‘Don’t Blink’: Four men continuing ‘bucket list’ of adventures for TV series

Gregory Smith, right, and his cousin, Nick Smith, travel by raft down the Mississippi River during their quest to check off “bucket list” items on their “dream board” Their upcoming trips will be part of a travel/adventure series called “Don’t Blink,” which has the support of WNMU Public TV 13 and Wisconsin Public Television. (Photo courtesy of Gregory Smith)

MARQUETTE — You go to school, get a job, marry and then have kids. That’s the norm for many people, and each undertaking in itself usually is a good thing.

It can’t hurt, however, to have some out-of-the-way fun in between those major life events.

Twenty-year-old Gregory Smith of Milwaukee, who attends the University of Portland in Oregon, is checking off his “bucket list” of life events while he’s still young enough to do so.

Coming along for the ride are his three best friends: his cousin, Nick Smith of the Iron Mountain-Kingsford region, and Kevin Reardon and Owen Gibson, both of the Milwaukee area.

And not only are they going to try to rack up a bunch of adventures, they’re planning to do it for television.

It all started after Gregory Smith’s mother, 51-year-old Colleen Smith, died in April 2014.

“She had kind of a ‘dream board,’ Smith said in a telephone interview with The Mining Journal. “She was putting visions of how she wanted to live, various items like rafting the Grand Canyon, climbing a mountain.”

Although his mother didn’t make it to the Grand Canyon, she did go whitewater rafting on the Menominee River in the Upper Peninsula.

“She really loved that,” Smith said.

Unfortunately, Colleen Smith didn’t finish all her dream board items.

Following her funeral, however, the four decided to complete the list.

“It was just short of this moment in time where we all were very attuned to show short life is and we weren’t ready to just accept the standard track of life,” Reardon said in a news release. “Yes, there is something to be said for a great job, great kids, great house, etc., but what is the point of it all if you aren’t going out and being the best person you can be?”

Nick Smith chimed in: “People always talk. They talk about doing this, but no one actually does it.”

Gibson added: “No idea was too farfetched or ridiculous for the list.”

Last year, the four got into the full swing of the project.

“We started kind of with the simple stuff — milk a cow, jump off a bridge, ride an elephant,” said Gregory Smith, with the four taking trips with little money.

The dream board gave them a few ideas, even though they didn’t have a lot of cash.

“There were pictures of people climbing, so let’s throwing climbing a mountain on our list,” Gregory Smith said.

They came up with their own ideas too, using his mother’s inspiration to come up with their own combined list.

Already there are 273 items on the new and improved dream board.

“For us, it’s going to be a lifetime thing,” Gregory Smith said. “It’s really grown, but we’re working through it. It’s so much fun to do.”

Again, no idea is too farfetched.

This summer, the four are going after 14 new adventures. They include: filming across Lake Michigan, dancing with Miss Wisconsin, rafting the Wisconsin border of the Mississippi River, water skiing with the Tommy Bartlett water ski show, flying into the Oshkosh air show, living with the Amish, catching a touchdown pass from former Green Bay Packers quarterback Brett Favre and cooking dinner for Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

“If we put our minds to it and work at it, we can do it,” Gregory Smith said.

People needing a nudge in their lives to attempt at least one out-of-the-ordinary experience could take some inspiration from watching public television early next year.

Accompanying the four this summer will be a camera crew filming an eight-part travel/adventure series on their quest entitled “Don’t Blink.”

The crew will follow them as they chase their 14-item bucket list.

The series has the support of WNMU Public TV 13 and Wisconsin Public Television.

Gregory Smith said he and his friends had been going out all summer, and since he loves filming, he would shoot their activities as they went, putting them on YouTube to share with family and friends.

“They would get so into it,” the young filmmaker said. “They loved every minute of it.”

He shared their filmed fun with a former PBS producer who had worked with his mom.

Smith said that producer told him: ‘You have something here. You could make this into a show.”

So, that’s the plan.

A trailer for the series, tentatively named “Don’t Blink,” can be viewed at http://beforeweblink.com. Viewers can see a hole-in-one in golf, one of them sampling cow’s milk and the quartet learning how to sail. They also can be seen driving around in a vintage Volkswagen bus, which fits in with the carefree theme of semi-vagabond travel.

Gregory Smith said filming is expected to start this May, with it wrapped up by the end of August. Following post-production work, the goal is to get the finished series to stations by Jan. 1. When it is aired, he said, depends on the stations’ schedules.

As with many adventurous undertakings, fundraising is an important component. In fact, a Kickstarter campaign is launching March 10. They also are looking for company sponsors, so anyone interested in donating to their cause may call 414-779-0843 or email gregory@beforeweblink.com.

Gregory Smith said the key to experiencing their bucket list items is to do them while they’re young.

“Once you get married and have kids and what not, that really kind of ties down what you can do for a bit there,” Smith said.