Say yes to something new — let’s go!

Say yes to something new — let’s go!

In 2022, back when traveling was still commonplace, I was wandering the streets of Beijing with my family.  We were looking for a place to eat and warm ourselves. In our search, we stumbled across a small, frozen lake. The ice was smooth and full of people, smiles, and laughter. It took a few moments to register the source of their joy. 

We saw old wooden chairs had been fashioned with metal runners. People of all ages were sliding about on a bright but frigid day. Each chair had one person behind who pushed them along. After paying a few dollars, we were able to join the fun. 

My mother, in particular, laughed and laughed as my husband pushed her around on the lake. We marveled at the simplicity of this creation. We were delighted to experience something that people of all ages had come out to enjoy. It felt like we had discovered a local secret. 

Fast forward 20 years. My dearest friend invited me to go kicksledding. I wasn’t sure what she meant, but I knew I was game for trying something new. When she presented the kicksled, I was taken back to that time in Beijing — I’ve done this! If chairs with metal runners are hard to imagine, imagine a dog sled without the dogs. I was ready to go! 

Jill with husband Andy on a frozen Houhai Lake in Bejing, 1997.

My excitement outweighed my skill during our first outing and  I soon found myself in a heap at the bottom of a hill. The tumble was a surprising reminder to temper my abandonment and proceeded with a tad more caution. But, I soon found kicking through the woods completely invigorating. The side-to-side action to propel oneself forward quickly became intuitive. 

We often see transportation and recreation as separate activities. In Scandinavian countries, kicksledding is a brilliant example of where transportation and recreation intersect. In many places, kicksleds are straightforward tools for running errands. They are as helpful as bicycles are during the warmer months. And, their popularity, like bicycling, is increasing and spreading to the United States. 

“Kick” translates to “spark” in Swedish, and thus kicksleds are often referred to as “sparks.” I purchased my own spark shortly after my introduction. I bought one online from a small company in Wisconsin. I have snow runners I can attach when traveling through snow. I remove them to reveal the metal runners for better traction on ice. I use Yaktrax to place over my boots for even better stability and control when pushing off the ice. 

Typically, I set out alone on my spark, but I have convinced my teenagers to let me push them about on the frozen lake. Most kicksleds have a seat placed in front of the driver. My sled fits into my car and can fold down if space is tight. I don’t need a lift ticket or to charge a battery to get moving. Traveling by kicksled can be thrilling on the downhills and calm and rhythmic on the flats. 

There is something powerful about moving through the winter landscape under my own power. It leaves me feeling strong, brave, and connected with my surroundings. The sound of snow crunching underfoot, balanced with the sound of my breath, and the quiet of the winter is something to be experienced. 

Kicksleds aren’t everywhere here in northern Michigan, but next time you go out for a walk or a ski, imagine it. And, then, think about having a kicksled adventure with me. I’ll show you the basics, and get you kicking on your own. You’ll soon be in rhythm with crunching snow or scraping ice with each rise and fall of your breath. 

We might not be traveling much these days, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have adventures and experience something new — let’s go!


Jill Sill is the interim executive director at Norte. To have a kick around the Civic Center on her spark, shoot her an email at This column was originally published in the Record-Eagle on Thursday, January 13, 2022.




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Norte Honored by GTRCF Grants


Norte has received two grants from the Grand Traverse Regional Community Foundation for a total of $5,000. The foundation’s Healthy Youth and Healthy Senior Endowment awarded $1,500 to support Norte’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Scholarships ensure that anyone who wants to take part in Norte programs is able — no questions asked. The second award was $3,500 from the Youth Endowment, which awards funds through regional Youth Advisory Councils. The grant will support the Grand Traverse Regional Summer Bike Camp in Antrim, Grand Traverse, and Kalkaska Counties.

“Receiving these grants is an honor, and we are thankful for the confidence that the Community Foundation places in our work,” said Jill Sill, Interim Executive Director. “As well, presenting to their Youth Advisory Councils was a privilege. These young leaders clearly recognized the value of Norte’s programming on the youth of our region, and they impressed our team immensely.”

Norte operates youth bike programs in six counties. The organization’s summer bike camp served 621 young riders during a nine-week program in 2021. Bike camp is a week-long, Monday–Friday experience. It teaches young riders how to ride and navigate their community. In addition, Norte offers both an after-school Adventure Bike Club and the Northern Michigan Mountain Bike initiative in the spring and fall. Over 1,200 young riders participated with Norte through all their programs last year.

The Grand Traverse Regional Summer Bike Camp registration opens on Wednesday, March 2, 2022. The camp is for riders first through sixth grades. Information on start dates and locations is available on Norte’s website, Sill advises families interested in a scholarship to contact Norte’s program team before registration by emailing All Norte’s programs have a “no bike, no problem” rule thanks to their Kid’s Bike Library, which lends out bikes across northern Michigan.

“We see firsthand the need for children to have a fun, healthy way to explore their community and meet new friends,” said Sill. “These grants will help ensure that Norte’s programs remain open for the communities that need them most. With help like this, we have a significant impact on the well-being of our participants and their families. Riders go home with enthusiasm and confidence to keep the entire family more active.”



