Having ridden and driven most of the 1,800 miles from Mexico to Canada, 10 bicyclists pedaled Tuesday to Peace Lutheran Church in New London for a night’s rest.
They began their ride early that day in Watertown, South Dakota, more than 130 miles from their destination.
Working in two groups of five riders, each with a support vehicle, they hopscotched their way to the New London.
One group would pedal for about an hour, covering 15 to 20 miles, then the other group would take over covering the next 15 to 20 miles.
Among the cyclists are five students in the Leadership Studies Program at Hardin-Simmons University in Abilene, two faculty members and three veterans of previous project rides.
The Bike Ride Across the States is the first cross country in the project’s history.
Previous rides have crisscrossed Texas, which can be as long as 900 miles.
But, like the previous journeys, this year’s ride is intended to give the program’s students the opportunity to plan and carry out a complex project, said Bob Sanderson, one of the faculty members.
Preparing for the ride gives the experience of working with a group toward a common goal, carrying out the steps required to achieve it and, while on the ride, dealing with the challenges that come up, Sanderson said.
Destiny Eaton and Deborah Poh, for example teamed up to find housing for each leg of the trip.
Eaton said they had a lot of success contacting churches along the route.
“A lot of people stretched out their arms,” Eaton said.
Besides planning, bicycling across the country takes physical training, which the riders have been doing together since September. The conditioning the trip requires also leads to an enthusiasm for staying in shape.
“As part of the ride, we also use the experience to preach the importance of lifelong fitness, healthy living, and bicycle safety to people along the route,” Kimberly Fritz, one of the students on the ride, wrote in an email to the Tribune.
On their way to New London, the two groups of riders met at Thompson Park on Ella Avenue Northwest in Willmar.
From there, they took city paths to Glacial Lakes State Trail for the last 11 miles to New London. Several riders said they really appreciated the shade the canopy of trees offered.
They said that shade would have made riding in Texas and some other states much easier.