Welcome to Fall
It's been a while! Lots of bike riding and camping. All. Summer. Long. We are still flying high from the amazing Valhalla ride in Door County. Hard to believe Flock Off the Block was a little over a month ago. Major things happening in our Adaptive Bike Camping Program. Lots of great partnerships happening across the city too. Per usual, tons to catch you up on, so hold on to your seat!
Adaptive Bike Camping Recap
Our Adaptive Program Director, Bradley Fisher, continued to work his magic and established an incredible partnership with KEEN Chicago who is all about empowering youth with disabilities through fun physical activities. Our friends at the Chicago Park District helped provide the camping gear and space. And Bradley secured grant funding to make it all happen! We rode with 7 families, each with a child with an adaptive need (19 total participants) up the lakefront from The South Shore Cultural Center and ended at Northerly Island with a campout! Such a special event that really nailed our value of radical inclusivity as youth with a variety of adaptive needs and their families were able to participate thanks to the OOFD fleet of awesome adaptive bikes and a ton of OOFD and KEEN volunteers showing up to make the event happen!
Sun Harvest - October 21-22
It’s that time of year. The 8th Annual Sun Harvest Ride to Illinois Beach State Park is October 21-22. We have an incredible group of guides lined up with Kat leading the guide crew. We have 50 slots total for this ride, with only 17 left at this point. Don’t miss your chance to ride through the fall colors up the lakefront and back along the Des Plaines River Trail. This ride is always a great party and a final hurrah (kinda) the bike camping season. More details and registration here.
Volunteer Spotlight: Chris Hamilton
Chis is a self-proclaimed natural hermit, but he showed up to one of the OOFD monthly hangouts and decided to just start helping out a little. Avid lover of coffee, books, video games, anime, and of course bike-camping. He’s all about comfort and making life a little bit easier to handle and enjoy. If you find yourself in a stressful or chaotic situation, find Chris to get your balance back (lots of calm energy here). More often than not, you’ll find him bike-camping to catch meteor showers or other celestial happenings. Nothing makes him happier than a clear night sky and watching the moon and stars pass by.
He has led more rides this year than almost anyone at OOFD (5 overnighters!). He was the lead guide of The Great Confluence Ride too. He (and his coffee) were huge additions to Flock Off the Block. He so often is ready to step in to help wherever is needed and very much is a shining example of being welcoming and adventurous. OOFD is so lucky to have Chris as a part of the guide crew. Hope you get to ride with him soon if you haven't already.
Ride and Event Recaps
SWMI (South West Michigan Ride) celebrated its second year with a sold out crew of 25 folks riding bikes for about 240 miles, swimming in Lake Michigan multiple times a day, and camping for 4 nights along the coast of Indiana and Michigan. A very special celebration of summer, our lake, and the power of a bicycle to take us to amazing and far away places. Props to lead guide Will Haley for leading an incredible event.
3 sold out Family Bike Camping Trips! One to Camp Shabonna (props to lead guide Sarah Anderson), one to Blackwell (props to lead guide Ben Blair), and one to Sullivan (props to lead guide Hope Williams). This program has been thriving this year (all 4 Family Rides sold out), and its so exciting to see families realize they don’t need a ton of gear and a car to have a local adventure in the outdoors.
Research Rides. We had 2 groups of OOFD volunteers take a weekend and scout out some new campgrounds and routes for next year. We chose rides that our community had suggested at the end of last year, one to Bullfrog Lake and one to Chain O’ Lakes State Park. One of them made the cut for next year’s ride line-up and the other helped create a new route to the possible Flock Off the Block site next year! Stay tuned for the 2024 ride slate to see which new rides we’ve added. And if you have any local bike camping suggestions, feel free to fill this form out, and we’ll consider having a crew of volunteers scout your route in 2024.
Day Ride to Morton Arboretum. We led a big crew on a long ride out to the arboretum and some folks were able to take the train to meet us there and ride back. While there, our friends at the Arboretum led our riders through a special curated tour of the grounds and trees.
OOFD rode Ragbrai! We always hear other folks talk about how epic it is. 7 days of bike camping across the state of Iowa with thousands and thousands of other folks. We decided to make it happen and had a crew of about 25 OOFD folks do it! It was the 50 year anniversary so there were upwards of 50,000 folks on the ride. Major thanks to everyone that came, especially Clarence Behrend and Emily Ling for helping so much with the driving and logistics.
The Great Confluence Ride. This year we had a big crew from Chicago and a smaller crew from Milwaukee leave at the same time and meet up at Illinois Beach State Park. Major props to lead guides Chris Hamilton and Eduardo Pliego for leading this summertime ride to one of the most classic bike camping spots near our two great cities.
Flock Off the Block! What an incredible local adventure! And the OOFD team rocked it! Tons of logistics including 4 different start points at 4 different bike shops all over the city. Multiple activity options on both Day 1 and Day 2. Major props to lead guides Lauren Fihe, Breanna Bertacchi, Serena Larkin, and Rachel Shultz. Patagonia and Specialized sponsored the event which helped us get some tasty dinner and the amazing Kofi and New Roots Band out playing great live Reggae at camp! Lots of dancing and great times all around. We had 66 participants and 17 guides totallng 83 folks out camping on this one trip!
Waterways to the West. This ride celebrated its 7th anniversary with OOFD. It is our most challenging ride, 110 miles on Day 1. But the I&M Canal Trail makes most of those miles feel like utter delight. Major props to Alex Zhu for leading the guide crew, and special shoutout to Kat Leyh who rode this ride for her 6th time, many of which she was a guide on.