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Welcome to Team Orange, Troy

Welcome to Team Orange, Troy

In November, Norte added Troy DeShano to our team. He will serve as our Program and Education Director. He joins Norte with almost 20 years of experience in the nonprofit sector specializing in fundraising, communications, and project management. He will lead Norte’s expanding youth education programs to keep young people moving and connected to their community.

Norte operates across six counties where they run Summer Bike Camp, Mountain Bike Team, and Adventure Bike Club programs. We also run a Bikes for All initiative committed to ensuring people of all needs and abilities have a chance to ride bikes. In addition, Norte administers several Safe Routes to School programs.

“It is a great privilege to join the Norte team. I’ve admired this organization for many years,” said DeShano. “Riding bikes has been a tremendous influence in my life and a gateway to freedom in my youth. It’s a privilege to be in a position to ensure that hundreds, if not thousands, of youth across northern Michigan have that same opportunity.”

DeShano most recently worked in fund development at Inland Seas Education Association in Suttons Bay. He previously worked in communications, event planning, and project management at the Michigan Legacy Art Park at Crystal Mountain. At Norte, he will be responsible for managing and measuring the impact of Norte programs.

“We’re honored to have Troy join the Norte team. His unique and broad skill set is the perfect complement to our staff,” said Jill Sill, Interim Executive Director. “He can elevate the offerings and impact of our programs. His contributions will help ensure Norte grows at a steady pace and meets the needs of our region. Troy has already begun showing his leadership abilities as we close out a prolific 2021 and plan for a solid 2022.”

Norte has grown rapidly since forming in 2015. In 2021, we served over 1,200 participants across all youth bike programs. In addition, we helped hundreds more in encouragement programs, like Walk to School Day, across northern Michigan. This past fall, 400 young riders met weekly across three programs, including the Mountain Bike Team, Adventure Bike Club, and Bikes for All.

“Although it’s not our only tool, bikes are the primary tool we use to provide access to healthy experiences for the community. By putting people of all ages and abilities on bikes, we create a gateway to physical and mental health. We also create a sense of community,” said DeShano. “I’m thrilled to be in a position to develop confidence and freedom in young people. It’s a beautiful thing.



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Board of Directors: November Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: November Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.








Board of Directors: October Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: October Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.








Board of Directors: September Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: September Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below. Note, there was no meeting monthly meeting in August of 2021.

Additional Statement by the Norte Board of Directors

September 24, 2021


Greetings Norte Community,

The Norte Board’s decision regarding the change in the employment status of Ty Schmidt was extremely difficult and was necessitated by many events over time. The Norte Board of Directors have gone to great lengths to keep this decision private for the betterment of all parties involved. The feedback from you, the Norte Community, has suggested that more transparency would make what for some was a surprising decision more understandable. This message is an effort to assist our community to better understand the Board’s decision and that it followed a long discernment process that involved Ty. The entire process was based on our commitment to fulfilling Norte’s mission.

By way of more recent background, the Board of Directors met with Ty Schmidt on Wednesday, September 15, and advised him that he was being released from his role as Executive Director. In that meeting, we also attempted to offer an alternate role supporting Norte that aligned with what we believe are Ty’s strengths. Since the meeting and over the past one and a half weeks, members of the Board have met again with Ty and offered this alternative role and to negotiate its terms and expectations to ensure it was a role Ty believed he could be successful in.

The offer includes:

  • Title TBD
  • Compensation – No change from current amount
  • Responsible for fundraising to support the continued growth of the organization
  • Responsible for promoting the mission and values of Norte in the community, region, and beyond.
  • Engagement with the participants and kids at Norte programming and events

The offer does not include him continuing traditional Executive Director responsibilities regarding personnel matters or interactions with staff on day-to-day operations.

That opportunity has not been withdrawn, however, the public communications we have all seen from Ty, indicate he deems our offer is insufficient. Our offer will remain on the table for a week or so longer. If Ty does not want to work with our Community in this alternative fashion, we wish him nothing but success in his future endeavors and we hope to find another opportunity to work with him in the future.

Meanwhile, we have turned our focus to the Norte Mission and strategic plan. The strategic and mission-driven plan has been in place and publicly released for some time. We have not deviated from it, and it drives all our decisions and actions.

Now that we have publicly explained how we attempted to have a seamless transition for Ty to another position, we shall move ahead and will engage with our community to provide all the context that we can be involving internal matters. This includes heightened communications with Liderato, coaches, volunteers, families, and anyone else in the Norte Community. We know this is a place where you believe we have not met your expectations, and we’re committed to meeting those expectations. All this movement ahead will test our incredible staff, for without them we would not be the organization you all love so dearly.

We are committed to the mission and strategic plan of Norte. Most of all, we’re committed to all stakeholders of the Norte Community and we will continue to serve you in a fashion we hope you can ultimately be proud of.


The Norte Board of Directors


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Norte | Happy. Healthy. Strong.

