What is a great way to see the coast of Maine, the mysterious sights of Europe and all the wonders of our great nation? By bicycle, of course.
A Buffalo company called Teen Treks realized this several years ago and has been changing the lives of teens ever since.
For the past 13 summers, Teen Treks has been providing teens with fun adventures.
Cliff Madell started Teen Treks when the company he had been working for decided to no longer offer bike trips. Madell said he had witnessed the character and attitude of teens change for the better because of bicycling experiences.
"He [Cliff] started Teen Treks as a way to build these bike trips back up, so when Tyler [Cliff's son] became of age, he could experience those trips," says Benjamin Goldberg, assistant director for Teen Treks, which is located on Porter Avenue.
A lot of thought and care goes into every part of these bicycling excursions. The trips are chosen based on the interests young people have in that area and whether those areas are bike friendly. From there, each trip's distance and amount of elevation change is evaluated so the difficulty of the trips can be measured. The trips are then separated into easy, medium and challenging categories, so whether participants bike as a hobby or for sport, they can find a trip suitable to their skill levels. These trips are then double-checked before every season.
Two adult trip leaders and 12 teens go on each trip. On the average day of a typical trip, a teen will bike about 40 miles. The day starts with a 7:30 a.m. wake-up followed by breakfast. The group gets on the road around 9 a.m., and stops to eat lunch around noon. Then after biking another four hours or so, they reach where they will stay for the night. There they'll see the sights, explore the town or just sit around a campfire.
For any teens who might be interested in taking a biking trip, there are a few things "trekkers" would recommend.
"Ask around about what to pack," says Megan Popham, a home-schooled junior from Perry.
"I only asked one person and overpacked. You don't need to bring a lot with you."
Megan participated in a Lake Ontario trek in June.
Sarah Lister, a Teen Treks trip leader, says, "Practice riding your bike with gear. Unlike other trips, with Teen Treks you carry all your belongings with you. So make sure you practice."
Jonny Cobb, a 14-year-old freshman at Bloomfield High School in the Finger Lakes region, went on the Buffalo-Toronto trek in the summer of 2011 and the C and O Canal Trek, which goes from Pittsburgh to Washington, D.C., this past summer.
"Be yourself, be outgoing and try to make friends," Jonny advises.
Teen Treks offers many trips, but some seem extraordinary, such as the across-America trek.
"It's the dream ride," says Goldberg. "You dip your tires in the Pacific Ocean, turn east, and don't look back."
Other biking trips take place in Europe and Canada.
For those who would rather stay closer to home, there are trips around Lake Ontario or Niagara-to-Toronto treks.
"I looked down a mountain and ate an entire meal with chopsticks," says Megan.
"The favorite part of my job is hearing the stories," says Goldberg.
For more trekker stories, check out the blog on Teen Treks' website, http://www.teentreks.com;http://www.teentreks.com. For more information, call 566-7908 or find them on Facebook.