Sign up to do your own Heavy Ride on August 15 (or another day that works for you!) here.

Can’t ride this year? Throw some money at your favorite rider who will carry the torch.

Vamanos and GRACIAS, Eric.

Bike Life: Sami is Here to Help


Meet Samantha Maldonado, a.k.a. Sami

Sami has been a part of the Norte family since 2018 when she arrived from Ecuador as an exchange student. In those two years, she’s volunteered as a coach for Norte’s Farm Team and has played a lead role in The Great Traverse City Can Return. Sami is also on our Varsity Mountain Bike Team, an alum of the Explore Academy, and our Youth Leadership Council. She rides everywhere and smiles nonstop. She’s fantastic. We’re incredibly lucky to know her.  

As Sami prepares to head off to university this fall, we sat down with her to discuss her time in Northern Michigan, her life back home, and what’s next for Sami. If you see her out-and-about (likely on her bike), give her a big hello and introduce yourself–you won’t regret it.


Norte: To start Sami, I have to say you’re super popular at Norte. Some words I’ve heard describe you include sweet, compassionate, exceptional, tireless, positive, athletic –and more. What is one word you’d use to describe yourself?  

Thanks a lot. Those are very sweet things to say. The environment that the Norte people create has made me feel welcome and appreciated since the first day. Excited is one word I will use to describe myself. I’m always looking for new adventures, happy to meet people, and eager to learn new things.

Norte: We are really happy you ended up in Traverse City. Tell us where you’re from and what brought you to northern Michigan? 

I come from Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. It is a big city with a population of 18 million, lots of mountains, and traffic jams. The center of the city has architecture from the Spanish Colonial period, including museums, churches, and mercados. Quito was the first city in the world declared Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO and has tourists from all over the world.

Quito is an interesting place, but during my Sophomore year in high school, I started to show interest in becoming an exchange student in an English speaking country. I wanted to improve my English, have a cultural exchange experience, and learn new things. My family was supportive of this idea, which helped me become an exchange student in Traverse City. Even though Lousiana, Florida, and California were my three states of preference, my exchange program coordinators suggested Michigan. This was the best option because of the great family match they had found. Since then, the Yeatts (Jordan and Jennifer) have become my second family, and I just love them.

Norte: You obviously have ended up finding a community here. How has Northern Michigan treated you? What kept you here for both your junior and senior years? 

Northern Michigan is awesome. The members of the community, natural places, and learning opportunities have made this a productive experience. Thanks to everyone who has made this possible. Staying for two years in the U.S. was not the initial idea. Plans changed after learning about the opportunity to enroll in the TCAPS international program as an international student to take college classes while still in high school. This allows me to continue into college with a more hardcore curriculum than the one we currently have in Ecuador. I plan to study business and political science. 

Norte: Besides your family, what’s something you miss from Ecuador? 

Besides my family, traditional food is something that I miss from Ecuador. My favorite dish is Fanesca, a soup prepared during the week before Easter (Holy Week). Among the ingredients for this recipe are twelve types of grains, fish, sweet plantains, and tiny pasties. Not very easy to find all of these in the United States.

Always a Delight


Norte: You were a competitive bicyclist back home. How’d did Norte get so lucky to connect with you? What all have you participated in with Norte? 

Yes, back in Ecuador, I was part of the Pichincha state cycling team since 2015 and became part of the Pre-Junior national cycling team in 2016. When I became an exchange student, I totally thought I would have to give up cycling during my year abroad. Luckily when I arrived, my host parents Jennifer and Jordan, told me about this fantastic community focused cycling club called Norte and their programs.

I showed up the first day of the 2018 Fall after school program to help with the Farm team as a volunteer assistant coach and did the same during the Spring of 2019. Getting to teach some of the things I had learned and watching kids grow as individuals and cyclists was gratifying for me. I continued to volunteer in the Norte after school programs for the rest of my first year. Later, I was invited to form part of the Varsity team and raced the Iceman Cometh Challenge for the first time. During my second year in Traverse City, I continued to race with the Varsity team. I also participated in the first Norte youth Explore Academy. Right now, I have been doing some can returns for Norte’s bike library.

