A trio of superior cyclists are setting out to collect stories from around the lake instead of the campfire.
The three NMU students are planning a 17-day, 1,400-mile bike ride around Lake Superior. They’ve dubbed their journey “Great Lakes, Great Stories.” The idea for this ride comes from junior outdoor recreation major Dylan Gonda, sophomore neuroscience major Ryan Watling and sophomore environmental science major Olivia Walcott.
The ride is set to begin May 8 and end May 24. Gonda, Watling and Walcott are all experienced cyclists with a passion for the outdoors. The group didn’t meet one another at once. Watling met Gonda through mutual friends and Watling and Walcott were brought together by their love for adventure on a rock climbing trip to Arkansas. The trio plans to follow shoreline that not only cuts through Michigan, but Ontario, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
The purpose of this trip isn’t simply to make it around the lake, but to learn about the communities that surround Superior. Individual stories about life on the lake will be recorded by the group and shared on their website.
“The mission of ‘Great Lakes, Great Stories’ is to record an oral history of Lake Superior by bikes over a 17-day trip,” Gonda said. “We hope to, by the end of it, have certain stories recorded in the different parts of the lake so at the end we can show to other people who come to the greater Lake Superior area about the history and the stories of those people.”
The first leg of the journey will take the group to Grand Marais located 92 miles east of their starting point, Marquette. The group will ride an average of 80 miles per day for 17 days straight to complete the trip.
“It’s bigger than just us riding our bikes around the lake—There’s something interesting about everyone that makes [the Great Lakes] the way they are. Out West a lot of people don’t even know about the Great Lakes, or at least what importance they have to us,” Walcott said.
Gonda, Watling and Walcott will spend their nights camping, in hotels or crashing on couches. “Great Lakes, Great Stories” has a “Fundly” page to help pay for the trip. Money raised will be used to pay for expenses such as food, lodging and equipment failures.
Partners contributing to the success of the trip include Northern Michigan University, Velodrome Coffee Company, Down Wind Sports, StoryCorps and Our Shores Ultrarun.
Northern Michigan University has a club called the NMU Adventure Team. Typically this club sponsors alumni on their adventures. This trio are the first students to ever be sponsored by the club while still enrolled at the University.
To prepare for their journey, the three have been training in the dorms. Their bikes are set up on rollers in Ryan’s room (his is the largest) and the group meets three to four times a week to train.
“People have ridden their bikes around the lakes before but it’s about sharing the endeavor and sharing the people of the lake that hasn’t been done before,” Watling said.
Information on the group’s journey and more is available at www.greatlakesgreatstories.org.