Norte is the Grand Traverse region’s active transportation-centered, youth-focused, neighborhood-based advocacy organization. Norte’s mission is to help build stronger, better connected and more walk/bike-friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.

Norte is developing the next generation of happy, healthy, strong leaders through its Safe Routes To School initiative, Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy, youth empowerment projects, and youth mountain bike programs.

Statement from the Norte Board of Directors on the departure of Executive Director Ty Schmidt

Statement from the Norte Board of Directors on the departure of Executive Director Ty Schmidt

Last week Norte’s Board of Directors made the challenging decision to remove Ty Schmidt as executive director. Ty’s contributions to the organization have been immense, from recognizing a critical need in our community and birthing the idea of bike trains to get kids from home to school and back again to positioning Norte as a leader in public health and community connection. We deeply value the vision, energy, and hard work Ty brought to Norte, as we’ve stated previously.

While we cannot discuss confidential personnel matters, we want the community to know this was not an easy or hasty choice. Rather, the Board engaged in a deliberative executive review process that included extended conversations with Ty, which began last year. We have spent this past week trying to work with Ty to find another suitable role with the organization. Our sincere hope is to have him continue with the organization in another capacity and with the same enthusiasm he brought to Norte since its inception. If he decides to part ways, we wish him well in his future endeavors.

Norte has grown to become much more than just kids pedaling to school in Traverse City. From Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy to a youth leadership council to active-for-life educational programs to community services like kids’ bike libraries and community bike shops, Norte is transforming the culture of health in Northern Michigan by developing happy, healthy, ready-to-learn kids and building stronger, better connected and more walk/bike communities by empowering the young and young at heart. Our talented and committed staff will carry our mission forward. We have appointed Jill Sill, our highly skilled Director of Operations, Interim Executive Director, to lead the organization through this transition. We have complete confidence in Jill and the rest of Norte’s staff, the community of coaches and volunteers, and loyal supporters to keep the Norte vision focused, strong, and impactful.

After we sent the statement to media, one outlet asked whether the Board had a response to those who have criticized the way Ty’s departure was communicated. Here is what we said:

The Board is very sensitive to the fact that this is a personnel issue. We have gone to great lengths to address the matter in confidence for the sake of all parties concerned. The series of events that brought it to the public’s attention were unfortunate, but not initiated by the board. We remain steadfast in supporting Norte’s mission and the dedication and hard work of staff, coaches, and volunteers.



Norte | Happy. Healthy. Strong.

Norte is the Grand Traverse region’s active transportation-centered, youth-focused, neighborhood-based advocacy organization. Norte’s mission is to help build stronger, better connected and more walk/bike-friendly communities by empowering the young and young at heart.

Norte is developing the next generation of happy, healthy, strong leaders through its Safe Routes To School initiative, Pro Walk/Pro Bike advocacy, youth empowerment projects, and youth mountain bike programs.

We’re Hiring: Program and Education Director

Program and Education Director

Norte is seeking a PROGRAM AND EDUCATION DIRECTOR to join Team Orange. The ideal candidate will be passionate about happy, healthy, strong communities and active-for-life kids. 

The Program and Education Director directs and creates a range of programming activities that further Norte’s mission. They organize, implement, and evaluate Norte’s core programs, including developing and refining Norte’s curriculum. This position requires a genuine enthusiasm for Norte’s work and a passion for seeing youth grow and succeed. Strong interpersonal and communication skills are essential to effectively interact with and build trust and confidence among our members and supporters.


  • Reports to: Interim Executive Director
  • Supervises: Program Coordinator, the Volunteer and Outreach Coordinator, and seasonal staff, namely coaches 

This position is a Leadership Team position, working closely with operations, communications, and development team directors. In addition, this position will strengthen external relationships with community members, such as partners, donors, volunteers, and the general public.


  • Oversee coordination, implementation, evaluation, and sustainability of Norte’s core educational programs. These include Summer Bike Camp, Adventure Bike Club, the Northern Michigan Youth Mountain Bike Team, Bikes For All, Estrellas (in-school balance bike programs), and Solutions (bike mechanic courses).
  • Foster and develop patron relations with an eye on program retention, recruitment, and organizational engagement (i.e., students, volunteers, donors, seasonal staff).


  • Manage the hiring and training process for seasonal staff necessary to run Norte programming successfully. 
  • Evaluate all programming to set short and long-term goals, helping to create impact sustainability standards to support the organization’s brand, and to attract grants and funding. 
  • Lead the Program Team with a focus on retaining and attracting essential employees.
  • Conduct and document quarterly and annual reviews with those who directly report to the Program And Education Director. 


We measure success at Norte by first recognizing that success is a team effort. To achieve this, we work to develop a sense of belonging, acceptance, and support.

The Program and Education Director will succeed if their communication is clear, concise, and professional. They follow, develop, and improve systems and procedures, building and running programming that advances Norte’s vision of happy, healthy, strong communities. 


Norte requires at least five years of relevant experience and a bachelor’s degree, preferably in education, non-profit management, or a related field. Additionally, the right candidate will have at least a year of experience supervising others.


