This trip was an opportunity to prove to myself that it’s never too late to pick up a new hobby or find an adventure. And most importantly, how much you can do with minimal equipment and a determined, positive, rock-solid attitude.
While living in the mountains of California, I grew tired of the idea that all this gear was needed to hit the backpacking trail. Granted, yes of course there are some things that will make the trip a lot more comfortable or easier. But when it comes down to it, if you just get out there and move, you will be able to accomplish way more than you thought! This trip made me feel that way. It confirmed my frustration with the gear head culture that’s all about the latest gear and gadgets. The day before the trip, I was hustling to find a rack and panniers that would fit my bike but not break my budget. After visiting a few different shops in the area, no luck. “Damn, can I even make this trip?”, “I will look like such a dork with a backpack”…. “I will look like I haven’t done this before”… Oh wait, I hadn’t done this before. “F*** it, I’m just going to do it!”.
In addition to a great attitude, I was with a great group. A group that didn't need the best equipment or the most consistent training. Instead, I found a group that was supportive, humble, kind, flexible, strong willed, and just longing to get out in a natural environment in any way possible. I got on my bike and rode the whole way with a backpacking backpack. And it was fine. Dorky, for sure, and yeah, panniers would have been more comfortable, but I did it! No one will ever get left behind on this trip. Another great aspect, even if things were not working out for some reason, you can catch a train and know that no one in the group will be thinking less of you. Or if you don't have enough money to grab food at each restaurant stop (although Andrew and Glenn chose some great, affordable spots), then no worries. Just bring some food and take in the ducks and people at the park down the street or bring it in to the restaurant. No judgement from this group. This experience made me really think about how the thoughts of “I won’t fit in” or “I’m not good enough” or “not prepared enough” can hold me, and many of us, back, even as adults. That’s a self imposed restraint that’s just not actually there. No one from this group cared about any of that. They just want to ride, take in the natural environment, and meet some new people. Simplicity at its finest.
One major highlight for me was getting out in a more natural environment. Coming from California, where mountains and open green space were only a brief drive away, I had grown a bit cynical during the winter months. It was great to get out in the natural environment of Illinois and Wisconsin to prove that natural beauty wasn’t only to be found out West. The beauty of the green rolling hills of Wisconsin and Chain O’Lakes State Park, and the seemingly endless Michigan lake shore, brought that sense of refreshment and peace that only life in nature can. At the same time, in certain sections with a wide open, paved downhill bike-only trail, I was able to experience a euphoria brought on by riding fast and free, the wavering of the wind drowning out all other noise. Quite a different feeling than the blood-pressure lowering snack break by the lake shore. Ultimately though, that’s what I loved most about this trip. The ability to experience so many different emotions and feelings. From the stress of biking through the city, to the calm of dozing off to the crickets and bullfrogs, to the euphoria of bombing a hill, to the frustration of struggling up it, you experience it all. This trip brings out the extremes, experiences and emotions that can often get lost in the day to day grind of everyday life. And for that, I am thankful to have been a part of this trip. Thankful for the vision Glenn and Andrew had in thinking up and bringing to life the Out Our Front Door organization.
So get out there, and explore more, Chicago
Written by: Bradley Williams
The only way to get lost is within your own sense of wonderment
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