Cranksgiving: Your New #OptOutside Thanksgiving Tradition

Every Thanksgiving, Americans share a meal and celebrate the things we are grateful for - all the immeasurable things like family, friends, love, and peace. 

And the next day, we fight with strangers over Black Friday deals on earbuds and sweaters. 

It’s time for a new Thanksgiving tradition. 


This year, REI announced they will not just be closed on Thanksgiving Day, but also Black Friday.  This comes in response to public outcry about the unfairness of having to work during a holiday meant to be spent with family, and a growing concern over the commoditization of the holiday season. 

The outdoor lifestyle retailer will pay their employees for the time off, and encourages them - along with REI customers - to spend the day outdoors, doing something they love with their loved ones.  

REI created the hashtag #OptOutside, asking people to share photos of their fun Friday adventures, urging workers and customers to take themselves out of the rat race and be neither “worker” nor “consumer” of material goods, and instead enjoy the simple human pleasures of being with loved ones, being outdoors, and experiencing life. 

Big-name retailers like Costco, Nordstrom, Home Depot and Barnes & Noble have followed suit, closing for Thanksgiving. Fortune Magazine reported on the trend, and The Huffington Post picked up the #OptOutside hashtag, giving readers 10 ways to #OptOut, and spend the Friday after Thanksgiving outdoors. 

So, it looks like America is ready for a new Thanksgiving tradition. 

May I introduce Cranksgiving. 


Part scavenger hunt, part charity drive, Cransgiving is a nation-wide, family-friendly cycling event where bikers race around to local grocery stores, gathering as much food as their bikes can haul. The food is then donated to a shelter or food bank in need. The cyclists who hauled the most weight are named the winners!

This year, Tempe held it’s first Cranksgiving, hosted by Bike That AZ Up

From city to city, the Cransgiving format remains the same: participants meet on the weekend before Thanksgiving, form teams (sometimes of strangers), contribute about $10 per person towards groceries, and are given a list of grocers and items needed.  And you’re off!

So I showed up to the meet-up spot, unsure if I would even participate and was immediately absorbed in to a team of some of my friends. We were slow, and participating for fun, so our group morphed into a kind of caravan with several other groups including a family group of moms and kids, plus a Canadian couple who had never been to Tempe, but showed up after reading about Cranksgiving online.

We rode all over Tempe, taking selfies at stoplights and swerving through back alleys, chatting about bikes and routes and getting to know each other. It was truly the most beautiful way to spend a Sunday afternoon. 

All the teams arrived at the meet-up spot to drop off our groceries, and Bike That AZ Up officials conducted a very official weigh in that required a lot of calculations and Ikea bags. ;)

Our team carried 300 pounds between 4 people, and the winning team hauled over 700 pounds of groceries. All together, the teams gathered and donated over 2,200 pounds of food. 

Let me repeat that for you: TWO THOUSAND POUNDS OF FOOD!!! 

The donation center was overjoyed, since apparently this year had been tight for them. 

If you didn’t get to participate in Cranksgiving this year, it’s not too late. Look up the Cranskgiving in your city, or start one of your own, even if it is just a few friends (it’s completely free and instructions are online).



Start a new Thanksgiving tradition! 

It’s not too late to opt “out” of the commercialization of the holiday season and opt instead for meaningful experiences with family and friends in the outdoors. 

The Bicycle Nomad Cafe is hosting it’s first annual #OptOutside “Black Friday Bike Ride” through historic central Phoenix.

Arizona State Parks teamed with REI to provide free park entry to visitors on Black Friday, in the #OptOutside spirit. 

If you live in colder areas, consider taking the dog for a sunset stroll or - for my Chicago people - even making a snowman!

Whatever you choose to do, I hope you get to #OptOutside, and enjoy the holidays with the people you love, doing the things you love!