  • Desire to learn and grow professionally
  • Exhibit a passion for active living 
  • Strong leadership and communication skills
  • Excellent verbal and written communication skills
  • Extremely detail-oriented with solid organization skills
  • Exhibit excellent time management skills with an ability to meet deadlines and strategic objectives
  • Excel at working individually and as part of a team
  • Practical problem-solving and project management skills
  • Proficient with standard office software (i.e., Google Suite Drive) and ideally, experience in customer relationship management (CRM) tools 

The Program and Education Director also needs to work flexible hours, including occasional evenings and weekends.


The Program and Education Director is a full-time FLSA-exempt position with a starting annual salary of $56,000.

  • Benefits: Medical, paid vacation, paid holidays, technology stipend, flexible work schedule.
  • Hours: M-F during the day plus occasional work on weeknights and weekends.


On a typical day, the Program and Education Director will work with core and seasonal staff in Norte’s business casual environment at the Clubhouse and Wheelhouse in Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park and work remotely as necessary. In addition, site visits outside of the Civic Center at regional trailheads, local schools, and with community partners are expected.


There are two steps to apply: 

  1. Submit a cover letter and a resume in PDF form to with “Program and Education Director” in the subject line. 
  2. Submit an online job application at

Applications will be accepted until Sunday, October 3, at midnight eastern standard time. 

The ideal candidate would start employment in late October to early November 2021. 


Norte is an equal opportunity and an at-will employer. The above position description describes the position currently available and is not intended to be an employment contract. Norte reserves the right to modify the duties or position description at any time. This position is located in Traverse City and is considered to be exempt.

Download the above description in a PDF.

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Happy. Healthy. Strong.

2021 Summer Bike Camp Report

2021 Summer Bike Camp Report

We invite you to explore the impact of Norte’s annual Summer Bike Camp — this year offered in five communities, plus a unique bike camp experience at Kalkaska through a new collaboration with SEEDs. Please join us in reviewing and celebrating another summer keeping kids moving. Thank you to everyone who made this summer’s bike camp memorable.

You can peruse all of our past program reports, strategic plans, and annual reports at Our Reports.

2021 Adventurama: Fun Everywhere

2021 Adventurama: Fun Everywhere

On Saturday, September 11, 19 squads gathered at noon to take part in the annual Adventurama. The weather was perfect, and the costumes inspiring. Altogether, 95 adventurers strategized and followed the clues around Traverse City in the hopes of glory and treasure. We had 11 squads register in the Family Division, four in the Open Division, and, new this year, four squads in the Business Division.


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Everyone. We all win when we create more chances for more kids to participate in our active-for-life educational programs. We raised nearly $2,000 to put more kids on bikes.


Family Division

  1. Los Fuertes
  2. The Wheelies
  3. Despicable We

Open Division

  1. Unicorn Farts
  2. Bicy-kitties
  3. Excited2BHere

Business Division

  1. Eleventh STREET Mafia
  2. Fantastic Mr. Fox
  3. Peddlin Pig Unicorns


  • Best Individual Costume: The Flash from the Bald Eagles
  • Best team Costume: Gareissaurus
  • Wingman Award (Good Samaritans): Fantastic Mr. Fox & Despicable We

Thank you to all the teams for bringing the creativity and the adventurous spirit: Murphy Magic, Get to Cranking, Peddlin Pig Unicorn, Cipher’s Cyclists, Team Gareissaurus, The Wheelies, Excited2BHere, The Good, The Bad, and The Uncle, Crazy 8’s, Y-Force and YUR Mom, Fantastic Mr.Fox, Unicorn Farts, Los Fuertes, Despicable We, SHARKS!, Eleventh STREET MAFIA, Bicy-kitties, Trouble X3 Plus 1, and The Baints.

Thank you to The Workshop for hosting us another year and to Anne Schwartz Realtor Bayshore Re/Max for being our title sponsor. Also, thank you to contributing sponsors Copy Central, Traverse City Record-Eagle, Up.Bike, Great Lakes Stainless, and Bethany Design.

And, of course, thank you to our volunteers who made the event possible. Amanda, Michele, and Erin, The Event Folk, did an amazing job.


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Norte Welcomes Aaron Selbig to the Team

Norte Welcomes Aaron Selbig to the Team

Selbig brings decades of journalism and organizational experience to Norte’s communications efforts. 

Traverse City, MI. Norte has hired Aaron Selbig to fill their systems and communications coordinator position. His experience as a print and radio journalist, and his enthusiasm for cycling and walking, will support Norte’s mission of building happy, healthy, strong communities. Selbig has worked for more than 20 years in radio, newspapers, and magazines and brings proven skills in managing nonprofit operations.

“I am beyond excited to join Team Orange,” said Selbig. “As an avid cyclist, runner and hiker, I have always been a huge fan of the important advocacy work that Norte has done in our community. In addition, the programs Norte offers for young riders are crucial to building healthy futures for our kids. These are passionate people, and I am honored to be working with them and working to serve our community.”

