By OOFD Lead Guide and Marketing Director - Maggie Marek
The very first Out Our Front Door ride I ever signed up for was the 2020 inaugural ride to Valhalla. I’d found out about OOFD in 2019 at a volunteer fair but had just admired the organization from afar, too nervous to take the leap into bike camping adventures. When I saw OOFD announced a ride to Door County I knew I had to go.
Every summer growing up my family spent the week of the 4th of July staying at the Alpine Resort in Egg Harbor. The Alpine was family run and a bit of an old school resort with a golf course, beach, tennis courts, kidney bean shaped pool and big main lodge and a bunch of smaller cabins for rent each named after states, we stayed in Tennessee. The Lodge had a game room, wraparound screen porch with rocking chairs, a bar where we would order Orange Baumeister soda as kids and Cherry Old Fashioneds once we got a little older. Best of all they hosted nightly events including Bingo, a hayride and dances with a band called Johnny Belmont and the Fabulous Cheeseheads.
Every summer we’d look forward to returning “home” to the Alpine and would enjoy time reconnecting friends who felt like family that we’d met at the resort and would see every summer. We enjoyed seeing how much the resort stayed the same and how much we had changed.
The summer of 2020 the resort was put up for sale, and they were no longer welcoming guests. Our summer tradition was gone just like that.
Not wanting to give up my yearly visit up north, I anxiously awaited the OOFD trip. I convinced a friend to sign up for the ride with me because I was too afraid to go alone! Despite having biked across the country in 2011, I still to this day get nerves about group rides and worry I won’t be able to keep up. But I’d been collecting camping gear for a few years and knew I was ready to take the leap into bike camping, and I am so glad that I did. I’ve never looked back.
The excitement on the first day of the ride was palpable as some of the guides ran and jumped into the bay at our first rest stop. We biked through Peninsula State Park’s Sunset Bike Trail en route to our campsite, a trail I’d biked countless times with my family. My favorite part of the OOFD trip was spending two nights on Washington Island. My family had hardly spent any time on the Island, and I loved learning about the rich history and seeing the beautiful spots to bike to. Best of all, the island is only 6 miles across, perfect for exploring by bike.
The first year Our Our Front Door didn’t get to Rock Island because the water level was too low. Luckily, we’ve gotten to the island in years since, and Rock Island has become my “happy” place. I often envision myself hiking around and swimming in the waves on the island’s secluded beach in the dead of winter.
It’s safe to say that for me, the ride to Valhalla was everything I’d ever imagined and more. Even after visiting the peninsula my entire life, I saw it through new eyes by bike, spending the entire long weekend outdoors enjoying the crisp evenings and warm sunny days. Best of all was meeting so many new bike friends, everyone who came along for the ride had a similar sense of adventure, and better yet, they all lived in the Chicago area. I’d found my people.
Arriving back in Sturgeon bay on Monday night, my friend and I packed up her car and drove back to Chicago, giddy on the high of such an incredible weekend. Looking back, I can confidently say that this ride in particular has been the highlight of my year for the past few years. I knew after the very first day that it wouldn’t be my last trip with OOFD. I’ve leaned into the biking community, and it has kept on giving back to me what I put into it and more.
The next year I was chosen as a guide for the ride and was so excited to share this special experience with other riders. Last year and this coming year, I’ve stepped up as lead guide. Being lead guide for this ride has been incredibly rewarding, and I’m so happy to have found a new yearly tradition and reason to visit Door County and am honored to do so with Out Our Front Door. I hope you’ll consider signing up for the ride, even if you are scared, it might just change your life for the better.
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