Norte: You’re a super volunteer in support of the Great Traverse City Can Return. You put in the miles picking up cans and continue to help by returning them–thank you. Any idea how man cans you’ve returned? 

I have very much enjoyed helping with the Great Traverse City Can Return. It is incredible how much power something as simple as a can has when you multiply it to provide bikes to kids for free through a regional bike library. Thank you, Norte, for the initiative during these crazy times.

I have returned a little over 1,000 cans so far, but I plan to continue doing it a couple of times per week throughout the summer. My host family and friends have also been helping with returns since the current daily return is a maximum of 200 cans per household. 

Norte: Did you also participate in extracurricular activities at Traverse City Central? 

Yes, I first became part of the International Club. Later I joined the Cross Country Ski Team during the winter of 2018-2019 during my first year experiencing winter with snow and did it again to race during the 2019-2020 season. During my senior year, I joined the National Honors Society to participate in volunteer activities with the community. We worked with organizations like Tart Trails, Central United Methodist Church, Vasa Ski Club, and the State Theater, among others. Helping others when I can is something I just love doing.

Always Contributing


Norte: You’re also one of our community heroes for biking year-round. Was that a habit you brought with you from home? Or did something inspire you after you arrived to bike year-round?  

I would say it was a mix between a habit I brought from Ecuador and inspiration from my host family in the United States. Back in Quito, my siblings and I were taught by my parents at a young age to commute using public transportation and whenever it was safe to bike. In Ecuador, you have to be eighteen years old to obtain a license. Many children and teens find it useful to learn to use public transportation. Before I came to Traverse City, my host family told me they had decided to sell their car two years ago to bike everywhere. I was excited to join them and become a year-round bike commuter in Northern Michigan.

Norte: How do you find the biking conditions here? What are we doing, right? Where do we need to make improvements?  

The bike conditions in Traverse City are definitely safer and more accessible than those of Ecuador. Commuting by bike in Quito can be very dangerous. Protected bike lanes, shared streets, trail systems, and traffic signals are some of the key elements I have noticed around Traverse City. Public awareness is also important. Creating a culture where different types of commuters, from walkers and bikers to motorcycle and car drivers, can safely arrive at their destination. This could not be easy, but it is definitely worth it to prevent crashes.

I believe that Traverse City is on a good track. But some improvements could be made in street crossings, bike lanes and sidewalks around construction sites, as well as working on awareness addressed towards seasonal tourists. They might not have similar commute systems in their home towns.

Norte: You’re moving on to university this fall. Where are you going and what’s taking you there? Are you going to keep biking? 

I will be attending Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky, this Fall. Business and Political Science will be my primary subjects of study. You bet I will keep biking. Cycling just keeps following me everywhere. I am joining their competitive cycling team to race in three disciplines: road, track, and mountain bike. 

Norte: That’s awesome. And, perfect. We’re so happy for you. You are going to come back and visit us, right? 

Thanks. I believe I will be back in Traverse City during winter and summer break, if possible. But I will always take in my heart and mind all those who have made my time in Traverse City a memorable experience.

Norte: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

Just one last thing I would like to add. A very special thanks to the community members of Traverse City for being so welcoming, making me feel at home, and sharing this beautiful place with me.  

Norte: We’re going to miss you, Sami. Thank you.  



Bike Life profiles highlight neighbors in our community who roll (or walk…walk life) that extra mile and deserve their story to be shared. If you’d like to suggest someone, let Norte’s Advocacy Director know at



Bike Life: Get Moving, Keep Moving


Meet Terri Hanson

Terri Hanson has lived in Traverse City since 1993. For the last 27 years, she has operated Why Knot Pretzels, a mobile business selling pretzels from a pushcart with her husband, Mark. You might find them at a local event or outside of places like Right Brain Brewery. She also works at Cordia at Grand Traverse Commons as a personal trainer.

