Our C-U Women Outdoors series is all about highlighting the women in our local RuggedOutdoors community who are passionate about the outdoors. Meet Annette Stumpf, Research Architect for U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who enjoys biking and sailing.
Name: Annette Stumpf
Occupation: Research Architect, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory
Annette works as a Senior Research Architect at the Corps of Engineers, Construction Engineering Research Laboratory. She is a leader in CERL’s Sustainable Design and Development research effort and is a member of the US Green Building Council (USGBC). She works to improve the quality and sustainability of the Army buildings and communities. She evaluates new technologies and practices to help reduce the environmental footprint and save resources.
What does the “outdoors” mean to you?
I grew up camping and traveling to visit family in Montana every summer. One summer we camped in a tent for 6 weeks and drove through Canada to the west coast and back home. Traveling and being outside made me appreciate the natural environment and the importance of conserving the special places and resources we have. I love traveling and being active outside- mountains, beaches, water, open areas, but I also love experiencing new cities and buildings, too.
If the weather is nice on a Fall Saturday, what can we find you doing?
I might be mountain biking at Kickapoo, or road biking, or sailing our sailboat at Clinton Lake. In the winter I ski or ride my fat bike in the snow, and warmer weather brings me to the beach in the Outer Banks to go windsurfing or kite surfing. I’ve always been a water person — I was on swim team, raced sailboards for years, and am now learning to kite surf.
What started your passion for cycling?
I rode my commuter bike on a 25 mile breast cancer ride and discovered it was way easier and more fun than I thought it would be. My husband bought me a nice road bike for my anniversary and I learned how to ride safely with others in a group. I love road biking with friends and seeing the country outside C-U, but I really enjoy mountain biking better. Being in the woods, riding challenging trails makes you totally focus on what you’re doing. You don’t have to think about cars and traffic, and mountain biking is a great cardio workout!
You are involved in several local community cycling groups like Prairie Cycle Club and Kickapoo Mountain Bike Club — why is community important to you?
I didn’t have the confidence to ride in the country by myself and felt safer with more experienced riders around. We look out for each other and that is important. I’ve met many wonderful active interesting people in these groups. My husband and I are also in the Champaign Ski Club (now the Champaign Adventure Club), and Clinton Lake Sailing Association (CLSA).
What do you think of the Kickapoo Rail Trail and other community efforts to make biking and cycling easier and safer?
The KRT is a wonderful addition to our community! It’s a safe space for people to walk/run/bike. Connecting Kickapoo and the other communities to Urbana-Champaign builds an awesome safe corridor for people to enjoy the outdoors without being challenged by cars. People who walk and cycle reduce their environmental footprint and integrate exercise into their daily lives which makes them healthier. I’m very thankful to all those who devoted years of their time to establish the KRT project, and also to members of Champaign County Bikes, whose motto is Making Champaign County the Most Bicycle Friendly County in the Midwest. (Check out safe bicycle route maps for the CU area on their website.)
What could Champaign-Urbana do better to make biking easier and safer for everyone?
Early education in safe bicycling to school could help all of us, because those students learn how much fun cycling can be, and hopefully become bicycle friendly drivers. We have such a mobile and changing population in the community that there is a continuous conversation about safety on our shared roads. Some cyclists just feel safer on paths without cars, and the growing network of bike lanes improves their commuting opportunities.
Everyone needs to get involved because each of us can make a difference in our community. I report road hazards to the cities using the app SeeClickFix. You can take a photo with your cell phone, and submit a geo-tagged image and comment when you see big pot holes or road debris or hazards. The city responds and fixes the problems! Also we need to advocate for good bike parking infrastructure at all the schools and throughout the community. Nobody wants their expensive bike stolen.
Any tips or advice for someone just getting in to cycling?
Take time to talk to more experienced people, ask advice, and keep learning. Prairie Cycle Club has group rides for everyone from beginners to fast racers, so go meet some new people and ask questions. They will help you. Look at their website. Mountain biking has a different learning curve! I attended the Brown County Women’s Mountain Biking Clinic 3 years and learned the skills I needed to master challenging trails. Also buy a GOOD U LOCK for your bike! Cable locks can be cut too easily. Create a contact on your phone with a photo of you with your bike, the serial number and bike details so you can report it if stolen.
What is the most adventurous place you’ve ever cycled?
I mountain biked an epic 30 mile loop around DuPont State Park near Brevard NC. The trail includes Cedar Rock (slickrock) and my favorite trail Ridge Line which is a very fast downhill flow trail. We go there on the way to the coast to windsurf. Brown County State Park in Indiana is wonderful, and the Kickapoo Mountain Bike trail is the best mountain bike trail in Illinois!
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
My mother told me “You can do anything if you try hard enough.”
What’s at the top of your bucket list?
I want to go on a long bike packing/camping adventure. I haven’t tried that yet.
Is there anything you're working on/a project that you are a part of that you're most excited about right now?
I’m leading a project at work to establish an off-road autonomous vehicle testing area so we can identify and test new technologies to transport people and supplies. There is so much to learn!