To The End of the World & Back
Unknown journal entry date
“Andrew?” Yes. “Do you think we are gonna make it out of here alive?” We just might if we get some clouds overhead. We can cross this rock face before the sun really starts melting everything. (Ice is melting off the mountain face in huge chunks, as big as car doors. We cross along the cliff with no ropes nor trail. Rocks, ice and, snow everywhere.) “Whatever we do, whatever happens, don’t lose this journal. Make sure it finds its way back home.” –Last journal entry
The beginning of this organization's journey starts in a time past, where awe and excitement challenged us around every corner, a place of wonder stemming back to a little back room on the 1500 block of North Artesian where travel and conversation were the theme and elicit thought blanketed the walls. Where we eventually decided to travel the world.
Our travels took us many places, where we ran against the clock hitchhiking across the Colombia and Venezuela border to escape road pirates, before they were able to run us off the roadside at night to ransack our belongings. Where we found ourselves on an island and swam miles in the Caribbean to a ship wreck. Where we hiked into the fern gully valleys on the western edge of America and traversed the cold and desolate peaks of mountains to the end of the world and to the sub-arctic sea. We were nicknamed the “Seekers” - on a journey to push ourselves beyond our boundaries to discover what did not exist before. To learn and understand the different cultures and biomes around the world. To see the unseen. We lived with many different families, became and met many different people but what we didn’t realize at the time, was where this journey was about to lead and how it would reshape the way we viewed home.
The Birth of an idea
We created an organization, one where the vast history and the plethora of wild spaces of home are recognized from the seat of a bicycle. We took what we learned from the open road and applied it here, born and bred in these streets, in these back alleys, and on these shores of Chicago.
Why does California, the Alaskan wilderness, and Patagonia only get to lay claim to adventure? Why is it that a majority of Chicagoans have to get in a car and drive, or fly off to some distant place to have a multi-day camping/hiking experience? Why can’t the exuberance of the unknown be had right here at home?
We assembled a team and wrote on a napkin late 2015 in a little bar, the words… “To immerse and educate in the history, culture, and the uniquely beautiful natural habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area through bicycling.” To lead people from the heart of this city and into the open. A series of bike camping adventures dubbed “Bike the Blue Basin.” Words that created an organization, words that created that Epic Bike Summer.
Moments of Summer
This was our first year, we tested ideas and pushed limits to see where certain ideas can go. We found ourselves in conversations with forest rangers, geologists, biologists, historians, and cyclists. Gathering up information like a sponge to wring it out over a one of a kind tour by developing a one of kind story to remember for anyone that was looking for an adventure.
The Route 66 Sign:
At the very start of our inaugural public ride an incredible moment: We gathered up, ready to embark, a couple rolls up, pedaling the final mile of their Route 66 ride from California and they took our first group ride picture. From there on out, adventure was surely locked in.
To go the Distance:
We pushed people to go farther beyond their own expectations. One man, who had never ridden more than 30 miles in his life, bought a bike on craigslist a week before one of the events. Shows up wearing a hiking backpack, even though we advised him not too, and rides 100 miles with us on Day 1 and another 85 miles on Day 2. All without injury. All for the challenge. All for the miles gained. On another ride, three people who never biked more than five to ten miles were able to go 50 plus miles with us in one day. We were transforming people to go farther than they ever thought was possible.
The Wheelie of death and good times
There were plenty of laughs, tons of good times and one close call. “You should have seen the look on his face, in that split second, time froze and contemplation set in as we both transferred our Oh Shi#! faces to one another. That flat steal pedal spinning at a million miles per hour came so close to the side of his face that we both stopped and stared knowing that this could be game over for one of us. I probably should have never popped that wheelie with flip flops on, but somehow the evening was calling for it. *plus he, a good friend, did ask me to pop the wheelie…” This was on one of the research rides. I wouldn’t be doing that again. And especially not on a guided tour.
Conversations ranged all over the place, as the buzz of getting to know people hummed throughout the day. A good joke got the whole crew laughing. And at the end of summer, everyone we encountered on our trips walked away with new found knowledge which was clearly marked on their faces. They knew they had just completed something big.
One of our new friends put it perfectly when she wrote “While everyone was there for their own purpose, we were all there to experience something new.” Together.
A Bike Camping Community
This can’t be built by one person or by one group. It’s going to take community. A journey within itself. It will be a challenge as I know it will take time, and I look forward to turning a dream into reality, especially with the help of new friends.
To be a part of something grander than yourself, to comprehend that this life is short and that we are here to seize the day and to make our lives extraordinary. That the powerful play goes on and that we may able to contribute a verse.
And it is here we would like to inject a piece of gratitude to all the people who have paved the path before us, who we have met, who we have yet to meet, and who have helped in our endeavors. To the adventure community as a whole.
-Thank you friends for the world we share, and not just the world we share, but help build and create.
Where the Wild Things Grow
Natural Heritage. Preservation. Our legacy. Make our lives extraordinary.
By travelling abroad, we were able to understand that this region has a rich history and a remarkable diversity of wild life that rival million acre national parks. We realized that adventure doesn’t always mean a trip to a distant place. We learned that adventure lies right outside at any moment and that moment is always ours to embrace as we see fit, remembering that the only way to get lost is within our own sense of wonderment. That the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area is a truly unique place compared to the rest of the world. A place to be seen and experienced. That this land’s story shall be passed on. And so, an adventure began, and what an epic summer it’s been so far.
Ridin’ wit Straw in Cap.
Keep on Chooglin’
“Though we may not have some grand mountain to look at, nor canyon to peer in, and to the untrained eye, the flat prairies of Illinois may look unappealing to the one who looks far off into the distance. But it is here at your feet, that be lay its true beauty, the rich and bountiful world of the tall grass prairie. In its richness of almost infinite wonder of wildflowers and small creatures for which they contain, behold you at arm’s length. All one need do, is lay in its soft splendor on a sun breeze afternoon.” –Andrew 2016
From footsteps afar,
That come near,
A Chicagoan Illinois Summer.
p.s. we did make it across that rock cliff after all.