Selbig most recently served as managing editor for Interlochen Public Radio. He helped the newsroom win numerous awards and achieved its goal of being a leading news voice for Northern Michigan. Previously, Selbig worked in radio and print in Alaska. He began his career as a reporter for the Anchorage Press and as host of “The Aaron Selbig Show.” He has won three Edward R. Murrow awards for his work in news and podcasting and a Liberty Award from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“We’re thrilled to have Aaron join the team,” said Gary Howe, Advocacy and Communications Director at Norte. “We have a compelling story to tell here, and every day we’re changing lives. That story is told not only through traditional narratives, which Aaron is certainly effective at but also by pulling stories from the data our programs generate.”

The nonprofit has steadily grown since forming in 2015. This year, Norte will more than double the number of kids served, from 2,400 in 2020 to over 5,000 in 2021, through their education, encouragement, and direct service programming. This past spring, the Northern Michigan Regional Mountain Biking program represented 63 different schools from Leelanau to Emmet County.




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Following in the Bicycle Corps’ Tire Tracks

Following in the Bicycle Corps’ Tire Tracks

A Chat with Mike Brown

When Mike Brown’s friend Bill Gray approached him about a cross-country bike ride, Brown initially wasn’t sure. “My friend Bill has been talking about this for years. I just thought it was a pipe dream,” Brown said. “I really didn’t have an interest in it.”

Brown is a year two Rad Norte Business Champion with Burdco Incorporated. Brown has served as owner and president of Burdco since 1999 and his involvement with several community partners.

A self-proclaimed history buff, he found inspiration from a couple of patriotic sources to convince him. Firstly, Gray lent him a copy of a favorite book — Old Man on a Bicycle by former State Department official Don Petterson. With no substantial cycling experience, Petterson decided to set off from his New Hampshire home to reach the Golden Gate Bridge at seventy years old.

Reading Petterson’s account made a cross-country effort seem more feasible to Brown. “When I read that book, it made me realize that physically, you can do something like that,” Brown said. “It’s just one day at a time. It’s more about time, commitment, and just being willing to be uncomfortable for a time. That’s when I started considering [the cross-country ride].”

Secondly, the proposed route would closely follow the expedition ride of the all-Black members of the 25th Infantry Regiment — led by Lt. James A. Moss to deduce whether the bicycle could be a substitute for horses in warfare. 

The 25th Infantry Regiment, nicknamed the “Bicycle Corps,” rode nearly 2,000 miles in 1897, setting off from Ft. Missoula in Montana for a 41-day ride to St. Louis, Missouri. Adventure Cycling magazine featured their route and story in its May 2011 issue. “Our trip was already well into the works, but once we saw this, we said, ‘Wow, this would be a neat way to commemorate them,’” Brown said. Brown was intrigued as he read of the challenges and triumphs they faced along the way.

“These guys were camping and carrying all their stuff. The bikes were high quality for that period, but there was no suspension or anything,” Brown said. “They went through the Missoula area mud and some real difficulties, but they kept at it and were persistent.”

To learn more about the Bicycle Corps, Brown suggests resources from Upworthy and HistoryNet. Montana PBS also produced a 2000 documentary, The Bicycle Corps: America’s Black Army on Wheels, available to stream for free.

With this inspiration in mind, Brown considered himself sold on the idea of a cross-country ride in February of 2020. The impending COVID-19 pandemic did not derail his and Gray’s plans. 

Brown suggested they first undertake a six-day trial run, which they completed last summer. Additionally, they have continued to train with rides on the Leelanau and Old Mission peninsulas. Brown said that the prospect of the ride in the future kept him motivated in his training.

“I’m more of an event athlete — I need to have something that I can put in front of me, like this, to work towards,” Brown said. “I knew this would be in two years, so it really helped me step up my commitment to being a senior athlete.”

On Saturday, August 14th, the crew began following Adventure Cycling magazine’s Northern Tier route — approximately 2,100 miles in all. They expect to ride around 33 days, allowing time for sightseeing and rest as needed.

Brown has unique plans before they embark from Anacortes, Washington. “Friday, we’re going to do the goofy thing where we dip our bikes in the ocean. Then, we’ll begin our serious ride.”

Taking a cue from Petterson’s book, Brown has also thought of the ride as a way to push his limits. “[Bill] is 71; I’m 66. I’d say, philosophically, this is about putting another log on the fire. Trying to do something else in life that you haven’t done, and seeing if you can do it,” Brown said.

At Norte, we’re grateful for Mike Brown’s support of a vision for a healthier community. He adds his support of Norte to a long resume of community involvement. Brown serves on the boards of Goodwill Northern Michigan, the Discovery Center, the Grand Traverse YMCA, and Traverse Connect. He is also a 25-year member of the Traverse City Optimist Club and former Optimist of the Year.

We’re wishing happy trails to Mike, Bill, and all who will be undertaking this ride — interested in getting updates? You can follow Mike on Strava.



What’s on your to do list for fall? 🍁

What’s on your to-do list for fall?