Terri is a model for integrating active living into daily life. She belongs to TC Masters Swim TeamCherry Capital Cycling Club, Sisterhood, She Skis, and She Bikes. She also bikes 4 miles to work at the Commons daily. Recently, we met Terri because she was involved in a hit-and-run crash at the notorious intersection at 7th and Division.

She was happy to sit down with us to talk about her experiences crossing town and dealing with the crash. We followed up with this interview.  


Norte: Thank you for answering a few questions. How long have you worked at Cordia? What do you do there? 

I have worked at Cordia since they opened the doors five and a half years ago. I am a personal trainer and teach group fitness classes to the members, plus one-on-ones. The ages range from 53 to a 105-year-old. I love it!

Norte: It’s obvious staying fit and healthy is vital to you and beautiful that you can help others do that as well. What motivates you to integrate active living into your daily life? Any pro-tips for Norte readers? 

It has been something I have always done to help me spend my energy.  It keeps me sane, feels good, and I see it as a gift to myself. Being active helps me keep stress at bay. My tip would be to get moving and keep moving, your older self will thank you!

Norte: You ride to work daily. Describe your commute — can you walk us through the best parts of the ride? What are the challenges?

We live at the base of Old Mission, so I stay on the sidewalk and TART Trail along the Parkway. Until recently, have ridden under Murchie Bridge to Front Street (the Murchie Bridge underpass is currently closed due to high water). From there, I go to Union, to 7th, and then take Elmwood to Cordia. I ride as many days as possible, even in the rain. The only thing that stops me is icy or snowy roads.

The best parts of the ride are along the bay, early mornings before traffic picks up. The ride home is the biggest challenge due to more traffic.

7th And Division

Norte: In May, you were in a crash when someone in a car pulled out in front of you at 7th Street and Division. Thankfully, you don’t have any significant injuries from it, but it’s still scary. What happened?

Yep, scary it was! I was headed West on the 7th Street crossing Division. As I was crossing Division, a vehicle turning left to go North on Division, hit me and took off. I was taken to Munson to check out the contusions on my left elbow and hand and rule out a concussion. I was lucky, not a broken bone, just bruises, and muscle soreness. I have a super guardian angel!

Norte: You continue to ride your bike to work and use the same intersection to cross Division. I understand how traumatic that can be. How are you doing? Has it changed your riding at all? 

It took me about a week to try and ride to work again. I was pretty nervous but knew I needed to conquer the fears because it is what I love to do. I ride with even more alertness, and I do not take for granted that a driver has seen me or will yield when I have the right of way.

Norte: As someone familiar with the 7th and Division intersection, what are a few of the critical problems you experience when using it?

Mostly cars speeding through the intersection on a red light, or drivers are trying to turn left before I cross the road.

Norte: We recently discussed the idea of a bike box on the west side of the intersection to help organize a confusing intersection in terms of cars and bikes. What are your thoughts on how that might help?

I like the idea of a bike box. I think it would clear up some frustration for the cars trying to turn right on red. It is definitely worth a try!

Norte: Has the contra-flow bicycle lane on the east side of Division Street made a difference? 

Yes! I love having a designated lane for bikers.

Making Traverse Better

Norte: Are there other problems spots in Traverse City that you often avoid? 

  1. Division and the Parkway
  2. Crossing Garfield at Washington or State.
  3. The intersection of Garfield and Front
  4. Park Street crossing at the Parkway puts you onto a sidewalk where bikers are not supposed to be and on the wrong side of the street. What the heck?
  5. The new pedestrian crossings on the Parkway, some cars stop and some don’t.
  6. The curve onto Garfield near Bryant.

Norte: In general, has the bicycle riding experience improved in the last 5-10 years? 

