By Northside Lead Guide Serena Larkin
When was the last time you danced to live music outdoors? Or whiled away an afternoon at a new beach? Or sipped brews alongside about 80 new friends? Let alone did all three in one day?
Well, that was the wonder that was Out Our Front Door’s very first Flock Off the Block bike camp party, held August 12–13, 2023. With over a dozen guides, four different starting point options, and a well packed sag wagon, we made the most of a sunny summer weekend. The itinerary was a choose-your-own-adventure menu of stops and durations, with groups meeting and mixing—*flocking* together and apart—over the course of the day.
From our respective starting points across our great city (Central: Specialized (Fulton Market); South side: Small Shop Cycles; West side: Bikes N’ Roses; North side: Cog Cycles and Yarns), riders swept down the lakeshore path toward their first stop at the iconic South Shore Cultural Center. The morning’s light overcast cleared as we rolled to Whihala Beach, in Whiting, Indiana, enjoying a cool dip and some rays among friends new and old.
Groups then departed in waves large and small to 18th Street Brewery in Hammond, Indiana, for lunch and local beverages. A few also tried the distillery next door.
We then rode the last few miles of our day into Camp Shabbona Woods, where Out Our Front Door volunteers and Patagonia staff cheered us welcome, with some Patagonia swag giveaways to boot. Riders chose their campsites, set up camp, and wandered the grounds. Unfortunately, it turned out the park’s running water had been shut off. No matter! We sagged in plenty of drinking water, already had porta potties set up, and even had showers available across the street at the Green Lake Family Aquatic Center. A ranger led a guided hike while the band warmed up, and pizza arrived not much later, donated by Specialized. The rest of the night was dreamy, dancy reverie set to the tune of Kofi & The New Roots Band.
The following morning, after a hearty oatmeal breakfast and thorough “leave no trace” clean-up, riders opted for biking back straight to the city, heading to the water park next door, or biking to Blue Island Beer Co. The Blue Island crew had the added bonus of stumbling on the excellent Witch-o-Rama in the brewery’s parking lot, whose market and music made for a festive closure to the weekend’s flock adventures.
Many, many thanks to the scores of Chicago adventurers who chose to spend their weekend with us; to the Out Our Front Door volunteers who helped lead the ride; and to the ride’s generous sponsors and partners:
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"To immerse , educate, preserve & advance the history, culture, trails and native habitats of the Lower Lake Michigan Basin Area"