There’s a ton of summer left, including four weeks of summer bike camp. Also, there are tons of days left to jump into Lake Michigan — August water temperatures are the best!

That said, I’m also starting to look to fall and the return to school. So here are my 11 reasons why fall is going to be great.

  • Northern Michigan Regional Youth Mountain Bike Team — Michigan’s largest MTB team, is now offered in 12 locations from Benzie to Emmet County.
  • Adventure Bike Club — now in 15 schools, ABC offers an exhilarating adventure to wrap up the school day.
  • Bikes for All — we’re partnering with four schools and hosting weekly meetups at the Clubhouse because everyone deserves to feel the freedom of riding.
  • Explore Academy — the once-a-week, six-week course introduces community planning and advocacy to the next generation of leaders.
  • Adventurama — bikes, treasure, and glory. This choose-your-adventure scavenger hunt on bikes raises funds for Norte’s youth scholarship fund.

  • Sunday Trail Rides — gear up for Ice Man or just hit the trails for a relaxing family ride. Sunday Trail Rides return when the colors start to change.
  • VIP Slow Roll — Super Friends and Business Champions, join with el Colectivo and the Otwell Hub members for our second VIP Slow Roll.
  • Walk and Roll Ambassadors — school ambassadors make safe routes fantastic routes. Ready to represent?
  • Northern Michigan Walks to School Day — every year, we add schools, and we’re blown away by the turnout. This year, join us on Wednesday, October 6.
  • Sidewalks Everywhere — by the fall, we’ll be walking on 3.5 miles of new sidewalk in Traverse City thanks to the Safe Routes to School grant.
  • Orange Everywhere — come late September, and through October, nothing beats the eye-popping color change in the trees. Get out there!

What are you looking forward to this fall? 

I hope you all can find ways to get outside with friends and family on a stroll or a roll.

Let’s roll!



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Patrick’s Heavy: The Numbers and Awards

Patrick’s Heavy: The Numbers and Awards

The riders put in the miles while their supporters generously supported their cause — putting smiles on more young riders’ faces. The 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Ride Ride with Friends raised $16,462 for Norte’s Youth Scholarship Fund. Well done, everyone. Well done. Thank you to the riders. Thank you to the donors. Thank you to the sponsors, including this year’s title sponsor, Common Good Bakery.

Here’s a recap of the numbers and awards for this year’s Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends. 


$16,612 was raised for Norte’s Youth Scholarship Fund by 45 riders. Seven women, 38 men, with the youngest heavy rider age 14 and the oldest 68. 

There were 317 unique donors with an average donation of roughly $53. 

Eight volunteers made the ride achievable and as comfortable as possible, by hauling gear, providing food, setting up camps, and cheering us along the way. Thank you, Polly, Steve, Curt, Paula, Amelia, Matt, Johanna, and Petra. 

Two marvelous sponsors. Thank you, Common Good Bakery and Traverse City Wine and Beers Tours.

Altogether, heavy riders rode approximately 5000 total miles on Saturday. We had 26 riders ride the 140 miles from Traverse City to the Bridge, and another 16 riders rode the 80 miles from Charlevoix. The team experienced only three flats.


As voted on by the team of heavy riders, we recognize Heath Day, Riding from Charlevoix, and Ryan Reiter, Riding from Traverse City, as Riders of the Day. They pulled the team through by taking the lead, staying positive, and remaining solid throughout the ride. Honorable mentions go to Sami Maldonado, Ben Price, Andy Weir, Brooke Dykhuis, Mike Debruyn, and Mary Kuhn.

As recognized by his peers, The Happiest Rider goes to Ted Roe. Always smiling. Always motivating. 

Most Senior Riders go to Bob Otwell, riding from Charlevoix, and Traverse City Commissioner Tim Werner, riding from Traverse City.  The Youngest Riders on the one-day tour were Brody Day, riding from Charlevoix, and Drew Cummings, riding from Traverse City. 

Appropriately, the Most Money Raised award goes to Patrick Cotant, who brought in $2,185 for 2021. In addition, honorable mentions go to Laura and Bob Otwell ($1,312), Ty Schmidt ($1,200), Tom O’Hagan ($1,100), and Chris Johnston ($1,025). And, we recognize Carter DeBruyn for raising the most funds by a youth rider ($625). Brody Day raised the second most ($325). Thank you, riders!


  • Bloodiest Knee Award, Tim Pulliam
  • Most Deformed Clavicle, Chris Johnston 
  • Good Samaritan, Lauren Dake, for taking care of Chris, and honorable mention to Juan Mo for taking care of Tim (see previous two awards)
  • Johnny on the Spot, Steve Stawski, and Matt Jones for helping Tim and Chris, and honorable mention to Patrick Cotant, Bob Otwell, and Latitude 45 Bike Shop in Petoskey for fixing flats
  • Best at Navigating Mill Creek Campground without a Map, Petra von Kulajta
  • Sketchiest Van Driver, Amelia Werner (We’ve never seen the Norte swag wagon handle curves so deftly — thanks, Amelia!)
  • Best Vegetable Chopper, BJ Ingwersen
  • Best Camp Cook, Johanna Schmidt
  • Best at Making Friends, a tie between Mira Dake and Afton Day
  • Mucho Loco Award, Jon Knott for riding to the bridge with us Saturday and then to Alpena Sunday and then back to TC on Monday. 400+ miles in 3days!