I feel it has gotten worse due to inattentive, distracted, in-a-hurry drivers, and more bikers on the road not following the rules.

Norte: How would you like to see those issues addressed?

I think education is the key. Maybe videos posted on Facebook about the rules of the road for bicyclists, using humor, music, etc. Highlighting some of the young Norte riders. Maybe with Queen’s song, “I Want to Ride My Bicycle.” I’m not sure what the answer is for distracted drivers, except a campaign for “eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.”

Norte: One additional follow-up question: Where can we find you for pretzels?

That is too funny! Of course, we are scrambling to find venues to sell our pretzels. We will be at Rubby Ducky Festival in Bellaire and Mud Sweat and Beers on August 15th. Hopefully, Shorts Fest will happen. Iceman Cometh is one of our biggest events. Fingers crossed!

This is always subject to change, and I will keep you posted about July. If you have any ideas, let me know. We could turn it into a fundraiser for Norte.  Thanks for supporting us! ?

Norte: Is there anything you’d like to add? 

I appreciate all efforts to make Traverse City more biker friendly. We are all in this together and need to be kind and gentle towards each other while making our way around this town. We all can do our part in keeping our community safe and friendly by being patient!

Norte: Thank you, Terri. 


What are the problems you experience at the 7th and Division intersection? What would make it better? What about other spots in town? 

Shoot Norte’s Advocacy Director an email at and visit our new initiative -> Better Grand Traverse



Eric’s “Why”

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

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.


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Looking Forward to Summer Fun…Responsibly


Bike Campers, 

We are wearing masks, washing hands, and keeping our distance here at Norte. We’re also optimistically proceeding with care towards our Summer Bike Camp. Every day we’re learning more as state health officials turn the dial towards opening more and more businesses and allowing more and more social activities. 

Norte’s goal this summer––like every summer–– is to do our part to make it the best. Traverse City’s Summer Bike Camp is a big part of achieving that goal, and we are doing everything in our power to make it happen. 

Right now, we are not prepared to announce either way about our summer camp. We understand the importance of the bike camp experience for families. We also appreciate that now more than ever, children need play, socialization, movement, and the confidence-building that our bike camp develops. We have weekly sessions with full registration through August, and we want to put smiles on all those faces.  

To avoid canceling unnecessarily, we join our Bike & Sail partner Traverse Area Community Sailing to announce cancellations on a rolling schedule two-weeks ahead of each session. That means that families signed up for the first session scheduled to begin on June 15 will be notified on or before June 1. As summer progresses, families enrolled for each new session can expect an update on their session status two-weeks ahead of time. At that point, we will also communicate our latest efforts on how we will be keeping everyone happy,  healthy, strong – and safe. 

Rest assured, we dedicate ourselves to being a model of public health and safety. The health of our campers, instructors, and their families is a priority. We are well-positioned to deliver a fun, safe, healthy, and educational bike camp when the time is right. 

Norte is committed to helping everyone get outside and recreate responsibly. We’re happy to learn this week that Michiganders can once again meet in small groups of 10 or less as long as physical distancing, face masks, and frequent handwashing continues. That’s excellent news and news we can use. 

We will know more about what’s possible soon. We will continue to keep our camp participants and the wider community up to date. Thank you for your patience and support. We will ride together soon. 


Gary & Ben and the rest of your friends at Norte


Bike Life: Are You Winter Biking with Matt?


Winter Bike to Work & School Day!

Friday, February 14


Meet Matt Jones 

Great Lakes Maritime Academy student, Matt Jones, travels from south of Hammond Rd. to the Great Lakes Academy for his bike commute. It’s one of the longer winter bike commutes you’re going to find, not to mention one of the more potentially harry routes. Matt does it with an unflappable grin and preparedness you’d expect from a coastie. We sat down with him to hear what brought him to Traverse City and about his attraction to winter biking.


Q: You’re relatively new to the area. What brings you to the Grand Traverse region? Where’d you move from?

