On a cold afternoon, Geeg Wiles leads me to his car, parked in front of Hoosac Hall. From the car, he pulls out Ahab, a three-foot-tall, 40-pound bright-yellow wooden statue of a fisherman, which may be North Adams’ most well-traveled resident. He balances Ahab on the car’s trunk.
“As you can see, he has some tattoos now,” Wiles says, referring to several signatures of X-game participants on the ornament.
The story of Ahab begins during Wiles’ sophomore year in college, at the University of New England. Wiles heard a story about one of his parents’ close friends, who was in the air force.
“He and his friends would commandeer a random lawn ornament before leaving,” Wiles said. “During their time on leave, they would take a lot of pictures, and eventually would fill a scrapbook with the ornament doing all these things and going to all these places. When they came home, they’d drop off the ornament with the scrapbook at the person’s house.”
Wiles loved this idea, and he and his friends set off to find an ornament of their own.
“We were just driving around one day, and we saw him and said, ‘This is it.’”
Wiles and his friends snagged the ornament, bestowed it with the name Ahab, and set off on their own adventures.
“The big difference is that we never gave him back,” Wiles said while laughing.
Ahab has done everything – the former lawn decoration has visited national parks all across the country, gone skydiving and whitewater rafting, and attended the Wilmington Beer Festival in North Carolina. Everywhere Ahab goes, he draws interest.
“People always wonder why we’re carrying him around,” Wiles said.
This past September, “Ahab’s Adventures” participated in the Red Bull Flugtag in Philadelphia. The Flugtag is held by the energy drink company in 35 cities around the world throughout the year. Participants are challenged to create their own human-powered flying machines.
“We built a pirate ship and pretty much crash and burned,” Wiles said, referring to how their craft flew less than 20 feet away from the pier. Ahab and his team gave a spirited performance, however, before falling 30 feet into the water. But to Wiles, this hardly matters.
“The whole point is if a lawn ornament can do this, you have no excuse. He’s more travelled than anyone I know, even me.”
Ahab and Wiles left the University of New England and returned to Wiles’ hometown of North Adams. Wiles currently works at MCLA, teaching a biology lab. Wiles noticed that many people didn’t always take advantage of the local businesses around North Adams.
“People claim there’s nothing to do here,” he said. “Or, everything is too expensive.”
Wiles and his friends saw a remedy for this – they came up with the idea of turning Ahab’s Adventures t-shirts into a wearable discount. Starting on January 1, 12 local businesses agreed to offer deals to customers wearing the Ahab t-shirts. For fifteen dollars, Wiles said, people can purchase an official Captain Ahab t-shirt. The business then can pick a deal and the day they’ll offer it.
“We’d like to offer new deals every four months or so,” Wiles said. The businesses now include Supreme Pizza and Wings, Jack’s Hot Dog Stand, the Moonlight Diner in Williamstown, and Zoar Outdoors in Charlemont, which offers kayaking, white water rafting, zip line canopy tours.
Wiles says everyone is benefiting from these t-shirt deals.
“The whole theme is people should get out and do things,” he said. “We’re getting the word out about Ahab and his message, and businesses are getting people to come out and do things during these slow times.”
What will Ahab’s next adventure be? The annual Thunderbolt Ski Race, of course – a 1.6 mile long ski race down the famous Thunderbold Ski trail on Mt. Greylock, which takes place on Saturday, Feb. 12.
Ahab will also be heading to the first annual Boston Urban Iditarod, an urban adventure race, in March.
To order a t-shirt and check out t-shirt deals with local businesses, visit their website: www.ahabsadventures.com
And don’t forget to follow them on their Facebook!