Visitors often seek out Michigan’s Upper Peninsula as an off-grid getaway destination. They travel to the various jutting peninsulas and crooked crevices to connect with nature and often, as a result, themselves. Project Adventrus (Adventure + Us) is doing the same thing, just at a rate of at least 100 miles a day.
On Saturday, May 22, four bikers will take off from Brockway Mountain Drive in Copper Harbor at 8 a.m. Where they will sleep that night – they have no clue. The group’s goals are to put in 1,600 miles total over 16 days (with a minimum of 100 each day), camp overnight and discover their best selves by pushing their limits.
“It's not about racing the guy next to you, but simply trying to survive the event together,” Todd Poquette, Project Adventrus creator, team leader and biker, said. “We’re all role models for somebody. But we're putting ourselves out on a stage, we're putting trackers on us and we're risking failure in front of a lot of people because we believe that embracing failure in our lives is the only way that we move forward.”
Project Adventrus genesis
Todd left his corporate job in 2012 with hopes to find something more meaningful and fulfilling to pour himself into. His search led him to making half the money he used to and starting a nonprofit based in Marquette, 906 Adventure Team, where he is the director of adventure. Rather than climb the corporate ladder, Todd spends his days helping people discover the best version of themselves through outdoor adventure events. In turn, he has engaged people from ages 4 to 80 to promote this mission.
His nonprofit has hosted several successful events, bike clubs, and even virtual events to encourage finding one’s limits amid the coronavirus pandemic in 2020.
“We kept telling the public through our variety of channels that 2020 is the year to adapt,” Todd said. “Do the best that you can in bad circumstances.”
Once their event season ended, he found himself looking at a 10-day, 1,000-mile biking route of the U.P. he made years ago.
“A lot of people use the word leadership as a noun — identifying themselves as leaders by talking about things they do. I see leadership as a verb — we need less talking, fewer hashtags and more doing,” Todd said. “If I am going to stand in front of parents, kids, and adults and encourage them to pursue their best-self through outdoor adventure and being 1% better every day, I better be setting a high bar for myself.”
After phoning friend Marc Salm, it was decided they would embark on the journey together in October 2020. It gave them a new challenge and people at home something to keep up with. In the end, the two made it to Marquette, having experienced more snow in that October week than the U.P. did in November and December that year. Having not finished the entire ride by day 10, Marc and Todd decided they would come back to try again this year, unbeknownst to their families.
With more time to plan and train, the mileage and days have increased, and the team has grown.
Meet the team
It was important to Todd to include two women on the team because he believes building a healthy, strong and vibrant community means balancing the representation of men and women. In both the nonprofit and its events, he has echoed this belief. It only made sense to ripple that through to Project Adventrus. The decision was also in response to seeing several male-only or female-only rides or rides where there is only one man or one woman.
“We want to demonstrate that we can do this together, two men and two women, and have it not be about anything other than just creating a healthy community — showing that men and women can collaborate under very difficult circumstances,” Todd said.
This year’s riders are as follows:
- Todd Poquette, 47, from Marquette, MI
- Marc Salm, 47, from Winneconne, WI
- Liz Belt, 39, from Marquette, MI
- Kelsy Kellerman, 41, from DePere, WI
Logistics: A route, a packing list and very little planning
Bikers will take off at 8 a.m. on May 22 from Brockway Mountain Drive in the Keweenaw Peninsula. They will head southwest along the U.P.’s coast toward Wisconsin and follow it for the next 16 days until they reach Brockway Mountain Drive again. The route has never been done before, and it’s mostly off-grid while still highlighting the U.P.’s communities.
Some days, the group may go beyond their 100-mile daily goal, but they will make decisions of when to stop as a team. Splitting up isn’t an option. At night, Liz and Kelsy will sleep in tents and sleeping bags, while Todd and Marc have opted to reside in the trees with their hammocks and tarps. As the planner and creator of Project Adventrus, Todd has a semi-better understanding of what’s happening, but ultimately, the group will wake each morning not sure where they will be the next day.