Below, we recognize the riders who have been with Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends through the years. We plan on seeing more of you for years to come. 

  • Four Years, including Pat’s inaugural heavy ride in 2018, goes to the OG himself, Patrick Cotant. Thank you for the inspiration, Patrick. 
  • Three Years — Dan Madion, Brad Pauly, Andy Weir, Heath Day, Cody Sovis, and Ty Schmidt
  • Two Years — Brad Hochstetler, Jeff Wentzloff, Brody Day, Sage Day, Kate White, Vince Mack, Tim Pulliam, Drew Cummins, Kent Mcneil, Dave Sunset Scott, and Steve Haskin


“Thank you again, looking forward to another adventure next year❤️❤️,” @cotantpatrick


If you’d like to donate to the 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends, it’s not too late to support one of the riders. If you’d like to join the ride in 2022, it’s never too early to start training. Mark your calendars for Saturday, July 30, 2022.

Thank you 🙏🏼



Board of Directors: July Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: July Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Put the Focus on Walking and Rolling to School

Put the Focus on Walking and Rolling to School

University of Michigan student’s thesis research hosted by local non-profit Norte.

At the end of this school year, Norte wants to know — how did you roll?

During July, Norte is hosting parent focus groups, asking Grand Traverse area families to share their experiences with walking or biking to school during the year. The focus groups will be facilitated by University of Michigan student and Norte Systems and Communications Coordinator Jessie Williams.

Williams, a Traverse City native, is a student in the Honors program of UM’s Program in the Environment and an incoming Master’s student at UM’s School for Environment and Sustainability. She is conducting the groups as part of her senior thesis project, “The Formation of Active Transportation Patterns Among Participants in Northwest Michigan’s Norte Youth Cycling.”

“It’s important as a community to see what needs aren’t being met, and how we can learn from the successes of the past to fill gaps in access,” Williams said. “Norte has a proven track record in helping communities improve access for folks of all abilities. This research will help to continue that momentum in building safe and active ways to get to school.”

The region has seen a significant increase in active commuting by students since Norte’s inception in 2013 — with approximately a 463% growth in student participation in Norte’s walk and bike school programs since their first year. Norte’s Eastern Elementary Walk and Roll Ambassador, Keelan McNulty, advocates for continued infrastructure and program improvement. He helps lead a daily neighborhood bike train throughout the school year.

“Norte has paved the way in our neighborhood for kids biking to school. We are the next generation of elementary students and parents keeping the tradition alive,” said McNulty. New infrastructure to Eastern Elementary is part of a $2.1 million Safe Routes to School Infrastructure Grant currently being implemented in Traverse City. “We’re thrilled to have plenty of new sidewalks and paths on our route to school. Over the last few years, the daily ride has just gotten better and better.”

Williams’ study aims to receive input from both those who make walking or biking a part of their routine and others who commute by car or another method. In addition, Williams said that it is imperative to hear from those who have factors limiting their ability to commute to school actively — such as safety, distance, or access to a bike.

The focus group sessions will be a unique opportunity to measure the impact of Norte’s Safe Routes to School grant-supported programming, which has a particular focus on encouraging safe and active commutes to school among kids. Norte’s Executive Director, Ty Schmidt, encourages parents and guardians to share their experiences with Norte programs and the community.

“First, we’re extremely proud of Jessie and look forward to learning a ton from her research,” said Schmidt. “I encourage everyone to participate and share their perspective on what it takes to get their children to school and how we, as a community, can make it better.”

The first Walk + Roll Focus Groups are already underway. You can join in-person focus groups every Friday in July at the Norte Wheelhouse at 12:30 pm or on Zoom on Monday nights. The Monday night online focus groups are at 7:00 pm and require pre-registration. If you’d like to register, email  




Board of Directors: June Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: June Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with June 8, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Who’s up for a ride with Patrick?

Support the 2021 Patrick’s Heavy Riders with a donation today!

On Saturday, July 31, a few dozen riders will set off for the Mackinaw Bridge. Some will leave Traverse City for a 140-mile tour, while others depart from Charlevoix for an 80-mile spin. They’ll share the goal of raising funds and awareness for Norte, but they’ll also share in the experience of testing oneself. It’ll be hot. There’s likely to be a headwind. It’s all part of the thrill for Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends.

Riders will also share the encouragement of riding with others, including the man who kicked off Patrick’s Heavy in 2017, Patrick Cotant. He’s a kind and humble man, not wanting attention, and we’re thankful he sat down with us recently to talk about the upcoming ride.

🚴🏻‍♀️  🚴🏽‍♂️  🚴🏻‍♂️

Norte: Thank you again for hosting the annual Patrick’s Heavy. To start, please tell us a little about you and your family? 