I came to Traverse City in June of 2018 by means of utilizing my veterans’ educational benefits to attend Great Lakes Maritime Academy. I ended my active duty service in the Coast Guard that June in Coos Bay, Oregon and moved across the country for the third time. I am originally from a town south of San Diego, California where I spent the first 25 years of my life.


Q: San Diego to northern Michigan winters. That’s a big jump, no?

Yes, a leap indeed! Although I would say that as much as people think it’s cool that the weather is great all the time in SoCal, to me it can get kind of boring because with so many nice days out you tend to waste them. Here, however, you jump at the chance to enjoy a sunny 20-degree day. I genuinely love having four seasons and getting to experience them after growing up in pretty much a one season climate. I genuinely love shoveling snow in my shorts.


Q: What motivates you to be out here on the bike year-round? Do you bike mainly as part of your commute? What other times do you winter bike?

This is a great question. First, I would say if it was not for the advent of fat bikes I probably would have difficulty getting around on my bike in the winter. Second, commuting-wise, getting around on my bike has been an off and on thing I have done for over 10 years. When I joined the Coast Guard it became too burdensome at times – depending on the unit type and location to get to work (by bike).  Still, I tried to when I could. Outside of my time spent in the military, sometimes it was by necessity and others like it is now – it is just a better use of my time. I have commuted by bike in five states all with different climates and unique challenges.

Lastly, aside from commuting via bike in the winter, I do try to hit up the VASA winter singletrack. As a side note, I had to tone down my urge to pedal the metal after I hit a tree in August this last year that laid me out for a minute. I road bike heavily, however, since the tree incident I sold my road bike to help my wife and I purchase a home in town. My fat bike is now my year-round go-to bike.



Q: How many years have you been out winter biking?

This is my second winter in Michigan biking. I’ve biked other winters in Oregon and California, but let’s be honest those winter commutes are a joke compared to riding here; a joke that most think I’m joking when I say I get around on my bike here in Michigan.


Q: Does the Maritime Academy have facilities you can use to store your bike? Change your clothes?

Yes to both. There is a bike rack here and if I had bike issues I could utilize an indoor shop space to remedy them. As for lockers, there are day-use lockers. I have unofficially commandeered one to keep my uniform items here at school. If I did not have to wear a uniform I would have no need for a locker, but these spaces, in general, are good to wipe the sweat off your brow. On the main campus of Northwestern Michigan College, I sit in class in my riding gear as I am not required to be in uniform there.


Q: By the looks of your rig, you’re certainly prepared. What’s different on your bike in the winter? What about your gear?

I appreciate your noticing my schwag. In the winter its more about what is on me than what is on my bike, however, I do make a few adjustments to my bike for the winter commute. Pertaining to my bike, fenders are a winter addition on my bike. The fenders do a half-decent job of protecting me from the resultant brine-slush that happens from melted snow and when the temperatures are just right after it snows to thaw. I somewhat loathe the commercially available fenders for fat bikes because they are 1) not aesthetic to one’s bike and 2) I still get that brine all over my back. I plan to custom fabricate something to provide better protection for me and my bike.

Aside from fenders, I lower my pressure in my tires to provide better traction. Other than that, my bike is set up as it would be in the summer. Good lights are an investment anyone who wants to commute on a bike should make for safety in low light conditions but especially in daylight because let’s be honest, the drivers are a little distracted out there.

Now on what I wear/use gear-wise for my bike, I recently just made a load adjustment with the new addition of a basket rack on my front fork. I did this because wearing a twenty-pound backpack for six miles takes it out of you real quick in the cooler temps. When I lived three miles from school it was not that big of a deal, but the long commute rapidly declines comfort if I still wore the heavy bag. Because of brine I mentioned, I use a water-resistant cover over my bag to protect it and then secure it in my basket.