“If you over structure your plan on a 16-day adventure like this, all it takes is one thing on one day to completely disrupt the plan,” Todd said. “And then the whole plan is shot. So we're exceptionally flexible and we're just going to roll with the punches every day.”
Each rider can be tracked and contacted by their family members, and each rider’s spouse and children will appear on the route, too. The catch? None of the riders know when that will happen.
“There's no way we'd be able to do this without the support of our families,” Todd said. “If you're going to go race 100 miles, 1,600 miles or even 20 miles, a lot of times your family is involved in helping make that happen and we've always wanted to highlight the sacrifices they make for us. It's kind of their version of the adventure because we don't know when we're going to see them or where, but we know at some point we will.”
Packing for a 16-day adventure in which you can’t guarantee location and weather can be daunting, but the Project Adventrus team is treating it like a modified backpacking adventure. They’ll bring the following items:
- Bikes — two of which will be Michigan-made Bearclaw bikes with plus wheelsets (much larger tires than usual) built for the ruggedness of the Upper Peninsula
- Core equipment to fix the bikes in the field for any mechanical issues
- Three to four days of food on each rider at all times to try and make sure they’re prepared to bridge space between the cities because the U.P. is spread out.
- Sleep system materials (tents, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, hammocks, tarps, down quilts, etc.)
- Waterproof stuff sacks for all gear
- Multi-purpose clothing to sleep and ride in
- Lights for when hitting 100 miles means riding until midnight
- Each bike is equipped with a dynamo hub generator, which creates power as they roll. That power runs to headlights on the bike and helps charge all electrical devices needed. These systems are standard in Germany but a niche product in the U.S.
When embarking on a 16-day circumnavigation adventure, you can’t be too picky of an eater. Most of the food is freeze-dried and the goal is to replenish as many calories as possible.
“We have as many calories as we can carry without getting too crazy because you burn so many calories every day it's impossible to replace all of them,” Todd said.
Training for 1,600 miles
Each rider’s training has been up to themselves. Liz is a cycling trainer and instructor so work and training have coincided over the last few months. Marc has been riding his bike a ridiculously large amount, which is the best thing you can do to train for a ridiculously large mileage, Todd said. Both Kelsey and Todd have worked with Rob Lee, a United Kingdom cyclist who has very structured and intentional endurance training.
The physical training is easy compared to training the mind for something like Project Adventrus.
“With anything in life, you can only focus on what you can control — so I know right now what I can control is my preparation and my training up until this point, on Friday,” Todd said. “I know, going out there Saturday morning that I have done absolutely everything I can for the last six months, and never missed a workout. What I don't know from Saturday forward is what's going to happen. That's where you just have to be completely flexible and prepared to adapt to whatever life throws at you.”
Track Project Adventrus from home
Anyone will be able to participate in Project Adventrus from home by following along online. You can see approximately where in the Upper Peninsula the team is by using Trackleaders. Updates from the team will be shared on the Project Adventrus Facebook and Instagram pages.
After the outdoor adventure ends in June, you can check back here on our blog for a follow-up with all the riders about their experience. Videographer Aaron Peterson will also be creating a 10-minute film about Project Adventrus, which you’ll be able to find on his Instagram.
“You would think looking at it through the common societal lens that there is no way in hell that any of us would ever be able to shoehorn this into our life because this just doesn't fit into what we've painted life as a modern American family to be,” Todd said. “It's trying to say anything is possible. If you can make the daily decisions that will eventually lead you to whatever place it is you want to get to — a 1,600-mile ride or whatever your passion is — it's possible.”
Once the team returns, the route will be published and made accessible to the public. Maybe you want to find your limits, too. The Upper Peninsula has plenty of outdoor recreation and adventure waiting for you. Discover what you’re capable of and find your best self up here.
The following partners made Project Adventrus possible
Edward Jones - Financial Advisor: Christian Verardi
West End Ski & Trail
Broken Spoke Bike Studio
Intrepid Cycling Co.
The Mariner North
Talent Acquisition Group LLC