Northland College student Liz Downey biked 1,287 miles through wind, rain, sleet and snow around Lake Superior in May—and earned six credits for her efforts, a fitting finale to her college career.

Downey first circled Lake Superior in a van with sixteen classmates during May term her freshman and sophomore years as part of Superior Connections, a theme-based curriculum focused on the natural and human histories within the Lake Superior watershed.

With only one month remaining before graduation, Downey and friend, Vanessa Van Cleve, pedaled through two countries and three states as they biked their way through thirty mph winds, blinding blizzards, ice storms and a stretch of highway with no shoulder and big trucks.

Downey earned credit in outdoor education for documenting the planning that went into the trip — including research, a risk management plan, menus, equipment lists, a detailed trip itinerary and then for submitting a journal after the trip. She earned three credits in sociology by looking at values around water usage around the lake, developing a thesis, and writing a paper.

“These are things that I’ve been studying and thinking about since my freshman and sophomore Superior Connections trips,” she said.

Downey had only biked recreationally before the trip but during the three weeks circumnavigating Lake Superior she fell in love with bike touring. She and Van Cleve plan to bike the Keewanaw Peninsula in October and maybe Lake Michigan next year.

“It’s actually a pretty fast way to get around the lake—you can’t walk around the lake in three weeks.”


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