Friends, fun and adventure at Bikes & Barnyards Summer Camp

Posted 6/28/19

PITTSBORO — Even a severe storm couldn’t derail the more than 30 youngsters who endured a 17-mile bike ride from Pittsboro to Jordan Lake last Thursday as a part of the fourth Bikes & …

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Friends, fun and adventure at Bikes & Barnyards Summer Camp

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PITTSBORO — Even a severe storm couldn’t derail the more than 30 youngsters who endured a 17-mile bike ride from Pittsboro to Jordan Lake last Thursday as a part of the fourth Bikes & Barnyards Summer Camp.

The camp, for children aged 10 to 14, is a joint venture between Abundance NC and Kevin Hicks of Triangle Bikeworks. It provides an opportunity for young people “to learn and practice lessons in leadership, health, and wellness” through “bicycle-related education.”

The camp is open to intermediate-level cyclists. Throughout the week, the students blend learning about biking with learning about working on a farm. They work on basic bicycling skills then progress to more advanced challenges such as navigating obstacles and safe cycling for both bike trails and bike lanes. Before taking on the challenge of the 17-mile trek to Jordan Lake, the cyclists first travel from The Plant on Lorax Lane to Town Lake Park in Pittsboro. On two other days, the group practiced their new mountain biking skills. In between bike rides, the group learned about farming, milking goats, preparing farm-to-fork meals, and pollinators.

“I just really like mountain biking and I wanted a chance to get better at it,” said Durham camper Brooke Evans.

“I love to bike and I love farming,” V’tyia Hicks of Chapel Hill said. “This camp was recommended to my by one of my coaches and its epic!”

The week culminated with the ride from The Plant in Pittsboro to a campsite at Jordan Lake on Thursday. The cyclists gathered under a tent to receive their final instructions and reviewed hand signals before the big ride.

“We are about to go on a state highway,” Hicks told the group. “We will be calling out debris, rocks, glass and roadkill. We will ride and stop every two miles to check and make sure everyone is OK and is drinking enough water. We will have some hills to climb.”

The group — with faces painted, a la the warriors in the film “Braveheart” — assembled on their bikes, with helmets, and matching tie-dye shirts courtesy of Abundance NC founder Tami Schwerin’s son, Arlo Estill, who owns Hempsmith, a sustainable hemp clothing company based in Pittsboro. A bagpiper began to play, urging the group to brave their way forward. They were met by six Chatham County Sheriff’s deputies and Sheriff Mike Roberson to help prepare them for the journey and escort them on the trip. After a quick stop at the gas station, the group was off.

About halfway along their journey, word arrived that a severe thunderstorm warning had been issued in Chatham County, with a fast-moving cell moving their way.

“It was a little hectic,” Schwerin said. “About halfway to the lake, we could see the clouds coming. At one point I said to the Sheriff, ‘Can you take over?’ He got all the kids together and moved them all to Ultra Power Sport [on highway 64].”

“They were so great,” she continued. “They moved to make space for the kids.”

The campers, camp organizers and members of the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office rode out the storm at the store. Schwerin noted that while the storm raged, the deputies spent a lot of quality time with the campers, answering questions and teaching them about what it means to be in law enforcement.

“The [deputies] really had a lot of bonding time with the kids,” Schwerin said. “I am so grateful for this department. They’ve helped us every year and this year we needed all hands on deck. What a beautiful community event we had together.”

After the storm passed, blue skies returned and the group decided to get back on their bikes and finish their trek to Jordan Lake with escorts in tow. As the young riders turned into the camping area, steam still rising from the roadway, a rainbow appeared above them. The campers set up their tents, braved one more storm, and celebrated a clear evening with campfires, s’mores, and games.

“It was fun because of the adventure it was,” Ali Otto of Chapel Hill said.

Rachel Pellom of Durham admitted to being a little scared that the wind might push them over.

“I was worried that we wouldn’t camp, nervous that it would get canceled,” she said. “But we laughed. What happens happens. It’s a fun story to tell and there was a rainbow.”

“I thought it was scary, but friends said it was a big adventure,” Adjoa Colgan of Carrboro said. “But it was fun watching the power go in and out. Now I want to do it again and I’m glad we did it.”

“It was a really intense, magical experience,” Schwerin said. “We had just an amazing time. You gotta think on your feet and that was a great lesson for them.”

Casey Mann can be reached at CaseyMann@Chathamnr.com.

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