Everyone is a bit different from the amount of heat they generate but for me all I wear most of the time it is a wicking layer and my softshell jacket. I wear triathlon shorts and long underwear, and then a pair of chinos of all things over that because they are stretchy. On my feet are a pair of insulated waterproof boots and gaiters. The gaiters have proven to be a favorite part of my gear because they protect my legs from the brine that gets thrown up by the bike. I have a few pair of gloves depending on the temperature outside, and the same for my head. I have a regular mountain bike helmet that I use most of the time and use a helmet-specific beanie, and on the cold brutal days I will bust out my snowboarding helmet for added warmth. I do wear goggles as needed but most of the time I go without eye-wear. Lastly, a good neck cowl is a cold-weather rider’s best friend.


Q: Any tips for Norte readers who might be interested?

Geez, where do I start? I would say winter biking isn’t as difficult as people might think. In my case, it can be a little dicey, but that is only because I live just outside of town. For those that live in town, the infrastructure is there to capitalize on being able to get around town. I have fallen on icy surfaces, but this has always been surprisingly in parking lots or not the main road. And speaking of ice, the colder icy-er days of winter are more desirable to me than those where it is just a briny slush-fest. You do not need bike specific gear to get out there. Because Traverse City has a vibrant culture of active people, in their closets right now they probably have 75% of the gear they need to be comfortable riding a bike in the winter.

Be defensive but not offensive on your bike. What I mean is, be nice on your bike and do not do anything to add to those drivers who already despise you being on the roadway. Be seen, be heard, and have fun! In my mind, this helps drivers and other roadway users respect those of us on a bike. I can tell you how considerate drivers are by how close they pass by me. Speaking to that I have had plenty of people pass me too close with their vehicle with bike racks on them, and each time still amazes me.


Q: Anything to add?

There is always something to add, but if anyone is interested in something I did not cover they can reach out to me and I would be happy to help as best I can.


For more winter bike tips:

Norte Volunteer New Year’s Resolution

Looking for a worthy New Year’s Resolution that has a real impact? Become a volunteer at Norte! Our volunteers get it done in our community, volunteering over 2,000 hours in 2019. Notre is expanding and driving real, positive change in Northern Michigan and we need you to continue The Good. 

Won’t you help us by being a part of a healthy, strong, and joyful community? 

Types of Volunteering at Norte:

  • Saddle Up!
      • We need adults to help with our after school and bike camp programs. THIS IS OUR BIGGEST VOLUNTEER NEED! Ride bikes, ensure safety, and enjoy being a kid again!
  • Represent!
      • Got the gift of gab or are a Norte super fan? Norte hosts and takes part in a ton of events. From tabling and talking to leading rides to registering participants, help by being a leader and point person while wearing orange and smilin’ big. 
  • Balance Bike Super Hero!
      • Support the little folk as they learn the ropes! Show up, organize, and lend a literal hand in both in-school and summer programing, as you give the wee ones confidence to balance and explore new skills. 
  • Adopt the Adaptive Riders!
      • Serve those with needs by showin’ up at our adaptive bike program. This in-school and summer program gives those with disabilities the opportunity to develop bike riding abilities and find joy and strength through movement. Show up, lead with kindness, and watch the smiles appear!
  • Fix ‘em up!
      • All of Norte’s program and library bikes need upkeep and safety assurance. Be part of a growing corp of volunteers fixing and bolt checking all Norte bikes. Learn and collaborate, support and teach, wrench and create a safety net for all kids utilizing Norte bikes. 
  • Write, fold, and stuff envelopes. Repeat!
      • Office help isn’t always rainbows and ponies but it’s a huge deal in ensuring communication, thank yous, and asks happen. There’s usually snacks and exciting banter with Norte staff who will lavish praise on you and your work. 
  • Advocate!

Learn to use your voice to help build more walkable and bikeable communities. Don’t worry, we train you up on this gig!

  • Advocate!
    • Learn to use your voice to help build more walkable and bikeable communities. Don’t worry, we train you up on this gig.

More information about volunteering with Norte? Connect with Mike: