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The Best Summer Ever

Summer in the spring of our lives. There is a place in all of us that, given the chance, would sacrifice greatly to feel the freedom that accompanies the summers of our youth. Bunk beds and archery lessons, a bathing suit that never quite dries, pranks with camp counselors, night after night of campfire songs. What’s not to love? For those among us who look back fondly on those warm weeks (and may even tip toward nostalgia from time to time), summer is the season to take off the tie, clip in, and set out in search of a place that sparks those memories to life again.

Summers can be hard on a bicycle company. Work is heavy, timelines are tight, and patience is thin. But, like anybody else, we just want to ride our bikes in the best weather of the year, and we believe it’s precisely when you’re too busy to ride that an escape does the most good.

So a few of us booked a long weekend and staked our claim on the year’s best days, setting out to capture the spirit of summer.

The scene of our escape is Camp Wandawega, a rustic summer resort perpetually frozen in an episode of "Happy Days,” located 50 very rideable miles south of Trek's Waterloo, Wisconsin, headquarters. What we found, aside from more than a few turtles were afternoons filled with bikes, shuffleboard, shenanigans, all re-hashed over a round of beers around a roaring campfire.

You wouldn’t know it now, but Camp Wandawega was once labeled a "bawdy house of ill fame.” The camp was born as Wisconsin played out its infamous role as a close and liberally minded respite for early twentieth-century urbanites seeking escape from prohibition-era Chicago. Located a mere hour-and-a-half drive northwest of the Windy City, Wandawega has operated across the entire spectrum of propriety. It was founded as a hotel (speakeasy) and later managed as a brothel by its most notorious proprietor (some would say Madam), Anna Beckford Peck. Wandawega's integrity was eventually salvaged by a family of first-generation Polish immigrants in the 1950s. The Wandawega Lake Resort of the 1950s reflected the country's carefree mood, and the photos tell a story of a utopian summer retreat drenched in sun, ice cold Coca-Cola, and Elvis Presley tunes on the jukebox of the main lodge.

In the 1960s, the resort became a summer camp organized by an order of Latvian priests sponsored by the Vatican and was managed as such before being left to its fate in the 1980s. It was later rescued by advertising executive wonder couple David Hernandez, a former camper, and Tereasa Surratt, and lovingly restored to reflect its most cherished days.

Today, the camp serves as a living memorial of a time when America basked in the post-war days of prosperity, promise, and innocence. It smells of leather, wood-smoke, and pine. To spend time there is to relive youth’s finest moments—the toasted marshmallows and first kisses, the early morning swims and late night fires. This is Camp Wandawega’s gift: it is as much a reminder as it is a refuge for all who seek to capture and hold once again our purest moments, to recalibrate and recall, if even just for a day or two, the Best Summer Ever.

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