Adventure Speaker Series continues with Troy native Jordan Hart

By Kristen Wicker

Photo: Troy’s Jordan Hart tries to stay ahead of the fog on his last day of travel on the Underground Railroad Route

In fall 2016, Jordan Hart embarked on a journey that put his body, spirit, and perspective to the test. Hart, an outdoor enthusiast and Troy-based photographer, bicycled 2,007 miles from Owen Sound, Ontario, to Mobile, Alabama.

The Adventure Cycling Association’s Underground Railroad Route follows a 2,007-mile corridor from the Deep South to Canada, and was famously traveled by thousands of enslaved African-Americans seeking freedom in the north. It took Hart 30 days to complete his bike tour of the Underground Railroad. “I would start to complain about being sore and tired, but then I would remind myself that people did this by foot in the winter so they could walk across the Ohio River,” Hart says. “It puts things into perspective.”

Hart, 29, was initially drawn to this route because of its local appeal and seasonally favorable conditions. Because his journey began in mid-October, he decided to travel from north to south to avoid chilly mid-November temperatures and challenging
riding conditions.

“I thought it was cool that the route went through the Dayton area, and traveling from north to south made sense for the time of the year,” Hart says.

Ohio was home to several prominent abolitionists who played a role in the success of the Underground Railroad, including Levi Coffin, a Cincinnati resident who helped 3,000 slaves escape to Canada. Hart’s route took him across Ohio and fairly close to home through Wilberforce, Xenia, and Springboro.

Hart prepared for his journey by gathering maps, making sure his gear was in top shape, and preparing for situations that might challenge him on the road. With a repair kit, extra spokes, gear, and two days-worth of food and water, he began his adventure. Stopping once daily to grab a bite at local eateries and get supplies, Hart also camped in the evenings. Occasionally, he stayed with friends and in hotels, but a new friend led him to his favorite historic stop along the route.

“In St. Catharines, Ontario, a farmer was nice enough to take me in for the night, and we stopped by a church where Harriet Tubman stayed for eight years,” Hart recalls.

Even for an accomplished outdoorsman, there were many challenges along the route. From broken spokes to an 80-mile stretch without any nearby amenities in case of emergency, his biggest challenge was getting back on his bike each day.

“I had a friend who contacted me to tell me he wasn’t working at the moment and that I could reach out if I needed him to get me at any point,” Hart says. “I couldn’t seriously think about it.”

Hart will share his story during the biennial Adventure Speaker Series this February. From the history of the Underground Railroad to his own self-discoveries, Hart hopes to inspire Daytonians to plan their own adventures.

“I realized that I’m stronger than I thought I was and I learned to be flexible,” Hart says. “You earn it, every mile. Every landscape, you appreciate.”

The Adventure Speaker Series

A partnership between Wright State University and Five Rivers MetroParks, the Adventure Speaker Series is a chance to hear captivating stories from local and nationally known outdoorsmen and women. Kicking off on Thursday, Feb. 9, these talks cover a gamut of outdoor adventure subject matter from backpacking to river expeditions. Guests will be inspired to plan their own adventure after hearing speakers share their stories of endurance, overcoming challenges and perseverance.

The Adventure Speaker Series presentations are free and held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Guests of all ages are welcome to attend.

Bike Touring the Underground Railroad
Thursday, Feb. 9, Wright State University Student Union

Join Jordan Hart for a bicycling adventure following the Underground Railroad, from Owen Sound, Ontario to Mobile, Alabama.

For more pictures from Hart’s bike tour of the Underground Railroad, please visit JordanHartPhoto.tumblr.com.

Bikepacking the Great Divide
Wednesday, Feb. 15, Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

The Great Divide Mountain Bike Route is the world’s premier off-pavement tour that crisscrosses the Rockies from Canada to the Mexican border. Learn about Todd Soprych’s more than 2,700-mile trip of exploration on two wheels.

Backpacking the Buckeye Trail
Thursday, Feb. 23, WSU Student Union

Follow the blue blazes around the 1,444-mile trail that circumnavigates Ohio with Chuck and Beth Hewett as your guides. This pair of experienced long-distance backpackers are literally writing the book on the nation’s longest loop trail.

The Great Great Miami River Expedition
Thursday, March 2, Wegerzyn Gardens MetroPark

Join Chad Ingle and Jeremy Cox as they share stories from their 160-mile thru-paddle adventure down the Great Miami River. Learn what is takes to plan a multi-day kayaking trip and how you can plan a kayaking adventure.

The Adventure Speakers Series runs Thursday, Feb. 9—Thursday, March 2. For more information, please visit TheAdventureSummit.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer Lauren Lemons at LaurenLemons@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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