Free Bike Camping for Bike Shop Workers at Big Marsh. We are so grateful to those that work in our local bike shops, and this year, we were able to take a handful of our bike shop workers on a free ride to pilot the new campsites that Big Marsh has been developing. Major thanks to Blue City Cycles, Boulevard Bikes, Roscoe Village Bikes, and Cog Cycles and Yarn for participating in our first year doing this ride and major thanks to Chuck, Luis, and Steve at Big Marsh for helping make it happen!
The Ride to Valhalla. What can we say about this ride. Magical doesn’t capture it. 4 days of riding along Lake Michigan with two nights spent on Washington Island and even an excursion to Rock Island where a dude straight up tried to build a Valhalla on earth. A fish boil and top notch catered food. Tons of beaches, birch and cedar forests, and even a bitters bar! Major props to Maggie Marek for leading this ride and hitting us with tons of fun surprises along the way.
Where the Wild Things Grow with Patagonia and Bill Jarvis Migratory Bird Sanctuary celebrated its 3rd year. These have been great partnerships for OOFD and this program. It was another good year getting in some environmental service in at this special habitat on the lakefront, helping the ecosystem be as welcoming as possible for our migratory bird friends.
Youth Rides with Chicago’s Greencorps. We established a cool partnership this year and got to speak with their corps of leaders before their summer program began. Their program focused on giving Chicago youth the skills to build a bike (that they got to keep), and then ride those bikes to explore their neighborhoods and do some service as well as learn about various environmental topics. We got to lead a fix-a-flat clinic with a group at Chicago Vocational High School in Avalon Park and lead a day ride to Douglas Park with the youth at Westinghouse College Prep in East Garfield Park.
Youth Rides with Chicago Green Ambassadors at the Field Museum. We got to give a presentation on bike camping and lead an educational day ride along the lakefront with this awesome group of young people. Their program focuses on helping participants create pathways and bonds among their neighborhoods and southside natural areas while also helping to empower community groups helping them become stewards of nature and their community.
Youth Program helped out at Boxing Out Negativity’s Street Love Ride in North Lawndale. We had a table set up to spread the word about OOFD as well as some burners to make s’mores on. A couple of OOFD folks also helped marshal the ride too.
Bike Camping Clinic and Queer Ecology talk in partnership with Out In Nature. Skunk Cabbage Books in Logan Square hosted us for a fun conversation about queer ecology and inclusivity in all things out doors including bike camping. OOFD guides showed their bike camping set-ups to help folks see how doable bike camping is!
Day Ride with a Home Chef. We tried our first ever corporate day ride with some friends at Home Chef. We led a short bike ride on Divvy Bikes from their headquarters downtown along the lakefront to 12th Street Beach. We taught about the history of Chicago’s lakefront and the Shedd Aquarium too!
Interesting Content and Good Vibes
We had a number of cool blogs posted over the last couple months. Breanna wrote one about Spring Flowers. Serena wrote a nice recap of Flock Off the Block. We finally put Breanna and Glenn's Hootenanny speeches from back in April into a blog. Glenn wrote a nice one about OOFD's core value "Welcoming" and what that looks like in action. And Alex Zhu and Breanna teamed up for this Waterways Recap.
And folks continue to give us heaps of positive feedback on the post-ride surveys. These are too dern heart warming and nearly tear jerking not to share a few of them here with you.
Out Our Front Door is for folks who love our region. They show that love via bike trips that new folks can feel comfortable on, and regular bike packers can enjoy leaving the logistics to the OOFD team. Another thing that makes OOFD special are the moments on breaks where we stop and learn about local history and communities and riders get a chance to share too. What a great way to share our love of Chicagoland and Lake Michigan. David from the SWMI ride
The experiences through Out Our Front Door have changed my life in a significant way. I took my first ride as a way to try out bikepacking before going on a solo trip. The kindness, adventure, education, and camaraderie of the OOFD experience has kept me coming back for multiple rides. I can’t wait to see what rides they’re planning for next year. Wes from The Great Confluence ride
OOFD and its volunteers was the highlight of the trip. Everyone was welcoming and the sense of camaraderie made my first OOFD event memorable and me yearning for future adventures with OOFD. Sharing stories and laughs along the ride and around the campfire created lasting memories and forged new friendships. Every part of our trip was incredibly planned --- the bike route, clean and hospitable campgrounds, charming small towns, hikes and explorations, and delicious catered meals. Moreover, the educational aspect to our adventure deepened our appreciation for the area's heritage and history. I can't recommend OOFD enough. The Ride to Valhalla was an experience that allowed me to reconnect with nature, immerse myself in the culture of a truly special place, and make new friends along the way. This trip was an absolute gem, and I will cherish the memories and experience for years to come.and farmers' markets, savoring delicious homemade pies and locally crafted beverages. Jeff from The Ride to Valhalla.
Where the Wild Things Grow Ride - Oct. 1 at Emily Oaks Nature Center
Join us for a day ride to Emily Oaks Nature Center for 2 hours of environmental service. We will join with regular volunteers from Emily Oaks to assist in litter pickup, brush clearing, and weed removal.
We will meet at the Cog Cycles & Yarns (3217 W Bryn Mawr) at 9:00am. The ride will be roughly 4.5 miles on city streets and designated bike trail. If you can't make the ride up, but want to volunteer for the day we love that! Afterwards, we'll have an optional hangout to get lunch and a drink nearby at Sketchbook Brewing Co. More details and free registration here.
Even with summer over, we do still have a number of great events and rides on the docket.
Phew! That was a lot! And that's to be expected because we are in full bike adventure mode. We have all kinds of hyped volunteers and riders that just want to be outside on bikes in nature. Hope to see you out there riding!
Glenn and the whole OOFD crew
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"