Patrick: We moved here about ten years ago from Gaylord. My wife, Polly, and I celebrate 13 years of marriage this week, and we have an 8-year-old son named Fletcher. We moved here for work, and we wanted to live in a more family-friendly, walkable, and bikeable community.

N: When did you discover Norte?

In 2015, Polly heard Ty speak at Fulfillament, a storytelling event here in Traverse City. He talked about his passion for getting kids on bikes and the beginnings of Norte. At the time, they were just a group of bike trains connecting kids to area schools. When Norte started balance bike meetups at F&M Park, we brought Fletcher, and his love of bikes took off. Polly soon started on the board, and we have both continued to participate and volunteer when we can.

N: What is Patrick’s Heavy Ride with Friends? 

I wanted to figure out a way to raise money for Norte in a way that was more than one person writing a check. I thought about it and put it out there to see if there was interest. If there was, then that could be an avenue to introduce others to Norte. I like riding bikes, and there are many groups in the area doing great things to raise money and awareness for causes like Kolo t.c. and fundraiser rides that have been around for years, such as Less Cancer. Those were my inspiration for doing a bigger bike ride for the fundraiser. I wanted something that would be challenging so that people would be like, ‘yeah, I’d donate to that cause, I think it’s a worthy endeavor,’ but also something that could bring more people in was the goal.

N: This ride will be your fourth. How has it evolved? 

The first year was solo and the hardest. I hadn’t ridden that far before. I didn’t know what to eat and drink along the way. I didn’t know how to pace myself. It was a good learning opportunity. I was motivated and excited to do it. And, I had to at that point—people had donated money.

I remember coming back into town along the TART Trail, and Ty was on one of the benches there. He started clapping. It was fun. We road the rest of the way. I got a little boost of energy the last few miles.

The last two years have been the most fun with other cyclists. Some of them I knew, but it is also a great way to meet people. I like the adventure, the challenge, and being out there being self-sufficient on a bike is liberating. It’s enjoyable.

N: What have you learned from the rides? 

You learn a lot about yourself and other things when you’re up to your max. For anyone, even if they ride a lot, it can be a lot of miles. Once you get past that 80-90 mile mark, things kind of change. I’ve learned to face adversity. Are you going to just fold up and stop? Or, are you going to summon the courage and the strength you need to do well and finish strong? To set a good example for your kids or whatever the case may be. That’s what I’ve taken from it. Focus on what you’re doing. You can do anything for a little bit. Set your sights on what’s ahead. The literal and figurative horizon.

N: You get a little philosophical talking about it. How does Patrick’s Heavy reflect on the goals of Norte‘s Youth Bike Programs? 

I saw a post today from the after-school Mountain Bike programs where one of the kids said, “Maybe our growth in our skills is a sign of success on its own.” That’s perfect. The after-school programs, with the coaches Norte has, I can’t speak for all of them, but they seem to be great people. Great motivators. They teach the kids to do the best they can and to give it their all. That in and of itself will make you feel successful and empower you to have confidence going forward. It’s a great thing for them to have as a lifelong skill.

N: How has Norte impacted your son? 

I think it has created independence. Fletcher is 8, and we have started to give him the freedom to range around and see his friends on the block. Yesterday we got home from soccer practice, and he wanted to go to the book store. He just went out to the garage; there was no, ‘are we driving or riding?’ If the weather is decent, he knows that riding is a good choice. He wants to ride his bike now. When he started, it could be a challenge. Now it’s what he loves to do.

N: What do you hope to get out of the fourth year?

There are already some people signed up. We have a more scenic route. Hopefully, now with more people vaccinated, we see more people participating. It would be great to raise $20–$25,000. Going forward, it’s somehting I look forward to continuing for years. Some people have said it is their favorite ride they’ve done. Again probably because it is a long ride and a big accomplishment for anyone; if you ride 140 miles, you should be proud of that. And, hopefully, enjoy it because that’s what it’s all about. Hopefully, we have the participation needed to continue to keep raising funds for Norte.

N: Why you? 

I just wanted to do something for an organization that meant something for Polly and me. Norte has helped many young people. Specifically, because Norte got our kid involved in his first group activity with other kids in a lifelong sport, that’s my motivation.

Registration for Patrick’s Heavy with Friends is $35, requiring $200 from pledges. The sooner you register, the sooner you start training. Group training is held every Saturday at 7:00 am, leaving Darrow Park in Traverse City.

COVID POLICY: Norte is committed to the safety and well-being of our community. We confidently deliver programs and events because our staff and families follow preventive measures and monitoring protocols for COVID-19. We also generally look out for each other and stay outside as much as possible. If you are unvaccinated, please wear a mask. We encourage everyone eligible to vaccinate as soon as possible. If you are not feeling well, please join us the next time when you feel better. Let’s work together and #stopthespread.

Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Board of Directors: May Meeting Minutes

Recently, Norte’s Board of Directors approved the publishing of minutes after each meeting, beginning with May 11, 2021.  As minutes are published, they will be archived at Our Governance. If you ever have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out at


To view, click through to full-screen view in the frame below.