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Great Midwest Road Trip 2016

Great Midwest Road Trip 2016

By: Michelle Barker
Posted: August 9, 2016

Road trips and summer are synonymous and this July I embarked on my own Midwest summer road trip. The timing of the trip happened to intertwine with the catastrophic summer storms impacting Minnesota and Wisconsin chapters, limiting the riding, yet showcasing the strong communities (mountain bikers and beyond) in the Midwest. Given we were presenting trail building schools on this tour as part of the TCC offerings, I cajoled my husband Ken to join me as a volunteer for IMBA. Ken has been involved in singletrack development and building for many years and attended a wide variety of trail schools (some of you might have seen him at one of the advanced schools in Minnesota).

Austin, MN Trail Care Crew Visit

The trails in Austin, MN bear tribute to a pillar of the community, Richard "Dick" Schindler, as he was a driving force behind the work before he passed away. The community continues to make the project a high priority, working with Hormel Foods to develop trails and with the city of Austin to engage more trail users and stewards. Volunteers from across the state attended the trail building school in addition to representatives from Bike MN. While visiting the home of SPAM®, we had our share of tasty local delicacies’ made with the World War II era creation.

Duluth, MN Chapter Meeting

Upon wrapup of our work in Austin, we ventured to Duluth: the purpose of our time in Duluth was to meet with the local chapter, Cyclists of the Gitchee Gumee Shores (COGGS). COGGS and IMBA have been working closely this last year to continue the momentum in Duluth through strategic planning and development related to board operations.  This was also a time to gather key players to discuss the development of North Shore mountain biking and volunteerism.

Bayfield, WI Riding

Due to weather constraints, we made a side trip to Bayfield, WI to meet with our friends Adam and Mica to ride the trails at Mt. Ashwabay and enjoy a little bit of Bayfield.  We had a great ride with local volunteers and sampled some excellent local fare in town. For a period of a few days, we could have called this a Lake Superior road trip!

Minocqua, WI Trail Care Crew Visit

Next on the calendar was Minocqua, WI. The timing of the visit with Lakeland-Area Mountain Biking Organization (LAMBO) happened to coincide with one of this summer vacation destinations busiest weekends! LAMBO took great care of us, making sure that in addition to conversations about club development and trails, we were also able to ride the zipline running above our trail project and enjoy the lake offerings and other area trails.  We again had a wide geographical range of attendees, including participants from Stillwater, MN and Rhinelander, WI. The Wisconsin Bike Fed was represented too!

Madison, WI Chapter Meetings

A quick trip to Madison to meet with Trek Bicycle staff and our local chapter Capital Off Road Pathfinders (CORP) took us away from our Lake Superior tour. It was also an opportunity to interface with one of the newest members of IMBA’s staff.

Door County, WI Better Living Through Trails

Then north to Door County, WI, specifically Fish Creek and Sister Bay. We had a nice variety of attendees at our Better Living Through Trails and lots of great discussion. While in town we took full advantage of summer vacation options like a classic fish boil and a drive in movie theatre.

Sioux Falls, SD Land Manager

As of the first of the year, South Dakota was officially incorporated as part of the Midwest (along with North Dakota and Nebraska). I was invited to speak at the South Dakota Game, Fish & Parks annual trail maintenance seminars in both Sioux Falls and Rapid City.  In between our meetings, we were able to ride in both areas, plus meet some new friends and ride in Mitchell! A meeting with the Forest Service in Rapid City rounded out our South Dakota time.

Vinton, IA TCC

After our very rapid tour of South Dakota via 1-90, we headed to Vinton, IA for the final Midwest visit. Vinton Parks and Rec. has been working very closely with the local chapter, the Linn Area Mountain Bike Association (LAMBA) to develop singletrack on their park property. Both days of the visit were well attended and our enthusiastic volunteers plus AmeriCorps partners created a great trail experience despite our high humidity and vampire-like mosquito conditions!

The key component of the most successful work in these visits was the sense of community, commitment, and diversity within the groups. These successful groups are inclusive of anyone interested in trail development and truly live the story; showcasing how trails positively impact the community and are accessible to any interested, regardless of method of transportation, skill set, fitness, age, gender, or other demographics.  This was demonstrated many times throughout our travels.

I composed this on the train to Salt Lake City where I will be attending Outdoor Retailer to present the capstone project my group created as part of the Skip Yowell Future Leadership Academy. Our project highlights the need for this inclusive community and threaded throughout the show dates are events speaking to the power of diversity, of inclusivity, and of community.  Trails, and outdoor recreation, are powerful vehicles for community change and cohesiveness. It’s so much more than simply digging in the dirt.


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10 years 4 months
Michelle is the Midwest Region Director and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She and her family have traveled across the country and to parts of Canada to experience great mountain biking.

Michelle is the Midwest Region Director and lives in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She and her family have traveled across the country and to parts of Canada to experience great mountain biking.

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