By Ray Balogh
WINONA LAKE — Brent Wildman’s quest to find a way of using “adventure as a catalyst for bonding people in spiritual relationships” started with a 100-mile bicycle trip to Lake Michigan with his brother Kent one summer 44 years ago.
During the next few years their excursions added more fellow travelers and expanded to ski trips and mountain bike adventures.
As Wildman recounts the fruits of those labors, “The results of following the Lord’s adventure? We have baptized men in the waters of the mountains, married couples on remote beaches and trekked into volcanoes.
“Most importantly, people have taken on the greatest challenge of all: a life fully surrendered to Jesus Christ. Every day we rise to go a new distance with him, physically, mentally and spiritually.”
Seeing the changes those trips made in people’s lives prompted Wildman to form the 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, 2nd Mile Adventures, based in Winona Lake, which now offers a number of weekly, monthly and annual family-friendly excursions and activities.
Though the coronavirus pandemic scuttled many of the last year’s activities, Executive Director Nate Gernert is optimistic about this year’s offerings.
“The biggest thing is our focus on being able to serve the people in our community,” he said. “We take the things we enjoy and turn that around to serve the community, using bikes as a tool.”
Gernert referenced weekly Saturday morning bicycle trips, which draw 20 to 30 participants
“We usually start early to mid-April, when the weather and light cooperate. We will ride as late in the season as we possibly can,” he said. “Some years we have gone all the way through November.”
The group meets at 7 a.m. in the parking lot in front of Trailhouse Village Bicycles in Winona Lake and returns about 8:30 or 9 a.m.
“We have one trail ride and two road rides,” said Gernert. “The A group challenges each other in distance and speed. The B group is more of a social no-drop ride, where we do not leave anyone behind.”
Participation in the rides is free. Riders are encouraged to bring their own bikes, but 2nd Mile Adventures often have a couple bicycles in reserve for those who need them.
The organization also hosts Chain-Breakers, a ministry whose mission is “to show youth the love of Christ and challenge them in service, adventure, mentorship and character building.”
The group, open to middle and high school students, meets weekly year-round.
The students have performed “hundreds of hours of community service within the local community,” including leaf raking, limb pickup and snow shoveling for area individuals, schools and ministries.
The group has done painting at Beaman Home; mucked out horse stalls for Isaiah 11 equine therapy ministry; cleaned floors, lockers, baseboards and windows at local schools; helped the organization’s sister organization, 2nd Mile Missions, move equipment and boxes; and regularly assist Tracey’s Trailer with its mobile bicycle safety education program.
2nd Mile Adventures collaborates with Heart of the City Bicycles, a Fort Wayne-based charity, to “help the underserved maintain their bikes,” Gernert said.
Heart of the City serves the homeless community in Fort Wayne, providing them with bicycles for transportation. “They have a mobile bike shop once a month in various locations in Warsaw and Winona Lake. Check our Facebook for the upcoming schedule.”
Plans for activities in 2021 are just getting underway, having been delayed by the uncertainties caused by pandemic restrictions. Details are still being carved out, but hopefully the future will hold:
• Family ski night at Bittersweet Ski Resort in Otsego, Mich., in mid-February. The event will likely be scheduled for a Sunday, with the two-hour trip commencing early afternoon. “We will be skiing for about five hours before heading back home,” said Gernert.
• Wildflowers Spring Trip in April for women aged 14 and over. The weekend trip will involve biking, hiking, camping and discussing “Questions for Our Quest” at Brown County State Park. Meals will be provided Saturday and Sunday morning.
• Spring motorcycle trail ride, late spring. Participants will ride trails in the Daniel Boone National Forest on the Tennessee-Kentucky border during “a weekend of riding, campfires, good food and lots of bench racing.”
• Dunes day ride in June, featuring 40-, 70- and 105-mile routes meandering through Bremen, North Manchester, Lagro, Roann, Wabash and Laketon. The 105-mile trip starts at Warren Dunes State Park in Sawyer, Mich., and ends in Winona Lake.
• Divide Ride, July. The excursion in Montana and Wyoming will take bikers along Bear Tooth Highway and into Yellowstone National Park. Gernert anticipates having 12 to 18 participants this year.
• Fall mountain bike ride, scheduled from Thursday through Sunday, Oct. 21-23, at Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. The bus will leave Winona Lake Wednesday evening and return late Saturday night or early Sunday morning.
The organization’s 41st annual Colorado ski trip for sixth- through 12th-grade students has been canceled this year.
Other events, such as a reprise of last year’s family ride on the Pumpkinvine Trail in Elkhart County, will be posted on the organization’s website.
A prerequisite for participating in any of the events is signing a liability waiver, and Gernert suggests anyone interested should pass a physical exam before participating.
2nd Mile Adventures’ “biggest need” at present is financial donations “to allow us to keep providing Chain-Breakers. We don’t expect the kids to pay for anything and not all parents can afford it.”
Periodic fundraisers are announced on the organization’s Facebook page.
For more information, to sign up for an event or to make a donation, visit www.2ndmileadventures.org or www.facebook.com/secondmileadventures or email Gernert at [email protected]