TRAVERSE CITY — Sally Black and family were so confident of their success at Traverse City's first Adventurama! that they named their bicycle squad “Skid Marks” — and dressed to suit.
“We actually ran a bike tire through some black paint and rolled it on T-shirts,” said Black, whose squad — including husband Chad and son Charlie, 13 — will defend their title at the second annual Norte! youth cycling club event Sept. 9.
Norte! officials call Adventurama! a game of strategy played atop bicycles on the neighborhood streets and trails of Traverse City. They bill the event as part scavenger hunt-urban expedition-fundraiser-geocaching-costume contest — and full adventure.
Squads of 3-5 members have two hours to cycle to several “treasure” locations across the city, using a treasure map with clues. Along the way, they complete and document challenges for bonus points.
The squad with the most points wins.
“It’s not about speed. It’s about strategy and how best to use those two hours,” said Ty Schmidt, Norte! executive director. “The reward is to get out and have fun and be challenged — and to help Norte! do good.”
Black and her family came in first at last year’s inaugural event, held in pouring rain.
“It was really fun working as a family together,” Black said. “It was a good time and it was just the right amount of difficulty.”
Schmidt said Norte! borrowed the idea from Portland, Oregon’s five-year-old Bike Scout Scavenger Hunt, one of the city’s most popular cycling events.
“We call it a scavenger hunt because it’s the easiest way to describe it. But it’s a strategy game on the streets of Portland,” said Ayleen Crotty, event co-founder and director of the “Films by Bike” festival featuring cycle-theme films. “It’s a great way to get people out there, having fun, using their brains, exploring the area and interacting with people.”
Crotty said she and her co-founder took a lot of the game’s concepts — like drawing Challenge Cards worth bonus points — from actual board games like Ticket to Ride.
“We wanted to take a lot of the concepts of board games, because we love the fun and strategy of board games, and put them out in the real world and on the streets and on bikes, because that’s what we do,” she said.
This year’s Adventurama! begins at noon Sept. 9, with check-in at Right Brain Brewery, followed by a squad meeting. Squads get their maps, strategize and draw optional Challenge Cards starting at 12:50 p.m. before being released on the course at 1 p.m. All teams must be back by 3 p.m. in time for the awards ceremony and after-party at 4 p.m.
New this year is a 10th treasure location and the lifting of last year’s requirement that all squads have at least one member under 18. But most of last year’s popular features will be back, including bonus points for wearing costumes and docking points for wearing Spandex.
Black is so confident her squad will retain its title that she volunteered to give up its trophy — a bike part mounted on wood — to this year’s winner.
“We volunteered to pass our trophy down the line, but I’m not expecting to have to pass it down the line,” she said.
Squads can register online or at the event for a $50 donation per squad. Proceeds will support the Traverse City area’s Safe Routes to School, which encourages kids to move more and sit less by pedaling or walking to school.
Visit https://elgruponorte.org/adventurama/ for more information.